For the past few months you have been barraged by a repeated, urgent, and impact-promising one word directive: VOTE! No matter what side you are on, the instruction is the same: VOTE! We know we cannot individually change America, but voting is a small way our individual voice speaks collectively into a community chorus, and is a part of the shaping of the present and future of our great nation.
By the time you get this, the election will be over (probably . . . possibly . . . well, at least your part in voting will be done!). There will have been a deep breath and celebration if your party won, or a sinking let down temporary despair if your party lost. Regardless, your vote was cast with everyone else’s and your political role is done for a few years. Time to get back to dealing with the daily challenges of the immediate personal life in your home, work, and community.
We as Americans hold this one word “vote” so dear, cherish it as an idea and ideal, and participate in an effort to change the world for the better by turning it into action once every couple of years.
In Scripture, there is a one word directive that is also repeated, urgent, and impact promising. PRAY! (Philippians 4: 6, Matt. 6: 9-13, 26: 41, Ephesians 6: 18, 1 Timothy 2: 8, James 5: 13-18, Romans 12: 12, and so many more!)
But there is not God of the Democrats and God of the Republicans, there is one God and He is King of whoever seeks Him. And instead of it being a small way our individual voice speaks collectively, our prayers are received directly by the King! And we, as Christians, know we cannot individually change the world, but we know that He can THROUGH us!
When we pray, we are not asking for God to bid OUR will, we are offering ourselves to bid HIS will! And after we pray, we only not disheartened if we didn’t get our way, we celebrate because we get His (John 15: 7)!
After the prayer is done, we get back to dealing with the daily challenges of the immediate personal life in our homes, work, and community. But instead of our vote being in the past and the power in a distant political district, our prayer is in the present and the power is in the Holy Spirit IN US!
Pray for our leaders, our nation, the worldwide body of Christ, and those who are on the front line of defending them.
“The lines mark out a delightful place for me.” These are the words of David’s song in Psalm 16: 6. It’s a beautifully worded timeless truth: boundaries are a normal and beneficial aspect of our human condition. And conversely, where we don’t have boundaries the enemy will flood in and devour that delight, leaving us empty and exhausted.
Did you know that the Greek word paradeisos, that we translate as “paradise,” quite literally means “walled garden?” Why would it be important that the garden be walled? That paradise insinuates boundaries?
Take a moment to think of all the boundaries in your life. Skin, clothes, house, fence. Time, commitments, relationships. To whom and when you’ll say yes or no. Time you won’t call or send a text to someone. What you will and won’t eat. Can you easily recognize where you have weak boundaries? Does it happen to be where your delight is leaking?
Think about the boundaries in the world. Where the land meets the sea. County and state lines, national borders, time zones. Language barriers, cultural divides. State and federal laws determining what is and isn’t allowed. Where there are not clear and agreed upon boundaries just so happen to be the places of dispute, violence, and contention.
For the next 6-8 weeks, we will be exploring the topic of boundaries based on stories we find in the Bible. Adam and Eve, Lot, Jacob, Moses, Solomon, Nehemiah, the Pharisees, and Jesus will be the characters we will study as we reflect on the need God gave us for proper boundaries. We'll end up talking about what happens when they're lacking, what happens when they're to the extreme, and what it looks and feels like when they're in line with His intent and instruction.
God makes us a promise that we don’t have to wait until we die to have peace, rest, joy, love, and live in His presence, and there’s a boundary that separates that kingdom from the kingdom of the world. Please join us as we aim to live in that kingdom, keep it pure, and invite as many other lost souls in to join us.
See you at the watering hole!
In the early mornings, I have a routine of going downstairs, sitting in the still and quiet closed coffee shop and slowly wake up with the sunrise and a short cup of long drawn espresso. This summer, I found myself looking out the french doors and wide windows with increasing discouragement and disappointment. The pandemic, the riots, the spinning of news for political agendas, the divided nation, and my lack of ability to do much of anything was really getting me down. The world on the other side of the windows just seemed to be getting uglier and uglier.
Then one day Kasity came down, saw the morning sun’s reflection off all the bug guts, dirty rain residue, and hand prints and said simply, “Ugh, we really need to clean the windows.” After spraying and wiping the windows clean enough for a bird to fly into, I sat back down and considered the difference.
The unkempt residue of the grubbiness of life had built up so much on the windows I was looking at the world through I couldn’t tell the difference between the world’s mess and my own. With clean windows, the sunrise was a sunrise, not a blinding glare off the muddy marks of time. With clean windows, I can see the birds waking up and flirting with each other from the power line to the tree tops. With clean windows, it's easier to see determination in the eyes of morning walkers and joggers. With a clean perspective, I can see clearly the street we call home - where hard working men and women are adapting to the pandemic, good people are looking out for each other regardless of race, income, reputation or political affiliation, and there are no protests, riots or fires.
It got me thinking that maybe my eyes need a cleaning, too. Romans 12: 2 says “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” After a prayer for clean perspective and a moment of quiet paying attention, renewal is real and worthwhile. It became clear as my windows that part of my discouragement and disappointment was the natural effect of rolling my daybreak eyes in newsfeeds and social media rather than Scripture and the immediate world around me.
How we see the world determines how we treat it. How we treat it, it often becomes. How we see people determines how we treat them. How we treat them, they often become. Start your day with some Windex. And renew your perspective by asking for God’s eyes. He sees it all and STILL says, “Rejoice.”
“Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things.” -Psalm 119: 18
“Open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins (WINDEX!) and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.” - Acts 26: 18
“Have the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which He has called you.” -Ephesians 1:18
“The eye is the lamp of the body. So if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light.” -Matthew 6: 22
SEE you at the watering hole.
Why the Minister Changed His Name: In My Own Words
It’s not often that you get intimate details of a minister’s life and family history. Part of that is because people view and treat ministers as a different species of humanesque form with the responsibility to bear the presence of Christ. Partly, we really don’t know the intimate details of many people’s lives. We pastors have human lives very similar to yours, face similar conflicts, and have details in the background that typically don’t matter much.
So when you find out that a minister (or anyone, really) has had a name change, the natural question is, “Why?!” Seems like a juicy story. Did something bad posted on social media catch up with him? Escaping a criminal history? Trying to be someone different, or have a more marketable moniker? There really aren’t many good reasons for a man to change his name, even if you’re a give-him-the-benefit-of-the-doubt type of person.
My name is Sean, and about a year ago my family changed our last name to King. There is nothing embarrassing on the internet, I have no criminal history, I’m not trying to market myself, be fashionable, or be someone other than who God made me to be. In my family’s case, changing our last name is actually allowing us to be who God made us to be.
To my congregation: you have been faithful, trusting, and loving as our family has been dealing with the fallout of an imploded family line. Thank you. You have been a large part of our healing and I have been grateful for the expectation to live blamelessly and prayerfully in Christ through conflict. You’ve had questions, and though the leadership has been in full awareness and confidence, you have not known more than what was age appropriate for my daughter. It has been on my heart to share more with you in a gesture of vulnerability and transparency.
So why did we change our name?
Scripture warns us in Numbers 32: 23, “your sins will find you out.” In 2017, it was brought to light that my father is a child sex abuser. Simply put, we want nothing to do with that, no ties to it, and make sure our children know that such action is not excusable, ignorable, or acceptable. To not separate from such a sin would have been a bold statement to our children as well.
We did not change our name as a knee jerk reaction, in anger, as a rejection of people and God’s ability to work with and through them, or as a way to hide or ignore the past. In fact, by initiating a name change, questions will be asked, discussions will be had, and through that openness truth has the ability to break cycles and set you free.
Is it Scriptural?
Last names changes are not directly addressed in the Bible, as it was a vastly different world in regards to record keeping, governance, and the expression of family in the community. You could make arguments for and against, but you could not justify a requirement of name change or requirement of keeping a name. But the call for ANY married couple to distance from their parents and focus on their marriage is clear from the beginning (Gen. 2: 24), to protect children (and teach them right from wrong) is a primary objective of parents, and to break destructive and dangerous cycles is the foundational purpose of why God became flesh. New life is a Scriptural promise, and for us it ended up with a changed name (it did not begin with a changed name).
As far as name changes in general, they were not unfamiliar, and were in fact quite meaningful when it happened. Abram and Sarai were commanded to leave their familiar world, and God changed their names to Abraham and Sarah. Jacob (heel grabber) was renamed “Israel” (struggles/reigns with God). Jesus renamed Peter (the rock) to emphasize his mission as a disciple. Moses, Joshua, Naomi, Esau, Daniel, Paul and others were known by other names at another point in their lives.
On the other hand, there were a lot of questionable characters in Jesus’ lineage that God turned for His glory in the end. The “Sons of Korah” were remembered not by their own names, but by their father who rebelled against Moses and God.
So God can do something with a corrupted name, and God can do something with a new name. For us, it was an appropriate new beginning with abundant positive meaning and symbolism directly related to our journey with God.
So, if your family is dysfunctional, should you change your name?
I’m fully aware that as a minister, I bear a responsibility of leading by example. The example I hope to set publicly is that our decision to change last names declares that there was a problem big enough to address, and that breaking cycles is no light matter. The name change is not the example, per se, but it does publicly represent the need to have the conversation about breaking from patterns of evil. It would have been much easier to hide my family’s past if we just kept our old name and moved on with life.
Families are systems, and many systems mirror the broken world. Although not everyone who has a broken family should consider changing their name, everyone who understands the nature of being a disciple of Jesus Christ understands that we are called to be cycle breakers, especially when the cycle is dangerous for you or your children. What this looks like will be different for every family.
Our decision came AFTER years of seeking, learning, healing, and praying. You don’t change your name and things get better. The problems of the past, nuances of family dynamics, and “sins of the father” can still follow you. A name change can’t be an erasure of the past or a “covering up.” When you try to erase or cover up, that is one of the principle traits of a dangerous family system. Our children will know we changed our name, know why, and know the meaning of the name we wear.
There are a lot of questions you’d have to ask yourself before considering changing your name. Are you doing it to run away from something, hide something, make it go away? Again, it might have the opposite desired effect - continuing a pattern of hiding or avoiding issues, making you explain over and over what you wanted to ignore, etc. Also, if you’re ever going to look for a job, it’s going to come up on a background check and could affect your credibility.
Why the name King?
The name King wasn’t pulled out of thin air. Kasity’s father, Kyle King, had three daughters and his good name had ended with him. It was not until we found out that we were having a son (after ten years of trying!) that we seriously considered changing our name. The last name King does not just honor an admirable lineage, but also represents whose we are as Christians - a constant reminder of whose name we wear.
Our son’s first name, Nehemiah, is also significant to our situation and the times we live in. In the Bible, Nehemiah is the one who initiated the rebuilding of the walls in Jerusalem during the Persian reign. In today’s time, we are experiencing the fallout of decades of ignoring the appropriateness and necessity of boundaries. “Paradise” in Hebrew refers to “Eden” and literally means “walled-place.” His placement in our life at this time and our focus on names represents our dedication to exploring the ways we can rebuild and renew families in ways that glorify God for generations.
Has the name change affected our ministry or credibility?
Our ministry? Not at all. More importantly, the trials have amplified our ability to connect with and understand the struggles of an even broader range of people.
Our credibility? Because we have been as open as we can be without compromising the innocent, it seems like people are more open with us because they know we’ve been through something, too. People who have been to hell and back are able to pick up a lot of people on the way. The credibility comes when people can tell which direction you are going, and our lives as Christians are living testimonies to the truth of Jesus’ death and resurrection.
I will be continuing the discussion of the deep and meaningful lessons we have learned in our struggle here on this blog including the themes of forgiveness, reconciliation, honoring father and mother, re-discovering the ancient paths, sin, consequence, and heavenly justice vs. human justice.
What advice would I give to someone else going through a similar situation?
Talk to someone, life is too much to do alone. A preacher, a mentor, good friend or trustworthy family member. Talk to God, ask for guidance. Ask, seek, knock. Don’t ignore, hide, distract, or self destruct. None of this is new to the world, but tomorrow has a chance to be. You can even email me if you don’t know where to start!
With the hope and peace that IS Christ,
I think we can all agree that this COVID mess, political strife, and a media that thrives off conflict has initiated and inflamed a sifting, a separating of sorts. Masks, no masks. Black lives matter, all lives matter. Democrat, republican. Increase police, decrease police. But I think we can also agree that something is off with these divisions. Can you put words to what it is?
There is definitely a separation going on, but it’s not the above examples. Because if you look at it, there are angry people on both sides, rabble rousers on both sides, need for control on both sides, and arrogant pride on both sides.
There are lines drawn, but these are not what separates or unites us. Consider these scriptures:
“Rejoice in the Lord always, again I say rejoice! The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and petition with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” -Philippains 4: 4-6
“Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think on these things.” -Philippians 4: 8
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and will all your mind. . . Love your neighbor as yourself.” -Matthew 22: 37-38
“Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves.” -2 Corinthians 13: 5
“Do you ot know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” -1 Corinthians 6: 19-20
Read each of these again, and use Scripture as a mirror instead of the false dichotomies of the world. This is the time where the true sifting happens between those who will find reason to rejoice and those who will not, those who will increase in devotion to prayer or not, think on excellent things worthy of praise or not, love God and neighbor or not, examine themselves or not, glorify God in their body or not. All of these things (and other instructions and encouragements in the Scriptures) point toward the unifying point of separation: whether we bear fruit or not.
Jesus tells us in John 15: 16, “I appointed you that you should go and bear fruit.” Are you bearing fruit?
Don’t feel wretched or condemned if you haven’t been. The invitation is that you begin now. The world needs fruit, and it is up to us Christians not to condemn those who aren’t, but to feed them from the vine that has proven true. Will you join me?
“Can’t it just go back to normal?!!”
Have you asked this question lately? Have you been grappling with where your patience and endurance ends? Me, too! I just want things to be like they used to! I want to hug everyone, shake your hands, pack 50 people in our fellowship hall for a meal, and only see people in masks on halloween!
Can’t we just DECLARE it back to normal and act like it is?
What would it take to go back to normal? For the virus to go away, or for humans to behave in such a way and be so adapted and healthy that the danger is gone. Or a reliable medical solution that minimizes risk and severity. Or all of the above. That’s when we feel that “ahh, we made it,” feeling.
Now can you imagine God looking around at His creation after Adam and Eve took the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil, trying to attain the likeness of God? The generations of lawlessness and rebellion, sin and depravity? The Israelites in the wilderness complaining about their temporary discomfort, the people doing what was right according to their own eyes in the time of the judges? The people clamoring for a king like everyone else, and even David and Solomon’s indiscretions? Can you picture God watching the kingdom He directed turn to ruin as His people abandoned and ignored Him?
“Can’t it just go back to normal?!!” Like it was in Eden when humans walked with God and talked with Him? It can. It did. And the vaccine has been here for two thousand years. All we have to do is trust our Great Physician and take it.
Jesus is the promised Son of Adam (Son of Man) that crushes the head of the serpent (Gen. 3: 15), the Passover Lamb slain so the spirit of death will pass over us (Ex. 12), he’s the way the truth and the light (John 14: 6), he’s the bread of life (John 6: 35), the living water (Jer. 2: 13, John 7: 37-39), the true vine (John 15: 1), the temple of God (John 2: 21), the atoning and forgiving sacrifice (1 John 2: 2). He is our way back to Eden, back to the way things are supposed to be. He’s not just our doctor, he’s our medicine, our personal trainer, or our life coach, he’s our very life.
And no matter what historic pandemic is covering the globe, no matter what the government says we can or cannot do, and no matter what excuses we come up with for not getting our own self back to Eden, He has made a way. Will you take it?
Just spending time with Him is enough to give you a taste of how good it is in God’s “normal.” I prescribe to you just a dose of quiet time, a dose of Scripture, a dose of prayer, and a few old hymns. Start with a small amount, and as you get better, take more.
See you at the garden.
This month, and through the summer, we will be exploring the book of Acts, the massive conversions, and earliest Church. I encourage you to read through the book several times. Devote yourself to it, figure out what’s going on, and come with the questions!
We won’t get as detailed as our deep study of the words of Jesus in Matthew, but take notice that it says over and over that the apostles would teach, teach, teach the new converts - but never explicitly says what they taught. Every time you see this remember Jesus’ “Great Commission.”
Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them . . . teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. . . - Matthew 28: 19-20
They were teaching what we just finished studying! The words of Jesus! It would be quite the lengthy book if the author included and repeated all the teachings of Jesus over and over. In fact, it was out of the need to make sure those words were preserved and spread around that the Gospels were written! When we read the Gospels, we’re reading what the disciples were teaching to those very first churches!
I mention this because in the book of Acts, many of the highlights include amazing and difficult to grasp miracles of the Spirit, sermons steeped in Old Testament prophecy, and characters with such holy fervor that they are sometimes hard to relate to. It’s much easier to relate to the observing crowds. Because as readers of the book of Acts, we are a part of the observing crowd.
And as one in the observing crowd, we are challenged with the same questions they were: “was Jesus really the one sent to save the world?” If yes, continue to the next question. If no, spend some time on the first.
“What then shall we do?” Peter says in Acts 2: 38 to Repent, be baptized for forgiveness, and accept the Holy Spirit. If having a hard time with any of those, spend some time with them, learn, ask questions! You’re not the only one in that boat, because after instructing those things, the apostles still had to teach, teach, teach! What did they teach? What Jesus taught. We have everything the original church had, and as we’ll learn this month, if it is not from God it will fizzle out. 2000 years later, it seems like we’re far from it!
The same real, tested, and true invitation to wholeness, healing, purpose, and immediate relationship with God is open to us here at the ends of the earth. It’s more than an opportunity of a lifetime, it's an opportunity of life! To God be the glory.
In Acts 1: 6, the resurrected Jesus is with the disciples and just told them to hole up in Jerusalem and wait for the promise of God, and they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom?” In verse 7, Jesus’ answered, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority.”
In Revelation 6, the angels ask God how long before all the cool stuff happens (paraphrased), and in verse 11 God answers by simply handing them white robes and telling them to rest a little longer.
In Matthew 24: 42, Jesus tells the disciples to “stay awake, for you do not know what day the Lord is coming.”
In the same vein, I am asking like many of you: “When do we get to go back to church?!” And I imagine God saying, like a good parent, “Soon.” And like typical children we ask, “Why not NOW?” And he hands us some white robes and tells us to remain in His holy rest a little longer.
This application of God’s nature to our current circumstance reminds us of a few timeless truths. Often, when God is up to something involving us, He already has a timetable. Our hastiness not only shows unbelief, but can also throw a wrench in the gears of how He is going to use us in the right moment!
Whatever it is God has planned for you, and for our church body, is going to benefit TREMENDOUSLY by our keeping pure in the waiting (ever been handed white clothes to put on?) and our familiarity with God’s holy rest. When God says, “NOW!” we are going to need that stored energy from the rest in waiting, and others are going to judge the validity of our testimony by the whiteness of our robes.
Our testimony is that EVERYONE is invited to live in a city, a holy nation, a divine body where peace overcomes anxiety, where love conquers apathy, where goodness scatters evil, and hope eradicates fear. Our call as a church is to bring that message to the world, and we can’t do it with fitful and impatient rest. We can’t do it with dirt still clogging our hearts, minds, ears and mouths.
Let us be of one accord this month in EXPECTATION that we will be able to gather again, but also with PREPARATIVE WAITING for a return to that gathering with GREAT PURPOSE, energy, and purity. Let us not return wishing we had made better use of the time, gnashing our teeth at a missed chance to reinstill God’s strength of presence in our daily lives.
We will be together soon. If there is anything I can do to help you in preparation for a renewed walk with God, please don’t hesitate to call on me. Even moreso, to call straight to God Himself.
As I write this, we have just missed one Sunday service and scrambled oh so imperfectly to provide a semblance of church for you, only to hope that you were able to step up and be a shepherd in your own house, leading your own worship. Maybe by the time this gets out things are running a little smoother, or maybe we’re back in church!
One of the biggest difficulties we immediately faced was how to get a hold of everyone. We live in a time when some people only communicate through facebook, some email, some text, some call, and some won’t do anything but face to face! And even then, not all the texts go through, the emails are filtered to the wrong tab, voicemails can disappear into space, or you don’t answer the door because you think it’s a salesman or you’re asleep! I’ve struggled with the pressure to get everyone on the same page, but there is no sure way to reach everybody and be that “one body” that Paul urges for so constantly.
Or is there? Did you realize that God is seeking you out in much the same way, only more? He’s trying to reach you through songs, through Scripture, through friends, and through silence. He’s calling in any way He can reach you. He even spoke to the foreign Magi through the language of stars, to show up at His nonstop effort to reach all of humanity - His becoming flesh, His defeating death, and His Great Commission.
There I was just explaining how difficult it is to get everyone on the same page. Did you catch the mistake? I was thinking if I could just get a hold of everyone perfectly, we’d be one, perfectly. I could reach everyone, we could do things together, but there’s someone WAAAAAY more important than me that’s trying to reach you. Luke says of Jesus (19: 10), “the Son of Man has come to SEEK and to SAVE that which was lost.”
Yes, please check your gmail, church texts, newsletters. But I have a feeling we won’t really be that “one body” until we check our “G”mail. When we’re all on the same page with God, it won’t matter how many ways your preacher tries, we’ll be on the same page. The same page of the same book of life.
“But an hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers wil worship the Father in spirit and in truth, for the Father is SEEKING such people to worship him.” -John 4:23
God is seeking you out, are you available?
In January of 2018, we started a sermon series titled “The Words of Jesus in Matthew.” I thought it would be a good idea, since we are supposed to be disciples of Jesus, to revisit with intent and intensity the things the Son of God actually spoke. Not what your friends say Jesus would say, not what your grandma said Jesus said, and not what you think Jesus would say - but what he actually said!
To be honest, even as a trained preacher I was surprised with some of the content and directness Jesus included. At times what he said made perfect sense and at other times I struggled. How important it is to struggle with Scripture! Grappling with the difficult passages is what helps our human mind turn slowly and catch glimpses of the perspective from which Jesus speaks!
I didn’t want to try to squeeze it all in a pre-set time frame, but simply take the time needed as a church to reflect on the words of our Lord. Now, over two years later, you’ll never guess how God has lined it up. As we follow the natural progression of words, we will end with Jesus’ resurrection ON Easter (and wrap up the series with the Great Commission the next week).
If you missed out on any of the sermons, they are now available on our website with an upgraded audio capability.
ALSO, on Easter and the few weeks after, we will be taking individual or family photos for the church directory. Our membership policy right now is simply: “If you feel like a member, you are,” and everything else we’ll work out along the way. Now, get back to being a reflection of Jesus in your world!
See you at the watering hole.
Sean King is the Pastor for First Christian Church of Cisco.