Providence Church Blog A gospel-centered church in Austin, Tx


Author Archive

The Joy of Waiting

What is the joy of waiting? We have all experienced how waiting and anticipation heightens the joy of consummation. The first example that comes to mind is the birth of a child. If babies came right after conception, the new life might bring more shock and fear than joy in the moment. Perhaps God’s gift to us is time — time to tell everyone our good news, time to paint a room and buy things, time to prepare ourselves for this new life. Instantaneous birth would rob us of the joy of waiting, but with nine months to prepare and imagine, the birthday comes as a glorious celebration!

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Carrying the Cross of Peace

As the Roman soldiers led Jesus to his crucifixion, he became too weary to carry his cross, so “they found a man of Cyrene, Simon by name. They compelled this man to carry his cross” (Matthew 27:32). The way the story reads, Simon of Cyrene was inconsequential, a mere bystander, a wrong-place-wrong-time casualty. I imagine that he was simply going about his business as usual – doing the day’s tasks, thinking of things that interest him, and talking to friends – when he stopped to see what all the commotion was about. And that, of course, is how he got dragged into the mess.

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Advent and Church Planting

In Advent, we look back on the Word made flesh, the incarnation of Jesus. There are good, sentimental aspects to this season, but when we look at it through the lens of mission, we remember why Jesus came: To seek and save the lost, to reconcile people to God, to renew culture and bless the nations. And then He commissioned His disciples to continue the work, to take the gospel to the ends of the earth, primarily by planting new churches. This is our task until He comes again. We don’t normally think of church planting and Advent in the same category, but perhaps we should.

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Advent Poem

Come, Lord Jesus Come.
Come when you will.
We await your return.

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Getting Ready for Advent

Depending on your background, you may or may not have observed Advent before. I had never given it a thought until a few years ago. I entered into it experimentally … to see if it would really affect my mindset leading up to Christmas, or if it would  just be a religious ritual. It could be either, I suppose, depending on how you approach it.

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False Religion

In college I measured my progress in faith by what I didn’t do. In ministry, I measured my progress by what I did do (my performance). In both cases, I was trying to establish a righteousness of my own, before God and others. That kind of Christianity is not only exhausting; it’s actually not Christianity at all. It’s legalism – an approach to God that treats Him as a system to be worked rather than a person to be known and loved and served.

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The Gospel

We articulate the message of the gospel in this way: It is the good news that God saves sinners through the life, death, and resurrection of His Son Jesus. It’s worth meditating a bit on each part. That’s what I do in this audio clip:

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Lent: Giving Up & Taking Up

The Lenten season is a time of preparation and repentance in which we make our hearts ready for remembering Jesus’ passion and celebrating Jesus’ resurrection. The forty day period is symbolic of “repentance seasons” in the Bible (Genesis 7:4, Exodus 24:18, Jonah 3:4, Matthew 4:2). The purpose is not merely an extended meditation on Christ’s suffering and death, but is rather a season to explore and deepen our sense of union with Christ.

The common question among those observing Lent is, “What are you giving up for Lent?” Before you answer that, please know that giving up caffeine or TV- while probably good for you – is not the main point.

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The Church Guards the Gospel

To guard the gospel means to uphold it as true and defend it against whatever is contrary. The very thought confronts one of our deepest cultural values: individualism.

This value makes us feel that “I” am the final authority on what I believe and do. It passes as inclusivism, but it is really just individualism. Far from promoting community, it promotes autonomy and surface relationships.

This value has shaped our view of church as well. Christians love concepts like “organic church,” and we say things like: “When I am with my friends serving people, that is church.” I continue to hear church leaders say that we need to stop talking about what we believe and start focusing on doing what we believe. Such sentiments reflect our individualistic desire to define church and spirituality on our own terms. When someone is confronted by a pastor with regard to his doctrine or conduct, he is likely to hear it as good advice from a respected friend, but not as admonishment from godly authority. His “right” is to proceed however he wants because the individual is the final authority.

So this is an important question for our day. What does it mean that the church guards the gospel?

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The Gospel and the Church

For the most part, people in our culture have written off the church as a necessary or even a helpful institution. The result is a movement, even among Christians, toward decentralization and individualism. That which has historically been central to the church is now being pushed out to the individual so that “I” am the authority when it comes to what I believe and what I do. I see why we are like this, but honestly, it is just another swing of the pendulum from our experience of ineffective or abusive churches to a definition of church that really isn’t church at all, historically speaking. The answer, of course, is not to do away with the church, but to be the church, truly.

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