Friday, November 30, 2018

What is in a Name?

This coming Sunday we turn our attention for the next weeks of Advent to the book of Micah. "Micah" is a sentence name meaning "who - is like - YHWH".  Bruce Waltke, in commenting on the significance of this naming, says the following, "By this naming his parents constantly praised YHWH as being incomparable to any other deity. It also portends the prophets message. By artfully inserting his name in the people's hymn of praise at the end of his book (cf. 7:18), their prophet-son added luster to YHWH’s glory, who like Yahweh forgives his guilty people to be true to his covenant promises to the Patriarchs? God's memorial name initially became famous when he hurled the Egyptian army into the depths of the sea to keep covenant fidelity with the patriarchs. He will however add even greater luster to his name in the last days when he hurls Israel's iniquities into the depths of the sea to be true to his covenant with Abraham and Jacob."

It is an appropriate book for Advent as it connects us to a people in desperate need of a Savior, it reminds us of a God who will rend the heavens to come down, and it hints at the one who will save; one who is like no other, a ruler who will shepherd his people in grace and truth.

I hope you will read through the seven chapters over these next few weeks. We will be taking selections for each of the Sundays in Advent, starting with the opening verses of the book this Sunday.

Friday, November 23, 2018

Only For the Truth

Have you recovered from the tryptophan effect yet?  Perhaps you are still enjoying some family time, battling the malls, or right back at it with work. Whatever the case, I am sure that one’s moral center is being challenged as we interact with the world, either directly or through conversation.

I can hear you now, "Wow, that seems heavy for a post-thanksgiving reflection.”  Perhaps, but our moral center is always at work (and on display). I was reminded of this while prepping for Sunday’s message, and when I encountered these words from 2 Corinthians 13:8, "For we cannot do anything against the truth, but only for the truth.”  Paul is talking about a specific interaction with the church in Corinth, but it makes a general application concerning ethos. All our interactions, every decision, every choice that we make must correspond with the truth or run the risk of sinking into a morass of largely self centered ambiguity.

This of course raises the question of standard. If not ourselves, then what should we be looking to as our guide, or “rule”? The framers of the Westminster Shorter Catechism many years ago answered this in a very satisfactory way:

Q: What rule hath God given to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy him? 
A: The word of God, which is contained in the scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, is the only rule to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy him.

When we say that the scriptures are the “rule” that directs how we are to glorify and enjoy our creator, we mean that it is the scriptures alone that provide the standard for our moral center. We mean that the Bible trumps man’s authority, church tradition, and our own opinions. We mean we will allow nothing that opposes God’s Word to dictate our actions or control our thinking. It means that we all must adhere to a standard of right and wrong formed outside of our own need for affirmation or self direction — “If it’s good for me, then it’s good; and if it’s bad for me, then it’s bad.” No matter how heart-wrenching or how socially, political, or culturally awkward it may feel, we must operate beyond ourselves.

This may put us at odds with those around us. We may feel out of step with the culture. We will have to make some hard choices. It is “rule” that applies to the highest levels of our country making decisions on foreign policy and big budgets, to the ways we interact on the playground, and to the people we host in our home. In every situation the tug toward expediency, safety, or immediate self-benefit will always exist. Rarely will these motivations align with the truth. It is the love of Christ which compels us to land with Paul: "for we cannot do anything against the truth, but only for the truth."

Friday, November 16, 2018

Life of the Church

I am often struck by the nature of our life together in the church, and by the church I mean the organism more so than the organization. I am contemplating Debbie Young’s memorial service and communicating with the Rodeheavers about the birth of their son, Wilder, as I write this. Together we experience life, death, and everything in between. As a body, it is our great privilege to experience this broad spectrum together. Sometimes we rejoice, as we will at the coffee house tonight, and sometimes we grieve. We worship, we pray, we disagree, we share, and we reach out, always pointing to Jesus, our refuge, our joy, and our hope.

Please remember our congregational meeting this Sunday evening at 6pm. We will consider a call to Pastor Bryant McGee, perhaps inviting him to come among us, to come into our lives, to help shepherd us through these experiences. I trust you have been, and will continue to be, in prayer as we face this important step in the life of our congregation.

Sunday morning we will be looking at 2 Corinthians 8 and 9. Returning to the themes of God’s utilization of his people in providing comfort, we encounter Paul’s exhortation to generosity. A generosity born out of the overflow of what God has given to us.

Friday, November 9, 2018

Steadfast Love

Twenty-Six times! That is how many times the refrain is repeated in Psalm 136, “His steadfast love endures forever.” Twenty-Six times to shape a people with the most important message they can grasp. Twenty-Six times to ease our fears in the wake of the political machine. Twenty-Six times to comfort us when the “meanies” have us down. Twenty-Six times to remind us of eternity, when our days feel too short or too long. Twenty-Six times as we look into the future of our church and wonder which way to turn. Twenty-Six times that push us to promiscuously proclaim the good news! Twenty-Six times! His steadfast love endures forever! Twenty-Six times! But will I get it?

Psalm 136 is a worship Psalm, part of the liturgy of the people of God that gave shape to their daily lives. It reminds us of the importance of weekly worship to give shape to our lives. This week Pastor Bryant McGee will be opening 2 Corinthians 12 with us. I hope you will make plans to join us for worship Sunday as Bryant helps us get to know the Lord better. Then I hope that you can join us at 6 on Sunday evening to get know Bryant and his wife Jennifer a little better, as we consider whether they are long term fits at Christ Church.

Twenty-Six times! Do you remember? His steadfast love endures forever!