Is this the question?
Actually, the issue is deeper than coffee. For the believer, we are dealing with a gospel engagement issue in the most recent wake of controversy over Starbucks long held view and support of same-sex marriage.
First of all, I want to preface before my remarks by saying that if you have chosen for conscience sake not to support Starbucks, then I condemn you in no way. God’s word tells us that anything that is not done in faith is sin [Romans 14:23]. So, if you in good faith cannot support Starbucks please don’t. Do not violate your conscience.
However, I would like to challenge leaders and the average laymen with what it means to engage our culture with the gospel and whether or not boycotting Starbucks or any other corporation will accomplish that mission. Let’s take a step back, breath a minute, clear our mind of all social media bantering, and look at the whole picture.
The whole picture
For the 21-century believer living in Western American culture, he or she finds they are surrounded in a postmodern world. No longer is our society permeated or influenced by Judeo-Christian values. It has been replaced by a more evident and stronger humanistic way of thinking. The value system that once motivated the average citizen – Christian or not – is all but gone. We are left with a faded photograph stored in an attic that we nostalgically remember and hope will return. For the first time, the American believer finds himself understanding what it must have been like for Paul to minister in Rome or Corinth; or Jesus and His disciples who had to pay taxes to Caesar – using the money for nothing but evil. Anyone who is a student of accent history knows the level of debauchery that Rome and Corinth had reached in regards to perversion. It ran rampant in the streets. One could not walk down the road without being visually assaulted by it. You could make an argument that we have reached that level here in America.
Why do I reference the culture of the first century believers or Jesus himself? I do it to remind us that we are not the first ones to engage the gospel in a culture that is anti-Christian. Sure, we are not being killed for it, but we are verbally persecuted everyday by the media and those who push their agenda. And yet, I ask: do we engage as the first century believers did? Jesus told his disciples to pay taxes to an evil emperor who used their money for anything but good [Matthew 22:1-22]. Paul told slaves to be faithful servants to their earthly masters [Ephesians 6:5-8]. Do not misunderstand me. There are definite times when we should obey God rather than Caesar. But is this the ground that we want to die on? Is removing ourselves from all engagement from an area a good idea?
I believe the gospel compels us in a different direction than we might think. I don’t know why, but Christians often seem to have a knee jerk reaction to things. Instead of responding, we react. Instead of engaging, we hypercritically ostracize those around us. Instead of addressing the issue biblically, we basically say, “I don’t like you anymore”. Do not be fooled. The message of the gospel will be divisive by its very nature. But must we unnecessarily turn people off from the gospel? In EVERY place, preach forgiveness that is found at the foot of the cross. Show people their sins in light of the word of God. Compel them to repent and turn in faith to Christ. Oh, and remember: only grace differentiates you from the guy next to you.
So what should we do?
Lets make our daily/weekly stop at our local Starbucks, grab a cup of coffee, say hi to our favorite gay barista, strike up a conversation, and who knows; maybe you will have the chance to talk about the gospel. You may be the one God will use to bring the Starbucks culture to Christ. If all the Christians stop working or going into Starbucks, who will reach that avenue of culture with the gospel? If we remove our influence from every place that supports or promotes a gay agenda, we remove the light of the gospel in that corner. In addition, we cease to have a platform from which to engage the issue of homosexuality. Furthermore, what happens when all organizations except the church or Christian businesses – which may find it impossible to operate legally – herald loudly their support and throw their money liberally to the homosexual cause? Will we just close ourselves up into our houses and cease to engage with the gospel?
Jesus commanded His disciples to GO into the ENTIRE world. We are not to be of the world, but we are most certainly to be IN the world. So the question is not ‘to drink coffee or not to drink coffee’ but rather ‘to engage with the gospel or not to engage with the gospel’?
For more on this issue, I encourage you to read the following article by Dr. Russell Moore: ‘Should Christians Boycott Starbucks?’
We are so excited to welcome on board Michelle Bracey. She is the newest member of the Vision4Living team. She will be taking on the responsibilities of Finance Secretary which will relieve myself of a lot of responsibility thus freeing me up to do more development and writing. We are so grateful to God for this provision and answer to prayer. Vision4Living is growing and as we grow it is important that we maintain accuracy and accountability in our finances to the glory of God. Glad to have you on board Michelle!
Where there is no vision the people perish, but whoever keeps the Law, happy is he.
Many of us are convinced of the importance of a Biblical vision and understand its significance. But we have also experienced the weakening of our vision. Sometimes life wears us down.
What keeps one’s vision from weakening or even disappearing? What gives it strength and keeps it strong? Where does the strength of your vision lie?
The Preservation of Your Vision (Whoever keeps the Law…)
As long as I can remember, my Dad has loved to garden. After all the presents have been opened and Christmas dinner is over, my Dad reaches over for his seed catalog. He’s thinking about his garden: breaking the ground, planting the seed, using the tiller. He can anticipated the fruit of his labor: new potatoes, green beans, bell peppers, and fried corn.
Vision or Gardening?
Now you perhaps you are thinking; “What’s this guy’s Father’s gardening practices have to do with a vision for life?” It is interesting that the word used in Genesis 2:15 for Adam’s God-given responsibility to “keep” the Garden of Eden is the same word in our text; “whoever keeps the Law”. To preserve a God-given vision, to put a strong foundation under it, you must in a sense do what Adam was responsible to do in the Garden. We must do what my Father does as a gardener. What are those elements of “keeping” the Law in its best sense, certainly not in a pharisaic sense?
One element is anticipation. My Dad naturally anticipates gardening. Winter is a natural and necessary interruption from this blessed pursuit. But in the back of his mind is this latent anticipation of spring and gardening.That is why he almost unconsciously picks up that catalog. Anticipation is not necessarily an outward giddiness. It is a matter of the heart.
This leads us to a the second element of law keeping: joyfulness. My Dad finds joy in his gardening. And don’t you imagine Adam did, in his unfallen state? His God-given responsibility was also his delight, even as my Father’s garden is his delight.
Another element is preparation. Dad thinks through the process, orders the seed, and prepares the ground. He does not jump into the garden with no preparation.
If you are going to have a garden and its fruit, you must work. That includes weeding, cultivating, and fertilizing.
Everything leads to the time of reaping what you sow. The process of gardening is joyful in itself. But the whole thing would be anticlimactic without the fried corn. And don’t you imagine Adam enjoyed the fruit of his labor?
These are the elements of law keeping that preserve and strengthen a Biblical vision. It is not enough to say (at 14, 18, 30, or 50) I have a vision. You have to tend the “garden” of your vision throughout your life. You live with this latent anticipation of Christ’s work, and a joyful expectation. You cultivate a mind and life to be receptive to what God has for you. Then you have those times of getting in the Word and working the “garden”. Jesus said; “He who has My commandments, and keeps them, he it is who loves Me; and he who loves Me shall be loved by My Father, and I will love him, and will manifest Myself to him.” (John 14:21).
The Satisfaction of Your Vision ( …happy is he.)
Why is it that the people around us are never satisfied? Whatever new thing the world offers, they must have. They are trying to satisfy their soul with stuff, when the soul is made to be satisfied with God. But you can be confident that the pursuit of your God-given vision brings genuine satisfaction, for ultimately it is the pursuit of God Himself.
The Psalmist said; “The meek shall eat and be satisfied…” (Psalm 22:26). “My soul shall be satisfied …” (Psalm 63:5) “…He satisfies the longing soul.”(Psalm 107:9) “I shall be satisfied when I awake with Your likeness.” (Psalm 17:15) “You will show me the path of life: in Your presence is fullness of joy; at Your right hand there are pleasures forever more.” (Psalm 16:11)
Many years ago a young man grew up in a conservative, Midwestern community in Indiana. He completed his education, then began to pursue a career. Early on he was offered the opportunity to take a position in Minnesota or one in Los Angeles, California. He was very interested in the opportunity in Minnesota, but the people there seemed to drag their feet, and after seeking wise council, he accepted the offer in L.A. He worked there in anonymity for several years, investing himself in others while applying the simple lessons he learned as a young man.
It was not until the early 1960’s that he began to make some waves in his profession, and by the mid- 60s, he was a force to be reckoned with. So it was that from the mid-60s to the mid-70s the name John Wooden became synonymous with NCAA Championship. But he only got there by pursuing excellence and investing in the next generation day by day, week by week, year by year: “the vision comes through much work”.
Each of us is grinding it out. Our choices are pegs on which we climb toward the future. We would do well to ask ourselves before God how our choices will affect the next generation. While we depend totally upon The Lord, we live with a Biblical sense of responsibility for the direction of our lives.
CHOICES AND PREPARATION
John Maxwell relates the story of a time when he and his leadership team were landing in Atlanta after a seven day, twenty city book tour. There was a celebratory mood among them until the plane hit a wind shear and dropped straight down towards the runway. In seconds the mood changed from celebration to fear as they each realized “this could be it”. They quietly waited as the plane circled then landed safely.
As they left the plane, they congratulated the pilot who had quickly pushed the throttle and projected the plane back into the air. As he left the plane John asked the pilot; “When did you make the decision to put the plane back into the air?” Surprisingly the pilot responded: “Fifteen years ago”. As a young pilot in training, he had decided in advance what decision he would make for every possible air problem. “The choice was made long before the crisis,” he said. (John Maxwell; Leadership Gold, chapter 20).
Choices affect direction, and our vision affects our choices. And our choices should be made with a view to the next generation. Sometimes course corrections are necessary, but we keep moving forward, always with the next generation in view. Our goal, at least in part, is to leave a legacy of Godliness, an inheritance of eternal worth that will not fade away: “That the generation to come might know [Christ]… That they might set their hope in God…” (Psalm 78:6, 7)
Anyone who knows me understands I am a stickler for being on time and how you use your time. I never have time to kill. A lot of it has to do with my personality, but much of it is driven by my passion. I am passionate about the gospel, the need for its centrality, and effectively mobilizing God’s people to live and proclaim it. I know that we can’t afford to waste time. However, there is a hard balance to strike when it comes to using your time wisely. On one hand, you only have one life to live and no clue how long it will be. On the other, busyness suggests a life filled with purpose but void of investment in people or the right things to accomplish what God has called you to.
When you consider eternity in comparison to the time you have on earth, it is sobering. None of us is guaranteed our next breath. Peradventure, we live the average age of 75; our life is a speck of sand in the grand universe of eternity. Yet, we are still commanded and commissioned in scripture to “redeem the time because the days are evil”.
For those who are overly compulsive about time – meaning, we do not take time to rest or for people – or for those who do not use their time wisely, harsh rebuke is needed. However, instead of harping either one, let’s consider the razors edge a faithful leader walks everyday when it comes to time. I want to challenge either side to a central view of time stewardship.
What questions should you ask to walk the edge? How do you discern what is motivating you? How do you prioritize your time?
1. Do you realize the urgency?
All leaders must live with urgency. Time is precious. Time is valuable. With each tick of your watch, time is lost and never regained. The next tick could be your last.
2. Do you see the necessity?
A leader know it is necessary to use time wisely. He does not throw it away like trash. He values it. More importantly, the gospel cry necessitates that he recognize what must be done. He will prioritize and claim the grace of God to accomplish what is before him.
3. Do you think you are indispensable?
No leader is indispensable. And, if he becomes so in the minds of those who follow, then that leader has failed to train faithful men who can teach others. For he to will run out of ticks. Then who will carry on?
4. Are projects more important than people?
We can always come up with another project. However, the leader knows that souls are the only thing that will echo from eternity. They alone bear the image of God. Never pass up an opportunity to invest in an image bearer. Never be to busy for people. People are never a waist.
5. Do you take time to rest?
A faithful leader’s greatest weakness is His ability to rest. He realizes the urgency and the necessity – translating it as a reason never to rest. It never works. Wash out is around the corner. He is not indispensable. When a leader fails to be filled up again, he eventually runs out of the ability to give.
6. Does need or Christ motivate you?
Do not misunderstand me. Need is all around us and should be very compelling. But, ‘need’ alone will render you ineffective. That’s just it: there is always a need and there is only one you. Let Christ ground you. He must direct the priorities of your life. Preach the gospel. And equip and empower others who will take up the banner cry of a need.
7. Are you a “Plodding visionary”?
A leader must have vision. Vision is what keeps him on course. It is his mainstay. When all around gives way, his vision will ground him. Dream big but do not pursue empty glory. Be a leader who is willing to plot through the mundane. Be the leader who sees the mundane as a tapestry that is being woven together for the glory of God.
Finally: No one has time to kill. If you do, I would be glad to take some off your hands. Every leader has 24 hours in a day and each one is given the responsibility to steward that time. You are faced with a choice: what will happen during the dash of your life? The dash on your gravestone marks the days between your birth and your death. That time is not yours to kill. It is God’s gift to steward.
The inescapable activity of your day: looking into a mirror, checking it all out! When we look into a mirror it reveals who we are – what we truly look like. The mirror tells the truth! We can’t hide from what is going on with our hair, our face, and what we look like. The mirror is a reflection of us.
There is another mirror that we must dare not miss looking into every day. The Word of God is our mirror for checking out where we are spiritually. “But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.” (2 Corinthians 3:18)
I just turned sixty and I am afraid the law of gravity is working quite well on my face! As I look in the mirror on the wall, I can see the signs of aging. We can tint that greying hair and we can put on make-up to cover up a little. But, in reality, the grey is still there – underneath it all, our little aging flaws do not diminish.
We look in the mirror and we walk away and we forget. Just like that grey hair that is still underneath, remaining sin is always present in our lives.
Do we become too comfortable with grace?
Oh dear friends, when we look into the mirror of the Word of God, it reflects what is going on in our hearts. We see our Christian walk and sometimes it can be painful. Let us not walk away from the mirror of the Word. May it cause us to look to Christ. So let’s take an assessment of our lives and reflect on who Christ is in our lives. That mirror of the Holy Spirit reveals to us our desperate need of Him. God must live in us, dwelling in us by the power of the Holy Spirit to empower us to change.
“If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.” (Galatians 5:25)
“ For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.” (1 Corinthians 13:12) One day we shall see Christ face to face and we will know Him fully as He is. This is our hope.
Oh, remember and never forget…
Mirror, mirror on the wall,
Who’s that person after all?
Mirror, mirror of my heart,
Cause your divine word
To never depart
It’s the middle of the week, and I am right in the middle of all the mounds of details and to-do’s for the ministry. Things are not going as I would like or planned. The design project is running a bit behind, there is a mound of paperwork that needs to be done, emails to be answered, and, though I am organized, it just doesn’t feel like its going to happen. I am completely overwhelmed. Then it kicks in: the pity party. NO one has it as hard as I do. NO one realizes the sacrifices that I make in order to keep this ministry going. NO one really cares. I am the only one out there slaving for the kingdom.
Does this sound like someone else you know?
I call this the “Elijah syndrome”. In the book of 1 Kings, we read the account of the prophet Elijah and his defeat of the prophets of Bail on Mount Carmel. He is then runs because the wicked queen Jezebel is less than happy with his conquest. Even though God has just shown himself strong at Mount Carmel, Elijah is overcome with fear and depression and pulls away to sulk and whine. Then the Lord comes to Elijah and says, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” His response is classic.
“I have been very jealous for the Lord, the God of hosts. For the people of Israel have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword, and I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life, to take it away.”
This is so me sometimes. How many times has my response been exactly like Elijah? I am sure you could say the same. However, we serve an amazing God who with grace and mercy reveals to us the truth we have missed. By His Spirit, He reveals that we are not alone, He is still all-powerful, His purposes will be accomplished, and we need to get off our preverbal behinds. God wants to use us, and He will do so for His ultimate glory.
Spiritual leaders fall prey to this trap way more than they should and understandably so. Working and engaging, as a leader on the front lines, can be intense and lonely. The mundane can render the call of leadership hopeless. However, scripture tells us not to grow weary in well doing. If this is a command to us, then how are we to fight against “Elijah syndrome”? Lessons can be drawn from the text of 1 Kings, but today I just want to share some personal application God has been teaching me.
1. Don’t go at it alone.
I know the leadership can be lonely but in reality a good leader develops others – biblically, it’s called discipleship. We need the body of Christ and more importantly; we need to develop that body. Don’t be afraid to develop other leaders, to empower them, and let them grow and make an impact for the gospel. If you are alone, it can be a sure sign you are not connected with the body of Christ, as you should. It’s a gift. Use it and develop it. The Lord gave us the local church for a reason – our sanctification and His glory.
2. Know the truth
A leader knows the truth. He knows the truth about the God he serves and how he works. He is a student of the word. Learn from others. Seek out those in the body who can mentor you. Pursue and have accountability. A leader cannot afford to be void of the truth.
3. Take time to rest
Before the Lord rebuked Elijah for His own syndrome, He sent an angel to comfort and feed him. He encouraged him to rest. The Lord knows the work is hard. He knows that we will be tired, and He gives gifts to meet those needs. He gives his beloved sleep. He gives fellowship with brothers and sisters in Christ. He gives His word to renew us. Business only suggest a life filled with purpose. Many times, God wants us to be still and know that he is God.
When you boil it down to its simplest from: don’t be an unnecessary martyr. There are true martyrs for Christ and then there are those who think they are. Yes, the Christian life is a war. Yes, we wrestle against the principalities of this world. Yes, Leadership is a high calling. But, our God has given us all things that pertain to life and godliness and it is found in the person of Jesus Christ.
“Where there is no Vision, the People Perish” (Prov.29:18)
The world has been shaped, humanly speaking, by men of vision. Christopher Columbus had a vision of a round earth and led Europe to the New
World. The founders of the United States had a vision of a free nation and gave us a democratic republic. More recently, Nelson Mandela had a vision of a people not ostracized because of their color and saw the end of apartheid in South Africa.
These and other events serve to illustrate the indispensable nature of vision. For the Christian and the church, vision is more than the hope that something will come to pass. The source of a believer’s vision is the Word of God. The Word of God, ignited by the Spirit of God leads the believer to see the world and life differently. And vision affects life when it becomes so personally real and powerful that it grips us and drives us. When the writer of Proverbs says; “Where there is no vision, the people perish…” He is talking about a Scripture-saturated, even a Gospel-saturated view of life. The word “vision” in this passage is “prophetic revelation”. For the Christian, vision is all about the revealed will of God. This passage is one of the most quoted in the Bible, but it is much more than a quotable quote. It is an exhortation from The Lord of glory to search the Scriptures and immerse yourself in them until the vision of Scripture is your vision, the passion of Scripture is your passion, the hope of Scripture is your hope.
The significance of vision is this: “Where there is no vision the people perish,”. While it is stated negatively, the positive implications are inescapable. A vision with its source in the Word of God is indispensable to a fruitful life in the present and in touching and changing the next generation for Christ. The significance of such a vision is in both its short-term and long-term affects. Other translations of this phrase are “the people go naked” and “the people are unrestrained”. People without a Biblical vision are apt to go and land just about anywhere.
Biblical standards and theological convictions must be part of and rooted in a broader Biblical vision. The spiritual leader of the home must be genuinely committed to a Biblical view of the Godhead, salvation, eternity, and life. These things must be so woven into life that you communicate them as naturally as you would golf or fishing. If we are to avoid the short-term affects of not having vision, this is what we must strive for.
The problems is that without a Biblical vision our churches and our children will tend to wash out or fizzle out. If you want church members or children who become disinterested, frustrated, or rebellious, toward Biblical Christianity and Christian living, leave them without vision.
But ultimately it is Biblical vision that leads one to faith in Christ. Those without Christ live with an exalted view of themselves, an unrealistic view of the world, and a hopeless view of the future(in particular, eternity). So it is a change in the heart’s vision that leads to repentance and faith. Without that change “the people perish”.
And so pastors, it is not enough to do ministry as usual. You must look beyond the present, and even your lifetime, to the future of the church and Gospel witness in future generations. And this vision is not about quick fixes. Nor is it about what’s trending. It is rooted in the eternal truth of God.
And men, it is not enough to beget children, nor is it enough women to bear them. They must be seen as arrows in the hand of a mighty warrior. Otherwise they may become twofold more the child of hell. You must cast your eyes to the coming generations with the vision and prayer ,”That they might set their hope in God”.
(Watch for my next blog – ‘The Strength of Vision’)
P4C has been incredibly blessed over the years with the caliber of speakers it has had to expound the word of God faithfully to us. This year is no exception. I am so excited to announce…
Ryan Fullerton will be joining us for P4C13. Ryan is the lead pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church in Louisville, KY and a faithful expositor. Ryan and I have had the privilege to discuss this years theme on “The Body: God’s Plan for the Church” and he is excited about P4C and equally passionate to teach about this topic. Ryan is married and has four children and is looking forward to meeting each and every one of you who will be coming.
P4C would not be complete without the regulars. Dewey Novotny, Charles Cavanaugh, Pam Cavanaugh, Micah Cavanaugh, and I will be returning to round out the speaker lineup. We are so pumped about this years theme. We know the issue of Christ’s bride is not only important in the picture of God’s glory but pivotal for our sanctification and the proclamation of the gospel. The next generation has lost its biblical understanding of the urgent necessity of the church. We want to recover this biblical necessity. We want to see why the church is not only a gift to his people but a means to showing the world the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ. So consider this your personal invitation. See you there!
…For more on the speakers visit the P4C13 page
Header photo courtesy of Photography by Britton
The lights go down and the orchestra begins to play together. It is rehearsed and ready to perform. I truly enjoy going to an orchestrated performance and listening to a harmonious group of musicians.
I find in my every day-to-day life, the Lord is orchestrating my life and all that surrounds me.
I decided to go to a local store in my town to pick up a few items at a very reduced price. It’s a new grocery store that has opened. My plan was to dash in and get going to accomplish all the other things on my list. Did I say “dash in”?
The orchestra of my life begins.
I gathered my items and headed to the checkout. I got in the long line of people. I looked around and every line was out the door! So, I was in one line and then I decided to switch to another line. I pulled up behind a couple whose small child was in a plastic wagon that they were using to pull him around the store.
When you stand in a line for a long time, conversation is going to happen.
I looked down at the young boy in the wagon and remarked to him, “What a fun ride you are having!” His mom began to tell me that he could not walk because he has had multiple surgeries in the last six months. Looking closer, I could see his hands and body had some special needs. I came to find out that this mom and her son had been in Florida (away from home) for some time, but they were home for a short while. As this mom continued to share with me, I began to empathize with her, remembering that 16 years ago the Lord allowed me to go through that whole hospitalized child scene when my son had brain surgery – orchestration of my life. There I stood, not an accident, knowing how this mother felt and knowing how I should pray for her.
I asked the boy’s name, Drew, and the mother’s name. I pulled a piece of paper out of my purse and wrote their names down and told the mother I would commit to pray for them. I began talking with Drew and found out that he is about five years old.
I noticed he had an action figure toy in his arms and I admired it with him. He kept saying it was the last one. His father remarked, “Yes, Drew, it was the last one on the shelf – just for you.” Oh, how my heart rejoices at the orchestration of little things in our lives. That toy was there for Drew, to encourage his little heart.
Sometimes we forget about all those seemingly little things that are orchestrated in our lives, that are put together to bring harmonious music to our souls – a symphony of grace, love, mercy, kindness, and longsuffering from our Savior. Psalm 103:1 &4 says, “Bless the Lord, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name. Who redeemeth thy life from destruction; who crowneth thee with lovingkindness and tender mercies.” Psalm 92:2 says, “To shew forth thy lovingkindness in the morning, and thy faithfulness every night.”
Stop, listen, and look because you do not want to miss the orchestration going on around you. “Because thy lovingkindness is better than life, my lips shall praise thee.” (Psalm 63:3)
I started to leave the grocery store and Drew’s mom walked over to me and simply said, “Thank you.”
I thank you, Lord, for allowing me, because of your orchestration in my life, to encourage this woman.
I put away my groceries, and I sat down in a chair and began to pray for Drew and his mom. This is the crescendo of my orchestrated life.