Friday, June 28, 2013

Profanity, part one

Our family recently spent $100 on an investment that is going to pay dividends to our lives forever!  The TV Guardian is a device that you can connect to your television and dvd player that mutes expletives.  There are various settings you can choose to determine the strictness.  Whether you have children in your home or not, this device will bring great liberty to your family's media based entertainment!  The following blog is a re-post from 2008 that I am going to divide into two parts but speaks to why I believe guarding what we hear is an essential discipline as devoted followers of Christ.

Do you have a cringe? You know, that internal reaction we have at the moment we encounter something we deem inappropriate. Think for a minute, when do you cringe? Is it when you see a parent reacting in anger to his/her child instead of bringing instruction with grace? Is it when you see on the news a minority suffering injustice because of prejudice? I would hope all of us cringe at least in the face of the most egregious offenses we often have the occasion to observe.

But, how sensitive is our cringe? Does it take something most all of society would agree as being egregious to trigger our cringe? I want my cringe to react in concert with Jesus' cringe. We've all heard of the popular WWJD (what would Jesus do)...I am askingWWJC (when would Jesus cringe)? For example, we are watching some form of media: movie, television, on the web, and something sensual occurs, something suggestive, do we cringe...WWJC? We are with friends and someone begins to tell a joke that demeans another ethnicity, do we cringe...WWJC? We are, media, comedian, friend, stranger...and the expletives come, profane words are used, do we cringe...WWJC?

I would like to suggest that one reason we should be cringing at profanity is because Proverbs tells us that "we eat from the fruit of our lips..." (I'm leaving the reference out in hopes that you'll do some digging yourself to find it, do a word search for fruit and lips and see what you can find in Proverbs). In a spiritual sense, we consume the words we speak. Angry people stay angry in part because they are feasting on angry words continually. Desperate people stay desperate in part because they are feasting on desperate words continually. You can keep that list, certainly I am not suggesting that if we only change our words, we immediately change our disposition. However, I am saying with confidence that our disposition will not change without a change in our words. It is a key part. So much of our physical world was created by God to teach us about our spiritual life. Think of the impact the kinds of food you eat has on your physical well being. Why should the words we "eat" be any different? They aren't. We consume them spiritually and they either bring healthy nourishment or destructive effects.

How, does this relate to our cringe? We should be cringing because of what that person is doing to themselves. When we subject ourselves to a person spewing expletives, we are watching a person poisoning themselves; it is spiritually self-destructive behavior. Do you think Jesus cringes at that? Do we?

Part Two Tomorrow!

Pastor Fred

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Our Pace and Our Space

If you were not able to attend either of our campus services this past weekend, you missed an amazing message brought by City Life's very own Steve Ruggerio.  I wanted to share some of my notes and also provide this link to our podcast page where you can enjoy this rich word from God!

His text was Psalm 90:1-4, 10-12 with verse 12 being the main verse or as we call it at City Life, our weekly life verse.

Here are some quotes from Steve and then I'll give the five points he shared...

"God cares when there is clutter in our lives...for it crowds out His best for us!"

"Margins in our lives are the space between the current pace we are living and our personal limitations."

"Everyone has a red line (meaning the danger zone of too little margin)... they are different for all of us so don't establish yours by comparing to others."

"Too much margin is laziness, slothfulness...but too little is just as egregious of a sin."

"The meaningfulness of my life is not measured by productivity but rather purposefulness!"

"If we could really see God for who He is, we would give Him the reverence He is due...especially with our time, living as if our days are numbered."

"Don't live with avoidable regrets!"

He shared about an author named Bronnie Ware who by profession is a hospice nurse and throughout her years of caring for people in the last moments of their lives, she compiled a list of the most common regrets she heard.  Here are the top five in ascending order.  I'll give you the verse Steve paired with each regret and how he phrased a challenge to us related to each one.  You'll have to listen for yourself if you want the full effect...which you do!

5.)  I wish I had let myself be happier.  Nehemiah 8:10.  Choose joy!
4.)  I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.  Hebrews 10:24-25.  Stay connected!
3.)  I wish I had the courage to express my feelings.  Colossians 4:6.  Share your heart!
2.)  I wish I hadn't worked so hard.  Mark 6:31.  Our pace and our space!
1.)  I wish I had the courage to live a life true to myself.  2 Peter 1:3.  Live your story!

May we all endeavor to live as if our days are numbered because they most certainly are!

Pastor Fred

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Psalm 101, part 2

We closed our Father's Day Weekend services by asking the question, "What are you building, where are you giving the best of your time, energy, and efforts?"  When we read 1 Kings 6:38 and 1 Kings 7:1, we find a striking contrast between the amount of time King Solomon invested in two of his most famous endeavors.  He gave 7 years of his life to build a temple for God, but he gave 13 years to build his own palace.  May the balance of our life's investment as men and fathers weigh heavily on the side of building something for God and not for ourselves.

So this morning we continue to look into Psalm 101 for some practical steps we can take to ensure we are building a God honoring life as men and fathers.  Yesterday we introduced the first three of the six vows King David made before taking the throne, presenting them as challenges to ourselves:  be expressive, be authentic, and be sexually pure.  Here are the last three...

Be restrained.  In verse four of the hundred and first Psalm, we are reminded that being in control of ourselves is an absolute necessity.  The Apostle Paul often returns to the theme of self control in his epistles, two references that come to mind are Romans 6:12 and Galatians 5:23.  In his letter to Christians in Rome, he gives them a command, to resist sinful desires, to refuse to be controlled by sin.  I love the pairing with Galatians 5:23 because we are reminded that we are actually made for excess, our capacity for excess is God given!  Here in Galatians at the end of the list of fruits of the Spirit, evidence of the Holy Spirit in us, we are told there is no law against these...permission for excess!  Leaders, especially in the home, who are improperly restrained in sinful pursuits tend to compensate by being overly restrained in virtuous pursuits.  Shame and guilt hold us back, robbing us of the liberty we should feel in being excessive with honorable traits.  Godly restraint is a gateway into a life of God honoring excess!

Be fraternal.  Several verses encapsulate this vow, specifically verse 3b and verses 5-7.  1 Corinthians 15:33 couldn't be more clear, "...bad company corrupts good character."  Deep relationships that are uncomfortably intrusive should first be observed by children as they watch their fathers.  We has men tend to isolate when we are struggling with sin and in so doing, we further corrupt ourselves.  This principle found in 1 Corinthians 15:33 still holds true because in isolation, we are now our own bad company!  You show me any leader who does not have people in their life to hold them accountable, people to whom they defer, and I will show you a leader who is failing.  Fathers, who are those men in your life...if you can't list anyone, begin the work of building those relationship, both for your sake and everyone depending on your leadership!

Be missional.  This is this closing challenge found in verse eight.  In 1 Chronicles 22:5 and 1 Chronicles 29:1-3, we find the extent to which King David went to help prepare his some Solomon for the great works he would endeavor to accomplish.  You and I may not ever have the material resources David had to give to Solomon, but I would like to suggest to you that the most valuable inheritance we could ever hope to leave our children will be the 24 virtues we are studying together in our current sermon series!  Virtue is the currency of The Kingdom!  Destinies are fulfilled not because of earthly treasure!  In Luke 12:15, Jesus compels us to remember that our lives are not measured by material possession.  We have a mission, time is short, and evil must not win...let's leave our children coffers filled with virtue!

I hope you will pledge with me as a father, as men, to be expressive, authentic, sexually pure, restrained, fraternal, and missional.  Let's lead well together the domains of influence entrusted to us, no matter how small or how vast, a God honoring life that is life giving to everyone around us!

Pastor Fred

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Psalm 101, part one

Even though Father's Day weekend is past, the responsibilities are fathering are ever before us!  For our church, The City Life Church, we challenged men and dads alike to use Psalm 101 as way of examining our own lives, are we living up to our potential as men for our friends and families?

In Tremper Longman III's book entitled "How To Read The Psalms" he offers seven different genres found in this great collection of Biblical songs and poems:  hymns, laments, thanksgiving, confidence, remembrance, wisdom, and kingship.  The final genre, kingship, is where the hundred and first Psalm is found.  In fact, it is the very psalm that David wrote just prior to being inaugurated as the king of Israel.  While most of us will never hold such an esteemed political title, the leadership encumbrances we bare as men and fathers are no less important!  King David makes six solemn vows that we too must consider if we are going to be accomplished leaders in the realms of influence entrusted to us.

Be expressive.  In the first verse, David speaks of being an outwardly, expressive lover of God.  Our children should first learn to relish in the wonder of God by observing their fathers.  While some of these six vows have a self-evidencing quality in relation to leadership, this one may be surprising.  How does outward praise of God help us to become better leaders?  The more time I spend loving on God, the greater the revelation I have of His grace towards me, and the greater the revelation I have of His grace towards me, the more gracious I will be in turn as a person of authority in the lives of others.  In addition, the more my children see me loving on God, the more they are going to want to love on God themselves, and the more they love on God, the greater their revelation of the goodness of God will be, and the greater their revelation of the goodness of God, the deeper their trust will be in God, and the deeper their trust goes in God, the deeper their trust goes in me because they know I am modeling my leadership after Him!

Be authentic.  This second verse begins by talking about a blameless life, to which King David quickly asks for help because he understands that this will be an impossible task without divine intervention.  However, I must point out that he is not using the word blameless to speak of perfection, as he concludes this second verse by introducing the word integrity, to ensure we understand his meaning.  Blameless here is speaking of an authentic life, a life void of duplicity.  Unfortunately, too many children first learn how to be duplicitous by observing their fathers.  Great leadership never finds its power in title, reward, or punishment.  Great leadership is always based on the right to influence, a right that is earned through respect, influence that is a welcomed voice in the life of someone who values your wisdom, recognizes your life experience, and defers to your insight.  A person steeped in hypocrisy is never a welcomed influence.  If I cannot trust who you are, then how can I trust your leadership?  Be honest about your failings, intentional in your efforts to grow as a person, and persevering in your commitment to always be authentic.

Be sexually pure.  If you have children, especially sons, and you have not read "Sex, Men, and God" by Dr. Douglas Weiss, you are missing vital information that is critical to one of your most sacred responsibilities...teaching your children about their sexuality. If we fail in giving our children a Godly, healthy sexual identity, we doom them to a life of experimentation and sexual frustration.  I joke with our church all the time that in the Garden of Eden, let's not forget that when the world was still perfect, Adam and Eve were naked!  Yes, God is ancient, but that simply means He is timeless, not old and out dated and certainly not prudish.  Sex is His idea, His creation.  Whatever perversions exist in this world, they are a mere a shadow of the sexual pleasure waiting for people who are willing to give themselves fully to a Biblical view of sexual identity.  One of my famous sayings as a pastor among our married couples is that Christian husband and wives should be breaking the pleasure barrier!  Whatever restrictions God gives us, they are always to protect us form settling for less!  So what does this have to do with leadership?  I cannot lead where I have not been.  And if I am not sexually pure, I will continually fail to lead my children into a life of sexual purity, a great failing for far too many fathers.  In regards to leadership in general, inappropriate sexual behavior will always lead to diminishing respect.  If a person does not have the self-control to respect vows they have made in their personal life, like marriage, then why should I trust that they will have the self-control to keep vows they have made in their public life?

We'll do the next three tomorrow!

Pastor Fred

Friday, June 14, 2013

2 Chronicles 6:4

A timeless truth is before us at the outset of today's reading.  Verse four begins with this phrase, “Praise the Lord, the God of Israel, who has kept the promise He made..."  And in this phrase we find one of the greatest attributes of our Creator, faithfulness, especially with promises.

One of the most impacting Christian movements in modern history was the Promise Keepers initiative.  You can read about PK's  history through their site.  Although their impact has waned in recent years, I believe the fruit of their ministry will endure for decades to come.  I remember being at my first event at the former Redskins Stadium on a Friday night, tens of thousands of men worshipping together under the night sky...the presence of God in that place was, and is still, indescribable.  I reference this historic movement because of their primary vision, to see a generation of men raised who would be found faithful, promise keepers, reflecting the very image of God, our Creator, as referenced in 2 Chronicles 6:4.

This idea of being a promise keeper is especially poignant to me today because of the story that is captivating the world, Mr. Edward Snowden.  What should be our gravest concern, that our government seems to have compromised the right of privacy of countless citizens or that countless citizens are so easily declaring Mr. Snowden a hero?

Of all the reasons both religious and non-religious persons are decrying the abundance of moral and ethical woes permeating society, I fear that failing to keep our vows is becoming commonplace.  The case of Mr. Snowden would be entirely different if he had discovered a program that was operating outside the bounds of the law, outside the bounds of the knowledge of elected officials, outside the bounds of multi-governmental branch accountability.  One might argue it was outside the bounds of our Constitution; however, there is a clear legal path afforded to us when such an instance is suspected.  Lazy citizens always choose to break their word when the work of sound moral and ethical demands ensue.  Mr. Snowden is an American citizen who took an oath, gave his word, spoke a vow, made a promise.  Again, one might say so did those elected officials who may have perpetrated a grave injustice agains its citizens.  But if we become a society that allows the sins of others to become a permissive moment for our own sin, we quickly spiral downward into an inescapable chaos.

Many people present themselves as a patriot...for the hope of vain glory and ill-gotten wealth.  Mr. Edward Snowden is not a keeper of promises and in so doing, he betrays both the image in which he was created and our great Nation.

Pastor Fred  

Thursday, June 13, 2013

1 Kings 8 & 2 Chronicles 5

In today's reading, we find some wonderful applications to our lives, especially leading up to Father's Day weekend!

In 1 Kings 8:17-19, we are reminded that one of our greatest joys in life as a father is for our lives to prepare our children to excel, especially in their divine destiny.  We can either read this as David's greatest disappointment or his greatest joy!  The true heart of a father will always find the most fulfillment in serving the future of their children.

I also find verses 41-43 intriguing.  Some render these verses as referring to proselytes, foreigners who have now converted to Judaism.  But that is not how I believe this texts reads.  I believe this is a wonderful textual example of how God will hear and answer the prayers of those who do not follow Him as a way of bringing them closer to a place of complete devotion.  This a great prayer for us to diligently use in our own petitions to God on behalf of people we long to see become devoted followers of Christ, "Lord, may it be that they will have a need they share with You in a moment of desperation, like Solomon's prayer, that they have heard of Your reputation as a God who merciful, gracious, slow to anger, rich in steadfast love and truth and that You will answer their prayer and capture their heart!"

Finally, I am drawn to the posturing often referred to in this prayer of Solomon..."pray toward this Temple."  I don't think we have to face in any particular direction as we pray, remembering that elevating cultural practices to a place of spiritual significance is really ultimately motivated by one ethnicity in search of feelings of superiority.  On the inside however, the direction in which we face matters much...may we all face Him forever!

Pastor Fred

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

1 Kings 6:38 and 1 Kings 7:1

Just a little insight into a question we'll be asking men this weekend at both of our campuses (The City Life Church) in honoring Father's Day Weekend...

Take a moment to read both of these texts:  1 Kings 6:38 and then compare it to 1 Kings 7:1...what do you see?  I see a man who spent 7 years building a house for God and 13 years building a palace for himself.

What about about me?

Pastor Fred

Friday, June 7, 2013

Some Proverbs

In today's reading, a few proverbs resonated with me that I wanted to share...

The first one is 13:4, "Lazy people want much but get little, but those who work hard will prosper."  I am convinced this is more than just material.  Being a disciple of Jesus necessitates breaking a sweat!  I would humbly suggest that one of deficiencies is Reformed theology is an unwillingness to differentiate between the grace we are desperate to receive for the hope of Heaven after death and the work required of us in this life to have heaven on earth.  There is nothing I can do to earn God's favor for Heaven.  But when it comes to the my purpose in this life, the transformative journey of character, the labor of sharing the burdens of others...grab some gatorade!  "...those who work hard will prosper."  I am a sinner saved by grace, indeed...and now one who has been redeemed, ready to labor for my King!!  Am I dependent on the grace of God in my labor?  Am I dependent on the work of The Spirit for my character transformation?  Yes!  But without much labor, without much effort, without intentionality I will inevitably "get little."

"Without oxen a stable stays clean, but you need a strong ox for a large harvest."  (Proverbs 14:4)  If your goal in life is just to have as little crap as possible, you will accomplish very little.  Sure, your "stables" can be spotless but what will your life accomplish?  Take for example relationships, they can be complicated.  Caring for people, making yourself vulnerable to people, relying on people...well, there's crap!  But there is also muscle in community.  Go ahead and isolate, withdraw, boast of a prestigiously clean, complication free life...that accomplishes little.

Finally, we have Proverbs 15:17.  "A bowl of vegetables with someone you love is better than steak with someone you hate."  This may very well be the first verse in the Bible I have found that will cause me to question its divine inspiration!

Pastor Fred

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Proverbs 10:24

The fears of the wicked will be fulfilled;
    the hopes of the godly will be granted.

How's your future looking?

Pastor Fred

Tuesday, June 4, 2013


We began a new series this past weekend, 24, which will run for three weeks, culminating Father's Day weekend.  In this three week conversation, we will be exploring some of the key aspects of being a disciple.

The title gave us the opportunity to have some creative fun connecting it to the hit series from Fox "24" and building on the theme of that show to give us our big idea...we have a mission, time is short, evil must not win!  And in looking into Revelation 12:11 we concluded that our secret weapon is both being and making disciples.

Our connection to the number 24 came from studying George Wood's (General Superintendent of the Assemblies of God) five great growth lists.  They are...

Matthew 5:3-10
Romans 12:9-21
1 Corinthians 13:4-7
Galatians 5:22-23
2 Peter 1:5-7

And in studying these lists for the past few years, I finally sat down recently in an effort to synthesize them, creating one complete list of virtues that paint a perfect portrait of the fully devoted disciple of Jesus.  After taking out all the overlapping virtues, this is my list...

8 from Matthew 5:3-10:  humble, emotionally honest, meek, desiring righteousness, merciful, truthful, peaceful, and devoted

4 from Romans 12:9-21:  affectionate, fervent, serving, and hospitable

2 from 1 Corinthians 13:4-7:  faith and hope

8 from Galatians 5:22-23:  love, joy, peace, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentle, and self-control

2 from 2 Peter 1:5-7:  wisdom and persevering

You should try listing all of them and see what kind of list you can find...but more importantly, may we all look deep into our lives and ask a more pressing question, how many do I find within me?

Pastor Fred