Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Trust: My Quest With This Misunderstood Virtue

I have found myself having to trust more than ever lately. I have to trust that my wife and I can afford to have a roof over our heads, pay the bills, and that we will be able to pay for the impending hospital bills for the birth of our son, Blaise. Trust has taken on a new dimension with the added responsibilities of fatherhood and the need for it has gotten much bigger. Thus pressure has heaped on like cheddar cheese on nachos.

This massive need for trust coincides with what we see as the opportunity that God has presented before us. This opportunity is moving to Santa Fe, NM so that I can work as a Church Planting Apprentice, with the goal of planting another gospel centered church in the city.

The problem is that all of the things that we had trust in before to allow us to move and live there have been less than a sure thing. Support we thought we would initially be receiving went away. My wife Emily's ability to work was reduced with the birth of our child and her desire to be a stay at home mother. And the support we have raised so far has been a trickle that would only partially sustain us in one of the most expensive cities in the Southwest.

This doesn't mean we give up. It means we trust that the Lord will provide, if His desire is for us to be there.

In my mind that thought sounds crazy, because part of me doesn't believe it. Even as I am now looking for work that would allow me to be bivocational (basically where I work a job outside of the church alongside my job in the church) I find it hard to believe the Lord will provide this. And this is honestly because my own misgivings about myself.

I didn't do a "regular" degree in undergrad like business or education that leads straight to job. I studied religion because I wanted to learn more about the Scripture and how to minister to people. As well meaning as this is, that line of thinking doesn't exactly yell "HIRE ME!" to potential employers. I just means I went to college, I can't write papers, and I may or may not be a religious zealot (whatever that means). Since I know this line of thinking, having already gone through one really painful job search after graduation, I have low expectations for any job hunt. At times I want to give up because I just hate having to put myself out there and I keep getting shot down.

And yet I still grind away at it.

This all circles back to that "trust" I was talking about. It is hard for me to trust in myself. I know my weaknesses all too well and know how they work against me. Thankfully I can trust God with my life. Even though I am severely imperfect, God is perfect. Also, God has greater riches than I could ever imagine. In Psalms 50:10 it says "For every beast of the forest is mine,the cattle on a thousand hills." In the Gospel of Matthew Jesus says that even sparrows, who my wife lovingly refers to when talking to me about this passage as "stupid birds", are taken care of by God. Unfortunately I can let my trust in God be clouded by my desire to trust myself. This makes it excruciating to let my whole livelihood and the security of my family at His feet.

Yet, until God tells me to stop looking for jobs in Santa Fe and quit asking for support I am compelled to trust Him. And if God tells us that we shouldn't go and closes every available door, then we will trust Him. It would be hard, with us having been faithful to pursue what God has been putting on our hearts. We want to go to Santa Fe and invest our lives preaching the Gospel, but I realize even the Apostle Paul was told he couldn't go where his heart desired before (Acts 16:6-7). I have a desire to go where Christ is not revered as Savior. However, I can only go where God allows me.

And this is the hard that I am learning about trust. Trust isn't easy and can be entirely painful, but it is essential.

If you would like to support us as we go to Santa Fe or know of any job opportunities in the area please contact me at coltbrew12@gmail.com or in the comments below ↓.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Christian Karma

This is another one of my older posts I'm dredging up (and did some editing to) to share with you. It felt timely. Enjoy

Are you like this?
I have noticed an alarming amount of Christians believe in karma, in one way or another. Their belief is either very functional, just hoping someone "gets theirs", or they believe in it as their reason why they need to be a good person. To begin, there is no teachings of Karma in Christian Doctrine. None. Zip. Nada. Karma is a belief system that has been introduced to the greater world by way of the Eastern Religions, notably Buddhism and Hinduism. The idea of karma in these systems is that you have to have more "good karma", whether that comes through fighting slavery or helping an old lady cross the street, than bad karma so that you can escape the endless cycle that is reincarnation by attaining enlightenment. This reincarnation is based on your past life's karma. If you were good, you may be a rich man; if you were evil you may end up being a caterpillar or something else that is creepy and crawly.  Being released from this cycle is called Nirvana, where rather than being reincarnated to work on your karma, you cease to exist from having been enlightened. Since there is no belief in reincarnation in the Christian tradition, it is curious that so many Christians, particularly Western Christians, have latched onto this idea.

The real question is, why have many Christians grasped this idea as their own doctrine?

This can be seen as simple as poor exegetical skills on the part of a believer. One verse that is in particular taken out of context to conform to the ideology of karma is Galatians 6:7. This verse says:


" Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap." (Galatians 6:7 ESV)

Now at first this may seem like a kind of slanted way of saying that you get what you have coming. But the problem is, it doesn't have to do with Karma, rather it has to do with punishment for our sins. Rather than it being "You were a terrible person, so now you'll be born a three legged rat!" it really is showing how our sins and actions have adverse reactions. It is much like breaking the law. If you rob a bank should you be surprised if you get arrested and sent to jail? Of course not. You broke the law, so you had to pay the penalty for that.

Another problem is that we think that with this we can sow enough good that it negates our bad. That is simply not true. We cannot save ourselves anymore than a person can perform open heart surgery on them self (thought that would be interesting to watch). Our good deeds are a means of obedience to God for what he has done for us, not as a means for saving ourselves. The only way to be covered from "bad Karma" (or in our case, sin) is by accepting the sacrifice of Jesus. Going to the next passage we see it say

"For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life." (Galatians 6:8)

We sow destruction with our sin, but we reap eternal life when we trust in the Holy Spirit for salvation, rather than our own actions. No matter how many old ladies who help cross the street or homeless guys you give a sandwich, you wont do enough to outweigh your sin.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Hiding In A Cardboard Box From Tanks

This is how I see the level of engagement of many lay Christians when it comes to controversial issues in the church when they arise. Rather than seek out truth we merely look to the flimsy faith we have built on the modern equivalent of using sand for a houses foundation, living in cardboard box. In war it would be useless when you have tanks bearing in on you. I'm sure no General worth their salt would approve using cardboard to build bomb shelters.

Get in! You'll be safe!
Rather than seeking to protect ourselves, prepare, and seek to understand the issues that are coming for us, we hide and let the "professionals" (i.e. pastors, scholars, people with seminary degrees) take care of it. Unfortunately, at a personal level this is entirely unhelpful. Regurgitation of what you were told by someone is not useful in engaging in theological discourse. Going to the sources and studying what is being taught is important.

If you encounter a theology or belief that you are unfamiliar with it will be easy to get lost in the conversation quite quickly.

You may never heard of what a Unitarian is, what the various New Perspectives on Paul teach, or why Open Theism matters.

This isn't good because these are all things that are hotbeds for theological discussion. I personally have been studying the New Perspective on Paul (and its cousin the Federal Vision) in order to understand a movement that has grown quite a bit, particularly with the growing popularity of N.T. Wright. I'm studying it not just for the sake of learning, but to understand a theology that has caused rifts.

In 1 Peter 1:13  it says "Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ." We are supposed to prepare our minds, not just for easy times, but for action.

We need to be able to have the knowledge to interact honestly with other viewpoints, whether they be slightly congruent or they are completely different from orthodox Christian teaching. Especially in a time when ethical matters ( e.g. same-sex marriage, war, abortion, etc.) are a huge talking point among Christians and non Christians, having knowledge in the issues and how to answer them is essential.

If you are unwilling to prepare you minds, or as other translations put it "gird your loins", then you are doing the same as a man hoping to weather a hurricane or hide from shrapnel in a cardboard box. It won't work well. So do well to seek out answers and be prepared for the incoming tanks.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Planting Roots: Moving to Santa Fe

I've never seemed to have roots in my life.

I always feel awkward when I'm asked where home is. Being a military brat I have always had the mentality that at any moment you may have a new home. Its just natural to me to not feel that I have roots, even though I've lived in Clovis/Portales since 2001!

Our new city
So the developments in our life is definitely different than what I would've expected.

Emily and I are planning to plant ourselves and our budding family in Santa Fe, NM at the end of 2014 so that I can work with a new church plant, Lifepoint Church.

Why you may ask? Most eastern New Mexicans stay away from the North. Its just odd to many of us and not just because the different accent! So it may seem a weird fit, but I feel God has providentially opened a door for us to be used in great ways there.

We want to be a part of a movement in Santa Fe.

 It is an eclectic city that is known just as much for the tourists and artists as the politicians who flock to the state capital. The people there are also diverse with some who can trace their ancestors back to conquistadors who arrived in New Mexico in the 1500's, some are transplants from other states who love the quintessential southwestern feel to the city, and many who have arrived from other countries to be a part of the thriving art scene.

In spite of all the natural beauty and great things about this city there is a great need for the gospel there. This city is very post Christian and many people turn to new age mysticism or secularism for hope. Much like other cities in the western United States the church has taken a backseat in a counterculture that has taken over and that can be unfriendly to the gospel. We want to take the hope of Jesus Christ to them and be a light in the darkness there.

At this church I will be working as a Church Planting Intern with the goal of us being sent out to plant another church in the Santa Fe metro in the next 3 years. I will not only be working in evangelism and discipleship, but I will also be training under a solid pastor, Jamie Duke, and learning how to be a church planter so that we may take the gospel to the people of Santa Fe. We don't just want another run of the mill church that's sole purpose is to occupy an open lot in town. We want a plant a church that is dynamic that cares for the physical needs of people as well caring for the hearts and souls of people.

You may be asking why I am telling you all this, because you may not care, it may not seem important, etc. The reason why we are sharing is because we are actively looking for people to partner with us.

We will have to raise support for our living expenses (though I do plan on getting an outside job too). If you've ever just visited Santa Fe you know it is ridiculously expensive and tends to be  a vacation ground for the rich and famous. So surviving as a two recent college grads with a new baby boy will be no cake walk. That is why we are asking that you  would consider partnering with us and helping financially in this mission God has set before us.

Also, we would ask for you to pray for us. Prayer is the only way we will be successful, because we are utterly dependent on the Lord for provision and for the success of our work in Santa Fe. We covet your prayers and are thankful for each of them.

If you are interested in learning more about what the future holds us I would love to send you additional informational letters that I have prepared or talk to you on the phone or in person about it. We are excited about the direction God has pointed us and we want to share how he is working in us!

If you want to check out Lifepoint Church go to http://lifepointsantafe.com/ or https://www.facebook.com/LifepointChurchSantaFe.

If you want to talk to Emily or I drop us a comment below, message me on Facebook or Twitter, or email me at coltbrew12@gmail.com .

Monday, April 14, 2014

Making God the Father More Personal

I find at times that I can see God the Father as being far off and distant from myself. It's not that I want to treat God in a deistic manner, but it just kinda happens.

While Jesus tends to be the spokesperson for the Trinity (even though the stereotypical face for him is much more Norwegian than any first century Jew would look), God the Father can at times feel far off from me. Not that he is, but that they way I handle my relationship with Him can make it that way.

I would bet a pretty penny God doesn't look like this, but you get the picture
What I think causes this for myself (others may concur) is that we treat God the Father in sterile terms that make Him seem impersonal. He really is far from it. He spent time walking in the garden of Eden with Adam. He spoke with Moses on Mount Sanai. He spoke with the prophets. He wasn't just some far off, petty ruler. He is personal and loving.

However, the way we talk to Him makes it seem like we are talking to our boss or an IRS agent, rather than a God who knit us together personally.

I see the word "God" as being a title in English, rather than what should be an actual name. Everyone believes in "God". But does everyone believe in the one true God or something else? This ambiguous way of talking about God can be confusing.

I have resolved to differentiate this in my own life by addressing God more personally. Calling him Father is a step, but I think you can go further. The Hebrews used many different names throughout the Old Testament for God, such as Adonai, Elohim, El Shaddai, and Yahweh. They are much more descriptive in the Hebrew than the one word we tend to use. It also makes me feel like I am not talking to a faceless man in the sky, but that I am truly talking to my creator. Just like how it would seem unnatural to call my son "boy" instead the name we have given him, Blaise, I feel that speaking to God and just calling him "God" feels equally unnatural.

I try to incorporate names such as Yahweh and Adonai into my prayers. Rather than just seeing Jesus as the only person of the Trinity with actual attributes this makes it clear that God is not just far off. He is Yahweh, not a faceless watchmaker of deists past.

As we celebrate the incarnation of Jesus this week and his death, I ask that you would also look to be more personal with your Father in Heaven. Don't just see Jesus as the only personal part of the Trinity, also see our Father as well. Yes, He is your King, but He is also very person
al with us.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Why You Should Consider Being Missional

"Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you." Matthew 28:19-20
 
A pic of me and my dad from around 2006 on a mission trip
I have been on quite a few missions trips in my life. Unfortunately, I have never been overseas (unless you count Mexico!) but have had the pleasure of working with many people in different places and with different people.
 
The one thing that I have noticed is how we approach missions. It is almost disturbing. While many churches consider evangelism to be a good thing but many mission trips prove otherwise.
 
They tend to be little more than tourism for teenagers in which we spend most of our time complaining about how hot the place we are is (been there) and just wanting to spend time on the "fun part" of the trip like going to a water park (done that). We tend to not spend time doing anything that we were actually commanded to do by Jesus. Rather we find simple things that all people can do, like construction (I assure you, not all people can do construction). At the end of it we take our pictures we took with the "less fortunate" and post them all over Facebook so that we can feel better about ourselves since we went and helped people.

This comes off as selfish and non sacrificial. While some people hate manual labor, it is usually preferred over sharing the gospel, by far.
 
Also, I realize there are felt needs of people. And I do find it cruel to find someone who is starving or needy and neglect their needs, using having shared the Gospel as justification for not doing anything. Jesus said if we neglect those in need that we neglected Him personally (Matthew 25:34-46). In the picture the trip we were on was used to rebuild the home of a woman whose home had been damaged by a hurricane. I don't feel it was a waste. In fact, I believe we were doing what Jesus commanded.
 
But we can get so wrapped up in material needs of people that we forget about the souls of those who are lost around us everyday.
 
"Missional" tends to be a loaded word for many, because they feel it points to a group of people rather than a lifestyle. I prefer to think of it as a way we are supposed to live everyday, as opposed to a spot on the theological spectrum or a state of mind we get in when on an actual trip. It is easy to be missional when you are in a whole new country or a place that feels like a different country (New York).
 
However, it is tough to live like this at home.
 
I struggle with this severely. I find it that I am less aware of those around me, even in physical needs, and get supremely bogged down in my own problems. Yes, I should take care of my home, but I was also commanded by Jesus to make disciples. He didn't say where to make disciples, he just said to make them.
 
My wife and I are currently in the process of pursuing an opportunity to do missional work in our home state of New Mexico in the next year. I won't lie, it scares me. I know how easy it is to get in a rut in familiar place. While it is not in our home city it is still close enough to home to feel quite comfortable. I could go to somewhere like Zimbabwe and feel like it is much easier to have an automatic feeling to be on mission.
 
The problem is people are just as lost in New Mexico as they are in Saudi Arabia, Kazakhstan, or Hungary. It may feel more apparent in other places, but that feeling can cloud you to the true need for the gospel around you.
 
Just because we see people who look comfortable and happy doesn't mean they are. I have seen many people put on a show purely because showing this weakness would make them look less adjusted to others. Jesus compares this being whitewashed tombs (Matthew 23:27). We may look great, but on the inside a person is literally rotting. The inside is dead while the outside looks pure.

There are people who are whitewashed tombs everywhere. No amount of new homes, clothes, healthcare, or free childcare (it's funny how many youth mission trips tend to have this function) will save someone. They will be temporarily happy, but they are still spiritually dead. And frankly, they will die one day. No one lives forever. After they are gone all the clothes and food will be meaningless. It will be them with God accounting for their sins.

Why should we focus on purely material things?

Most people only live around 80 years. Eternity is so much longer than that!

We should invest our time into the things that have the greatest lasting impact. Thankfully, Jesus outlined these things. We are to make disciples (not merely converts) and teach these disciples all we were commanded by Jesus.

How can you do this?

Yes, go on that overseas mission trip with the plan of intentionally sharing the gospel. Go join a church plant in your hometown that is intent on reaching the lost in the community. Invite people to your home that don't know the gospel and show them hospitality while presenting yourself an opportunity to share the gospel. And of course, do as Jesus told us and take care of the felt needs of people.

Find opportunities in every day of your life, not just the occasional mission trip, to share the gospel. We aren't given a minimum quota by Jesus for how many disciples to make, but I can assume we should do it as much as possible. Who cares if you just shared with your coworker today? If Mormon missionaries approach you take it as an opportunity to show them the true Gospel. If a neighbor asks a question about your faith, why turn down the opportunity?

Whether you live in Johannesburg, Portland, Prague, or Tokyo, as a believer you should live missionally and make it a practice to share the gospel daily.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

There Is Nothing Wrong With Saying "I Don't Know"

One of the things I have struggled with in much of my life is in restraining myself in throwing thoughts into a discussion I know nothing about. Rather than let people who truly are experts, or even well versed in something, I feel like I have to throw my thoughts into the mix. It's not that I can really even add much to the conversation. I can honestly say that it is pride and not wanting to admit I know nothing about a subject.

I feel at times Christians can get like this at dangerous times. It is easy when you are backed up against the wall in answering something about your faith to throw out a snide comment out of ignorance, rather than simply admitting on of the most painful sentences in the English language "I don't know".

My personal problem with "I don't know" is pride. I have always been looked to by others for questions about things whether it be school work, faith, or random geography and history tidbits (no joke, I do love history and geography). Naturally this has made me feel like I should have an answer to everything, even if I have never studied it.

This has gotten me personally into trouble in unnecessary debates. For a bit I took too much of my life getting into twitter and Facebook debates. In these I was sometimes caught without a good answer. Rather than having the guts to admit I didn't know I thought I could give poor, vague answers that would get people off my back.

This was bad. And has caused me to stumble. It has made me feel like the "fool" that is talked about so frequently in Proverbs. Rather than trust God, I felt it was necessary I argued to  maintain the viability of my salvation. That doesn't even make sense if you think about it! I didn't save myself so how am I supposed to keep myself safe?

I think we should take some steps in both humility in our lives, but also in seeking understanding. Here are my thougthts


  • In James 1 it says "If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him." First of all we should ask God for wisdom in what his text says. Just because you have zeal for the Lord doesn't mean you have understanding. Use that zeal to ask God to reveal what his scripture means, not just what it says
  • Ask experts things. I have a friend who is extremely astute in all things business. Anytime I hear about something business related I tend to ask him what his thoughts are on it. You should do the same thing with scripture. Pastors aren't just paid to preach and do funerals. They also want to teach people! 
  • Don't assume what you believe. This can be dangerous because many people have defaults that they refer to. For many these defaults can include doctrines such as Dispensational Premillenialism, Calvinism, Arminianism, or Young Earth Creationist. Just because you heard it your whole life doesn't mean you should follow it. Pastors and teachers, while well trained and versed in scripture, can be wrong.
  • Be willing to admit when you are wrong. I've had these times. For much of my youth I was strongly against any form of Calvinism. What I had heard turned out to be mostly straw men arguments. After hearing it from people who clearly articulated the ideas behind that theological system I was more drawn to it and saw validity in it. It was tough for me to admit they got anything right. Now much, but not all, of my theology is built around a reformed Calvinist view.
  • Be willing to say I don't know. If someone asks you what your views on soteriology or theodicy are, and you aren't even sure what those words mean, it may be wise not to throw in your two cents. Be willing to sit and listen then seek out answers. You can damage your credibility, and that of other Christians, by speaking out of ignorance. It says in 1 Peter 3:15 that we should be ready to answer anyone about our faith. It also says we should be prepared. Going in unprepared is like going to a knife fight with a water gun.

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I am Colton. I have been married over a year (nothing to sneeze at) to the most awesome lady ever. I just finished my undergrad in Religion at ENMU and just started my MDiv at my current place of employment, Wayland Baptist University
 
. Quick facts: I love steak, blogging, apologetics, theology, sports (especially football and rugby), indie rock, my truck, and the Lord. I don't like soccer, skinny jeans, and Top 40 music. If you aren't the same I think we'll still getting along just fine haha. If you have questions don't be afraid to ask!