Cross Talk

 

DENNIS’ BLOG

04.16.2017

Humans have the amazing ability to find solutions to complex problems.  The sciences are a wellspring of knowledge that yields answers to the difficulties we face.  Experiences can remind us of how we fixed something in the past.  However, when it comes to the sin problem, we have very few solutions that go to the core of the issue.  Many ignore that we even have a sin problem, but the Bible suggests that not only do we have a sin problem, we are in debt to the Creator. We are flawed and those flaws disable us from being able to fix this problem.  Resolving this debt we owe to the Creator is virtually impossible, and in the end, it leads to death.

 

I say virtually impossible, because the Creator has made a way.  He has applied the laws of the universe and has provided a solution.  It’s a solution that has been determined before the foundation of our world.  It is a perfect solution that takes into account all the variables and what-ifs.  In essence, the Creator paid the debt Himself, taking on the form of a slave, humbling Himself and becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross.

 

We call the characteristic of God that led to this solution, grace.  Grace is a power that combines enduring love, mercy and action.  It is not offered because we deserve it.  Indeed, humans often chose to rebel against the Creator.  We all have sinned and fallen short of the image in which we were created.  God offered the solution, and we accept it by faith.

James tells us that true faith is active and a response of the heart that is stirred by grace.  If we have faith, that faith will be demonstrated by obedience and good works.  That is the implementation of the solution.  When we accept it by faith, we give our right to self-determination, and accept the path that grace lays out before us.

 

God proved His authority to rule our lives by bringing Jesus back to life.  The body that was beaten and torn and left for dead on the cross, humiliated and disgraced, robbed of dignity and vitality, returned to life as a demonstration of great power.  He lives today, and is our Lord, if you will accept His rule. 

 

Christians are people of the resurrection, a new form of life and a new way to live.  Today, the day that many set aside to acknowledge in some way the life, death and resurrection of the Christ, can be a day of renewal for God’s people.  May it be a day of introspection that leads you again and again to embrace the ultimate solution. -Dennis

-Dennis



04.09.2017

Next week, the world will remember the greatest event in all of human history.  That event is the Resurrection of Christ from the realm of the dead.  While a basic reading of Scripture will tell you of it’s significance, many who will gather next weekend don’t believe in the Resurrection.

 

I know this by the fact that, while they may say they love Jesus, they choose to believe that sinful lifestyles are okay with Jesus.  They will bear false witness against someone who’s goal is to keep the marriage bed undefiled.  They believe that the more they sin, the more they demonstrate the mercy of God toward sinners.  If fact, what Scripture may call sin, they do not.  In living like Jesus never died, they also deny the Resurrection.

 

Paul talks about people like this in Philippians 3:17-21.  Their minds and hearts are focused on earthly things.  Contrast to that, people of the resurrection draw on the power of the resurrection, not only to live a life of holiness and purity now, they anticipate the transformation of their earthly bodies into a body that will live eternally.  Their desire is to know Christ and the power of His resurrection.  They want to suffer with Him and conform to His death, that they may somehow experience the resurrection of the dead.

 

The resurrection was the key element of the message of the early church.  For the disciple that replaced Judas, it was necessary for him to be a witness of the resurrection (Acts 1:22).  The Apostles provoked the Jews as they preached the resurrection (4:2).  The message of the resurrection caused the Gentiles to ridicule Paul, because it was beyond their understanding (Acts 17:32).  I would imagine it even stretched the faith of the disciples, as Jesus led them down from the Mount of Transfiguration (Mark 9:9).  They came to understand that God’s goal in the work of the cross, was to destroy the power of death, making the way for immortality and the body that would live forever.

“And just as we have borne the image of the man made of dust, we will also bear the image of the heavenly man.”

 

This is an exhilarating thought!  It makes all the suffering, all the effort worth the cost.  If you are wondering and doubting about the resurrection of Jesus, with an open heart and mind, read all the verses that discuss the resurrection of Christ.  Compare that with the claims of the skeptics.  When the Son of Man rises in your heart, it will show in your life, as well.

-Dennis

 



04.02.2017

Five Ways People Find a Church – Ryan Nelson (Adapted)

 

  1. Church Websites – When people decide it’s time to start “going to church,” they’re going to ask Google about the churches near them. Assuming they don’t already have friends or family attending a particular church, the internet should provide them with enough information to decide what’s right for them. That’s why a website should be designed with visitors in mind. Otherwise we’re making it easier for people to say, “No thanks,” before they even make it to the door.

 

  1. Community events – Community events and service projects give staff, volunteers, and members an opportunity to grow personally, but they also provide a great way for people to discover Lakeview. Some people aren’t comfortable or interested in attending church, even if their friends or family regularly invite them. Community service gives your members a new opportunity to invite those people into a more comfortable encounter with the people of the congregation.

 

  1. Word-of-mouth – A personal invitation from a friend or family member is one of the best ways for a new person to discover the church. Relationships are one of the major reasons why people stay at a church, so if that’s what gets a visitor to your door, they have a meaningful connection to the congregation before you ever say a word to them. Special events and guest speakers are a great way to encourage the congregation to invite friends.

 

  1. Social media – Ryan Nelson said, “If your congregation isn’t using social media, you’re missing out on a major opportunity to reach new people.” It takes work to grow an online community and keep it active, but with a few hours per week, the congregation can more engaged and give them a frictionless way to share what’s happening. Sharing sermon slides, quotes, and passages from the sermon or Bible class is a positive use of social media and it allows people to see something encouraging in real time. (Darcy does an amazing job with this!!) 

 

  1. Location – A congregation in the middle of nowhere can still grow. There are enough other factors – including prayer and the Holy Spirit – that for churches, location isn’t everything. In the center of town, however, there are a lot more opportunities for people to stumble into the building, to ask questions about the congregation, and to become familiar with it.

A good location lets you display the name of the congregation, service times, and a friendly welcome message for our community to see.

 

Note that there are several things in this list that anyone could do to make Lakeview more visible.  That is what it takes for a Church to grow.  Implementing some of these basic strategies can help us to better teach our community the message of the Gospel.

 



03.19.2017

The name Joel means

Yahweh is God. The name is a composite consisting of the two most prominent names for God in the Hebrew Bible: Yahweh and Elohim. Likewise, the name Elijah means Yahweh is God, but the names for God are reversed.  It is intentional that the names of these prophets are highlighted in history.  Names mean something and in the case of the prophets, they become a wordplay that points us to an important truth. 

 

In the case of Joel, his message is one of God’s sovereignty in the affairs of people. 

Yahweh is God . People of faith learn that things that happen are not random.  In the book of Joel, God takes credit for the plague of locust, when he refers to it as the Day of the Lord.  The three events presented in Joel all are described as the Day of the Lord.  This does not mean that he causes all the catastrophic events that happen on the planet.  We are fully capable of wreaking havoc in the world ourselves. 

 

What it does mean is God is responsible for some things, and He sees the consequences of all events and He warns us of our peril.  This is valuable to believers because it instills in us the fact that God is active in the human story.  Events in history, mine and the world’s, can serve the role of getting me to evaluate my own life.  Often times, my actions and decisions can cause instability in my life and in the lives of people that my life touches.

 

Joel’s message to us is that Yahweh is God.  His very name teaches us that Yahweh is God and He created the world and He rules the world, with truth and mercy.  He hopes that all will be saved because in each of us is a part of Himself.  He allows circumstances to teach us that we are not in control, but there is something greater that animates the world.  When we possess that truth, we begin to stand in awe, and not cower in fear, of the ways that the circumstances of our lives give the opportunity for the power of God to be demonstrated.  More than anything, when it come to our relationship with God, He wants us to see and know that He is powerful.  By that power, He will do more than we ask or imagine.

-Dennis

 



03.12.2017

Because of my participation in March Madness (30-Day Bible Reading Challenge), I was able to revisit some of the passages that were formative in the early days of my adventure with Christ.  One of those passages is Matthew 28:11-20.  It is called the great commission, but I would suggest the term great is relative.  It is not great until it is carried out by the church in every generation.

 

That was the challenge to me; to be able to carry it out in a way that was faithful to the call.  This was also the challenge of the disciples who followed Jesus to the mountain in the wilderness.  Matthew captures the emotional turmoil when he references that some doubted (v. 17).  Why wouldn’t they?  In the last few months, their lives had been turned upside down.  Their Lord was arrested and crucified, only to return to life.  As a complication, the Roman soldiers who were charged to guard the tomb of Jesus, were given a revised media narrative to explain what really happened at the tomb and were bribed to spread the deception.  Now, with reality standing before them, they had to make a decision of who they would follow.

 

Truth ruled the hour and the disciples worshipped Him and eagerly waited for what Jesus would tell them.  And this was His charge;

Go, (get up and share what you have seen and heard) and make disciples (Lead people in making a decision to follow Jesus) of all nations, (this is a cross-cultural charge) baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, (Lead them to the point of commitment to a changed life) Teaching them to observe everything I have commanded, (carry on a program of learning so people can be like Jesus) And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” 

We will not be alone as we carry out this charge.

 

Pretty simple, huh?  No, but it is clear in explaining what we should be doing.  The main sticking point is that we don’t always think this commission is our responsibility, but the responsibility of the leaders of the Church.  This makes me think that some of what Jesus taught is being left out or being ignored.  To be sure, it is the task of the leaders, but when I read passages like 1 Thessalonians 1:5-8, I see that the first generation of believers, for some reason, thought it was their collective responsibility, each person realizing their gift had expression in the body of Christ.  May we adopt this same philosophy as we seek to understand how this commission becomes of great importance in our lives.

-Dennis

 



02.26.2017

The Matrix of Liberty

This past Sunday evening, we watched a video that reminds us of the Christian heritage of this nation.  It highlighted the beliefs of the founders and the first several generations of Americans who acted as they lived out of their Christian convictions.  Because of those convictions, they established a country with a solid foundation that could move toward justice and equality for all its citizens.

The video highlighted a series of statues that are formed into what is called, “National Monument to the Forefathers.”   “From the original concept in 1820 to the laying of the cornerstone in 1859 to its dedication in 1889, it was nearly three-quarters of a century in the making, and contains in simple imagery the great wisdom of the founding era. The components of this significant yet unknown monument teach us how we can preserve America as a shining city upon a hill, an example of liberty to the world.”

Most are not aware of this monument because it states too plainly of the goals and intent of, not just the founders, but all Americans.  This monument reflected how people thought and what directed their actions.  In our time of pluralism and political correctness, to say that the citizens of this country sought to establish a system of government that honored the principles of Scripture, is too bold.  It violates the separation of church and state and it is un-American.

I believe that more Americans would understand who they are if they knew about the monument and what it teaches us.  (Americans are people created in the image of God and are accountable to their Creator).  Principles of faith, morality, law, education and liberty are explained in the different elements of the monument.  It is truly inspiring.

Today, as we strive to right the wrongs of the American experience, we can’t forget the matrix of liberty.  We recognize that the sins of a nation and the actions of individuals can only be amended by the wisdom and truth of God’s Word.  These convictions are captured in the monument.

You can find this video on You Tube.  In the search bar type “The Matrix of Liberty.”  Click on the video with this description. “The Pilgrims Formula To Save America! Kirk Cameron”.  Let me know what you think.

-Dennis

 



02.05.2017

Three Kinds of People

 

There are three kinds of people in the world.  The first class is of those who live simply for their own sake and pleasure, regarding man and nature as so much raw material to be cut up into whatever shape may serve them. 

 

But the third class is of those who can say, like St. Paul, that for them to live is Christ. These people have rid themselves of the tiresome business of adjusting the rival claims of self and God by rejecting the claims of self altogether. The old egoistic will has been turned around, reconditioned, and made into a new thing. The will of Christ no longer limits theirs; it is theirs. All their time, in belonging to Him, belongs also to them, for they are His.

 

Because there are three classes, any merely twofold division of the world into good and bad is disastrous. It overlooks the fact that the members of the second class (to which most of us belong) are always and necessarily unhappy. The tax which moral conscience levies on our desires does not in fact leave us enough to live on. As long as we are in this class we must either feel guilty because we have not paid the tax or poverty because we have. The Christian doctrine that there is no salvation  by works done to the moral law is a fact of daily experience. Back or on we must go. But there is no going on simply by our own efforts. If the new Self, the new Will, does not come at His own good pleasure to be born in us, we cannot produce Him synthetically.

 

The price of Christ is to want Him. It is true that the wanting itself would be beyond our power but for one fact. The world is so built that, to help us desert our own satisfactions, they desert us. War and trouble and finally old age take from us one by one all those things that the natural Self hoped for at its setting out. Begging is our only wisdom, and want in the end makes it easier for us to be beggars. Even on those terms the Mercy will receive us.  

C.S. Lewis’s short essay, “Three Kinds of Men,” from, Present Concerns (pp. 9-10).

 



01.15.2017

Who am I? 

This is a question many people ask in a time of crisis.  It is a question we should be able to answer at any time.   A healthy Christian has a strong sense of identity.  Out of that, we learn how to live appropriately in this world. Having a strong sense of identity allows us to stand out as individuals and live successfully in the Church.  It contributes to our sense of peace and underlines how important people of faith are in our country.

 

You may mistakenly identify who you are as the same as what you do, or the role you play.  You may think of yourself as an expression of your ethnicity. You may identify yourself as a soldier, parent, husband, wife, child, aunt, uncle, employee, CEO, minister, foreman, attorney, paramedic, construction worker, president, or doctor. You might have thought of yourself as rich, poor, healthy or sick, important and valuable or unimportant and unworthy.  These are never a good way to identify yourself, because these descriptors are momentary. Mistakes on how you see yourself inevitably lead to personal crisis… an identity crisis.  At this point we often ask,

Who am I?

 

When humans identify themselves in ways that ignore biblical descriptors, the result can be a loss of contentment or even worse.  Tielhard De Chardin helped us understand why when he wrote, “We are not physical beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings creating a physical experience.”  That is why what Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 1:22 is so important in developing our identity.  “He has also sealed us and given us the Spirit as a down payment in our hearts.”  He wants us to know that when God sealed us, He identified and described who we are.  That descriptor has to come first as you think about how you create your physical experience.

 

The Church has been going through an identity crisis.  As culture presses in, we are tempted to change who we are in order to be more acceptable.  The church of Christ in America has a unique history and we have forgotten how we got here.  Political correctness has tried to change the language and so change the identity.  We live in a society that wants Christianity to conform to its image.

 

All of these facts force us to double down on biblical descriptors to define who we are.  This year we have to dig deeper into God’s Word to discover the truths that define who we are, what we are and what we should be doing.  May we all have a deeper commitment to the habits of spiritual formation, discipleship and fellowship.  May our worship truly be in spirit and in truth and may it that tell others,

Who I Am

.

-Dennis

 

 



Gentleness

A fellowship of believers is important if we seek to have churches that are healthy. One opportunity for fellowship in the big picture will take place in July. This opportunity is the Faith Builders Workshop. It is a spiritual growth workshop intended to encourage Christians from all over the Pacific Northwest. This year’s workshop will be hosted on the PLU Campus in the Eastvold Auditorium. It will take place on July 7 – 9, 2016 (Thursday to Saturday). The 3-day workshop is presented by the Elders of the Puyallup and Springbrook congregations, as an effort to create unity and equip the Churches of Christ in the Northwest. Several essential topics will be taught by preachers from all over the country. Topics will include building families, reaching today’s world, missions, women’s ministry and how to edify the local congregation. There will also be a childcare program for kids ages 2 to 12, as well as a youth program on the last day of the conference.

There are details on the Faith Builders website. The web address is FaithBuildersnw.com. Go to the Workshops tab and click on Workshop Information. This will bring up a PDF of the schedule.

If you plan to attend, click on the Contact and Register tab. It will open up a registration form that you can submit online. There is no charge for the Workshop but they will accept donations and they will take up a contribution on Friday night. Between the contribution and the funds given by the supporting congregations, the costs of the workshop are covered.

Housing and food are available. See website for rates.

 

Gentleness Self-Examination Quiz

1. Was I gentle in the situations I faced today? If not, why? Were my rationalizations prideful?

2. Do I exhibit the same gentleness to others that God exhibits to me every day? How?

3. Do people describe me as gentle? Or do they describe me as critical or brash? Why?

4. Do I gently encourage people to “sin no more”? Or do I self-righteously cast the first stone?

Dennis Baker