Creator of Color

Guest Writer: Tracy Jordan

Will we as image bearers of an infinitely creative God truly cease to see color as we make our way through the gates of glory? How often have we heard it said, “In heaven we won’t see color”? While the intention behind the statement is often good, I believe it fails to see the imprint of the Master’s hand.

Why would we not see color, ethnicity, race, diversity? These are not products of the fall or blights on humanity that our Lord would look to blot out. Diversity is not something I hope to be free of or shielded from in glory. Rather color is something I hope to behold more fully through the lens of my resurrected eyes.

Why would The Creator, whose very mind poured forth the beauty of diversity into the nations of this great earth, choose then to deprive his creation of knowing fully what we now only know in part? Will we not truly know, and wholly “see” all of humanity for who they are? Will we not see them as image bearers of our great God who spoke color into existence?

How I long for the day when we will enter the heavenly kingdom of our God of diversity and no longer see through the lens of our own experience.

On that day, we will no longer behold humanity’s diversity through the eyes of our own brokenness.

No longer will we see through the eyes of the oppressor or the eyes of the oppressed.

No longer will we be shackled by the eyes of the slave or the eyes of the free.

On that liberating day, when the train of his robe fills the whole earth with glory, praise God, we will see as he sees!

On that day, we will behold this variegated assembly gathered in countless shades around the colorful throne of our Lord, singing  “Holy, Holy, Holy”!

There will be but one qualification for those who gather round this throne:

“There will be no Jew nor Greek, no slave nor free,” no privileged nor underprivileged, Ah! But only those who bare his image and have bowed to his Son, only those who have repented of their sins and professed Christ as Lord!

Those who would bow at this throne in glory must first have bowed at the foot of the cross. Forsaking all, they must trust him alone. Forsaking all allegiances, all political parties, all agendas, all self-identities apart from “Christ follower”, forsaking all, they trusted him.

So until that day, I will do all I can do to “SEE” you. To see you in all His glory for the beautiful image bearer that you are. Will you choose to “SEE” me?

4 Spiritually Satisfying Changes to Make

Social distancing is a misnomer. We have been socially distant for some time. We are physically distancing when we extend physical contact. Social distancing, however, has happened for years as we lost our skills to be enriching people to one another. Social distancing is what we do through divorce, custody battles, and breakups. Since life is scrambled right now and many are just beginning to put the pieces back in place, I think we have something of a rare gift. We can address our social distancing by addressing our spiritual distance.

If there was ever a moment to chart a spiritually renewed path, to close the spiritual distance with God, now is that time. Below are 4 spiritually satisfying changes to make before life gets “back to normal”.

  1. Dedicate 15 minutes a day to reading the Bible. Begin in the New Testament, in the Book of Matthew, and continue daily. 15 minutes of reading what God still means and desires for people is soul satisfying and life changing.
  2. Dedicate 15 minutes a day to prayer. Your prayers can follow a simple pattern: praise – provision – forgiveness offered to others – forgiveness for self – guidance – commitment. If you are not accustomed to praying, now is a great time to embed prayer in your new normal.
  3. Talk to someone about your faith. Talking about your faith has never been less intimidating. Some churches are making teleconferencing coaching sessions available. Talking about your faith, where you are and where you would like it to go, is an enriching and enlightening experience. Most pastors and ministers live for the chance to have those faith conversations, so you will be very well received.
  4. Attend a service. It’s never been easier to connect with a church from an impersonal, social distance. In other words, you can check out churches in your area by tuning into their livestream – like this one http://www.canachurch.com – without the uncertainty of a first visit. Of course, now is a great time to visit in-person as well because, at least in Cana’s case, you will know exactly where to go and where to sit.

The global disruption in daily lives is an occasion for you to close the spiritual distance in your life. When the physical distancing lets up, you’ll be on a more satisfying spiritual walk. Plus, the blessing of Christ will be on you – and that is always worth it.

3 Reflections from Our Church Re-Gathering

These are my reflections from what I am seeing on the ground after only 2 weeks of in-person worship gatherings. We began again on May 17. My reflections are operational assessments that may become the lead-in for new strategies. I suspect that results will vary across the wide range of churches and their demographics. Perhaps my experience will help you anticipate some of what you will experience.

1. Time is the biggest factor

We were in a strong growth cycle nine weeks ago when the lock-down began. Winter is always a strong time for our congregation. On our first Sunday, instead of 300, we ran maybe 125 in-person attending. We had a “family-friendly” venue simulcasting alongside the main auditorium venue. We ran two services times. We skipped rows. We had a full task force on hand to take temps, help people get seated, bathroom actively sanitized by contracted custodial crew, active post-service wipe-down, and sanitizing stations ready.

While those were important safety factors, I think the biggest issue is time. No matter our preparations, time is needed for people to re-warm to the church hour. People cooled off to church. Call it whatever you want to call it, assign blame or not, people just need to warm up. My assumption is that whenever churches restart in-person gatherings, they should expect time for the warm-up to happen.

2. Childcare is THE Issue for Young Families and No Sunday School Is the Issue for Older Adults

Most of our families with smaller children are sitting it out. I think this is for reason 1 above but also because of the difficulty of having no nursery. What I am not hearing is fear of Covid-19. People are just struggling to manage kids through a service. We typically ran 80 minute services. We are now running 45 to 47 minute service. I like to preach for 40 minutes. I’ve shaved the message to 27 minutes. Nonetheless, I am not expecting to recover families with young kids until nursery can reopen.

We have not opened our small groups or Sunday Schools for in-person gatherings on-campus. I believe this is driving the absence of some of our older adults. They are not coming, in part, because their classes are not meeting. Until their classes are meeting again, I do not expect to see them often.

3. The Reservations are Real

People are uncertain how to greet. In the South, a handshake is non-negotiable. Most are followed by hugs. Warmth and closeness are partners in the greeting. I noticed people talking softly, singing softly, and uncertain whether to extend a hand or not. This is a massive hurdle that cannot be overlooked.

The second kind of reservation I’m seeing is related to Covid-19 specifically. Our older adults are taking potential infection seriously. They are remaining home. They too need an all clear but from a better-safe-than-sorry perspective. Many of our vulnerable people have reason to be concerned. I expect that group to re-emerge once authoritative sources give the signal that life is safer.

Conclusions:

Regaining momentum is going to take time. Though we have not met long, and though one of those meetings was Memorial Day, the atmosphere of those meetings suggested that people are uncertain of the “new” rules. I heard many platitudes, some cavalier talk about returning to in-person gatherings and government conspiracies, but once the opportunity presented most people sat out. Keep your cameras rolling for now. I believe the solution to regaining ministry momentum is to start as soon as you safely can deploy your morning service. You need the time.

5 Ways We Must Change – Covid-19

The Changes are Bigger than We Think

We hosted our first in-person gathering on  May 17 since lock-down started on March 08. The atmosphere was kind and easy going. People came and participated well. We had a great time, and I was so grateful to sing with all once again. But the registration numbers, compared to actual attendance, were low. We are out of the habit of church, struggling to figure out how to adapt to no childcare, and dissuaded by the potential danger posed by the virus. Its easy, during this time, to forget that the mission of Christ is to expand into the whole world by taking the good news of Jesus to people. How do we do that now?

Covid-19, and the likelihood of its ongoing presence for years to come, has changed us. It has exposed an Achilles Heal in our ministry design. We have depended on the large group gathering for connecting new people and driving our funding efforts. We have used our small groups as a means to connect people, but we have needed to stall the return to those due to building limitations. We have entered an era of digital content delivery but have found it to be less engaging than we would hope. We have announced staffing cuts due to economic downturn. The changes already upon us are big. The changes to come will be bigger.

The Vision is Unchanged

What has not changed at Cana (or any other church) is our belief that spiritual maturity inspires enhanced mission. We found new digital ways to do spiritual equipping through online delivery of biblical content. We are broadcasting into Southeast Asia and the UK, various states in the US, and throughout our local community. We have hosted biblical counseling sessions remotely. We have held ceremonies and celebrations, prayer walks and service shopping, and learned, in mass, how to video conference. These tools used to be available but we had never thought to use them. Now that we have them, we have discovered they can be leveraged to carry the gospel message into all the world. We have discovered that we can do training and connecting through these digital platforms. Our calling, expecting to have an ongoing battle with Covid-19, is still to be spiritually ready to go, train, baptize, and teach all nations about Christ: to be Remade to Reclaim.

Five New Plans We Need to Adopt

The charge to grow into the community of believers – God’s vision for the church – is summarized in Acts 2:42, “And they devoted themselves to the Apostle teaching and the fellowship, the breaking of bread and the prayers.” Our devotion, our “Remade” selves, should be as they were in Acts 2:42. Our mission is found in Matthew 28:19, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” Our mission, our focus of all energy and gifting, the “Reclaim” of our efforts, is as theirs was in Matt. 28:19. There are at least five major changes we need to make in light of Covid-19 in order to remain faithful.

1. Legitimize Digital Outreach and Digital Attendance – we need to make a permanent place in our budget, our small groups/Sunday School classes, and our worship gatherings for those who will attend via digital means. Some classes will need an online link for Video Conferencing. They will be hybrids – some are in person and others are visiting via Zoom.

2. Invest in Digitally Immersive Learning and Ministry Environments – Zoom and Live Stream and Google Classroom are a start to online delivery of content. These environments, however, are not immersive and do not engage teens and children well. We need Mixed Reality (AR & VR) technologies to accomplish better connection to our young people. We need better learning platforms for training. I expect these technologies to be fast-lined into popular use in months and years ahead.

3. Reduce Dependency on In-Building Small Group Use – Several of our Sunday School/Small Groups have continued to meet digitally. Praise the Lord for that! However, given that a resurgence of Covid-19 is likely in the Fall and Winter, we need our Sunday Schools to adapt, to regain their mission, and to be able to meet in homes or outdoor locations. I want to train for these occasions so that our training and spiritual maturity ministry can continue unabated.

4. Lean the Budget and Keep It Lean – Never has their been such an economic challenge facing the church. Many people are losing their jobs. Cana has had to announce a layoff of a 1/3 of our staff. Never have churches in debt been so exposed as now. Given those challenges, our budget must remain lean and our staff training efforts must increase. In addition, we need every skill of every member on the table and available for use. We need to be ready to learn new skills or get the professional help needed to accomplish new ministry engagement without becoming staff heavy. The present digital ministry is an example of how God provided Cana the people we needed to keep us going. We must retire the debt.

5. Excel in Love – The future is challenging. Changes are hard. Many of you will not like this letter. However, in order to continue the mission, we cannot anticipate how and when we will return to “normal” but how we can love the nations and our neighbors like Christ does, and love each other with our gifts as Christ commands. This means we lay aside suspicions, privilege, and pride in order to follow Christ.

Defeating Compulsive Sin in 2020

I have been working on the scriptural process for defeating what, in normal parlance, is called addiction, but I believe is better defined as compulsive sin. The Lord Jesus set believers free from compulsive sin, but we continue to struggle against it. As we move into the New Year, I wanted to share with you a primer for addressing and fighting compulsive sin. Perhaps it’s time to get liberty back on the list of things to pursue in 2020.

The Standard Model:

1. Confess sin – this is a declaration of victory over sin in our lives because Satan can no longer accuse us of sin we are hiding from God. Exposure allows God to cover our shame. Confession is the first step forward.
2. Practice repentance as often as you fail, never allowing the sin to become something you are defending. Never presume upon God. Speak your sin and turn from it.
3. Build barriers to sinful behavior sufficiently high to keep yourself from immediately acting on sin. Barriers, internet filters or removing the chemical from your reach, are not a solution but a deterrent. If you are accessing your compulsive sin, your barrier isn’t tall enough.
4. Make accountable oversight – human eyes – a part of your barrier. You need human accountability, not just a barrier.
5. Confront faulty thinking at the root of your sin. Is your sin about escape from pain or boredom, about selfish pursuits, or about medicating pain? Confront the thinking that justifies your sin.
6. Turn toward ministry in spite of your struggle with sin. By pursuing the liberty of others you may aid yourself in finding liberty. Note that this is the final step. If you have not completed prior steps, you are not ready to engage in ministry to others.

 

5 Ways to Move On

Grief, from an observers viewpoint, seems to anchor us to a time and place. Every time we round the Sun and approach the significant day(s), we feel the foreboding of grief. Losing a spouse to death or divorce, a child for any reason, a parent, a friend, whoever – all threaten to create yearly potholes in our joy – moments of grief mandated by the calendar. I wanted to take a stab at how one might move on from such well-worn paths. For my own part, my loss has been minor by comparison, so I speak as an observer of those who have lost much…as a shepherd to many who have suffered.

  1. Embrace the truth. Feelings of truth and Scriptural reality are often enemies. The truth, however daunting it seems to begin with, is always a good friend. Scripture always points people ahead rather than behind. God is always good. Hope is coming. This is scriptural rather than emotional.
  2. Take actions with emotions rather than soak in them. This one may be more obscure but I think it is well shown in reality. If you need to cry, cry; to visit the graveside, visit the graveside; to speak to the person, speak to the wind. But when the action is done, move on with your day and your joy in all the other matters already in orbit of your life.
  3. Accept the Lord’s Hand in it. Sometimes we need to make choices based on our tragedy. Sell the house or the car or the jewelry. Tragedy can be the stage for massive changes in the way we live our lives. We often want to place our tragedy in some other sphere of existence, as if God is in control of the good things, safe things, joyful things, rather than the hard things, hurtful things, unjust things. The Lord’s hand is in your hurt, and you need to know what He intends to accomplish with it.
  4. Talk toward mission. Find someone with whom to speak. However, even as you speak and bare your emotions, consider the ways in which your experience has a mission opportunity. Our pain may be the step another needs to reach toward Christ. Finding purpose in your grief is a balm to the soul.
  5. Be real about it. In no way do I suggest glossing over emotions, depression, despair, or loss. Some losses are daunting. The emotions are scarred and the outcomes are uncertain. However, be real about that with yourself and with others. My father died suddenly April of 2019, and it has taken some time for me to know how I felt about him and how I feel now. I have had to be real both about him – who he was and the things he did – and about me – how I treated him and what I felt about him. Being real means acknowledging truth and making judgments based on the Scriptures. Be real and then move forward – that’s the Lord’s way.

#wakeupolive

The #wakeupolive move from Bethel Church is problematic for many reasons. I fear for the despair of the family, first of all, and grieve for their loss. So what I say here is with mercy and gentleness toward them as people. The doctrine, however, that is driving their movement is ruthless to its adherents. Here’s why:

First, resurrection is real. The issue is not resurrection. Miracles are real. The issue is not miracles. Faith is real. The issue is not faith. The issue is about how people express their faith, experience miracles, and gain resurrection. Bethel teaches a form of, what seems,  old world paganism in which he who asks the miracle must meet a requirement in order to get God to move in his favor. For them the equation is about quantity of faith. If a person has enough faith, God will do the miracle. One could take the same algorithm and apply different offerings than faith. For instance, in old paganism, if one offered the right sacrifice to the god, the god would favor their efforts. God however, does not work on our plans or according to any manipulation. Sacrifices of faith, prayer, or fasting do not change what God has established to do. Satan works by manipulation, but not God.

Does God hear and see our prayers, fasting, and personal devotions? Sure He does. But Christ followers pray, fast, and devote in order to get on page with God, not to get God in page with them. Herein lies the fundamental conflict with the Word-of-faith deception. For Bethel and their kin, God’s actions rely on their faith. This is a destructive heresy for its adherents. It is a trap of Satan. In this system, when God doesn’t move as requested, the only one to blame is one’s self for a lack of faith. Such ideals of faith are not from God.

God gives, He does not take. His medicine is hard sometimes – and I am confident any feeling person connects with the grief that a lost child brings – but His medicine is healing for the soul. God does not take our faith and convert it into actions. He gives us faith and heals our souls…often through hard and grieving circumstances.

So what is the response to #wakeupolive? First, Olive will “awake” in the resurrection of the Lamb, and even now her soul is with the Lord Jesus (this is my understanding of what happens to too-young-to-know children who die – they are with the Lord). Second, hold the despair defeating true faith: God is a good God regardless. Third, grieve alongside the grieving parents. This is right in the Lord’s eyes.

View on Women in Ministry

I don’t often wade directly into the controversies that hover about in the world. Especially when those controversies occur because of off-handed statements made to particular audiences in differing contexts. The hit squad media often makes an issue where there are no issues and does not give context. In this case, however, I believe it important to say plainly what Cana believes is the truth of the scriptures as it regards women in ministry, and particularly, women in pulpit ministry.

Women are critical to the gospel ministry. We see women serving in the ministry of Christ throughout the Gospel of Luke. They have a critical role in feeding and providing for the evangelistic team. Jesus not only receives women into his inner circle of ministry, but he teaches them regularly and places great importance on their instruction (Luke 10:38-42). Luke’s gospel is scandalous on this point. It’s elevation of women is unmatched in the scriptures. The way Luke tells the story of Christ places the culturally down-and-out, which included women in that day, within the inner circle of Jesus’ ministry.

Likewise, the book of Acts, also authored by Luke, elevates the role of women as gospel agents used by Christ to advance the ministry. They consistently aid and even lead in some cases. In one case, Luke tells of Peter’s miraculous escape from prison (Acts 12). What fascinates me the most within the details of the story is Luke’s interest in a certain minor character. Luke mentions that Peter finds his way to Mary’s house, John-Mark’s mother, where the church was praying. He knocks on the door and a slave girl answers. But Luke does not simply name her as a slave girl. He drops her name so that we know her as Rhoda. Luke cares to show the beauty of common people, men or women, participating in the gospel work.

What we do not see in the New Testament is women preachers. By women preachers, we mean women whose role within the official structure of the church is to hold authority and preach publicly to the whole congregation. In other words, they are leading authoritatively and doing so within their public Bible proclamation. Women are not included as elders, overseers, or pastors within the New Testament. Their role is restricted in that regard. Some argue that the early church had no singular pastoral office and therefore had no context such as we have. The Scripture does, however, speak to this situation – though the blanket argument is false that claims the pastoral office is a recent addition – in 1 Corinthians 14:26-40. Paul says that within the community of the Corinthian church, women must remain silent. He goes on to argue that this posture is both from the Law and a command of the Lord. What we understand from this passage is that women must remain silent in terms of authoritative utterance, not in terms of speech itself. Paul does not lean on a cultural issue but a biblical truth. Likewise, Paul commands that women should not preach or have authority over a man 1 Timothy 2:10-15. This command is not predicated on any lack of ability on the part of a woman but on the nature of the fallen condition of both men and women. 1 Timothy 2:10-15 speaks directly to pulpit ministry as a matter of its context.

To the critics and those who are resistant to this instruction, Cana has no other practice. I could go on making this argument both for the value of women in ministry – do I need to mention our Director of Children is a woman – and their restriction from the pulpit ministry. In fact, when I am out of the office on vacation or a trip, I often leave our Director of Children in charge, but I never call on her to preach – which she would not do because she knows the Scripture and believes it. We value women. My wife is one of the most powerful ministers I know – far more capable than most men I know. Likewise, there are some excellent female preachers whose insights and oration are superior to many men. Did anyone think this was a question of capability? This is a question of biblical authority – those great female preachers, according to the scripture, may not preach to the congregation of God no matter how good they are. When did capability ever define God’s calling or signal the blessing of God? Surely Jezebel was a highly capable woman. If God has gifted those women to preach, let them preach fire to the women about them. I want to see the calling of these great female preacher evidenced by their stand with the Scriptures. They could restrain the feminist anarchy consuming the church of the Lord Jesus. Will they resist the authority handed to them not by God but by the enemy? Calling is not what we feel but what God utters through the Holy Spirit. As such, His calling does not contradict His biblical truth.

Cana will continue to hold Scriptural convictions in matters of male and female roles in the church. We will not stick our heads in the sand and refuse to address the issues. Men and women are unique before the Lord but equal in worth. We will empower women, young and old, and teach men, young and old, to value women. We will empower women in ministry and encourage their appropriate leadership within the church and on missions and through their homes. We will elevate the role of the stay-at-home moms and honor such a noble task as a calling from God. We will encourage the single mother as she works and help her. We will enable ministry for the single woman blessed by God for the task, knowing she can do incredible work. We will train our girls to know the Bible and be powerful with the gospel, to seek their God-given dreams, and to know the value God places on them both as women and as wives and as mothers.

Dr. Kevin Jordan

Defeating Discouragement

From time to time I have a moment to consider problems a bit more deeply. Flowing from a few of the verses in Hebrews 3:1-6, I thought your day could use a lift. Maybe you are wrestling against discouragement? I hope the following will help you defeat it.

A simple orientation shift, a focus adjustment, has to take place. Discouragement is the result of self-focus. In other words, you look at life and decide how it should go. You prop up your fulfillment on the backs of something or someone. When those people or things fail, you become frustrated. Once frustration with what you didn’t get turns to anxiety over what you may not ever get, you become discouraged. So discouragement is unmet expectations stretched over time. So how do you defeat discouragement?

First, you need the correct expectations. Those expectations have to lean on promises that will endure. If your expectations rest on someone or something, you are in danger of discouragement. Likewise, timing combines with discouragement to move you out of the emotion of frustration and into the state of discouragement. To feel disappointed is emotionally necessary because you have to trust in people and things that cannot and do not endure. To be frustrated is normal because you have to expect changes in circumstances and people as they occur over time.

Discouragement, however, is the result of thinking you own the expectations and the timing. Discouragement is sin to be defeated because it is the result of self-focus. The discouraged say, “this is a right expectation” and “this is the right timing” without yielding those strong emotions to God. We ask God questions such as, “You promised, so when will it happen?” or “This is what should happen, so why did it not succeed?” The first question is the frustration over timing and the second is the unmet expectation, combined they lead to discouragement.

When we are discouraged, we tend to seek a remedy to the time problem or the expectation problem. Instead of changing our own basis for expectations and our own estimation of timing, we suppose those two considerations were right, and we are entitled to them being met. Men leave their marriages because “they deserve to be happy.” Teens give in on their moral standards because “its time they got what they wanted.” Hebrews 3:1-6 lays out the truth. Expectations belong to Jesus and so does the timing.

Why This Child Has Been Tearing Me Up

I am not always the quickest on matters of justice. I don’t always think about them as sensitively as I should. But this situation, https://www.gofundme.com/raising-carly, has really stirred me lately about a dormant work within our Christ-following. For $8,000 we could help a child be resettled into a family pursuing the truth of Christ Jesus. That’s less than the cost of most of our baptisms if you count staffing, utilities, etc.

I know money is a crass way of gauging anything’s worth. Much less the worth of a child – it’s outright filthy to measure the worth of a child by money. What would we give to rescue a child? – much more than $8,000. And that has prompted the real urgency in my heart because we could raise the funds to rescue a child we know, one living with a proven family serving the Lord Jesus beside us.

Maybe sometimes we calculate the costs rather than seeing the spiritual opportunities. We don’t line-item fund adoptions or place them within the overall mission perspective of our congregations. I think this is a hole in our gospel expression. The church has long seen its mission to the widow and orphan as a critical feature of its religion. We staff our widow ministry with deacons but we have not tasked anyone to our orphans. We have permitted the state to look after them. Among believers there ought not be any orphans. Maybe the Lord has used this little girl as a wake-up call to me. This is a low-cost matter of justice with a huge redemptive return. Carly matters to God. $8,000 helps us demonstrate that.

Give. https://www.gofundme.com/raising-carly