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Monthly Archives: May 2015

Would You Know My Name…?

After Eric Clapton’s son Conor died tragically in 1991, the singer wrote a beautiful song asking a haunting question, a question that I believe many have pondered through the years:

Would you know my name
If I saw you in heaven?
Would it be the same
If I saw you in heaven?

Tears in Heaven, Eric Clapton

Will I know you in heaven? I think my mom used to wonder about this – somewhere she came up with the idea that we won’t know anyone there. Ergo, a hundred years from now, if you bumped into someone beyond the Pearly Gates, it might be your Uncle Melvin or it might be the Apostle Paul, but you wouldn’t know – you would both just have your celestial smiles on full power and say “Excuse me.”

What a sad and hopeless thought.

But fear not. It’s surely wrong. When Jesus went up on the Mount of Transfiguration, He knew Moses and Elijah, as did also apparently Peter, James and John. And even more importantly than that, the disciples knew that it was Jesus after He was resurrected. Well, mostly they knew, I suppose. He apparently wasn’t as easy to recognize as before, and there was a bit of fumbling, but overall they got it right.

You see, He was different…and yet the same. And that’s how it will be in heaven.

Paul writes about it helpfully in 1 Corinthians 15, as he says that our bodies on earth now are like the seeds and our bodies in heaven will be like the corresponding full grown plants:

But someone will ask, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body do they come?” You foolish person! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. And what you sow is not the body that is to be, but a bare kernel, perhaps of wheat or of some other grain. But God gives it a body as he has chosen, and to each kind of seed its own body. 1 Corinthians 15:35-38 (ESV)

I find this extremely helpful. It also answers the question regarding what happens to a body that is destroyed in death, as in a fire or just after centuries of decomposition (Sorry, I don’t mean to go all CSI on you). Anyway, if you’ve wondered about these things (and it’s not just my weird mind) lay your curiosity to rest – I can’t tell you exactly what it will be like, but I can tell you that it’s going to be wonderful. Your body on earth will be a kind of seed for a glorious resurrection body.

So the Apostle writes…

It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power. It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. 1 Corinthians 15:43-44 (ESV)

Now, I have a calling on my life that leads me into the inner world of dying people. And I can testify that when Paul says “dishonor”, he has chosen an apt word.  For there is no honor in the body when it is wasting away. And when he says “weakness”, well, I think he must have seen many before death as well. Weakness is all that is left.

But the wonderful truth of the resurrection is that the dishonor and weakness of our dying bodies ends in glory and power, yea, even in victory:

When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” 1 Corinthians 15:54 ESV)

And so, make no mistake. When we bump into a dear loved one on the other side, we will do more than flash a cheesy smile and say, “Excuse me.”

We will look with love and wonder upon the victory that God has wrought…and we will greet one another by name.

For Tuesday, May 26th: 1 Corinthians 16

 
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Posted by on May 25, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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The Most Important Worship Service Attendee

Shortly after I became a Christian in 1982, my friend Lore told me she knew of a church that I just had to visit. The name of the church was Willow Creek Community Church, a new “mega-church” which had started in the mid-70’s and was a “new way of doing church.” Though it was almost an hour’s drive from our hometown of Antioch – in the town of South Barrington, Illinois – before too long I did visit the church and was definitely impressed – I remember giving a whopping (for me, at least) $50 to their building program when they passed the hat. I would eventually end up attending Willow in the late 80’s after graduating from college.

And it was during that latter time when I met John Cox, a recent grad of Fuller Seminary and a Willow intern who told me that he wanted to start a Willow Creek-style church either on the West coast or the East Coast. Didn’t matter that much to me – I was young and carefree (and single). John settled on Washington, D.C., and I followed him to start Cedar Run Community Church in Chantilly, Virginia.

Behind the scenes, “Willow Creek-style” meant “seeker-targeted church”, “seeker” being the new, cooler, and I guess less-judgmental name for non-believers. Other churches might have been seeker-sensitive, but Willow was targeted toward the lost. The seeker-targeted liturgy (for all churches have some form of liturgy) meant that we didn’t sing more than one congregational song in the weekend service, we always had a drama, the preaching was generally topical around a felt-need, and when someone read Scripture, they also gave a little story/illustration to accompany their reading (It was in doing these sermonettes that I really first began cutting my teeth on preaching). A regular mid-week worship service with much more singing and somewhat expositional preaching and communion (never served on the weekend) was also part of the plan. Willow had perfected the seeker-targeted format, and in fairness, it seemed to “work” for them. Through the years, while attending Willow or another seeker-targeted church similar to it, many people would come to Christ (one of whom would be my father who was attending Lakehurst Community Church in Waukegan when he became a believer).

But I eventually began to question the whole idea of the seeker-targeted church. Willow was seeker-targeted because that was the goal of the worship service and of the church in general – to bring seekers in. But I began to wonder if that really should have been the goal. Of course, we were to reach out to lost people, but was that to be the main goal? Doubts had begun to form in my mind. I read John Piper’s classic Desiring God, and more than that, I was cutting my teeth on Reformed theology. The end result was a Copernican shift in my world view. The seeker-targeted church was ultimately people-centered and seemed logical. But did I want logical…or biblical? I began to see that the Bible (and therefore God Himself) was not people-centered, but radically God-centered. Of course, God loved people, or as Willow put it again and again, “Lost people matter to God,” but the glory of God was becoming my highest value, and that was right, because it was also God’s highest value. (See Jonathan Edwards, The End for Which God Created the World)

As Piper put it so beautifully in his book, Let the Nations Be Glad

Missions exists because worship doesn’t. Worship is ultimate, not missions, because God is ultimate, not man. When this age is over, and the countless millions of the redeemed fall on their faces before the throne of God, missions will be no more…”

So in reading the 14th chapter of 1 Corinthians, I see this…

But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or outsider enters, he is convicted by all, he is called to account by all, the secrets of his heart are disclosed, and so, falling on his face, he will worship God and declare that God is really among you. 1 Corinthians 14:24-25 (ESV)

The seeker-targeted church sought to have seekers come to church, not a bad idea, just not the highest idea. I’ve come to see that the highest goal is that God should come to church, because when He visits a worship service, incredible things happen. Along the way, I’ve toyed – never seriously – with the idea of a book called The God-Targeted Church, but I don’t think I’ll be writing that anytime soon, so maybe someone else should.

Book or no book, I do know that this is what I want our church to be – we want to so pray and preach the Word and worship and proclaim the gospel and love one another that God the Holy Spirit visits every weekend.

And the end result of this will be that when a lost person does visit Edgewood (and by God’s grace they do every weekend) he or she will declare quite truthfully…that God is really among us.

For Monday, May 25th: 1 Corinthians 15

 
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Posted by on May 22, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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As Wise As Ever After 84 Years…

IMG_20140103_185334_566From the blogging files – a story that I thought might merit a retelling – from January of 2014…

We had quite a celebration this past Friday night.  Mom turned 84.

Annie was out of town, but the rest of us made big plans to take the birthday girl to Culvers where she enjoys Root beer and cheeseburgers.  I knew the frigid temperature and biting wind could be a factor in our scheme, but I guess I didn’t realize how much.  In the end, we actually made three attempts to get her from the warmth of the Christian Homestead into my waiting car, but she howled in protest each time we ventured outdoors.  We compromised by bringing A & W to her.

Josh, a CNA who has actually worked a few shifts at the Homestead, noted like a sage that you often don’t know what a person with Alzheimer’s actually wants and needs – but when you do know, well, of course, you try to meet those desires.  And we knew.  She wanted to stay inside…where it’s warm.

She’s always been a smart lady.

And that never really stops, even though nowadays she can’t have a conversation with me about the latest book she’s read (she used to devour novels) or pontificate about what’s going on in the Nation’s Capital (she was once the definition of a political junkie).

Anyway, as I think about her 84 years on planet earth, and my years with her, one lesson in particular stands out:

It was late 1982 or 1983 – I was a new Christian, home from recently resigning at West Point and growing in my newfound faith at the Antioch Evangelical Free Church.  The following year I would head to the U of I to pursue a business degree, but for now I was working days at a factory in Addison, Illinois and spending much of the evenings at a Bible study or hanging out with other single adults from our church.

One night I came home at about 10 p.m., relatively late in light of the fact that I would be getting up around 4:30 or 5 the next morning for work.  Dad had gone to sleep, but she was up, surely waiting for me, and when I walked in, she asked me how my day had been.

“Fine,” I said curtly, “but I can’t talk now – I haven’t read my Bible yet, and I’m committed to the daily quiet time.” And I was off to my room…to do the most important thing.

I thought no more of it, that is, until the next day, when I came home from work and found a note on the desk in my bedroom. Though I don’t have the letter she wrote today, the thought behind it is as fresh as the day she wrote it.

“Rog, I appreciate your desire to read the Bible.  It seems like that is something a good Christian should do.  But in the future, you might want to also consider something the Bible itself teaches, words of one of my favorite passages of Scripture…”

You know what she wrote out, right?

That afternoon on the desk in my bedroom in our duplex at 650 North Avenue, I found the immortal words from Paul the Apostle to the church at Corinth.  She wrote out the whole of 1 Corinthians 13.  I’ll just give you the first part:

“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing. Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.”

1 Corinthians 13:1 – 4 (NIV)

And after reading her note that day, I like to think that maybe, just maybe…I’ve never been the same.

Anyway, Happy Birthday Mom.  Thanks for everything.  Let’s keep warm, huh?

For Friday, May 21st: 1 Corinthians 14

 
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Posted by on May 21, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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Should All Christians Speak in Tongues?

I found a book in the garage attic today: Pat Boone’s: Pray to Win: God wants you to succeed.

If not quite a classic, it was still one of the first Christian books I ever read as a new believer, and aside from teaching me about prayer, it also made me wonder if I was missing out on a practice the Bible calls “speaking in tongues.”

I was familiar with the idea long before I had come to Christ. Growing up, we spent Thanksgivings with my mom’s sister’s family in Decatur, Illinois, and they went to a church that spoke in tongues during the service: Waterstreet Christian Fellowship. In the days before any of us Knowltons were Christians, my Aunt Ruth and Uncle Jack Fleener and their kids, my cousins, seemed perfectly normal except for the church they went to.

My dad always bristled at visiting Waterstreet, but since we ourselves were regular churchgoers, if we were in Decatur for the weekend, we went along. When Dad walked in once, the greeter called him “brother”, and I remember hearing him grumbling about that: “Who’s he calling brother? I’m not his brother.” No, Dad, you weren’t, but your day would come.

And so it was that as a boy at Waterstreet, I was first exposed to this practice of speaking in other tongues, or glossolalia, as the theologians call it. And then, shortly after my conversion at age 18, I picked up Pat’s book, and who was I to argue with the old crooner? Pat spoke in tongues, and he said I could too. Moreover, it sure seemed biblical, at least as far as I could tell. So I’m sure that over thirty years ago, I asked the Lord to give me the gift of tongues.

He never did, but like He’s done for every other believer, He graciously gave me other gifts, and today I wouldn’t trade any of them for speaking in tongues, as wonderful as that gift undoubtedly is.

And interestingly, along my pilgrimage through the years, I have off and on heard people say that God wants all Christians to speak in tongues. Hmmm…apparently not. And then, of course, even worse is the United Pentecostal doctrine that you’re not a believer if you don’t have the gift; I ran across a student touting this teaching when I was in college, and it shook me for a brief time…and then I read the Bible. For among other places in the Scriptures, Paul made it ultra-clear in 1 Corinthians 12 that not all Christians speak in tongues…

And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? But earnestly desire the higher gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way. 1 Corinthians 12:28-31 (ESV)

The questions assume a negative answer. Are all apostles? (Of course not.) Are all prophets? (No.)…Do all speak with tongues (No.), etc.

This is so important to understand, because I recently heard of a wonderful long-time Christian who was disappointed not to have yet spoken in tongues. What a bummer…and what a lie. I suppose the disappointment largely stems from the idea that somehow it’s impossible to experience God in the fullest apart from this gift.

But speaking as one who along the way in life has known the heights of joyous and rapturous fellowship with our Heavenly Father, I can testify that while having this gift may indeed be a very wonderful thing, it is absolutely not necessary to a deep knowledge of God and a glorious experience of His love. In His wise providence, He gives each of His children different gifts…for His different purposes.

For Thursday, May 21st: 1 Corinthians 13

 
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Posted by on May 20, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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Should Women Wear Head-Coverings in Church?

IMG_1277Quick – tell me where you will find this inscription: RHK.DTK 5/30/92 Song of Songs 8:6 – 7

Here’s a hint – “14k” follows all of this.

Yeah, I know – the picture gave it away – that’s right, it’s the inscription inside my wedding ring, and in order to take a picture and give you the exact details, I had to take it off, which is something I almost never do. You see, I have heard horror stories involving kitchen drains and gym bags, and I frankly don’t want to take the risk. And risk it would be, for I am married to a wonderful woman who also happens to be fairly sentimental. She would not cotton very well to me losing the ring which she slipped on my finger at the altar. So I wear it all the time, and I think that’s good.

Mind you, she wears hers all the time too. And I’m glad for that, not only because I’m also a little sentimental, but because I like everyone to know that she’s mine…and the wedding ring is symbolic of that.

We all know that, right? Of course we do, because that’s what wedding rings mean in our culture. I admit that when I was a single man, while I wasn’t obsessed with the practice, I looked at ring fingers a time or two, and an empty ring finger meant…possibilities. A ring on a ring finger? Well, that meant look for other ring fingers.

So along these lines, most of us don’t think so highly of the husband or wife who takes off a wedding ring to go out on the town with friends from work. We know what they’re thinking, and it’s not honoring to their spouse…or in keeping with their vows.

Wedding rings mean something in our culture, but if another 2,000 years were to pass before Jesus returned, well, there might be no such thing as a wedding ring anymore. Who knows what would symbolize marriage in another 2 millennia? Time changes many things, including symbols. Why, it’s even possible that in another 2,000 years, women will revert to the New Testament practice…of wearing head coverings to show they are married and under the authority of their husband, like Paul seems to indicate in 1 Corinthians 11.

So, the question at hand is, “Should a woman wear a head-covering in church?” And in his excellent book, Evangelical Feminism and Biblical Truth, Wayne Grudem argues no…

“No matter what people think about requiring head coverings for women today, all interpreters agree that head covering was a symbol for something else, and that Paul was concerned about it because of what that symbol meant. People have thought that head covering for women in the first century was a symbol of (a) a woman being in submission to her husband (or perhaps to the elders of the church), (b) being a woman rather than a man, (c) being a wife rather than an unmarried woman, or (d) having authority to pray and prophesy publicly in the church. There may be other explanations of the symbolism, but everyone agrees that Paul’s concern is not to protect women from catching a cold or getting a sunburn on their head. Rather, he is concerned because of what wearing a head covering symbolized to people in Corinth.

“So we should ask whether wearing a head covering symbolizes any of these things today. At least in twenty-first-century America, it symbolizes none of these things!…Therefore if we cannot be sure what the head coverings symbolized for women in the first century (for interpreters differ on this), the very fact that it does not symbolize much of anything to people today, even to Christians, is a strong argument that Paul would not have wanted us to follow it as sort of a meaningless symbol. I think it also means that God Himself does not intend us to follow this practice today, in a society and culture where it carries no symbolic meaning.”

All that said, I have great respect for my sisters in Christ who wear head coverings today, especially because these women do so out of a high value of obedience to the Word of God, at least as they understand it.

But my sweet wife won’t be wearing a head covering any time soon. However, by the grace of God, both of us are planning to keep our wedding rings on, as they say, “till death us do part.”

Wednesday, May 20th: 1 Corinthians 12

 
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Posted by on May 19, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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The Old Testament Show

truman_show_ver1_xlg[1]Do you remember The Truman Show, a 1998 movie starring Jim Carrey? It was the story of Truman Burbank (Carrey), a reality T.V. star who lives his life in quiet suburbia…not knowing he is a reality T.V. star.

Truman’s entire life is filmed before thousands of hidden cameras and daily broadcast all over the world, and yet, he doesn’t suspect anything until around age 30. It’s around this time that, among other anomalies, a theatrical light falls out of the morning sky, and he begins to wonder about his wife’s constant product placement in her conversations with him.

Truman’s life serves a purpose larger than himself, in this case an entertaining study for those billions who watch him on television everyday; and I bring up this fascinating movie because of what Paul writes regarding the people of the Old Testament. In the 10th chapter of 1 Corinthians, the Apostle says:

Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come.   1 Corinthians 10:11 (ESV)

The chapter is basically about the pain that idolatry brings, and Paul is anxious for the church at Corinth to learn the difficult lessons that the Israelites learned, and to learn them vicariously, that is, without actually having to experience them.

There are a couple of things that we should take away from this verse:

First, these things we read about in the Old Testament actually happened. At least that is what Paul believes, and Jesus, of course, spoke with a similar certainty about stories involving Jonah and Adam and Abraham. These were real people and the stories we read about them actually happened as recorded. This is a simple but important lesson we must always keep in mind: the Bible is true.

Second, we can learn from the lives of these people we read about…and we should learn from them. Paul said what happened to them happened as an example and for our instruction. That’s really amazing. But what is the main thing we learn? Well, Paul makes it clear – we learn about Christ. From the Gospel Transformation Study Bible:

“Throughout the text, Paul interprets the Old Testament in a way that is centered on Christ. Christ is the “Rock” that accompanied and sustained Israel in her wilderness wanderings (vv. 1–4, 9). Christ’s “table” (representing his death) fulfills the purpose of Israel’s “altar” (representing the sacrifice of animals; vv. 16–21). And Christ, “into” whom believers are baptized (Acts 2:38; Rom. 6:3; Gal. 3:27), is the leader of a new exodus, a greater deliverance than the exodus led by Moses (1 Cor. 10:1–2). Thus the Old Testament provides Christians not only instructive examples (vv. 6, 11) but also rich reminders that God’s Son has always been, and will always be, the only means by which sinners have access to God’s saving mercies.

 Amen. So…get the popcorn, open up Genesis, and bring on the show. I, for one, have a lot to learn.

Tomorrow, Tuesday, May 19th: 1 Corinthians 11

 
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Posted by on May 18, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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The Pastoral Payday

It’s a rather gauche topic, I’ll admit, but since the Bible broaches the subject of pastoral paydays, I don’t think it wrong that I do the same. Today is payday at Edgewood.

It actually comes every two weeks on Friday (though direct deposit actually gets it to me a day early) and I think I speak for all the staff when I say it’s a rather important day. Payday keeps things running pretty smoothly around our household, and it would be a bummer should it one day stop. So…color me thankful for the 9th chapter of 1 Corinthians, where Paul states clearly that…

“…the Lord commanded that those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel.” 1 Corinthians 9:14 (ESV)

Now, Paul says that he himself does not partake of a “pastoral payday”, and his teaching here is part of a larger argument about demanding rights. As Paul has rejected the right to make a living by the gospel, in the same manner, he asks the Corinthians to be willing to give up their right to eat meat sacrificed to idols as they look out for their weaker brothers.

But in the process, he establishes very clearly that gospel work is worthy of a wage:

Who serves as a soldier at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard without eating any of its fruit? Or who tends a flock without getting some of the milk? Do I say these things on human authority? Does not the Law say the same? For it is written in the Law of Moses, “You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain.” Is it for oxen that God is concerned? Does he not certainly speak for our sake? It was written for our sake, because the plowman should plow in hope and the thresher thresh in hope of sharing in the crop. If we have sown spiritual things among you, is it too much if we reap material things from you? 1 Corinthians 9:7-11 (ESV)

It leads me to consider what effect this teaching has had on the world.  To be sure, many gospel ministers all over the globe are bi-vocational or completely volunteering their time, and for these pastors and gospel workers I am extremely thankful. Their sacrificial labor is a great blessing to the Kingdom of God. But in the plan of God, Paul’s inspired teaching here and elsewhere has empowered the unhindered spread of the gospel all over the world. And through this instruction, missionaries and pastors like me and millions of others have been given the gift of time, so that in response, they might give themselves fully to their work in the harvest fields of the world. Glory to God!

So I’m thankful that 2,000 years ago the Spirit led Paul to explain that God wasn’t really that concerned about muzzling oxen, but muzzling ministers. And I for one, am not muzzled as I seek to preach the gospel and equip the saints for works of service.

And because of this, in the words of the Apostle, I am a plowman…who has plowed in hope. (1 Corinthians 9:10)

Monday, May 18th: 1 Corinthians 10

 
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Posted by on May 15, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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