Monthly Archives: February 2012

The Reality and Paradox of Risk-Taking

Can a person be a Christian and not take risks?

A risk is “acting despite the possibility of loss or injury.”

But what makes a risk a risk? It’s the unknown. Humans are finite beings and in a world where we truly have control over very little, if anything, this makes the unknown seem nearly infinite, which means there are a lot of possibilities for loss and injury.

There are some things that people seem to have some control over. People can and do make choices, and these choices limit the amount of possible loss or injury, therefore minimizing the risk.

Risk Is Reality

The strange thing about being a Christian though, is that Jesus calls us to be risk-takers. Jesus calls us to give up control.

For the one who would put their faith in Christ, risk is reality.

In Matthew 16:24-28, Jesus asserts that if any person would follow Him, they must be willing to suffer loss for His sake so that they might save their life. To follow Jesus means being willing to risk the loss of everything.

Paul writes in 2 Timothy 3:12: “Indeed (emphasis), all who desire to live Godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” That’s a guarantee of injury when we follow Christ.

Despite the clarity of the Bible, I find myself thinking sometimes that I need to take risks. What I may have in mind, along with others who think similar thoughts, is that a risk is an abnormally large act of faith. And there may be a time for ambitious obedience and the possibility of greater loss and injury.

But it seems to me that on our finite side of things, every act of obedience is a risk. A person can’t live for Christ and not take risks. The only way not to take risks for Christ is to do nothing and live in disobedience because every act of obedience is an act of faith, and faith is what it is because we can never fully know what will happen when we act. On the other hand, Godly risk-taking means exercising Godly faith.  If you desire to live by faith then you will take risks.

The Risk Paradox

So why would anyone ever live by faith if to do so puts a person in the realm of the unknown where loss and injury are a promise? Are acts of faith a risk or crazy?

In the short term there really is such a thing as a risk and it does seem crazy. Why would a person ever give up safety and comfort for loss and injury? It’s not American.

On the other hand, what is crazy is to never live by faith and take risks for Jesus.

In Matthew 19:16-30, Jesus has an encounter with the Rich Young Ruler who does not want to give up his wealth to follow Jesus and have eternal life. Jesus demands he live by faith and risk everything, and the rich man walks away.

A conversation ensues between Jesus and His disciples and Peter asks the question: “Behold, we have left everything and followed You; what then will there be for us?”

Jesus responds by saying that whatever was temporally lost in this life for the sake of following Him, will be worth it  when “many times as much is received along with eternal life.” (V. 29)

Jesus turns everything upside down. Taking a risk in this life is not what is crazy. What is crazy is to not live by faith in Jesus  Christ and be a risk-taker.

Jim Elliot said it this way: “He is no fool to lose what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”

If you want to follow Christ you will take risks – in the short-term. But if you follow Christ you will never take a risk – in the long-term.

For the Christ-follower, risk-taking is a reality and a paradox. You will take risks in this life, but it turns out that it is eternally no risk at all.

So walk by faith and take risks. That is the only safe thing to do.

12 Reasons To Be Encouraged About Eagle Heights

I don’t believe in propaganda or false encouragement.

I don’t think it is helpful to say things are good when they are bad just to keep good morale. We always have hope in Christ and we should always proclaim that and give encouragement because of it. And while the certainty of the promises of God may hold us like an anchor, it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t acknowledge the storm that is raging around us.

I also try to avoid brag tweeting or blogging.

This is meant for Eagle Heights people. If you are not a part of our local church but we are partners in the universal church and you want to be thankful with us and encouraged by us, then be joyful in our progress.

I do, however, believe in positive words when justified.

I have been saying for about a month to our church family that I see God doing some healthy things in the life of our church. And again, I wouldn’t say it just to create good feelings and so I want to be specific about why I am thankful for what I see God doing amongst us, and I hope that you will rejoice with me in what God has done and what God is doing, but also that you would desire to see more and more.

(This is not exhaustive. I trust you will be merciful if I fail to know or remember everything.)

  1. God is calling males to be men. We have a couple of groups of men meeting for personal encouragement and accountability. One group is meeting in the morning and reading the book of John together. Another group meets on Thursday morning at 6:30 for a time of man-specific content, accountability, encouragement and prayer. The 6:30 group has grown to around 35 guys attending consistently. Men are being honest about purity and striving for it. In addition, there are men who waking up to the need to be the leaders of their families. They are repenting, resting in the certainty of the gospel and picking themselves up and doing and saying hard things. I know of three men who recently went and said some hard things to a wayward church member. There is more to say but I rejoice greatly in the progress I am seeing here and I trust that there are pockets of growth I don’t know about.
  2. The Gospel is being shared. In the Core Group that meets in our home, a young woman shared how she is investing in another young woman at her work. She has invited her to church and bringing her to a woman’s Bible study, and last night she expressed her desire to see this person come to faith in Christ. Again, this is just one example of several I know of.
  3. Multiplying Core Groups. This has been a struggle to help people see why they need to give up a good thing to start another group for the good of others and the church. But we have several groups that have multiplied and groups that are working toward that end so others can enjoy community and encouragement that many at Eagle Heights enjoy.
  4. Generous Giving. Our missions giving has exploded this year as people are giving monthly to support the many that we help send to the nations. We are in the midst of a capital campaign to raise around a million dollars and people are stretching themselves to participate. I see some steady progress in our general budget. Money is one of the hardest areas to trust God with but I see people learning to know the joy of giving regularly, joyfully and sacrificially.
  5. Baptisms. Jesus was quite clear that a disciple will be baptized and lead others to do the same (Matt. 28:19-20). Our church has seen a steady flow of people who want to obey Christ by submitting themselves to this defining discipleship component.
  6. Membership. People continue to be drawn to the commitment of membership. Membership simply means that a person is letting it be known to a local church that they are surrendered to Christ, they are with the local church who is with Christ and that they are willing to submit to the word of God and be led and cared for by the leaders of the church. In a culture of low commitment, we see people understanding this and wanting to be a part of raising the level of local church discipleship.
  7. Unity. It’s not always been easy and we’ve had some people leave (on good terms) but we have experienced a remarkable amount of unity over the last three years. I give credit for that too the word of the Spirit and our Elders working to communicate with our church family.
  8. Love. Love is wanting and doing what is best for others. I have seen people go out of their way to love others who need support and encouragement. Whether it be through kind words or hard words, or meeting a very present and physical need. I hear about it and see it.
  9. Missions. We continue to support and send a lot of university students. But just as encouraging is that a number of adults are going and want to go see what God is doing in other places and cultures.
  10. Leadership. I’m excited about the addition of two new Elders and five new Deacons.
  11. Hearing, repeating and applying. I hear a lot of people talking about what was said in sermons and small group discussions (Core Groups). I hear a lot of language that we use frequently being repeated. I see that people are making the effort to do what they have heard.
  12. Attendance. In August we successfully navigated a move to two services to allow for greater attendance. Consequently we have averaged about 75 more per Sunday. The true thing to be thankful for was the willingness of our people to give up their comfort to accomplish a greater good.

I’m certain there are other things to be thankful for that I have not thought of or just don’t know about. But I am thankful for it all.

Do I think we have arrived? No. I want to see the teaching of Jesus control all of our lives individually and corporately. But I want to acknowledge I am thankful because I see that God is growing us and changing us in many ways.

Until His Kingdom has come on earth as it is in heaven, ever onward we must go for the glory of God through Jesus our Lord.

the Danger of Happy Pictures and the Forever Lazy

Click on the following link to view a harmless picture and then come back for an explanation.

So here’s what you should have seen. Large letters telling you that you can log-in with a user ID and password to access online banking. And then there is a lot of other stuff that I have yet to have a reason to care about.

But right next to the log-in and password is a picture that I have seen hundreds of times and it bothers me. Why does a happy woman at a computer bother me?

As I said, I have been to this website hundreds of times to check and manage our checking account, and not once can I recall being that happy, or being made happy by checking my money.

Hang with me.

I appreciate the ease of access. I appreciate the convenience of being able to know what I have or if someone is stealing my money. I appreciate that Banc First provides helpful customer service for banking.

And while it may give me peace of mind and make my life somewhat easier, it doesn’t make me that happy. I don’t ponder with happy anticipation all day long the thought of getting online to see how much money I have because Banc First provides this helpful service. Banc First’s online banking doesn’t make me happy.

I’m not bothered that I am not happy when I go to Banc First online checking, I am bothered by what the picture is communicating.

Here it is: If you have Banc First online banking you will be happy.

Hasn’t worked for me.

Yet almost all advertising works this way and we buy it hook, line and sinker. For instance, a Forever Lazy will make you happy. Go to the link and observe that everyone is happy. There’s nothing wrong with having a Forever Lazy???? But it wont’ make you happy – at least for long.

Are you trying to buy the joy and peace that the world is selling? The true problem is that we buy someones idea of what will make everything better and it always let’s us down.

The Bible is clear that we were made for God and our souls are restless until we find rest in Him (Augustine).

“Be appalled, O heavens, at this, And shudder, be very desolate,” declares the LORD. “For my people have committed two evils: They have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters, To hew out cisterns, Broken cisterns That can hold no water.” Jeremiah 2:12-13.

So use Banc First and their online banking. Buy a Forever Lazy if it suits your fancy – or maybe not. But don’t think for one minute they will give you something that lasts. They are broken cisterns that can hold no water. Trust in the Creator and not the created and then you can rightly appreciate online banking.

Don’t You Talk About My Momma

I was recently painting a room in our house and I had some extra time to think, so I started thinking about the responsibilities of men toward women.

Why was I thinking about this?

I was painting a bedroom for my beautiful wife and that room will hopefully soon be the bedroom for a little baby girl that we are hoping to adopt in April or May.

So while serving my wife I started thinking about being a daddy (father) and how I do not want to spoil the daughter we may have (this could be a problem for me), but I certainly want to protect her heart by giving her the attention and masculine security she needs. I want to treat her so well that I would protect her heart by setting a high standard of masculinity for any young many who would want to take over the privilege of leadership, protection and provision that she would need and deserve. I would want to love her mom so well that she would see what it means to have a joyful, healthy, thriving and gospel-centered marriage. If granted the blessing of being a father to a little girl, these are things I would strive to be and do.

I don’t know many men that wouldn’t protect the women in their lives, though I am sure they are aplenty. After all, if you want to get under a man’s skin, then talk about his momma or sister. I’m sure most of us have heard the zealous response to a momma joke: “No one talks about my momma.”

It’s good that chivalry is still breathing but if this is all that a man does (react) then we have a problem that has existed from the beginning.

When I read Genesis 3:1-6 I wonder: “Why didn’t Adam own the responsibility of protecting his wife that day in the garden?”  Why didn’t he ask Eve to cease and desist, move away from the serpent and find a rock and crush the serpent? Better yet, why didn’t Adam do a better job of loving Eve with God’s word. Why didn’t Adam insist to Eve that God was not a power monger, but a good and trusting God? Why wasn’t Adam prepared and why was he caught so flatfooted?

Adam’s failure of responsibility was on the front end just as much as it was a failure of the moment.He wasn’t responsible to be ready to deal with the crisis.

This is the place I am afraid so many men struggle and/or fail.

Most men are quick to protect the honor of their momma, wife, daughter or sister when they are threatened but what are men doing to protect the women of their lives on the front end? How are they proactively providing responsible leadership? How are they instructing the women of their lives in the word of God? How are they loving them before a potential crisis to prevent a crisis? How are they showing themselves to be trustworthy every single day? How are they serving and providing emotional, physical, and spiritual security in the now time? How are they praying in times of calm before the possible storms?

None of us are immune to surprise, but a man must be responsible to protect and prevent, not just react.

It is good and right to want to defend and protect, but don’t wait until a crisis arrives. Own the responsibility of masculinity and live for the women of your life everyday, instead of purely surviving when passivity catches up to you.

A “Building Up” Update

In case you were not able to be at the Reunion Dinner this past Sunday Night, we shared that currently we have received pledges for $503,051 from 34 families/individuals. We thank God for those who have set a high standard of faith and generosity toward our goal of expanding our current facility.

Our hope is that the generosity of the 34 will move the rest of us to participate in what God is doing among the whole church family.

Our goal is to raise $1.15 million. It seems beyond us and perhaps it is, but It’s not a question of: if we can do it, but rather do we have the will to do it?

The 34 lead commitments average almost $15,000 per commitment. We believe that there are still around 150 families/individuals who could participate in the Building Up Campaign. If all 150 families contributed an average of $4,500 over a 3-year period, we would reach our goal.

Some might not be able to give $4,500 but we can all sacrifice something based on what God has provided to each of us as stewards of His creation.

Everyone can do something. Here’s what we hope each person would do as a part of “Building Up.”

  • Pray and ask God what your part is.
  • Tithe. Give regularly, joyfully and sacrificially to the church budget. We would rather you start here than give to the building fund if you are not already giving regularly.
  • Stretch. Several people have already increased their original commitment because of their willingness to be stretched by God.
  • Trust. God is able to supply all of our needs. Do you believe that?
  • Hand in a commitment card on “Commitment Sunday” so we can know where we are in our campaign efforts.

A young man in our youth group came up to me after the Reunion Event on Sunday Night and said: “Pastor Brent, I have been thinking about what I might do for ‘Building Up.’ I recently got a job and I want to start giving $5 every two weeks. Do you think that is a good idea?” I responded: “I think that is great because you have a willing heart and your little means a lot to the God who knows your heart.”

I’m looking forward to what God does in each of our hearts as we ask: “Lord, what do you want to do through me?”

John Wesley’s Generosity For the Sake of the Kingdom

The following is an incredible summary of a lifetime of generosity. Not everyone has the ability to do what John Wesley did, but all of us can have his Kingdom aspirations (Read the last quote of Wesley). You should read this and be encouraged and challenged. Perhaps Wesley’s example is much like that of Barnabas who the apostles called “Son of Encouragement” (Acts 4:36) for his sacrificial generosity.

I was recently doing some reading and came across a sermon by John Piper from 1995 titled: “Toward the Tithe and Beyond; How God Funds His Work.” In this sermon Piper gives the example of John Wesley and his generosity. This is an amazing challenge for all of us as we seek to honor Christ with our money – after all it is His money anyway (Ps. 24:1). Piper writes:

John Wesley was one of the great evangelists of the 18th Century, born in 1703. In 1731 he began to limit his expenses so that he would have more money to give to the poor. In the first year his income was 30 pounds and he found he could live on 28 and so gave away two. In the second year his income doubled but he held his expenses even, and so he had 32 pounds to give away (a comfortable year’s income). In the third year his income jumped to 90 pounds and he gave away 62 pounds. In his long life Wesley’s income advanced to as high as 1,400 pounds in a year. But he rarely let his expenses rise above 30 pounds. He said that he seldom had more than 100 pounds in his possession at a time.

This so baffled the English Tax Commissioners that they investigated him in 1776 insisting that for a man of his income he must have silver dishes that he was not paying excise tax on. He wrote them, “I have two silver spoons at London and two at Bristol. This is all the plate I have at present, and I shall not buy any more while so many round me want bread.”

When he died in 1791 at the age of 87, the only money mentioned in his will was the coins to be found in his pockets and dresser. Most of the 30,000 pounds he had earned in his life had been given away. He wrote,

“I cannot help leaving my books behind me whenever God calls me hence; but in every other respect, my own hands will be my executors.

In other words, I will put a control on my spending myself, and I will go beyond the tithe for the sake of Christ and his kingdom.” (Quotes from Mission Frontiers, Sept./Oct. 1994, nos. 9–10, pp. 23–24.)

Notes on Killing Lust – Part 2

On Thursday Mornings (ΑΛΜ – 1 Cor. 16:13-14) we continue to talk about strategies for fighting lust. We also share openly and pray for each other. We would love for any male to join us. Here is what we talked about this morning: “Waging War Against Lust with the Gospel.”

What is the gospel? Don’t underestimate the gospel.

What components of the gospel help us to wage war on lust?

We must learn to fight lust theologically which means we must first understand the gospel so we can apply it. “The gospel is not just the A-B-C’s of Christianity, but it is the A to Z of Christianity.” Tim Keller

1) Learning to love the finality and totality of the gospel received (John 19:30 – perfect verb; Hebrews 7:24-27; Hebrews 9:11-12; Hebrews 9:24-26, 28; Hebrews 10:10).

“For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit.” 1 Peter 3:18

You can’t earn what has already been earned for you. So trust the work of Christ.

2) Obedience rightly understood.

  • Progressive sanctification.
  • As evidence of the Spirit (Romans 8:1-25; 1 John 3:23-24; John 16:5-15).

Are you alive or dead? Take joy that you are alive, but woe to the man who does not give a rip.  Dead men don’t fight sin.

3) Substitutionary Atonement (2 Cor. 5:21; Hebrews 9:26; Mark 10:45; Galatians 3:13). Jesus took your place, absorbing what you deserved.

4) Imputation. (Simply means that something (righteousness) is credited to another person’s account.)

  • Of Righteousness (Rom. 3:21-22; 4:3; Gen. 15:6; Rom. 5:17,19; Romans 6:3-4; 1 Cor. 1:30; Phil. 3:9)
  • Of Sin.  Martin Luther called this the “Great Exchange.”

By grace through repentance and faith we were credited with the righteousness of Christ and our sins were credited to Christ, who bore our wrath. What we deserved Christ absorbed. Conversely, we received that which we did not deserve, namely, righteousness.

5) The Promises of God (2 Peter 1:2-4). The gospel is the greatest promise ever delivered.

6) Meditating on the Cross

Ask yourself: “How did Christ suffer?” Physically. By Rejection. Though sinless, bearing sin. The wrath of the Father poured out on the Son.

Ask: “Why did Christ suffer?” For God’s glory and my sin that was the cause of his suffering.

The gospel is the ultimate promise fulfilled, which means God is wholly faithful.

How do these things help us prevent lust? (Proactive)

  • Though give us a reason(s) to hate the sin of lust.
  • When rightly understood, the theology of the gospel helps us to see more clearly what really has been accomplished for our redemption.
  • How can we see what Christ has done and love the very thing that cost Him his life?
  • We don’t deserve righteousness, but righteousness we might have. How do we honor it? Not by lusting.

How do these things help us respond to lust? (Reactive)

One of the most crushing aspects of lust is the continual failure we often experience. Many men have spent years fighting this battle and caving to it. Victory is possible but turning this temptation and sin off like a water faucet is unlikely. And even if we experience pro-longed seasons of glad obedience, that is not guarantee we won’t fail again.

So how does the gospel sustain us when we fail?

  • The gospel reminds us that those who are repenting and believing are forgiven in Christ.
  • The gospel reminds us that we are positionally righteous in Christ because of Christ. So we don’t have to earn the favor of God.
  • Our sins have been dealt with decisively on the cross.
  • It’s only because of our positional righteousness that we can progressively weed out the sin in our life. So weed it out and be thankful to Christ when you do.
  • How can we stay down when we have been delivered from so much?

God crushed Jesus on the cross so that we might crush the sin that held Him there.