Over the past two Sundays, we have heard wonderful sermons from Luis Castellanos and Bruce Wells. It’s amazing how those two sermons really fit together…God’s word and prayer. I was not only encouraged by both sermons but challenged to apply them. I was particularly struck by Luis’ section on the “echoes of Jesus” in Psalm 119. Luis was gracious enough to send those to me and I’ve included them below. I was amazed at Bruce’s portrayal of the bigness of our God and the fact that we get to talk to Him whenever we want. In both sermons I thought, “with the treasure that I have in Christ, why do I not read God’s word more and pray more often?” My prayer is that I will apply the things I’ve heard from these two wonderful men.
Seeing Things Differently:
I’ve got a concern that I want to share with you. I believe it’s a biblical concern and I believe that it’s something that I’m praying for our church and for the Church. But before I share it, let me say something for clarification: at CLF, we have enjoyed a sweet season of unity and peace. God has been kind to us. It’s from this joy of unity that I write about this concern.
Here’s Where it Begins:
“From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer” (2 Corinthians 5:16). Paul’s concern (and God’s) is that when we trust in Jesus’ power to save us, there is great transformation. We see that in vs. 17 of that chapter. But one of the elements of this transformation is that we no longer see people the way we saw them prior to believing in Christ. Before Christ, we regarded others just like the rest of the world regards others…with labels, prejudice, malice, envy, or pride. But after Christ, no longer. We see people differently. We see them made in the image of God, in need of a Savior, and deserving respect because of Who made them and Who came for them.
Here’s the Concern:
Everywhere we look today there is “regarding one another according to the flesh”. In our current time, there’s vaccinated/unvaccinated; masked/unmasked; liberal/conservative; true Christian/lazy Christian; patriot/non-patriot and the list could go on and on. You read it in the news feed when the President states that his new mandates are to “protect the vaccinated” (so we’re no longer protecting everyone??). You see it on social media when you read people calling people who feel strongly about wearing a mask, “liberals” or “sell-outs” (so my friends who wear masks and were in the military, love our country, voted conservative are less than you who don’t wear a mask??). And you feel the tension in the air virtually everywhere you go…the lines are being drawn at work; in our neighborhoods people are afraid to talk about hard topics; and even at church we point our fingers in accusation against one another for “not standing up for our rights being taken” or “not being obedient to Romans 13”. Labels are EVERYWHERE. The worst thing we can do as Christians right now is sinfully judge others’ motives, sinfully label them by earthly labels, and find out “who’s with us or who’s against us…” Those things are NOT helpful right now or ever.
Here’s the Solution:
If you’re a regular at CLF, you’re going to know my answer. The solution…the only solution, is the gospel. What the gospel does (beyond the amazing work of forgiving us and giving us a right standing with God) is very fascinating and powerful. We are infused with the Spirit of God who opens our eyes to see people without sinfully motivated labels. We’re free to allow others to have different opinions on a variety of subjects, without judgment. And unless God’s word is explicitly clear on something, we allow others the freedom to use their own wisdom/intellect to make decisions that are best for them…even if we don’t agree with them. And then, we’re able to do something remarkable…we can genuinely love others without labeling them.
Here’s my plea for us at CLF and for the Church in our area: can we stop accusing one another? Can we start being open with one another about how we really feel about things, without the fear of being criticized or judged? Can we try to not make relationships hard, because making decisions in this time is hard enough and we need friends? Can we keep the gospel central in our relationships and not politics (or vaccines or masks)? Think about it, we all have a variety of opinions on so many issues (educational choices, health/diet choices, paper/plastic, Ducks/Beavers, etc.) and the only solution to keep us sane and unified, is the gospel of Christ. So why would it be any different now? CLF, are you with me in this? There is a bigger work to be done in this world and this world needs to see the unifying power of the gospel.
Now, don’t get me wrong on this…I realize that we’re living in challenging times. I realize that we’re facing some loss in some freedoms that we may never get back. And I realize that there are some things that are hard to logically explain. Every person I know, whether we agree on all things or not, feels the tumultuous moment we’re in. But now is not a time for earthy/fleshly/worldly weapons to be used by Christians. Now is the time for the gospel to be seen for the practical power that it is.
We’ve been hit pretty hard in the last 4-6 weeks at CLF. We’ve lost Linda Heard to cancer. We’ve had about 10 families get hit with COVID. We’ve had staff members out because of it. We’ve had 4 church members end up in the hospital and as of this writing, all but one are out. And by looking at our Sunday attendance (with the August 29th gathering at One Champion Field as the exception), people are staying home out of concern or not wanting to gather in large crowds.
Knowing this is going on, CLF, let’s make sure that disconnect and isolation don’t enter into our souls or our church. Use all the means of technology available to you to check-in with folks and love on them. Send encouraging texts; call to let folks know you’re praying for them; and if you can, FaceTime with a friend you haven’t seen in a while. That stuff will go along way in serving others in these hard times.
From the Cheap Seats:
- This is what a G.O.A.T. does: https://bleacherreport.com/post/world-football/0ffe6b58-a10f-4b9d-a0ff-b8b4ee763df5. For those who don’t know: G.O.A.T. stands for Greatest of All Time.
- The NFL is back! I love football season. It’s part of growing up in Texas…Faith, family, football and sometimes in that order, is what I’ve been told. But watching powerful athletes do amazing things is simply a reminder to me of how great our God is.
- And I haven’t mentioned this for a while…but the All-Blacks (New Zealand’s rugby team) are rolling. Recently shut out Argentina 37-0 and won the Bledisloe Cup over Australia in dominating fashion. I wish this was a World Cup year.
Praying for you this week. CLF, I love you and thank God everyday for you.
P.S. “Echoes of Jesus” in Psalm 119
(1 & 2) Echoes of the blamelessness of Jesus.
(v. 99) Echoes of the wisdom of Jesus (Jesus in the temple at age 12)
(vs. 30, 44, 47, 60) Echoes of his perfect obedience
(vs.147) Echoes of his prayer life
(Vs 20, 97) Echoes of his love for God’s law
(v. 136) Echoes of Jesus weeping over Jerusalem and weeping at the tomb of Lazarus.
(v. 53) Echoes of Jesus righteous anger when cleansing the temple
(vv. 95, 157) Echoes of people responding to Jesus with hatred.
(v. 28) Echoes of Gethsemane.
(vv. 61, 69) Echoes of His suffering for righteousness sake.
(vv. 83-87, 121-124) Echoes of persecution from His enemies.
(v. 161) Echoes of Pilate and Herod persecuting Christ.
(Vs. 61, 69, 71, 75, 85, 86, 87, 95, 121, 143, 157) Echoes of his betrayal, trial and suffering on the cross.
(v. 75) Echoes of His perfect faithfulness.
(v. 112) Echoes of His cry on the cross, “It is finished!”
(vv. 107,149, 153-154) Echoes of the Resurrection.