Wednesday, April 30, 2014

"Making" Jesus Lord?

I remember a conversation I had with a teenager several years ago, who professed to be an atheist. When I asked him why he didn’t believe in God, he explained that he didn’t like the idea of someone up there who could tell him what to do.
That stuck with me. He professed not to believe in God because he didn’t want to have to obey God.
Of course, underlying this statement is the assumption that his own way of living is better than God’s design for his life. And that’s a lie: The God who created and loves us calls us to a life of flourishing, away from our own self-destructive and impotent self-centeredness.
But there’s another problem with his statement. The fact of God’s existence is not determined by whether or not we like the idea or acknowledge Him. We have to reckon with the reality of God’s existence either way. It’s not a question of whether God is “up there”; the only question is whether this teenager will acknowledge God’s claim on his life.
But this mindset isn’t only true of professing atheists; it’s also true of each of us at times. Whenever we sin or go our own way, we’re acting as if there were no God, as if Jesus were not really King. And sometimes, even when we are seeking to honor God, our language reveals this faulty understanding of God. We find ourselves using phrases such as “make Jesus Lord of your life” or “I need to put Christ first”. I understand the sentiment behind these phrases, but ultimately they are confusing.
You and I can never “make” Jesus Lord; He already is Lord and King—period. You or I can never “put” Christ first; He already is the “First and the Last” (Revelation 22:13). So it’s not our job to “make” Jesus Lord; it’s simply for us to first acknowledge that Heis Lord, and then to appropriate/receive Him as our Lord.
We weren’t the ones who crowned Jesus King; if we were, that would put us in a position of authority over Him. Remember what Peter said in Acts 2:36: “God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.” When we recognize this, we see that we’re simply called to align ourselves with this reality.
We could think of it like this: Imagine if I assumed that the law of gravity didn’t apply to me, so I climbed every house and jumped off the roof. It wouldn’t go so well. But if I finally learned to acknowledge and respect the law of gravity, I would stop jumping off roofs and wouldn’t get injured. In doing this, I wouldn’t have “created” the law of gravity or “made” it true; I would have simply aligned myself with it and stopped rejecting its claim on me.
As another example, think of WWII in Europe after the Nazi surrender. If the few scattered troops were to continue resisting the new authority in Europe, they would be defeated. They would need to recognize that the war was over, and surrender. By surrendering they would be acknowledging the authority and victory of the Allies—not “making” the Allies victorious.
On Easter, we celebrate that Jesus is the living Lord. Christ is King. We don’t “make” Him King; He is already King, and we simply acknowledge His authority and align ourselves under Him.
As Christians, that means that when we speak to others about Jesus, we’reannouncing. We’re not trying to get others to “make” Jesus Lord of their lives; we’re pleading with people to acknowledge that Jesus is Lord—and to rest in (or to appropriate) Him as their Lord.
And thankfully, Jesus is not only a Lord and King who conquers and judges, but a King who forgives, saves, and protects His own! He has limitless grace for all who throw down their arms and come to Him for forgiveness. And He doesn’t just give amnesty; He pours out upon us the never-ending favor of God. When we come to Jesus and acknowledge that He is Lord and Savior—and our Lord and Savior—we are no longer under the anger of God; we are under His favor as adopted sons and daughters.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Call and Ordination to New Hope Church

I have been a long time in writing, and have a few updates to share.

Call and Ordination

As I mentioned last year, Pastor Carl Bergman (the lead pastor at New Hope) took a sabbatical from October 2013 – February 2014, and as Intern Pastor, I was functioning as the sole pastor during this period. Over his sabbatical, it became clear to Carl that God was leading him to step down from pastoring New Hope and to enter a partial retirement. (He will still be working for the denomination in this region.)

Following this news, New Hope later extended a call to me to serve as lead (long-term) pastor. Through a period of thought and prayer, God gave me a sense of peace about the call, and I accepted in late February. It will be a privilege to continue to serve the congregation and city in this region!

In mid-March, at our regional denominational leadership meeting, I was examined in my faith and life, preaching, and biblical and theological understanding. Although I certainly approached the exam with some trepidation, it was a very affirming time—and especially encouraging to have family and several long-time friends and mentors there. Now that I have been ordained, there will be a special ordination/installation service at New Hope on April 27th. Thank you for all your support and prayers leading up to this point! I know I will continue to need them in the coming years.


I just started coaching tennis at a local high school, and as always it’s a delight to work with the team. We have 17 students, and already I see several potential captains/leaders among them. It can be exhausting to coach on top of everything else, but in many ways it’s even more refreshing to run practices and be able to mentor these students in an enjoyable and challenging athletic context. Please pray that this season provides opportunities to point the students and their families to Christ.


Our Ephesians sermon series will be finishing up this Sunday, and we are praying that next week’s Easter service will be a time when many others will have the opportunity to hear the gospel. In addition, as we have gained more young families in our congregation and anticipate the birth of four more babies within these next couple months, we will also be giving out The Jesus Storybook Bible on Easter morning to all families with children. (This is the best children’s Bible I have seen, showing how the whole of Scripture points to Jesus. I actually bought my own copy as well; it’s well worth it for children and adults!)

New Members

It’s been a privilege to teach a new members’ class that will conclude this upcoming Sunday. Two long-time members are co-leading the class with me, and three couples are participating. We spent the first week addressing the foundations of Christianity, seeking to answer the question, “What is the gospel?” The gospel is something that Christians are called to live into, not move past—so it never loses its relevance. It’s like a good book that only gets better the more we read it. The second class focused on our Reformed “accent”, with an overview of the Reformation, Heidelberg Catechism, Belgic Confession, Canons of Dort, and our denomination in particular. Our last class will focus on membership at New Hope in particular. We will discuss the history of New Hope and its membership covenant, and also the importance of addressing previous church experiences—forgiving where necessary before pursuing membership at New Hope.

As always, thank you for your prayers—I know we need them. And if you find yourself in Maine sometime in the next few years, please let me know; I will now be here past this year!