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Chastity: The Apologetic We Forgot April 8, 2013

Posted by clintcarter in Church, God.
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Have you ever considered that chastity is a significant witness for the truth of the Gospel?

Chastity is a little used word.  It means to be pure in action and intention regarding sexual behavior.  Not just abstaining from sexually immoral acts, but doing so for the right reasons.  Chastity is not just behavior modification, but desire modification.

I’ve been reading Justin Martyr’s Apologies written around A.D. 160.  Justin wrote this book to the Roman emperor Antoninus Pius as a defense of Christian faith and practice; denying the false accusations against Christians and reasoning how Christians make model citizens for any society.

One chapter in particular caught my attention (Chapter 15 What Christ himself taught).  Justin leads with Christian chastity as a defense of the validity of the Christian faith.  Here’s what he says:

“And many both men and women, who have been Christ’s disciples from childhood, remain pure at the age of sixty or seventy years; and I boast that I could produce such from every race of men.  For what shall I say, too, of the countless multitude of those who have reformed intemperate habits, and learned these things?”

Justin was calling the emperor to look at the sexual immorality prevalent in his culture, with no human exempt from these urges/actions and compare it to what was happening among believers with their reformed, chaste habits and decades of purity (which was just as unheard of in his day as it is in ours).

Chastity among believers is a strong apologetic for the world.  For modern believers chastity extends to faithfulness in marriage – including mental and emotional faithfulness.  For single believers – not pursuing lustful thoughts, rejecting any sexual activity, and staying away from even the appearance of evil (sleeping over).

Chastity was a hallmark of the early church.  It was something that the surrounding culture recognized as a distinguishing mark.  It set them apart.  However, it wasn’t something that the church demanded of the culture.  Justin was not forcing Christian morals upon the society around him.

As the church today we’ve got it backwards.  We try to force chastity upon our society while not maintaining it ourselves.  Adultery, fornication, pornography and pre-marital sex are rampant among the church today.  Our chastity does not distinguish us and so it does not present a strong, significant witness for the truth of the Gospel.

Now as a man, I know the impossibility of leading a chaste life in my own strength.  None of us can meet these standards by our own will power.  Even our best attempts will leave us defeated or self-righteous.  But we have a Savior who not only forgives us for our failures but who provides inspiration and empowerment to turn from these temptations.  Jesus’ work has renewed our minds and given us a new nature created according to God’s image in purity. (Ephesians 4:17-24)  Church, may our chastity be compelling evidence of God’s mercy.

Is it my Job or my Family? February 14, 2012

Posted by clintcarter in Church.
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Lately I’ve been thinking about how weird it is to work for a church.  On one hand, my paycheck comes from the interactions and relationships I have with people in my church.  On the other hand, and a far more important one, these people are my Family.

The use of the title “brothers and sisters” in the New Testament isn’t just a nice thought or only used because the writer couldn’t think of anything else to call them.  It’s a new reality!  In a very real sense, these people are now my Family even more so than my blood relatives because of the work of Jesus on our behalf (Mark 3:31-35).

Because of this dynamic, a pastor’s work and personal life blend into each other more so than any other paid profession I know of.  Sometimes it seems as if there is no separation.  It used to be easier for me to separate it in my mind.  I used to take days off and not do anything church related.  However, as my understanding has changed I’ve begun to wonder “How do you take a day off from your Family?  Is that even healthy?”

I understand that everyone needs a break from work.  Everyone needs times of rest to stay healthy.  It’s just hard to find the line between what is work and what is life.

These pretzels are making me thirsty… July 21, 2011

Posted by clintcarter in Church.
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Pretzel Video

And this sermon series is eating my lunch.  I feel like I haven’t been doing anything but sermon prep the past 2 weeks.  Maybe I’ll eventually get faster, but right now each one is consistently taking me about 20-25 hours to prepare.

I manuscript them and they end up being 7-8 pages long and roughly 4000 words.  I enjoy the process but I get tired of looking at a computer screen.

Just finished this week’s on Marriage as Companionship.  Two down, two to go.  If you want to hear them you can find them here as they get posted.

 

What am I doing? April 26, 2011

Posted by clintcarter in Church, Church Planting, God.
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As a pastor there is an incessant urge inside of me to work on growing our church.  It’s understandable on many levels.  First of all, a growing church can represent job security.  Second, a growing church can financially support its pastors so that we don’t have to worry about where our next house payment is coming from.  Third, I’ve told a lot of people that we’re planting a church and there is some level of expectation from these people (many of whom are supporting our family financially) that a self-supporting church will be established.  Fourth, it is a definite ego boost to see a full house on Sundays.  Fifth, a growing church has the appearance of a successful church (depending on your definition of success).  I could go on, but you get the idea.

But there is a great danger here.  If I’m not careful, I begin to think that growing a church is my responsibility.  But I haven’t come across anywhere in the New Testament where God instructs pastors to grow churches numerically (if you find a place let me know).  I do find instructions for pastors to guard sound doctrine and make sure their lives reflect it.  I find exhortations for pastors to watch over the souls under their care as men who will have to give an account.

I don’t know your impression of it, but for me giving an account for the state of someone else’s spiritual progress is a scary thing!  A scary, sobering responsibility.  If anything, I’d rather limit the number of people I’m responsible for so that I can do the job well.  Would you rather be responsible for 2000 souls or 20 souls?  Even 20 sounds like a lot.

That’s why Crosstown takes church membership seriously.  There are lots of reasons, but at the very least, we want to know which souls we are going to have to give an account for.

Jesus told the Apostle Peter “I will build my church…”  So apparently it’s His responsibility.  My charge is to teach, care for and lead them well, while making sure my own life reflects sound doctrine.

(For those concerned about the effect of this approach for evangelism – if my life, and the lives of those in my church reflect sound doctrine, than we will be proclaiming the message of reconciliation to those far from God.  As God chooses to bring them to life, they may choose to identify themselves with our church and we grow numerically.)

Man Crisis September 1, 2010

Posted by clintcarter in Church, Church Planting.
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There is a man crisis in our churches today.  Are you apart of the epidemic?

Sunday’s Coming video May 11, 2010

Posted by clintcarter in Church, Humor.
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This video is great satire.  It’s funny but a little sad.

First Community Gathering April 6, 2010

Posted by clintcarter in Church, Church Planting.
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We held our first public church service this last Sunday!  We had a great time celebrating the person and work of Jesus together.  We met at the Midtown YMCA – the director, Sara, was incredibly helpful and encouraging.

The core group came over to our house at 8am to eat breakfast together.  At 9:00 it was off to the Y to set up chairs, sound, and the children’s areas.  Set up went smoothly and we were done in plenty of time for our 10:30 start.

The service itself was great.  Katie joined me on the violin which added a wonderful layer to corporate worship.  Ben preached out of Acts 17 (you can listen to it at our church website).  We had 50 kids and adults in attendance.

Several people stayed to help tear down and we were done by 12:30.  There are a few things we need to tweak for next month – but all in all it was a great morning.

Is it a big deal? March 23, 2010

Posted by clintcarter in Church, Church Planting.
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Our church (Crosstown) will be having its first public Community Gathering on Easter Sunday.  We’ll be meeting at the Midtown YMCA at 10:30 a.m.  In some ways this is a big deal, but in other ways I wonder whether it is.

It is a big deal because gathering as a group of believers to be reminded of the Gospel through the preaching of the Word, music and sacrament is life-giving.  But then we’ve been doing that on a smaller scale for a couple of months now.

It is a big deal because we want others to be exposed to our church and to the message “Be reconciled to God” (2 Corinthians 5:20).  But then we’ve already been doing that through personal relationships and our Bible Study.

There the danger of losing sight of the mission or replacing it with a new mission – like putting on quality services every Sunday morning.  A church service can be a vital tool in accomplishing the mission of making disciples, but it is not the mission in and of itself.

There is the danger of mistaking church for what happens on Sunday morning instead of us being the church in the normal, everyday rhythms of life.  People might begin to see Sundays as checking off their spiritual quota rather than investing themselves in a Missional Family to go on mission as God’s children.

There is the danger of parents not discipling their children and assuming that their kids time on Sundays at church is sufficient for their spiritual development.

I was encouraged by this quote from Tim Chester:

People often ask me about our meetings. ‘When do you meet? Where? What do you do when you meet together?’ But if you ask those questions then you have completely missed the point! We’re not advocating a new way of doing meetings. Actually our meetings are not good! The music is poor and the teaching is nothing you’d go out of your way to hear. What matters to us is our shared life: sharing our lives, doing ordinary life with gospel intentionality.

The church will never out perform TV shows and music videos. But there is nothing like the community life of the church. There is nowhere else where diverse people come together. There is nowhere else where broken people find a home. There is nowhere else where grace is experienced. There is nowhere else where God is present by his Spirit.

God, be gracious to us.  As we honor You each week on Sunday mornings, please remind Crosstown that the Gathering is only the tip of the iceberg.  We are not looking to fill our lives with religious activities, but authentic relationships with You and those You put in our lives.  Steer us clear of religious obligation.  May we delight in You and believe Your Good News to the point that it changes us.

My first podcast March 1, 2010

Posted by clintcarter in Church, Church Planting, God.
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I offer you my first podcast ever!!  You can listen to it or download it from this site.

http://www.sermoncloud.com/crosstown/family-identity-and-rhythms/

I’m pretty sure this is the longest I’ve ever talked in my life 🙂

Easy like Sunday morning October 12, 2009

Posted by clintcarter in Church, Family.
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For the first time in my life I understand what “easy like Sunday morning” means.  The last couple of years of college and all of my working life, Sunday mornings have been anything but easy.  I generally arrived at the church by 7am if not before.  It was a morning of rehearsals, ministering to people, and troubleshooting.  Even when I resigned from Noland Road Baptist last November – life at the Bed and Breakfast wasn’t “easy like Sunday morning”.

So, easy Sunday mornings are a novelty for me.  Yesterday I woke up and went walking.  Came home to eat breakfast.  Played with the kids for a while.  Got ready for church.  Had time to check e-mails and read some sports.  And then went to a church service at 11:00.  It was a good morning.