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Val Vance and I taught Week 2 of MC Training “The Gospel in Community and on Mission” with around 65 people in attendance. Here is a quick summary of the things that God taught me:
◦ Healthy missional community families know they got there by giving something up. The Bible is filled with stories of people who had to go down to get up. Joseph had to give up his comfort, his family and the life he knew before he became Pharaohs’ right hand man. David had to give up his home and wandered around Israel fearing for his life before he became King. Our groups are no exception. We need to be willing to sacrifice something that we are probably are uninterested in giving up if we want to ever actually function as a family. Our schedules, our social expectations. Thinking of one of my favorite scenes from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, we have to let go of the thing that we think we most want (our comfort) to get the thing we most need (a sense of family in our groups).
◦ Being on mission is simpler (and harder) than we think. I shared a story about my neighbor where it was difficult to know how to respond after he told an inappropriate joke in front of my daughter and my wife. Our discussion time went at least eight minutes in our groups and then another eight minutes of people who wanted to just keep chiming in with the difficulty they felt in this situation. As is often the case with all of us, the class craved a silver bullet answer. But we landed in the tension of knowing that though there may not be a right answer in every case, our motivation regardless of what we do needs to be rooted in Jesus’s love for us. We then talked about how we needed to test our hearts and if we needed to speak up any more corrective manner then we should do that or if we were needing to stay silent because we tend toward speaking too much then we should probably do that. Colossians 4:5-6, “let your speech always be gracious, sprinkled with salt so that you know how you want to answer each person”
◦ Lean in to negative emotions. When things get hard and we see these things called negative emotions come out of us, we tend to move away from the situations where we notice those negative emotions come out. But that’s not necessarily a sign that God is telling us to back away from the circumstances – it’s possible that something external needs to change but it’s also absolutely true that Gos wants something internal to change.
Since joining the Austin Stone staff in July of this year, I haven’t found the time to write an entry on this blog. Christmas time seems like as good a time as any to rectify that. Why now? For one thing, the colder weather forces me indoors which makes writing a lot more feasible. For another thing, with Christmas time comes the end of the year, and with the end of the year comes end of the year “Best of” lists. And let’s be honest, be it arrogance or otherwise, I’m a sucker for telling others what I like best.
So without further ado, here is a list of a few of my favorite things from 2013.
- 11-26-13. Lydia’s Birthday celebration (early). For dinner we went to one of our favorite restaurants in town, a traditional sushi place called Mushashino. While at dinner, I gave Lydia a framed copy of some of the most important dates in our relationship (e.g. the day I asked her out, the day I asked her to marry me, etc.). We then spent our first night away from Violet at the Renaissance Hotel and got upgraded to an Executive Suite with three wide-screen TV’s and bunches of furniture. We ate European chocolate and drank wine in the hot tub. In the morning, while Lydia slept in I went home, picked up Violet and then grabbed some breakfast from Chick-fil-a and Starbucks and then ate it in bed. According to Lydia it was my best birthday celebration I’ve thrown for her. 🙂
- June, July, August. Violet loving to swim…whether we were at Lake Michigan, in Green Lake (with Mari and Nathanael), in the pool at the YMCA, or elsewhere, it was so much fun to watch Violet learn to love the water. She has been fearless about getting in the water since she was 9 months old, but over the Summer she became a capable enjoyer of it (walking, jumping in, floating with her puddle jumper, going down the slide into it, etc.). Next up: teaching her to paddle.
- 6-2-13. For the first time in over 15 years (since 7th grade) I went downhill skiing. And I didn’t suck! While at Brother’s weekend, we made a gametime decision to head up the mountains in Summit county to Arapahoe Basin and didn’t regret it (except for maybe my brother Daniel who “rage quit” 10 seconds after he got all of his gear on.
- 11-18-13. Waiting to board a train from St. Pancreas International Train Station in London, England to Sheffield, England. With it being my first visit to the UK, I was in love with most everything I saw, but nothing quite stole my heart as much as the architecture and hustle and bustle of the train station at St. Pancreas.
- 3-13-13. Watching Little Daylight, Hunter Hunted, The Neighbourhood, and Bastille live at SXSW at Club DeVille. While hanging out with my friends Oli and Sarah and my brother Nathan, we were struggling to decide which lineup to gamble on. We chose well.
- 4-12-13. I’ve had the honor of giving Violet most of her baths. This has been at times a lot of fun and at times a huge challenge as I try and wash away stickiness and stinkiness before bedtime. This usually means I get the slap-happiest or angriest version of Violet, but I wouldn’t trade it. Here’s her 12 month video which shows a good deal of her in the bathtub.
- The Spectacular Now. When I left the theater I remember feeling like I had just seen a season of “Mad Men” set in high school. It was serious, it was sad, it was funny, it was well thought out, and it was well executed. As with The Descendants, Shailene Woodley impresses more than her on-screen counterparts, but it’s close
- Man of Steel. I watched this one on the plane from Dallas to London and was shocked how many liberties were taken from the “classic story”. Gone were the countless scenes of Superman growing in wisdom and in stature and in their place were more intense galactic battles with dragon-like creatures swooping across the screen. As the credits rolled, I was happy (but not surprised) to see that Christopher Nolan helped write the story.
- Oblivion. Something about this movie haunted me in dystopian “what would that be like?” kind of way similar to how I felt after I watched A.I. with Jude Law and Haley Joel Osment. Something about the vibe of the film made me want to be on that lonely version of Earth with my wife flying around in my one-man spacecraft.
- Before Midnight. Lydia and I watched this one at SXSW this year where I got a picture with the director, Richard Linklater before the screening.
- Les Miserables. Great casting (aside from Russell Crowe) made this one a joy to watch through and through.
- Kings of Summer. A brotherhood, rite-of-passage type film that’s a bit of a slow burner with a great “I guess that’s about right” type ending.
- David Ramirez “The Rooster EP”. Not a common thing to list an EP at the top of an “albums” list, but this is no common EP. This is evident with a line like the following “I’ve been loyal to the wants of my lustful heart/And unfaithful to my friend Love”. Just incredible.
- Gregory Alan Isakov “The Weatherman”. Ryan Adams-esque with excellent, subtle melodies.
- Vampire Weekend “Modern Vampires of the City”. Somehow, they just keep getting better. More creative, more catchy. “Unbelievers” is probably my favorite track on the record.
- Tom Odell “Long Way Down” A melancholy album with a rockin’ edge to it.
- The Strokes “Comedown Machine” They return to form with a tightly wound, energetic new wave sound. Definitely not as good as Room on Fire or Is this it? but what is?
- Polyenso “One Big Particular Loop”. Radiohead’s “The Bends” reincarnated. What’s not to like?
A few years ago I confronted one of my closest friends about something he had been doing that had been bothering me. Nothing sinful necessarily, just annoying. My friend had a tendency to invite me to things at the last minute and then be very hurt when I’d say I couldn’t make it. So one time after he got upset that I couldn’t join him for a last minute trip to the ymca I got fed up and told him that I didn’t care for his frequent habit of giving me last minute invites. I told him that I’m a scheduled guy by nature and that his inability to plan ahead made me feel like a jerk if I didn’t drop everything and make it work. Well, my friend got pretty insulted and started yelling about how God alone had the right to judge his spontaneity and that what really needed to happen was that I needed to learn how loosen up and be more flexible with my time.
Where we are going:
- We will answer three questions – first we will ask – is God the only judge or does God permit us to judge as well? From a Biblical perspective – are we allowed to judge?
- If we are permitted to judge, what is the correct way to judge? What doesjudgment consistent with the Gospel look like?
- And lastly, if we are allowed to judge, whom are we allowed to judge and in which context?
Before we get into the first question, let’s read the text for today. 2 Timothy 4:1-4,
“I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.”
So what’s happening in this passage? In 2 Timothy chapter 3 and 4 the overarching theme is that the author (Paul) is encouraging his disciple and friend, Timothy, to remain steadfast in the Gospel. To conduct himself in a manner consistent with the person and work of Jesus Christ. But in Chapter 4 verses 1-4 we see a more specific theme – judgment.
Interestingly, Paul mentions two types of judgment – the first – a salvation judgment, (v.1) “I charge you in the presence of God and Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead”.
- This is the final judgment. It is described here by Paul as the responsibility of Christ to determine the fate of the dead and the living. At this judgment the verdict will come down and there will be no rebuttal or appeal.
- This first judgment is clearly in line with the kind we are thinking of when we say “Only God can judge me.” The reality is when they say this they are correct. The responsibility of final judgment is God’s. We can’t send someone to heaven or hell nor know beyond a shadow of doubt where they are going. This is the jurisdiction of God.
But there is a second judgement Paul alludes that is a human-oriented judgment. The uncomfortable kind that requires us to call each other out on stuff. Though he doesn’t specifically use the word “judge”, in verse 2 Paul instructs Timothy to “reprove, rebuke and exhort”. These actions are sometimes translated as “correct, rebuke and encourage” which are words that are easier for me to have a handle on. Though on the surface it may not seem like this is the case, these actions can all be categorized as being judgmental. There are two steps of judgment – assess and respond. Paul is instructing timothy on the second step of judgment. You assess someones need for these things then you give them. Can you correct, disagree with or encourage someone without first judging whether they need to be corrected, rebuked or encouraged? The answer of course is that you cannot. By giving Timothy the command to correct, disagree with, and encourage, Paul is in essence commanding Timothy to judge those around him.
So we see Paul clearly outlines two types of judgment – he talks about the generally more accepted “Why should I let you into heaven” salvation judgment as well as the less popular human judgment. So the question becomes, if a human judgment is permitted by God and even ecouraged, what does the correct form of judgment look like – a judgment that is consistent with God’s character of being all-knowing, completely righteous yet all-loving and gracious?
This kind of judgment will have two defining features:It is a judgment is consistent with and includes the Gospel . Verse 2, “preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.” What’s the first command he says? “Preach the word of God!” So the right kind of comes on the foundation of something vital – the word of God. Last week when we talked about the seed sewn by the Sewer we talked about how the Word is the person and work of Christ, the Gospel. Correct human judgment includes comparing people to a standard of the Gospel and responding with the Gospel in a manner consistent with the Gospel.
It is conveyed with a Teacher’s Heart and undergirded with Complete Patience. Verse two, “Preach the Word…With complete patience and teaching”. Paul emphasizes the importance of the delivery. Simply assessing and speaking thr Gospel isnt enough – otherwise we might condone the men holding poster boards shouting at the drunks on 6th street. This is not patience. This is not a teacher’s heart. Think on your favorite teacher for a minute. What was it about them that you loved? My favorite teachers were always the ones that took time out of their work plan to interact with us students. I don’t think I ever would have understood multiplying polynomials if my 10th grade Algebra teacher hadn’t hosted a group of students at his house the week before each test to answer questions people had. He was patient and allowed for discussion before helping the student arrive at the conclusion.
So we’ve seen a brief overview of Gospel centered judgment and how it essentially includes assessing and responding to those around us in a manner consistent with the Gospel and delivered in a patient, teaching way. Now let’s consider the question – to whom and on what occasion do we perform Gospel judgment?
As to “whom” – Once again, let’s look back at the text – v. 3 and 4 “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.” Christians and non-Christians seem to be referenced here. In verse 3 Paul seems to be referring more towards unbelievers, “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching”. Whereas in verse 4 he seems to be talking more about believers or those who at least expressed interest in belief, “and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.”
So the command to “correct, disagree with and encourage”, to judge, seems to apply both to our interactions with Christian friends and Non-Christian friends. Paul picks up on this theme when talking about how to deal with unbelievers in a passage that is consistent to 2 Tim 4 – Colossians 4:6, “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.” Our speech should be gracious and truthful (sprinkled with salt) no matter whom we are speaking to. Because if we are only preaching the gospel to Christians, how can we ever expect non-Christians to see know the value and purpose of knowing and serving the Son of God?
Last point then I’m done. As to the “in what context” – Before you leave here thinking I’m saying you should walk up to the first person that is acting inconsistently with the Gospel and confront them, let me build on a point I touched on earlier. Remember The two steps of judgment are assessment and response. How can you assess someone without knowing them? Paul expects Timothy to be living in community with the people he’s correcting and encouraging. So The ideal context for gospel-centered assessment and response is discipleship- living life on life with someone. So to go back to my first example, the context was right – my friend and I were in a discipleship relationship. But my delivery didn’t include patience and a teachers heart and my content was not consistent with the Gospel. What I could have said was “man I appreciate the fact that because of the bond we share in Christ we have a relationship where we can speak the truth to each other even when it’s hard.”
And here’s the cool thing – when we begin to make a practice of giving and receiving correction and encouragement – we will see an awesome result – the depth and authenticity of our friendships will grow. We will feel more sincerely valued and we will be more keen to the weaknesses we struggle with. And isn’t that what we are after? The freedom to be ourselves and the challenge to grow from those around us? That is attractive not only to you and i but to believers and unbelievers in our lives. When we judge in a manner that is Gospel-centered we increase the honesty and level of closeness we have with those in our community and make the Gospel more attractive and compelling to a watching world.
We live in a me-centered world. The religion of self-worship, individualism is everywhere. We see people worship at this altar in the marketplace from “Have it Your Way”, “Because you’re worth it” to a phrase we hear all the time in conversation “You deserve to be happy”. It’s a me-centered culture that’s being promoted around us. A culture that is taking a good thing – the individual freedom to choose, into something ultimate, the religion of self-worship.
Let’s read a text that illustrates how the King of Kings approaches this topic. Read: (Philippians 2:5-7 ESV) “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.” The Son of God became flesh. Why? Because His people, us, at the Fall had replaced worship of Him with a worship of his creation, specifically the worship of ourselves.
In studying over the past week, I’ve been convicted of how individualism is a lesser known god I am tempted to worship. Let me just use my Sunday experience as an example. Each Sunday we wake up, and if we’re lucky my wife and I and our 10 month old daughter get out the door in time to pull in the parking lot around the start of the service. As we walk up the stairs to enter the auditorium, a feeling of pride in my heart starts growing. And then about around the second worship song that feeling of pride takes a different form. I begin taking an inventory of all the ways in which my internal standards aren’t being met. How the coffee I’m sipping isn’t that good, how the bassist is bobbing his head and it’s distracting me, and how the person in front of me smells like a gym locker. I begin to think – I went to all this trouble to get here, don’t these people know that they are getting in the way of me growing as a Christian?
Is any of this sounding familiar? Underneath this exterior stuff, my disappointment and frustration at having my expectations of how the worship service should go, is a belief of what I deserve. I HAVE BEEN OBEDIENT THEREFORE I DESERVE A WORSHIP SERVICE ON MY TERMS. I OBEY THEREFORE I DESERVE. By becoming impressed with my own actions (self worship), I open the door to let Satan point my attention to the things wrong with my church experience.
When we let a bad church experience blind us to the work of Christ. Or we let a grouchy coworker prevent us from serving others with joy – a red flag should go up that we are probably worshiping myself. Jesus Christ had every right to act in Individualism yet he served others in a way humanity had never seen, to the point of death. And when we give in to self-worship we are saying we are too important to sacrifice like Christ did. We are placing our identities above that of Christ’s.
Maybe this you struggle to identify your idolatry of self-worship. Maybe you struggle to even admit individualism is wicked? Let me remind you that this self worship is so devastating that it cost Christ his life. Verse 8 tells us that “And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” He experienced a level of pain and injury because of our self worship that we cannot even imagine.
When the wave of judgment and dissatisfaction creeps in…What can we do to be free from the emptiness of self-worship? Follow in Christ’s example to become as he became “taking the form of a servant”. And what does a servant do? Serve! When we are stuck in self worship Christ calls us to die to ourselves and serve,
powered by the Holy Spirit in obedience to Christ.
powered by the Holy Spirit in obedience to Christ.
One of the things I most admire of Christ’s time on Earth in ministry was his honesty – sometimes which must have brought about great relief, and other times which must have brought about a pain in the stomach of those listening. This morning in my devotion time I read something which must have been more the latter to the Pharisees who were listening.
“Anyone who isn’t with me opposes me, and anyone who isn’t working with me is actually working against me.”
(Matthew 12:30 NLT)
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’
(Matthew 7:21-23 ESV)
(Matthew 7:21-23 ESV)
Many times when talking about the divisive statements of Christ, I have heard people talk about the Matthew 7 verse. But I can’t recall hearing about the one above in Matthew 12. What convicts me most about the statement is that Jesus seems to be saying that being like Him isn’t enough – we must work WITH Him or else we are in opposition to Him.
Many prayers I have are to be more like Him or to fall more in love with Him. But rarely do I pray to be WITH Him.
Jesus you are going somewhere – you are bringing the Kingdom of God to this world. And I want not only to be glad of that news, but to be with you in helping it be accomplished. Give me eyes to see where in my own life am I missing it – where am I neglecting to join you in your mission. Amen.
Here they are, folks. The recommendations you’ve been waiting for.
- MEMORIES. 2012 was a banner year for the Austin Hekmans with the birth of our first child, Violet Mae. Here are some other memories that highlighted the last 12 months:
- 6:30pm, 2-29-12 – Eating a steak dinner with my wife at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon to celebrate my 7th birthday.
- 3pm, Thursday, 4-12-12 – Bathing my daughter for the first time at North Austin Medical Center.
- 8:45pm, Sunday, 9-1-12 – Running a victory lap with my 4 brothers after a God-encounter during a church service at the Austin Stone.
- 1pm, Saturday, 9-8-12 – Swimming in the Pacific Ocean with my wife and daughter in Ft. Lauderdale, FL.
- 4:36pm, Wednesday, 12-12-12 – Finding out that I passed the P.E. exam and that I am officially a Professional Engineer.
- MOVIES/RENTALS. With a babysitter being required for going to movies in the theater, it doesn’t make as much sense financially as it used to. Also we ended up watching more TV shows when we were at home than movies (Yay, Downton Abbey and Up all Night!). Therefore, the sample size of films/rentals from which this list of “Top 5” was smaller than previous years . That said, we caught some legitimately enjoyable movies.
- “Lawless” Saw this one in the theater with my bros on an epic night of camaraderie which included attending the Austin Stone and drinking Dos XX at Guero’s.
- “The Descendants” Probably the best paced movie I have seen in two years.
- “Bernie” Jack Black shows off his range.
- “Safety Not Guaranteed” As is our tradition, Lydia and I caught a flick making it’s American Film Premier during SXSW 2012. This one made us laugh and (almost) tear up. Good date night movie.
- “What to Expect” Surprisingly honest and funny.
- MUSIC. Unlike the amount of feature films we watched, with a new membership to Spotify, we listened to more music in 2012 than perhaps any other year. And there have been so many standout albums! Most of the albums I selected come not only from artists I had not listened to but most of which I had never even heard of before this year.
- “Confess” Twin Shadow. Delicious dose of New Wave in a tightly wound up package. The entire album is solid, but standout tracks include “Beg for the Night” and “Five Seconds”. Features such great lines as “I don’t care/I don’t care/ Long as you can dance me round the room/ as you lie to me”. My favorite album of the year by a nose.
- “What Did you Expect from the Vaccines?” The Vaccines (2011). Such a solid Brit-rocker album. Even though it was released in the U.S. in 2011, only listened to the Vaccines starting in July of this year. Wish I’d checked them out sooner.
- “10,000 Reasons” Matt Redman. Easily the best praise and worship album start to finish I can remember hearing. Curious? Give it a listen. You’ll be glad you did. Secret: this album is great to jog to as well.
- “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down On Your Anger” River City Extension. Think the Avett Brothers with a bit more electric guitar and you have River City Extension, down to the themes of faith, doubt and whiskey.
- “What We Saw From the Cheap Seats” Regina Spektor. Though she’s had some spectacular singles in the past, this is easily her best album start to finish to date.
- “The Violence” Darren Hayman And the Long Parliamant. Part 3 of a trilogy about the Salem Witch Trials by Britain’s Darren Hayman. Well-composed folksy rock is the medium of choice to take the listeners back to a time when betrayal, lost love, and dying young was common-place. Catchy, toe-tapping reminder that the horrible events we see in today’s news are nothing new.
- “The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than the Driver of the Screw and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do” Fiona Apple. Some surprising undertones of hope underneath her usual blankets of melancholy.
- “Shut Down the Streets” A.C. Newman. Frontman for the New Pornographers in a more subdued role.
- “Given to the Wild” Maccabees. Reminds me of Foals – less amped up but just as well composed.
- “2” Mac Demarco. Interesting, simple folk-pop. Pretty sure these are all jams to toke to, but that doesn’t mean they are bad.
As you can tell, this blog is still technically in draft form, but wanted to get it posted rather than put it up whenever it is finished.