J. Gordon Duncan

Culture, Business, Fitness, Etc.

Canceling A Service Ain’t Easy

Canceling Sovereign King’s worship service today was one of the more difficult decisions I have made in a while.  I’ve spent a good bit of the day and evening wondering why.

It wasn’t without input and advice, so that wasn’t the issue.  It wasn’t that I was bull-headed assuming everyone should just tough it out.  It wasn’t that I wanted to take in all the people from churches that canceled.

I think the fundamental reason was that we need to worship.

I know that worship happens in various forms in a multitude of places.  I know that many faithful had times of family and even community worship today.  For all of those things, I’m incredibly thankful.  Being snow-bound will not hinder the hearts of those who want to praise the name of Jesus Christ.

However, the opportunity to gather with other believers (some of whom have taken vows to and with each other), hear the instructed word from someone how has taken a vow to proclaim truth, and partake of the sacraments (Christ’s body for His body) is rare.  In fact, it only happens 52 times a year.  I didn’t want any of our folks to miss that opportunity, but I also didn’t want any of our folks to never have that opportunity again because they died on the highway.

Once I made the decision to cancel services, I received nothing but affirmation for it and even one phone call from a member of the Garner EMS expressing thanks that our folks would not be on the road.

The experience leaves me with one primary takeaway.  We cannot take corporate worship lightly.  God has called us to committed community where we submit to one another (Ephesians 5) and to Godly leadership (Hebrews 13) for personal edification (I Corinthians 12 and Romans 12).  The opportunities to gather together and grow together are not as common as we think.  Missing that opportunity, whether it be because snow or schedule, needs to be weighed thoughtfully and prayerfully.  When providence hinders our gathering, it should not make us relieved we don’t have to worship together, but instead, it should make us long for it.

January 31, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , | Comments Off on Canceling A Service Ain’t Easy

Love Honor and Obey Part 3

Part 1 of this series appears here while Part 2 appears here.

13 Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.

You want to know how to outdo one another in honor?  The answer is pretty simple and twofold.  Meet the needs of the saint and show hospitality.  Folks this verse is essentially telling you to create and engage community.

First of all, in the expression of your knowing Jesus Christ, in desiring to outdo one another in honor, seek to meet the needs of the saints.  You see our culture has it all backwards.  We think that having to ask for help is humiliating.  We are too damn self-sufficient.  But you show honor to Christ and honor to another person when you serve them.  Allowing someone to serve you shows honor as well.

We need to be humble people who are willing to ask for help, and we need to be always ready to meet the needs of one another.  I know we are all busy.  None of have absolute free time with nothing to do, so I know that anything you choose to do has a specific time cost.

But at SK, if you want to obey this verse by meeting the needs of the saints, you need to be a part of a CE Group.  There, the specific mission is to love and serve on another.  There, if you need help with babysitting, you can find it.  If a married couple needs a date without kids, you can get help.  Do you need help with a project at your home?  The folks at your CE Group will help out.  We don’t do it perfectly.  And not everyone is willing to ask for help, but at SK, our CE Groups are the absolute best way to outdo one another in honor by meeting each other’s needs.

How about showing hospitality?  Well showing hospitality is the primary way in which we demonstrate the truths of Jesus Christ to those who need it.  Again, what’s Jesus’ primary teaching on hospitality?  The Good Samaritan.  A man is beaten and left for dead and naked on the side of the road.    The man who shows hospitality is not the Israelite who passes by or the Priest who passes by but the Samaritan who bandages the man, takes him to the doctor and pays for his bills.

The church is called to outdo one another in honor by showing mercy to those that are in need.  That means preparing meals for the EMS. That means giving the families at Hayes Place a ride.  That means finding ways to befriend and love the students at WakeTech.  That means opening your home to people who do not know Christ.

You be faithful in showing hospitality, outdoing each other in love, and then trust that God will bring in a harvest of new believers.  That way we can walk in living out 1 Timothy 1:5 The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.

January 18, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , | Leave a comment

Love Honor and Obey Part 2

Part 1 of this series appears here

11 Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. 12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.

Verse 11 cracks me up.  I’ve never heard of anyone who was slothfully zealous, but just in case there are a few of you out there, Paul says don’t be slothful in zeal but instead be fervent in spirit while you serve the Lord.  Can any of you remember a time in your life where the living out of your relationship with Christ could be described as zealous and fervent?  If you answer some long ago time or never but not right now, you are not experiencing the life that God intends for you to live.

Well what these 2 verse do is give us a picture of what the life in Christ is supposed to look like.   In fact, these 6 quick exhortations from Paul are what outdoing each other in honor would look like.  Check them out.

  • Do not be slothful in zeal.
  • Be fervent in spirit.
  • Serve the Lord.
  • Rejoice in hope.
  • Be patient in tribulation.
  • Be constant in prayer.

Now there is nothing harder to do as a preacher than preaching on a list of commands if you want to do it right.  You see the easy thing to do is for me to stand up here and bellow to you:

  • Quit being so lazy!
  • Be fervent!
  • Serve!
  • Oh, and you better have joy while your doing it.
  • Oh, and you better enjoy hard times as well.
  • What?  You haven’t prayed constantly?  No wonder you are miserable.

And believe it or not, plenty of preachers preach this passage this way and plenty of people show up every Sunday to get a brand new heaping helping of guilt to keep them going.  But there is so much more going on here than just finding new ways to make you feel guilty.  If zeal, fervency, joy, patience, service, and prayer were easily attained, all of us would be walking around singing zippedity do da.  But alas, these are pretty rare qualities even in Christian community.

They key to walking in these qualities is to avoid the mistakes of the folks who went before us.  Listen to Romans 10:1-4

10:1 Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved. 2 For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. 3 For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. 4 For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.

Paul makes a point here that it is possible to have a zeal for God and a zeal for trying to obey and completely miss both God and obedience.  The Jewish people of Paul’s day pursued obedience as a means to an end.  They thought that knowing God was obedience to His commands.  While obedience is essential to the life of faith, the Jewish people got it turned around.

Knowing God is not obedience to His commands.  As verse 4 says, Jesus’ obedience to God’s commands is our hope for knowing God.  In fact, Jesus’ obedience in life and death means an end to the attempt of knowing God by His commands.  If you would like to exhibit zeal, fervency, joy, patience, service, and prayer, then pursue Jesus and His absolute complete and sufficient work on your behalf and find those qualities become evident in your life.  If you attempt to do those things without faith, you will fail and miss God in the process.

Verse 3 says that seeking to gain righteousness or goodness on your own is being ignorant of God’s righteousness gifted to you through Jesus.  Jesus is the end of the struggle for righteous.   Why?  Because He has given you His.

Wouldn’t you love to be zealous in your faith, work, and life?

Wouldn’t you love to describe your life as true service to God?

Wouldn’t you love to be fervent in your Spirit withstanding anything that comes your way during the day?

Wouldn’t you love to be patient in tribulation and not just wish away every bad thing that happens to you seeing a true purpose for everything that God has ordained for you?

Wouldn’t you love to constantly be in prayer and communication with God?

Think about Jesus on the Mount of Olives in Luke 22 as He agonized alone before His crucifixion.  In that one moment on your behalf, He displayed every one of these qualities.  There He zealously prayed and pursued God’s will.  He offered His every moment and thought as a service to God.  He fervently sought His Father.  He was patient in both the tribulation of His lazy disciples and His traitorous friend Judas.  He prayed with such constancy that He sweat blood.  And Jesus did all of these things on your behalf.

Folks, I will never discount the hard work of faith, prayer, Bible study, and obedience to God.  But all of those things only come as a byproduct of your pursuit of Jesus’ full completion of each one of those things.  Many of you right now are completely and absolutely frustrated in the outworking of your Christian life.    You either can’t muster an ounce of energy for your life of faith or you are so desperately trying to overcome sin and you are an utter failure at both.

Pursue your sweet Savior.  Pray to know him better.  Pray that God would grant you a rest in Jesus’ righteousness.  Pray that you would exhibit these wonderful qualities but only as evidence that you have been with Jesus.

Then we are ready to outdo each other with honor.  How?  We see that exhibited for us in verse 13.

Part 3 will be posted later today.

January 18, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , | 1 Comment

Love Honor and Obey Part 1

When we use the word “honor” we often think of winning a contest, receiving an award, or getting a trophy.  It is usually thought of as something you receive during a ceremony.  Now I’ve won a couple of awards in my time, and I’ve also been in ceremonies where I hoped to win one and didn’t.  I remember sitting through the Teacher of the Year ceremony and just freaking out when I won, and I also remember sitting through some ceremonies in high school where it seemed like every person in the crowd won something and I didn’t.  Both experiences brought about unique feelings of anticipation and exaltation, and whether you win or lose, there is a sense of letdown once you get home

However, scripture uses honor a vastly different way, and despite an air of familiarity with it, I’m not sure quite many people know what it means.  The most common use is the command for children to honor their parents (Exodus 20) which gets reduced to an expectation that children should obey their mom and dad without question.  Though obedience is an aspect of honoring, approaching honor as blind obedience is a pretty minimalistic view of giving honor.

Scripturally honor takes a much more broad view than just obeying without a question.  Honor means interacting with others according to the respect they deserve while actively loving and caring for them.  So it makes sense why obedience is so emphasized when it comes to giving honor because disobeying someone who merits your obedience is incredibly dishonorable, but the word really means an active, passionate, caring for another.

Biblically, in addition to showing and giving honor to God, there are commands to honor include honoring your parents (Exodus 20:12), the elderly (Lev 19:32), others who fear the Lord (Psalm 15:4),  the wise (Proverbs 3:35), gracious women (Proverbs 11:16), the  poor and in needy (Proverbs 14:31), the one who guards the reputation of his employer (Proverbs 27:18), the humble who do not seek places of honor (Luke 14:10), any who seeks to do good (Romans 2:10), word of God (2 Thessalonians 3:1), widows (1 Timothy 5:3), elders who rule well (1 Timothy 5:17), and of course Jesus Christ (Hebrews 3:3).   That is not even an exhaustive list.

Apparently, the giving and receiving of honor is important in the life of the believer, and believe it or not, what we are going to see this week in the book of Romans is that God intends for each and every believer to show honor to each and every other believer within the church.  Pursuing that is what we hope to understand this week, so with that in mind, let’s attempt to answer this Big Picture Question:

Big Picture Question:  What would it look like to out do one another in showing honor in the name of Jesus Christ?

Romans 12:9 Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. 10 Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.

As always, let’s reminds ourselves of the context of these commands.  In Romans 12, Paul commands believers now through the power of Jesus’ resurrection to offer living sacrifices of their bodies as a spiritual act of worship to God.  We do that in the context of not being conformed to this world and we also do it by functioning as a unified body of believers giving, loving, and serving together.  If you have a gift, talent, or ability, you are to use it in service of God within the context of the ministry of the church.

But if any of you have ever served in the context of the church, you know that sacrifice is exactly what service is.  It is wonderfully rewarding and enjoyable, but unless your talent of biting your tongue is greater than whatever other talent you have, you probably won’t last long.

Well Paul is seeking to describe exactly what offering yourself as living sacrifice looks like within the church body.  He begins by commanding them to Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil.  Now these two commands are inextricably related and connected. You can’t do one without the other.  But for the sake of our own understanding, let’s take them one at a time and then attempt to connect them.

What does it mean for your love to be genuine?   Sadly, I think we all know what disingenuous love looks like more than we do genuine love.  I guess disingenuous love is an oxymoron because if it is disingenuous it must be something else.

Using 1 Corinthians 12 as the authority on love, we find a description of what love is not.

  • Love does not envy and is not arrogant or rude.
  • Love does not insist on having its own way.
  • Love is not irritable or resentful.
  • Love does not rejoice in wrongdoing.

Wow, when you hear that list of things that love is not read out loud, it should cause you pause.  Most spouses when they get in an argument are professional recorders of what their spouse has done wrong which it pretty resentful.  You’ll hear such expressions as, “Oh yeah?  What about you?” or “Don’t even get started with me after all you’ve done.”  When I speak to marriages that are in trouble, it typically comes down to one spouse being absolutely unwilling to forgive and restore their spouse for something they’ve done in the past.

Sadly most believers’ expressions of their political opinions are arrogant, rude, and far from humble.  Rarely do I hear the truth spoke in love.  And a lot of the times when parents get angry over their children’s disobedience, the parents do just as much whining about not getting their way as their children’s whine about not getting their way.

The Gordon Duncan translation of “Let love be genuine,” is “If it ain’t genuine, it ain’t love.”

Well, what then does genuine love look like?  Well first of all, genuine love abhors evil.  Abhor is a pretty strong word.  We don’t use it a lot these days.  It is perhaps the Bible’s most strong word for hate.  Love does hate believe it or not, and what it hates is evil.  Genuine love hates whatever God calls a sin.

Now, you may hear that and then justify some of the arguments and scraps you get in with you spouse, parent, or child.  You think, “Well, the reason I am so hard on so and so is because I truly love evil and so I will not condone evil in the life of those I love.”  That argument makes complete sense except when you communicate that hatred of evil in an evil way.   I’ve seen some of the worst examples of supposedly hating evil in the name of Christianity.

I once knew a Father who was mad that his daughter had married a non-Christian.  In an effort not to condone what she had done, he refused to show the couple mercy in any way even when it was within his means to help them.  He said any help either materially or financially that he would give them would condone their sinful relationship and his stated purpose was to break them so that she would repent of her sin.  Unfortunately, the only thing that grew in that relationship was bitterness.

Gang, Jesus definitively hated evil and he flipped a few tables in His life to prove that point, but there is not one example of Jesus withdrawing either love or attention for the purpose of getting someone to repent.  Jesus loved in the 2 Corinthians 6 way that actually describes genuine love as a weapon of righteousness.

  • It means not the withdrawal of love but the pouring out of love.
  • It means not making love passive but making love active.
  • It means making love visible as well as vocal.

Folks the hating of evil and the expression of genuine love is the power of the gospel and the weapon of righteousness that you possess.  Think about Jesus’ expression of love to people who really needed to hear it.   All from Luke.

Jesus raises the widow’s son (7:11-17)  You know what was on the mind of most people who attended the funeral of a woman who was a widow?   “I wonder how much I can get her house from her on the open market.”  No husband, no son meant no right to own property which meant that the widow would soon be homeless.  Jesus gave the widow back her whole world when He raised her son from the dead.

How about the sinful woman forgiven (7:36-50)?  Can you imagine that your reputation is so bad that you don’t even get a name in the course of human history?  You are just known as “the sinful woman”.  Well this woman finds the only kind, gracious man on the face of the planet, so she anoints and kisses Jesus’ feet continually.  The religious folks accuse Jesus of not knowing the woman’s reputation b/c surely He wouldn’t allow her to touch Him if He knew her reputation.  Jesus goes on to lay the parable smack down on them telling them that those who have been forgiven much love much and proceeds to forgive the sinful woman while rebuking the religious men.

After that, guess where Jesus goes?  To a friend’s house?  Nope?  The verse speaks about  group of women who supported Jesus  (8:1-3) and then He doesn’t worry about His witness and crashes at Mary and Martha’s place (10:38-42).  When a rich laywer gets around trying to tell Jesus how good He is Jesus tell Him a story about what genuine love looks like.

Apparently, a Jewish man and a priest weren’t willing to help a man who had  been beaten and left naked on the side of the road.  But godless pagan inbred Samaritan not only cared for him, he paid for all of his doctor’s bills as well.  Jesus also got around to healing the social outcast lepers, including one thankful Samaritan (17:11-19) and befriending a traitorous tax collector (19:1-10).

That my friend is genuine love.  Not hating people because their sinful, but hating the repercussions of evil in people’s lives even if they are the one’s at fault.  That, my friends, is called brotherly love and as Matthew 15:20 says, if you imitate Jesus in these types of actions, then Jesus is your brother.

Folks, can you grasp the scandalous yet genuine love to which you are being called?  Some of you may just be called to forgive your spouse and quit reminding them of all the mistakes they’ve made.  Some of you may need to call a parent and tell them you forgive them.  Then you probably need to invite that couple over to your house to eat.  You know the couple…the one you’ve always said that you wouldn’t have in your house because you don’t want to condone their behavior.  That sounds a lot like the Pharisee “If He was a godly man He would know who this woman is that is anointing feet.”  Jesus’ point, “Yeah I know who she is that is exactly why I’m associating with her.”

You know that person who supports nationalized health care?  Quit arguing with them and love them.  You know that gay co-worker or family member?  Love them.  Hang out with them.  You know what we should do?  We should try to, I don’t know, outdo each other in showing this kind of honor…just like Jesus did.

Let’s take a look at what this looks like.  Look at verse 11.

Look for Part 2 & 3 of this message to come soon.

January 17, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , | Leave a comment

Are You Being Served?

beachI am the most fortunate of pastors.  Without hyperbole, I do not know of another pastor who has been blessed by their church as I have been by Sovereign King.

The beginning of the year marked a downturn in Amy’s health.  Her fatigue and fatigue-related issues often kept her in bed, and we needed help with everything from meals to childcare.  At the depths of Amy’s health, SK was delivering up to 4 meals a day and offering childcare relief so that I could still get out and meet with folks.  The amazing thing is that as things improved, SK still served us.  To this day, our “Meal Fairy” delivers us at least one meal a week, and those meals are always excellent.  Each and every person who has served us has done so joyfully, and they have done it as we try to teach our children to serve:  with a “happy heart.”

This alone makes Sovereign King Church rare.  They don’t expect the pastor and wife to be indestructible super human machines of virtue and health.  They also are willing to serve the needy.  Both of these are hallmarks of a Godly church.

But now they have gone and outdone themselves.

Two weeks ago, one our CE Groups began organizing (without our knowledge) a getaway for Amy and me.  Once the details came to us, the entire church coordinated a beach getaway for the two of us (with childcare) so Amy and I could get some rest and face time.  When the time came to get away, they even gave us spending money.

The folks at SK are incredible.  They love and serve us, each other, and the community.  They don’t do it slavishly to the vision of the church but enthusiastically with a desire to serve Christ.

I truly am blessed to be their pastor, we are truly blessed to a part of the SK community, and Garner and the surrounding areas are blessed because of their service.

This article also appears at the Raleigh Examiner.

October 28, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , | 2 Comments