Pastor’s Corner

All Hallows Eve 2

Pastor’s Corner – All Hallows’ Eve

This annual festival is one of my favorite to write about.  Mostly because it doesn’t deem to matter how often I talk about it, people are still amazed and perplexed about what to do with it.  Halloween is being embraced more and more by our post-Christian culture, and yet, it is one of the most Christian Festivals we have.

The origins of Halloween are deeply rooted in the Christian faith.  November 1st is considered All Saints’ Day or All Hallows’ Day; a day when we remember all the people of faith who have gone to be with the Lord.  You might call it a day where we celebrate our dead.  We do not worship the dead, but we remember them and the blessing they were during their life and we celebrate their eternal life.

The celebration for All Saints’ Day would often be the evening before (think Christmas) and came to be known as All Hallows’ Evening or shortened to All Hallows’ Ev’en.  This festival for celebrating the role the now dead have played in our lives and using them as an inspiration as we focus on eternal life is an ancient custom in the Church.

With that being said, what do we as Christians do with the largely secular and at times demonic day we know as Halloween?  I suppose it is similar to what we do at Christmas, which is also under siege by commercialism and consumerism.  We need to stay true to our faith and live it out in our culture.  This is an intentionally vague answer because it doesn’t look the same for everyone.  The disciples struggled with how Christians should interact with the world when they argued over circumcision and foods sacrificed to idols.   The answer in scripture is always the same–follow God’s instruction and your conscience and be considerate of others who disagree with you (paraphrased from 1 Corinthians 8).

Alicia (my bride) and I have come to embrace the community gathering at Halloween.  We put a fire pit in our front driveway, complete with marshmallows.  We keep a crock pot of warm cider nearby to warm up adults and children alike.  We see our neighbors more on Halloween than any other night of the year.  We do this so we can be present in our community and meet them where they are.  Would we love it if they came to Bible Study or worship? Absolutely!  But, how will they know we would love that unless we go where they are to tell them?

This Halloween, keep things “Holy” or “Hallowed” as the old pronunciation goes.  Honor God with your whole life for this is how we worship.  Love your neighbor as yourself.  This is how we live for God.  Above all this, love the Lord your God with all your strength, with all your soul and with all your might!  It isn’t up to us to do everything “right,” it is up to us to do everything to honor the only one who can, and will, make all things right.

Happy All Hallows’ Eve!

Pastor’s Corner

Why Church Membership Matters

Why Membership?

I recently attended a pastors’ conference where a few of the participants were expressing challenges with church membership.  The challenge wasn’t with the pastors; however, the challenge was with the people worshipping at the church.  The pastor went on to describe a family that was actively engaged in worship, faithfully served as volunteers on a weekly basis as well as gave a regular offering.  This family was a great blessing but also represented a larger challenge:  they didn’t want to become members.

This family represents a quickly growing group of younger people of all ages who are at worst antagonistic and at best apathetic toward membership.  The temptation is to get frustrated with people who won’t become members because they don’t see the point of it.  I prefer to see it as an opportunity to rethink why we do what we do.  So what is the point of becoming a “member” at Cross, and what does membership really mean nowadays?

At Cross we have been wrestling with the idea of membership for over a decade.  We think members should find value in being a part of Cross.  We also think people are a part of Cross because they find value in it.  For example, a person is enriched through being a part of a Community Group and begins attending worship and growing in faith through a Christian community.  Or, maybe they shop at Caring Hands and through the ministry of the staff and volunteers they receive prayer and encouragement through life’s many trials.  Or, a family has their children in the day school and the whole family is blessed through the powerful, Christ centered learning environment.

Initially, membership has its privileges and, in fact, requires very little on the part of a member.  This changes as a member grows in faith and in gratitude for what God has done and continues to do in their life.  Eventually, a member realizes that God is not only blessing them but is also calling them to follow Him with their life.  This call to follow is famously found in the Bible as Jesus called to the disciples, “Follow Me.”

When members hear the call to follow Jesus, the appropriate thing to do is to respond to the call.  We can accept the call or reject the call.  Either way God is accomplishing His work and will.  Ignoring God’s call is an act of the faithless.  But the response to follow God’s calling is the same response of those that Jesus called disciples.  They weren’t perfect and never followed Jesus perfectly, but they did follow faithfully and they did so publicly, often to their own detriment.

Yes, that is what I said.  When members follow Jesus faithfully, it can often be to their own detriment.  People will ridicule, torment, or attempt to discredit you.  Followers, disciples, of Jesus are held to a higher standard by society or guilted into certain choices.  God calls disciples to sacrifice for the sake of something bigger than ourselves.

So why should we become members, or more specifically, why should we commit publicly to following Jesus with our whole life?  For the sake of the Kingdom of God.  Jesus says He will accomplish His sacred, powerful and eternity-changing work through His members/disciples.  Those who lay down their life to follow Him will be blessed to be a blessing.  The disciples who keep their eyes on Jesus will suffer greatly but accomplish much.  The purpose of membership in a church is not rooted in benefits; it is rooted in sacrifice and committing to be a part of something bigger than yourself.  It is about telling others you are there for them and knowing they are there for you.  Being a member of the body of Christ is knowing that God is accomplishing more through you than you would ever dare to imagine.  So no, we don’t NEED to become members of a church, but as members of a church we are blessed in a community of God that is beyond all measure.

“… so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith …”  Romans 12:5-6


Pastor’s Corner

The Justice of God

God’s Justice

As early as ancient Egypt, graphics symbolizing justice involved the use of a weighing scale.  The scales were used to weigh the heart of an individual against the feather of truth to determine their ultimate judgement.  Ancient Greek astrology gave us the constellation Libra as the scales of justice.  To this day, the scale is a common visual reminder of the balance and fairness of justice.

Life is not fair; we all know and readily identify the unfairness in life from the youngest to the oldest.  Babies cry, old people complain, and everything in between, and we all cry out for someone to make it right and fair.  Justice is the ideal that we can somehow balance out the unfairness of evil by punishing the evil and vindicating the good.

In their deepest desires, good people want life to be fair, even when they know it isn’t possible.  As Christians we have very little say of legal justice, but we work diligently every day for social justice.  Christians work to equalize unfairness when it comes to clean water, food, clothing, sex trafficking and so much more.  While the whole Christian Church on earth works to bring social justice to the oppressed, we also know that these things will not be eradicated until the only righteous Judge does His work.

What are we really hoping for when we work for justice and as we wait for the final Judge?  If we are being honest, we frequently are trying to fix what we think is wrong.  We are often trying to lessen our guilt by giving others a portion of the things we overconsume.  We crave for things to be equal, but God never promises equality.  God only promises justice.

Justice is not the same as equality and fairness.  In fact, the justice of God is anything but fair.  When God declares us just, He does so through the saving work of Jesus.  If we desire equality or fairness, we will spend our whole life trying to prove we deserved or earned that justice.  Our pursuit of equality won’t always be obvious; it will be the subtle nagging in the back of our head that says we need to do more or be better.

The justice of God doesn’t express fairness; it expresses self-sacrifice.  We are not called to help others be on an equal footing with us; we are called to sacrifice what we have until we are humbled before others.  True justice will only come when we value others more than ourselves and give to others more than we keep.  True and complete justice will only occur in heaven, but until then, God gives us His Holy Spirit that we may trust in Him to give us everything we need and extend His grace to others.

Pastor’s Corner

Proverbs 9.10 - Wisdom

The Real God – Wisdom

“The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom; knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.”  Proverbs 9:10

In the Bible, a distinction is made between wisdom and knowledge.  Knowledge is typically considered to be about acquiring information.  Wisdom is frequently described as using that information in a God pleasing way.

1 Corinthians says that knowledge puffs up; in other words, knowledge increases selfish pride.  Acquiring knowledge is not bad in any way.  But the temptation with increased knowledge is to look down on others who have less knowledge.

Wisdom comes when we use the knowledge we acquire to serve God and others.  1 Corinthians says “Knowledge puffs up but love builds up.”

When we apply knowledge we have learned through love for God and love for others, there is nothing better.  Applying our knowledge for the benefit of God and others builds one another up.  Instead of one person puffing up themselves, the whole community thrives and grows.

Wisdom allows us to see the bigger picture.  Sometimes it is a bigger picture of the circumstances on earth; sometimes it is a bigger picture of eternal impact.  Seeing the picture allows us to make wise, loving, Godly decisions – Godly decisions which may involve us offering personal sacrifices and allowing others to have an increased impact.

The fear of God is not the same as being afraid.  The fear of God is honor and respect for what He is willing and doing in every circumstance.  When we fear God and use wisdom, we are able to make a big impact, even in seemingly small decisions.

Grow in knowledge and use it in love that we may be wise in the Lord!