On October 3rd at 6:30pm in the Fireside Lounge, we will be having our once a month prayer gathering. During this time we seek the Lord for his leading and flourishing in our lives, church, city, and to the ends of the earth. Childcare will be provided.
Once a season, we gather together for a breakfast feast. It is filled with delicious food, hot coffee, and awesome fellowship. Our fall breakfast feast is September 23rd at 9am in the Fireside Lounge.
A blog post by Vicki Graff
Recently a daughter was reading Romeo and Juliet. There was a good deal of giggling. Strange, as that particular story is known as a tragedy. Why was she laughing? She chose to read it as a comedy. Seeing Romeo as a pathetic teen boy and his ‘whining’ as laughable. Her sister said, “It’s a matter of perspective.”
Perspective is a powerful lens that shapes your attitude and behavior. I lived much of my life as a pessimist. A firmly embedded habit, it was an unconscious defense against disappointment and sorrow. I expected and saw the negative side of plans and people. Now, maturing in the Word and faith, I am practicing putting on the lens of the scripture to view life.
Romans 12:2 “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
I’m not talking about thinking positive, name it and claim it, or putting on a Pollyanna perspective. Rather, living within the Bible's promises. Believing and applying the truths of Scripture to the events and experiences that we react to all day long. Criticism that crushes. Trials that feel overwhelming. Grief that consumes. Accusing guilt. Struggles and doubts that discourage and weaken. Sin that separates. Bitterness to bind us. Pain and anger to prevent forgiving. A world full of lies and distractions.
Grasping firmly to the Biblical truth that, as a beloved and treasured child of God, I am forgiven and embraced for a purpose, known and held by Him. Empowered with strength to stand before enemies and temptation. Enabled to love and forgive through His mercy and grace applied. Living in hope that overcomes all trials, failures, sickness and grief by holding onto the promise of eternal life and a heavenly dwelling that is a blink away through Him. Believing He acts from love and knows best.
This only happens with deliberate devotion to God’s truth through study, prayer and fellowship. Being saturated in His influence to overcome all others. Nothing good will come from a casual faith. An acquaintance with Christ and His church results in an ineffectual anemic Christian defined by hypocrisy. The Biblical promises need to be a part of you, believed and applied. A conscious effort on your part, but what joy when you find that the hope and joy within has become a part of your thoughts, coping skills and reactions. A new lens to see the world in the light of Christ and His Word.
1st Peter 1: 3-7 “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”
Study the Word. His truth cannot come out if it does not dwell within. Pray to know Him and understand His Word because this is not something you can do alone. The depth of His riches are deeper than a passing glance but the Holy Spirit is a willing guide. Fellowship for edification and encouragement because the Lord uses us for each other.
Recently, a longstanding misunderstanding of myself and my motives was immediately overturned by one sentence spoken to me. She had no idea that her words brought revelation and repentance. I thanked the Lord in prayer for her faithfulness to nurture her faith which in turn, strengthened mine. I hope the Lord will use me in the same way for another.
Titus 3: 4-7 “But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”
By Mike Littleton
I can still vividly remember one of the first bible studies I was part of as a young Christian. A small group of us would get together once a week, read through a particular text of scripture and then spend the rest of the time trying to decipher what exactly the particular text meant.
We were all well-meaning, but we had no idea what we were doing.
We didn’t know what questions to ask. We didn’t have any guidelines to follow. We didn’t even know that scripture was something that had to be “interpreted” or what that even meant.
The primary questions we asked revolved around what the text meant to us personally, and this was dictated primarily by how a particular text made us feel. Furthermore, we spent much of our time searching for and discussing the potential “deeper meanings” of a particular text.
There is a right way to read the bible
God is gracious and I don’t think much damage was done back in those early days of bible study. I’m thankful I wasn’t the leader, but I also wish I had a leader who was taught how to teach others that there is a right way to read the bible.
It’s not like other books
I understand why people approach bible reading this way. We believe the bible is the word of God, and as such, we expect it to be different than “ordinary” books. We expect it to speak into our lives differently than ordinary literature. We want it to. We want it to reveal something beyond us and greater than us–and indeed it does. The bible is the only book, to use the words of John Piper, that reveals the peculiar glory of God. This is in fact its purpose.
It is like other books
At the same time, however, the bible is like other books. What I mean by this is that the bible is, like any other book, a work of literature. And what this means is that there are certain rules to follow. When we begin to read a book or an article or any other type of writing, the first thing we do is ask questions that will help us better understand what the author is trying to convey to his or her particular readers. It may not feel like this is something we do because it comes somewhat intuitively with more modern literature. But with ancient literature, like the bible, there’s a little (a lot) more work that needs to be done.
In order for us to read the bible correctly, we need to understand certain realities. For example, the bible isn’t just one book, but a library of books. It is one book that contains 66 books–39 in the Old Testament and 27 in the New Testament. Not only do we need to know that the bible consists of many books, we also need to understand that these 66 books fall into various genres of literature which greatly effect the way we read and interpret them. The bible contains genres such as: historical narrative, prophecy, poetry, wisdom literature, gospels, and letters.
So where do we begin?
Sadly, it’s assumed that people (Christians in particular) just know how to read the bible. But they don’t. Abby made this clear to me a while ago when we were having a discussion about bible reading. She said, “I was always told by my pastor that I need to read my bible, but I was never taught how to.”
That was a revelatory thought for me, as well as a reality I’m guilty of. As a preacher, I’ve admonished Christians on countless occasions of the importance and necessity of reading the bible, but often without putting the tools in their hands to do it well.
The bible is something we need to learn to read. We need to do the hard work and study of learning how to read the bible so that we can read and study it well. This is a process that takes time (a lifetime in fact) and this is okay.
However, regardless of where you’re at in your understanding of how to read the bible, the best thing you can do is simply begin.
Over the next couple of months, with blog posts like this and a sermon series we started on January 29th, we’re going to be working through a particular method of bible reading. One of our hopes in this is that you’ll be encouraged and helped in the process of learning how to read and study it yourself.
As we do this, it’s important to understand that this is a method among many. If you have a method you already use and prefer, that’s fine. But don't tune out what you can learn here.
The method we’ve chosen to adopt comes out of Jen Wilkin’s book Women Of The Word. Don’t let the title deter you men, this isn’t a bible reading method decorated with flowers and soaked in rose-smelling essential oils. This method is anything but a method for women only. The reason the book is titled what it is has only to do with the fact that Wilkin’s target audience was and is women. But the content and method is among the best and most accessible I’ve ever read. I’ve adopted this method myself and have noticed a dramatic difference in the way I comprehend and teach biblical texts.
The Five “P’s"
Wilkin has labeled this method the five “P’s.” I am only going to list and briefly summarize them here. Each of these headings will be a specific sermon in our sermon series Knowing Jesus In His Word.
Study with Purpose –– Understand where your text fits into the Big Story of creation-fall-redemption-restoration.
Study with Perspective –– Understand the “archeology” of your texts (its historical and cultural context).
Study with Patience –– Resolve not to hurry; set a realistic expectation for your pace of study, focusing on the long term.
Study with Process –– Begin methodically reading for comprehension, interpretation, and application.
Study with Prayer –– Ask the Father to help you before, during, and after you study time.
Our hope and prayer in laying out this method is that we’ll have a consistent way in which we’re able to approach the study of Scripture in Taproot. Furthermore, this will give us consistency in discipleship. Part of knowing Jesus and making him known involves knowing how to read the bible and also being able to teach (discipleship) others how to as well. With this “adopted” method, we’ll also have a consistent approach to discipleship when it comes to reading and studying Scripture.
Our prayer is that we would ultimately be maturing as followers of Jesus. We cannot do this apart from knowing the glorious God of the bible.
May we know him more, Taproot.
By Jesiah Dorpat
God’s words bring life.
From the forming of creation, to the words of God given in the ten commandments, to the cries of the prophets who were God’s mouthpieces, to Jesus who is the Word made flesh- God’s words have always brought life to dead souls, clarity to confusion, and peace in times of chaos. In Isaiah 35, in response to the truth of God being proclaimed, the blind and deaf (and mute and lame!) are healed and streams of water break forth in the desert wasteland! This same miracle-working, life-speaking God is present with us today in His Word, and we get to gather as a community of believers to listen and be changed.
Personal study of scripture is absolutely imperative to the Christian life, and it is the backbone to Christ-centered Christian community. God instructs us in Colossians to make His word the center of our fellowship with other believers, telling us “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.”
We Gather to hear the Word
We need the word to counsel, warn, encourage and comfort each other. When we gather around God’s word, we are able to encourage one another well and avoid spewing “advice” or opinions that may be more destructive than helpful. In the trials of life, we need to hear the words of God spoken to us; telling us the good news of what Jesus has done and who we are in Him! If we are honest, there are times when we don’t want to hear the truth; times where we want to remain deceived. This is precisely why we need the community of the saints to speak the truth in love through the leading of the Spirit.
We need to hear the word in community to combat the lies of the enemy and our flesh. Like soldiers fighting in the dead of winter, our communities are to be huddles of warmth where we read aloud to one another these letters of hope sent by our loved one. These words keep us and hold us steady; they arm us to fight against the temptation to give up or disbelieve the truth. As a community, we get to speak these words to each other and combat our tendency to grow callous to our sin and God’s beautiful grace! Hebrews 3:13 says it well: “..exhort one another every day, as it is called “today”, that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.”
We Gather to live out the Word
We must hear the words of God in order to believe the words of God, but it doesn’t stop there as we know that true belief always elicits action. Practically, this means when we gather together we “encourage one another” and “stir up one another to love and good works” (Hebrews 10:24-25) and that it spills over into the way we love one another outside of our designated gathering times. This could mean doing a good work for another couple by watching their kids so they can go on a date or sending a letter of encouragement to a friend in a tough spot. It means confessing sin to one another (1 John 1:9), praying for one another, bearing the burdens of one another (Gal 6:2), weeping with those who are weep, and rejoicing with those who are rejoicing (Rom. 12:15). We speak the truth in love to one another (Eph. 4:15). We fulfill the great commission (Mat. 28:19) by telling others about Jesus and inviting them into the family of God. We work together to seek the welfare of our city (Jer. 29:7). The Holy Spirit empowers us to point to our amazing King Jesus in the way we love one another and the world (John 13:34-35).
Jesus has called us out of darkness into his marvelous light! We are God’s ambassadors, showing those around us what the Kingdom of God is like. May the world see a community of believers, steeped in the wonderful Story of God, that sings with the Psalmist, ”How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!”
By Will Bossert
Why should you read your Bible? Is it because God says so, or because it is good for us? Many of us might think off the top of our head it is a simple answer, but unless we traverse the depths of this important question we might never connect our hearts to an answer to this question that brings about an understanding, respect, appreciation and dedication the Bible deserves. What we know and believe about scripture affects us on a grand scale. The Bible is polarizing, there is no middle ground with it. It is either God’s written Word that should impact every area of my current life, or it is just interesting literature that I should give no more care in the world as I do my daughters Dr. Suess books (of which I do enjoy reading during bedtime, but have never allowed Fox In Socks to impact my life in a significant way). The Bible is such a big deal that it is important for us to know why it is a big deal and decide why and how it should impact our lives. This is called a Theology of Scripture.
In the book Systematic Theology by Wayne Grudem, these four characteristics of Scripture are listed: Authority, Clarity, Necessity, and Sufficiency. I wish I had the time to explain each of these more thoroughly, but since I don’t, I will do my best to summarize what they mean to us. If you wish to gain a more exhaustive understanding of these characteristics please read chapters 4-8 of Grudem’s book.
The Authority of Scripture:
“The authority of Scripture means that all the words in Scripture are God’s words in such a way that to disbelieve or disobey any word of Scripture is to disbelieve or disobey God.”
When we believe the Bible is actually God’s Word it changes us. We can no longer just read it with a sense of, “Oh that’s really nice, what Jesus did for us”. Instead, it should jar us into a realization that Scripture is literally God’s words. And just think, we have access to it,to the literary work of the almighty God! This is the God who created the entire universe.Genesis 1:1, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” He literally SPOKE things into existence. And He gave us His Words. This adds a unique level of gravity to the Bible and what it is trying to communicate to its readers. This is ultimately, who God is and how he has rescued humanity through His son Jesus. How awesome is that!
2. The Clarity of Scripture:
“The clarity of Scripture means that the Bible is written in such a way that its teachings are able to be understood by all who will read it seeking God’s help and being willing to follow it.”
I can remember a time when I would tell my Youth Minister, “I can’t read my Bible because I can’t understand it.” The truth, in my case, was that I was lazy and wanted an excuse to avoid reading it, and I was afraid I wouldn’t understand what I was reading . Once I decided to take seriously, the charge to be in the Word, my eyes were opened to the reality of this great book. One of the beautiful aspects of the Bible is that you do not have to be a scholar in order to read it and at least have a general understanding of it. What a loving God we have, that He would design it this way! This is not to say that we won’t have questions, but that as a whole this book is written to be understood. God wants the message to be comprehended in a way that it can be shared! Mark 16:15, “And He said to them,’Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature’.” So please, don’t let fear keep you from reading your Bible, but instead, be encouraged and dig in!
When questions arise, a few things I have found helpful are: 1. Genuinely ask God for help. 2. Go to the scriptures and see if you can find an answer. 3. Use reliable commentaries (I’m sure Mike could direct you to a few great ones). 4. Be patient! We are not going to understand all of the things all at once. Some things will take maturity and time, and some will not be understood until God calls us home.
3. The Necessity of Scripture:
“The Bible is necessary for knowing the Gospel, for maintaining a spiritual life, and for knowing God’s will, but is not necessary for knowing that God exists or for knowing something about God’s character and moral laws.”
The reality is the Bible is a necessary component in the process of knowing the Gospel. Knowing the Gospel is not just a one time thing, we have to continually hear the Gospel work itself out in our lives and there is nowhere better to seek and search all of the facets of The Gospel than the Bible. Then beyond being necessary to know the Gospel, the Bible is where we must go in order to live a life that is transformed by God. We cannot just will ourselves into a new way of living, we need God’s good Word to teach, demonstrate, support, and convict us into a new way of living. Finally, comes the aspect of knowing God’s will. We often make this so complicated by thinking we have to discover God’s secret plan for our lives, but the truth is we can seek scripture in order to discover God’s will. Of course it doesn’t have specific specs for how your’s or my life should be played out, but with a disciplined depth of study one gets to know God more and more intimately and can distinguish between what is in God’s will and what is not and therefore be able to apply that to one's own life.
4. The Sufficiency of Scripture:
“The Sufficiency of Scripture means that Scripture contains all the words of God he intended his people to have at each stage of redemptive history, and that it now contains all the words of God we need for salvation, for trusting him perfectly, and for obeying him perfectly.”
We can be confident that the Bible and it’s 66 books are the complete, sufficient Words of God. We do not have to go searching for anything more. There are only two halves of Redemptive history, pre-Jesus and post-Jesus or Old Covenant and New Covenant. It contains everything we need for that which is necessary to be a Christian. Our salvation is in it completely, i.e. The Gospel. It contains all that God has chosen to reveal about who He is to us and what it reveals is a perfect God who has brought us into His story through Jesus. Now the reality is that God has not revealed all that there is, but it does contain all that God intended to give us.
Hopefully these characteristics of scripture inspire you to look at God’s word in a new light. That you would read it often and intentionally. Read it with a sense of it’s true value as God’s actual word that He has delivered in a way we can understand. We can be confident that it is complete and that it contains information that is necessary for our salvation, life and mission. Most countries in the world have easy access to the Bible and with the technology of Smartphones that is becoming even more true. The reality is that the accessibility of the Bible is such a wonderful thing, because it means more than ever, most people can read God’s word easily and for the most part affordably. Adversely, the accessibility of the Bible means that we generally do not give the Bible the respect and awe it deserves. The Bible truly is a treasure and it is my hope that as we look at all it is as we craft a proper theology of Scripture we will understand how valuable it is and devote ourselves to it.
By Mike Littleton
When I first became a Christian, I didn’t know what to do with the bible. I knew it was an important book–at least important enough to take along with me to church every Sunday. But beyond that I didn’t know much else.
My early treatment of the bible was much like that of a textbook. Take it to class, open it when and where the teacher said, refer to it from time to time for homework, but otherwise keep it stowed away in a backpack or locker. In essence, the book contained information about how to pass the test, and since the teacher was more than willing to do all the studying and teaching for me, why should I bother doing so on my own?
This, however, is not how the bible is to be treated. It is not an antiquated textbook filled with information about how to pass the big test and gain entrance into heaven. No. This book is the living and active word of God (Hebrews 4:12). The words are not merely words, they are God’s words. When this book is opened, the words and stories being read are not merely the thoughts and imaginations of men and women from ancient times, but the actions and inspired words of the Creator of the universe.
God has spoken to us through a book. This book then is a well of invaluable treasure–the depths of which should be dug into for a lifetime.
Last year, I had the thought of trying to read through the bible together as a church. This idea was by no means original. In fact, I only had the idea because a pastor friend of mine was going to do this with his church. However, I’d never seen this done and so I had no idea where to start.
But after communicating the idea with another brother in Taproot, the idea of reading the bible together as a church began to shape into a reality.
Over the past several months, Quin Marlow has been diligently creating a plan that will enable Taproot to begin reading through Scripture together. We are excited to introduce this plan which we are calling #KnowingJesusInHisWord. In the coming weeks, you will be able to hear and read about the details of this plan, but before that happens I want to lay out why it’s important and helpful for us to read the bible together as a church family.
Why do this?
I could list many good reasons for us to work through the bible together as a church, but for now I just want to name one. It’s this: The bible reveals God.
From this one truth flows and entire list of realities. If the bible reveals God, and we are his people reading his words, then we’re going to know more of who God is. We’re going to have a greater understanding of who we are. We’re going to have a greater understanding of how and why the world works the way it does. Most importantly, we’re going to have a greater awareness of redemption and God’s good plan in the gospel. We’re going to know Jesus!
God has spoken to us through a book. These words are His and so it only makes sense that if we’re to know Him, then we need to read what He has written to us. And why not do it together? How beautiful would it be for all of us to be on the same pages of Scripture? How well could this facilitate conversations about the things of God not just on Sunday mornings, but every day of the week?
So here’s to knowing Jesus in his word. This will be a challenging yet fun experience for us. May God give us the strength to be in his word together this year.
This is not Christian
Two weeks ago, someone, or some people, in our city wrapped a four-foot cross with bacon and pounded it into the ground in front of the one and only Mosque in town. I hesitate to draw more attention to the hatred and foolishness of such an act, but because a cross has been brought into this, something has to be said.
It must be understood that what these people did is by no means Christian. It’s not the biblical church. It’s not the biblical Jesus. It is in fact anti-Christian. It is anti-gospel. It is anti-Jesus. It goes against everything the cross of Christ actually stands for. You will not find such an act anywhere in the Bible.
My plea to whoever may be reading this is for you to understand that Jesus in no way condones or encourages this deplorable action. If you are a Christian understand that such an act does nothing but drag the name of Jesus and his church through the mud. It is not an act that furthers the gospel but hinders it and thus it must be condemned.
This is Christian
Our church, Taproot Church, has been working together through the book of Acts–the New Testament historical record of the early church. One of the themes that come up repeatedly is the very humanness of every single person and the offer of salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone to every human regardless of their race, ethnicity, or social status.
In Acts 14, Paul and Barnabas are worshiped by the people of Lystra as Greek gods. Their response is, “People! Why are you doing these things? We are people also, just like you” (Acts 14:15; emphasis mine). What Paul is saying here is that the gospel (good news) of Jesus levels the playing field. All humans, regardless of what or whom they may rightly or falsely worship are just that–humans. Humans in need of the one true and living God.
In Acts 16, the author records the conversion of three different people. Each of them are from entirely different worlds. They couldn’t be more different. They are opposites in race, ethnicity, and socio-economic status. Yet the conclusion of the story is that they all–as human beings–were in need of the same Jesus.
Our common humanness
“From one man He has made every nationality to live over the whole earth and has determined their appointed times and the boundaries of where they live” (Acts 17:26).
This verse is a reminder of our common humanity. That from one man every other man has come into existence. It’s also a reminder that we’re all a lot more alike than we tend to believe or realize.
Ken Wytsma talks about this in his book, The Myth Of Equality: “Beneath the skin we are all basically the same––and this is especially true at the genetic level. Genetically speaking, I (with my rather unmixed Dutch heritage) am more similar to a male Maori than I am to any female, including my own mother and daughters. Whatever genetic differences the Maori man and I might have throughout the rest of our twenty-three pairs of chromosomes, they are fewer than the number of gene differences between men (with one X – and one Y – chromosome) and women (who have two X- chromosomes), even when a man and woman are closely related…Indeed, the most remarkable thing about the genetics of humanity is how little diversity it contains in comparison to other populations of creatures, including other primates.”
In other words, scientifically speaking, I’m not that different than any other man on the face of this earth. And neither are you.
Track with me. This is important.
The Truth Of The Cross
You see, the actual good news of Christianity is that Jesus entered into this world in order to reconcile all types of people from every corner of this globe back to God. He finished the work that you and I could not. He did this by living a sinless life and dying a sinners death at the hands of people like…
The sins of the conservative, the sins of the liberal. The sins of the Christian, the sins of the Muslim. Your sin and my sin put Jesus on the cross.
The cross is a symbol of suffering and shame. It’s a symbol of sacrifice and ought never to be associated with some sort of elite homogenous ideology. Americans (American Christians in particular) are not inherently better people than Muslims. This is what the true message of the cross tells us. It levels all humanity and says we’re all in need of the same thing. It declares that salvation is not for those who prove themselves most righteous before God. Rather, it declares that all are unrighteous, and the religious moralist who stands against planned parenthood is just as much a candidate for God’s saving grace (and needs it) as much as the Islamic man–even an avowed terrorist.
This is what the true message of the cross tells us. It levels all humanity and says we’re all in need of the same thing.
This cross is the way of the Christian life.
The cross declares God’s love for people like me, and also unlike me. There is no symbol that declares God’s desire for creating a diverse people like the cross. The Christian life should always reflect this desire.
It’s in light of all this that hateful actions like wrapping a cross in bacon and placing it in front of a Muslim Mosque must be condemned.
The truth of the Christian gospel is what enables us to see people the way God intended. In an increasingly diverse culture, may the cross remind us that we’re a lot more alike than we realize and at the end of the day our greatest need is the same–a crucified, but risen, Savior!
This post was originally published on Mike Littleton's personal blog.
This past Sunday we worked our way through Acts 15. The big question we tackled through our text was, is grace alone enough? It was an obviously fitting text and question in light of that day being Reformation Sunday.
The great news we concluded with is that yes indeed, the grace of Jesus is enough!
"We believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will." (Acts 15:11)
In case you missed it, you can listen here.
You can also find my preaching notes here.
If you weren’t aware or haven’t heard, August 1st was my first day working full time for Taproot Church.
This last year I was hired on part-time with Taproot as the “Director of Community Life”- a title that I perceived as a little too fancy for my person, like I needed a Masters degree in holiness to live up to the name or something. However, with no masters degree in tow, I have worked, worried, rejoiced, lamented and toiled this last year away. I have had times where I have thought to myself “Lord, you are working! How great you are to work through me!” and other times I have said “Lord, where are you? Why am I such a wreck? Leave me here to rot”.
So the progressions of my heart come and go; and what the Lord has left me with after this year of the highs and lows of ministry and the daunting prospect of this new full time position are these precious words:
“Jesiah, my son: you are weak”.
Some people may ask: What qualifies you to take on this ministry? Weakness will be my answer. “Utter neediness” will be listed under the skill-set section on the crumpled resume I turn in. “Complete Grace” will be underlined and emboldened on the page, because I am not fit for this task of full time ministry.
Weakness and the Kingdom
Weakness is what qualifies us for entrance into the Kingdom of God. Jesus, the maker and King of this Kingdom, spoke this in Mark 2:17: “Those who are well have no need for a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but the sinners”. Again, in Romans 5:6,8: “For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for us...God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
Weakness, neediness. Jesus came to be a physician for people such as this, people like you and me. Paul even goes so far as to say that he boasts in his weakness! Why? “So that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (2 Cor. 12:9). That is a bold statement!
This is absolutely antithetical to what we have been raised to value. Who do you follow on social media? Do-it-yourselfers, right? What type of people does our nation applaud? People who have picked themselves up by their own bootstraps and done the hard work and got rewarded by it. Not people who declare themselves weak and in need of a savior.
Sometimes we can even get this warped perspective of works based self-fulfillment in the Christian realm. We have the right “answers”; all we need to do is follow Jesus and everything will be alright. Just pray more. Just serve more. Just read your bible more. Then we get bummed that we can’t do those things consistently; we get bummed that we are weak! What we need is not to tough it out so as to prove our righteousness, we need a supernatural intervention of God to accept us, to change us. We need a savior!
The idea that we are sufficient to make or sustain a perfect life that will bring us ultimate fulfillment is a false gospel, no matter if the lie is packaged in a "Christian" or "secular" way. We are not sufficient to sustain our own happiness, fill our souls, or create a perfect existence for ourselves; whether that be from trying harder to pray to get Gods blessings, or seeking blessing from a perfect house in a perfect neighborhood.
Self control and discipline that mark “successful” people can be (if we are in Christ) blessings poured out by the Holy Spirit; evidences of a changed life in Jesus. Apart from the Spirits power, however, they are just tools that help feed our narcissism; and leads us to be pharisees that look down on others.
I think all of Gods people can agree: we don’t want to be Pharisees or sluggards. But before we can be satisfied in Jesus, we have to be honest with ourselves: We are in need of him to do the hard work of changing us. We are weak; and are not powerful enough to create or sustain the perfect Christian life we all think we should have. I must admit it to myself: I am not powerful enough to do the work I need to do for Taproot. Similarly:
We are not loving enough to endure the hard-fought trials of marriage and parenting.
We are not smart enough to juggle a perfect work/life balance.
We are not courageous enough to speak the Gospel in all situations to our co-workers.
We are not wise enough to handle perfectly the storms and troubles of life.
We are not patient enough to stick-it-through in the discipling of others.
We are not humble enough to be discipled ourselves.
Think of all that is tasked upon you; consider the mountain of responsibilities that is placed upon your shoulders. Let it weigh on you a bit and then realize: you are not sufficient.
The Hope for the Weak
...But. (there is always a beautiful “but” in the Gospel)...
But Jesus is. He is our righteousness before men, and most importantly, before our God. Righteousness by definition is: “the quality of being morally right or justifiable”. All righteousness is transferred to us through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. The righteousness that we groan to have is not earned, but bought through the blood of Jesus and then lovingly given to us. This sacrifice is what brings up back to communion with our creator, which is the only place our souls have rest. Not only are we brought “right” before God, but through Jesus we are given the Holy Spirit; the same spirit that lived and moved in the life of Christ. Jesus is sufficient to not only save us from sin and make us right before God but to empower us to live new, joyful lives in him.
Speak that to yourself: Jesus is sufficient. Jesus is sufficient today to strengthen you to do what you normally could not do through the power of the Holy Spirit.
Jesus is sufficient to give you grace and patience for your children today.
Jesus is sufficient to give you words to speak to your co-workers at a time of need.
Jesus is sufficient to give you sacrificial love for your spouse today.
Jesus is sufficient to give you satisfaction and joy today, regardless of your circumstances.
Jesus is sufficient to bring you back to his side when you failed and have fallen into sin.
Jesus is sufficient to change your heart to desire his word and his ways.
Jesus is sufficient to give you the gumption to work heartily for him.
...and Jesus is sufficient to give me the wisdom, self-control, and strength to do this work he has called me to do for Taproot. Romans 8:32 says: “He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?”
An acknowledgement of weakness, mixed with trust and faith in Christ alone breeds joy and love in the heart of the Christian that cannot be taken away (Romans 8:31-38). Communion with God through Jesus gives us the fruit of joy and the power of the Spirit to do the works he has called us to do.
Okay. But what is it that I actually do you might ask? Here is a list of some things I will be doing for Taproot in my full time role:
I oversee our Gospel Communities. I do this by persisting in prayer for our communities, creating leadership training, and offering counsel and support to our GC leaders. I am currently putting together more leadership training to help equip even more leaders.
I oversee the church scheduling. All of our Gatherings and other events (club clean-ups, church camp, feasts, etc.) are coordinated/delegated out by me.
I help put out content occasionally for Taproot. This includes blog-posts mainly, but I also preach every once in awhile.
I am the liaison between Taproot and our Community. On occasions when we partner with other ministries and agencies around the Magic Valley, I would be a point person for our church (Examples: Staton Healthcare, Refugee Center).
I do whatever helps. Whatever would help clear Mike and John’s plate to teach, preach, and pray, I do. This includes trash runs, coffee buying, and keeping things stocked at the office.
I look at this list alongside my other list of being a good disciple of Jesus, Husband, Father, friend, son and laundry-task-master and I am instantly overwhelmed. But Jesus is sufficient to sow together my imperfect, fractured life for His glory, even when I don’t get all of my “to-do’s” done. I am still called to work “heartily for the Lord”- but he promises to pour out His strength to me when I am too exhausted to move. When I fail in my responsibilities either because of my weakness or because of my sin, I have a savior who advocates for me. I can trust my life in the God who loved me and gave himself for me. I can say in all things “It is well, oh my soul”! This is good news!
This truth is what I am banking on in coming on full time: Jesus alone doing the work that I cannot do in me and in our church.
Thanks for allowing me the wonderful joy and honor to work alongside you, Taproot. Together, let us sing with one voice “it is well” as we raise our families, love our Church, and reach this city with the Good News of Jesus; for He alone is sufficient for us all.