Hearing the Music

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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

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

Happy Anniversary

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Whose anniversary are we celebrating? Why, ours, of course! That’s right, 6 years ago this coming Sunday I was installed as minister of Christ Church. It is hard to believe that 6 yrs have elapsed. Since we have been here we have had 4 kids graduate from high school. We have fostered about a dozen kids and the Lord has added Moses to our family. We have been in your homes, you have been in ours. We have seen God work in our church community; in exciting ways and in ways that have stretched us. We have met each other on mountaintops and in valleys. We have been the source of one another’s delight and we have been the occasion of each other’s discouragement. These are the realities of life together. By God’s grace we will have many more years to search out the scriptures for the deep things of grace and have the opportunity to practice them together in our community.

While these occasions do not always call for outward celebration or even recognition, I do try to use them as an opportunity for reflection. Right now the thing I feel the most weight of is the calling to serve God’s people. I have been an ordained minister for over 20 years now and I can honestly say I have never experienced a season like this one. The disruption and uncertainty brought about by the pandemic and the various responses to it, the divisions that exists politically in our country AND in our churches over proper response to cultural issues, the pain being expressed as these divided groups hurt one another, the frailty and fallenness on display amongst my fellow brothers in the ministry; each of these points to a desperate need for divine intervention. With Isaiah I say “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips” (Is. 6:5). With Paul I cry out, “Who is sufficient for these things?” (2 Cor. 2:16)

But here is the hope, “thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere” (2 Cor. 2:14). We look at our selves and we see feet of clay and hearts of wax. But, when we keep our eyes on Jesus, our covenant making and covenant keeping Lord, there is always hope. Remember, the light has shone in the darkness and the darkness shall not overcome it (John 1:5)! It is this Light that guides us. It is this Light that sustains and shines through us. So let us together keep seeking the Light. Let us keep short accounts with one another that we may be long on grace. And may it be that God would spread through us the fragrance of the Gospel.

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