Weddings, God and Covenants

As we move into the season of summer we also move into the season of weddings.  For the past few years I have had a couple of weddings on my calendar each summer.  This past weekend my wife and I attended a wedding and in a couple of weeks I will be performing one. I know of the three other weddings in our immediate sphere of relationships that will take place this summer.  Summer seems to be synonymous with weddings.

As I think about weddings, especially as I officiate any of them, I think of the word covenant.  When a man and a woman stand together on their wedding day, they are entering into a covenant.  There is a difference between a contract and a covenant.

The world in which we live in operates by contract relationships:  I am going to give you certain things in exchange for something else.  If I give you those things, you are obligated to provide certain things to me.  If you break your end of the contract, then I’m able to simply walk away from our agreement.

If I live by a covenant, it’s different.  Even when you don’t keep up your end of the bargain, I continue to be faithful to the relationship.

I was reminded of the idea of covenant as I have been reading the book Do Your Children Believe? Author Terence Chatmon talks about the idea of covenant and how God shows us what it looks like to keep a covenant.  He writes this in one of the later chapters:

“. . . as you read the grand sweep of the Bible – God’s covenants with Adam, with Noah, with Abraham, with Moses, with David – you keep seeing this theme emerge.  His people forget what He’s done for them. His people are contentious and inconsistent. His people sometimes even stumble into outright rebellion . . . yet He keeps reaching out and redeeming a remnant.  He never stops seeking His people.  He always remains faithful to His covenant.”

It’s a beautiful picture of our Heavenly Father and a great picture for a marriage relationship.  To never stop seeking.  To always remain faithful.  Even when the other blows it.

What a good reminder for those who are getting married.

For those who are already married.

For all those who are contentious, inconsistent, even outright rebellious.

Guess that’s all of us.

“For God saved us and called us to live a holy life. He did this, not because we deserved it, but because that was his plan from before the beginning of time—to show us his grace through Christ Jesus.”
(2 Timothy 1:9)

 

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Syd’s Blogging, too – The Perfect Fit

I’ve shared that my wife is now a contributor to the Dayton Moms Blog. Her recent post, Her Name is Kate, has taken off and has been shared a number of times. Over the weekend my wife found out it had over 23,000 views! Pretty exciting. 

My daughter is now blogging. She had a WordPress blog, but it was hacked and had to be deleted. She is now blogging at divinesixght.wordpress.com

Her most recent post deals with how God is able to help us as we seek to build our lives. Here’s a snippet:


“Good architecture should make you feel as if you are in a cave with a view of the horizon.” -Jonathan Safran Foer

Architecture is defined as both the process and the product of planning, designing, and constructing structures. We try and shape our lives like a good piece of architecture. We try to plan, design, or construct what we believe is artwork. This involves the two perspectives, in the cave and then the open view. Inside of the cave we entertain the present and we meet needs. We meet our own needs, we meet others needs, and we attempt to balance what we want to do and what we ought to do. But if it’s good architecture, if it’s a solid life, then it should feel open with a view of the future looking out to the horizon…

Read the rest in her blog

The Jesus Gap – What Teens Believe About Jesus

jesus-gapOne of the books I wanted to read as 2017 started was The Jesus Gap. I started reading it months ago, but somewhere along the way got off track. So, I decided to get back on track and set aside some time to really dig into it.

After reading it, I went back through the things I highlighted and marked.  Once I typed it up, it filled almost four pages in a Word doc.  Needless to say, there is a lot of useful information in the book.

Bradbury shares the motivation behind writing the book.  She was taking a class on Christological foundations.  The final project was to conduct a small research study on your own ministry to determine what teens believed about Jesus.  She was surprised by the results from her group.

As she continued to study this topic, she decided to find out if what was true of the teens in her youth ministry was true of others teens.  That brought about her survey and this book, The Jesus Gap.

For those who work with students, the question that will linger in your mind as you read this book is this:  “Is this true of the teens in my church?”  I asked that question a number of times as I read the results of her research.

While there is too much information in the book to boil down to one post, a couple of things kind of rose to the top in my thinking.

One is how students look at Jesus as both God and as being sinless.

According to Bradbury’s research, when students were asked the question, “Is Jesus God?”  44 percent of students answered Yes,” 44 percent said No,” and 12 percent confessed, I don’t know.”

There are a number of conclusions a person could draw, but the numbers are a little startling.  Consider that the teens from the survey had a church background, were active in their congregations, and yet under 50% of them agreed that Jesus is God.

When asked if Jesus was perfect (or sinless), 34 percent of teens affirmed Jesus was perfect. 57 percent said Jesus was not perfect9 percent said, “I don’t know if Jesus was perfect.”

So even a smaller percentage agreed that Jesus was perfect.

Along with sharing the statistics and results of interviews, Bradbury also shared some practical steps youth workers can take to strengthen the Christology of the teens in their churches.

One area where I think The Jesus Gap is helpful is that it removes the blinders from our eyes.  We have to assume that what is true of Bradbury’s original research study in her group and then the following larger study she did, is also true on some level for the students in our sphere of influence.  One of the take-a-ways I have from this book is to find out where our students are and what particular truths about Jesus we might need to address in the future.

Another interesting thing Bradbury brought out is why students question that Jesus was perfect.  Early in the book she referenced some research done by Scott McKnight in Christianity Today where he concluded this:  “We all think Jesus is like us.  Introverts think Jesus is introverted, for example, and extroverts think Jesus is extroverted.  To one degree or another, we all conform Jesus to our own image.”

Students seemed to carry this idea when they viewed Jesus.  Here are a couple of quotes from students in Bradbury’s book talking about why Jesus wasn’t sinless:

“Jesus was God’s Son, after all He was human.  It’s really hard to know.  You’d think he would be perfect.  But humans – it’s impossible to be perfect.”

“Jesus sinned because he was a human being like the rest of us.
Even the best people in the world sin.”

One challenge to students seeing Jesus as perfect is wrestling with His divine nature.  If He was human like us, the conclusion many of them draw is that He sinned, because all people sin.

Bradbury also revealed a distrust for Scripture.  She shared responses from students that shared the opinion that the Biblical writers left our Jesus’ sin intentionally, in an effort to make Him appear more godly.

After sharing results of her research, she offered this conclusion:  Don’t assume teenagers view Scripture the same way you do.  Perhaps we operate under the assumption that because we have talked about the Bible and have a certain set of beliefs, our students hold those as well.  The Jesus Gap reveals that for a large number of teens, it’s not true.

The challenge is to not only read the results of Bradbury’s research, but then apply it to your particular context.  This is a good read for those who work with students and could create some good discussion.

For the Love by Jen Hatmaker

For The Love Jen HatmakerWhen I was looking around the Book Look Bloggers website for a book to read, I came across For the Love. I recognized the name Jen Hatmaker, but don’t remember reading anything by her in the past or hearing her speak. As I trolled around the social media world, I saw a lot of people posting and tweeting about the release of her new book. Some of them were authors I had read before or speakers I enjoyed, so I was drawn to it by their recommendations.

I had hesitated at first because it was a female author and thought it might be geared for the female population. Then I remembered my same hesitation in reading Michele Cushatt’s book Undone. I ended up reading it and enjoying it, so I thought I would check out For the Love.

I got through the introduction and right away I noticed Hatmaker’s sense of humor, so I thought it was a good pick. Then, as I’m reading through the first chapter, I come upon this phrase: “Here is part of the problem, girls: we’ve been sold a bill of goods.” So, at that point, I made the brilliant observation that this particular book was directed toward women.

That being said, I think the message is helpful for any reader. The tag line of the book says “fighting for grace in a world of impossible standards.” I’m pretty sure that all followers of Jesus have experienced that and Hatmaker spells out how that struggle plays out in how we see ourselves, as well as in our home, our neighborhood and even in the church.

Right before I realized this book was geared for ladies, I read Hatmaker’s observation that because we don’t accept God’s grace for ourselves, we have a hard time showing that grace to others. The self-critical become others-critical. If we don’t see ourselves as good enough, we won’t see others that way either.

So, for any females, who might read this post, you should check out For the Love. Hatmaker points to that fact that Jesus came to set us free. We all could benefit by living out of that freedom.

Solid Rock in Wilmington July 16

11741220_794323657331836_1518476368536126449_oSOLID ROCK is a team of high school students (grades 10-12) who audition to be a part of the group. They combine singing, instrumental music, acting and other artistic expressions to present a program to encourage people in their relationship with God. Prior to a one-week tour, including stops in Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky and New York, they meet for a week on Cincinnati Christian University‘s campus to rehearse and prepare.

We are looking forward to hosting SOLID ROCK as one of our own students is a member of the group. We have had several students from our church family who have been a part of the group in the past and they have great stories of their experiences.

The picture above is a photo of this year’s group at one of their earlier presentations. I snagged it off of the aforementioned student’s mom’s Facebook page.

If you are in or near the Wilmington area, we’d love for you to join us. SOLID ROCK will present their program on Thursday, July 16 @ 7:00 pm. Hope to see you there!

solid rock

Fatherless to Fatherfull

Last night my wife saw this video in a post on Facebook.  Since we have become involved with adoption, we feel like we are a part of a growing adoption community.  This video is such a great description of what adoption is.  The kids couldn’t be any cuter and their delivery is certainly on point.

As Father’s Day approaches, it is a great reminder of how God wants to be our “really” Dad.  Enjoy and share!

A Bump on the Road toward Adoption

Gotcha DayMy wife and I have been sharing the last few weeks about our plans to adopt again. We’ve shared our AdoptTogether page and have been blessed by numerous people who have given toward our adoption related expenses. Through a friend in Maryland we had connected with a birth mother who is due in June and were making plans to welcome a little boy into our family. As happens at times with adoption, we have hit a bump in the road. Birth mother has decided to parent.

This is part of the update that Cheryl put on our AdoptTogether page.

As I write, we have learned that our birth momma in Maryland has decided to parent, we continue to pray for her and that precious baby boy. When our adoption failed in 2013, we grieved, much like what we are doing now, but remember how God used that situation to prepare us for Max. We know that God is up to something even better than we could have ever imagined. He simply wants us to trust HIM though this journey. So we wait for the child that God wants to add to our family, and we trust HIS plan through the grief. We will update you as we know more, thanks for walking with our family thought this roller coaster and prayers are appreciated (I, Cheryl, hate roller coasters!).

We know that adoption is not always a smooth road and we were as prepared as we could be for any change of direction that might take place. We learned through adopting our son Max that God sees further and farther than we do, so we continue to trust Him. We have been so encouraged by those who have supported us financially and through their prayer and personal support.

Just a week or so ago I was listening to a podcast and the speaker was talking about worry. This is not a totally accurate quote, but carries what he said in his message: What God originates He orchestrates. So, we continue to trust Him as we continue down the road.