Cross Talk




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.




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.




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.




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).



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






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 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