Did you know that children in the foster system form an at-risk people group within our own communities?
In almost every case, the reason these children end up in foster care care is because of an unsuitable home environment, which may involve violence, neglect, drugs, crime, etc. These environments not only result in trauma many times, but they also tend to result in or be associated with poverty. Many foster care situations are kinship care, which means the child is cared for by a relative, which can create a financial burden.
Poverty has a profound impact on a child’s mental and physical well-being. Children living in poverty have higher rates of absenteeism from school. Students who come from low income families are six times more likely to drop out of high school. Adults without a high school diploma are 4 times more likely to be unemployed and live in poverty, which means raising their children in poverty, perpetuating a cycle of poverty which may persist for generations: poverty affects education which affects poverty. (source 1, source 2)
One of the ways that we can help kids break out of this cycle of poverty is by encouraging them to stay in school – and one of the ways we can do that is by helping them have the things they need to be confident and excited about going to school, so they can succeed!
Our church, White Fields Community Church, has a history of ministering to children in the foster system, and five years ago we began a new ministry: Project Back to School.
We are working with Weld County Department of Human Services, and this year they have identified over 100 at-risk kids who need help with school supplies, clothes, and shoes. They have provided us with a list of needed items, which we will share with those who sign up to help.
We are trusting that God will raise up people to bless these families in the name of Jesus. It’s a way for us to love not only in words and in speech, but in action as well (1 John 3:18).
We will be taking sign-ups beginning Sunday, July 4 and asking items to be returned by Sunday, July 25.
How to Get Involved and Make a Difference
1. Sign up in-person
If you live in or near Longmont, visit White Fields Church on a Sunday morning this July and sign up to sponsor one or more children.
2. Sign up online
If you can’t make it on a Sunday morning, but are still local and could drop off items to us for delivery, leave a comment below, or contact the church here.
3. Contribute Financially
All monies that come in designated for Project Back to School will go directly towards buying school supplies for at risk children. You can make a tax-deductible donation on our church’s website here: whitefieldschurch.com/give/ (choose Project Back to School on the drop-down menu).
Join us in praying for these kids, and that God uses this initiative to bless them.
Last week I had the honor of being a guest on Gino Geraci’s radio show: Crosswalk with Gino Geraci, on 94.7 FM KRKS which airs in the Denver metro area and online.
We discussed the topic of the “perspicuity” or “clarity” of Scripture, which was the subject of my MA dissertation.
The discussion certainly wasn’t exhaustive, and there is more I would like to share about meaning and implications of the perspicuity of Scripture via this blog and my podcast – such as the difference between the external and internal aspects of perspicuity, but this was a great introduction to the topic.
Gino is well-read and understands the subject well, and it was fun to talk with someone who enjoys discussing these things and helping other people understand them.
What is perhaps most interesting about our discussion is that we spent time talking about how the perspicuity of Scripture speaks to the current trend of postmodern thinking and epistemology, in which even many professing Christians are taking up views which are contrary to the clear reading of Scripture because of pressure from the culture.
You can listen to the two hours we spent discussing this topic on the radio here:
My friends and co-laborers, Ted Leavenworth and Rob Salvato, both pastors in Southern California, started a new podcast called Leadership Collective, in which they curate helpful conversations with church leaders about relevant topics.
I had the pleasure of being a guest on the podcast along with Dr. Mark Foreman. Our discussion was about the nuts and bolts of how we develop, cast, and implement “vision” in our churches. Mark pastors a mega-church in Southern California, and I pastor a medium sized church on the Front Range of Colorado, so there are some pretty big differences in how we go about this process, but many similarities as well.
Earlier in my ministry I used to hate the word “vision” because it seemed so nebulous and abstract. However, since then I have come to understand that “vision” can simply be defined as: “a desired outcome.” Putting it in those terms, the question of “vision” becomes much more manageable. Beginning with a desired outcome, you can then begin thinking about the way to achieve that outcome, and break it down into a process with steps, depending on the given time-frame.
Not only is it imperative that we have vision as leaders, it’s also important for us to communicate it. What I have learned is that most leaders unwittingly under-communicate vision, and it’s very rare for people to feel that leaders over-communicate vision. The point is, for most of us, we need to communicate vision more than we currently are, and more than we think we need to.
We are excited to host this conference at our church this year on May 21-22. This is a conference which has been going on for years in Cheyenne, WY – but this year the organizers had the idea to invite men from other churches in the region.
Speakers include Shaun Sells (Calvary Chapel Cheyenne), Michael Payne (White Fields Community Church), and Jeff Figgs (Calvary Chapel Greeley).
The theme and messages come from Revelation 2-3 and the letters to the 7 churches.
This will be a great time of fellowship, prayer, and study, culminating with a steak lunch on Saturday, May 22.
Our radio ministry has been expanding and we felt this was a good time for some rebranding. As of April 1, 2021, “Life in the Field” has become “Be Set Free”
Our program airs Monday-Friday at 9:30 AM and 2:30 PM, and Sundays at 1:00 PM on GraceFM: 89.7 FM along the Northern Front Range (Cheyenne, WY – Castle Rock, CO) and 101.7 in Colorado Springs, CO. We can also be heard online at gracefm.com and on the GraceFM app.
Along with this rebranding, we have started a dedicated webpage for Be Set Free, where you can find each day’s message from the radio: besetfreeradio.com. You can even sign up on the site to have those messages delivered directly to your inbox.
You can also subscribe to the Be Set Free Podcast, and every day you will get that day’s episode delivered directly to your podcast app. Go to: Be Set Free Podcast
Be Set Free is a listener-supported ministry, and if you would like to contribute to helping to spread the gospel over the airwaves through clear, relevant expository Bible teaching, you can donate here.
Airing Date: August 4
In 2 Kings 18, as King Hezekiah brings reforms to Judah, we are reminded that rather than looking to the things of this world to be what they cannot, or fixating on the difficulties before us, we look to Jesus, who alone can give us what we need for our past, present, and future.
From our series: 1 & 2 Kings: Desiring the Kingdom
Tom Stipe was my pastor and mentor. He was the pastor of Crossroads Church of Denver, and in 1999, at 16 years old, I walked through the doors of that church for the first time on a Wednesday night. Little did I know that would be one of the best decisions I ever made, and it would shape the course of my life.
I went to Crossroads at the recommendation of my friends from school – friends who were not Christians! This is a testimony to the fact that Tom and Crossroads had an incredible reputation in the community. He was well-known and respected, even by people who didn’t follow Jesus or go to church. My friends told me that Crossroads had good music and they just teach the Bible.
I started going to Crossroads whenever the doors were open and I grew under Tom’s Bible teaching. I made other friends there and mentors with whom I have had lifelong friendships.
In January 2002, Tom sent me out as a missionary to Hungary. He ordained me, and for years he supported, encouraged and visited me and my wife while I was there. He really liked my wife Rosemary, probably even a little more than he liked me 😄.
Upon returning to Colorado, Tom was a source of encouragement. I will miss hearing his stories of all the great things God did through the Jesus Movement and over the years through Crossroads, but with the hope of the resurrection, I look forward to seeing him again.
A celebration of life was held for Pastor Tom at Harvest Church in Irvine, California, and was led by Greg Laurie, a friend of Tom’s. Harvest did a great job creating a video of the event for those who couldn’t join in person. That video is embedded below, or can be found here.
I was honored to get to say a few words at the memorial as well: my eulogy starts at 51:54.
Tom will be sorely missed. The God of Tom Stipe and the Spirit which he trusted in and relied on is here with us still, to do great things in the next generation.
2020 has been a wild ride! It feels like there’s a new surprise around every corner, and none of them are fun!
This year we’ve had the coronavirus pandemic, economic crisis, political and social crises, and environmental crises in the form of devastating fires in the western United States and hurricanes in the southern US.
Several people have asked me whether these fire are the judgment of God upon our society, or whether they are instead the work of the Devil.
God’s Judgment in the Bible Through Natural Means
This is an interesting question, because there are times in the Bible when we read about things which seem to be natural phenomena, but the Bible tells us they were acts of God for the purpose of judgment.
Examples of this would include: the great flood in the time of Noah, the earth opening up and swallowing the sons of Korah (sounds a lot like a sinkhole!) in Numbers 16, the judgment of Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis 19 (the site of the Dead Sea, often thought to be the result of a meteor striking the Earth), or Gehazi being struck with leprosy in 2 Kings 5.
The Bible Gives Us Something We Don’t Have In Our Time
What we have in the Bible is not just a sterile account of historical events, but rather an authoritative theological interpretation of historical events. In other words: floods happen all the time, but this flood was the judgment of God. Not every sinkhole is the judgment of God, but this one was!
These theological interpretations were given by inspiration of the Holy Spirit to the writers of Scripture. The question is: how can we know whether current events are God’s judgment or not?
When an earthquake or a tsunami strikes, or when forest fires rage, it would be presumptuous for us to declare that they are the judgment of God, because we simply don’t have the same authoritative insight or theological interpretation that was given to the writers of Scripture.
Further Considerations: A Fallen World and a Natural Ecosystem
When sin came into the world, it not only affected us human beings, it affected all of creation. There are things about nature which are broken, harsh and cruel.
Here in Colorado, for example, fire is a natural part of our ecosystem. There are certain pine cones which only open in the heat of fire, and pine forests often need fire in order to clean up the undergrowth and fallen debris and replant themselves. It’s how the ecosystem works, and there have been fires here since long before humans inhabited this area in the way we do now.
In other words: we moved to an area where wildfires are part of the ecosystem… so it probably shouldn’t surprise us when there are fires!
We look forward to the New Heavens and the New Earth, where things will be the way they were meant to be, the way they are supposed to be: where there is no more destruction by fire and no more disease, pestilence, and the like.
What Jesus Said About This: The Tower of Siloam
In Luke 13:1-5, Jesus was talking to some people about some current events which included the suffering and death of people in their community. One instance included a tower, the Tower of Siloam, which stood in Jerusalem, but had collapsed and killed 18 people.
People were asking whether the collapse of this tower, killing these 18 people, had been the judgment of God upon them. Check out Jesus’ response:
Those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.
Jesus told these people, “No, this wasn’t the judgment of God.” Apparently, in our imperfect, fallen world, sometimes towers are built poorly and materials collapse, or the ground shifts, and structures sometimes collapse. Sadly, sometimes people die in accidents, or of illnesses, or of other reasons.
But, although this was not the judgment of God, Jesus warned those people that they should take heed in light of this event, and let this be something which causes them to repent and turn to God in humble faith, lest they also perish.
Regarding the fires raging in the United States, COVID-19, and the other difficulties facing the world right now: Is this the judgment of God? Maybe. Or maybe not. We can’t be sure. But we can be sure of this: these events should certainly cause you to turn to the Lord in prayer and repentance, and if we don’t repent then we will perish in something much worse than wildfire or COVID-19: the judgment of our souls.
One thing is for sure: God wants to use these events to cause us to turn to him. May we do so without delay. If we do, the hope of the gospel is not only the salvation of our souls, but the redemption of our lives, and a relationship with God.
The Bible Learning Center is something that has been on my heart for a long time, and I’m excited to see it begin.
In the past we have taught classroom-style classes at White Fields on topics such as Church History, Christocentric Hermeneutics, and more, but over the past year I handed the development of the Bible Learning Center off to a team who have really laid the groundwork for this to become more of what we originally envisioned:
I like to describe it as: “Bible college for people who don’t have time to go to Bible college.” Think: community college meets Bible college.
The Bible Learning Center will have a two-year non-accredited credit based curriculum, aimed at preparing believers for ministry in the world, whether relational or vocational. If you only want to take a few classes which interest you, that’s possible. If you want to do the entire program, which seeks to give a well-rounded offering of essential and elective classes, that is also possible.
This first semester will be limited because of COVID-19, but we will be offering three 6-week classes starting October 5, 2020:
Monday nights, 7:00 PM: Walk Through the Bible with Pastor Nick Cady
Monday nights, 7:00 PM: Worship Guitar Workshop with Pastor Michael Payne
Tuesday nights, 7:00 PM: Spiritual Transformation – a study of 1 Peter with Pastor Ken Cartlidge
Looking for some light reading? How about an audio book for your next leisurely drive? This might not be it. If you’re looking for a short but extremely thoughtful book with intensely helpful cultural insights, then here you go:
Smith’s purpose in writing a book about a book is that A Secular Age is both intimidating in its size and is written in a way which is inaccessible to many readers who would benefit from its content. I for one, though I am intrigued by Taylor’s book and its analysis of modern secular culture, balked at the 900+ page tome.
The Imminent Frame: Haunted by Transcendence
Smith’s book introduces you to Taylor’s key concepts and arguments, as well as some of his key terms, such as his analysis of the secular mindset as the “imminent frame.” This reminded me of a conversation I had with a relative years ago, who is my same age (an older millennial); when we started talking about the existence of God, she said, “Maybe God does exist, but: who cares?”
The imminent frame is only concerned with what is right in front of them, “the here and now”, and yet, Taylor explains that exclusive humanists who inhabit the imminent frame are “haunted by transcendence.” Smith points this out by quoting lyrics from The Postal Service:
And I’m looking through the glass Where the light bends at the cracks And I’m screaming at the top of my lungs Pretending the echoes belong to someone Someone I used to know
The Postal Service, “We Will Become Silhouettes”
Basically, no matter how much a person claims to not care whether God exists, or there is life after death, they are haunted by thoughts of it. I remember another family member describing how utterly terrified she was of dying, yet when I asked her what she believed about life after death, she said she doesn’t know, and assumes there is nothing. I don’t believe her: why be afraid of nothing? There is a nagging, haunting hunch in the heart and mind of every person, that there is something more than this life and this world… A God to whom they will answer, an existence beyond the grave.
Another aspect of the secular, exclusive humanism is the concept Taylor called “the buffered self”, which refers to the idea that an individual is an island unto themselves: that there is a firm boundary between the self and others, as opposed to the “porous self” which characterized people in previous eras.
James K.A. Smith’s book is not just a summary though, he also applies many of Taylor’s ideas to Christianity: both how Christianity contributed to and is influenced by this modern secular age.
I first listened to half of this book via audiobook on a drive to climb La Plata Peak, a Colorado 14-er. Later on, I picked up a hard copy to read as well, as there are some parts of the book which aren’t particularly well-suited for digesting properly listening at 1.5 speed while driving at dawn through the mountains.
One phrase Smith used, which my friend who was listening with me in the car ended up discussing for a while afterwards was: Epistemic Pelagianism. It’s the kind of phrase that forces you to hit the pause button and break it down in order to unpack what these two words together mean.
Epistemology = the theory of knowledge, especially with regard to its methods, validity, and scope. Epistemology is the investigation of what distinguishes justified belief from opinion. Epistemology deals with questions like, “How can we know that what we believe is really accurate or true? To what degree do we have the capacity to accurately discern truth and/or reality?”
Pelagianism = Pelagius (354 – 418 AD) was a theologian who denied the doctrine of original sin. He argued for the innate goodness of human beings and for absolute free will. Pelagius argued for these things in contrast to Augustine of Hippo, who taught from the Scriptures that human beings are fallen, and our fallen condition affects our will and nature.
“Epistemic Pelagianism” therefore refers to the idea that as human beings, we are capable of figuring everything out by ourselves, without any help from God.
Epistemic pelagianism denies the fact that we don’t see everything clearly. It denies the idea that, apart from God’s intervention in our lives, we are fallen, limited beings whose hearts are not pure. It places far to much confidence, to the point of hubris, in our ability to accurately discern and interpret the data we take in, in a way that can lead us to all truth, apart from any intervention or help from God.
Rather than epistemic pelagianism, the Bible teaches us that without God’s help, we cannot see clearly, and are incapable of objectively assessing and interpreting things. We need God to remove the blinders from our eyes, in order for us to see clearly.
This biblical epistemology leads us to humility rather than hubris; it leads us to the conclusion that we can’t see or know everything, that we can be wrong.
The Bible teaches that we only see in part, as in a mirror dimly (1 Corinthians 13:12), that a natural person is incapable of comprehending all truth apart (1 Corinthians 1:14), that our hearts are fundamentally broken and have a tendency to mislead us (Jeremiah 17:9), and therefore it is possible to hear and not understand, to see and not perceive (Acts 28:26).
There are things that we can know (Romans 1:19), but even in those cases we have a tendency to suppress that knowledge if we don’t like the conclusions it would lead to (Romans 1:18)
Thus, confidence in our ability, or willingness for that matter, to comprehend and follow the truth, apart from God’s intervention, is misguided. Instead, we need to take a more realistic and humble view of ourselves, which admits that we need outside assistance in order to receive, comprehend, and appropriately respond to the truth.
Ultimately, we see that theology shapes the way you view all of life. Modern exclusive secularism is based, at least in some part, on bad theology which is clearly refuted in the Bible. Good, robust, comprehensive Biblical theology therefore, is an antidote to many modern philosophical pitfalls.
If you’re looking for an accessible book that helps you understand Charles Taylor’s piercing insights into the exclusive humanism which is prevalent in many of today’s Western cities, as well as the cracks in those theories, and ways in which the gospel uniquely speaks to people today, check out James K.A. Smith’s book How (Not) to Be Secular, but make sure to take the time to break down and digest each sentence.