I realize that most people don’t ponder some of the weird issues that pastors must face. Since I engage a great deal in cultural matters that often must be addressed, it is necessary for me to go to Scripture to get the needed counsel. The matter of a mid-life crisis has surfaced over the last few decades causing much anxiety in our society. The thinking goes something like this: “I just turned 40, and half of my life is over. Where did the time go? What have I accomplished? I thought I would be further along than I am in my career. Is this what success looks like? The next 40 will only be worse because my health will deteriorate and my income potential will wane.”
Such thoughts only exist in materialistic nations. We become attached to health, wealth, power, fun, and stuff that keeps us clinging to this world. Methuselah lived 969 years. I remember wondering a number of years ago if he ever had a mid-life crisis. At 450, did he say to his wife, “Where have the centuries gone? Why, it seems like just 100 years ago we bought our first home.”
What is most interesting is that Scripture never addresses this issue except from an eternal perspective. The Bible tells us that we all have the same life expectancy. It is called a vapor in James 4:14. We are told not to presume upon the future, because we don’t know what will happen tomorrow. When we develop an eternal perspective, “the things of this world grow strangely dim,” as the hymn writer expressed it. We rejoice that we are closer to the new heavens and the new earth than when we first believed.
This is why Scripture exhorts us to think on those things that are above (Colossians 3:1-3). Such a focus keeps us away from the mid-life crisis battle. By the way, if you have eternal life, there is no midpoint.
“Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” So we can confidently say, “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?” ~Hebrews 13:5-6
While in the Amazon jungle last summer, I discovered something about prosperity. Prosperity offers choices, choices bring conflict, and conflict brings unhappiness. Here is what I mean:
“Hey kids, where do you want to eat lunch after church?”
“I want to go to McDonald’s.”
“No, I want to go to Burger King.”
“We ate there last week! I want to go to Pizza Hut.”
“Everyone shut up – let’s just go home.”
Sound familiar? In the poverty-stricken area of the Amazon I saw some of the happiest children I have ever seen, and they had nothing. There were no choices.
“Hey kids, where do you want to eat after church? Would you like to eat at the McDonald’s that we don’t have or the Burger King that doesn’t exist? What movie would you like to see, the Disney film we don’t have or the adventure film that doesn’t exist?”
The scriptures tell us to be content with what we have. Contentment is coming to a place in my life where I desire nothing as opposed to coming to a place where I have everything.
You know the old saying “The best laid plans…”? Well, God has His own plan and it always, without fail, turns out to be the right one. After many months of planning for the Ladies Annual Retreat we, Barb, Bridget and I, arrived at Sandy Cove the weekend of March 5-7 full of anticipation and excitement. We had decided to try some new things and were eager to see if they would work and how they would be received. And I think we were even a little worried that we had somehow forgotten something. As the ladies began to arrive, there were the sounds of welcoming those we’d just seen at church the previous Sunday as well as the squeals of delight at being reunited with those who we hadn’t seen since the last retreat.
There was an excitement in the air at the prospect of sharing a weekend away from home… eating meals we didn’t have to cook, sleeping in beds we wouldn’t have to make and laughing at jokes that only we would get. But all those things, while good, are not the real reason we make that two hour trip up 95 on a Friday afternoon. And maybe I speak only for myself, but at the heart of it what I was really wondering was “What does God have in store for us this weekend?” and “How will He make Himself known to us in a new way?”
For those women of Reston Bible Church who have sat under sound biblical teaching for, well, forever, most of us entered the weekend titled “Love, Loss and Legacy” (centering around the story of Ruth) with our own knowledge and opinions. After all, it is of one of the great love stories in the Bible. What we didn’t anticipate is how the story would change us all individually and so differently. I’m not sure any one of us could have been prepared for all that God would bring to light through Kelly’s study and teaching. Each lady who attended came away with a view of that amazing story through a new lens. Some of us may have learned a hard lesson about forgiveness, others about loyalty, still others about how to just be still and simply hear from God and let Him guide our paths. I truly believe that every lady came away with a changed point of view about those three women in Ruth who began a journey and the paths they each chose.
As we watched the weekend unfold, we saw God use the plans we’d made in ways we couldn’t even have imagined as well as bring some surprises of His own. At first we may have resisted some of those, but as we watched God work, I believe one thing we all walked away with from that weekend was a greater sense of awe for the God we serve… and we could all use a lot more awe.
“Be hospitable to one another without complaint. As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. Whoever speaks, is to do so as one who is speaking the utterances of God; whoever serves is to do so as one who is serving by the strength which God supplies; so that in all things God may be glorified by Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.”
~1 Peter 4:9-11
God mandates Believers to represent the Gospel of Christ by using the gifts He has given for service to one another (1 Peter 4:9-11). Service to one another is a means of growing in our knowledge of Christ (as we serve others, we serve Christ Himself – Matthew 25:40) and an opportunity to make Christ known to others (John 13:35).
While there are always opportunities to serve at RBC, we have a unique opportunity coming up to make Christ known in Northern Virginia through Conversations. Conversations is our annual production the week before Easter in which music, dramas, and real life stories are blended together into a cohesive performance where the Gospel of Jesus Christ is creatively and clearly presented. It is the perfect opportunity for many people to hear and reflect on truth in a comfortable, fun, and non-awkward environment.
As we prepare for Conversations, we need to make sure we are equipped to care for our guests, showing them the value and respect they deserve. We are to show guests hospitality (Hebrews 13:2) with the hope that Christ will break down walls in their lives to enable them to respond to the truth of the Gospel.
There are still many ways to serve for Conversations – through prayer, baking, ushering, greeting, nursery/childcare, and meals for the cast and crew. Please consider how you can participate in the Gospel of Christ through serving others in Conversations this year!
For more information on Conversations: www.restonbible.org/converstations
To register to volunteer online, click here.
My wife Heidi and I had the pleasure of attending The C. S. Lewis Institute conference a few weeks ago. Lewis’ book Mere Christianity was the topic. It had been a few years since I’d read the book, and it seemed like a good way to get a refresher course on one of the 20th century’s great Christian thinkers.
Dr. Chris Mitchell, a professor at Wheaton College, led us through five fascinating lectures. I had not realized that Mere Christianity was originally a series of radio addresses that were given over the BBC during World War II. I also hadn’t previously known what it cost Lewis to clearly proclaim his faith to over a million listeners.
We often think that the world’s hostility toward faith in Christ is worse now than in our parents’ day. Not so. In 1947, Lewis’ picture appeared on the front cover of Time magazine. The headline read:
“OXFORD’S C.S. LEWIS, His Heresy: Christianity.”
Lewis was disdained by many at Oxford because he spoke publicly of his faith in Christ. Their attitude seemed to be it’s fine to be a Christian, but not to speak of it in public – and certainly not in academia.
Dr. Mitchell also read a startling quote from authoress Virginia Woolf. After a meeting with T. S. Elliot during which he told her he was now a follower of Christ, she wrote:
“I have had a most shameful and distressing interview with dear Tom Elliot, who may be called dead to us all from this day forward. He has become an Anglo-Catholic believer in God and immortality and goes to church. I was shocked. A corpse would seem to me more credible than he is. I mean, there’s something obscene in a living person sitting by the fire and believing in God.”
That quote is from the year 1928. I was reminded of Jesus words in John 15:18 – 20, “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember the words I spoke to you: ‘No servant is greater than his master.’”
1. Learn to encourage daily.
Remember—a person’s self worth hangs on the thin thread of encouragement, and some are at the end of their rope. Don’t wait to give words of comfort.
2. Learn to relate to those who have similar needs.
Be sensitive to those who are going through a trial similar to what you have already experienced. How did you weather the storm? Let them know how God used that difficulty in your life.
3. Learn to be a good listener.
We all need to learn to read between the lines. People rarely unload their problems in bulk. They usually deliver them in small packages just to see if you’re concerned enough to open it. If you do, they will likely make another delivery. No one will expose their deeper feelings to people who show little or no interest. Be a person who cares!
It will never be the nature of a man to encourage, but it will forever be his need.
Is it just me, or is there a certain elusiveness to that third member of the Trinity? You know the one. Father, Son and… who? Ah, yes. Holy Spirit. While I can perceive (faintly, dimly) of the awesomeness of God the Father through the majestic revelation of Jesus the Son, I often feel like I draw a mental blank in relating to the Spirit. My brain knows the theology of this third co-equal, co-eternal Person, but do I really know? You know?
About six years ago, I was handed the keys to our Young Adults ministry here at RBC. As a young, nervous wannabe pastor, I thought an appropriate first teaching series would be a boot-camp style basics of Christianity. The week before Halloween it just so happened that the topic was the Holy Spirit, and I cleverly titled my message “Ghost Story” – which turned out to be a rather embarrassing foreshadowing of my own shallow grasp of the Holy Spirit. About halfway through my message, I noticed that I kept referring to the Holy Spirit as “it” rather than “He.” Convicting? Believe it. After publicly repenting several times in the middle of my sermon, it’s not a mistake I’ve (knowingly) made since – but it did reveal something that has stuck with me: The Holy Spirit makes me nervous. I might go as far to say that I’m a even a little afraid of Him. Continue reading
Bridget Goetz shares her story of God’s faithfulness as He drew her out of self-reliance to deep dependence on Christ. This video was originally shown at the 2010 Reston Bible Church Women’s Retreat.
REMEMBER THE GOSPEL: Reflections on the Lord’s Supper from 1 Corinthians 11:23-26
I just finished listening to Leighann Marquiss share her family’s story (God’s story) of their son, Ryan. What a great God we serve! Leighann said, “…During this time, I realized that God doesn’t only love me to get me to heaven – God loves me today, where I am. ” This reminded me again of the power of the Gospel to impact us in our everyday life, no matter the situation.
Two times in 1 Cor. 11:23-26, Jesus tells his disciples, “Do this in remembrance of me.” What, specifically, does Jesus want us to remember in the partaking of communion? For many years, I thought He wanted me to reflect on and remember His suffering and death. While true, this is not the complete answer. Jesus didn’t just say “this is my body” but “this is my body which is for you; do this in remembrance of me”. Jesus is not just saying “remember my death,” but “remember my death, which is for you.” In short, He is saying remember the Gospel. Likewise, in reference to His shed blood, He didn’t tell us to just remember His shed blood, but to remember His shed blood and what it accomplished, the New Covenant. In short, He is saying remember what I have done for you – remember the Gospel.
We could spend an eternity reflecting on the depths of the Gospel and I trust we will, but for the sake of my fingers (and the fact that dinner is just about ready), let me highlight a few truths of the Gospel. We who have placed our trust in Christ, are:
- Loved by God (always)
- Forgiven (always)
- Righteous in His sight (always)
- Cared for by Him (always)
- The apple of His eye (always)
- Never abandoned by Him (never)
- Never away from His presence (never)
- His children (always)
- Brothers/sisters of the Lord (always)
- Indwelt/empowered by the Spirit of God (always)
This is good news. Scratch that – this is great news. Often times, we (myself included) fall woefully short in seeing and believing the Gospel for our daily lives. The result is that we do not experience the power of the Gospel on a daily basis. Yes, we see the relevance of Christ’s death on the cross for our salvation and our future departure from this world, but what about the time in between? Twice in four verses, the Lord tells his disciples, remember the Gospel, remember what I have done for you. Just as the Gospel impacted Leighann where she “was”, the power of the Gospel can and will impact us where “we are” right now.
Remember and believe the Gospel.
RBCer Leighann Marquiss shares her family’s story of their son, Ryan, born against all odds with Pentalogy of Cantrell which includes ectopia cordis and a host of other heart defects. This video was originally shown at the 2010 Reston Bible Church Women’s Retreat. You can learn more about the Marquiss family and their story at http://marquissclan.blogspot.com
“But exhort one another daily, while it is called Today; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.”
~ Hebrews 3:13
1. Because through much tribulation we must enter into the kingdom of God
We all need to be stroked by the warm hand of encouragement. Who can you think of that just might need some right now?
2. Because we receive far more criticism than praise
Our emotional ledger sheet tells the truth. It sure would be nice to get it to balance before the final account. You can help make the difference!
3. Because it develops friendships
We naturally seek out those who refresh us with words of comfort than those who destroy with words of criticism.
4. Because it gives health to the recipient
“Pleasant words are as honeycomb, sweet to the soul, and health to the bones” Proverbs 16:24.
5. Because we hurt far more deeply than we will admit
Most people carry burdens, the weight of which, cannot be estimated by an outsider.
Learn to encourage when you sense a need.
As believers, we have a tendency to subtly interrogate those who claim allegiance to Christ. We just have to find out where they are spiritually, doctrinally, and morally which often takes place in the course of conversation. The following is a parable about such an experience. All of what I state here is what I have judged others for or have been judged by others. I neither condemn nor condone any of the following judgments listed in the parable.
1. Approach the Word with the understanding that it is spiritually and not intellectually discerned.
“The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned” (I Corinthians 2:14).
2. Approach the Word prayerfully.
“Make me understand the way of your precepts, and I will meditate on your wondrous works” (Psalm 119:27).
3. Approach the Word with all reverence of approaching God Himself.
“Princes persecute me without cause, buy my heart stands in awe of your words” (Psalm 119:161).
4. Approach the Word with the expectation of hearing from God.
“Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law” (Psalm 119:18).
5. Approach the Word with the understanding that it is precept upon precept.
“For it is precept upon precept, precept upon precept, line upon line, line upon line, here a little, there a little” (Isaiah 28:10).
6. Approach the Word by cross-referencing.
All of the New Testament cross-references the Old Testament.
7. Approach the Word with the resolve that you will obey what it says.
“Teach me, O LORD, the way of your statutes; and I will keep it to the end. Give me understanding, that I may keep your law and observe it with my whole heart” (Psalm 119:33-34).
8. Approach the Word through the doorway of affliction.
“It is good for me that I was afflicted that I might learn your statutes” (Psalm 119:71).
9. Approach the Word through meditation.
“But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night” (Psalm 1:2).
10. Approach the Word through study.
“Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15).
As a church whose greatest desire is to know Christ and to make Him known, we are bearers of the greatest message of all time. The constant proclamation of the gospel – both for the edification of believers and the awakening of sinners – is our duty and delight. Though the truths of the Gospel are innately powerful and timeless, the means through which the Gospel is communicated are as varied as history and culture.
Are all means of relaying the gospel good, effective, or equal? Not at all. Nor should all believers necessarily engage in certain means and methods of communicating the gospel. However, this is not to say that those means and methods be automatically dismissed for all merely because of individual conviction or cultural popularity. In an article entitled “Why and How I am Tweeting,” one pastor points out two prevailing responses toward internet-based social media (blogs, Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, etc.):
One says: These media tend to shorten attention spans, weaken discursive reasoning, lure people away from Scripture and prayer, disembody relationships, feed the fires of narcissism, cater to the craving for attention, fill the world with drivel, shrink the soul’s capacity for greatness, and make us second-handers who comment on life when we ought to be living it. So boycott them and write books (not blogs) about the problem.
The other response says: Yes, there is truth in all of that, but instead of boycotting, try to fill these media with as much provocative, reasonable, Bible-saturated, prayerful, relational, Christ-exalting, truth-driven, serious, creative pointers to true greatness as you can.
The Creative Arts team of RBC resonates with that second type of response. We would put the use of social media in the category of “missional contextualization.” That is to say, these are culturally relevant tools used to reach and teach in ways people around us are familiar with. Just as a missionary would study and use the language and culture of a people group in order to reach them as effectively as possible, so we desire to use social media and other communication technology as a way of effectively reaching, teaching and preaching to those around us.
The New Testament in particular clearly shows us the importance of missionally contextualizing Gospel truth. Scripture emphasizes communicating its timeless truth in ways that people of specific times and cultures can understand and relate to. As a brief example, Jesus often teaches in simple parables about coins, sheep, seeds and bread (Luke 15:1-10, Matt. 13, John 6) – these are visual themes his audience can relate to and connect with in order to grasp biblical truths. Paul likewise reasons with Jews from their own Scriptures, quotes pop-culture literature to philosophers and references familiar pagan gods in order to contextualize the Gospel and teach about Jesus (Acts 17). And undoubtedly, the greatest example of missional contextualization is God the Father, who entered into humanity and engaged in human culture as Jesus the Son in order to visibly explain Himself to us in a way that we could relate to, connect with and understand (John 1:14, Gal 4:4-5, 1 Tim. 3:16).
Again, as Christians, we are vessels of the greatest message ever – the gospel. Both believers and non-believers alike are in continual need of the gospel and its application to our lives. Social websites, graphic design, videography, etc., are timely methods to speak into the culture of Northern Virginia (and beyond) with the purpose of proclaiming and reinforcing the worth, relevance, and glory of the gospel of Jesus. Though vastly inferior to the gospel itself, we consider these methods as vessels useful in proclaiming Christ’s great worth. To Him be the glory as we seek to know Him and make Him known through social media.