There are many reasons my level of excitement continues to increase in regards to our new campus. In case you are a little late to the game on this one, Flatirons has purchased the old Lookout Mountain Church building on I-70 in Golden. Our plan is to open sometime in 2014 between the new year and Easter. Aside from the fact that this will present us with another platform for more people to bump into Jesus in the context of Grace and Truth it will also provide an opportunity for many people to get in the game. I’m excited to see a new generation of folks who haven’t had the time or the margin to serve at Flatirons jump in and serve because this location will cut down on their commute time. I’m excited to see a new generation of people who haven’t been able to attend anything beyond a weekend service at Flatirons be able to engage in ministries like Shift, and student ministries, mission trainings, community development, Bible studies and seminars. I’m excited to see how many people are going to be able to invite their friends and families to come and see and will for the first time get the answer “okay, I’ll give it a try”, because its closer to them. I’m excited to see how we can impact a whole new area in the same way we have impacted Lafayette, the food drive being the most recent example of that. I’m excited to see our Kid’s ministry launch in another location and bring the same creative teaching, loving volunteers and fun environments to kids and families who have never experienced those things in a church context before. I’m excited to see a new crop of volunteers run cameras, play instruments, run sound, help people find their seats and hand out programs all so that people can hear a life changing message about who Jesus is, what He has done and what He can do through you. I’m excited to see what new staff people God brings onto this team. The list goes on and on, and my excitement continues to build. It will not be easy, it will not come without cost, no important thing ever is or ever does. One thing I know is that this is worth it, because God is worth it, and people matter to Him. If we can reach more lost and broken people we should and we’ve been commanded to by Jesus Himself (Matthew 28:18-20). Will it look and feel different than Flatirons does at Lafayette? Of course it will in some ways, there will be many things that are familiar and some things that are new. Flatirons has never been about the building its in, Flatirons has been in Planetariums, gymnasium’s, carpet stores, feed stores, old retail stores and now in an old church building. Locations change, Jesus does not the Word of God doesn’t, Grace and Truth doesn’t, Me Too doesn’t. I can’t wait to see what He is going to do in 2014!Tags: new campus
The last half a year or so we’ve been walking through the three-year ministry of Jesus. We’ve seen Him walk through different temptations, recruit the disciples, care for the lowest and most unimportant, and heal the hurt and broken.
We’re still at the beginning of all the Gospel accounts–but in terms of the ministry of Jesus, we’re over halfway through. The rest of the Gospels will focus on how His ministry begins to expand, how opposition rises, and how He will ultimately sacrifice His life for the world.
What’s the most interesting about the timing of all this is that Jesus doesn’t start teaching people publicly until this point–almost two years into His ministry. He’s had private discussions with small groups of people or individuals, explaining who He was or what He had come to do–but no public teachings like we see in the Sermon on the Mount.
Jesus spent the first two years of His ministry telling people who He was and what He came to do. At the beginning of His ministry Jesus spoke to people and said, “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (Luke 4:18-19)
Then He spent the next year spending time with the poor, giving sight to the blind, healing those with diseases, and driving out demons–in effect, he was proving that He was who He said He was and that He would do everything that He promised to do. But He didn’t publicly teach people that there was a better way to do life until He had proven all that to them.
That’s why one of the phrases you’ll hear regularly around Flatirons is “Come and See.” Not “Come and Do” or “Come and Change” or even “Come and Learn.” Come and See. Come and see for yourself if Jesus really is who He says He is and if He can be trusted to do everything He promised to do. See if what He says about life lines up with a deeper truth. Find out if what He says is best will actually work out in our lives.
We follow Jesus’ example when He gave people a lot of space to figure out what they thought about Him and what He came to do–it was only after He had demonstrated to them who He was that He told them how they should live.
In light of the Supreme court proceedings this week, Jim and I have been bombarded by questions from folks in our church about “gay marriage”. Before posting this I circulated this to some close friends of mine who both disagree with me and agree with me and asked for feedback. I was struck by how thoughtful people on both sides were, but of course they are my friends so I didn’t expect anything less. It also strikes me that people who disagreed with me, didn’t label me a “hateful bigot” nor did people who agreed with me express themselves as such. Often it’s the extremes that get all the press, not those who are truly trying to think things through well.
Believe it or not, generally speaking culture wars don’t typically suck me in or gather much of my attention. I typically take the view that I will see and experience many things in my life that I disagree with but I can learn to be a redemptive presence in the midst of the culture I live in. I have however been deeply bothered by the current culture war regarding so called, “gay marriage”. The perceptive among you will already pick up on my unwillingness to refer to “gay marriage” as a reality. Not because I’m trying to close my eyes and pretend something isn’t so, that clearly is on its way to becoming so, but rather because I believe there are some realities we cannot redefine even if we want to, or for that matter vote to. Marriage, I believe is one of those realities. One of the reasons I believe that those who support the historical, traditional view of marriage, also formally known as the “conjugal view” are failing to get their point across is because they are arguing from points of logic and assuming that those logical points should hold some sort of authority. We live in a culture where feelings are the cultural currency that sways decisions. So while many that defend the historical view of marriage make sound points and coherent arguments, it fails to have effect because sound points and coherent arguments are no longer authoritative, feelings are. So it is not uncommon for someone who claims to follow Jesus and believe the Bible to say, “I just feel like God would want people who love one another to experience marriage”. End of argument.
I’m not going to make this a post about all the problems and dangers of moral relativism, not to mention the impracticality of it (literally no one can live that way). What I do want to do is make two fundamental points that I’m hoping to expound on perhaps in a sermon or a seminar later this year.
1) There is an argument to be made for marriage defined as being only available between one man and one woman, totally apart from the Bible. Different people are perfectly willing to deny marriage to all kinds of people. The “right” to be married is one of the most often denied rights in our country. We deny the right to be married to children. We deny the right to be married to groups of people, 3 or more who wish to be married. We deny the right of the polygamist immigrant from another country to be legally married to multiple women in our country. We deny the right of a person to marry an animal or a tree. We deny the right of a bi-sexual to marry a man and a woman. Why? Why do we do this? You might respond with saying “well that’s simply not what marriage is”. I would wholeheartedly agree with you, that is correct. Then I would ask you this, “what exactly is marriage?”. You see that’s what this debate is about. This is about what marriage is. You might begin by saying “marriage is between two people….” And I would ask you, why? Who says? And why do you get to deny the right of people who want to be married to several people their right? You may think my examples are absurd and there is no way we would ever reach a point where we would allow someone to marry multiple people, or animals. Again the question would be, on what grounds would you deny this to people? It was once absurd to think marriage could be anything other than between a man and a woman.
You see people often ask what’s the harm? How will allowing same sex couple’s to marry hurt anyone or anything. Often I hear, “if you don’t like gay marriage, don’t marry a gay person”. I understand the approach but its fatally flawed. You see if we can no longer define marriage, if it ceases to have boundaries and lines, it will cease to exist at all from a legal, civil perspective. The government will be forced to be increasingly involved in all kinds of relationships it was never involved in before because now they will carry the status of “marriages”. So when a gay couple breaks up, now the government has to be involved in divorce proceedings, the division of assets, property and custody issues that may ensue. The same will be true for the inevitable marriages between groups of people. For that matter what is to deny a couple close friends from getting married for the tax benefits. Should we discriminate against those who want to be married but have no sexual relationship with one another, but love one another?
Same sex marriage will inevitably result in more government involvement in marriages, relationship and civil disputes. The question is where do you want to draw the line, and when you choose to draw it, how will you defend why you drew it there. What will be your defense of marriage as it is currently defined then? Once you let go of marital norms such as one man and one woman, why do you have to hold onto marital norms like monogamy, exclusivity, and permanence? Its not a slippery slope argument, there will be no slope to slide down, we will have slid all the way to the bottom.
2) I am a follower of Jesus. People often say that Jesus didn’t have anything to say about homosexuality or sex outside of the context of marriage. This is not true. Jesus talked about what marriage is and who could participate in it. Jesus, when defending marriage against the damage that heterosexuals had done to it in his culture quoted from Genesis when he said “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let man not separate.” Matthew 19:4-6
For the record I believe that heterosexual’s have done far more damage to the institution of marriage than homosexuals ever have. It began with “no fault” divorce in the 70’s and we are seeing the fruit of it today. At the same time it is undeniable from a Biblical perspective that God created marriage, instituted marriage and defined it as being between one man and one woman. This is why I refer to “gay marriage” as so-called “gay marriage”. I believe based on the Bible, which is my authority for life and the number one value at Flatirons that God defines marriage and no human institution can change that, we can only choose whether we want to acknowledge it or not.
There is much more to say about this and there will be time to say it Lord willing in the coming months. If you want to hear more, you can listen to two sermons that Jim and I have preached over the years. Locked Up: Sexual Bondage part 2 and Behind Closed Doors: Behind Closet Doors. Our views have not changed, because God’s Word has not changed. At Flatirons we try our best to live in the middle of the tension between Grace and Truth. We try our best to lead with Grace and follow with Truth as we see Jesus do time and time again in scripture. I’m sure we don’t always get it right, but this is our aim.Tags: gay marriage, Homosexuality
A couple weeks ago I joined of people from Flatirons to visit the churches we partner with in South Sudan. We spent a week teaching, training, learning, singing, watching, talking, and working in a clinic. But the trip wasn’t about what we did…it was about the fact that we went. About the growing friendship between our churches. And about how we’re making an impact on their churches, but also how hearing from them and learning from them is impacting what we do at Flatirons too. It’s about the relationship between churches because we are all part of the body of Christ.
One of the pastors kept on thanking us for coming…for making, what he called, “a huge sacrifice.” And after the third time I had to stop him and say, “Look, you keep on acting like us coming here was a completely selfless act. But the truth is, I’m here for some selfish reasons too. Because I know that seeing your joy in spite of your circumstances…your faith when things are falling apart…your welcoming spirit to people you’ve never met before…I’m going to see God in a new way because of what I see and learn from you. We’re getting just as much as we’re giving away on this trip.” We don’t “do missions” to people in South Sudan…we have relationships with people in South Sudan. It’s a mutual thing.
And while we did teach and train while we were there, I walked away humbled by the pastors we were training. Two quick things:
They were unbelievably hungry to know God more. Most these pastors (and there were around 45 pastors, teachers, and evangelists at the training) had walked between 5 and 15 miles to get to the training. They would sleep on a tarp in the village so they would be there for training the next day. For many, this was the only opportunity to learn more for the foreseeable future. I left humbled by their hunger to know more, because so often I take for granted all the resources I’ve got access.
They made huge sacrifices to pastor their churches. Pastoring a church in South Sudan equates to a low salary, more pressure on their families, and oftentimes difficult relationships with other people in their villages. Many of these pastors had to work second jobs to support their families. Pastoring their churches require long hours. Until recently there were threats from extremists from (North) Sudan. These pastors sacrifice so much for their churches. I left convicted about how sometimes I will get frustrated when some part of my job is simply inconvenient.
The men and women who work in the churches in South Sudan, our new friends and partners in ministry, asked us on the last day if we would pray for them, for their families, and for their churches. Would you take a quick minute to ask that God would give them strength, wisdom, and courage to continue pastoring their churches well?
This past weekend Jim talked about one of the reactions, excuses, or defenses that we have when Jesus shines His truth into our lives is to say something to the effect of, “Well, that’s just your interpretation.” AKA: “Well, I know that’s what the Bible says…but if I read it this way, then I can keep on doing what I want to do.”
But true biblical interpretation isn’t a process where you try to find one part of the Bible that maybe lines up with the behavior you want to continue or the thought process that you want to lean your life against; it’s not a process where one verse from the bible could mean billions of different things to different people because “it’s just your interpretation.”
Instead, there is a legitimate process for trying to examine what Scripture says about a certain topic or issue…and while there may be times where there are a few different interpretations of the Bible’s perspective on a certain issue, there are some good guidelines to make sure that the interpretive process is us putting ourselves under the authority of the Bible rather than us trying to find a way for the Bible to say what we want to hear. So a couple basic guidelines:
Start with context. Ask, “Who wrote this?” “Who is it written to?” “When was it written?” “Where was it written?” “Why was it written?” Try to understand what the writer was trying to tell the original audience…then, based on that information, look into what it means for us today.
Let the Bible read you more than you read the Bible. At Flatirons, our first value is that the Bible is our authority for life. When the Bible says something we don’t understand or don’t like, we don’t just ignore it or try to read into it the meaning we prefer. Biblical authority means that let the Bible speak into our lives rather than speaking into the Bible what we want it to say.
Interpret the Bible literally, except where it’s obviously metaphor. The Bible is written in different genres, so in some places it’s filled with metaphorical imagery…but it would be a mistake to assume that anything could be a metaphor. So if you can interpret the passage literally, interpret it literally.
Distinguish between descriptive and prescriptive texts. Just because you see someone doing it in the Bible doesn’t mean that you should do it. Descriptive is just talking about something that happened…Prescriptive is telling the original audience (and usually us) what to do. For instance, the story of Solomon having hundreds of wives is NOT prescriptive.
Ask, “How does that apply to my life? What should I do?” It’s not, “What did I learn?” Jesus didn’t teach for education…at all. He taught for application. The Jewish people measured your level of education by your level of obedience…not by your knowledge of the subject. So the purpose of a correct interpretation of the Bible has less to do with being able to lead a discussion about the topic, but more to do with putting what we’ve learned into practice in our own lives.
To go a little further on the topic, check out Scott’s teaching: Big Questions about Christianity.
So I don’t like making resolutions on New Years. Two reasons: First, it’s really fun to eat candy in front of people on a diet. (Seriously, if you haven’t tried it, you should.) Second, I’m not sure they actually work. I’d like to think that I could just set a date and change, but in my life it’s never that way. The changes that have happened in my life aren’t based on a calendar…they’ve been because something significant in my life happened that spurred a change…something happened that demanded a change…or I flat out got sick and tired of the way things were. But those things never seemed to happen on New Years Day.
What I do think is a good practice to keep up when a new year comes along is to review. What are the important things that happened last year? What’s God been teaching me? Am I continuing the journey to become the person He’s created me to be? So I thought I’d share some of that here:
This year I learned that seeing the mountains every day just doesn’t get old. That Peyton Manning is as good as ever. That the Rockies are as bad as ever. That churches who practice both grace and truth are rare. That in the face of unspeakable acts of evil, an entire nation can agree that everything is not relative…there really is such a thing as right and wrong. That kids grow up too soon, and our time with them is more important than a TV show (even The Walking Dead). That God is good.
That last one has been hard for me this last year. My year started a couple months after my dad died. I missed him…his jokes, his advice, his laugh, his wisdom, and his approval. I felt lost. I know my life should have been anchored to God and to his truth, but much of mine was attached to my dad. But he wasn’t there anymore. I missed my dad. I was frustrated at work. Having two young kids was wearing me out. I was tired. Burnt out. And I know that God constantly tells us in His Word that we can trust Him…that He’s good…but here’s the thing: I didn’t see it.
And sometimes I don’t. Sometimes I just won’t. But last year God taught me one thing about ten times: Don’t jump to conclusions about My intentions. Give it some time. One day you’ll see. And I did. Questions I asked five years ago but never got an answer to got answered this year. Some of the most frustrating periods of my life now seem like indispensable training ground based on what God has me doing now. Sometimes what I need is simply a little time, space, and perspective.
Maybe I should review a little more often than once a year.
Friday morning began like most Friday mornings begin for me. I went to the gym worked out, hung around for a few minutes laughing and talking with some good friends then hurried to the grocery store on my way home. Friday’s are my day off which means its “bacon day” in my house. We were out of bacon so I needed to stop off and buy some. I walked into the grocery store at about 7:40 that morning. At the same time on the other side of the country a man shot his way into a school full of children and murdered 20 of them along with 6 adults. As I was buying bacon to go home and enjoy with my 3 kids, 20 families were having their children taken from them. As the news flooded in, it was overwhelming for me it just knocked the wind out of me. All of this 11 days before Christmas. I cannot imagine how difficult every second, every moment of every day is for these parents, much less what Christmas Eve will be like, Christmas morning. Presents undoubtedly sit under trees that will never be opened. I’ve struggled with what to say about all this and I’ve wondered if anything else needed to be said. We’ve had so much of this lately, the theatre shooting, Jessica Ridgeway’s murder and now this, 20 murdered kids and Christmas is coming soon. This is not the first time the birth of Jesus has been closely connected to kids being murdered. Matthew 2:16-18 tells of another unimaginably evil moment in history. Shortly after Jesus’ birth the local puppet “king” Herod in response to his fear of this rumor that another king had been born in Bethlehem and out of rage from being tricked by 3 wise men who were supposed to act as his informants “sent and killed all male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under.” We don’t know how many were killed. Bethlehem was a small town, maybe a dozen or so baby boys? But it also says “in all that region”. Bethlehem is only 5 miles outside of Jerusalem so who knows how many boys were slaughtered on this day. On December 4th I posted a link to John Piper reading his poem “The Innkeeper” not knowing at the time how relevant it would be in ten short days. If you didn’t watch the video then, you will want to now. At Christmas we hang lights and we light candles as a way to remember that Jesus is the light of the world. Light is seen most clearly against a backdrop of darkness. We have one of the darkest moments in our nations history as a backdrop this Christmas. Lets remember this, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” John 1:5 Darkness has not, nor will it ever overcome the Light of the World, our Savior Jesus, who will redeem all that has been lost, restore all that has been stolen and renew all that has faded away.
I was watching an interview with the CEO of Apple the other night and he said: “Our whole role in life is to give you something you didn’t know you wanted. And then once you get it, you can’t imagine your life without it.” And I think they’ve been doing a pretty good job of that. Seven years ago I had never heard of an iPhone, and yet today I don’t know what I’d do without some of the features of the phone: the ability to video chat with my family anytime I want, a camera that’s always ready, Angry Birds…I didn’t know I wanted it, but now I can’t imagine life without it.
It seems like that statement could describe our collective experience as Christmas approaches. We see something in a commercial or at the mall that we didn’t even know existed but now we need it. I heard recently that the majority of items bought from Best Buy on Black Friday weren’t bought for someone else, but kept by the buyer. And a day that commemorates the selflessness of God’s son and that reflects the practice of generosity set by Saint Nicholas…today that Christmas just seems to stand for something else…and deep down we know it’s not right.
So this Christmas, let’s try something different. Two things, specifically:
Practice Contentment. Paul writes in Philippians 4:11: “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.” Now Paul’s writing this from prison, saying that no matter how bad things get, he’s learned to be content. He follows it up by saying, “I can do everything through him who gives me strength” in verse 13 (And no, he wasn’t trying to win a football game when he wrote that).
While our situation is different from Paul’s, I think the encouragement could be the same…if he learned contentment in what he went through, it’s possible for us to learn how to be content in the middle of being surrounded by all these things that we have to have if we’re going to be happy. Paul doesn’t attribute contentment to his own willpower, and that isn’t how we should try to attain it either. He says he constantly relies on God to provide contentment.
Give Significant Gifts. Find some real needs and try to help this Christmas. This weekend Jim talked about how just being a good neighbor could make a impact this month: Get to know them, see what they need, try to help. And if you’ve got obligations to give gifts to different people this year, what about giving a gift that meets a need. This weekend we’ll be selling hats, purses, and beads from Afghanistan and Musana in the lobby, and all the proceeds benefit the mission work in those countries.
But maybe the most significant present you can give this year is your presence. Now let’s be honest, if there was one box under the tree, and when my kids opened it, all that was inside was an IOU: Time with Dad, they would think I’m cheap and a lame dad. But as we get so busy this season running around to get things for people who don’t really need them or going to Christmas parties with people we don’t even like…what if we slowed down…and gave our friends, family, and kids more of our time than less of it this season.
Every year leading up to Christmas I make sure to read this poem written by John Piper. This year there is a video of Piper reading this poem. If Christmas is difficult for you because of some sort of loss you’ve experienced then you really should watch this video, The Innkeeper.Tags: christmas
Thus-far in our mega-Jesus series, we’ve spent the last four weeks looking at a period of Jesus’ life that lasted a couple hours, maybe a day–his temptations following 40 days of prayer and fasting in the wilderness. Prior to that, we looked at where Jesus was BC–that is, before he was Christ on Earth. We briefly touched on his birth, and Scott unpacked part of his baptism a couple weeks ago. But what happened to Jesus in between his birth and his baptism?
The following is from the workshop we did on the Characteristics of God last weekend, sharing what it may have been like for Jesus to grow up as a boy:
So Jesus was a real man, and he was born a real baby, and he looked and acted like a real baby. That Christmas song that goes, “But little Lord Jesus, no crying he makes”…whoever wrote that needed an education because they’ve obviously never been around babies. No, Jesus was a real baby, crying, sleeping, nursing, pooping and peeing. Wait, people ask me…Jesus went to the bathroom? Well I certainly hope so! We’re lead to believe that Jesus, as he was growing up, lived the normal life of a regular boy. He wasn’t pondering the universe that he created when he was in his crib. He had to learn how to crawl and walk and talk just like a normal boy. We will see that he devoted more time than normal to prayer and to the Scriptures…but he didn’t come out of the womb reading the Bible. It was all part of the normal growth process.
We don’t know much about Jesus’ teenage years, but we have to assume that his adolescence was difficult. Jesus was born in a small town of a couple hundred people called Nazareth, to a woman who wasn’t married. And we’re not sure what Mary told people about her pregnancy…but it’s safe to assume that people in the town all knew that Jesus wasn’t Joseph’s son. And that they probably mocked and ridiculed Jesus for that as he was growing up. He would have suffered on this earth well before he went to the cross, even before he started his public ministry. Chances are that Jesus went to Jewish school but was passed over when the famous rabbis were choosing their disciples…and perhaps this was all because of the reputation of his birth.
Jesus’ father-figure on earth, Joseph, was a carpenter, and we can assume that Jesus also worked as a carpenter before he started his ministry. Since we don’t hear about Joseph anytime after Jesus was 12, most historians make the assumption that Joseph died sometime during Jesus’ adolescence, and Jesus stayed at home as a carpenter, taking care of the family business and providing for the family until one of his brothers were capable to succeed him.
Jesus started his public ministry around the time he was 30 years old, and spent roughly 3 years ministering throughout Israel. Jesus’ ministry begins right as he comes out of the wilderness, where he’s been tempted by Satan. He has renewed energy and focus, and the first thing we will see him do (during our next series) is to find men who will join him in his ministry. Over the next few weeks we’ll look at how Jesus interacts with these five guys.
On a sidenote, if you’re thinking about following along with what we teach each week but don’t necessarily know how to read the Bible on your own, you would love our Bible 101 workshop we offer in two weeks. In Bible 101 we explore how to study the Bible. If you have been studying the Bible for a long time or if you’ve never cracked a Bible open in your life, this session will be helpful for you. The workshop is from 6:15-7:15 Saturday 11/17, and from 10:15-11:15 Sunday 11/18.