The Gospel and Lamenting

Copy of Misrepresenting the GospelYesterday morning I wrote a post. Then I turned on the news and saw what happened to Alton Sterling. This morning I woke with the thought that maybe I should hold off on my post. Then I turned on the news, saw what happened Philando Castile, and knew that I needed to write something different.

My friend and fellow Westbrook pastor Caleb Trimble preached this last weekend about the Gospel and lamenting. It was almost prophetic that he should choose to focus on lamenting as he preached through Acts 16. If you have the time, you should go and listen to it.

He spoke about how often times we view the “good news” of the Gospel as being happy news. We picture Paul and Silas having been beaten and now in chains singing how Jesus is their friend. While it’s true that Jesus is our friend, it’s also true that Paul being a Jew and familiar with the Psalms may have been singing songs of lament. Listen to what Psalm 13 says:

How long, O Eternal One? How long will You forget me? Forever?
How long will You look the other way?
How long must I agonize,
grieving Your absence in my heart every day?
How long will You let my enemies win?
Turn back; respond to me, O Eternal, my True God!
Put the spark of life in my eyes, or I’m dead.
My enemies will boast they have beaten me;
my foes will celebrate that I have stumbled.
But I trust in Your faithful love;
my heart leaps at the thought of imminent deliverance by You.
I will sing to the Eternal,
for He is always generous with me. [1]

Paul and Silas, like David often does in the Psalms, may have been singing these songs of lament. To many of us this seems strange. Our thoughts of Christian music may be like the Christian radio stations that we listen to: positive and uplifting. Scripture, however, is filled with songs that cry out, “How long, oh Lord?” and “My God, why have you forsaken me?”

We need to lament. It seems sacrilegious to many of us to ask “God, where are you?” or “How long until you fix this, God?” You might say, “But of course God is with us and he fixed it with Jesus on the Cross,” but that’s not why we lament.  It is a true confession of our feelings. It is us turning to God recognizing that the world is still broken and that we are waiting on Christ’s return. It is the church mourning with those who mourn and asking God to bring justice to this unjust world. The Gospel is presented to a broken world and, as Caleb reminded me this weekend, it’s not until we see the brokenness that we can truly offer the good news.

So today we should lament. Let us cry out to God and ask how long. Let us mourn with those who mourn and confess that we have not mourned with those who have been mourning a long time. We lament the loss of life and ask God to bring justice. And, like the Psalmist, we will continue to trust in His faithful love.

[1] The Voice Bible (Thomas Nelson, 2012), Psalm 13.

Is everyone really welcome?

Has the church failedThis weekend at Westbrook, we spent some time in Acts 8, 10, & 11. These three chapters find Philip and Peter welcoming Gentiles into the family of God. There was some struggle after Peter went to Cornelius, but Gentiles soon became accepted in the Church. Yes, Peter had still had some struggles after Acts 10-11 (see Galatians 2:11-21), but the church as a whole became a welcoming place to Gentiles. Not only were Gentiles welcomed into the church, but it was a place where men, women, young, old, rich, poor, slave, and free all gathered in the first couple of centuries to worship God and participate in the life of the Kingdom.

When I reflect on what the church used to look like and what it predominately looks like now in America, I can’t help but wonder if the church has failed to be like the church in the First Century. In A Fellowship of Differents Scot McKnight writes, “We’ve made the church into the American dream for our own ethnic group with the same set of convictions about next to everything. No one else feels welcome. What Jesus and the apostles taught was that you were welcomed because the church welcomed all to the table.” [1] We’ve let the church become separated. Continue reading

The Next Big Thing

The NextIf you are like me, you like new and exciting things. I am an Apple fan so almost anytime they make a presentation I watch or follow along as various tech blogs live tweet the event. I want to know what their next big thing will be. I want to know what will the next Mac OS or iOS be like. What features will they have? When will the next iPhone or MacBook be out?

You may not be into Apple or even tech, but there’s probably something like that in your life. We’re looking for the next big fad. So many of us want to belong, want to be in the know, or want to be equipped with the latest and greatest.

That was Simon in Acts 8. Typically when we read this story, we think of sorcery or Simony, which is paying for a position in the church. While those are applicable to this passage, I’m beginning to see Simon in a new light as I’ve been reading and reflecting on his brief episode in scripture. Continue reading

Is it really Good News?

Good (1)

So much of what we talk about in church revolves around this idea of Gospel or good news.

Mark opens by saying that his writing is the Good News about Jesus Christ. Matthew 4 says that Jesus traveled around preaching the good news about the kingdom. In Romans, Paul said that he is not ashamed of the Good news of Jesus Christ and just a few verses earlier he defined it this way,

God promised this Good News long ago through his prophets in the holy Scriptures. The Good News is about his Son. In his earthly life he was born into King David’s family line, and he was shown to be the Son of God when he was raised from the dead by the power of the Holy Spirit. He is Jesus Christ our Lord. Through Christ, God has given us the privilege and authority as apostles to tell Gentiles everywhere what God has done for them, so that they will believe and obey him, bringing glory to his name.And you are included among those Gentiles who have been called to belong to Jesus Christ. I am writing to all of you in Rome who are loved by God and are called to be his own holy people. [1]

Continue reading

Common Life

the bestI know that it might surprise a few of you who know me to find out that I am an introvert. This doesn’t mean that I’m asocial or don’t like people. In fact, I love to spend time with friends and family. What it does mean is that I do most of my processing in my head and find rest in quiet alone (or mostly alone) times. That being said, however, I am coming to recognize the value of being in community with others. By that, I don’t simply mean being around other people. What I mean is sharing our lives, experiences, and even hard times with others.

As a society, true community is a necessity that we have learned to go without. We have created a culture of isolation where we fence off ourselves more and more in our homes around media and our devices. It seems like very few people know their neighbors and share very little of our lives with those outside of our families. And in some ways media and social media have increased our isolation by creating the appearance of being connected with people while having very little connection with others. Continue reading

Fixing Our Eyes

Fixing our Eyes

Where are you going? What is your aim? I find myself asking these questions while reading Acts 3.

This is where we find a well known story from Acts. Peter and John go to the temple to worship and meet a beggar. Instead of giving them money, they offer him Jesus. And he went walking, and leaping, and praising God.

If I would have been in the same situation, I’m not sure if I would have reacted the same way as Peter and John. I probably, like I do now, would have tried to scurry along without making eye contact. Continue reading

Kingdom Come


The kingdom of God is a pretty big deal.

In Jesus’ first recorded sermon he said that, “the Kingdom of Heaven is near.” [1] When his disciples asked him how to pray, he instructed them to pray, “Father, may your name be kept holy. May your Kingdom come…” [2] And right before he leaves, the disciples ask, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” [3]

The Kingdom was and still is a big deal. So what is it? Continue reading

Waiting on God

waiting on God

In Acts 1, Jesus leaves the disciples waiting. It was just a few days, but I’m sure that for a few of them it seemed like it would never happen. Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit would come on them, so now they waited. No Jesus, no Holy Spirit, just waiting.

It can be hard to wait, but here we find out that waiting on God is essential to the mission of Jesus.

I found myself waiting in seminary. I knew that my time in school was wrapping up, so I started looking for ministry. After perusing online job listings for hours upon hours, and sending my resumé to various churches, I found myself at graduation with no prospects for ministry. So Lindsay and I waited. Over the next year I had a few promising interviews, but nothing turned up until the summer of 2013. That’s when I started interviewing at Westbrook, where I am now serving in ministry. The few years that I waited felt like a long time. On top of that, those years came with their fair share of disappointment.

While the disciples did not wait for the Spirit with disappointment, I’m sure it wasn’t easy for some of them. Jesus didn’t say how long, he just said to wait. And then when Holy Spirit comes, they would be his witnesses, but not before. Continue reading

Walking in light of the Resurrection

Walking in light of theMuch like Christmas, Easter tends to be one of those things that we do and move on with our lives. The only difference is that you don’t find a lot of people walking around wishing that we would live every day like it’s Easter. We love the Christmas spirit, the idea of peace on earth, and exchanging gifts. We want every day to be Christmas. Easter doesn’t get the same kind of sentiments. Maybe because it is seen by many as more a specifically Christian holiday, but still Easter just isn’t as big as Christmas. I’m sure some of you do wish that every day was Easter, but the vast majority of our culture has already moved on from Easter even though it was the beginning of this week. Continue reading

Jesus washed Judas’s feet

MaundyMost of us had the same morning on Tuesday. We got up and at some point we turned on the news, checked social media, or listened to the radio. It wasn’t long before we found out about the attack in Brussels. Another bombing. Another day that we woke up to tragedy. The news progressed in the same fashion that it does when covering these kinds of stories. They interviewed experts, reviewed the actual events, speculated as to the cause, and got reactions from the various politicians and candidates. Some of the reactions condemned those who committed the act and many offered up condolences, thoughts, and prayers for victims and their families.

After some time in shock and disbelief, I got ready for my day, ate my breakfast, made my coffee, packed my things and left for work. This is probably where my day differed from yours. I turned on my car, and started of the CD that is currently living in my car’s CD player. Brother by The Brilliance began to play. Continue reading