Friday, February 24, 2017

Repentance Reprised


“The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand;
  repent and believe in the gospel” Mark 1:14,15
The faith that is unto salvation is a penitent faith and the repentance that is unto life is a believing repentance … saving faith is permeated with repentance and repentance is permeated with saving faith. John Murray, Redemption—Accomplished and Applied
The two great graces essential to a saint in this life, are faith and repentance. These are the two wings by which he flies to heaven. Faith and repentance preserve the spiritual life—as heat and water preserve the physical life. Thomas Watson, The Doctrine of Repentance
Whether one is talking about beginning the Christian life or continuing in the Christian life, repentance and faith must be the constant companions of the Christian. Over the years some have debated which precedes the other. These are honest questions seeking to understand more clearly the nature of our relationship to the creator. My own belief is that while they are virtually Siamese Twins for the truly born again, it seems to me that the seed of faith must be present for one to truly repent. In the end however, searching out the order is not all that profitable practically. Practically, what we must recognize in our lives is a real experience of both faith and repentance, both at the outset of our Christian life and every day throughout. Or in Luther’s words, "When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, 'Repent' " (Mt 4:17), he willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.”

What is sometimes difficult to get our minds around is that the continual practice of repentance is among the most freeing and life giving things that we do on a daily basis. Far from being a dour and morose recapitulation of sins, true repentance is so tied up with faith, so focused on the finished work of Christ and so infused with hope, that overwhelming joy is the result. It is repentant faith that overflows with the kind of love we meet in Luke 7.


Friday, February 17, 2017

White Castle and the Church


During our St. Louis church plant days we inhabited some office space two doors down from White Castle. Often, when I needed a change of scenery, I would head down to the ‘Castle, book in hand, to do some reading. Honestly my motives were mixed. At the time, I was probably hankering for a Diet Coke and I do enjoy the $.39 Slider. But the other thing that I love about White Castle is the people it draws.


Our community was an eclectic mix of people. Traditionally, it was a more of a blue collar neighborhood, that took a downward turn about 30 years ago and became known as a place where others wouldn’t let their children go. There are still remnants of that community evident, particularly in the government housing areas and the abnormally high percentage of people struggling with mental illness. However, in the last 15 years there has been significant change. Houses have been rehabbed, businesses developed, and the school district turned around. Now the renters are just as likely to be white collar, Ph.D types, as out of work, government subsidized types.

Here is the beautiful thing, they all come to White Castle. At any given time you could be sharing the overpowering smell of grilled onions in the confines of the tiny restaurant with a lawyer who pulled up in her BMW or with a homeless person who hasn’t bathed in a noticeable amount of time. These, along with guys like me, are drawn together by the combination of the beauty of the Slider, value and satisfaction into a community where we knowingly share in the delights of the ‘Castle. How much more so the Church? In the church people are drawn from the various circumstances of life, offered the beauty of a Savior who gave his life to save his people, who offers a life that is truly satisfying (cf. Jn. 10:10), for free! These words from Isaiah are among my favorites:
“Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food. Incline your ear, and come to me; hear, that your soul may live..." (Isaiah 55:1-3 ESV)



Friday, February 10, 2017

Those darn parasites!


When you have a child who is almost two years old, your life is very much their life. What do I mean by that? Well essentially what Theo does, we do. We are into the things he is into (currently that’s trains), we speak a language that sounds different than our normal “adult” talk, we even cater our diet to things that he may eat. Our lives are very much intertwined. So what happens when your almost two year old gets sick? Inevitably, we get sick. Parasites have this way about them. They are like water, they find cracks and enter in, forever changing the landscape they enter into.

Idols are parasites. They find their way into our lives through cracks large and small. And they are distortions of what is good. Idols take something good, let's say belonging, and distort how we see and experience that. Instead of fulfilling that longing with a deep relationship with God, we look to niche groups. These groups like everything we like, they talk the ways we talk, they experience the world the exact same way we do. Or we go destructive routes. Get involved in gangs or groupthink, enter into emotional or physical relationships that are unhealthy. Idols are parasites. Those parasites change the landscape of our lives.

In our Wednesday night class, Christianity Explored, we are looking at the world through the lens of Mark. Rico Tice, the host and narrator of the program, at one point says something pretty incredible, and pretty challenging. He states that “after hearing the Good News, if you don’t think it’s the best news you’ve ever heard, you can be absolutely certain, you’ve not understood it.” Understood what? Well, understood that the Gospel plugs the crack the water is trying to get through. It stops and kills the parasites in our lives. The idols we’ve constructed around us can’t stand up against the Gospel. The best news we’ve ever heard is the Gospel, and it fundamentally, and radically changes the way we engage with one another and the world.

We can take heart in the words of John the Baptist in Mark 1:7,8;
“After me comes he who is mightier than I, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. I have baptized you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

What John is saying is remarkable. Not only will Jesus come to forgive sins (remarkable in itself) but that for those of us who know that we aren’t the people we ought to be, Jesus will fill us with God’s Holy Spirit to bring about radical change. This is the best news in the world. It’s not up to us. God, the great initiator and great fulfiller brings this about.

When those parasites find their way into your life, may the Gospel be at the center of our lives, sucking the air right out from underneath them.

Addison Hawkins
Pastoral Resident for Outreach & Engagement

Friday, January 27, 2017

No Plea Bargain


Yesterday I fulfilled my civic responsibility by answering the bell for jury duty in the 16th district court. After gathering with perhaps 60 other potential jurors and waiting around for a couple of hours my name was called to ascend to the courtroom for questioning and potential selection to a jury. As the group of 25 or so potential jurors walked into the courtroom, we could see the defendant talking with his attorneys. Eventually we could hear him say “I’ll take it” and I had a sense we might be going home early. What had happened is that as the possibility of a trial got to be real. He decided he wasn’t going to take his chances and opted for the plea bargain. Sure enough a couple minutes later the judge came out, thanked us for coming and being part of the judicial process, then dismissed us.

My experience in the courtroom made me reflective of the heavenly courtroom and our worship service this past Sunday. When it comes to the great heavenly tribunal there is no option of a plea bargain. We cannot agree to a lesser charge, for a lesser sentence. In the words of Habakkuk, the eyes of the Lord are too pure to look upon evil (1:13). Our only hope of surviving the Lord’s judgment is to be declared righteous. And our only hope of that is through the work of Jesus Christ our mediator/substitute. Which brings us full circle to last Sunday’s declaration of forgiveness from 1 Peter 2:24, “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.” In Christ no plea bargain is needed. We are declared righteous!



Friday, January 13, 2017

Temptations!


While it is true that we are all different in many ways, we can safely say that we all share a commonality in facing temptation - daily. Often we think of temptation in terms of obvious vices, drink, sexual sin, spending, gossip, etc… And to be sure these temptations are a battle! But each of these temptations proceeds from a deeper root, a root which Satan, the tempter, is always seeking to sever. Ann Voskamp has wisely said that “all fear is but the notion that God’s love ends” (One Thousand Gifts, 161). I think that we do no harm to the truth expressed here by stating that all temptation is but the notion that God’s love ends. From the beginning, whether Adam and Eve, Noah, Jonah, David, Jesus or us, Satan has sought to tempt us by creating fear and causing us to question God’s love for his children. Thankfully we have a Savior who has both showed us the way forward in the face of temptation as well as stood in our place withstanding the temptation that we so easily succumb to.


Friday, January 6, 2017

A Comprehensive Whole


How is the first week of 2017? How many times have you started to write a 6 before catching yourself to write the 7? I am excited for 2017 and our life together at Christ Church. As I reflected last week, there is so much to be thankful for, even as we wait on the Lord to guide and sustain us.

Looking toward 2017, one of the things that has caused much excitement in our collective life is the prospect of church planting. We are right to be excited about planting. Church planting is not a growth strategy, nor is a method for dealing with overcrowding. Rather, church planting is one of the best ways to reach new Christians and people who are outside of a regular participation in the means of grace. Church planting creates fresh Gospel opportunities, unearths new leadership, and a whole host of other benefits.

But while we are right to be excited about church planting, or foreign missions for that matter, we must realize that they are part of a comprehensive whole that we call church. Our church life envelops everything from planting, to missions, VBS, clothing the needy, standing for justice, systematically sharing our faith, and other outreach endeavors. But it also encompasses coming in the foyer, greeting our friends, sharing joys and heartaches, studying the scriptures, praying. In short our life together is a comprehensive whole, a whole that needs comprehensive nurturing.

Getting a bird’s eye view of this comprehensive whole is the goal of our January series. Along the way we will address questions like: What is the goal of our life together? What kind of people do we need to be to sustain ministry that truly glorifies God? What kind of structures will best support this all-encompassing ministry?

This week we will begin by hearing from Rev. Mika Edmondson, lead pastor at New City Fellowship OPC here in GR. Mika will be both preaching (from Ezra 2) and sharing with us during our Adult Institute time. As a church planting pastor, Mika will be sharing his vision for what God is doing in our greater GR community while pointing us to the Glory of the Lord, a glory which our God has promised us is on the move!

For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD as the waters cover the sea. (Habakkuk 2:14)


Friday, December 9, 2016

Heart of Advent


How is Advent progressing for you? What is occupying your heart and mind these days? Are you growing weary of the same Christmas music on every radio station in every store? Are you overwhelmed by shopping and preparations yet to do? Or are you filling up with the overwhelming mercy of God that Advent announces? Perhaps our little foray this Friday can serve as a bit of commercial in the ongoing activity of the season to encourage or correct as needed.

This Sunday we will be looking at Zechariah’s tongue-loosed, exultation commonly called the Benedictus. As the old priest’s sentence of silence is broken we hear him proclaim clearly the mission of the Redeemer in these terms: to give knowledge of salvation to his people in the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God (Luke 1:77,78). Knowledge of salvation. Forgiveness of sins. This is the heart of Advent. These are our most fundamental needs. Here human desperation meets Divine deliverance. Our folly meets His fullness. Unavoidable rejection meets an undeserved Redeemer. Praise God for tender mercy wrapped in the form of a vulnerable babe sent to deliver! As the days progress, may the truths Advent calls to mind form the prism through which we view the world.