Thoughts on Circumcision

Throughout the Old Covenant times, circumcision was a sign of being in covenant with God and being part of the covenant community of his people Israel. The concept is central in the OT. Circumcision of heart is an important concept in the entire Bible. So, I began to wonder, why circumcision as the sign of that covenant? Why is it so important? What does it symbolize? What truths can we learn from this ancient rite so central to Israel’s identity and commanded by the Creator of the universe? Here are some of my thoughts.

Consecration of sexuality and lineage:

God chose the organ of reproduction for Circumcision. That must be significant. Sex was given so that man and woman could reproduce and multiply the image of God on earth. Circumcision is a sign that man was giving his sexual drive to God for God’s purposes and glory, and so was a consecration of the act of procreation to God, and a consecration of his lineage to God, in order that God’s glory, through mankind, might cover the earth as the waters cover the seas.

Genesis 1:28  And God blessed them. And God said to them,  “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth…”

Habakkuk 2:14 For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.

Consecration of life

Jacob refers to Reuben as the “firstfruits of my strength.” Proverbs calls prostitution giving “your strength to women.”

Genesis 49:3 “Reuben, you are my firstborn, my might, and the firstfruits of my strength, preeminent in dignity and preeminent in power.

Proverbs 31:3 Do not give your strength to women, your ways to those who destroy kings.

So sex was also seen as an expression of one’s vitality, one’s life. Circumcision is a consecration of our life.

“Bridegroom of Blood to me”

The issue of circumcision and consecration brings to mind one of the most difficult and mysterious passages in the Bible, namely the story of the Lord threatening to kill Moses and Moses’ wife, Zipporah, saving his life by circumcising their son. Here’s the story…

Exodus 4:19 And the LORD said to Moses in Midian, “Go back to Egypt, for all the men who were seeking your life are dead.” 20 So Moses took his wife and his sons and had them ride on a donkey, and went back to the land of Egypt. And Moses took the staff of God in his hand.

22 Then you shall say to Pharaoh, ‘Thus says the LORD, Israel is my firstborn son, 23 and I say to you, “Let my son go that he may serve me.” If you refuse to let him go, behold, I will kill your firstborn son.’”

24 At a lodging place on the way the LORD met him and sought to put him to death. 25 Then Zipporah took a flint and cut off her son’s foreskin and touched his feet with it and said, “Surely you are a bridegroom of blood to me!” 26 So he let him alone. It was then that she said, “A bridegroom of blood,” because of the circumcision.

The context is God saying he’s going to put the firstborn of Egypt to death. Those who refused to obey God would loose their firstborn son.

But Moses himself had not obeyed God, though he was to be the one through him God delivered Israel and gave the law to his people. According to God’s command to Abraham, those not circumcised would be “cut off.”

Genesis 17:14 Any uncircumcised male who is not circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin shall be cut off from his people; he has broken my covenant.”

Moses had not obeyed God and he was going to “cut off” Moses for his disobedience. Zipporah, apparently through prophetic insight, saw what was happening and quickly acted. The act was like a sacrifice, and the touching of Moses was a blood cleansing.

But why a “bridegroom of blood.” Through circumcision the male was brought into the covenant and symbolically made right with God. When he sexually united with his wife and they became one, she was kept pure through his purity, she was being kept in the circle of the covenant community. Moses was apparently circumcised by his parents (they kept him 3 months before putting him in the basket in the Nile, and sons were circumcised on the 8th day after birth). So Zipporah was reminding Moses that he had appropriately been a bridegroom of blood to her, and he had to obedient carry out God’s command on his son even as Moses’ own parents had obeyed the Lord. Moses needed to consecrate his son to the Lord and thereby show his own faithfulness to God’s command.

Some think Zipporah laid the foreskin at the feet of the Lord rather than at the feet of Moses. The text just says “touched his feet” and doesn’t specify whose feet, and immediately afterwards the text says “so he let him alone” where “he” clearly refers to the Lord. So grammatically and contextually this is a real possibility. If this is the case she would have, in some way, seen herself as submitting to the Lord as HIS bride, perhaps prophetically recognizing the marriage of Christ and his Church made possible through his death on the cross and the “putting off of the flesh” through the crucifixion. An intriguing possibility.

Who did the Lord try to put to death? The text just says “put him to death” so it could have been Moses or his son. But nothing in the text clearly mentions his son up to this point (the reference to “firstborn son” in the preceding verse would be an obscure antecedent for any reader), so Moses is almost certainly the one the Lord sought to put to death.

Why did Zipporah do the circumcision? Because the Lord had Moses in a death grip (much as he did when wrestling with Jacob) and only “released” him after the circumcision was complete.

Moses had two sons, both of whom were with him at this time. Which one was uncircumcised? Probably the younger one. Why? The Midianite practice was to circumcised at puberty. Possibly Moses was trying to honor the practice of his wife’s family, and his older son had already passed puberty and been circumcised. His younger son hadn’t reached puberty and so remained uncircumcised. Moses inappropriately put the desire to please his wife (and perhaps his father-in-law) above the desire to obey and please God. The deliver of God’s people and the future lawgiver had to himself keep the law.

The Growth of the Covenant Community is by faith not by human effort

God in creation provided an unnecessary piece of flesh on the organ of procreation that had no impact on reproduction. Why? So that it could be removed as a symbol of cutting away the flesh. For instance, Abraham tried to bring about the promise of God that he would be a great nation through human effort. Ishmael was born through Abraham’s human effort, a great mistake. Isaac was born by faith and by the promise and power of God. When we try to do things in the flesh we get Ishmaels not Isaacs. The spread of the Kingdom will not come by fleshly effort, we need to put off the flesh and walk by faith and in the Spirit. Reproduction of the covenant community isn’t by physical reproduction but by faith reproduction.

Romans 2:28 For no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical. 29 But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God.

We can have kids, but we must instill faith in them, an bring them into the new creation.

This interpretation is consistent with the OT and NT. True Circumcision has to do with a change of heart (“putting of the foreskins of your heart”). In Christ we die to fleshly effort. Only then can we truly “be fruitful and multiply.” Apart from him we can do nothing, we remain impotent spiritually.

We dare not depend on human effort to grow the church. Christ will grow his Church. He will use us, but it will be Christ in us, not our human effort, that will be effective!

Putting away sin, death to flesh:

Because circumcision of heart is mentioned repeatedly in both the OT and NT, this concept must be significant in understanding the deeper meaning of circumcision.

Leviticus 26:40 “But if they confess their iniquity and the iniquity of their fathers in their treachery that they committed against me, and also in walking contrary to me, 41 so that I walked contrary to them and brought them into the land of their enemies—if then their uncircumcised heart is humbled and they make amends for their iniquity,

Deuteronomy 10:16 Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no longer stubborn.

Deuteronomy 30:6 And the LORD your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring, so that you will love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live.

Jeremiah 4:4 Circumcise yourselves to the LORD; remove the foreskin of your hearts, O men of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem; lest my wrath go forth like fire, and burn with none to quench it, because of the evil of your deeds.”

Jeremiah 9:26 Egypt, Judah, Edom, the sons of Ammon, Moab, and all who dwell in the desert who cut the corners of their hair, for all these nations are uncircumcised, and all the house of Israel are uncircumcised in heart.”

Acts 7:51 “You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you.

Romans 2:29 But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God.

We see from the prophets and Paul that circumcision was a symbol of putting away sin or the flesh. Uncircumcision represented a lack of purity, a lack of holiness. If one doesn’t “cut off” the flesh that person will be “cut off” from God’s people, the curse for sin.

Genesis 17:14 Any uncircumcised male who is not circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin shall be cut off from his people; he has broken my covenant.”

Jesus bore that curse for us on the cross; he was “cut off” by God for our sake. Our flesh is put to death as we are united with Christ. Thus our flesh is put to death, rendered inoperative. The sin and rebellion of flesh is removed from our hearts (interestingly, some Jewish Rabbis of the past note that the circumcised organ has the shape of a heart). This is the giving of a new heart. The foreskin was an unnecessary portion of flesh that could be symbolically cut away as our old nature must be cut off, put to death and a new heart given in Christ.

Conclusion

Let us circumcise our hearts that we might be useful to God and so that, through us, his Kingdom might advance as spiritual children are born anew by the Spirit into Christ. Only as we recognize that we have been crucified with Christ, and so learn to walk by the Spirit – to live by the life of Christ within us – will we be fruitful in our lives and in our ministries.

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Preparing for a Wedding

I just officiated at a wedding this past weekend. The wedding and reception were simpler than many I had seen, but the experience was equally meaningful. Then today I came across thoughts on preparing for a wedding. At first I thought it was from a recent writing, only to discover it was written by St. John Chrysostom who lived in the 4th Century! This advice is as relevant and thought provoking today as it must have been 1600 years ago:

When you prepare for the wedding, don’t run to your neighbor’s houses borrowing extra mirrors, or spend endless hours worrying about dresses. A wedding is not a pageant or a theatrical performance. Instead, make your house as beautiful as you can, and then invite your family and your neighbors and friends. Invite as many people as you know that have good character, and they will be content with what you set before them. Don’t hire bands or orchestras; such an expense is excessive and unbecoming. Before anything else, invite Christ. Do you know how to invite Him? “Whatsoever you do to the least of my brothers,” He said, “You do to me.” Don’t think that it is annoying to invite the poor for Christ’s sake. Don’t adorn the bride with golden ornaments, but dress her modestly. Thus from the beginning of her married life she will shun excess. Let there be no disorderly uproar. When everything is ready, call the bridegroom to receive the virgin. Let there be no drunkenness at the banquets and suppers, but an abundance of spiritual joy. Think of the many good things that will result from weddings like this! The way most weddings-if we can even call them weddings, and not spectacles-are celebrated nowadays ends in nothing but evil. As soon as the banquet is over, the bride’s mother has to worry whether anything she has borrowed has been lost or broken, and whatever pleasure she may have had is replaced with distress when she sees what disarray her house is in. So when Christ is present at a wedding, He brings cheerfulness, pleasure, moderation, modesty, sobriety, and health; but Satan brings anxiety, pain, excessive expense, indecency, envy, and drunkenness. Let us remember all these thing, and avoid such evils, that we may please God and be counted worthy to obtain the good things He has promised to those who love Him, through the grace and love for mankind of our Lord Jesus Christ, with whom, together with the Holy Spirit, be glory, honor and power to the Father, now and ever, and unto ages of ages. Amen.

Words

Words are an expression of our spirit. They emanate from our inner being and express something of our very person. Language is created by God to enable us to communicate the unseen, inner person to others – our thoughts, our heart, our emotions.

But words are more than just expressions; they might be called spiritual force. Dallas Willard calls words “unbodily, personal force.” (Hearing God, p. 120). We have all had the experience of words impacting us. The word “impact” itself expresses force. We often say things like, “his words struck me right between the eyes,” or “what she said really hit home,” or “what you said cut me deep” or “his encouragement lifted me up”. One songwriter back in the 70’s spoke of songs “killing me softly”. All of these images – impact, struck, hit, cut, lift, kill – speak of force. We intuitively understand the force of words.

God’s words are an expression of his very being. At the deepest level, God’s Word is God. Speaking of our Lord Jesus, John says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made… And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” (John 1:1-3,14) We understand that when God said, “Let there be light,” (Genesis 1:3) that Christ himself went forth in creative power. While this is a mystery I don’t confess to fully understand, we see that Christ, who came to earth, was the means by whom the earth was created, and that as God’s Word he was himself God. As God’s Word, he was the perfect communication of God to us, the full revelation of God’s very being. He not only perfectly expressed the truth about God, he himself was God communicating in his own nature the reality of who God is. The very character, heart, and intentions of God were expressed in Jesus who was the “the exact representation of his being” (Hebrews 1:3).

We are created in the image of God. Our words certainly don’t have the full creative characteristics of God’s Word, nor do our words express who we are in the perfect manner in which Christ expresses God. We are not God! Our words are but a shadow of the infinite power of His Word. But don’t let that fool you. Our words are still force, a powerful and creative force, and they can impact others for good or for evil. With our tongue we not only speak our inner words – which can heal or wound – but we also use words to release through our influence or authority the actions of others, and those actions can do great good or great damage. The words of a parent have power to destroy a child, or build up a child. The words of a leader can empower or discourage. The words of a pastor can release grace or condemnation. The words of a husband or wife can release or encumber.

There’s another person my words powerfully impact, a person who hears every word I speak. Me. I can use the force of my own words for or again me. When I speak negative words or lies, whether spoken aloud or internally, I tear myself down. When I speak encouraging words, and most importantly, God’s truth, whether spoken aloud or internally, I build myself up. We are so aware of the power of the words of others upon us, yet we fail to see the power of our own words upon ourselves.

For instance, a lack of commitment in my words can affect my ability to follow through. If I tell my wife at the end of the day, “I’m going to try to get up tomorrow and go to the gym” I am much less likely to actually get out of bed on time than if I tell her, “Tomorrow I am going to get up early and go to the gym.” In the later sentence, I’m taking responsibility for my actions, in the former the doubt inserted with the word “try” implies I might not have the power to get up. Well, I do. God has given me that power. And to imply that he has not is a lie and, frankly, a lame excuse. As I examine myself I realize I am quite skilled at lame excuses. A close friend of mine could never quit smoking as long as said he was, “Trying to quit smoking”. But when he finally said, “I have quit smoking, and to smoke another cigarette I have to start smoking again,” he gained victory over tobacco. He did have some temptations and struggles, but he never smoked again.

These words are spoken aloud or in our mind and still have impact (though speaking aloud at times has more impact). For, while others can’t hear the words in our minds, we certainly know those thoughts. Destructively or constructively talking aloud about yourself has negative or positive impact, and the same is true about thoughts in our mind.

So we are told in the scriptures to both renew our minds and to guard our tongue. We are told that we are transformed by the renewing of our mind, and we are told that our tongue can build up or destroy – which would include both others and self.

Any spiritual growth must include careful attention to both our thought and our words. We cannot grow spiritually when the very expressions of our spirit are lies or destruction towards others or ourselves. It is impossible. And thus, for good reason, the God who created us and understands us fully warns us in his Word to guard our hearts, to guard our thoughts, and to guard our words.

James speaks of how a bit can control a horse. We need to put bits in our mouths. If we do so, we can rule over our whole person (which is James exact point). The answer is not silence. Silence can be golden in the right moment, but it can also be the withholding of love, the withholding of our very selves. By not speaking we can withhold intimacy, genuineness, encouragement and kindness. There is a time for silence, but also a time to speak. The answer is not silence, but rather guarding both the words we speak to ourselves and the words we speak to others, making certain that the spiritual force of our words is for good and not for harm. Paul said, “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” (Ephesians 4:29) Brilliantly spoken.

Trusting God

“Abraham believed God and it was counted to him as righteousness.” (Rom 4:3)

I was pondering this verse, and I began to gain some exciting insight into faith and the Spirit-filled life. As I was journaling, the discoveries became more amazing and more practical. The truth in this little verse, that is so huge in the Apostle Paul’s theology, can revolutionize our lives if we apply it!

In this verse our heavenly Father tells us that when we trust him, he looks on our act of trust as if it were an act of righteousness. That act of trust pleases him. Choosing to trust him is the same, in His eyes, as obedience. More precisely, I think, choosing to trust him is the truest form of obedience.

When I trust the Father for my salvation in Christ, he “credits” that to my heavenly “righteous deeds bank account” as me having been righteous. I trust, he looks on it with delight and counts it as righteousness. Faith is not the same thing as righteousness. Faith is the confidence I put in God to do what I can’t do. Righteousness is the godly actions I accomplish. Yet when I choose to trust in the Lord, he takes out his heavenly pen and writes down in the “credit” column of my heavenly account, “Paul was just righteous,” and even more completely, “Paul is righteous!” As I trust, all my sins are washed away, and I stand before him completely clean, I am made righteous!

But this principle doesn’t only apply to trusting in him to wash my sins away, though that’s the deepest and most complete application of this principle. This principle applies to every act of trust in God in the most practical everyday matters of life. In Genesis 15:6 (which Paul was quoting in Romans 4:3) Abraham wasn’t trusting God to wash away his sins, he was trusting God to keep his promise and give him a son. He was trusting God for a very specific longing in his life. When I trust God for very practical and specific needs or longings in my life, I please him, and he credits that faith in my heavenly ledger as a righteous act!

So for me, right now (5 a.m. in the morning to be exact), when I trust him to make the Great Oaks Church plant a success, he is pleased, and he counts that as a righteous act. When I trust him to enable me to lead this congregation in effective outreach, he is pleased and counts that as a righteous act. When I trust that he will provide finances and a home for my family, he rejoices, that pleases him, and he marks that down in my heavenly account as “being good.” Not that I am exactly “being good” – I just can’t do that. But, and this is what I’m trying to grasp, in His eyes, they are the same. Faith pleases him. Righteous living pleases him.

And, I think, indeed I’m practically sure, faith releases righteous living in my life. Yes, I am sure of that. When I trust him I am, in that act of trust, stepping into Spirit-filled living. When I trust him for a practical thing, in that very moment I begin to walk by the Spirit. And when I’m walking by the Spirit, I live righteously; I start living a life of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness…

Wow, that means righteous living is released in my life when I choose to trust God for what I need in my life right now. For instance, trusting him to overcome a sin, truly trusting him, places me in the realm of Spirit-filled living (meaning living “under the influence” of the Holy Spirit!), and in that Spirit influenced living I have power over that sin. But, curiously, when I trust him to provide a down payment for a home (!), and truly trust him, I am by that act of trust walking in the Spirit as well, and that not only frees my from anxiety about the future of finding a home, it also frees me from sin! Walking by the Spirit is walking by the Spirit. When I trust God for anything, and as I begin to trust him for everything, I maintain the walk in the Spirit that frees me from sin, frees me from anxiety, and releases the power of God in my life and my full potential as a human being.

So, God makes it clear to me that, if I am a wise man who hears His Word and does it, I would be well advised to start trusting him. To do so will please him, it’ll release His blessing in my life, and it’ll release goodness in my life that will be a blessing to others.

So, away from me unbelief. I trust you, heavenly Father. You are good. You will provide. You will make the way. You will set the captive free. You will bind up the brokenhearted. You will bring good news to the poor. You will forgive my sins. You will bring forgiveness to others. You will establish Great Oaks Church. You will establish the people in this congregation as “Oaks of Righteousness.” You will do it.

“Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today… The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.” (Exodus 14:13-14)

Playing it Dangerous

I’ve been wondering, why in the world did I leave my former church to start a new one? Why would anyone want to plant a church, and even more, why would anyone want to plant a church again? I’m not the “move around” kind of person. I like roots. I like long standing friendships. I like to bless a baby and 20 years later officiate at his or her wedding.

Church planting is hard and messy. Everything is uncertain. Several days ago I was going for a walk and pondering how absolutely crazy I was. I asked myself, how in the world did I get here? Not long ago I had solid job security as the lead pastor of a healthy congregation with a nearly paid for building, I owned a home, I had a circle of friends, I had a staff to take up the slack where I was weak so I could focus on being fruitful in areas I was strong. I had a good reputation in a community and close friendships with many pastors and community leaders. And I had spent years of hard work building a church culture that, with all its flaws, I loved being a part of. Now I’m in a new unfamiliar community, I have no idea if this new venture will work out or if I’ll have a job in 6 months, I have no congregation, let alone any staff or building, I’m living in a rented home, I have no savings, we have few friends, no reputation (though at least we don’t have a bad reputation), and we have to start all over building from the ground up. And this time I’m starting out at age 50, not age 30 – my years are number.

So why did I leave beautiful Holland, Michigan and move to eastern Michigan, one of the most economically depressed areas in America, to start a new church? Because my environment had become too safe. I needed to risk again, and risk big. And I felt God himself was nudging me (bludgeoning me?) out of my comfort zone. I had to stretch for God, risk for his Kingdom, step out of my safety zone, and trust in my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ alone to sustain me and my family. Dangerous? Well, honestly, not anywhere close to dangerous when I compare it to what my brothers and sisters around the world are risking. But, for me, yes, it’s dangerous.

Yesterday I sat done with my sons as they were watching the end of the movie Good Will Hunting. I can quickly get sucked into movies. I asked David, who’d seen the movie a couple of times, “So, how does it end?” He responded, “Well, you’ll just have to watch it and see.” So, I did. In a few sentences, the movie is about Will Hunting, a janitor who is a mathematical and scientific genius. He has a tremendous gift, but he’s afraid of risking and stepping out of his comfort zone in any area of life because of a wounded past. The plot is about Will’s journey out of cynicism and bitterness as he learns to take risks in order to love and to engage in life. I told my sons, that’s why I’m planting this new congregation, because life is short and I don’t want to live in a safety zone where I may miss what God has for me, and for others through me. So, it may be crazy, I don’t even know if I’ll succeed, but I do know I’m taking a chance for my God so that I might bring his love and wholeness to others. That alone is reason enough for me.

God is always working – let’s join him

The other day I decided to do a little research on the Crusades, I had heard so much controversy about them, and I had taken my Christian History class in Seminary a long, long time ago – my memory was fuzzy.

As I dived into some study, I was shocked to discover how far the church had fallen by A.D. 1000. I didn’t remember that the Popes offered “indulgences” to the crusaders, telling them that all past sins would be forgiven and they would automatically go to heaven if they died during what would later be know as the crusades. That’s the same manipulative deception fed by radical Muslims to suicide bombers. I was embarrassed for Christians everywhere. Nothing could be further from the truth of salvation by grace through faith.

Furthermore, while the crusades had a religious motivation, they had political and practical motives as well. For one, restless warriors in Europe, wanting some place to put the martial skills they had learned into action, were attacking other Christian provinces. The Pope wanted to redirect all that testosterone towards a pagan enemy so “Christians” would stop killing other Christians. How far they had fallen from the Apostolic day when in purity and love for all people, early believers lived for the Kingdom of Heaven and laid their lives down to see people saved, healed and set free from spiritual bondage, rather than living to kill. These Medieval warriors needed to be set free within their own souls, not sent out to kill. They needed to find the peace with God that would still the restless sin-filled passions in their souls. Not surprisingly, and tragically, when these unholy warriors conquered Jerusalem, they set about killing the men, women and children of the city, including Muslims, Jews and Christians alike.

I struggle to see how the Crusades had anything to do with true Christianity. Surely some true Christ followers might have been among those who set out, especially having heard accurately that some Muslims were persecuting Christians, and that some Muslim nations were invading and conquering areas that were Christian. Some defensive action may well have been required. But, though I’m no medieval scholar, it appears to me that the Crusades as a whole were ill conceived, tragically implemented, and based on a theology that was contrary to the very teachings of Christ in whose name they claimed to be fighting.

Yet another thing that struck me, and this was wonderfully positive. Christ even then had true followers! The light never went completely out. Good old Saint Francis of Assisi, who opposed the theological justification of the crusades, joined the 5th Crusades, but not to kill anyone. He went as a chaplain of sorts with a side agenda to win the Sultan of Egypt to Christ and make peace through dialogue. He crossed enemy lines to meet with the Sultan. The Crusade failed, but Francis won the Sultan’s lasting friendship. Another true believer, Roger Bacon, felt the Crusades were not effective because, “those who survive, together with their children, are more and more embittered against the Christian faith.” True “soldiers of Christ” could be found even then.

Which leads me to wonder about the last 2000 years of history as a whole. Think about it, we had two or three centuries of brilliant (though imperfect) light when the early church showed forth the love of Christ. Then the purity of the Church slowly slid into corruption, aided greatly by the unholy infiltration of political power into church leadership. For nearly a thousand years the Western Church held services in the foreign tongue of Latin (which had long since ceased to be the common language of the people) and preached a gospel that was at least partially, and often seriously corrupted. The common people had no Bible, and gained little truth from the organized Church.

But then God sent great spiritual earthquakes, one after the other, shaking all that was false to the core. Great moves of His Spirit rolled out, wave upon wave. First was the Reformation. Later came the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th Great Awakenings. We had the Reformed revivals, the Methodist revivals, the Baptist revivals. Great missionary movements emerged. Then came the Pentecostal explosion, and later the Charismatic movement, and the Third Wave movement. Great social reform movements flowed from these revivals resulting in the end of slavery, laws protecting children in the work force, greater freedom for women (the women’s suffrage movement was led by evangelical Christian women), more humane treatment of the mentally ill, the establishment of missions for alcoholics and the homeless, the establishment of hospitals and orphanages, greater care for the environment, and so much more.

I’m left to wonder why God allowed the church to drift in darkness for so long. I’m left to wonder why so many of us don’t “get it” yet today. But I do see, in the movement of history, the Lord leading His Church towards the magnificent vision of the New Testament. And the truths, this time around, are much more firmly rooted. The Reformation restored the great truths of Salvation by Faith alone (Latin: solo fide – by faith alone) and the importance of basing our theology on the Bible alone, and not upon traditions (Latin: solo scriptura – by scripture alone). The Great Awakenings restored a new level of passion and power upon the Church. With the Pentecostal movement came a rediscovery of the gifts of the Holy Spirit (though they had never been lost completely to the church). The Charismatic movement brought deepened Worship and Christian unity. The so-called “Third Wave Movement” (the Pentecostals being the first wave of the Holy Spirit in the 20th Century, and the Charismatic movement being the 2nd wave), released the gifts of the Holy Spirit among the people. And all of these summaries are generalizations that miss so much that God was doing, for with every wave over the centuries God quickened a deeper understanding of himself, a deeper grasp of Christ and what he did for us, a deeper work of the Holy Spirit, more authentic Worship, greater love for others expressed in practical ways, a deeper heart to win the lost to Christ, and more.

At last, I make the point that is on my heart. When a new congregation is planted, that new church ought to embrace, insofar as humanly possible, all the riches God has poured out on his Church over these past 2000 years. The Lord has been hard at work, generation after generation, saving people and building his Church. We cannot overlook what he has been faithfully imparting to his Church for two millennia. GOD IS AT WORK. We must join what he is doing! Christ will build his Church. He is my King. And so, Lord, here I am, reporting for duty.

Recklessly Diving into Blogging

Well, I’ve heard lots about blogging. I thought about starting about a dozen times, then chickened out about a dozen times. The problem is, I can be a perfectionist. I don’t consider myself a great writer, and so going imperfectly public to the world (or the very small part of the world who will see this) is frightening. But then I had a thought, the fear of not being perfect blocks so many people from expressing their hearts and from being all God has created them to be. So, if something is worth doing, its worth doing imperfectly. So, here goes. 

I’m a church planter. I want to document the journey I’m on. My church is called Great Oaks, and its in Rochester Hills, Michigan. Well, so to speak. Right now the church is just three people, my wife Tammy, my youngest son Stephen and me. I’ll throw in Cooper our Golden Retriever, and Sparkles our Grey Tabby Cat, just to get our numbers up a bit. And, oh yeah, we don’t even live in Rochester Hills yet, we live 30 minutes away in Warren. So Great Oaks is a dream. In this blog I’ll be sharing about that dream, and sharing little things we see God doing along the way. Jesus said he was going to build his church, so any step from “dream” forward will be all him, or it’ll be nothing.