Hearing the Music

Whose Terms?

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Maybe you have heard it said by an individual that “they want to live life on their own terms.” Maybe you have even said that your self? If you don’t live on your terms, whose terms do you live by? Your family, your boss, and the culture around you all have something to say about how we live. However, for the Jesus follower it is His word and His Spirit that sets the terms for our life.

Living by Jesus’ terms is the theme that Paul continues to expound in Romans 13:8-14, our passage for this week. Here he continues to press home the shape of life for the individual believer, both within the community of believers and the life surrounded by the empire. Here he lays the groundwork for the kind of counter cultural life that brings joy to our neighbors and seditiously challenges the very foundations of the empire.

Dallas Willard in his classic Renovation of the Heart puts it like this, “the rare individual who exemplifies ... – genuine purity and humility, death to selfishness, freedom from rage and depression, and so on – will stand out in the group with all the obtrusiveness of a sore thumb. He or she will be a constant hindrance in group processes and will be personally conflicted by those processes, for he or she will not be living on the same terms as others.” 

In many ways living a life that stands out from the crowd is scary. But frankly, it is more exhausting to try to live life on our own terms. What a relief to have Jesus enfold his followers and give us the strength to carry on!

 

Photo by Andrej Nihil on Unsplash

Heavenly Civics

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This past week Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska took a few minutes to clarify the difference between civics and politics. According to Mr. Sasse, civics are the organizing structures and principles by which we operate our governmental system in America. Civics are the fundamental truths that lie behind our executive, legislative and judicial branches of government. Civics is the stuff that we should all agree on regardless of our party affiliation. Politics, on the other hand, are the different approaches and beliefs that we advocate as we operate within the civic structure. Laws and policies are written to be enforced by governmental authorities and judicial systems and come about as a result of political approach. These are the areas in which different parties disagree about how things should be handled. 

In Romans 13:1-7 Paul lays out a heavenly civics lesson for believers. Here, he doesn’t so much delve into politics but gives the church in Rome a framework for understanding the authority structures of the universe, from heaven on down. This was timely for a 1st century church operating within the Pax Romana and it remains timely for a 21st century church operating in a Western Republic. As we seek to navigate things from judicial confirmation hearings to a looming presidential election, it is important for us to place these events in a broader framework and understand how we hold our faith in such a time as this. 

Pastorally I know that politics has many of us in knots right now. Anxiety levels for both the left and the right are high. This Sunday offers a chance for a cup of cool water to refresh weary travelers, as we are reminded that behind all the principalities and powers, both seen and unseen, there is a hierarchy that brings us into the throne room of our true King. Because this is such a front-burner topic, I want to invite you to a special sermon discussion on Wednesday at 6PM followed by a time of prayer for us, for our country, and for the Church from 7PM-8PM. Both of these will be in the sanctuary at church. What better way to engage present political challenges than by looking at the Word and spending time in prayer!

 

Photo by Joshua Sukoff on Unsplash

I Need Jesus

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Why is it that we have such a hard time loving people that we disagree with? These people could be close friends or family, they could be leaders in the company we work for or of the country we live in. However these people come into our lives we often experience them as our enemy, rather than as someone with whom we share a bond. What do I mean by that? What kind of bond do we share with "these people"? This answer is not original to me, but when we experience another as our enemy, part of the problem, perhaps the core of the problem, is that we believe that they need Jesus more than we do. We forget the basic tenet of the Gospel that all are equal at the foot of the cross. This is the bond that we share with all humanity: all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. When we properly account for this fact, only to find ourselves gloriously rescued, the result can never be a prideful looking down on another, but rather, as Paul puts it in our text for Sunday, “For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned (Romans 12:3). This sober judgment is the heart of Gospel living and will change our churches and our world! Singer songwriter Nathan Partain puts it this way

"Now I say, “Glory! Hallelujah!”, I’m so glad to be redeemed!
To be so desperate for Jesus and so gloriously weak,
I do not ever want to stray from the Community of Need,
O may I never leave dependence or forsake my Food and Drink,
I need Jesus. Oh, I need Jesus. I need Jesus. Oh, I need Jesus."

And so, we belong to the Community of the Redeemed. It is amazing how much God has entrusted to this community and the extent of the gifts that he has given to his Church. We will be looking at these more closely on Sunday (Romans 12:3-8). We will also be experiencing the receipt of one of these gifts as we install Addison as an associate pastor. I know for some this is kind of confusing. Addison is already one of our pastors. Why are we installing him? The answer is that in our ecclesial policy, as we have called him as an associate pastor, his relationship to the church has changed. As an assistant pastor he was basically an employee of the Session and not a member of the Session. Now he is called by the congregation and is a full member of the Session. We mark this with an installation and invite you to be a part of it (at our 6 pm service) and certainly invite you to continue to pray for Addison and Lynnette as they continue their life among us with this new relationship to Christ Church.

Don’t forget to sign up for one of our services this week. Please continue to be in prayer for the many dynamics involved with our moving inside. As you can imagine, folks at Christ Church fall along a spectrum of comfortability with being inside, wearing masks, etc…. Once again we come back to that central truth, we all need Jesus as we navigate the fraught nature of these days.

 

Photo by Nico Smit on Unsplash

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