Joshua Reese • March 04, 2021
In the last post (read it here:https://tonkawaclc.com/blogs/3155720--shatter-the-wish-dream-part-1 )I shared on the glories and dangers of the wish dream for churches, writing:
"We all have wish dreams about the church we want. But in all of our wishing, and dreaming, and even praying, we cannot, allow grand visions about what our church could be, prevent us from loving what our church is. We must not allow the wish dream about the flock to prevent us from loving the flock of God that is among us.
Love the flock you have in the present. Love the flock you are becoming. And, like Jesus, love the flock we will become. "
Welcome One Another, As Christ Has Welcomed You
So what are we to do instead?
How do we “shatter” the wish dream like Bonhoeffer said?
Paul tells in Romans 15.
Romans is a letter written to believers who needed their wish dream shattered; who needed their ideal church community drowned so their actual church community could live.
The church at Rome began as a Jewish church, meaning Jews who were at Pentecost and believed Peter’s words about Jesus being the Messiah, went back to Rome and started what we would call “Messianic Jewish” congregations, or more accurately, true Judaism as it was meant to be (and will be!) Then, because this is part of their task in their election to be a light to the nations, the light from these Jews went to the gentiles and the gentiles joined the church.
Things were messy!
The Jewish believers are adhering to the Torah, but the gentile believers weren’t so sure about circumcision and not eating bbq. But, because of their shared worship of the Messiah, they were determined to work it out.
However, in AD 49 Emperor Claudius expelled all the Jews from Rome, Messianic and otherwise and the once Jew/Gentile church became simply a gentile church with potluck bbq every Sunday and circumcision scalpels in sight.
But then, 5 years later, Claudius reversed the law and here come the Jews back into Rome! And with their return come the same problems, this time flipped; not, “How can gentiles worship with Jews, but how can Jews worship with gentiles?”
Due to the ethical and theological questions this posed, Paul wrote 16 chapters to help them figure it out, and by my count, he didn’t and essentially told them, “You’re all sinners. You all need Jesus. He’s coming. Do your best in the meantime. Sincerely, Paul.”
The church in Rome had a wish dream. And that thing needed shattered.
May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
That’s all beautiful. But verse 7 is what this post is about.
7 Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.
Verse 7 shatters our wish dreams.
Verse 7 causes us to view, think about, care for, and live with our fellow members in terms of how Jesus has viewed, thought about, and cared for us.
Do you see?
Christ welcomed you even though you hated Him.
Christ welcomed you even though you ignored Him.
Christ welcomed you even though you’re the cause of the nails in His hands and thorns on His brow.
This is the posture of our Lord, welcome; open arms of mercy!
Earlier in the same letter Paul wrote:
God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.
If Jesus welcomed us according to our merit or what we could do for him, he’d welcome none of us. But because He welcomes according to his tender mercy and loving kindness, He welcomes all of us who repent of our sin and trust in Him.
And he does not sulk or sigh about us. He’s eager to love us. He’s eager to minister to us.
So how do we shatter our wish dreams for christian community and fellowship?
We welcome one another as Christ has welcomed us.
We forgive one another as Christ has forgiven us.
We love one another as Christ has loved us.
We don’t just welcome the wish dream version.
We don’t just forgive the wish dream version
We don’t just love the wish dream version.
We love, welcome, and forgive, the real version, the reality right in front of us, the flock of God that is among us.
Jesus Will Make All Your Dreams Come True
In all of that life-laying-down-cross-carrying-long-suffering-love, there exists good news.: Jesus will make all our wish dreams come true.
Here’s what I mean. In the present moment, in what the Old Testament and New Testament attests to over and over and over, we’re in a present evil age.
The effects of the curse of sin have not been reversed.
However, because of the cross, the resurrection, the ascension, and the Spirit sending, It’s reversal has been guaranteed. God is indeed going to do the thing He promised to Adam and Noah, and Abraham, and Isaac and Jacob and Moses and David, and the prophets.
And though it’s reversal has been guaranteed for the future, the present still looks like it does, with Satan prowling, creation groaning, and bodies decaying. And for believers, part of living in this present evil age means that believers are still presently susceptible to sin.
Which means this: We sin and hurt one another. We're less than our wish-dream versions.
But the curse is not the end of the story.
Jesus will actually make all of our wish dreams come true. He has a day in heart, burning like an oven
- when the curse will finally be reversed,
- when the Lord will light Gehenna on fire with the breath of His mouth and that prowling lion and his minions are tossed into it
- When creation is “Re-Edened”
- When our bodies are “Re-Edened”
- And the Lord sits on David’s throne in Jerusalem, ruling the nations in righteousness.
In that day, our wish dreams and the Lord’s wish dreams, come true as the Lord presents the church “to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.”
There’s our wish dream come true.
That day, when Jesus receives the reward of His suffering, is real.
We won’t have wish dreams anymore because reality has taken it over as we are presented to the Son in splendor, without spot, wrinkle, or any such thing, holy, and without blemish, no wish dream necessary.
Christian Life Church • February 16, 2021
Shattering The Wish Dream Part 1
"Shepherd the flock of God that is among you…"
- 1 Peter 5:2
Do you have dreams? Dreams about your life, your spouse, your job, your children?
It’s good to dream; to sit and ponder, even fantasize, about what could be.
But there’s often a hidden danger in dreaming about what could be; a malicious spirit of discontentment that can cripple families, empires, and even churches.
In describing this danger as it concerns congregational life, Dietrich Bonhoeffer termed this, “the wish dream.”
So what is the wish dream? For churches, for members, for deacons, for pastors, the wish dream is loving the idea of your church and not the reality of your church.
1 Peter 5:2’s eight word admonition to the elders tells us a few things to keep in mind about the church we’ve found ourselves in.
The Flock is God’s
The first thing Peter teaches us to keep in mind about our church? It’s God’s.
As much as we think about these people/this place being “ours”, it’s good to be reminded, and reminded often, that ultimately it isn’t ours and whatever portion of it belongs to us only belongs to us as a gift.
Why does the church belong to God? Because He paid for it in blood.
“Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood.”
- Acts 20:28
Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.
- Revelation 5:9-10
In our wish dreaming about our church, don’t forget Who it belongs to.
But Peter doesn’t just tell us this is God’s flock, he directs our attention to the location of the flock.
And where is the flock? “Among you.”
Well duh Peter, as opposed to where? As opposed to who? What other flock could we possibly love and care for?
Well, rather than shepherding the church we have, our wish dreaming could tempt us to love another imaginary flock instead!
What’s your wish dream church like?
What about the members?
Are they all growing in holiness? Evangelizing and discipling? Attending worship? Attending prayer meetings? Attending...anything? Are they serving without being begged? Are they giving without being guilted? Are they thinking maturely, acting lovely, speaking kindly, and forgiving quickly?
What about the pastors?
Do they hit a homerun every Sunday? Are they as skillful with the greek as they are at the hospital bed?Are they as doctrinally precise as a professor, as powerful as a revivalist, and as engaging as a tv personality? Do they run the church like a well-oiled machine but also treat the members as family?
What about the programs?
Is the children’s ministry polished? Is the youth group fun? When is the next senior’s trip? Is the church running out of leadership opportunities because the amount of apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, teachers, and deacons being raised up is happening so quickly?
What about the worship?
Is anyone there? Do you feel loved when you walk in? Has the room been prepared in prayer? Is the music your type? Too many hymns? Not enough hymns? Does it seem like the heavens open when we sing? Are people comforted, healed, delivered, or encouraged, when we pray? Is the Spirit present in a powerful way? Does a new person join the church or turn to the Lord every week? Is our hot water bill rising due to all the baptisms? Is the Lord worshipped in Spirit and truth?
Warning Against the Wish Dream
These are all wish dreams. And they’re all good ones. It’s my hope for my own life, that when I wish dream about the church, I do it like this, wanting all the Lord is willing to give us for His glory and our joy.
But we cannot forget that this is a dream and to combat the wish dream, to love the church we have and not the one we’d like, we do well to remember Bonhoeffer, who writes in Life Together,
"If we do not give thanks daily for the Christian fellowship in which we have been placed, even where there is no great experience, no discoverable riches, but much weakness, small faith, and difficulty; if on the contrary, we only keep complaining to God that everything is so paltry and petty, so far from what we expected, then we hinder God from letting our fellowship grow according to the measure and riches which are there for us all in Jesus Christ.
This applies in a special way to the complaints often heard from pastors and zealous members about their congregations. A pastor should not complain about his congregation, certainly never to other people, but also not to God. A congregation has not been entrusted to him in order that he should become its accuser before God and men. When a person becomes alienated from a Christian community in which he has been placed and begins to raise complaints about it, he had better examine himself first to see whether the trouble is not due to his wish dream that should be shattered by God; and if this be the case, let him thank God for leading him into this predicament.But if not, let him nevertheless guard against ever becoming an accuser of the congregation before God. Let him rather accuse himself for his unbelief. Let him pray to God for understanding of his own failure and his particular sin, and pray that he may not wrong his brethren. Let him, in the consciousness of his own guilt, make intercession for his brethren. Let him do what he is committed to do, and thank God . . .
What may appear weak and trifling to us may be great and glorious to God. Just as the Christian should not be constantly feeling his spiritual pulse, so, too, the Christian community has not been given to us by God for us to be constantly taking its temperature. The more thankfully we daily receive what is given to us, the more surely and steadily will fellowship increase and grow from day to day as God pleases."
We all have wish dreams about the church we want. But in all of our wishing, and dreaming, and even praying, we cannot, allow grand visions about what our church could be, prevent us from loving what our church is. We must not allow the wish dream about the flock to prevent us from loving the flock of God that is among us.
Love the flock you have in the present. Love the flock you are becoming. And, like Jesus, love the flock we will become, which will be in the next post.
Until He Comes,
Joshua Reese • December 17, 2020
*This article is based off the sermon notes from the Blue Christmas service*
Psalm 13 is a Psalm of lament and sadness.
But more than that, Psalm 13 is ultimately a Psalm of hope; a Psalm for Blue Christmases past and present.
Blue Christmas is meant for lamenting and grieving, but it is not meant for lamenting and grieving as those without hope.
And our hope is a distinctly Christian hope, a hope anchored in the truth that the present state of things will one day cease and instead of lament and grief all we’ll know forever is glory and goodness and love and life and light and peace.
The psalmist begins:
“How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day? How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?”
This is common parlance for despair, words and thoughts that afflict the sufferer.
“How long, oh Lord? How long will I feel this way? How long will this ache remain? I keep waking up in the night with this weight on my chest, this weight on my heart, this weight on my mind, how long will it be this way, oh Lord?”
If you’ve prayed this way, consciously or unconsciously, you’re praying like the King of Israel prayed when he felt abandoned by God.
Of this lament John Calvin writes:
“... when we are for a long time weighed down by calamities, and when we do not perceive any sign of divine aid, this thought unavoidably forces itself upon us, that God has forgotten us.”
And when it feels like God has forgotten us, we feel alone.
“How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day?”
These pains, whatever they are, were meant to be shared with our Maker, and secondarily, they were meant to be shared with other believers. We’re not designed to grieve and lament alone.
But that’s what seems to be happening here. David’s only counsel, only solace, seemingly, is in himself. He’s alone.
But note David’s next move. Even though he feels alone and feels as though the Lord has abandoned him in his time of need, he still returns to the Lord in prayer. He bears his soul to His God. He kept, like Jesus later, entrusting his soul to the righteous judge on the throne. “My God my God why have you forsaken me?” is still prayer; still incense.
“Consider and answer me, O LORD my God…”
This is all David can do. He might not be able to get out of bed. He might not be able to keep it together at work. Whatever. But he can pray and so he does.
“...light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death…”
David’s despair is to the point of death. If the Lord doesn’t intervene, if the Lord doesn’t “light up his eyes”, David’s assumption is he will perish and go down to Sheol.
It is very real for the sufferer to feel so discouraged, so downtrodden, and so hopeless, that death would be relief. The king of Israel (past and present) dealt with emotions deep as these.
It Won’t Be This Way Forever
But verse 5 and 6 bring a turn. Verse 5 and 6 are the promise of the gospel, the promise that the present state of things, of this age with its sickness and sadness, earthquakes and hurricanes, cancer and covid, depression and suicide, and funerals and death WILL ONE DAY CEASE! THINGS WON’T BE THIS WAY FOREVER!
And so David prays:
“But I have trusted in your steadfast love”
This is primary. To reap the benefits of verse 6, we trust in the Lord and in His steadfast love, and we do so in a way far greater than David could.
Because we know of the Christmas story, of Immanuel coming to dwell among us!
We know about the crown of thorns.
We know how He carried that beam up Golgotha.
We know about the nail-scarred hands.
We know the lengths God went to show His steadfast love for sinners.
Now watch the turn.
“I have trusted in your steadfast love”
Saying, “Past and present, I am trusting you because it’s all I have. No amount of money can cure what ails me, no pill, no vacation, only you and your steadfast love.”
And now he looks forward to ultimate hope:
“....my heart shall rejoice in your salvation, I will sing to the LORD, because he has dealt bountifully with me.”
Note David’s progression:
- “I have trusted” :PAST.
- “My heart shall rejoice” :FUTURE
- “I will sing” :FUTURE
And why can David say these things? Why can he believe them to be true?
- Because “He has dealt with me bountifully” PAST
Or, to read the phrase backwards:
“Because God has shown us mercy in the past, we know that He will also deal bountifully with us in the future!”
Just as we rejoiced when He saved our souls, we know we will also rejoice at the resurrection when He makes all things new; when he raises our bodies up out of the grave to dwell with Him forever on the earth!
But not our body only, also the bodies of those we’ve lost who have died in Him.
And when we see those things on that future day, our heart shall rejoice in His salvation and we will sing to the LORD.
The sorrow may be so great that you can’t sing right now and that’s ok.
But you better believe that you will sing later. You will rejoice in His salvation. And you will sing.
My hope is not that we stop grieving. Grief is a gift of God to remind us of the present evil of this age and point us to the age to come; to the resurrection and the kingdom of God. Grief keeps us from placing our hopes where they should not be placed.
My hope is, that as we grieve, we would not grieve as those without hope.
But in the end, it’s only a passing thing, this shadow.
Even darkness must pass.
A new day will come.
And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer.
And on that day, we will no longer grieve, we will rejoice and we will sing.
As the apostle Peter wrote to elders of the churches in the dispersion, now I say to you:
And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.”
Christ will come. He will wipe every tear from our eyes and make all things new.
“It is winter in Narnia,” said Mr. Tumnus, “and has been forever so long…. always winter, but never Christmas.”
But Aslan is coming.
Christian Life Church • October 06, 2020
A Quick Review
On Sunday, September 27th, I preached a sermon on church discipline and good times were had by all;)
Church discipline is simply the idea that the members of local churches take seriously their call to formatively discipline one another by “exhorting” and “encouraging” one another (Heb 3:13, 1 Thess 5:11) AND correctively discipline one another by “rebuking” and “warning” one another (1 Tim. 5:20).
For the health, witness, and holiness of the local church, this type of discipline should happen on a daily/weekly/monthly basis, just like we would discipline our bodies on a daily/weekly/monthly basis for its livelihood.
However, due to the depth of sin and the evil of the present age, there are times in the life of the church where this general formative/corrective discipline is not getting through and a brother continues in their wandering away from the truth.
When this happens, Jesus teaches local churches to, after much patience, prayer, and pleading, excommunicate the wandering brother as an act of love to wake them from their slumber.
The process is as follows:
15 “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. 16 But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. 17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. 18 Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. 19 Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. 20 For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them. (Matthew 18:15-20)”
The member the church had “bound” in through baptism is now “loosed” through excommunication.
How Many Times?
I won’t re-preach the whole sermon here (you can listen anywhere you get your podcasts), but as I was thinking more on the subject and discussing it with church members these last two weeks, the thought was handed to me,
“How many times do we do this?”
Meaning, imagine a member walked through this process once. He/she loved their sin so much and they refused repentance even with the pleading of an individual, several members, and eventually the whole church. And then they were excommunicated.
But several weeks, days, months, later, they repented! They saw their sin for what it was and felt the kindness of the Lord and the kindness of the congregation’s actions in taking such serious steps to wake them up. They were brought back into fellowship; the prodigal came home.
But then, a year later, the same thing happened.
The member went through the discipline process again.
The member was excommunicated again.
And it worked, eventually they came to repentance again.
But then, a year later, the same thing happened…
You see where I’m going.
So, how many times? Jesus tells us in the very next section of Matthew:
21 Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” 22 Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.
Jesus seems to imply that as long as there is breath in the lungs, churches are to forgive when a sinner comes home, whether that be once, twice, three times, or, yes, seventy-seven times.
As a member of a local church, this thought thrills me. Jesus calls us to love our brothers and sisters with real love; love that would offend us rather than let us continue in our delusion and love that will always receive us like the Lord does when we repent, for “a broken and contrite heart He will not despise (Ps. 51:17)”
Until He Comes,
Christian Life Church • September 08, 2020
Why a Church Directory?
There are many reasons churches create directories.
- the nostalgia that comes from remembering saints gone by,
- to the laughter that comes from the hair and clothes 15 years removed from their hay-day,
- or to having something to read in bathroom,
church directories are a nice item to have.
The Second Most Important Book
Nice as those things may be, the main reason for producing a church directory is for discipleship.
Mark Dever (one of the most influential voices in my life concerning pastoral ministry) is famous for saying, “Next to the bible, this is the most important book I own.”
Dever says this because the most important book, the bible, says this:
“Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you. (Hebrews 13:17)”
“Shepherd the flock of God that is among you (1 Peter 5:2)”
A Tool For Prayer
As elders and pastors, by having a church directory, we can be regularly reminded of the saints that the Lord has entrusted us to watch over, those we will give account for; those that are among us. The directory then becomes useful, not simply for nostalgia, or laughter, or something to set on the coffee table, but useful as a tool for prayer, not just for elders, but for every member.
Once these are made available, every member of the church will be able to (online or in print) take time each to pray through “The A’s” on Mondays, the “B’s” on Tuesdays, “The C’s” on Wednesdays and so on, putting names with faces and faces with names.
Using the directory as a tool can only be beneficial in our mission to make disciples so Jesus is worshipped in Tonkawa and the nations, and I’m looking forward to getting them in our hands.
Until He Comes,
Christian Life Church • August 22, 2020
“And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.”
- Paul to the Corinthians
The Living and Active Word
Many times during the sermon portion of worship last Sunday, I felt the urge to cry. As a non-crier, I wanted to share why.
Followers of Jesus believe God’s word is “living and active (Hebrews 4:12).”
We believe that when it’s read, sung, taught, preached, etc; it’s doing something, “teaching, reproofing, correcting, and training (2 Timothy 3:16).”
However, while we believe it is always living and active, there are times when it is “living-er” and “activ-er”, especially when it comes with (Pentecostal people, go with me here), “unction.”
Living and Active Messengers
Where and when is this “unction” most noticeably present?
I believe unction is most present when the messenger of the living and active word, is someone who has lived out the living and active word.
- Have you ever heard a frontier missionary teach on the necessity of the gospel advancing to the hardest and darkest places?
Did that living and active word hit differently? It did! The living and active messenger not only believed what they were saying, they’d practiced it in real time.
- What about a compulsive giver?
When my dad, who is not the (materially) richest man in the world, takes the offering at church, I feel it. He can’t go 5 seconds without sharing what the Lord has blessed him with (I think he learned it from his dad). The living and active word hits differently when it comes through a living and active messenger.
You can see where I’m going.
Last Sunday, hearing a cowboy shepherd teach the premiere shepherd text in the bible came with unction.
Joe has loved and served the members of this flock as an imperfect under-shepherd to the Good and Perfect Shepherd for decades and when he read “shepherd the flock of God that is among you, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you (1 Peter 5:2)” it hit differently.
Do Our Words Come With Unction?
This moment caused me to think, “Do my words come with unction?” Not just as a preacher, but as a disciple of Jesus who is about His business to make disciples. When I talk about Jesus with an unbeliever, do they “feel” my words? When I’m reading the bible with another Christian, am I simply parroting the texts, or are they coming out of me as someone who has, however imperfectly, aimed to walk them out?
These are good diagnostic questions to ask yourselves. The word of God always has been and always will be living and active, but we should ask our Father for the good gift of living them out so that when we speak that living and active word to believers and unbelievers alike, it comes with unction.
Until He Comes,
Christian Life Church • July 28, 2020
In 1 Peter 4:1, the apostle writes to marginalized believers:
"Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking...(1 Peter 4:1)"
Prepare your heart, mind, and flesh, to suffer for righteousness sake; for the cause of Christ. Arm yourselves. Get ready. Don’t put off thinking big thoughts about whether or not this Jesus stuff is just a hobby for you, or if it is SOMETHING and He is SOMEONE
- you’d willingly be thrown to lions for,
- willingly burn at a stake for,
- or willingly stand in front of a firing squad for.
Have you armed yourself in this way?
If you haven’t and you live where I live, I get it.
In the US of A, most of us live in heart and spirit-numbing comfort and ease and it’s easy to dismiss apostolic commissions such as these by thinking,
“It will never come down to that. I’ll live here, sing songs on Sunday, take the kids to soccer practice during the week, raise grand kids, and die peacefully in my sleep in my 80’s.”
And you could very well be right.....But what if you’re not?
One Big Yes
Peter, and every other prophet and apostle (Jesus included!) always lay out discipleship (and the faith required for discipleship) in terms of life and death; in terms of martyrdom.
Why do they do that?
Why, when calling people to discipleship, do they first call people to suffering and martyrdom?
The reason is this: Bound up into that big “YES” to martyrdom; to death, are a thousand smaller “yeses" along the way.*
“Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God (1 Peter 4:1-2).”
Peter’s not saying, “If you suffer in the flesh, you will never sin again.”
“If you’ve got the big “YES” martyrdom, suffering in the flesh, and death, taken care of, these other calls to follow Jesus, the little “yeses” needed along the way, are already also taken care of. You won’t live for human passions, you’ll live for the will of God.”
What’s a Few More Laps?
I’ve always run distance races. Reason one being because I am mostly legs, and reason two being because I like to win. (From my earliest days racing, everyone signed up to run the 100 meter dash or long jump, but few signed up to run the mile and 2 mile; so in the worst case scenario, I’m getting 3rd place every time.)
Once I got to high school , I really started running the distance; 4 miles every meet.
The day started with the 2 mile run (8 laps), then the 2 mile relay (2 laps), then the 800 meter run (2 laps), and then to cap it off and bore people before the mile relay (which is just a ton of fun to watch), the day ended with the mile run (4 laps).
Do you know why I was able to do that every Saturday in the spring?
I was able to say “yes” to 2 laps, 2 more laps, and then 4 more laps, because I’d already given my big “YES” to 8 laps.
In my head every Saturday I’m thinking, after running 8 laps:
“Two more laps? Ok. I already did 8.”
“Oh, two more laps again? I already did 8.”
“Wow! 4 more laps now? I already did 8.”
By giving the big “YES” to the hardest race (this illustration isn’t perfect because the 800 is actually the hardest race and the hellscape of track and field, but you get the point) I could do the rest of the small “yeses”.
Martyrdom = 8 Laps
That’s what the call to martyrdom in scripture is about.
A big “YES” to this big commandment covers the small “yeses” to small commandments.
- By giving the big “YES” to martyrdom, we’re simultaneously giving the small “yes” to not consuming porn.
- By giving the big “YES” to martyrdom, we’re simultaneously giving the small “yes” to resisting gossip.
- By giving the big “YES” to martyrdom, we’re simultaneously giving the small “yes” to gather with the church or share the gospel.
Do you see what I’m saying?
If we can’t follow Jesus four blocks to the church building once a week for an hour and a half (a hilariously small “yes”), what makes us think we’ll follow him to the gallows (a great big giant “YES”)?
If we can’t confess Him as Lord to our neighbor who is a nice guy (a small “yes”), what makes us think we’ll confess him as Lord on the guillotine* (a big “YES”)?
Or like the Lord posed to Jeremiah, “(Jeremiah 12:5) If you have raced with men on foot (a small “yes”), and they have wearied you, how will you compete with horses? (a big “YES”)
If we can’t say yes to 8 laps, what makes us think we’ll be able to say yes to two?
Dalton Thomas, in his book “Unto Death” writes:
Though not every believer is called to give a martyr-witness, every believer is called to embrace a martyr-mentality, every church a martyr-mandate, and every minister a martyr-theology. Whether we live or die is ultimately in the hands of our Master, and if we have not entrusted Him with that decision, we may be deluding ourselves into assuming we are His bondservants when in fact we are not.”
Beloved, if we will arm ourselves with this way of thinking, if we give our big “YES” to suffering in the flesh, to martyrdom, even if it doesn’t come, all of our little “yeses” are taken care of and sin will gradually lose its grip.
Give the Lord the big “YES” and watch as the other “yeses” follow. I mean really, what’s a few more laps after 8?
Until He Comes,
*(this is a paraphrase from Dalton Thomas, but I can’t seem to find the source)
*(I use guillotine cause you’ve got 70s,80s,90s, rapture movies in your heads and it’s always a guillotine, isn’t it!)
Christian Life Church • May 21, 2020
Sunday May 24th Plans
Last Sunday we enjoyed getting to worship the Lord with almost half of our church family on a beautiful sunny morning.
Unfortunately, current weather forecasts for this Sunday do not look as favorable.
Should the forecast change, we will gather outside. If not, we will live stream songs, prayers, and a sermon, as our previously communicated plan indicated.
Sunday May 31st Plans
That being said, we now turn our attention to our first gathering back in the sanctuary on May 31st.
- If You Don’t Feel Well, Stay Home
As always, pandemic or not, if you do not feel well or feel vulnerable to sickness, please stay home, inform the elders, and we’ll gladly come pray with you there. We will still be livestreaming worship for those at home.
- If You Do Feel Well, Practice Good Hygiene
Wash your hands and cough somewhere *not* on other people or objects.
- Sunday Groups Will Resume
Our normal groups (CAF, Students, S+D, Homebuilders, Larry’s) will resume.
- Our Facility is Clean
Every surface of the building (knobs, chairs, equipment, ect) will have been cleaned and disinfected. Hand sanitizer is available at each entrance.
- We Will Use Travel Communion
For a few weeks we’ll continue to use the travel communion cups as we worship at the Lord’s Table.
- Hugs, Handshakes, Masks, and Romans 14
If you’re comfortable shaking hands, hugging, sitting close to one another, ect, that’s fine. (It’s one of the things we miss the most after all!) But please do not force your freedom of conscience on others whose conscience before God at this moment has them wearing a mask/practicing careful social distancing. We will honor the choices of each person’s conscience before God in these matters. Ex; if you come up for prayer with an elder, we will first ask if we may lay hands on you.
- Nursery Protocol/Entry
If you have a child in the nursery, enter through the nursery door in the sanctuary. If you have a child in Mary and Judy’s class, do not enter through the nursery, but go through the south hallway, and enter from the south door outside. Only nursery age children should be in the nursery room. At 9:45 we will remove all the babies/children from their respective rooms, disinfect the rooms, and then bring them back in.
A Sincere Thanks
This has been one of the strangest 9 weeks of my life, especially in my role in our church. I want to sincerely say “thank you” to our members for being patient and kind as we’ve tried to navigate this with wisdom.
Those who wanted to reopen and gather earlier than we are have been kind and supportive, and those who feel we still shouldn’t open have been kind and supportive.
So, thank you.
Until He Comes,
Christian Life Church • May 14, 2020
Due to the weather forecast, rather than meeting in the lot and fighting the mud, we’ll have the street blocked off and we will gather in front of the church building with the platform facing north.
Here are things you should know:
- Bring your bibles. We’ll be continuing in 1st Peter, this week from 1:6-9.
- For those unable/not yet comfortable returning, worship will still be livestreamed. We understand that everyone is processing this differently and not everyone feels it safe or wise to gather yet. The quality of the stream will be decreased considerably due to strength of internet connection and the difficulty of doing sound live versus the pre-recorded videos we have been using, but we will still have one available.
- We will have plastic chairs set up and spaced apart, but if you’d like to bring a more comfortable lawn chair, go for it! We will also leave space for vehicles for those more comfortable staying in the car.
- We will take the Lord’s Supper. In an earlier email, we said that you should bring your own elements. You can still do this, but we will provide elements in the travel packages placed on each seat before worship and will deliver to those in vehicles.
- We will have a Children and Family lesson and craft for PreK-5th grade. Like a normal Sunday, during the sermon they will be dismissed to the bank parking lot.
- This Sunday will be Caleb and Deborah Reese’s last Sunday with us as members as they are moving to OKC to pursue missionary training through Bridgeway Church. We will have a special time of prayer for them.
Until He Comes,
Christian Life Church • May 03, 2020
The last time we gathered together for worship was March 15th. That seems like 6 years ago, not 6 weeks ago.
The Lord has been good to us even in this and we’re grateful for technology (and for the people who have served us with it!) allowing us to have some semblance of corporate worship. The Lord has also continued to bless our body as financial gifts have been steadily coming in through online and paper options, including multiple donations to the Food Pantry for families in need.
As you know, Oklahoma began Phase 1 of “reopening” in late April, noting that progressing from Phase 1 to Phase 2 to Phase 3 is dependent on the number of cases staying steady or declining.
Since the OURS (Open Up and Recover Safely) Plan was released we’ve been in conversation with our fellow churches in and around Tonkawa, as well as medical professionals inside and outside of our congregation.
During Phase 1 and 2, the “Safer at home” guidelines are still in effect for those over 65 (a large percentage of our church family) or with vulnerable conditions, and we are recommended (by the state as well as by medical professionals in our congregation) to not open up our nursery or children’s spaces.
Taking this wisdom into consideration, our tentative plan is as follows:
May 10th: Online Video
May 17th & May 24th: Outdoor Worship (Location TBA) + Livestream
May 31st: Indoor Worship + Livestream
Notes for Outdoor Worship May 17th & 24th
- If the forecast is unfavorable, we will simply livestream.
- Worship will be under 1 hour.
- Those who fall in the “safer at home” categories are encouraged to either stay home, or if you do attend, simply “Drive-in” as we will have an area for parking with good visibility. However, this is America and you are responsible adults, so feel free to do whatever you want;) But we ask that you respect those around you by following the social distancing guidelines while in attendance.
- Bring your own chair, blanket, or umbrella (for shade)
- Bring a bottle of water and use the restroom at home.
- We would love (!) to take the Lord’s Supper together. Since scripture teaches us it is a meal for the gathered church, we have not included in our online videos since we are not gathered.
- To avoid passing the trays around during the Phases, we’re asking that attenders bring a fruit of the vine and some sort of bread for us to “proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.” Please do not bring something silly for the Lord’s Supper. We want to treat the meal Jesus gave us with honorable, joyful, worship.
If you have any questions, do not hesitate to call or email the church office.
Also, anytime, but especially now, if you are a member of our body and are in need, please let us know. It’s our joy as a congregation to “bear one another’s burdens.”
Until He Comes,