Friday, October 26, 2018

Reformation Freedom

When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said “Repent,” he intended that the entire life of believers should be repentance.
Martin Luther - 1st of 95 Theses

You may or may not be tracking with the idea of this coming Sunday as Reformation Sunday. It is that time of year when we commemorate a Catholic monk named Martin Luther who raised some questions about the state of the church which led to a massive overhaul that we call the Reformation. This all happened over 500 years ago but those of us in the Presbyterian and Reformed tradition still pause to remember the tremendous freedom that was regained through that reformation.

The Reformation moved the church from the confines of an all-encompassing and constrictive religious system back to a relationship of freedom and grace with God. The Reformation moved the spotlight off of humanity and what we needed to do in order to attain salvation, and placed the spotlight back where it belongs on God’s gracious provision of a Savior in Jesus Christ.

In particular, Luther struggled with the penance rituals he was performing and the lack of progress he was making in his relationship with God despite his attention to penance. What Luther discovered is that penance is not the same as repentance. As Luther realized this, he experienced a freedom he had never experienced and his soul began to sing.

As we continue through Second Corinthians, looking this week at 2 Corinthians 7:8-13, we come to this same truth: penance is not the same as repentance. Paul says, "For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death" (2 Corinthians 7:10). Penance is the worldly grief that is dependent on human effort and is ultimately not born of the Spirit. Repentance is a freedom wrought by the Spirit that knows things are bad with our heart and our lives, but trusts the forgiveness of the Lord that simultaneously imputes to us the righteousness of Christ along with the freedom of life by the Spirit. The Psalmist captured this so clearly when he said, "Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!" (Psalm 139:23-24).

I look forward to seeing you Sunday as together we persevere along the way everlasting.

Friday, October 19, 2018


In my time of study and reflection I come across various resources. Recently I encountered the following corporate confession:

Lord, we are reminded of our corporate sin of inhospitality. We confess, Lord, that we are quick to justify our inhospitality with empty excuses. Lord, you have shown so much hospitality to us by opening your arms and bringing us into your home, not just as guests, but as children! But Father, we confess that such a posture of invitation and hospitality is not always a mark of this body—either towards other members, or towards visitors and guests. Holy Spirit, please convict and guide us in this area where necessary; may we reflect the kind of hospitality and generosity that is befitting of a congregation that boasts of boasting in nothing but the gospel.

Hospitality is foundational to the Christian life (cf. Romans 12:13; I Timothy 3:2; Hebrews 13:2; 1 Peter 4:9). And, hospitality is difficult and involves sacrifice. As the above confession notes, we are quick to justify our inhospitality with all sorts of empty excuses. We cite things like busyness, lack of giftedness to host, uncertainty as to who to host, etc… But the reality is that we are busy with what we want to be busy with, hosting is not about giftedness but presence, and there are plenty of lonely, hurting people all around us who would benefit from an open seat at the table.

Bert Froysland, who recently lost his wife of 66 years, shared the following with me, "Mae has been gone four months. I have not touched her desk, emptied her dresser, entered her closet. She is everywhere I look, but she is not there. Not at 3:00 p.m., not at 3:00 a.m. 'Hello darkness, my old friend/I've come to talk to you again.' The silence is deafening."

As those who have been welcomed into the family of Christ and given a seat at the table, may we push more deeply into his loving welcome and find that in so doing we push past the empty excuses and find the time, resources, and the vision to extend a seat at our table, to send a card, or to give a word of encouragement to those in need.

I look forward to seeing you Sunday. We will be looking at the first 13 verses of 2 Corinthians 6. Here Paul touches on the resources supplied for those in Christ and grants a vision of our life in Christ that is truly glorious.

Friday, October 12, 2018

Eat Your Enemy

"Eat Your Enemy” is a somewhat disturbing Nike t-shirt slogan that I encountered this week. I imagine this is not some cannabalistic fantasy to be taken literally, but rather a figure of speech that evokes total domination; a swallowing whole, if you will. This of course is exactly the image that Paul uses in 1 Corinthians 15:54 when he talks about the total domination of Christ over sin and death, stating, “When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: 'Death is swallowed up in victory'". This Sunday we will be looking at 2 Corinthians 5:1-10 as Paul returns to the theme of life swallowing our mortality and the true hope to be found in Christ even in the midst of our groaning.

Moving on from the subject of enemies to the subject of a hoped for friend, I am happy to announce the Session, in cooperation with the Search Team, is inviting Reverend Bryant McGee, formerly senior pastor at Redeemer PCA in McKinney, Texas, to candidate for an associate pastor position the weekend of November 9-11. It goes without saying that we are very excited about this possibility and are working to put together a visit that will help us get to know him better. Please continue to pray that God would lead both us and the McGees as we seek to discern his will.

Friday, October 5, 2018

Lament, Legacy, Life Together

My heart has been full this week. It's full from watching the exciting life changes of Josiah and Morgan as they start their life in Costa Rica, from interactions with you, our neighbors, and the world around us, and from reflecting upon the passing of a mentor.

Often the worship of Sunday shapes my week in some way. Our lament service this past Sunday certainly had that effect. Those who shared did so vulnerably, honestly, and so on target, both with their laments and in the hope that they have. We were reminded in the words of Kirsten Ryken that, "You can’t offer real hope and happiness to those suffering without first acknowledging that they are, in fact, suffering." We were encouraged by our music makers' rendition of Is He Worthy by Andrew Peterson. It was a shaping time.

This week I also found out Dr. John R. de Witt passed away. He was the first pastor I worked with, with that being over 20 years ago. Looking back on that time, I was so inexperienced that I didn’t realize what a gift our relationship was or how fortunate I was to have someone with his experience and wisdom to glean from. His integrity, character and love for his congregation shown through. Over the years snatches of conversation or his ways of being have emerged, and I have come to realize his legacy that he continues to leave for me. I haven't found so much sadness as I have reflected, but rather the continued invitation to strive into Paul’s words of 2 Timothy 4:7-8, "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing."

As we think of our own legacies we also think of our lives together. This Sunday Christ Church, along with the Great Lakes Presbytery, will formally recognize the call to ministry for our brother Addison in ordaining him to the Gospel ministry. What a testimony to those who have invested in him along the way and to the continuing story of God working in and through his people. Dan Denk will be bringing the message while other members of the Presbytery also attend.

May God give you grace in your own reflections.