The Signs of Political Idolatry

The last week has been both a relief and burden for me.  I am relieved that we have finally progressed past the campaign/election season in America.  But I am burdened by the manner in which we engaged one another and the reactions to the election results.  Part of the U.S. population is elated at the results while the rest of the population is dismayed.  Some states are even campaigning for secession from the Union.  In Denver, my city, there were two Christian leaders who hosted wake ceremonies to memorialize the death of the country!  This is most disconcerting!  If we believe that all men are made in the image of God, then how can we do such a poor job of engaging one another?  If we sincerely believe that God is our sovereign king, then how do we declare despair so readily?

It seems to me that three invariably linked issues drive much of the acrimony:
1)    We think too highly of our ideas!
2)    We undervalue the ideas of others!
3)    We do not sincerely believe that God is sovereign!

In a nutshell, we are guilty of idolizing our own political agendas.  Invariably, this results in the maligning of views that do not correspond to our own.  And the greatest of all atrocities is found in the fact that God’s role as King (an office with no term limits) gets lost in the process.  If He is the Sovereign Lord the day before the election then how does one sincerely host a funeral the day after the election?

The whole experience has revealed an unbridled idolatry that is rampant among us.  It needs to be called out and addressed.  Idolatry is the act of preferring anything over the fame of our King.  It is the act of drinking filthy water and choosing it over the refreshing spring that is our God (Jeremiah 2:11-13).  During election season our political views were as filthy water and God was relegated to being one of the many voices in the debate.  With all due respect to our esteemed political pundits, it does not work that way!  God did not come to take sides; He came to take over!  (Romans 11:36; Colossians 1:15-18)

Tim Keller visited this issue and I wholeheartedly affirm his assessment.  I have posted it below.  Give it a read and let us prepare our hearts for repentance.

Brandon Washington
The Embassy Church
…making God famous throughout the world.
www.theembassy.org

————————————————————————————————–

The Signs of Political Idolatry
-By Tim Keller

“One of the signs that an object is functioning as an idol is that fear becomes one of the chief characteristics of life.  When we center our lives on the idol, we become dependent on it.  If our counterfeit god is threatened in any way, our response is complete panic.  We do not say, ‘What a shame, how difficult,’ but rather ‘This is the end!  There’s no hope!’

This may be a reason why so many people now respond to U.S. political trends in such an extreme way.  When either party wins an election, a certain percentage of the losing side talks openly about leaving the country.  They become agitated and fearful for the future.  They have put the kind of hope in their political leaders and policies that once were reserved for God and the work of the gospel.   When their political leaders are out of power, they experience a death.  They believe that if their policies and people are not in power, everything will fall apart.  They refuse to admit how much agreement they actually have with the other party, and instead focus on the points of disagreement.  The points of contention overshadow everything else, and a poisonous environment is created.

Another sign of idolatry in our politics is that opponents are not considered to be simply mistaken, but to be all together evil.  After the last presidential election, my eighty-four-year-old mother observed, ‘It used to be that whoever was elected as your president, even if he wasn’t the one you voted for, he was still your president.  That doesn’t seem to be the case any longer.’  After each election, there are now a significant number of people who see the incoming president lacking moral legitimacy.

The increasing political polarization and bitterness we see in U.S. politics today is a sign that we have made political activism into a form of religion.  How does idolatry produce fear and demonization?  Dutch-Canadian philosopher – Al Wolters taught that in the biblical view of things, the main problem in life is sin, and the only solution is God and his grace.  The alternative to this view is to identify something besides sin as the main problem with the world and something besides God as the main remedy.  That demonizes something that is not completely bad, and makes and idol out of something that cannot be the ultimate good.

Let every person be subject to the governing authorities.  For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.  (Romans 13:1 ESV)

Put your hope in God and the work of His gospel.  One part of the gospel people forget is the end game, the cross-made a way for God to reconcile broken people like you and me here and now.  It also made a way for God to fully reconcile this broken planet in the not to distant future.  The gospel is at work in our lives, in our nation and in the nations.  The gospel is not dependent, nor determined on mans government.  It is a completely different kingdom, one that is eternal not temporal.  Until such a time – pray, proclaim and play in the light of His good news.”

Tim Keller is an American Christian apologist, author, speaker, and the founding pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City, New York.

Advertisements
Posted in Bible, Community, Discipleship, Mission | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Is Church Membership Biblical?

As we prepare to facilitate The Embassy Church’s first covenant membership class for our new members I saw fit to post a blog that affirms such an action on our part.  By what authority do we call people to enter into covenant as members of the local church?  While preparing to draft the essay I came across this article by Matt Chandler and it makes precisely the same points that I affirm so I opted to post his article instead drafting my own.  Suffice it to say, I contend that this is not a matter of individual or denominational preference.  Covenant membership is, in fact, a biblical presumption.  Without it, many of the biblical imperatives (e.g., responsibility of elders, church restoration,  believer’s accountability) lose all meaning.  Chandler addresses these points in the following essay.  Give it a read and let us initiate a fruitful conversation.  I would love to hear from you.

Brandon Washington
The Embassy Church
…making God famous throughout the world.
www.theembassy.org

—————————————————————————————————

By Matt Chandler

“The spouse of Christ cannot be adulterous; she is uncorrupted and pure. She knows one home; she guards with chaste modesty the sanctity of one couch. She keeps us for God. She appoints the sons whom she has born for the kingdom. Whoever is separated from the Church and is joined to an adulteress, is separated from the promises of the Church; nor can he who forsakes the Church of Christ attain to the rewards of Christ. He is a stranger; he is profane; he is an enemy. He can no longer have God for his Father, who has not the Church for his mother.”  — Cyprian, Treatise on the Unity of the Church, 6.

I was 28 when I became the pastor of Highland Village First Baptist Church (now known as The Village Church). I had had a rough go early on in my church experience, and at that time I was not fully out of my “disenchanted with the local church” phase.

In all honesty, I wasn’t sure at the time that church membership was biblical. Despite that, the Spirit had made it all too clear that I was going to be pastoring this small church in the suburbs of Dallas. That was one of the many ironies of my life in those days.

Highland Village First Baptist Church was a “seeker-sensitive” church in the Willow Creek mold and had no formal membership process, although they were actively working on one and wanted the new pastor’s input. I had a strong understanding of the church universal but wasn’t well versed—and, as I said, somewhat skeptical—about the church local. We started growing quickly with young and oftentimes disenchanted 20-somethings who usually had no church background, or bad church backgrounds. They liked The Village because we were “different.” This always struck me as strange because we weren’t doing anything but preaching and singing.

In conversations with these men and women I began to hear things like “The church is corrupt; it’s just about money and a pastor’s ego,” or “I love Jesus, it’s the church I have a problem with.” My favorite one was, “When you organize the church it loses its power.” Although something occasionally resonated in me with these comments (I, along with most of my generation, have authority and commitment issues), I found them confusing since they were being made to me by people who were attending the church where I was the pastor.

TWO QUESTIONS FROM HEBREWS 13:17

With conflicts already brewing over other doctrines that I viewed as far more central, I wondered if we should let this church membership thing slide and come back to it later. I was preparing at the time to preach through the book of Hebrews and “happened” to be in chapter 13 when verse 17 leapt off the page: “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.”

Two questions occurred to me. First, if there is no biblical requirement to belong a local church, then which leaders should an individual Christian obey and submit to? Second, and more personally, who will I as a pastor give an account for?

These two questions started my search for a biblical understanding of the local church, and they began around the ideas of authority and submission.

Regarding the first question, the Scriptures clearly command Christians to submit to and honor an elder body (Heb. 13:171 Tim. 5:17). If there is no understanding of local church membership, then who are we to submit to and obey? Is it anyone with the title “elder” from any church? Should you as a Christian obey and submit to those loons at Westboro Baptist? In order to obey Scripture, must you picket soldiers’ funerals, as the pastor of Westboro seems to imply?

Regarding the second question, the Scriptures clearly command an elder body to care for specific people (1 Pet. 5:1-5; also, Acts 20:29-30). Will I as a pastor be held accountable for all the Christians in the Dallas Metroplex? There are many churches in Dallas that I have strong theological and philosophical differences with. Will I give account for what they teach in their small group, how they spend their money, and what they do concerning international missions?

WHAT ABOUT CHURCH DISCIPLINE?

After considering questions of authority and submission, the second issue that came up in my study of the local church was the biblical teaching on church discipline.

You see it in several places, but none so clearly as 1 Corinthians 5:1-12. In this text Paul confronts the church in Corinth for approving of a man walking in blatant, unrepentant sexual immorality. The Corinthians are celebrating this as God’s grace, but Paul warns them that this type of wickedness shouldn’t make them boast, but rather mourn. He calls them arrogant and tells them to remove this man for the destruction of his flesh and the hopeful salvation of his soul. In verses 11-12, he pulls no punches: “But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge?”

It has been my sad experience that very few churches still practice church discipline, but that’s another article for another day. My question out of this text is simple: How can you kick someone “out” if there isn’t an “in”? If there is no local commitment to a covenant community of faith, then how do you remove someone from that community of faith? Church discipline won’t work if local church membership doesn’t exist.

LOTS OF OTHER EVIDENCE FOR MEMBERSHIP

There are other evidences to support local church membership in the Scriptures.

We see in Acts 2:37-47 that there is a numerical record of those who have professed Christ and been filled with the Holy Spirit (v. 41) and an acknowledgement that the church was tracking the growth (v. 47).

In Acts 6:1-6, we see elections take place in order to address a specific problem and accusation.

In Romans 16:1-16, we see what appears to be an awareness of who is a church member.

In 1 Timothy 5:3-16, we see a clear teaching on how to handle widows in the church and in verses 9-13 we read this:

Let a widow be enrolled if she is not less than sixty years of age, having been the wife of one husband, and having a reputation for good works: if she has brought up children, has shown hospitality, has washed the feet of the saints, has cared for the afflicted, and has devoted herself to every good work. But refuse to enroll younger widows, for when their passions draw them away from Christ, they desire to marry and so incur condemnation for having abandoned their former faith. Besides that, they learn to be idlers, going about from house to house, and not only idlers, but also gossips and busybodies, saying what they should not.

In this text we see criteria for who would or would not qualify for Ephesus’s widow care program. The local church in Ephesus is organized, and they are working out a plan.

We could go on and on here, asking questions about how we could be obedient to the commands of God in 1 Corinthians 12 or Romans 12 if we aren’t connected to a local covenant community of faith. But to unpack all the possible texts would require longer than I have for this article.

GOD’S PLAN IS THAT WE WOULD BELONG TO LOCAL CHURCHES

When you begin to look at these texts it becomes clear that God’s plan for his church is that we would belong to a local covenant community of faith. This is for our own protection and maturation, and for the good of others.

If you view church as some sort of ecclesiological buffet, then you severely limit the likelihood of your growing into maturity. Growth into godliness can hurt. For instance, as I interact with others in my own local body, my own slothfulness in zeal is exposed, as is my lack of patience, my prayerlessness, and my hesitancy to associate with the lowly (Rom. 12:11-16). Yet this interaction also gives me the opportunity to be lovingly confronted by brothers and sisters who are in the trenches with me, as well as a safe place to confess and repent.  But when church is just a place you attend without ever joining, like an ecclesiological buffet, you just might consider whether you’re always leaving whenever your heart begins to be exposed by the Spirit, and the real work is beginning to happen.

What’s the bottom line? Local church membership is a question of biblical obedience, not personal preference.

Matt Chandler is the lead pastor of the Village Church in the Dallas, Texas area.

May/June2011
© 9Marks

Posted in Bible, Church Planting, Community, Discipleship | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Testimony of Keith Clerihue

Keith, my dear brother, in now basking in the glorious presence of his heavenly father. My heart aches as I am grieving his absence. But I am celebrating his entrance into eternal joy. I will miss him deeply, but he gave me the greatest conceivable gift; his confession assures me that I will see him again.

A few years ago I met a brilliant, quick-witted man named Keith Clerihue. We were on staff at the same Church in the Denver metro area and his office was down the hall from mine. He is not a man of imposing physical stature, in fact when I met him I recall noting how svelte he was. In a few short months he became my friend and I grew to love him as a brother. I learned a lot about him; the svelte guy is in fact a big man. I learned that he loves his wife. He publicly celebrates and affirms Lori at every given opportunity. He is a great father to two sons. Kip and Bode both look and dress like their dad. His influence on them is undeniable. He has an artistic eye. As a photographer he is uniquely capable of appreciating textures, colors, and design. I am jealous of this gift. In fact, he once teased me for hanging the pictures in my office “…too high for the average human to see.” He is hilarious!!! He makes me laugh every time I see him. He has a certain prophetic tendency that allows him to readily recognize the upside of an experience. This is just one more of his qualities that I wish we shared. He is a good man. I do not say that quickly nor flippantly. Keith Clerihue is a good, flawed, Christ-Loving man. He has surrendered himself to the call of discipleship and his life reflects his surrender.

There was an occasion in which Keith decided to tell me his story. He and I sat in his office on opposite sides of his desk and we had a conversation about who he is. In this conversation I learned that Lori is not his first wife. His first wife succumbed to Cancer a few years before I met him. This insight gave context to his prophetic tendency. In spite of this experience he still displays joy and expects great things from God. As I am processing what he has just told me he hits me with more insight. He is himself a Cancer survivor. He told me the story of his painful recovery and how Lori custom made intensely rich milkshakes for him to put some meat on his bones. He showed me photos of a Keith Clerihue who was even more svelte than the one sitting before me. It was a lot for me to take in, but he did not miss the opportunity to emphasize the virtue of such a testimony. He has, by way of experience and biblical comprehension, a finely honed theology of suffering. He is able to see God in the trial and in a manner that still overwhelms me he is able to “count it all joy” (James 1:2).

Since we had that conversation Keith has continued to war with Cancer’s attack on his body. He has been diagnosed for a third time. And he has seen fit to use this moment to preach the most courageous message I have ever heard. He knows that his faith in the midst of this trial will produce steadfastness. And he knows that this steadfastness will result in his wholeness; completion. “He will be lacking in nothing” (James 1:2-4). I’m not saying that he is enduring this trial because he is a good man. Instead I am telling you that he is a good man because this trial, along with many others, has honed him into the surrendered disciple that you see in the video below. God threw his “curveball,” and then God rejoiced because Keith stayed in the batters box and perfectly timed the swing of his bat.

Invest 4 ½ minutes of your life to watch this video. Click the “Curveball” link and be blessed by the testimony of God’s man. Thanks for publishing your story Keith.

“Curveball” – A Small Piece of Keith’s Story

Posted in Bible, Discipleship | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

What are we doing? (The Four Questions Series)

In our last blog post we visited four questions that we wanted to spend some time unpacking.  We asked,

1) What are we doing? (The Mission)
2) Why are we doing it? (The Values)
3) How are we going to get it done? (The Strategies)
4) When do we have a win? (The Measure)

We set out to answer these questions in a manner that would clearly communicate who we are as a church.  Understanding the answer to the first question is essential if we are going to have a means of evaluating whether or not we are honoring God’s calling and sticking to our unique mission.  What are we doing?  Simply stated, we are making God famous throughout the world.

In 2007 I sat down with my friend Derrick Kelsey and I presented him with a list of eight core values that I believe a church should affirm and celebrate.  He promptly pointed out that many of them overlap and over the course of three years we managed to get the list down to five.  The first value on the list affirmed that God is Supreme in all things and we derived this value from passages such as Romans 11:36, “For from him and through him and to him are all things.  To him be glory forever.”  This value received most of our attention and I still recall the conversation in which Kelsey and I demoted the other four values as we realized that God’s supremacy was a thread that held all of our hopes together.  We did not have five core values; we only had one.  God is supreme in all things.  And our goal is to publish his supremacy.

We use the word “supreme” in reference to his throne and status.  He is King and, therefore, always in the role of preeminence; he is never subordinate.  We carefully included the phrase “all things” to emphasize the fact that there are no exceptions.  Paul’s language in Romans 11:36 presents God as the source (“from him”), means (“through him”), and end (“to him”) of all things.  Everything exists for his name’s sake.[1]  For the sake of contextualizing Paul’s language we landed on a summarizing phrase, “We exist for the sake of making God famous!”   Paul’s use of the word “glory” (dóxa) in Romans 11:36 is actually an act of emphasizing the words of the previous sentence.  Dóxa presumes the ideas of weight and radiance (2nd Cor. 4:17).  God’s presence in the world should be delightfully heavy and brilliant to behold.  He cannot be invisible.  His existence is both undeniable and cause for rejoicing.  Dóxa is also used in reference to one’s reputation (2nd Cor. 4:17).  God created the world as a means of bringing grand repute to himself!  These ideas give us our mission.  We strive to promote God’s glorious reputation.  We desire to make his name heavy and radiant.  We exist to make him famous![2]

You may be asking, “But isn’t God already famous?”  We believe this is a reasonable question.  And we concede the fact that many people are aware of God’s existence.[3]  But Dóxa fame does not simply make the world aware of his existence.  It reorients the world.  All of creation finds meaning in the fact that God exist!  His fame does not merely reference how many people know of him.  It also speaks to how they respond once they know him.  When they see him in all his glory, do they orient their lives to him?  Do they surrender to him as Lord?  Do they live the life of the disciple and see him as supreme in all things?  Our goal, by God’s grace, it to nurture this kind of fame on God’s behalf.  We do not desire that people would merely know of him.  Our passion is that people would know him intimately and that this intimacy would permeate the culture, reorient lives toward God, and cause the world to joyfully surrendering to him.  We desire that the world would celebrate him over all things.  David expressed a passion for what we are doing when he said,

I will extol you, my God and King, and bless your name forever and ever.  Every day I will bless you and praise your name forever and ever.  Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised, and his greatness is unsearchable. One generation shall commend your works to another, and shall declare your mighty acts. On the glorious splendor of your majesty, and on your wondrous works, I will meditate. They shall speak of the might of your awesome deeds, and I will declare your greatness. They shall pour forth the fame of your abundant goodness and shall sing aloud of your righteousness.  (Psalm 145:1-7 ESV)

Brandon Washington
The Embassy Church
…making God famous throughout the world.
www.theembassy.org

______________________________________________________

[1] Paul made this point again in Colossians 1:15, “…all things were created through him and for him.”

[2] I am fully aware of the fact that I am being repetitious.  It is intentional.

[3] In fact, we would assert that EVERYONE is aware of God’s existence (Romans 1:18-32).   Anyone that denies his existence is trying to convince the heart of that which it cannot sincerely believe (Psalm 14:1).

Posted in Church Planting, Community, Discipleship, Mission, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Why do we do what we do? (The Four Questions)

I’m sure that many of you are familiar with the anecdotal tale of a young bride who was preparing her first family dinner.  As she was about to put a large roast into the oven to begin baking, her mother stopped her and said “You have to cut three inches off the roast before you bake it.”  Puzzled, the daughter asked her mother “Why?”  “Because that’s the way my mother taught me to do it, and she always makes the best roast lamb” said the mother.  Still puzzled, the daughter went to find her grandmother.  “Nana,” she asked, “Mom says you have to cut three inches off of the roast before putting it in the oven to bake.  Why?”  “Well dear, when I was a new bride and I baked my first roast lamb for dinner the lamb was eighteen inches long.  The largest roasting pan I had was fifteen inches long, so I had to cut three inches off of the lamb to make it fit the pan.”  The bride realized that her mother has been unnecessarily discarding three inches from of every roast she has ever cooked because she had never thought to ask, “Why?”

When was the last time you stepped back and took a good look at your daily routine and asked, “Why do we do this?”  Recently, I was confronted with this opportunity while having a conversation with a fellow church planter.  He said, “You guys seem to be intentionally stifling your numeric growth.  How do you intend to pay bills and gather volunteers?”  Essentially, he was reviewing a list of our behaviors and asking, “Why do you do that?”  It is an excellent question.  And we were most pleased to answer him.

While we had never identified our approach as an “intentional stifling” of growth,[1] we do know what he is referring to.  We prefer to identify it as an intentional approach to healthy growth.  We are warring against the revolving front door that results in many people coming and going without being engaged for the sake of discipleship.  If discipleship is our goal for the future, then it must dictate today’s structure and practices.  If we are going to thrive we must have leaders in place who fully affirm the vision and have a heart for making disciples.

Typically, the objective of a new church is to gather as many people as possible for the sake of covering the volunteer and financial needs.  Marketing tactics (e.g. mass mailers and events) are standard operating procedure during the early days of a church plant and it seemed odd to our fellow church planter that we had chosen to deemphasize these practices.  We should be clear on one notable point — we are by no means critical of marketing.  In fact, we will be taking advantage of some of these practices this fall. [2]  Also, we fully appreciate the reasoning behind his question; we are experientially aware of the need for volunteers and finances.  But if discipleship is our priority, then it seems shortsighted to allow these “needs” (please note our use of quotation marks) to drive our mission.  We had two concerns that influenced the manner in which we are approaching our church model:

1)    We have concluded that it is necessary to have a strong representation of leaders in place prior to a mass influx of people.  These leaders are essential in that they are arbiters of The Embassy Church’s language and culture.  When new people come, they will meet people that already understand the mission and our desired impact on the city for the sake of the gospel.
2)    While we do not dismiss the legitimacy of “attractional” actions by the church, our DNA calls us to prioritize the “missional” mandate of Matthew 28:18-20.  In other words, it is more important to us to have Embassadors that “Go…and make disciples…” instead of merely inviting them to “church.”  Again, we recognize the legitimacy of inviting people to the worship gathering.  But we would prefer they be invited as the guests of missional disciple-makers who are living with Gospel intentionality.

With these two points in mind we decided that we should dedicate our first twelve months to the finding, equipping, and launching of missional leaders.  God has already affirmed this decision by bringing many leaders to The Embassy Church who have hearts for the city and resonate with our vision.[3]  But one thing became very clear to us; if we intend for the vision to be contagious we must word it in a concise, memorable, and clear manner.[4]  For us, this boiled the mission down to the four questions that every Embassador should be able to answer. [5]

1)    What are we doing?  (The Mission)
2)    Why are we doing it?  (The Values)
3)    How are we going to get it done?  (The Strategies)
4)    When do we have a win?  (The Measure)

If you know the answers to these four questions and see the vision picture that they are framing you will know all that there is to know about The Embassy Church.  More importantly, you will see the results of us asking, “Why do we do what we do?”  We will cheat and give you the answers the four questions now.

1) WHAT ARE WE DOING?
We are making God famous throughout the world.

2) WHY ARE WE DOING IT?
He is uniquely worthy of such attention.  All things were created and designed to make him famous.

3) HOW ARE WE DOING IT?
Missional Communities
Worship Gatherings
“Sacred Space”

4) WHEN DO WE WIN? (What is our measure of success?)
We win every time the number of disciple-makers increases.

We will unpack the answers to each of these questions over the next few weeks of our blog series.  We would love to see this initiate a conversation among our readers for the sake of clarity on who we are and what we are about.  Post any comments and questions below and let’s discuss what it means to make God famous throughout the world.

Brandon Washington
The Embassy Church
…making God famous throughout the world.
www.theembassy.org

______________________________

[1] We were concerned that we were growing too fast.  I guess its all a matter of perspective.

[2] Social networking is the “Areopagus” (Acts 17:16-34) of our day.  The call to be a missionary and contextualize compels us to redeem this means of engaging.

[3] There has been such an influx of leaders that we will be launching six Missional Communities this summer and will have as many as ten by the end of the year.  If you have never heard of a missional community, stay tuned as we will be discussing them in week four of this blog series.  If you can’t wait you can watch Pastor Jeff Vandertelt discuss them hear: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lc4tsw3kCok

[4] Will Mancini, Church Unique, (San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 2008)

[5] Mancini refers to these four points as: 1) Mission, 2) Values, 3) Strategies, and 4) Measures.  But we prefer the 4-questions format, which we inherited from Pastor Brett Crimmel of Forefront Church.

Posted in Church Planting, Discipleship, Mission, Team | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Theology of Suffering – The Testimony of Keith Clerihue

A few years ago I met a brilliant, quick-witted man named Keith Clerihue. We were on staff at the same Church in the Denver metro area and his office was down the hall from mine. He is not a man of imposing physical stature, in fact when I met him I recall noting how svelte he was. In a few short months he became my friend and I grew to love him as a brother. I learned a lot about him; the svelte guy is in fact a big man. I learned that he loves his wife. He publicly celebrates and affirms Lori at every given opportunity. He is a great father to two sons. Kip and Bode both look and dress like their dad. His influence on them is undeniable. He has an artistic eye. As a photographer he is uniquely capable of appreciating textures, colors, and design. I am jealous of this gift. In fact, he once teased me for hanging the pictures in my office “…too high for the average human to see.” He is hilarious!!! He makes me laugh every time I see him. He has a certain prophetic tendency that allows him to readily recognize the upside of an experience. This is just one more of his qualities that I wish we shared. He is a good man. I do not say that quickly nor flippantly. Keith Clerihue is a good, flawed, Christ-Loving man. He has surrendered himself to the call of discipleship and his life reflects his surrender.

There was an occasion in which Keith decided to tell me his story. He and I sat in his office on opposite sides of his desk and we had a conversation about who he is. In this conversation I learned that Lori is not his first wife. His first wife succumbed to Cancer a few years before I met him. This insight gave context to his prophetic tendency. In spite of this experience he still displays joy and expects great things from God. As I am processing what he has just told me he hits me with more insight. He is himself a Cancer survivor. He told me the story of his painful recovery and how Lori custom made intensely rich milkshakes for him to put some meat on his bones. He showed me photos of a Keith Clerihue who was even more svelte than the one sitting before me. It was a lot for me to take in, but he did not miss the opportunity to emphasize the virtue of such a testimony. He has, by way of experience and biblical comprehension, a finely honed theology of suffering. He is able to see God in the trial and in a manner that still overwhelms me he is able to “count it all joy” (James 1:2).

Since we had that conversation Keith has continued to war with Cancer’s attack on his body. He has been diagnosed for a third time. And he has seen fit to use this moment to preach the most courageous message I have ever heard. He knows that his faith in the midst of this trial will produce steadfastness. And he knows that this steadfastness will result in his wholeness; completion. “He will be lacking in nothing” (James 1:2-4). I’m not saying that he is enduring this trial because he is a good man. Instead I am telling you that he is a good man because this trial, along with many others, has honed him into the surrendered disciple that you see in the video below. God threw his “curveball,” and then God rejoiced because Keith stayed in the batters box and perfectly timed the swing of his bat.

Invest 4 ½ minutes of your life to watch this video. Click the “Curveball” link and be blessed by the testimony of God’s man. Thanks for publishing your story Keith.

“Curveball” – A Small Piece of Keith’s Story

Posted in Bible, Discipleship | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The greatest sermon I have ever heard

About fifteen years ago a came across a sermon by Dr. John Piper entitled, “Doing Missions When Dying Is Gain.”  Obviously the title was an attention getter so I set time aside and listened to it.  I had no idea how much it would influence my life.  It not only gave me clarity in regards to missions, it also made me think about suffering and calling.  It is, bar none, the single greatest sermon I have ever heard and I still reference it to this day.

Here’s the link; give it a listen.

http://www.desiringgod.org/resource-library/conference-messages/doing-missions-when-dying-is-gain

Brandon

Striving toward Kingdom Community and Discipleship,
www.theembassy.org

Posted in Community, Discipleship, Mission | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment