How Many Times?
A Quick Review
On Sunday, September 27th, I preached a sermon on church discipline and good times were had by all;)
Church discipline is simply the idea that the members of local churches take seriously their call to formatively discipline one another by “exhorting” and “encouraging” one another (Heb 3:13, 1 Thess 5:11) AND correctively discipline one another by “rebuking” and “warning” one another (1 Tim. 5:20).
For the health, witness, and holiness of the local church, this type of discipline should happen on a daily/weekly/monthly basis, just like we would discipline our bodies on a daily/weekly/monthly basis for its livelihood.
However, due to the depth of sin and the evil of the present age, there are times in the life of the church where this general formative/corrective discipline is not getting through and a brother continues in their wandering away from the truth.
When this happens, Jesus teaches local churches to, after much patience, prayer, and pleading, excommunicate the wandering brother as an act of love to wake them from their slumber.
The process is as follows:
15 “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. 16 But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. 17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. 18 Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. 19 Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. 20 For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them. (Matthew 18:15-20)”
The member the church had “bound” in through baptism is now “loosed” through excommunication.
How Many Times?
I won’t re-preach the whole sermon here (you can listen anywhere you get your podcasts), but as I was thinking more on the subject and discussing it with church members these last two weeks, the thought was handed to me,
“How many times do we do this?”
Meaning, imagine a member walked through this process once. He/she loved their sin so much and they refused repentance even with the pleading of an individual, several members, and eventually the whole church. And then they were excommunicated.
But several weeks, days, months, later, they repented! They saw their sin for what it was and felt the kindness of the Lord and the kindness of the congregation’s actions in taking such serious steps to wake them up. They were brought back into fellowship; the prodigal came home.
But then, a year later, the same thing happened.
The member went through the discipline process again.
The member was excommunicated again.
And it worked, eventually they came to repentance again.
But then, a year later, the same thing happened…
You see where I’m going.
So, how many times? Jesus tells us in the very next section of Matthew:
21 Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” 22 Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.
Jesus seems to imply that as long as there is breath in the lungs, churches are to forgive when a sinner comes home, whether that be once, twice, three times, or, yes, seventy-seven times.
As a member of a local church, this thought thrills me. Jesus calls us to love our brothers and sisters with real love; love that would offend us rather than let us continue in our delusion and love that will always receive us like the Lord does when we repent, for “a broken and contrite heart He will not despise (Ps. 51:17)”
Until He Comes,
More Than Bathroom Reading
Why a Church Directory?
There are many reasons churches create directories.
- the nostalgia that comes from remembering saints gone by,
- to the laughter that comes from the hair and clothes 15 years removed from their hay-day,
- or to having something to read in bathroom,
church directories are a nice item to have.
The Second Most Important Book
Nice as those things may be, the main reason for producing a church directory is for discipleship.
Mark Dever (one of the most influential voices in my life concerning pastoral ministry) is famous for saying, “Next to the bible, this is the most important book I own.”
Dever says this because the most important book, the bible, says this:
“Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you. (Hebrews 13:17)”
“Shepherd the flock of God that is among you (1 Peter 5:2)”
A Tool For Prayer
As elders and pastors, by having a church directory, we can be regularly reminded of the saints that the Lord has entrusted us to watch over, those we will give account for; those that are among us. The directory then becomes useful, not simply for nostalgia, or laughter, or something to set on the coffee table, but useful as a tool for prayer, not just for elders, but for every member.
Once these are made available, every member of the church will be able to (online or in print) take time each to pray through “The A’s” on Mondays, the “B’s” on Tuesdays, “The C’s” on Wednesdays and so on, putting names with faces and faces with names.
Using the directory as a tool can only be beneficial in our mission to make disciples so Jesus is worshipped in Tonkawa and the nations, and I’m looking forward to getting them in our hands.
Until He Comes,
The Living and Active Word from a Living and Active Life
“And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.”
- Paul to the Corinthians
The Living and Active Word
Many times during the sermon portion of worship last Sunday, I felt the urge to cry. As a non-crier, I wanted to share why.
Followers of Jesus believe God’s word is “living and active (Hebrews 4:12).”
We believe that when it’s read, sung, taught, preached, etc; it’s doing something, “teaching, reproofing, correcting, and training (2 Timothy 3:16).”
However, while we believe it is always living and active, there are times when it is “living-er” and “activ-er”, especially when it comes with (Pentecostal people, go with me here), “unction.”
Living and Active Messengers
Where and when is this “unction” most noticeably present?
I believe unction is most present when the messenger of the living and active word, is someone who has lived out the living and active word.
- Have you ever heard a frontier missionary teach on the necessity of the gospel advancing to the hardest and darkest places?
Did that living and active word hit differently? It did! The living and active messenger not only believed what they were saying, they’d practiced it in real time.
- What about a compulsive giver?
When my dad, who is not the (materially) richest man in the world, takes the offering at church, I feel it. He can’t go 5 seconds without sharing what the Lord has blessed him with (I think he learned it from his dad). The living and active word hits differently when it comes through a living and active messenger.
You can see where I’m going.
Last Sunday, hearing a cowboy shepherd teach the premiere shepherd text in the bible came with unction.
Joe has loved and served the members of this flock as an imperfect under-shepherd to the Good and Perfect Shepherd for decades and when he read “shepherd the flock of God that is among you, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you (1 Peter 5:2)” it hit differently.
Do Our Words Come With Unction?
This moment caused me to think, “Do my words come with unction?” Not just as a preacher, but as a disciple of Jesus who is about His business to make disciples. When I talk about Jesus with an unbeliever, do they “feel” my words? When I’m reading the bible with another Christian, am I simply parroting the texts, or are they coming out of me as someone who has, however imperfectly, aimed to walk them out?
These are good diagnostic questions to ask yourselves. The word of God always has been and always will be living and active, but we should ask our Father for the good gift of living them out so that when we speak that living and active word to believers and unbelievers alike, it comes with unction.
Until He Comes,
What's a Few More Laps?
In 1 Peter 4:1, the apostle writes to marginalized believers:
"Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking...(1 Peter 4:1)"
Prepare your heart, mind, and flesh, to suffer for righteousness sake; for the cause of Christ. Arm yourselves. Get ready. Don’t put off thinking big thoughts about whether or not this Jesus stuff is just a hobby for you, or if it is SOMETHING and He is SOMEONE
- you’d willingly be thrown to lions for,
- willingly burn at a stake for,
- or willingly stand in front of a firing squad for.
Have you armed yourself in this way?
If you haven’t and you live where I live, I get it.
In the US of A, most of us live in heart and spirit-numbing comfort and ease and it’s easy to dismiss apostolic commissions such as these by thinking,
“It will never come down to that. I’ll live here, sing songs on Sunday, take the kids to soccer practice during the week, raise grand kids, and die peacefully in my sleep in my 80’s.”
And you could very well be right.....But what if you’re not?
One Big Yes
Peter, and every other prophet and apostle (Jesus included!) always lay out discipleship (and the faith required for discipleship) in terms of life and death; in terms of martyrdom.
Why do they do that?
Why, when calling people to discipleship, do they first call people to suffering and martyrdom?
The reason is this: Bound up into that big “YES” to martyrdom; to death, are a thousand smaller “yeses" along the way.*
“Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God (1 Peter 4:1-2).”
Peter’s not saying, “If you suffer in the flesh, you will never sin again.”
“If you’ve got the big “YES” martyrdom, suffering in the flesh, and death, taken care of, these other calls to follow Jesus, the little “yeses” needed along the way, are already also taken care of. You won’t live for human passions, you’ll live for the will of God.”
What’s a Few More Laps?
I’ve always run distance races. Reason one being because I am mostly legs, and reason two being because I like to win. (From my earliest days racing, everyone signed up to run the 100 meter dash or long jump, but few signed up to run the mile and 2 mile; so in the worst case scenario, I’m getting 3rd place every time.)
Once I got to high school , I really started running the distance; 4 miles every meet.
The day started with the 2 mile run (8 laps), then the 2 mile relay (2 laps), then the 800 meter run (2 laps), and then to cap it off and bore people before the mile relay (which is just a ton of fun to watch), the day ended with the mile run (4 laps).
Do you know why I was able to do that every Saturday in the spring?
I was able to say “yes” to 2 laps, 2 more laps, and then 4 more laps, because I’d already given my big “YES” to 8 laps.
In my head every Saturday I’m thinking, after running 8 laps:
“Two more laps? Ok. I already did 8.”
“Oh, two more laps again? I already did 8.”
“Wow! 4 more laps now? I already did 8.”
By giving the big “YES” to the hardest race (this illustration isn’t perfect because the 800 is actually the hardest race and the hellscape of track and field, but you get the point) I could do the rest of the small “yeses”.
Martyrdom = 8 Laps
That’s what the call to martyrdom in scripture is about.
A big “YES” to this big commandment covers the small “yeses” to small commandments.
- By giving the big “YES” to martyrdom, we’re simultaneously giving the small “yes” to not consuming porn.
- By giving the big “YES” to martyrdom, we’re simultaneously giving the small “yes” to resisting gossip.
- By giving the big “YES” to martyrdom, we’re simultaneously giving the small “yes” to gather with the church or share the gospel.
Do you see what I’m saying?
If we can’t follow Jesus four blocks to the church building once a week for an hour and a half (a hilariously small “yes”), what makes us think we’ll follow him to the gallows (a great big giant “YES”)?
If we can’t confess Him as Lord to our neighbor who is a nice guy (a small “yes”), what makes us think we’ll confess him as Lord on the guillotine* (a big “YES”)?
Or like the Lord posed to Jeremiah, “(Jeremiah 12:5) If you have raced with men on foot (a small “yes”), and they have wearied you, how will you compete with horses? (a big “YES”)
If we can’t say yes to 8 laps, what makes us think we’ll be able to say yes to two?
Dalton Thomas, in his book “Unto Death” writes:
Though not every believer is called to give a martyr-witness, every believer is called to embrace a martyr-mentality, every church a martyr-mandate, and every minister a martyr-theology. Whether we live or die is ultimately in the hands of our Master, and if we have not entrusted Him with that decision, we may be deluding ourselves into assuming we are His bondservants when in fact we are not.”
Beloved, if we will arm ourselves with this way of thinking, if we give our big “YES” to suffering in the flesh, to martyrdom, even if it doesn’t come, all of our little “yeses” are taken care of and sin will gradually lose its grip.
Give the Lord the big “YES” and watch as the other “yeses” follow. I mean really, what’s a few more laps after 8?
Until He Comes,
*(this is a paraphrase from Dalton Thomas, but I can’t seem to find the source)
*(I use guillotine cause you’ve got 70s,80s,90s, rapture movies in your heads and it’s always a guillotine, isn’t it!)
Church Gathering Plans | May 24th & 31st
Sunday May 24th Plans
Last Sunday we enjoyed getting to worship the Lord with almost half of our church family on a beautiful sunny morning.
Unfortunately, current weather forecasts for this Sunday do not look as favorable.
Should the forecast change, we will gather outside. If not, we will live stream songs, prayers, and a sermon, as our previously communicated plan indicated.
Sunday May 31st Plans
That being said, we now turn our attention to our first gathering back in the sanctuary on May 31st.
- If You Don’t Feel Well, Stay Home
As always, pandemic or not, if you do not feel well or feel vulnerable to sickness, please stay home, inform the elders, and we’ll gladly come pray with you there. We will still be livestreaming worship for those at home.
- If You Do Feel Well, Practice Good Hygiene
Wash your hands and cough somewhere *not* on other people or objects.
- Sunday Groups Will Resume
Our normal groups (CAF, Students, S+D, Homebuilders, Larry’s) will resume.
- Our Facility is Clean
Every surface of the building (knobs, chairs, equipment, ect) will have been cleaned and disinfected. Hand sanitizer is available at each entrance.
- We Will Use Travel Communion
For a few weeks we’ll continue to use the travel communion cups as we worship at the Lord’s Table.
- Hugs, Handshakes, Masks, and Romans 14
If you’re comfortable shaking hands, hugging, sitting close to one another, ect, that’s fine. (It’s one of the things we miss the most after all!) But please do not force your freedom of conscience on others whose conscience before God at this moment has them wearing a mask/practicing careful social distancing. We will honor the choices of each person’s conscience before God in these matters. Ex; if you come up for prayer with an elder, we will first ask if we may lay hands on you.
- Nursery Protocol/Entry
If you have a child in the nursery, enter through the nursery door in the sanctuary. If you have a child in Mary and Judy’s class, do not enter through the nursery, but go through the south hallway, and enter from the south door outside. Only nursery age children should be in the nursery room. At 9:45 we will remove all the babies/children from their respective rooms, disinfect the rooms, and then bring them back in.
A Sincere Thanks
This has been one of the strangest 9 weeks of my life, especially in my role in our church. I want to sincerely say “thank you” to our members for being patient and kind as we’ve tried to navigate this with wisdom.
Those who wanted to reopen and gather earlier than we are have been kind and supportive, and those who feel we still shouldn’t open have been kind and supportive.
So, thank you.
Until He Comes,
Looking to Sunday | Parking Lot Worship
Due to the weather forecast, rather than meeting in the lot and fighting the mud, we’ll have the street blocked off and we will gather in front of the church building with the platform facing north.
Here are things you should know:
- Bring your bibles. We’ll be continuing in 1st Peter, this week from 1:6-9.
- For those unable/not yet comfortable returning, worship will still be livestreamed. We understand that everyone is processing this differently and not everyone feels it safe or wise to gather yet. The quality of the stream will be decreased considerably due to strength of internet connection and the difficulty of doing sound live versus the pre-recorded videos we have been using, but we will still have one available.
- We will have plastic chairs set up and spaced apart, but if you’d like to bring a more comfortable lawn chair, go for it! We will also leave space for vehicles for those more comfortable staying in the car.
- We will take the Lord’s Supper. In an earlier email, we said that you should bring your own elements. You can still do this, but we will provide elements in the travel packages placed on each seat before worship and will deliver to those in vehicles.
- We will have a Children and Family lesson and craft for PreK-5th grade. Like a normal Sunday, during the sermon they will be dismissed to the bank parking lot.
- This Sunday will be Caleb and Deborah Reese’s last Sunday with us as members as they are moving to OKC to pursue missionary training through Bridgeway Church. We will have a special time of prayer for them.
Until He Comes,
The last time we gathered together for worship was March 15th. That seems like 6 years ago, not 6 weeks ago.
The Lord has been good to us even in this and we’re grateful for technology (and for the people who have served us with it!) allowing us to have some semblance of corporate worship. The Lord has also continued to bless our body as financial gifts have been steadily coming in through online and paper options, including multiple donations to the Food Pantry for families in need.
As you know, Oklahoma began Phase 1 of “reopening” in late April, noting that progressing from Phase 1 to Phase 2 to Phase 3 is dependent on the number of cases staying steady or declining.
Since the OURS (Open Up and Recover Safely) Plan was released we’ve been in conversation with our fellow churches in and around Tonkawa, as well as medical professionals inside and outside of our congregation.
During Phase 1 and 2, the “Safer at home” guidelines are still in effect for those over 65 (a large percentage of our church family) or with vulnerable conditions, and we are recommended (by the state as well as by medical professionals in our congregation) to not open up our nursery or children’s spaces.
Taking this wisdom into consideration, our tentative plan is as follows:
May 10th: Online Video
May 17th & May 24th: Outdoor Worship (Location TBA) + Livestream
May 31st: Indoor Worship + Livestream
Notes for Outdoor Worship May 17th & 24th
- If the forecast is unfavorable, we will simply livestream.
- Worship will be under 1 hour.
- Those who fall in the “safer at home” categories are encouraged to either stay home, or if you do attend, simply “Drive-in” as we will have an area for parking with good visibility. However, this is America and you are responsible adults, so feel free to do whatever you want;) But we ask that you respect those around you by following the social distancing guidelines while in attendance.
- Bring your own chair, blanket, or umbrella (for shade)
- Bring a bottle of water and use the restroom at home.
- We would love (!) to take the Lord’s Supper together. Since scripture teaches us it is a meal for the gathered church, we have not included in our online videos since we are not gathered.
- To avoid passing the trays around during the Phases, we’re asking that attenders bring a fruit of the vine and some sort of bread for us to “proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.” Please do not bring something silly for the Lord’s Supper. We want to treat the meal Jesus gave us with honorable, joyful, worship.
If you have any questions, do not hesitate to call or email the church office.
Also, anytime, but especially now, if you are a member of our body and are in need, please let us know. It’s our joy as a congregation to “bear one another’s burdens.”
Until He Comes,
By Joe Kreger
O Spirit fill me up today
Reside in me I humbly pray
Convict me of my every sin
Mold and change me from within
You, who came at Pentecost
Found me once that I was lost
You drew me to my God above
You helped me understand His love
You make the scriptures plain to me
You push me down on bended knee
You lift me up each time I fall
You tune my ear to hear my call
You'll stay with me till Christ returns
You'll bring me peace when my heart yearns
You comfort me in times of stress
You shape the words that I confess
I seek Your gifts for the Kingdom's sake
Guide me down each path I take
Cultivate Your fruit in me
Remove the veil that I might see
Baptize me in Your cleansing fire
And pull my feet from fleshly mire
Arm me with your mighty sword
And make me useful to my Lord
A Word About Death
“He descended to the dead, and on the third day He rose”,
so say millions of Christians each and every week in the Apostles’ Creed.
But what does this mean?
Among many truths, it means this: Christians view death in a way peculiar to the world.
In the ancient church, Jesus’ triumph over death produced peculiar attitudes and practices towards death, like assembling for prayer in tombs, worshiping Jesus among the bones, and at funerals gazing lovingly over the bodies of the dead while singing Psalms.
In our modern moment, where death totals run below TV’s talking heads 24/7, Christians must carry on our historically peculiar attitudes towards the grave,
because for us, those who have died with Christ, death is a paradoxical victory.
Goodbye to Goodbyes
I’ve served many funerals for unbelievers and they are not happy events. Tears, wailing, and despair, are all present. They are sad and somber moments.
Now certainly, those things can be true of Christian funerals, but at a Christian funeral, the air is always different. When we sing at Christian funerals, we sing loud, and even as we’re crying, we’re simultaneously filled with joy.
Reese men are criers. If you’ve seen my dad pray for the offering at church or my uncle Rod talk about students at school, it’s a water park.
I am not that way.
But at one particular funeral, I cried. Like, cried cried.
At Wilma Evans’ service (a long time church member), I did pretty good right up until the end. I led the prayers, songs, obit, and preached the good news; no sweat.
But when I noticed the dam breaking for several in our congregation who knew and loved her dearly in this life, I knew my moment was on its way.
What finally released the river was the moment her late husband Clinton rolled his wheelchair to to her coffin.
In that moment I was filled with deep sadness, he had lost his wife and closest friend, but also great joy, because Jesus made sure that wouldn’t be the last time they’d see each other.
Ain't No Grave
Because Jesus died, for us, death is victory.
Where others see an end, we see a beginning.
“Death is serious”, Ben Myers writes, “but not as serious as life”.
Because Jesus rose on the third day, death is no longer the ultimate power in the world and Christians do not treat it like it is.
In the fourth century Athanasius wrote:
“If you see children praying with a lion, don’t you know that lion must either be dead or completely powerless? In the same way...when you see Christ’s believers playing with death...there can be no doubt that death has been destroyed by Christ and that its corruption has been dissolved and brought to an end.”
Because Christ rose on the third day, we can sing with Johnny Cash,
"There ain't no grave can hold my body down
There ain’t no grave can hold my body down
When I hear that trumpet sound
Ain't not grave can hold my body down"
Because Christ rose on the third day, we can say with the Apostle Paul,
"Where O Death is our victory?
Where O Death is your sting?"
Christian, Christ has conquered the grave.
Christ has conquered death.
Come what may, COVID-19, or whatever else, new bodies, new heavens, new earth, new life, await the saints of God.
Until He Comes,
CLC and Covid-19
With aims to love our neighbor by doing our part to minimize the spread of the coronavirus and practice Romans 13, at the recommendation of our federal, state, and local, government, and the guidance of our elders, we will suspend all CLC services and events until at least April 5th.
Redeeming the Time
Not wanting to waste our time inside, but to instead "redeem the time (Eph 5:16)", we're working on several ways to connect the church while we are temporarily separated from one another.
Sunday Morning Live Stream | 10:00am
On Sunday mornings at 10:00, from our Church Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/tonkawaclc)and our Church website live stream page (https://tonkawaclc.com/sermons) we'll sing a few songs, pray, and I'll share God's word.
This is not a replacement for our gatherings, but is something that can still be helpful to us in this strange time.
I'm not quite sure yet what parts of the bible I'll be teaching from yet, but I am sure we'll suspend our "Church?" series until we can come together again.
Children and Family Resources
For our Children and Family (CAF) Ministry, we're still operating under the assumption that ground zero for discipleship is the home, and so we're working on resourcing parents to this end.
We've created a playlist of new songs for your family to learn and enjoy. You can find them on the CAF page on the church website or get them straight from Youtube (https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLt-5kILythAjUWrpUCGdIhdfg2ISPOn9a)
On Sunday morning, we'll upload a video of Carlee reading the "Gospel Story Bible" to our CAF Facebook group
Also on Sunday morning, we'll upload the Gospel Story lesson documents to our website's Children and Family page for parents to use for added activities to accompany lesson + extra teaching points that have not been covered in the video.
On Wednesdays, Carlee will livestream on the CAF Facebook group, this time a lesson from the "Long Story Short" devotional, building on Sunday's lesson.
Parents, we feel it would be extremely helpful to you, if you haven't already, to purchase the Gospel Story Bible, Long Story Short, and Old Story New as they help keep the same stories and truths in front of the children Sunday-Saturday. If you need help financially with these resources, please let us know.
As always, our church supplies access to RightNow Media
(https://tonkawaclc.com/right-now-media) , so if the children are in front of a screen, you can make sure what their viewing is highlighting Jesus and growing their hearts and minds.
In keeping with redeeming the time while we're stuck inside, we've compiled links to hundreds of thousands of solid, bible-based, evangelical, bible study resources, from articles, sermons, graduate level theology courses, and more.
Simply visit the Resources page on our church website.
In addition to these, I'll be sharing different articles and videos throughout the week.
The elders decided Wednesday to continue with the church vote for this Sunday.
We will inform the church of the voting process as soon as we have it up and running.
Church and Community Care
Lastly, the upheaval we’re experiencing as a nation means that many of us are under pressure physically, spiritually, emotionally, and financially.
If you are at risk for Covid-19, and need help with grocery delivery or anything else, please reach out to us email@example.com or contact a church elder or member.
If you know anyone else in our community that needs assistance in this way, don't hesitate to contact us.
How To Give
To continue giving to the church in this time, you can give online via debit, credit, or bank transaction https://clctonkawa.breezechms.com/give/online
If you are not an online person, the church offices are open from 8:30-4:00 Monday-Thursday and you can drop the check off in the lockbox located at the entrance.
Until He Comes,