J. Gordon Duncan

Culture, Business, Fitness, Etc.

Vacation Musings

Vacation is the brass ring for Americans.  So often, the attitude is “work, work, work” just so we can go to and/or justify vacation.  There is often a buildup of expectation to get there and a dread about returning home.  I’ve experienced these at various times in my life.  I’ve worked only to get away and then dreaded to return.

 

This isn’t the case for me anymore.  Oh, I was excited to go on vacation, but I wasn’t jettisoning a life I hated to get to a mirage-like week away.  And I definitively can say that I don’t dread returning.  I wish this was the case for every pastor, but I know its not.

 

Part of this is because I pastor a great church in Garner, NC (Sovereign King Church) that loves me, loves each other, and loves our community.  Their desire to know Jesus and serve Him is amazing and unique.  They are not a perfect community, but that makes sense as no one in the crowd is perfect anyway.

 

My vacation was like an extended Sabbath.  It was time away from many constant demands.  It was massive amounts of time playing, talking, and reading with my wife and kids.  It was a chance to read a couple of books.  It gave my body the rest it needed.  It attuned my heart to pray more effectively for the people at SK.  The unfuddled brain time gave me clarity about issues that had been beyond my mental grasp.  Oh, and it was a lot of fun too.

 

Yet, I am so glad to be home.  I’m glad to back in Garner, and I cannot wait to worship with the folks at SK.  I feel refreshed and enabled to love and serve and tell folks about the hope and comfort that Jesus has secured for them.

 

It is good to be back.

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October 14, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , | 1 Comment

The Weaker and the Stronger Brother Part Three – Holy Days

Part One of this series can be found here.  Part Two can be found here.  The audio can be found here.

5 One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. 6 The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God. 7 For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. 8 For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. 9 For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living.

Again as Jewish believers became accustomed to life in Christ, they struggled with what to do with all of their Jewish holidays.  The Gentile believers had no inclination to celebrate the Jewish festivals and holy days, so the struggle would arise between them as to whether or not it was a sin to observe or not observe.

So first of all, let’s clear up a few things.  Before we can understand how the two parties should settle their disputes, we need to understand what Paul saying about the celebration of days here.  Three things happened with the celebration of days once Jesus rose from the dead.

  • The celebration of the festivals were no longer binding as they were part of the ceremonial law completely fulfilled and set aside by Jesus’ perfect sacrifice.
  • The Passover which was replaced with the Lord’s Supper.
  • The Sabbath day of rest, gladness, and worship once on the Seventh day of the week in honor of the day God rested from creation was moved to the first day of the week in honor of Jesus’ resurrection per the Apostles’ example.

Is Paul speaking about these things?  Since the first example was about eating, some feel that he is referencing the practice of fasting that had become binding on many referenced in Luke 18.12.  Maybe…maybe not.  But if he his consistent, he is going to speak of the transition that takes place under the work of Christ and the subsequent struggle that occurs when people made that transition.  Can you imagine the challenge here for Jewish believers?

The Jewish folks would have said, “Listen I’m not giving up Passover and the Day of Atonement and the Days of Fasting.  And really, there has to be a day of rest each week because the Sabbath was established before there was sin in the world.  It’s just like marriage and work.  Those are things that don’t get set aside…and it has to be on a Saturday – that was the day God rested.  The Gentiles would have said, “Well, those days have all been taken care of in Jesus.  And of course there is still a day of rest, but because Jesus rose again on a Sunday – Sunday is when we worship and rest.  That’s what the apostles did.”  And thus another struggle of weaker and stronger brother arose.

The weaker brothers felt compelled to celebrate every holiday and felt bound to worship on Saturday.  The stronger brothers didn’t celebrate any of the Holy Days and worshiped on Sunday.

So do we have these struggles today?  Well, there is a view from some that say absolutely no day is to be celebrated which is the view taken by Jehovah’s Witnesses who are not believers in Christ, but they feel any holiday, birthday, and so on is wrong.  But aside from a few folks like Messianic Jews, Sunday worship isn’t much of an issue.  I think most Christians have a low-view of the day of rest, but not many folks argue about it.

There is a struggle with some Holy Days.  For example this past week, many Christians celebrated Lent.  Lent begins on Ash Wednesday and for many, they observe it with a 40 day fast of something as an act of repentance and faith.  This fast ends in the celebration of Easter (Jesus’ resurrection).  Nowhere in scripture is fasting for Lent commanded or even mentioned.  It is a holiday that the ancient church created and has practiced for hundreds of years.  The weaker brother would say you have to celebrate Lent.  The stronger brother would say I don’t have to celebrate it at all.  So…as verse 10 says,

10 Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God; 11 for it is written,

“As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.”

This is key for us as a church as we move forward in growth with each other.  Verse 10 and verse 11 wonders why in the world a believer would judge another believer or despise another brother?  Why would anyone do that when it is God who judges?  The thing for us each to remember is that there are not classes of Christians who get it and those who don’t.  Before the judgment seat of God, our Heavenly Father is not going to be up there settling our disputes.  No, we will bow down on our knees and the only words we will have to say will be words of praise confessing worship to God.”  So walk carefully in your judgment of another believer because as verse 12 says,

12 So then each of us will give an account of himself to God.

Salvation is by faith alone, yet every believer will give an account of themselves here are earth.  Salvation has been earned and gifted to you from God, yet God calls you to Holy Living and you will be held accountable for it.  Folks, in light of that, let’s walk away with a few truths and pick this back up next week.  The stronger and weaker brother disputes are only about things in which the scriptures are clear.  No one gets to claim so moral high ground about issues of opinion.

And if God would command us not to judge each other about issues of scripture, then how much more should we not judge each other over issues of opinion.  Yes, this church has a confessional doctrinal standard that many hold too and all of your officers will take vow to, yet what binds us together as a local body of Christ is our mutual confession of Jesus Christ.  If we embody the truths of this passage, we will be able to glorify God, build each other up in Jesus Christ, and serve the Town of Garner and the surrounding communities.

February 24, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , | Leave a comment

No Rest for the Weary

rest stopBack in my college days, I spent my summers working at Camp Willow Run on Lake Gaston.  Those days were incredibly hot and incredibly long.  That was the time of life where you would joyfully work 16 hours days for 6 days a week for $100.  The staff would jokingly say to one another whenever someone got tired, “Go to the ant you sluggard.  Consider her ways and be wise.”  Proverbs 6:6.

Now, I do know a few folks today that don’t work very hard and that verse might be a proper rebuke, but the opposite problem is really more of what I see day in and day out.  Last week, I was discussing the breakneck pace of life with a friend.  Not restricting our conversation to Sabbath/Lord’s Day legalities, we talked about what rest looked like in the day to day.  It really is allusive.  Yes, in this rare season with baseball/football/basketball/hockey/Nascar all in play, I suppose one can find rest by sitting down in front of the TV for a while, but with laptops, iphones, and every other form of media constantly calling to us, is rest found even then?

But there is a rest, even a daily one more rhythmic to our lives than sleep that God intends for His children.  It is the rest of daily prayer and the reading of scripture.  Sadly, in the midst of our days, we have time to eat (barely), sleep (minimally), work (incredibly), but taking 30 minutes a day to pray and reflect is rare.  And because of its rarity, so much rest is missed.

I know that some folks seek to redeem their commute each day by praying in the car and listening to sermons which I think is much more valuable that AM political/sports radio dreck, but even those things are not restful.  They might fill our hearts and minds with the good instead of the distracting, but doing those things in the car or while doing something else is squeezing in time with God among so many other things.  There is an intended rest that God promises as His child sits in silence with his or her Bible and heart open that cannot be found anywhere else.

And so many miss out on that rest.  Bad habits, lack of discipline, harried schedules, and the need to be entertained all fight against sitting, reading, praying, and resting.  Until we grow in these disciplines, I fear so many of us will just remain fatigued.

Towards that end of finding rest, take a moment and read Psalm 116:1-9, and my prayer is that it will bring rest to your weary soul.

116:1 I love the Lord, because he has heard my voice and my pleas for mercy.  2 Because he inclined his ear to me, therefore I will call on him as long as I live.  3 The snares of death encompassed me; the pangs of Sheol laid hold on me; I suffered distress and anguish. 4 Then I called on the name of the Lord:  “O Lord, I pray, deliver my soul!”

5 Gracious is the Lord, and righteous; our God is merciful.  6 The Lord preserves the simple; when I was brought low, he saved me.  7 Return, O my soul, to your rest; for the Lord has dealt bountifully with you.  8 For you have delivered my soul from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling; 9 I will walk before the Lord in the land of the living.

This article also appears at the Raleigh Examiner.

November 2, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | Leave a comment