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The Least Of These.

A sermon I gave on 4/30/14 at PGM (Pacific Garden Mission), one of the largest homeless shelters in the country. Please pray that hearts would be softened!

 

 

I know you pretty much have to be here, but I still want to thank you for whatever attention you decide to pay me.

Before we get started, let me tell you a bit about myself.

My name is Justin Obriecht and my wife Tara and I started a homeless ministry a couple years ago called Wash and Worship.

My brother, who I dearly love, has been in prison for 12 years and gets out this fall.

My parents are divorced and so am I.

I’ve been broke and I’m currently wealthy.

I personally know pain and joy.

I personally know divorce, atheism, fornication, cheating, lying, stealing, womanizing and adultery.

I’ve been addicted to weed, porn and masturbation.

I know about half sisters that I’ve never met and wasn’t even aware of.

I don’t know hopelessness, but I’ve been around it enough to empathize with you.

 

 

But the most important thing to know about me, is that I’ve been saved from all that by Jesus Christ!

I was born again on March 27th 2012 after 20 years of antitheism.

Antitheism means not only did I not believe in God,

But I thought the idea of God was a tool used to manipulate the weak and vulnerable.

And I made it my mission to get people out of that deception.

But now I’m a child of God,

I have the Holy Spirit living inside of me,

I have a personal relationship with God through JC,

My sins have been forgiven, and I’m guaranteed to go to heaven and live forever.

Now that you know a little about me, will you please join me in prayer?

 

Read more…

A Testimony, by Tara Obriecht

A Testimony

Lost in the world’s answers
Things we are made to believe
This kept me from His truth
With only empty answers to receive

Filling, filling, filling
But never being made full
Relationships, travel, drugs, sex, vanity, TV
Leaning into every tug and pull

Hurt came in
I lost my Dad and more
Hoping their actually was a God
I opened my skeptical heart to restore

Taken into a pushy church
Freshly broken I sat and twitched
No one really tried to connect
I was just something that needed to be fixed

Say the prayer
And become saved?
I left confused
In a daze

Christianity then
Became such a joke
Positive there was no God now
Just mirrors and smoke

Once again I thought of
A million ways to fill this empty space
Never expecting that God existed
Now I’m so thankful for His grace

Confidence near nothing
So many things I wanted to change
He had another plan
Instead of my body, my mind he rearranged

You can only control things up to a point
He taught me to let go
He took over so gently
Bit by bit, nice and slow

The truth visible, my eyes opened
Realizing God wanted a relationship with me
Questions I had He answered through His Word
Confirming this world isn’t all we have, He set me free

Everything here became so small
Worries started to melt away
This world is an illusion
I have to remind myself everyday

I don’t have religion
I have a relationship, a true love
I’m an alien here
A citizen of Heaven above

You get to decide but this life won’t be repeated
You can get caught up in this world and be defeated

Don’t be so blinded by its own design
Get to know out Savior Jesus
The Son God sent us Divine

It’s not perfect, there are struggles
Battles and fears deep within
The important thing is
I have trust and walk with Him.

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Two Ways To Live

Two Ways To Live - Draft6

The Battle, by Tara Obriecht

In a battle
Most can’t even see
Idols blind us, sell your morals
Just saying you believe won’t set you free

The armor is all around us
But we act too busy to wear
Desensitization destroys us
Slowly we no longer care

Foundations are cracked
Needing to fit in this world wins
Scripture gets twisted
Christians don’t even understand what’s a sin

Knowing your enemy is important
Read the Word seek and you shall find
Putting ourselves before our Lord and others
Makes us all so blind

Lives ruined by unrealistic expectations
Fed to us by media, movies and TV
We pick our own path
And decide my god is Me

So busy with so many material things
Yet empty we stay
There is a battle
Many lose each and every day

Take a moment and realize
There is much more here
Let go of your selfish ways
Open your mind and He’ll make it so beautifully clear.

A Warning For Willow Chicago, Part 9: Another Nudge

You can read this “Public Letter” in it’s entirety here.

You can download this entire “Public Letter” here.

The truth is we went into this process very uninformed. We just followed the Holy Spirit and trusted that God would make everything clear. Like so many, we blindly loved Willow Creek, and even now that we’re more informed, we still do. There are just some serious issues that need to be resolved in order for Christ’s church to fully flourish spiritually, not just in terms of money raised, members, or attendance.

One thing God did make clear throughout this process is that along with many member of the congregation, several Willow Chicago advisory board members left the church when Jon was hired. Apparently Willow Chicago had been looking for a new pastor for over a year, and had several amazing candidates in mind. The vetting process was tedious and thorough, until the idea of Jon being the pastor was introduced. From what I understand, many in the congregation were confused and upset. They had serious concerns regarding Jon being the pastor and agreed with the Bible that a unilateral decision on this matter was inappropriate.

I don’t know all the factors that have lead to the hands off approach Willow takes to homosexuality, but I can tell you that the situation Jon finds himself in today is the result of such a hands off policy. If Jon posted one of the eight counter Biblical items contained in the “Elders Letter” to his Facebook page while pastoring at the church’s of Dr. Erwin Lutzer (Moody Church), John MacArthur, Dr. David Jeramiah, or Alistair Begg, there would have been an immediate uproar. The contrast between Willow’s politically correct approach and these men’s bold, loving and public stance has always perplexed me. They all have large, spiritually healthy churches, but these men of God have found the Biblical way to lovingly tell the truth to the LGBT community.

Jon has been hung out to dry by his church’s selective approach to Biblical truth. And in turn Jon has left his congregation out to dry the same way Bill has left Willow as a whole to fend for itself as the wolves (radical homosexual activists) come in preaching tolerance for a lifestyle and behavior that is counter Biblical and destroying lives. While these same wolves (radical homosexual activists) call all Bible believing Christians bigots for standing up for Christ. While the wolves (radical homosexual activists) destroy our families. While the wolves (radical homosexual activists) exploit the involuntary sexual confusion all LGBT individuals experience, in order to turn them into pawns for the cause that normalizes the very thing that’s destroying their lives. While those same LGBT individuals are thirsty for truth, but the church, the only place they can get such truth, is too concerned about numbers and political correctness, to worry about their salvation.

People cavalierly ask Tara and I all the time, “why don’t you just leave Willow if we’re in such disagreement?” The reason we don’t leave Willow is because Willow isn’t Bill’s church, it’s not Jon’s church, it’s Christ’s church and we’re all told by God to protect His word and His church. We don’t leave Willow because we love Willow. We don’t leave Willow because of the amazing relationships we’ve formed there. We don’t leave Willow because we’re dependant on it for the ministry God has blessed us with. God lead Tara, myself and our ministry to Willow, and until He tells us to leave or someone makes the decision to force us to leave, we’re going to do everything we can to make Willow a better place.

All the issues in this letter can be boiled down to one thing. When you don’t take a repetitive, public and bold stance as a church, for all of God’s Word, there will be divine consequences. We serve a gentle God, and a God that has no doubt given Bill gentle nudge after gentle nudge in regards to all these issues.

When as a church you never mention the words gay, abortion, heresy, false teachers, hell, repentance, rapture and rarely mention words like sin, sanctification, rebuke, wrath and judgment there will be confusion and muddy waters. You’ll be forced to admit that the plan isn’t working, and people aren’t becoming fully devoted followers of Christ, as Willow did several years ago. That you’re going to try something different, when there is nothing different. The plan has been in the Bible for almost 2000 years. It’s time to give Willow’s congregation solid food. Grace is only half the story. Jesus talked about hell more than anyone else in the Bible. It’s time for Willow to stop worrying about numbers, donations, attendance, polls, metrics, marketing, how to make it easier to follow Christ and what might happen if they stop being politically correct, and start using its God given influence to preach the full gospel of Jesus Christ.

Sincerely,

Justin and Tara Obriecht.

P.S. Please pray for Jon, Bill, Scott, Chris, Willow, Tara, and myself. Pray that God would do an incredible work in our hearts that would leave all of us stronger and closer to Him. That the full Word of God would begin to be preached at Willow Creek and God would be glorified.

If you’d like to discuss this further you can email me at justinobriecht@gmail.com

Updates can be found here.

A Warning For Willow Chicago, Part 8: All Of God’s Word Is Equal

You can read this “Public Letter” in its entirety here.

You can download this entire “Public Letter” here.

Conclusion

After almost a month had passed since our last meeting with Scott and Chris, A month filled with us praying for God to do a powerful work in Jon’s heart and bring him to repentance. After praying that God would take this from us. After praying every night that God would give us a sign if He wanted us to go public or not. Even though God lifted my final hesitation about going public (Bill’s confirmed awareness), I still had human fear and uncertainty.

That was until yesterday morning (I originally wrote this around the beginning of October 2013, and have had patience, grace and hopeful prayer until now) when I started to pray as I do every morning, and my mind was flooded with thoughts to put into this letter. I couldn’t write them down fast enough. They were clear, concise, and definitely not from me.

After the thoughts stopped, and I finally got to praying, I asked God for the hundredth time to give me direction on what he wanted me to do. Almost immediately, a clear thought popped into my head as the Holy Spirit reminded me, “I’ve already told you to follow the Matthew 18 process, and you have one step left”. The silence I’d been hearing from God on this subject finally made sense. He’d already sent us down this path and given Willow, Jon, Scott and Bill every chance to act appropriately, and now He was left with no other option.

Chances that in addition to our efforts, included warning signs like the hundreds of emails described by Scott waiting for him in his inbox in regards to Willow Creeks handling of homosexuality. Chances that included God forcing Bill on stage at the 2011 Global Leadership Summit in order to make his church’s position on same-sex marriage clear (You can watch Bill’s comments here). A chance Bill wasted by taking the most politically correct position possible while still lining up with the Bible. A position that does considerable damage to the LGBT community and is the opposite of loving.

Combine that with the fact that you can’t learn Willow’s position on marriage without calling their office and requesting a copy of their Elders Statement. An Elder’s Statement that doesn’t mention homosexuality, and takes the most hands-off approach possible on such a destructive, confusing, current, clear and Biblical issue.

All this while the yearly series about stewarding your resources, walking across the room, or how to be more generous kicks off, same-sex marriage dominates our culture, headlines and courts and very few members of Willow Creek know how to react.

It’s hard to understand why a church would be so clear and accurate on parts of God’s Word, but be silent on others. All of God’s Word deserves equal attention and is equally important.

If you’d like to discuss this further you can email me at justinobriecht@gmail.com

A Warning For Willow Chicago, Part 7: The Last Hesitation

You can read this “Public Letter” in it’s entirety here.

You can download this entire “Public Letter” here.

– August 27th 2013: Did Scott Meet With Bill As Promised?

Before I made the decision to warn the church and make this public, I sent an email to Scott asking if he had a chance to sit down with Bill. Eight days later Scott responded with the following email:

Hello Justin,

Sorry for the delay.

I was mistaken when I told you two weeks.  Bill’s return was this week.

I have sent him a note and will get back to you as soon as I hear something.

Thanks,

Scott

 

Remember, Scott told us during our second meeting, that Bill took the following two weeks off after the leadership summit. Tara and I knew that wasn’t the case because on August 17th (5 days after our meeting) we attended the Next Level retreat at Willow Creek Barrington. The retreat concluded with everyone attending the Saturday service in which Bill spoke.

– September 13th 2013: Scott confirms that Bill Hybels and the Executive Team have reviewed the “Elder’s Letter”.

Sixteen days after my initial email, I received the following email from Scott confirming that not only has Bill reviewed the “Elder’s Letter” but so did the Willow Creek Executive Team. You can read that email below:

Hello Justin,

Thank you so much for your patience.

Your letter has been reviewed by the WCCC Executive Team (including Bill).

They are aligned with the process and conclusions of the Elder Response Team.

 

Again, I thank you for the passion and courage it took for you and Tara to communicate your concerns.

If you would like to pursue further meetings to facilitate reconciliation with Jon we would be happy to assist.

Blessings,

Scott

While this was extremely disappointing for Tara and I, it was also a blessing. See one of my biggest hesitations in making this public was the respect I have for Bill Hybels. That respect is what prompted me at every step to inquire about Bill’s knowledge of this issue, and urge the person to bring it to his attention. God answered my prayer asking Him to remove my concerns by confirming Bill’s awareness, which in turn lifted my final hesitation.

After meeting with Scott and Chris and reading the “Elder’s Letter” about his actions, Jon has not reached out to us in any way. Soon after our first meeting with Scott and Chris, Jon defriended me on Facebook, even though I have never interacted with him or his page on Facebook in any way.

Even if you don’t personally agree with me about Jon’s deceptive behavior, it’s clear from Willow’s exclusively reactionary approach, Scott confirming that what John did was “harmful” and Jon removing posts from his Facebook page, that they all found serious reasons for concern.

If you’d like to discuss this further you can email me at justinobriecht@gmail.com