Hearing the Music

It takes a lot of humility to ...

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Our C-Group has been involved in watching and discussing Regent University’s Reframe course. Most recently the discussion focused around the Spirit and the Church and the idea that all of us are pulled into the story of the Kingdom as it is worked out in the world. Furthermore, it is the church, throughout history, with all its flaws that God has ordained to be the carrier of this mission. It is in this context that the speaker made an extraordinary statement, namely, it takes a lot of humility to go to church.

For some reason this statement really struck me and we had quite a discussion on the truth of the statement. For starters coming to church takes humility because things are not always optimized for my tastes. We frequently sing songs that aren’t my groove. Not all of the scripture teaching is that exciting, or even that pertinent, at least not at first blush. In church we put up with people who are different than us. They are often challenging, seeing things differently than me. It takes humility to go to church.

It also takes humility to go to church because going to church is an admission of need. We need to hear from the Lord, to be taught from his Word. We need the fellowship of other believers. We need their care. We need their encouragement. Admission of need is not natural in our DIY society.

To take the idea of need one step further going to church requires humility because it will expose my flaws. Different than the need that we have as outlined above, going to church exposes how desperate I am for mercy. How much I need people to extend grace because I am frankly not a nice guy. I am self absorbed, quick tempered, and just as prone to hurt you as I am to bless you. But that is the irony of coming to a church where God is truly worshiped and lived. It is right at this place of ugliness that we have the best chance to actually experience what the Gospel is all about. As I receive mercy when I least deserve it from a sister or brother in Christ, I truly taste the life giving fountain of grace that flows from the Savior through His people.

So it is true, going to church will require humility. But it is in going to church that I taste and see that the Lord is good!

 

Photo by Sarah Noltner on Unsplash

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Living with the Truth

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Watching the State of the Union address this week was another reminder of the political divide in our country. Whether you identified with the hopeful, tangible stories of progress that President Trump tried to emphasize or the shredding of the “pack of lies” that Speaker Pelosi attempted to give voice to; the divide is obvious. But what does the divide say about our country, or perhaps more uncomfortably yet, what does it say about you and me? 

Robert Samuelson, a columnist for Newsweek and Washington Post recently said the following about life on the campaign trail. “The chasm between stump rhetoric and governing realities will haunt whoever wins. It also defines a dilemma of democracy. People want their leaders to tell the truth, but they often don’t want to hear the truth.Genuine leaders escape this trap by persuading public opinion to acknowledge distasteful problems. But these leaders are rare. Most pursue immediate popularity over truth even if this deepens long-term public mistrust.”

There is a lot here to parse out; particularly about leadership. But what captured my attention is the idea that while we want our leaders to tell the truth, we often don’t want to hear the truth. Living in the light is not all that comfortable. The reality is, as great as we may want America to be, it is always going to be flawed, it is never going to be the utopia, Christian or otherwise, that we have burdened it to be. The reality is, that as much as we may bleed for social justice causes, humans at their best will never be the complete solution for these causes. These truths are hard to hear. So we stay in our echo chambers, celebrating the things we value and decrying what the opposition stands for.

But hearing the truth is the heart of the Gospel. As Jack Miller famously puts it, “Cheer up you are a lot worse off than you think. But cheer up again, because you are more loved and accepted in Christ than you ever dared hope.” The gospel invites us to radical truth-telling about ourselves, our world, and most importantly our God. The gospel invites us to this truth telling because the gospel can handle the truth. Yes, we are more broken that we can believe. I see this each week in confession as I think through the harsh words that I said to my wife or my kids, and realize that the harsh words are magnified because they actually comes from a selfish heart. The truth was worse than I thought. But dealing in the truth allows me to have an even greater vision of how great God’s love for me actually is. He didn’t just deal with my wayward actions, he dealt definitively with my blackened heart! This is truly great news! I love the words of the Psalmist “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. Living in the light, this is truly a heart set free. 

 

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash 

A Little Less Lost

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A number of years ago I ran across this quote from the sunglassed Irishman,  and frontman for the band U2, Bono, that struck me:

          Your nature is a hard thing to change; it takes time…. I have heard of people who have life-changing, miraculous turnarounds, people set free from addiction after a single prayer, relationships saved where both parties "let go, and let God." But it was not like that for me. For all that "I was lost, I am found," it is probably more accurate to say, "I was really lost. I'm a little less so at the moment." And then a little less and a little less again. That to me is the spiritual life. The slow reworking and rebooting the computer at regular intervals, reading the small print of the service manual. It has slowly rebuilt me in a better image. It has taken years, though, and it is not over yet.
(U2 (with Neil McCormick), U2 by U2 (HarperCollins, 2006), p. 7)

I think a lot about what it means to follow Jesus, both for myself and as it concerns us together at Christ Church. There are couple things that I think this quote highlights well.  First, it is process; a long process, a slow process.  There are no short cuts. There is no warp speed. It is simply day by day looking to Jesus, day by day scouring His Word. It is the day by day rubbing shoulders with other followers of Jesus, rubbing off our sharp edges and anxieties. It is the weekly coming together for word and sacrament, worship and prayer. As Bono collaborator, Eugene Peterson, said discipleship is a “long obedience in the same direction”.   

The second thing that stands out with this quote is the idea of being a little less lost. If we take this to mean that we are getting more and more saved as we go, we will have missed the meaning and stumbled into a form of moralism. However, if by "a little less lost" Bono means, and we mean, that we more quickly orient ourselves back to True North when we stray, then we are talking true discipleship. To be a disciple of Jesus means we come back to Him; over and over and over. We mark our growth as Jesus’ followers not by how frequently (or infrequently) we stray, but rather by how quickly we abandon our forays and return to Jesus. This is how I read the little less lost. If you like more traditional language, we could also call it a life of repentance (turning from) and faith (turning to).

So I look forward to opening Luke 5 with you again this week (vv. 17-26). I look forward to prayers spoken and sung. I look forward to rubbing shoulders, shaking hands, and coming together around the Lord’s Table. Most of all I look forward to seeing Jesus yet again, having him imprinted on my whole being, so that I can go through my weeks a little less lost.

 

Photo by Jametlene Reskp on Unsplash

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