Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

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NEW BLOG

January 12, 2010

Hey y’all. I have a new blog site. It’s at http://jeffreylavalette.com stop by and say hi.

-JL

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Toledo is a Post-Christian City

May 13, 2009

As I endeavor to spread the Gospel to the City of Toledo, I’ve been trying to observe the culture and various lifestyles that surround me.  And what I’ve learned is that this town is much more than meets the eye.

Just a casual drive around the city reveals so much.  If you go 10 minutes in any direction, you’ll find a new flavor of living… there is seriously a neighborhood for pretty much every lifestyle, and that makes Toledo a really fun and diverse place to live.  And while there are many different cultural perspectives here in Toledo, there is one very prevalent underlying theme- Toledo is a post-Christian city.

I’ve had the pleasure of participating in several different conversations with people who aren’t involved in church as of late, and I’ve noticed that while none of them dig Jesus, they don’t really know why.  In other words, they’re more or less apathetic about Christ, the Bible, or the whole “God” thing overall.  But when it comes to Christianity, well therein lies a whole different story.

It seems that we Christians have really jacked things up in our human attempts to represent our faith.  We come off as arrogant, judgemental, narcissistic, self-serving jerks, and therefore non-Christians have decided that our faith is no longer relevant.  They’d rather have no faith than Christianity.  And in a way, I don’t blame them.  However, just because Christians can be morons, that doesn’t discount the awesomeness of our God or the beauty of our Savior.

When you get into the nuts and bolts of theology, most non-Christians don’t really have any answers to speak of.  Whenever I hear, “People are basically good,” or “I don’t think anyone goes to hell, because we’re all good people,” I have to chuckle.  Rather than explain Total Depravity from a scriptural perspective (being that non-Christians don’t hold the Bible in high regard) I simply ask, “What makes someone good?”   9 out of 10 times I get the answer, “Well, everyone does good deeds, therefore everyone is good.”

My next question is, “If someone is good by virtue of good deeds, then isn’t it logically consistent to say that bad deeds make someone bad?”  I usually get blank stares… not because I’m a gifted philosopher (quite the contrary), but because people aren’t thinking in those terms.  It’s almost as if the non-regenerated world has a veil over it (actually, the Bible says this).

I go on, “If a guy spends his first 49 years doing good deeds, walking his grandmother to church 365 days a year, giving his entire salary to the poor, and never tells a lie, that makes him good, right?  Okay, so then on his 50th birthday he murders someone… is he still good?”  I always get the response, “NO!  He’s BAD!”  So, in other words, ONE SIN is enough to make someone bad.  Sounds like we’re getting off the “Everybody is good” track, eh?

Also, whenever I ask someone outside the Church about their view of the Bible, they usually say, “It’s old, it’s out-of-date, it doesn’t apply to today.”  But when I follow that up with “How do you know?”  they usually have a hard time coming up with a reason.  In other words we have a lot of people dismissing the Bible, but they don’t know why they do.

In addition, there’s also a very popular viewpoint that every religion leads to God.  The problem with that is, every religion says it’s the only way to God.  Christianity does.  Judaism does.  Islam does.  Buddhism does.  Mormonism does.  Jehovah’s Witnesses do.  Hinduism does.  You get the point.  But everyone I’ve talked to fails to realize this very important point.  See, the law of non-contradiction says that two opposing things that claim to be the only right thing cannot both be right.  So when I explain that Jesus wouldn’t have had to die if there was another way to Heaven, people aren’t sure how to rationalize that.

Now, I know that these conversations aren’t going to bring about a Billy Graham-style revival, but it has been (and will continue to be) interesting to see where our mission field is at spiritually.  There are a lot of beautiful, amazing people here in Toledo who desperately need Christ and they don’t even know it.  And that’s why I’m here.

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I Like John Stott.

April 7, 2009

“Let no one say . . . that the doctrine of election by the sovereign will and mercy of God, mysterious as it is, makes either evangelism or faith unnecessary. The opposite is the case. It is only because of God’s gracious will to save that evangelism has any hope of success and faith becomes possible. The preaching of the gospel is the very means that God has appointed by which he delivers from blindness and bondage those whom he chose in Christ before the foundation of the world, sets them free to believe in Jesus, and so causes his will to be done.” – John R. W. Stott, The Message of Ephesians (Downers Grove, Ill: Inter-Varsity Press, 1979), 48

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Remain

April 3, 2009

In Paul’s first letter to Timothy he is writing to a young pastor and a church (Ephesus) that has come under fire of a ton of false teaching.  Timothy, who has been a close companion of Paul’s and who has warred with him for the sake of the Gospel of Grace, has been planted in Ephesus to weed out the morons who are being used by Satan to cause division, confusion, and unrest.

I preached on 1 Timothy 1:1-3 (ESV) last week at Glass City Church, our fledgling church plant here in Toledo, Ohio.  I set out to cover the first major chunk of the letter, vv 1-11, but by the time I got through the 1st half of verse 3, I knew I needed to stop and camp on the word “remain.”  The word there is “prosmeno.”  Upon a casual reading of the verse, it says “As I urged you when I was going to Macedonia, remain at Ephesus…”  No biggie, right?  Paul is asking Timothy to stay behind and deal with the problems that were going on.  Oh, but wait!  There’s way more to this upon closer examination!

Paul wasn’t merely asking Timothy to stay in the city, although that in itself may have been a nerve-wracking request, given that Timothy was still young and may not have felt confident in his own abilities to remedy the issues within the Ephesian church.  But Paul was also issuing a caution to his protege in light of his surroundings.

“Prosmeno” (as with many Greek words) is much deeper than our English word “remain.”  It means “to remain with, to continue with one. to hold fast to: the grace of God received in the Gospel. to remain still, tarry, stay.”  And as I was doing sermon prep, I all of a sudden hit a major speed bump that jumped up and shouted “DON’T MISS THIS!”

“To hold fast to the Grace of God received in the Gospel!!!”  Paul knew that Timothy was going to be inundated with all kinds of ‘progressive, emerging’ ideologies that may sound, at surface, more appealing and less convicting than the Truth he knew because of ‘the grace of God received in the Gospel.’  And Paul was warning Timothy to remain- to hold fast, tarry, stay.  Personally, when I read that passage I hear Paul pleading in a loud voice, “PLEASE!  Timothy, it pains me to leave you behind, but I know it is best for you to be there instead of with me.  Nevertheless, DO NOT forget the Gospel of Grace!  Don’t be hypnotized by those false teachers!  Instead reprove them with a strong rebuke, and restore God’s Truth to it’s rightful place in the hearts of the brothers and sisters of the church.”

There are a lot of hypnotists out there these days, aren’t there?  Authors, speakers, gurus- men and women who declare their own truth to be above God’s Truth.  Most of it is easily dismissed because there is no basis for it, rather their words are merely their own musings.  But in the realm of Christendom there is danger because many times false teaching is a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

It comes in the form of a low view of Holy Scripture.  It comes in the form of progressive thinking or relative morality.  Church leaders proclaim that we are more evolved than those who wrote the Bible therefore we don’t have to follow what they say.  And it’s getting closer and closer to home.  I just read this week that one mainline denomination has abolished the “fidelity/chastity” clause of their constitution.  In other words, Pastor/Elders of their denomination no longer have to be “faithful in marriage or chaste in single hood.”  The driving force behind the decision was to make it possible for gay and lesbian pastors to be ordained and serve as clergy in their churches.  Anyone ever read Romans 1?

There is also a very popular notion out there that churches no longer need to have a hierarchy/authority structure because we’re “past that point by now.”  Yet, Scripture tells us quite a different story, and even lays out the qualifications for the men who are to be Pastor/Elders in 1 Tim 3 and Titus 1.

Yesterday I engaged in an online debate with a guy who tried to tell me that church planting isn’t a Biblical concept, and that there weren’t any church planters in the Bible.  He openly questioned whether church planting was the problem with the American church.  I honestly felt a deep sorrow for him.  If church planting is what’s wrong with the American church, it’s only that there’s not enough of it.  How we have come to such a misunderstanding of Scripture is very disheartening.

2 Timothy 4:3 (ESV) reads “For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine.  Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.”

I believe we’re living in a time such as that right now.  And Timothy was dealing with such a time back then.  It was still early in church history and already men were figuring out ways to pervert God’s word.  I love how Matt Chandler put it during his talk at the Acts 29 Church Planting Boot Camp in Seattle last month- “There never were any glory days!” In other words, there was never a time in church history that we can look back and say, “Oh, man… that was when we really had it good.  Those were the days!”  No.  Didn’t happen.  We are living for the glory days- that is, when we get to be with Christ.  And that’s why we labor in the Gospel.

So when Paul tells Timothy to “remain” he is driving home the point that he needs to hold fast to the promise that comes with being a regenerated believer in Jesus Christ.  He is pleading with him not to be carried away in the undercurrent of false teaching.  And he’s charging him to stand firm with the authority given to him by God through Christ.

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A29 Awesomeness

March 11, 2009

I just returned home from a trip to Seattle, Washington where I attended the Acts 29 Church Planting Bootcamp.  I’m sure I’ll get into more of what transpired in my heart in subsequent posts, but I just wanted you all to know that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is alive and well in the hearts of men all over the world.  Praise be to God.

I also wanted to note that my wife Ashley has begun her own blog.  It can be found at ashleylavalette.wordpress.com.

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JOHN PIPER IS SMART!

January 21, 2009

This post came from John Piper’s Desiring God website and was written on January 17, 1993.  I hope it helps those of you who are feeling conflicted about our country’s leadership.

1 Peter 2:13-17

Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority, or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right. For such is the will of God that by doing right you may silence the ignorance of foolish men. Act as free men, and do not use your freedom as a covering for evil, but use it as bond-slaves of God. Honor all men; love the brotherhood, fear God, honor the king.

Nero’s Rise to Power and His Reign

In AD 37 a boy was born in Italy named Lucius Domitius Ahenobarbus. His mother’s name was Agrippina the Younger. She married the Roman Emperor Claudius who adopted her little boy and changed his name to Nero Claudius Drusus Germanicus. The adoption and the name change were all part of his mother’s plotting to see him, instead of Claudius’ biological son Britannicus, become emperor of Rome.

In AD 54 when Nero was 17 years old, his mother arranged for Claudius to be poisoned to death, and the boy was proclaimed emperor of Rome. His reign would last 14 years, until he committed suicide at age 31.

In the first half of his reign there was relatively good government because as a youth he received good counsel from Burrus, the head of the Praetorian Guard, and from Seneca the famous stoic philosopher.

Nero was selfish and calculating and incapable of ruling well on his own. He became paranoid of all the rumors about plots to kill him. In 55 he had his stepbrother Britannicus killed. In 59 he had his mother executed. And in 62 his first wife was executed. And Seneca his former counselor was forced to commit suicide.

The Time of Peter’s Arrival in Rome

The apostle Peter probably arrived in Rome some time around AD 63. The city had already become known as “Babylon”—the code word among Christians for the great urban embodiment of anti-Christian power and evil (cf. Revelation 16:19; 17:5; 18:2), because the ancient Eastern Babylon had been the place where the people of God were taken captive far from their true home. So Peter is in Rome when he writes his first letter: “She [the church] who is at Babylon sends you greetings” (1 Peter 5:13).

The Great Fire of Rome

In the night of July 19, 64, a fire broke out in the southern part of the city. It raged for six days, spreading far and wide. When it was about to die out, it suddenly broke out again in the northern part of the city and burned three more days. Ten of the 14 wards of the city were destroyed. The frenzy in the city was indescribable.

Rumors began to spread that Nero himself had started the fire because of his delirious craving for magnificence and desire to embellish and rebuild the city. To divert attention from himself, the historian Tacitus says, Nero blamed the Christians for the fire, who were hated anyway, and so were good scapegoats.

The effect was horrendous. There had been no persecution like it since the Lord had risen 30 years before. In the gardens of Nero the Christians were crucified, sewn into wild beast skins and fed to dogs, drenched in flammable oil and lifted on poles to burn as torches in the night.

Eusebius tells us that Peter was crucified “because he had demanded to suffer” (E.H. 3.1.2-3).

Peter’s letter was probably written some time shortly before this terrible persecution. Christians were being slandered and mistreated (2:12, 15) as he wrote, but this was typical all over the empire he says in 5:9. The the great persecution was not there yet. But it seems that Peter could see it on the horizon with prophetic accuracy. For example, he said in 4:12, “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you.”

Peter Was Well-Acquainted with Corrupted Leaders

Nero was not the only ruler Peter had known. He had known of Pilate, the governor in Judea, who washed his hands of Jesus’ murder, had him beaten, and turned him over to be crucified with no grounds. He had known of Herod Antipas who executed John the Baptist as a dancing prize and later put his purple robe on Jesus and mocked him with his soldiers. Peter was probably a boy in Galilee when he heard that Herod the Great had killed all the children in Bethlehem.

So Peter was not naïve about the vicious world of government corruption and wickedness. He did not live in a “Christian nation.” He knew the depravity of human nature and the utterly ruinous corruption that political power can bring. This was the world into which he wrote our text. Verse 13:

Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human institution whether to a king as the one in authority, or to governors as sent by him

And verse 17: “Honor all men; love the brotherhood, fear God, honor the king.”

The point of drawing attention to Nero and Pilate and Herod is not to say that there is a Nero or Pilate or Herod in power today in America. The point is to say that if Peter could command the Christian community to honor the king and the governor, knowing the wickedness of Nero and Pilate and Herod, then how much more must we honor the governor and the president who are not in that category—even though they may endorse and promote acts which we regard as immoral and even barbaric.

A Biblical-Theological-Ethical Question

My question today is: How can I as a pro-life Christian honor President-elect Bill Clinton when he supports the right to kill unborn children for any reason up through the age of viability (24-23-22 weeks and falling), and for emotional health reasons even after that. We know this because he has expressed his support for the Freedom of Choice Act which is before Congress and would give federal sanction to just those “rights” and would take from the states the right to make many laws protecting the unborn that are now being proposed.

This message does not aim to be political. But I realize that being a Christian today is increasingly putting us at odds with political positions. Just being an obedient Christian is increasingly becoming a social, political, legal issue. The aim of this message is to answer the biblical-theological-ethical question: How shall we obey God’s command in 1 Peter 2:17 to honor the king—or the president, or the governor—when they promote dishonorable deeds?

What our future president endorses is not the right to scrape a few fetal cells off the lining of the uterus, but that human beings who have a beating heart, give an EKG reading, show brain waves, grasp with their fingers, suck their thumbs, respond with pain, and carry all the genetic completeness of a human—that those humans may rightfully have their life ended by dismemberment.

And what I just described is the human fetus at eight weeks, before which scarcely any abortions are done. To make the true position of the president-elect clear we need to see that not only that that little one will receive no protection from him but neither will this 12 week old, nor this five month old (show both models).

If you are sitting there this morning and thinking that the presidential endorsement of the right to take the lives of babies like this is an honorable thing to do (either because you don’t think they are babies or you think it’s the lesser of two evils), then your struggle is going to be different from mine. I struggle with the command, “How shall I honor a president who endorses the right to kill the unborn?” You must struggle with the command in the same verse, “How shall I honor people like this pastor who preaches what is false?” For the text not only says, “Honor the king,” it says, “Honor all men.” So it may be that in the answer I suggest for my struggle there will be something of use for yours.

Eight Answers

Here is my answer to the question, “How do pro-life Christians honor a pro-choice president?”

1. Humbling Ourselves

We will honor you, Mr. President, by humbling ourselves under the mighty hand of God (1 Peter 5:6) and acknowledging that we are ourselves sinners and in need of mercy and forgiveness from God. We are not infallible. We are open to new light on this and every issue. We are not the final judge in this matter. God is. We stand before the cross of Christ on level ground with you, not above you, utterly dependent on mercy and seeking to live by the will of Christ.

2. Acknowledging God’s Image

We will honor you by acknowledging that you are a man, created in the image of God, and distinct among all the beings in the world (as it says in James 3:9). You are not a mere animal. You have the glorious potential, like all humans, of being a child of God (if you aren’t already) and shining like the sun in the kingdom of God forever and ever. We honor you as an utterly unique, human being created in the image and likeness of the living God with untold potential.

3. Acknowledging God’s Institution

We will honor you by acknowledging that government is God’s institution. He wills that there be leaders like presidents and governors. You are in power by God’s appointment and we honor that. In Romans 13:4 the Bible even calls you, “God’s servant for our good.” It grieves us that you do not intend to enact laws to protect the good of the unborn the most innocent, weak, and helpless group of Americans. But we have seen from Somalia that bad government is better than no government. The absence of some laws to protect some people is better than the absence of all laws to protect anybody. We honor your stabilizing role in this sense as a blessing from God.

4. Honoring Laws Not Conflicting with Christ’s Lordship

We will honor you by submitting to the laws of the state and the nation wherever they do not conflict with our higher allegiance to Christ the King of kings and Lord of lords. We will submit to the laws that take away

  • our “right” to choose to go 75 miles an hour,
  • our “right” to choose to keep our lights off when our windshield wipers are on,
  • our “right” to choose to drive without a seat belt,
  • our “right” to choose to fish without a license,
  • our “right” to choose to make loud noises in the middle of the night,
  • our “right” to choose to keep our kids out of schooling,
  • our “right” to choose to send them to school without DPT shots,
  • our “right” to choose to use leaded gas,
  • our “right” to choose not to pay taxes,
  • our “right” to choose to smoke on the other side of the restaurant, etc.

We submit to the right of government to limit our right to choose in hundreds of areas, especially when the good of others is at stake. We understand that governments exist to limit the right to choose and we submit to that.

1 Peter 2:13 says that we are to submit not for your sake but for the Lord’s sake. Verse 16 says that we are free in respect to you but slaves of God. We will submit not because you have power, but because our King commands it for the honor of his institution of civil government. Yet our submission is an honor to you because under God and from God you bear the authority to enforce the laws of the land.

5. Not Withdrawing into Isolation

We will honor you by not withdrawing into little communes of disengaged isolation from American culture. But according to 1 Peter 2:15, we will honor you by trying to do as much good as we possibly can for the unborn, and for unwanted children, and for women in distress, so that we will not be thought insolent or inconsistent in asking from you what we are not willing to do ourselves. We do this because the Bible says, “It is the will of God that by doing right you may silence the ignorance of foolish men” (1 Peter 2:15).

6. Opposing with Non-Violence

We will honor you by opposing your position as long as we can with non-violence instead of violence, with reasoning instead of rocks, with rational passion instead of screaming, with honorable speech instead of obscenities, with forthright clarity of language instead of dodging the tough realities and tough words, with evidence instead of authority, and with scientific portrayals of life instead of authoritarian blackouts (cf. 2 Corinthians 4:2). We will honor you by a relentless effort to put truth, and not mere emotion, before you in the White House.

7. Expecting Straightforward Answers

And we will honor you by expecting from you straightforward answers to straightforward questions. We would not expect this from a con-man, but we do expect it from an honorable man.

For example, are you willing to explain why a baby’s right not to be killed is less important than a woman’s right not to be pregnant?

Or are you willing to explain why most cities have laws forbidding cruelty to animals, but you oppose laws forbidding cruelty to human fetuses? Are they not at least living animals?

Or are you willing to explain why government is unwilling to take away the so-called right to abortion on demand even though it harms the unborn child; yet government is increasingly willing to take away the right to smoke, precisely because it harms innocent non-smokers, killing 3,000 non-smokers a year from cancer and as many as 40,000 non-smokers a year from other diseases?

And if you say that everything hangs on whether the fetus is a human child, are you willing to go before national television in the oval office and defend your support for the “Freedom of Choice Act” by holding in your hand a 21 week old fetus and explaining why this little one does not have the fundamental, moral, and constitutional right to life? Are you willing to say to parents in this church who lost a child at that age and held him in their hands, this being in your hands is not and was not a child with any rights of its own under God or under law?

Perhaps you have good answers to each of these questions. We will honor you by expecting you to defend your position forthrightly in the public eye. You have immense power as President of the United States. To wield it against the protection of the unborn without giving a public accounting in view of moral and scientific reality would be dishonorable. We will honor you by expecting better.

8. Trusting the Sovereign, Loving Purpose of God

Finally we will honor you by trusting that the purpose of our sovereign and loving God to defend the fatherless and contend for the defenseless and to exalt the meek will triumph through your presidency. And to that end we will pray for you as Christ our King commands us.

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Goodbye 2008

December 31, 2008

Well, it’s finally here- the end of the year that saw me struggle probably more than I ever have with my faith, the church, myself, and God.  I began 2008 as the Minister of Worship Arts at a Church in Indianapolis, and I end the year an online entertainment journalist living in Toledo.  I began the year with a sneaking suspicion that God was going to completely decimate everything that I though was important, and I sit here now having been torn down and in the midst of the rebuilding process.  Only two things have really stayed constant over the past 12 months- God’s love for me and my wife’s love for me.

I used to think owning a house was important for my own fulfillment, yet it’s been a thorn in my side ever since we followed God’s call to Toledo.  I live in a 2-bedroom townhouse apartment with my 3 dogs and my wife, and it isn’t half bad.  Sure, when our house finally sells, we’ll look for another one- but this time it will be under a much different pretense.  This time we’ll be looking for a house in which we can host our church plant, a house in which we can host guests who need a place to live, a house with which we can glorify God and serve others.

I also thought it was imperative to get a paying ministry job in order to be a minister.  Yet, I find myself hoping I never have to take a salary from a church.  I hope that I can support my family without burdening a church for my livlihood- just think about how much more “ministry money” would be available to reach out to the lost and disenchanted.

I’ve been studying the book of Nehemiah as of late, and I’m finding comfort in knowing that my struggle hasn’t been in vain.  Though I grew up in Toledo, attended high school here, and went on to college 20 miles south in Bowling Green, I never really felt the ache in my soul for this city until I was living in Indianapolis.  Back in January and February of this year, I began wondering what this crazy stirring in my heart was for Toledo.  I made a trip back here to pray and speak with several of my pastor friends to find out what God was doing here.  And I was sad to find that the church in Toledo was by-and-large complacent and lukewarm.

Fast forward a couple of months, and I was feeling that God was calling me back here for sure… so much so that he trumped my desire for a comfortable life with something greater- bringing renown and glory to His name here in Toledo.

And as I read Nehemiah and subsequent materials (JI Packer’s A Passion for Faithfulness: Lessons from the Book of Nehemiah  and Mark Driscoll’s 22-part sermon series on Nehemiah) I’m starting to draw inspiration from the man who was a cupbearer to a king, who went against the odds and rebuilt the city of Jerusalem.  I’m not saying I’m rebuilding the city of Toledo,  but as Driscoll says in his teachings, I feel called to build a city within this city to love on this city and tell this city about Jesus.

All of this to say that without the pain, suffering, crying out, and hardships of 2008, I don’t think I’d be on this path.  The fact is, God has given me life, a healthy marriage, a passion for His word, a heart broken for Toledo, and some good men to keep me accountable.  Bring it on, 2009!