Hearing the Music

Continuing Discipleship

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Malcolm Gladwell, early in his book Talking to Strangers, tells a story of how Cuba duped the CIA, feeding false information to the US with a couple dozen double agents. Interestingly, over the course of the years while they were being duped, CIA agents would have opportunity to administer lie detector tests to the Cuban double agents. On a number of occasions the Cubans failed the polygraphs and the Cuban scheme could have been found out, but the American agents were so sure of their own tradecraft that they dismissed the lie detector results that contradicted their own beliefs. Pride, they say, goes before a fall.

In contrast to the cocksure agents consider Dr. J.I. Packer. Dr. Packer passed away about a month ago at the age of 93. Over the years he has helped many to know God better through his teaching, preaching and writing. But far from arrogance and pride, listen to these words, from one of his last books, Weakness is the Way:

“When the world tells us, as it does, that everyone has a right to a life that is easy, comfortable, and relatively pain-free, a life that enables us to discover, display, and deploy all the strengths that are latent within us, the world twists the truth right out of shape. That was not the quality of life to which Christ’s call led him, nor was it Paul’s calling, nor is it what we are called to in the twenty-first century. For all Christians, the likelihood is rather that as our discipleship continues, God will make us increasingly weakness-conscious and pain-aware, so that we may learn with Paul that when we are conscious of being weak, then—and only then—may we become truly strong in the Lord. And should we want it any other way?” 

Let me repeat his thought, “as our discipleship continues, God will make us increasingly weakness-conscious and pain-aware”. This, of course, is not an end in itself, but rather it is the path to knowing God. It is the path to understanding and appreciating His strength. God chooses the weak things of this world to shame the strong and the foolish things to expose those who think themselves wise (cf. 1 Cor. 1:18-30), it is only when we are weak that we truly are strong (2 Cor. 12:9,10) therefore Paul says that he will boast only in his weakness (2 Cor. 11:30). These are hard lessons to learn. May God help us along the way.

One way that he helps us is through his word. This week we will continue meeting outside on our grounds. Bring a chair to set up with your church family or stay in or near your car, either way, we gather together as God’s people to worship and to be fed from his word. Going forward we plan to continue these outdoor services along with our online worship guides for as long as we can into the fall (see Session Summary update in bulletin). In the word this week we will look at an intense story from the life of Elisha found in 2 Kings 6:24-7:20. It is a story in which the strong and mighty are eclipsed by the unclean and unnamed, as God’s word through the prophet once again brings life. I can’t wait to unfold it with you!

 

photo: rawpixel.com

The types of things that help

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Oh there’s so much I’d like to have a chat about. Like how ARE you? How goes it with your soul? With your heart? With your spirits? How goes your joy in the Lord? Are you able to remember that you’re a child of the King and part of a kingdom of light, love and truth? I feel I waffle between all-consuming dread and inexpressible joy. I guess that describes life for me pre-COVID also!!

I will mention three offerings that are available to you, my fellow-travelers, as we onward go. They are the types of things that help me fill my mind and heart with that inexpressible joy when the all-consuming dread looms. Perhaps they could be of help to you too?

Wednesday prayer gatherings. Starting July 29, 7-8pm, we will meet weekly to pray together outside. The one unique voice we can offer into the fray of social discord is the voice of prayer. We will praise God, lament to him, and intercede for each other and the world. To aid our focus on lament we will have a painted board set up outside where we can write our lament. We can be unified as we see the hurts, the confusion, even the rage of each other’s hearts in our church family. There isn’t a wrong lament. God already knows what’s going on. But when we lament we take it out of our thoughts into the wounds of Jesus where he can turn it into a hope. If you’d prefer we write your lament down for you please send it in here. It will be written out (anonymously). 

Extended Playlist for Faith, Hope & Love on Spotify. Yes, that’s the second offering I have. Debbie Bukovietski and I are filled to the brim with those three wonderful words through working on materials for Arts & Rec in a box. So we wanted to offer a way for more than just the kids and families to be blessed by those words faith, hope and love. Many musicians have written on these words from I Corinthians 13. Also included in the playlist are songs about our three stories: Jesus and his disciples in the storm, the road to Emmaus and the good Samaritan. As always, lots of musical styles are included from the people of God to the people of God. Rejoice! Be filled! Take 75 minutes to hear truth sung. A lyric sheet is available to help you sing in voice or in spirit.

Singing together. The final thing I’ll mention is an offering from my heart about our singing together. Lately this is when that feeling of all-consuming dread has really reared its head in my heart. I’ll begin, however, by saying that working with my fellow music-makers to produce the recordings — sometimes from afar, sometimes together — has been very, very good: as in soul-lifting, easy, fun, sacred good. Those in quarantine produced such lovely ways for us to lift our voices “together.” My battle cry near the beginning of the lock down was “we’re not being told we can’t worship, we’re just being told we shouldn’t gather; that’s not the same thing.” Now we could probably disagree on that take of things. But it’s been my guiding principle, to help the people of God sing and worship in all ways during these days. And it’s been a joy. Moving into the parking lot was the next step and it’s really also been very, very good: seeing each other, being outside, raising our hallelujahs together to Jesus. But that feeling of dread I mentioned loomed whenever I thought about moving inside our sanctuary, and I had so many questions: “Why can one of the most unifying aspects to our gatherings and life together be a cause of division and fear among us? What about what science is saying? How do we respond to all those scriptures that tell us to sing? Do we not sing? Do we sing and hope for the best?” I just couldn’t see a way through. Those were dark times for me. However, dear Debbie joined me in prayer so many times over this (as did the choir), and she remembered Sasha telling her of a time when he and some Christian friends were not allowed into their normal gathering place on a Sunday. So what they did was move away from that area, to a place by the river, in the dead of winter, and sing their hearts out with so very much joy! “That’s it!” I cried when she told me that story. “That’s what we can do!” So when we move inside for worship we’ll have scripture, prayer, preaching of the word, communion even, in our sanctuary. We’ll have instrumental music—strings, piano, organ, percussion. Then at the end we’ll go outside, encircle the island out there and sing away! We’ll receive the Benediction and be dismissed. I have peace about this. The session has agreed with it and we’ll give it a try when we resume worshiping in the sanctuary on August 2 at 6pm.

We have so much to look forward to this coming Sunday. The entire Gracehill congregation will be joining us in the parking lot! Pastor Daniel Eguiluz will be opening God’s word with us with a passage from Genesis 18:1-16. We’ll send Daniel and Abby out to Peru as well as send Jacob and Erin Thielman out to North Carolina.

 

Photo by bruce mars on Unsplash

Posted by Susan Guerra

Loving Discipline

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This Sunday we are going to be following the story of Naaman in 2 Kings 5. It’s a fantastic story. There are so many angles, details and little plots that happen throughout it, we will not be able to cover it all. Since that is true I wanted to cover one of the characters we won’t spend much time with for a minute. Gehazi.

Gehazi is Elisha’s servant. We know him from different stories throughout Elisha’s story arc (2 Kings 4, 5, 6 & 8 are all places he makes appearances in some form or fashion). He shows great compassion during the Shunammite woman’s story in 2 Kings 4. He plays his role in Naaman’s miraculous conversion as the servant who passed on Elisha’s message when Naaman and his entourage showed up at their door (2 Kings 5:10). Yet he also has his moments that make us scratch our heads, like at the end of 2 Kings. When you read through the whole narrative, and I would highly recommend you do so before we worship together on Sunday, you will notice that the end of the story seems pretty dark. Just as Naaman begins the story with leprosy, Gehazi ends the story with leprosy. What happened?

Gehazi can’t look past himself. When Naaman offers Elisha a payment or gift for his role in his healing, Elisha refuses. He wants God to get all the glory. Naaman insists but Elisha continues to say no. Gehazi doesn’t like this, he thinks they deserve some of that money. He thinks it would be helpful for the work they are doing. Or perhaps he wants a little bonus for the role he played. What his motivations were we won’t know this side of the Jordan. So Gehazi takes matters into his own hands, he tricks Naaman and gets some money and goods out of him.

He is disciplined by God, through Elisha for his betrayal of what Elisha said and what God truly wanted. For God to be glorified alone. This discipline seems sad. It seems to be a dark ending for this servant of Elisha and of Yahweh. Yet we know that this is not the end of Gehazi’s story, he returns in 2 Kings, pointing to the fact that he is disciplined, but not isolated, not outside of God’s love, favor, mercy and grace.

So it is with our discipline. It’s hard to walk through seasons of discipline. Personally I try and shy away from it. When I know I have wronged somebody, and ultimately God, I pretend as if nothing happened. Why? More times than not its because I’m scared. I’m scared of what people will think or do to me. Will they include me in their social gatherings? Will they share information with me? In other words, will I still feel like I am in the in crowd? And these all translate to God as well. 

The message of the Gospel is that King Jesus loves us enough to discipline us AND to keep us close to him. In fact that is exactly what his discipline communicates. I love you, and I want the best for you, and I hope that you see how this discipline will lead you back to me! As Jack Miller used to say, “Cheer up! You’re a worse sinner than you ever dared imagine, and you’re more loved than you ever dared hope.” 

Friends, that is what King Jesus says to his children. Through discipline we experience that love, that mercy and that grace.

 

 

Photo by Daiga Ellaby on Unsplash

Posted by Addison Hawkins

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