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Practicing Christian Liberty in the House of God

We do not all see things the same way.  Some practice certain practices which others believe to be inappropriate or wrong.  So how do we get along when we’re all living under the same faith roof, so to speak?

Paul gives some excellent guidance in Romans 14.  There are three sections:  how God views your brother, how you should conduct yourself, and how we should not treat each other poorly.

There are weaker brothers (Rom. 14:1) and stronger brothers (Rom. 15:1).  God loves your brother, that is, the one who doesn’t see things as you do.  Furthermore, God has welcomed him into the household of faith -and- that very brother answers to God for his faith practice, not you!  All of this is to so position the conversation that we get out of the way.  Your brother answers to God, who loves him.

The next section deals with how you walk your road.  Whether you practice or abstain, do so unto the Lord, not other people.  The Lord is the one you will answer to so let’s behave rightly before him.  Let’s be clear in our minds as to why we do or do not do certain things because we want to be firmly convinced, not wishy washy in our positions.

The last section speaks to how we treat each other.  Jesus died for your brother.  Yes, the one with whom you disagree, he matters to Jesus.  If your behavior grieves him, stop.  Stop before you destroy him.  We do not put stumbling blocks in front of each other.  When someone stumbles, he commits sin and this is no way to “practice liberty.”  In view here is confrontational, high-handed practices in your brother’s presence.

The issues that may bother our congregation are possibly:  alcohol, tobacco, tattoos, political leanings, and the matters.  How will you walk this out?  Can you love your brother enough to not judge or dismiss him, when he disagrees with you?  Can you move him?

This message comes from Romans 14:1-12.  Want to listen? Here’s the online sermon archive.

Conquerors: Celebrating the FCC Story

We serve a speaking God. Jesus speaks to his church and reveals his will. Apart from this specific revelation of Christ, we would surely be lost.

A local church in submission to Christ can surely expect to hear from him if she so desires. We did. We heard.

The specificity with which we heard is refreshing and enlightening. So what did we hear? It wasn’t so much a pass or fail as it was a course correction. We were affirmed in our pursuit of truth, fight for sexual purity, and dedication to one another. We were called on to a greater appreciation of Christ’s headship, a stronger body life, prayerful dependence upon him, more focused discipleship, and a communication of our gospel message.

Going forward, insofar as we walk in what we have heard, we enjoy fellowship with him and blessing on the work. If we are unable to properly assess what has happened, there is nothing left but a casual drift which invariably leads to irrelevance and a disconnect with reality.

To the point we now turn. Seven times Jesus says to the churches of Asia Minor “He who has an ear, let him hear…” Seven times Jesus says to the churches of Asia Minor “to the one who conquers…”

The first saying is an invitation to whomever to take heed. It contains the promise of greater intimacy with Christ if the “hearer” will but obey. The second saying is an encouragement to the ones who press forward in obedience. Will all conquer? We do not know. For those who do, a gift from God awaits them.

The questions before us as individuals are two-fold. One, are we able to hear? Two, are we among those who conquer?

This message comes from Revelation 2-3. Want to listen? Here’s the online sermon archive.

Doing Good Work

Ephesians 6:5-8

Pauls tells us “Bondservants, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling…”

Say what?  Immediately questions come to our mind.  Should we not focus on doing away with slavery?  What if I’m asked to do something immoral?  What if the boss is a ‘jerk’?  What about human rights?

At the core of these questions is a concern.  It might go like this, “I can’t entrust my welfare to someone else.”  This concern is entirely legitimate based on human experience.  We’ve been shown that people will abuse people.  People in authority cannot be trusted.

Before we protest further, though.  Let’s consider the pattern of our Lord.  He obeyed his parents.  He submitted to the Law which was held in his day.  He eventually obeyed his Father, being obedient to the very point of death (Philippians 2).  Even in giving up his life to his tormentors, Jesus did this as an act of worship and obedience to his Father.

Returning now to Ephesians 6, the key word in the passage is “obey”.  It does mean what we think it means.  In the context the rendering up of obedience is actually God’s will.  It is not secondary, it is on point!

In our obedience to earthly masters and employees we properly adorn the doctrine of Christ.  Titus describes it that way (Titus 2).  When we obey our earthly masters we make Jesus look good.  When we make Jesus look good, it actually communicates a message to our generation.  God can be trusted.

So, want to preach without words?  This is how you do it.

This message comes from Ephesians 6:5-8.  Want to listen? Here’s the online sermon archive.

Speaking the Gospel

Peter writes to a group of believers who are dealing with persecution.  He is very concerned that they have a clear path to responding rightly to their persecutors.  He details the way Jesus entrusted himself to the Father in the midst of persecution (1 Peter 2:23).  So believers, when persecuted are to render their trust to the Father.
How does this take expression?
First, we are to not give way to fear or anxiety (v. 14).  Fear is the product of an intimidating or alarming force.  When our goods, reputations, or lives are in danger we tend to fear.  However, this is not what we are called to do.  In North America, it is nether goods nor lives that are at stake so much as it is our reputation or standing in the culture.  What bothers us is social standing.  To this, the Lord says that we are not to not fear this.  We are not to fear those who ostracize us.
Secondly, we are to honor the Lord Christ.  We value and treasure Christ in ‘our hearts.’  This is a personal, decisive decision to worship Christ as the highest object in our hearts!  It is this intentional setting aside of Jesus in our hearts that gives life and value.  This brings the health, in the form of Jesus himself.
Thirdly, we give an answer for the hope that lies within us.  That hope is the hope that is common to the faith.  We have a confident expectation that things are moving in the right direction inside that redemptive paradigm called the kingdom of God.
We often get bogged down by fear, lack of skill, or a disconnect between what we believe and what we practice.  As a believer, we are not selling something.  This has unfortunately been a standpoint from which Christians share the gospel.  For this reason, our motivations are not proper.  We desire others to believe as we do but we do not manipulate or push.  We give an answer for our hope candidly and honestly.
This message comes from 1 Peter 3:15.  Want to listen? Here’s the online sermon archive.

Discipling our Children

This message is designed to do two things:  1) call our parents to attention and 2) give vision and direction to continued parenting.
I’ve enjoyed many conversations with friends in Williamson County.  Being a pastor I naturally take a pastoral interest in the parenting philosophies of our culture.  Parents are deeply concerned for their children.  Christian parents especially want their children to be taught the rudiments of the Christian faith.  Many parents attend churches that have children’s programs because they look to these programs to deliver results!  Williamson County TN is blessed with many vibrant children’s programs and there is a lot of choose from.  What you will hear from church leaders though is that the church is unable to provide the biblical instruction and guidance needed for a child’s Christian development.  Why?  There are 168 days in a week and the church gets how many of these hours, 1-2?  Entrusting the church with the work of teaching a child his/her faith is an unsustainable model.  For sure, the church supplements and supports but it cannot carry the responsibility.
We get some helpful guidance in Deut. 6:7.  Here and in Ephesians 6:1-2, this responsibility is for the parents.  We do not speak of outsourcing.  No.  Christian education is primarily and personally the job of parents!
Here the Lord is instructing parents of faith to be diligent, meticulous, and intentional in the transmission of their faith.  The Shema, Deut. 6:4 (Hear Oh Israel, the LORD our God is One.) and the following verse in 6:5 (You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind) form the bedrock of what is taught.  A lot was at stake here, namely, the integrity and life of a nation!  Children might forget their God.  This would result in God’s firm disciplinary displeasure.  Finally, the faith-fueled practice of observing these commands and teaching them would count to them as righteousness.  It was and continues to be the obligation of parents to teach the gospel to their children.
Paraphrasing verse 7 in today’s language, parents talk about the Lord at the breakfast table, on the way to school, at the supper table and as they go to bed.  They constantly drill, drill, drill the gospel and love of God.  It is as natural as breathing.
Parents may well say, “I agree.  However, I’m not sure where to start or even how.”  First, the north star of biblical parenting is the instruction of love for God.  Whatever we do and however we do it, teaching our children to love God with EVERYTHING they have is number one!
George Barna, in his book, “Revolutionary Parenting: What the Research Shows Really Works” gives some helpful guidance on this question.  The context of this book is this.  They interviewed the parents of successful and flourishing “spiritual giants” to discern how these parents worked out their parenting.  Novel approach, right?  While not a fool-proof plan, this approach does promise some helpful insight on what we might call best practices.
They found that first, these parents really believed and practiced their faith.   They made parenting their number one priority, as opposed to a career or pursuing self-interest.  Most of these households were single income homes.  Parents intentionally spent time with each of their children, daily.  They also testified that these families discussed faith and practice together, as a family.  And secondly, these families together practiced prayer, worship, and Bible study.  These parents took on the role of coaches and were not afraid to issue out orders and commands.  They were also very intentional about where they were going.  The spelled out goals for their children and pursued these rigorously.
There is no perfect plan for parenting.  It is work.  There are parents who are listening here or reading who may be in pain over wayward children.  They may wonder, what happened.  Ultimately, children become adults and choose their own way.
There are pitfalls in parenting to be sure.  If parents rely on “do as I say but not as I do” it will only carry children so far.  Eventually, our actions and hearts will reveal more than our words.  For this reason, may parents first and foremost believe and practice the gospel of Jesus.  Why not first enjoy what we preach?
This message comes from Deuteronomy 6:4-9.  Want to listen? Here’s the online sermon archive.

Discipleship at FCC

In working through our Corporate Covenant, we come to that portion focused on discipleship.  What I would like to do is share some personal history, develop some definitions, and point the way forward for us as a people of God.

As to personal history, here we go.  From the time I was born, I have attended church.  My parents always took me.  During high school, college, seminary, as a single adult, and now as a married man with children, I have always attended church.  Most of the models I’ve had the privilege to be in have stressed the gathering time as the primary means of discipleship.

For example, Sunday School, Sunday morning worship, and Wed. night prayer were the primary vehicles of discipleship.  Mission was largely accomplished one-on-one.  The goal was to get unbelievers to the church services, more or less.  The vehicles of Sunday School etc. were sufficient to disciple people.  This may be a little simplistic and it may be contrary to what my leaders intended.  Either way, it was my takeaway.

For me and perhaps for many of you, at FCC, this was the paradigm.

This construct did facilitate a disconnect between the person who showed up at church and the person who lived life away from church.  Additionally, the idea was, get information at the services and then you will be a better disciple.

The difficulties with the paradigm I’ve yielded to for many years is simple.  How can you practice the works of Jesus when discipleship is largely church service and information oriented?

In Matthew 7:24-27 Jesus says that everyone who hears his [Jesus’] words and does them is the wise man who builds on the rock.  Everyone who hears his words and does not do them is like a foolish man who builds on sand.

A disciple of Jesus is a person who lives life the way Jesus lived life.  Discipleship is that process of learning how to live the life that Jesus lived.  To disciple someone is to teach them to live like Jesus lived.  This process includes the classroom but it also includes real life.  This includes learning the three areas of focus in our Lord’s life:  UP, IN, OUT.

The leadership of FCC is responsible to see that discipleship is implemented and celebrated here correctly.  We do not support an information based model of discipleship.  For this reason, in the last two years we have changed a lot of how we do things.  We have Missional Communities.  Here we practice the three rhythms of Jesus.  We don’t just talk about them, we do them.  Even at a corporate level, we are developing rhythms of practice as opposed to rhythms of information.

The goal is very simple.  We want to teach and equip the people of FCC to live a life like Jesus lived!  Presently we have added two vehicles to help us better translate this to our fellowship:  Missional Communities and Huddles.  We frame discipleship in terms of practicing UP, IN, and OUT.  We fight to guard against information based discipleship, instead, adding imitation, and innovation.

This message comes from Matthew 7:24-27.  Want to listen? Here’s the online sermon archive.


Cinnamon Sunday for sweet fellowship on New Year’s Day! YUM!

Join us in Cinnamon Sunday for sweet fellowship on New Year’s Day! SPECIAL TIME – 10am

A cinnamon bun sitting on a plate.

The time is from 10:00 AM to 11:00 AM. Yes you read right because Cinnamon Sunday is falling on New Year’s Day this year we pushed back service for a half hour. This will give everyone a chance to relax and catch our breath from the Christmas Season and bring in the new year of 2017.

Everyone is to bring something sweet and cinnamon to share with our fellowship and if you have drinks other than coffee to share you are more then welcome to bring that as well.

Merry Christmas to all!