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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.

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Let these words sink in… August 13, 2012

Posted by clintcarter in God.
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Our Missional Family was reading Luke 9 together last week.  This morning I got stuck on verse 44.

Let these words sink in: the Son of Man is about to be betrayed into the hands of men.

I got stuck because I honestly don’t think these words have “sunk in” yet.  I’ve been a follower of Jesus for 29 years, yet I still don’t grasp the gravity of His words.  “God betrayed into the hands of men.”  All kinds of alarms should be going off at this statement.  How could this be?  Why is the Superior being given over to the Inferior?  How can someone betray God?  Is He not smart enough?  Is He not strong enough to resist?

This doesn’t even make sense.  It’s like me being betrayed by ladybugs.  It’s nonsense.  There is no way THE GOD could fall unaware into this situation.  Unless… unless He chose to.  Which sets off a whole other slew of alarms and objections.  Why would He allow Himself to be betrayed by His Creation?  Is He bored?  Is He a masochist?  What is He hoping to accomplish?  Why would He submit Himself to betrayal without revealing who He was?

Yet all of this has grown familiar to me.  I’ve grown old and comfortable with the extraordinary.  I’ve stopped asking questions.  I’ve stopped pondering the meaning and implications in deep, soul-shaking ways.  Jesus, forgive me.  Forgive me for belittling Your accomplishment.  Let “these words” sink into my mind/heart this week.

You of Little Faith April 10, 2012

Posted by clintcarter in God, Life.
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I was reminded yesterday of how small my faith is.  Sometimes I pretend to be exercising faith in God, but it’s really just a smoke screen for me to keep believing in myself.

There are 2 opportunities that I’ve been “praying” about for the past 6 months.  Both of these were things I hoped our family could do this coming year.  Both opportunities would require a size-able amount of money.  When I first began to pray about them, it was just a request of my Father who I know loves me and I trust knows what is best for me and my family.

But very quickly, probably within the first month of regularly praying about them, I began to develop a game plan for how they could happen.  I soon realized that trying to save enough money for both opportunities was impossible, so I immediately wrote off the first one.

As I kept strategizing, I decided that we could use our tax refund for the second opportunity.  I began to set my hope there and started planning accordingly.

After 4 more months of “praying”, our tax refund came in at substantially less than I’d hoped for.  Because I had this all worked out in my head, I took this as a sign that God was saying no to the second opportunity.

You’ve probably already spotted my faulty logic, but I didn’t until yesterday when I came across the prayer card I had originally made for these opportunities.  Yesterday I saw clearly that I wasn’t trusting God.  I wasn’t placing my hope in His care and provision.  I was just spiritualizing my self-made plans and practically living as a Deist.

I don’t know if God wants the Carters to do either of these things.  However I’ve begun to pray about them again and am choosing to leave the results in His hands and trust His sovereignty in the matter.

Anticipating my need February 1, 2012

Posted by clintcarter in God, Life.
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Saturday was challenging for me.  I have several friends who are going through difficult seasons right now, and as their pastor I get to share in their burdens.  I was feeling overwhelmed by the needs and didn’t know if I had the capacity to minister to them.

Little did I know, Saturday night several of my other friends had seen the needs and began to talk about how they could rearrange their schedules to help.  Before I even began to ask God for help, He was already providing it.

Tuesday morning in my journal I asked God to provide people to help in each of these circumstances.  Tuesday afternoon I had coffee with a friend from the second group who informed me that they had talked over the weekend and brainstormed about how they could help.

All I could think this morning is that God is Good.  He knew my need before I asked.  Even when I was in the midst of despair over the need, He was providing a solution.  But He didn’t reveal the answer to me right away.  He allowed me to remain in the place of uncertainty for a couple of days.  During that time I was reminded of my insufficiency and my need for Him.  And that is good, because I forget that regularly.

He is a Good Father and I am honored to be one of His sons.

Friends June 29, 2011

Posted by clintcarter in Friends, God.
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Carey and I spent the last few days in Saint Louis.  It’s been relaxing and enjoyable.

During our 4 years in Saint Louis, God granted us with some incredible, spiritual friendships.  Relationships that challenged and nurtured us.  People that we would do anything for.

And all I’ve been doing this week is spending time with those people and talking with them about what God has been doing.  It’s been very refreshing.  Over and over I’ve wished that we could take them back with us to OKC.  But God is Good and I’m grateful for the season we got to walk with them.

Dream again May 4, 2011

Posted by clintcarter in God.
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If you know your parent loves and protects you, it fills your world with possibility…If you learn to pray, you learn to dream again.  Quote from The Praying Life by Paul Miller.

I’ve forgotten how to dream.  I’ve forgotten how to ask God for the impossible.  My prayer life is filled with “appropriate” requests.  You know what I mean – as you get older you learn not to ask God for irresponsible or improbable things like a trip to Europe, or a new car, or for Him to save everyone you work with.

Think about the way a child asks their parent for something, for a small child even the boundaries of time and space aren’t obstacles. Yesterday, Alliyah asked me if we could go to Disney World tomorrow.  Payton asked me if we could go swimming at 8:30 last night.

But as we get older, our requests become more and more realistic (read become lower and lower). Emma asked me if we could go to a Thunder game.  Madi asked me if we could watch a movie together as a family.

Today, I realized that I’m not childlike in my praying.  I don’t see God the way Alliyah sees me.  My prayers make me sound like I’m a pessimistic 70-year-old man instead of a child convinced of my Father’s love and ability.

Father, teach me to dream again.  Restore a childlike faith in me.

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.)

Rob Bell and me March 18, 2011

Posted by clintcarter in Books, God.
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The evangelical online community (affectionately referred to as the EOC)  is up in arms.  Rob Bell’s latest book “Love Wins” has them in a state of frenzy.  There has been more blogging about this book than any in recent memory.

The EOC is upset, from what I can gather, because Rob makes the claim that Jesus isn’t the only way to heaven.  Rob suggests that God will pursue and win over everyone regardless of their religious preference in this life.

Instead of a rebuttal (which has been posted by people much smarter than me), my thoughts went a different way.  I realized that my theology isn’t that different from Rob’s.  While I might not make a public claim for Christian Universalism (which essentially is what Rob did), I am all too often a universalist in my silence.

I won’t tell you that I believe everyone will be saved in spite of who or where they place their faith, but more often than not, that’s how I live.  I am content to sit on the Good News about Jesus, without caring whether the people around me know it or not.  I don’t treat it as life-changing, necessary information – rather more like a good book of fiction that I read which I may or may not tell you about, depending on my perception of you.

Even though I live a bad theology, nobody confronts me about it.  And as long as I’m subversive, or point the finger at others who are louder than me, I can go on my way unmolested.

Should Rob Bell be called out for publishing bad theology?  Absolutely!  Should I be called out for the bad theology that exudes from my life?

Umm…Hey, have you read the latest book by that heretic Rob Bell?

“Watch your life and doctrine closely.  Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.”  I Timothy 4:16

Lent March 15, 2011

Posted by clintcarter in God.
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Lent had no meaning for me whatsoever during my childhood.  The Baptist church I grew up in never mentioned the liturgical calendar.  It wasn’t until college that I first heard of someone “giving up” something for the Lenten season.  I didn’t understand why, nor was I particularly interested.

This year, for the first time in my life, I am observing Lent.  In doing a little research, I discovered what the rest of the world probably already knew.  Lent was not a practice conceived by the Roman Catholic Church.  This season of self-examination and penitence expressed through self-denial can be traced all the way back to the early days of Christianity.  In A.D. 325 the Council of Nicea put some parameters on Lent to unify the various observances.

So why give up something for Lent?  Definitely not to earn God’s favor – I already have that in Christ.  Definitely not to “do something” for God – He doesn’t need anything I can offer.  It seems to me that the greatest value of the Lenten season is to reveal how “needy” I am; to reveal how often I look to the creation to satisfy my soul rather than the Creator.

I know I’ll fail in the observance, I already have.  The point isn’t my perfection, but focusing on the One who is perfect.  As my appetite tells me to satisfy myself, instead I turn my gaze toward Jesus for satisfaction.

I’m sure my understanding and practice of Lent will change in the coming years, especially as I begin to share it with my children.  Hopefully my underlying motivation will remain steadfast – to make much of Jesus.

Doing something else February 7, 2011

Posted by clintcarter in Church Planting, God.
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This is a good place to be.  I’ve been here before, but I’ve definitely been other places.

There are moments in life when you know that you are right where you are supposed to be.  Moments when there is nothing else you’d rather be doing.  I’ve been in the middle of one of those moments for the past 27 months.

I’m not saying that my life is without challenges and struggles that are bothersome, those are present for everyone in this sin sick world.  But I am saying that in the midst of those, this is exactly what I was made to do.

To be Carey’s husband; Madi, Emma, Payton and Alli’s dad; to be a church planter/pastor here in urban Oklahoma City; this is it.

Hopefully I’ve learned that feelings aren’t enough to dictate whether I am where I’m supposed to be.  In the past, I’ve been in the right place with the wrong attitude and it was torture.  I know that disappointments and failures will test my confidence.  I’m sure I will forget this security from time to time and question my place.

This is the reason I place my hope in Christ.  Ultimately it matters not where I live and serve.  What matters is Who I’m serving?

I’m reminded of the quote by Eric Liddel “I believe God made me for a purpose. . .but He also made me fast.  And when I run, I feel His pleasure.”  I feel like I’m running like I never have before and I feel His pleasure.