Is God your Father or Grandfather?

By Nate Keeler, MBC Arlington Pastor

Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live!  They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.
                                                                                – Hebrews 12:7-11

C.S. Lewis in The Problem of Pain describes how warped our view of God’s love and goodness often is.  He says, “What would really satisfy us would be a God who said of anything we would like to be doing, ‘Well what does it matter as long as they are contented?’ We want in fact not so much a father in heaven but a grandfather in heaven. A senile benevolence who, as they say, ‘would like to see young people enjoying themselves’ and whose plan for the universe was simply that at the end of each day a good time was had by all.” 

Sounds about right, doesn’t it? We sometimes twist our view of God to fit our own interests. But as a father of two boys, I know that what my boys need in order to grow into honorable and mature men of God is NOT a benevolent “senile” grandfather but a father who is prepared to do what is necessary to produce a harvest of maturity in my boys.

Sometimes my boys don’t understand or enjoy the disciplines Shannan and I seek to instill in their lives, whether it be chores, memorizing Scripture, helping them learn how to read, eating balanced meals, family devotions, etc. If they had their way they would be snacking on junk food instead of eating their broccoli, playing video games instead of reading and watching cartoons instead of doing chores. Even though in the moment it seems more loving for us to always give them what they want (who doesn’t love bringing a big smile to their faces?), the most loving and good thing we can do as parents is provide discipline.

Guess what? As adults we are often no different with our Father in heaven than children are with their parents! This is the point of our passage and one of the most important aspects of developing a biblical worldview.

Hardships and discipline don’t automatically produce endurance, righteousness and maturity. Only those who learn to be trained by God’s discipline will reap this harvest as verse 11 concludes. While we don’t enjoy the discipline or often even understand it in the moment, the secret is to take the long view. God is treating us as legitimate children. He loves you and I too much to leave us the way we are, just as I love my boys too much to let them turn into couch potatoes!

What is your heart’s disposition toward the hardships in your life right now? Are you allowing God to train you as His son or daughter? Or are you resisting and resenting it?  Open your hands to God and allow Him to produce the harvest in your life!

Why I Love Part Four of Multiply

By Sue Moye, Assoc. Director of Discipleship for Midsize Groups & Strategic Initiatives at MBC Tysons

My awe for who God is and His plan for me has grown through reading Part Four of Multiply, “Understanding the Old Testament.” I took Old and New Testament Surveys during my four years at a Christian college and have some seminary under my belt. Even so, I have never before been positioned to take in the whole panorama of God’s plan to relate to His people like I have through studying Multiply. Let me share what reading Part Four of Multiply is doing in my life.

If you are like me, you have set out to read the whole Bible in a year numerous times, and have made it for a few weeks, even months, before failing. Because you keep trying, you have read Genesis numerous times. Beginning Part Four of Multiply, I felt like I was wading in to all-too-familiar territory. I encourage you to hang in there even if starting out seems like the beginning of a mountain climb, an uphill path without a rewarding view.

By Chapter 3 on the Abrahamic Covenant, I began to see glimpses of the symmetry in God’s call to people throughout the ages. God’s message to Abraham was to “go”, and Abraham went. God tells Abraham that He is going to make him a father of a great people, but Abraham and Sarah were infertile until God gave them a miraculous son. God also promised that He would be with them.

As I studied this, I could not help but notice that in Matthew 28:18-20, God commands us to “go.” If my life were in a book, would it say “and she went?” God calls me to make disciples, but like Sarah, I am powerless! I cannot create a new life in Christ. I can only be obedient to go, and to invest the Gospel in others. New spiritual offspring will be the result of a  miracle in response to my obedience!

Lastly, in Matthew 28:20, Jesus promises, “For lo, I am with you always.” That is the same promise God made to Abraham, that He will be with them! Wow! Jesus’ command to us is a continuation of what God began with Abraham!

From there, in the chapter on sacrifice and atonement, Francis Chan continues to build the story. He focused my understanding of the seriousness of my sin. It really took Jesus’ blood, (not just His love toward me) to forgive my sin, to cleanse me daily. I understood the cross, but I didn’t like to embrace the bloodiness of it. Reading this chapter has changed my perspective forever. I will never sing another hymn about Jesus’ blood without it cutting in to my heart.

I have always loved John 1:14, “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” Wow! God chose to become a man, to do all that Philippians 2:5-11 captures so beautifully. But never before have I seen the story of God’s presence on earth so powerfully laid out as I did in the Chapter 7 of Part 4. By studying that chapter and the referenced Scripture, I saw the view of God’s relating with His people in a whole new way. It was like getting above the tree line and seeing the view from a whole new perspective. You don’t want to miss it.

Chan has presented the whole of God’s story in a way that I have never studied it before. The more I read Multiply and the passages of Scripture it requires to answer the questions, the more my view of God expands. The bigger my God gets, the more confident and compelled I am to tell everyone God brings into my life. And it is not just me, I am hearing these same themes echoed all over the church. I praise God for that!

My Chat with Jehovah’s Witnesses

By Brian Rice, Access Adult Coordinator at MBC Tysons 

A week or so before Lon preached on the book of Colossians, a very nice Jehovah’s Witness couple came to my door. The woman shared the script she had memorized to try and show me that our beliefs were the same—we are sinners in need of Jesus as a savior. After a few minutes of polite conversation and affirming what she had said so far (none of which was yet heresy), I asked what the difference is between her beliefs and what I as an evangelical Christian would affirm. She continued down her script, and with polite curiosity I asked the same question a few more times. There obviously must be some difference or else why continue the sales pitch? Finally, with reservation, she said that she does not believe Jesus is God.

BINGO! Now we could start a real discussion. After trying to show me that Jesus was just God’s son and not actually God Himself through their “Bible” (New World Translation), the man paraphrased a couple of verses where Jesus claimed to only be God’s son and not actually God. I asked, “You’ve paraphrased some scripture, but can you show me where Jesus said that?”

He answered, “In Colossians 1.”

I now had a HUGE smile on the inside and replied, “Colossians was written by the Apostle Paul 30 years or so after Jesus had ascended to heaven.” At this point I had enough knowledge of Colossians to know that it is an epistle Paul wrote in which Jesus never spoke. (It hit me how important it is to know how the Bible fits together.)

Only God can change hearts; I am just responsible to be obedient to His call to share the truth.

The man quickly backtracked. “Well it was Jesus through Paul…I mean the Holy Spirit through Paul.” He quickly read Colossians 1:15: “He (Jesus) is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.” The man claimed that this proved Jesus was just another created being, the first created being. I knew this couldn’t mean what this man claimed it meant, but I hadn’t studied this passage enough to be prepared with an answer. After hearing Lon’s sermon on Colossians, I now find it surprising that the man chose that letter to dissuade me from the truth that Jesus is God. The deity of Christ is the very issue that Paul was affirming to the Colossians!

The man continued his argument by saying the reason for Jesus’ crucifixion was that the Jewish leaders were angry with Him for claiming to be God’s son. I explained that this proves that Jesus claimed He is God (Matthew 26).

The couple left without changing their belief that Jesus is not God, but that’s OK. Only God can change hearts; I am just responsible to be obedient to His call to share the truth. I was thankful for the holes God showed me in their beliefs. Before leaving, they thanked me for talking with them and shared how at most of the 100,000 doors they knock on each year, people do not speak with them at all. Hearing the statistic of how intentional and bold they are about sharing their false version of the Gospel, I was convicted on my lack of boldness. Christ resides in me, with all His truth and power, yet how many people am I sharing with every year?

After they left I quickly checked out the study notes in my Bible for Colossians 1:15. I needed to find out how the Bible, which is inerrant, could say that Jesus was created yet He is God. John MacArthur’s note explained:

“The Greek word for ‘firstborn’ can refer to the one who was born first chronologically, but most often refers to preeminence in position, or rank. In both Greek and Jewish culture, the firstborn was the ranking son who had received the right of inheritance from his father, whether he was born first or not. It is used of Israel who, not being the first nation, was however the preeminent nation. Firstborn in this context clearly means highest rank, not first created… Thus Jesus is the firstborn in the sense that he has the preeminence and possesses the right of inheritance over ‘all creation’. He existed before the creation and is exalted in rank above it.”

Colossians is as applicable today as it was in 62 A.D. when Paul wrote it to the church at Colossae. There are still people who are deceived into denying the deity of Christ, yet they hold to other parts of scripture. Please pray that God would soften the hearts of this couple and many others, and that He would reveal to them the true identity of His Son Jesus.

3 Takeaways from My Encounter with Jehovah’s Witnesses:

1. Bible survey is important.

It is critical to know the story of the entire Bible and how all of the pieces fit together.

2. Always be prepared to answer.

“But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,” 1 Peter 3:15. I wish I had been as prepared for them as they were for me.

3. I (we) need to be bolder toward the lost.

Although this couple and the rest of the Jehovah’s Witnesses do not have the Living God residing inside them, they are living out what they understand to be the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20). I have the Holy Spirit, God, residing in me, yet I am not as intentional as they are in obeying Jesus’ command to make disciples.

If you would like more information about Jehovah’s Witnesses and sharing the Gospel with them, check out www.gotquestions.org:

Witnessing to Jehovah’s Witnesses – what is the key?
http://www.gotquestions.org/witnessing-Jehovahs-Witnesses.html

Who are the Jehovah’s Witnesses and what are their beliefs?
http://www.gotquestions.org/Jehovahs-Witnesses.html

Why I Gave Up Lent…for Lent

By Joe Henriques, MBC Tysons Campus Pastor

I used to go to church on Ash Wednesday—the first day of the Lenten season that lasts until Easter—to get ashes pressed on to my forehead. The ashes were supposed to remain in the shape of a cross, but they always gradually turned into a smudge mark. Then for the next 40 days (except for Sunday), I gave up something that I liked.

This year, I gave up Lent for Lent. I decided to celebrate instead of fast. I’m making merry instead of mourning!

Not because I think Lent is a bad thing. Along with millions of people in the big world of Christendom, I agree that it’s a good thing. At a baseline level, Ash Wednesday at least gives those of the Christian faith the same face worldwide.

But, the good was meant to go deeper.

The original purpose of Lent

Since about the 8th Century, Ash Wednesday and Lent, according to Anglo-Saxon abbot Aelfric (955-1020), have been an outward manifestation of inner repentance. “Now let us…strew ashes on our heads,” he writes in his Life of the Saints, “to signify that we ought to repent of our sins…”

The mourning for sins with accompanying ashes is a practice of antiquity. The earliest biblical occurrence is found in the words of Job after he was rebuked by God, “…my eyes see You; Therefore…I repent in dust and ashes” (Job 42:6 NASB).  The original purpose of Lent was to help the believer remember his sinfulness and mortality and that he is deserving of death, just as it was for the parents of the human race, Adam and Eve, who, after their sin heard the words, “…for dust you are and to dust you shall return” (Genesis 3:19). After forty days, we thank God on Good Friday for the Cross of Christ, which delivers us from this death. The day of resurrection that follows is a day of sheer exhilaration and joy that death has lost its sting forever!

The reason for Lent today

I’m afraid that we’ve come a long way from the original purpose of Lent. What Twitter users are giving up for Lent (based on 116,000 tweets) looks more like New Year’s Resolutions than Jobesquian mourning.

Untitled1
Source: Gleanings, Christianity Today[1]

Reviving Lent

Jump into the true spirit of Lent. Prepare yourself for Good Friday (right around the corner). Contemplate the meaning of the Lord’s crucifixion. Get ready for the joy of Resurrection Sunday! Here are two ideas on how to revive your devotion to Christ.

Use Lent to kick-start holiness.

Any one of the items named in tweets that many are giving up could be far beyond a mere New Year’s Resolution. Maybe it is in fact a weight holding a person back from freely living for Christ. Even worse, it could be an activity that has crossed the line from permissible, to excess, to sin. Use Lent to catalyze obedience to the scripture:

“…let us strip off and throw aside every encumbrance (unnecessary weight) and that sin which so readily (deftly and cleverly) clings to and entangles us…” (Hebrews 12:1, Amplified Bible)

Follow Jesus over Passover week.

We weren’t given the privilege of walking with Jesus in person during his last week (how amazing that would have been!), but we can follow him through eyewitness accounts of what he did in his last five days before the cross.

 On March 29, AD 33, Jesus entered the city of Jerusalem and boldly predicted that he would soon be put to death—executed on a cross, like a common criminal. So began the most important week of the most important person who ever lived.”[2]

(At the end, please see a suggestion I have for a Bible reading plan from Palm Sunday to Resurrection Sunday.)

“Give it up for Jesus!”

Let’s go back to my story. Why did I give up Lent for Lent this year? Instead of giving up anything for Jesus, I’m instead proclaiming to my world, “Give it up for Jesus!” After all, it’s my 50th spiritual birthday! On March 12, 1964, I believed in Christ. So, because the cross and the resurrection changed my life forever, I’m going for celebration and proclamation!

UntitledI invited our staff to join me for a 50th Spiritual Birthday Party in March. While the Bolivian Band, AMA, provided the background music, I shared my story of how Jesus changed my life, and the 40 guests who accepted the invitation shared with each other their own stories of changed lives through Christ.

The cake to the right, made by my granddaughter in the shape of a book, says, “The Book of Life, Joe Henriques, March 12, 1964.” That’s when the Lord Jesus allowed my name to become permanent in his all-important Book! (Rev. 20:12)

Whether Lent for you is a time for remorse or rejoicing, make it special for the Lord. How can you show your love for him over these next few days before Easter? 

A Bible reading plan for Passover Week: from Palm Sunday to Resurrection Sunday

Palm Sunday
The Triumphal Entry
Matthew 21:1-11, Mark 11:1-10, Luke 19:29-44, John 12:12-19

Monday
Jesus curses the fig tree
Matthew 21:18-19, Mark 11:12-14

Jesus cleanses the temple
Matthew 21:12-13, Mark 11:15-18

Tuesday
The authority of Jesus questioned
Matthew 21:23-27, Mark 11:27-33, Luke 20:1-8

Jesus teaches in the temple
Matthew 21:28 – 23:39, Mark 12:1-44, Luke 20:9-21:4

Jesus anointed
Matthew 26:6-13, Mark 14:3-9, John 12:2-11

Wednesday
The plot against Jesus
Mathew 26:14-16, Mark 14:10-11, Luke 22:3-6

Thursday
The Last Supper
Matthew 26:17-29, Mark 14:12-25, Luke 22:7-20, John 13:1-38

Jesus comforts the disciples
John 14:1 – 16:33

Gethsemane
Matthew 26:36-46, Mark 14:32-42, Luke 22:40-46

Thursday Night and Friday
Jesus’ arrest and trial
Matthew 26:47 – 27:26, Mark 14:43 – 15:15, Luke 22:47 – 23:25, John 18:2 – 19:16

Good Friday
Jesus’ crucifixion and death
Matthew 27:27-56, Mark 15:16-41, Luke 23:26-49, John 19:17-30

The burial of Jesus
Matthew 27:57-66, Mark 15:42-47, Luke 23:50-56, John 19:31-42

Resurrection Sunday
The empty tomb
Matthew 28:1-10, Mark 16:1-8, Luke 24:1-12, John 20:1-10

Mary Magdalene sees Jesus in the garden
Matthew 16:9-11, Mark 20:11-18

Jesus appears to the two going to Emmaus
Mark 16:12-13, Luke 24:13-35

Jesus appears to 10 disciples
Mark 16:14, Luke 24:36-43, John 20:19-25

Source: The NIV Study Bible[3]


[1] What to Give Up for Lent 2014? Twitter Reveals Top 100 Choices, Christianity Today
[2] The Final Days of Jesus, Kostenberger
[3] The NIV Study Bible, Copyright © 1985 by The Zondervan Corporation

When Words Fail

By Lexie Dache, Operations Manager for MBC Tysons Outreach

Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” (James 1:27)

When disaster strikes, no one knows what to say. If the words escape past the lump in your throat, they still seem to lose their meaning. In times of trouble, words become cheap, but simple actions are gold.

In January, the Outreach staff encountered a woman in a crisis. Her young daughter passed away from a brain tumor, and she found herself heartbroken with limited resources and no family around.

There were other people in the church who heard this news, specifically a Multiply group who had expressed interest in serving together. Instead of being at a loss, they uttered the four words that matter most in a time of trouble: “How can we help?”.

They arrived at the Smith Center on the designated Thursday, dressed in black suits with willing hearts. They helped in all kinds of ways, and hours later, when the service and reception had finished and it looked like everything should have been wrapped up, the question was asked, “What else?”.

At that moment I took a step back from the activity to take a mental picture. Tables of school teachers remained circled up, children ran back and forth to the delicious spread of donated food, supporters gathered around the mother and lingered over photos of the beautiful little girl. I watched as my boss delegated and directed this group of adults who had taken off a day of work, devoting their time and energy to honor a woman they did not know and whose troubles they were not willing to keep at a distance.

This is what the body of Christ is about – comforting the afflicted.

Minutes later this Multiply group started packing up plates and dividing into cars. A large food distributor had sent over boxes and boxes of food, and these folks dispersed into the suburbs to deliver the much-needed provisions. They ended up spending the whole day helping as a group, not because they had to, but because that’s what you do when people are hurting and in trouble.

This is what the body of Christ is about—comforting the afflicted, whether that’s quietly sitting with the heartbroken or setting up tablecloths in reception rooms and working behind the scenes. When disaster strikes, actions speak louder than words. When chaos hits, it’s nice to know you’re not alone. I am so proud of this Multiply group for being a silent but beautifully-strong picture of Christ to a woman in need, for modeling Christ’s love in action, for loving with more than words and doing so together.

This kind of love isn’t often found in our world, but this is the kind of love Jesus modeled for us. The wordless service shown on this day caused teachers and educators to say, “Wow, thank you so much for doing this. I’ve never seen something like this before.” You can bet we invited these individuals back to church to experience Jesus with us on a Sunday.  Even if they never come back, we know that they experienced Christ in our building, even though they didn’t attend a formal worship service.

From All Nations…

By Heidi Hobson, MBC Tysons Attendee

Go and make disciples of all nations….  Matthew 28:19a

As a Hispanic, these words sound like music to my ears! I have always imagined Heaven as an amazingly diverse place, with people of all shapes and sizes and colors. Languages, known and unknown, being spoken with joy and voices singing beautiful praises.

My own household is a mini melting pot. Each of us has been born in a different state or country, moved around quite a bit and experienced many different languages, cultures and subcultures. With each new experience, we learn that although we might think we are different, we are the same in so many ways. However, this is not the way most of us think or behave. We all have grown accustomed to seeking others who look like us, speak like us, and act like us – – or even cook like us!

Regardless of our background, ethnicity or history, we all need Jesus, a Savior who loves us and accepts us for who we are. This is why it is so easy for me to accept people from other backgrounds and viewpoints. At the core, we all need the same thing: somewhere to belong.

When I signed up to lead and host a Multiply group, I had no idea what to expect. I was so very excited about it all! With great anticipation, I started the process of getting in touch with the ladies who registered to attend. The names on the list were not that exciting to me. But then, they all came to our home. Such an amazing group! We come from many diverse backgrounds, cultures and ethnicities. We eat different things, in different ways, and speak other languages besides English. In my small group of ladies I can see a glimpse of the colorful tapestry the Lord has created. Despite our differences we all love Jesus and deeply desire to obey Him. The more we share, the more we allow ourselves to be vulnerable and the more we begin to feel a sense of family in Christ. What a gift, what a joy!

Recently, we shared a meal for which each one of us contributed a dish from our own traditional cuisine, and was it ever a feast! We all enjoyed it so much that we planned another one. I consider these types of gatherings to be dress rehearsals for the kind of fellowship and communion we will have once we get to Heaven. It is an incredible reminder to me that I want every single person I love on this earth to know Jesus. I want them all to know this is what we look forward to and they can experience that sense of family in Christ here among the body of believers. They belong!

For two hours every Tuesday night, I experience a little piece of heaven, a beautiful sample of the amazing diversity of God’s people and of His love demonstrated in different sounds, scents and sights. As we work together as a team, encouraging, fine tuning, teaching, loving, and holding each other accountable, we are all broadening our own eternal perspectives and coming to terms with our responsibilities at home and across the globe. I am truly grateful for this particular season at MBC and for the way Multiply points us to the Great Commission. So let’s all go forth, and make disciples!

Do You Know What You Believe?

By Brian Walters, MBC Loudoun Director of Discipleship

One of the strongest contributing factors to disunity in the church throughout the centuries has been inconsistency in how people interpret the Word of God. Not only does this contribute to disunity in the church, but it also hinders our witness to the lost world because people don’t know what or whom to believe.

The first reason there is disagreement about interpretation is because a variety of methods are used to analyze Scripture, resulting in different interpretations of the Bible. Throughout history, theologians have established principles of interpretation, or hermeneutics, which help with proper exegesis. Exegesis means examination of a text to discover the author’s intended meaning in the original context. The ultimate goal is to understand what God wants to communicate to us.

There are four main hermeneutics styles:

  • Allegorical – Words are not taken literally, but in a symbolic sense.
  • Literal/Plain/Normal – Words are taken in a normal sense, like our everyday language.
  • Semi-allegorical/Semi-literal – Words are taken literally, except in the case of prophecy, which is interpreted allegorically.
  • Theological interpretation – Words are taken semi-allegorically, but the interpreter may also interpret symbolically those things that don’t fit into his theology.

So which method should be used? In all but the literal or plain method,  the normal meaning of the words may be deemed irrelevant and be replaced with whatever meaning the interpreter gives to symbols or whatever meaning suits his theological viewpoint. Such methods are dangerous because they can lead to contradictory interpretations. Thus, the literal or plain hermeneutic is recommended.

Here are two guidelines when interpreting Scripture using the normal hermeneutic:

  • Interpret Scripture with Scripture – The meaning of a passage must harmonize with other passages in the Bible. If you interpret a text to mean something that contradicts the rest of what Scripture says, then your interpretation is most likely incorrect.
  • Context is King – The meaning of a passage must be determined in proper context by reading the surrounding passages. This extends to the theme of the chapter, to the whole book, or even to the entirety of Scripture. Note: there are other types of context (e.g. historical, cultural, etc.) to take into account as well.

This is only a brief summary of hermeneutics. There are entire theology courses and books dedicated to this topic. Living by the Book, by Howard & William Hendricks, is one of the best books on the art and science of reading the Bible.

A second reason why there is disagreement on the interpretation of Scripture is because many are not knowledgeable about God’s Word for themselves. When people don’t know what the Bible says, they believe whatever they are taught and then teach others the same, which may propagate false interpretations.

If we are honest, we must admit that what is taught is not always biblical. How can you know what is biblical if you are not studying God’s Word yourself? There is no substitute for being in the Word, and if we are not, we can be led astray by slick talkers (Rom. 16:17-18) and misled by popular trends (Eph. 4:13-15). Remember that Satan disguises himself to trick us (2 Cor. 11:14), and he would like nothing better than for us to have an incorrect view of Scripture. Satan is always looking for an opportunity to pounce (1 Peter 5:8), so protect yourself by arming yourself with knowledge of the Word (Eph. 6:17).

Thirdly, there is disagreement on Scripture interpretation when man puts society’s culture and values in authority instead of the Word of God. As Christ followers, we can’t pick and choose what is true in the Bible as it suits our purpose. It is all true and God-breathed (2 Tim. 3:16). God tells us not to conform to this world (Rom. 12:2) or love the things of the world more than Him (1 John 2:15-16). It may not be easy to live out His Word, but we must never sacrifice its truth for what the world deems appropriate.

Finally, keep in mind that there may always be disagreement about Scripture interpretation. God uses truth as a dividing tool to identify genuine teaching, which ultimately unifies the body of Christ (1 Cor. 11:18-19). Again, this is why there is simply no substitute for studying the Bible yourself using literal hermeneutic principles to determine the most accurate interpretation and to judge whether what others are teaching is true. A whole lot of disagreement would disappear if everyone practiced a proper exposition of Scripture.

Embrace the Grind!

by Nate Keeler

Psalm 1:1-3

“Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night.  He is like a tree firmly planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither.  In all that he does, he prospers.”

I once heard Tim Keller tell the story about what trees have done to the sidewalks of New York City.  The trees that were first planted were weak and the thought of what they were capable of in the distant future seemed insignificant. But over the years, as the roots thickened and deepened the trees were so strong that they could easily break through the concrete sidewalks. [shared-quote]We must appreciate the truth that discipleship is a grind of time and commitment.[/shared-quote]

This reminds me of Psalm 1:1-3.  The mature disciple that is represented by the Psalmist as a “tree firmly planted” did not get that way overnight did he?  Of course not!  Disciples start out their walk as a seemingly weak and insignificant sapling.  As the Psalmist indicates, maturity happens through a process of removing the sinful influences from our lives and developing a love for God through spiritual disciplines.  Over time disciples grow strong, dependable and influential as they multiply disciples as the fruit of their lives.

There are many takeaways from this passage but let me focus on just one: the process of making and becoming a mature disciple is a grind that we must embrace for the long-term.  That doesn’t mean all of us will take decades to become mature, to the contrary some disciples are fast growers.  But regardless of speed, we must appreciate the truth that discipleship is a grind of time and commitment.  If it took the God-man, Jesus, 3 years of dedicated investment to make disciples that were ready to reproduce (and one of them didn’t work out so well) then maybe we should value the process as much as the product!

With the advent of technology we are so used to moving at light speed in so many areas of our lives- information, commuting, work assignments, politics, etc.  The process of becoming and making disciples is counter-cultural because it is doggedly determined to require significant time and commitment.

Are you growing weary and frustrated in your own maturity or in making a mature disciple of someone else?  I want to encourage you to persevere through prayer and patience.  Fruitful trees aren’t made over night and neither are reproductive disciples.  Embrace the grind!

Confessions of a Gay Christian – Some Thoughts

By Mike Kelsey, MBC Silver Spring Pastor

I just read an article published in Relevant Magazine and I think it’s an important article for Christians to read because it articulates a very painful struggle for some of the people in our churches. Here are several applications I took from it and I think Christians, especially Christian men, need to consider:

1.”Gay jokes” are unwise, insensitive, and unacceptable. If you struggle with this, I’d encourage you to study and meditate on Ephesians 4:29, James 3:9-12, and Matthew 12:33-37

2. Christians tempted with same-sex attraction need the Church to be a community marked by humility, compassion, and truth. Humility = I’m not better than you. Compassion = I am drawn to you in love not repelled by you in disgust. Truth = Love is not synonymous with unbiblical compromise.

3. Christian men shouldn’t be afraid of gay men. (I’m sure this applies to women also but seems to be predominant among men).

4. Parents, we MUST teach, emphasize, and model passion for the Gospel and not just the “rules” of Christianity. D.A. Carson says, and I agree, that people don’t usually remember what you teach; they remember what you’re passionate about.

5. Parents, we should create an environment where our children can doubt, ask questions, and seek truth. They will do that with or without your guidance.

6. Pastors, we can’t just preach against homosexuality in the abstract, we must disciple people dealing with it.

7. Pastors, we need to equip the men in our churches to put off the homophobia of secular masculine culture, and put on the grace- and truth-filled character of Jesus.

Christians who stay faithful to the biblical view of sexuality will be increasingly treated with disgust, “moral” indignation, and hostility. And yet, out of love for people and faith in God, we cannot cave in to societal pressure (2 Timothy 3; 1 Peter 4:12-19).

Quite frankly, this is a hard one for me because many racists made the same argument for upholding New World slavery and, later, Jim Crow segregation. Bigotry has often been defended by appeals to purity. However, we must hold fast to truth, knowing that biblical truth, truth inspired by the Holy Spirit, is always accompanied by humility not self-righteousness, service not oppression. The wisdom of God has a distinctly humble quality to it (James 3:17). So while we will be treated like bigots, our lives must prove that to be a false accusation (1 Peter 2:12).

Working for the Lord

By Joy Lippard, MBC Tysons Worship Leader 

Sing to Him a new song; Play skillfully with a shout of joy. Psalm 33:3

Music is powerful in our culture. Often times, without realizing it, people form opinions of what they believe and how they live based on what they learn from the lyrics in popular songs! The same is true of songs in the church. People learn their theology from music. For a Christian songwriter, that means a responsibility to write truthful and doctrinally sound lyrics. Whether I’m writing a congregational worship song or a song about life or love, I use the Bible as my guide for writing solid and truthful lyrics.

We can glorify God in whatever we do.

Writing songs that are lyrically creative, fresh, engaging and biblically correct is a craft that has to be skillfully developed. I’ve heard it said that the art of songwriting is “re-writing.” Songwriting, contrary to most people’s assumptions, is hard work! Yes, song ideas are often a product of my emotions and feelings, but I also have to engage my mind and skills to craft those melodic and lyrical ideas into an art form (song) that is enjoyable and relatable for others.

I think this principle applies to people in different art forms and even in the workplace. We may have natural giftings that come easily to us, by God’s grace, but to develop excellence in our field/art we have to work hard! We can glorify God in whatever we do (1 Corinthians 10:31).

Our field of expertise is an opportunity to demonstrate the excellent, beautiful and awesome God we serve.

God is the ultimate Creator and hard worker. In the beginning He looked at all He had made and said it was good (Genesis 1:31). I believe we should look at our creative endeavors and our work as ways to exemplify our Father in Heaven who makes good things! We should also make sure to consult the Bible as our guide in whatever we undertake. Our field of expertise is an opportunity to demonstrate the excellent, beautiful and awesome God we serve.

Listen to Joy’s new song “Liar, Liar” on iTunes.