Who Needs the Old Testament?

We don’t have much room for the Old Testament anymore. Sure, we’ll take some of the better stories like Joseph, Ruth, David, and Daniel. We might even read some Psalms and quote some proverbs. If we are particularly educated, we might grab something from Isaiah, Jeremiah, or Malachi. We have a general familiarity with Job and know the first three books of Genesis pretty well. But the rest of the Old Testament, we could do without. Who wants to read about z being the son of y who was the son of x? Who can make it through rules about mold and chewing cud and goat’s milk? Most intolerable of all may be the passages about killing entire nations, rules for slavery, and examples of polygamous marriages. In the end, many would like to just use the Old Testament for general guidance while focusing primarily on Jesus’ teaching in Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.

There’s a little problem with that approach, though. Jesus didn’t ignore the Old Testament at all. According to Robert Saucy in his book, Scripture: Its Power, Authority, and Relevance, Jesus was so familiar with Old Testament teaching that at least 1 out of every 10 things that he says in the four gospels is a partial or full quote of an Old Testament passage (110). When tempted by Satan in the wilderness, his responses were quotations of Old Testament passages. Even more, whenever Jesus taught, he asserted the Old Testament as authoritative – not just helpful sayings. How many times does Jesus say, “According to Scripture,” or “Have you not read,” or “What did Moses command you?” Jesus talked about historic figures and events from the Old Testament as if they were historically accurate and true. Examples include Moses, David, Sodom, Lot’s wife, the men of Nineveh and Jonah. In the end, Jesus had a very high view of the Old Testament.

But, we might say, that’s the only Scripture Jesus had. Obviously, the New Testament wasn’t written at that time, so he had to rely heavily on the Old Testament. There are two specific passages that might help us understand that Jesus’ love of Old Testament Scripture wasn’t just circumstantial.

Matthew 5:17-18 (ESV)

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.”

Jesus revealed himself as the fulfillment of the Law and Prophets. He was explaining to the people that he was not a new revelation, but was the full revelation of what had already been revealed in the past. We’ll see in our next verse how far he takes this. Also, Paul expands on this understanding in Romans, Galatians and other places. The author of Hebrews also expands on this.

The point: if you do accept the New Testament, then you really must accept the Old Testament.

Luke 24:27 (ESV)

In the days following Jesus’ resurrection, his followers were very confused. Two of these followers were walking on a road on that resurrection Sunday when Jesus came and walked with them, though he didn’t reveal himself to them. They explained to Jesus what had happened in the past few days and how disappointed they were because they had hoped that Jesus was the Messiah of Israel. Jesus called them foolish for not understanding the prophets (another reason to read the Old Testament) and then Luke says this:

“And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.”

He showed the two men on the road exactly how he, Jesus, is the Messiah of all of the Old Testament. He is the ark of salvation, the promised land, the serpent lifted high, the great king, the suffering servant, and the great shepherd. The Old Testament, as seen through the interpretive lens of the life, death, and ascension of Christ, shows that God has done and is doing everything that He said He would do. He is patient and faithful. He is the savior.

Over the next ten weeks we, at Fellowship Church, will be walking through the whole Bible to see the Big Picture of what God is doing and the centrality of Jesus Christ in all of Scripture. I hope that you will take this time of study to read the Old Testament for the first time if you have never done so before and to read it with renewed vigor if you have read it in the past. All of Scripture is God-breathed and sufficient for salvation and godliness. Let’s spend this summer in Scripture and see how God will change us through that pursuit.

Last Minute Mission Opportunity – Sioux Falls, SD

We have a last minute missions opportunity!

Mission Trip to Sioux Falls, SD – Leave 6:00pm on Friday, June 20 – Saturday, June 28.

We will be helping a new church plant with community outreach – including three nights of block parties.

Cost will be $400 per person, including all expenses except souvenirs.

If you are interested in this trip, please contact the church office to sign up TODAY! This is a last minute need that we’re hoping to help out with due to another church cancelling. But we need this trip booked by June 5th.

Something Worth Fighting For

Why church?

It is a question that, for a wide variety of reasons, is being asked in increasing measure in our culture today- and in many cases, in our churches themselves. Chances are, no matter who you are, you’ve wondered yourself before; I know I have.

I think for most of us, the idea of the church makes sense. It is, however, our experience of church that can at times leave us and others questioning its legitimacy and its necessity. I mean, considering its massive and often ugly imperfections, is the church really worth our trouble?

I still believe the answer to that question is a resounding, “Yes!” While not denying that the church has all too often been far less than God designed and desires for her to be, I still believe with all my heart that she is worth fighting for, and worth persevering in.

Why do I say that? Truthfully, for many reasons. But for the sake of focus and brevity, I’ll hone in on just one- I believe the very nature of the church demands that we not give up on her. You see, when Jesus launched the church some 2,000 years ago, He launched something far more significant than another religious movement. He initiated something far more meaningful than another institution or organization.

When Jesus started the church, He started a family.

While by no means the only metaphor used, the prevalence of “family language” utilized in the New Testament to define and describe the nature of the church reveals it as an incredibly dominant theme. God is pictured as an intentional, adoptive Father “to all who believe” in His Son, Jesus, rendering us “brothers and sisters” in Him, full participants in the “household of God” and heirs of the coming Kingdom of our Father. I challenge you today to spend time reading Romans 4, Romans 8, 1 Corinthians 4, Galatians 4, Galatians 6, Ephesians 2, 1 Timothy 5, and other such New Testament passages to see how this plays more fully in the story of the Bible.

Viewing and approaching the church through the lens of family is significant for several reasons- reasons which work together to give us little choice but to fight to believe in, and engage in, the life of the church even amidst its difficulties. Primary among these reasons is the undeniable reality that God has created us with a deep, inherent need for the kind of intimate relationships that family provides.

There is simply no one out there in our world today making a compelling argument that individuals are able to thrive disconnected from the love and nurture of a family. No one with a sliver of sanity believes that a child left to fend for himself or herself is better off than a child living under the protection, provision, and guidance of a loving parent, grandparent, or the like. No one truly believes that orphans, widows, and the like should simply “buck up” and figure life out on their own. To do would be cruel, heartless, and flat out foolish.

And yet, in walking away from the church- or in approaching it with anything less than a family perspective- that’s exactly what we are claiming about the spiritual wellbeing of ourselves and others. We are saying that those orphaned in their sin don’t need a spiritual family pursuing them in the love of their Father and offering them hope beyond their brokenness. We are saying that those who have been “adopted” by God would be better left without the spiritual protection, provision, and guidance of more mature and experienced “spiritual parents.” We are, essentially, abdicating our spiritual responsibility to anyone except ourselves, leaving the world with a message of, “Figure it out.”

I recognize that that may seem like a harsh assessment, but I believe it’s accurate. God doesn’t waste His words, and He doesn’t misspeak. Knowing that, I believe He made a very intentional choice to frame up His church in family terms. In doing so, I believe He was communicating to us just how critical it is to our spiritual wellbeing, and just how much beauty and power is encompassed within it whenever it operates according to His good design. I believe He was telling us that despite our immature ideas to the contrary, that we just can’t live- at least not well- without His family.

So yes, I still believe in the church. I still believe that Jesus died for her, that Jesus delights in her, and that Jesus designed each and every of us for full engagement within her. No, that kind of engagement isn’t easy; sometimes, it can seem flat out impossible. That said, I am more convinced than ever that it is a fight worth fighting, a road worth traveling despite the bumps and bruises we’ll find along the way. I believe the nature of the church demands it.

Whatever your past or present experience with the church, will you ask God to give you what you need to believe- and engage- again? Will you make the choice to “fight for the family”? I pray God will enable you to answer that question the way I have.

 

GO Global – Mission Trip to South Africa

Fellowship Church is excited to announce a mission trip to South Africa to work with Chris Ladd and Children’s Cup.

The trip will be September 9 – 18, 2014. The total cost is $3200; however, Fellowship Church would like to pay $1000 for each person to help make the trip more affordable. This means that the cost will be $2200, of which $500 is due on June 11, 2014 as a deposit. A second deposit of $1000 will be due by July 9, 2014. The remaining $700 will be due in August.

If you are not positive that you will be able to pay the full $2200 but are very interested in participating in this trip, please sign up and get information. We will discuss various means of reaching the $2200 goal.

Other needs for this trip:

* Trip application and other paperwork

* Valid passport with at least 3 blank visa pages – must not expire within 6 months of end of trip

* Approved Physician’s Release

This will be a great trip that will hopefully begin a long term relationship with the people of South Africa. Please pray about sacrificing to participate in this trip.  For more information, contact the Fellowship Church Office.

 

How to respond to the question of why there is suffering in this world?

The answer to this question will not satisfy. It just won’t. Ultimately, we don’t really want the answer.  We want hope, peace and comfort.

It is what makes this reality so beautiful: God’s ultimate answer is not an explanation, but the incarnation.  Suffering is a personal problem; it demands a personal response. And God isn’t some distant, detached, and disinterested deity. Jesus is the answer.

And it’s not just that God knows and sympathizes with you in your troubles. After all, any close friend can do that. Any close friend can sit beside you and comfort you and empathize with you. No, Jesus is much closer than your closest friend. Because if you’ve put your trust in Him, then He is in you. And, therefore, your sufferings are His sufferings; your sorrow is His sorrow.  

If you don’t know who Corrie ten Boom is, google her. And be amazed at her story.  From the darkest corners of a Nazi concentration camp, she said this…“No matter how deep our darkness, He is deeper still.”

 Jesus entered into our world and personally experienced our pain. Out of a DEEP love for you and me, Jesus is there in the lowest places of our lives.  Are you broken? He was broken for us. Are you despised? He was despised and rejected of men. Do you cry out that you can’t take any more? He was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. Did someone betray you? He was sold out. Are your most tender relationships broken? He loved and He was rejected. Did people turn from you? They hid their faces from Him as if He were a leper.

He took every sin, every pain, every hurt, every suffering we endure and it was nailed to the cross with Him. And in His suffering, He was not consoled. He didn’t have a Life Group bring Him meals or send Him encouraging text messages with Scripture. He was mocked. He was spit upon. He was insulted. And in a moment, God the Father had to turn His face away. Could He have done something about it? Could He have made it stop? You better believe it! And Jesus knew it! And in that moment…even the Son of God cried out! “WHY?!?!? Why have you forsaken me?”

In complete brokenness and suffering, the Father said… You may not see it now my son, but I love you. And the people I love need this. I want them back. This is necessary and the eternal reward is worth it.

Life’s not fair. Jesus would be the first to tell you.  Fairness ended in the Garden of Eden.  Through His own suffering and death, He has deprived this world of its ultimate power over you. Suffering doesn’t have the last word anymore. Death doesn’t have the last word anymore. God has the last word!

Do not give up. Don’t look to what is seen, but to what is unseen. For the sorrows we face today are not even worthy to be compared to the eternal weight in glory of seeing Jesus face to face.

Tell A Better Story

Families are fractured.

Chances are, you didn’t need me to tell you that. Surveying the littered landscape of our communities, our culture, and our own lives, it quickly becomes clear that something has gone terribly wrong in this thing we call family. Even for those of us who grew up in- and live now in- comparatively healthy families, the cracks are evident. It wouldn’t take you two days in my home to realize that’s true of me and my family, and I’m willing to guess that the same is true for you and yours.

So then, families are fractured. Most of us can agree on that. From there, however, the debate gets heated quickly. Why are families so broken? What has gone wrong? And how can we fix this thing? Honestly, is it even worth fixing? These are incredibly expansive and emotional questions, and they aren’t going away any time soon. It would be foolhardy to believe that they could be adequately explored and answered in a single blog post such as this one, but I do believe there are two core principles which we can grab on to as we engage this conversation…

1- The root of fractured families were the events of Genesis 3, not those of the 1960s.
The common story being told in today’s Christian subculture is that the sexual revolution of the mid-late 20th century- and most recently the rapid ascent of the homosexual lobby- is behind the degradation of marriage and family in our nation today. To listen to some folks talk about this issue, it would seem that all was well with families until approximately 1962, when everything went belly up.

The only problem with this version of the story is that it’s absolutely, egregiously unbiblical. While I am certainly not arguing that the growing permissiveness of our culture is a good and positive thing, I am saying that the primary root cause of the sad, painful state of families today runs much deeper. These bold “new” definitions of family (which, incidentally, aren’t all that new!) are expressions of brokenness, but they can’t be the engine behind it. No, to find our “culprit,” we have to travel all the way back to the very first family, in Genesis 3.

What we find in these first chapters of the biblical story is that the root of family brokenness exists in the heart of everyone. It is called sin, and it expresses itself in the self centered, “get mine” mentality that characterizes so much of our approach to life and family relationships today. This refusal to submit to God’s way of doing family- a way centered on others, not self- is behind every symptom of family brokenness in our world today, including rampant divorce, assumed cohabitation, and even “intact families” where husbands and fathers disengage from their divine leadership assignment and instead leave their wives and children to take up their slack. Sin and selfishness, in all their various forms, have been wrecking relationships since the very first family took their fall. The events of the past 50 years have simply magnified what has been going on forever.

2- To see fractured families restored, we as Jesus followers must tell a better story.
If the root of family brokenness is sin– which impacts us all, without exception- then the road to healing cannot begin on the “pathway” of politics, but in the “field” of our own hearts. I’m afraid that for all of our railing and lobbying against what we view as the enemies of the “biblical family,” we’ve too often neglected to mind the health of our own families. The result of that relative neglect is a stinging sense of hypocrisy that I believe is leaving us increasingly voiceless in a world in desperate need of a different voice than those that are prevailing in our culture.

Friends, in Jesus, we have a better story of family to tell our world. It is a story of families that broken by sin, but are being put back together with God’s amazing grace. It is a story of families that reject the “get mine” mentality that pervades our world, and instead humbly submit themselves to God’s ways and others’ benefit. It is a story of families that do culturally crazy things like “submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” It is a story of families that approach one another in selfless service and honor, reflecting the beauty and power that God intended when He created family in the first place!

This isn’t to say we should disengage entirely from the broader cultural conversation regarding family; I do believe we should maintain a voice there. But perhaps we should trade in our finger pointing message of “We’re right, you’re wrong” with one that sounds more like this- “Because of sin, we’re all a mess. But God’s grace is available in Jesus, and because of that, we have hope and help for something better.” An extended hand of humble grace is always better than a pointed finger of self righteous judgment, especially when it is accompanied by a compelling, real life image of that grace in action in our homes and families. I believe we have both an opportunity and a responsibility to extend this hand as we depend on God’s gracious work in us to transform our own hearts.

A few questions to leave you with as you grapple with this admittedly difficult issue…

Have you focused on the expressions of family brokenness in our culture to the neglect of the brokenness in your heart and home? How can you repent of this and experience God’s restoration?

How can you tell a better story of family to those in your life today? What needs to be true in your own home and family so that you can set a compelling example to others that God’s ways are the best ways?

How can you continue to boldly, yet graciously, engage the broader cultural conversation regarding family based on what you have read here today?

 

Pick Up The Phone

“We must believe that God, in the mystery of prayer, has entrusted with us a force that can move the Heavenly world and bring its power down to earth”…Andrew Murray

I want you to take a moment with me and imagine a scenario. You’ve been tasked to build something- a very big something, and a very important something. It doesn’t really matter what it is- you pick the project. All that matters is that it’s big, and important– and that you’ve never, ever built one before.

Needless to say, no matter your level of skill or expertise, this would be a difficult, and perhaps anxiety inducing, assignment. Chances are, you’d feel pretty well in over your head as you set out to complete this task. Sure, you may have a few ideas of how to go about it, and you even make some measurable progress as you attempt to enact those ideas. But regardless of how much forward motion you make, the task is so overwhelmingly big- and its completion so frustratingly elusive- that the proverbial “finish line” never does seem to get much closer.

But let’s just say you happen to personally know someone who has built one of these very big, very important somethings before. In fact, you know the only person who has ever successfully completed one. In many ways, you’re enamored with this person and his off-the-charts ability. You read about his past exploits. You marvel at pictures of his finished works. You get together with your friends and discuss just how fantastically skilled he is, and just how much help he would be in completing your very big, very important something. In all of these ways and more, you just can’t seem to say enough about this person.

This being the case, how exceedingly foolish would it be if you never actually picked up the phone to call this person? All the glowing talk, all the admiring thought, all the honest intention in the world does no good at all if you never actually engage the “master builder” in the project at hand, requesting His direct and personal assistance.

As evidently foolish as such a failure to act might seem to us, I’m afraid that this is exactly how we often approach the most significant “building project” any of us has ever been given- namely, the building of God’s church in this world. Most Jesus followers- myself included- would likely give lip service to the reality that we have no power to accomplish things of spiritual significance apart from the intervening grace and power of God, the “Master Builder.” Despite this supposed belief, though, many of us live practically as though we can somehow get along just alright without Him.

How do we do this? Primarily, through a failure to pray. Prayer is one of those things that most everyone would agree is a good idea. But too often, this practice remains just that- a good idea, thought about and talked about but all too rarely done. Particularly in the American church, where we are resourced up to our eyeballs, we are prone to neglect the most critical Resource of all- God Himself!

Make no mistake- Prayerlessness is faithlessness. We can talk about God until we’re blue in the face, claiming just how dependent we are on Him, but until we actually “pick up the phone” and call out to Him in desperation, we betray our lack of actual faith, instead depending wholly on ourselves. In the meantime, we may build something that resembles His church, but it will never have the structural integrity or staying power that God desires and intends. A church without prayer is a church without true power.

Do you find yourself falling into this subtle spiritual trap? I know I do. I can think about God all day, and even talk about Him regularly (I do this for a living!), and at the same time display a stunning neglect of actual, direct engagement with Him. We can do this corporately, as a church family, as well as personally. And the scariest part is, we can move right along with the illusion of progress while remaining disconnected from the only One who is able to affect the depth and breadth of transformation that we say we’re after.

Friends, we must repent of our prayerlessness, and instead respond to God’s open invitation to call on Him to move in power and love. We must “pick up the phone” to heaven personally, purposefully, and persistently, believing that when we do, God will hear us, and He will respond to us in perfect love and wisdom. Can you imagine the church- and the transformed lives- that could be “built” when we throw ourselves humbly at the feet of the One who has promised to “build His church”? Heaven only knows what will be possible when we move beyond our good intentions to obedient action. I’m praying- not just thinking, and not just talking- that we’ll answer this call personally and corporately this very day, and every day to come, and in the process God accomplish more than we ask, think, or imagine possible.