It's been a while since we've had any Sunday posts, reflecting the fact that the Fall is quite the busy time around here. The college kids come back and we've got Bible studies, Sunday lunches, discipleship groups, workshops, and so on, in full and wonderful swing. The small group Bible studies are up and going; this time around I'm leading the "central" study at the church. Three of the four Bible studies are studying Ephesians, a marvelous letter built on what Sinclair Ferguson calls the "gospel grammar" - that is, Paul lays out first the facts, wonderful and mysterious, of the Triune God and His salvation, then he gets to the "what now."
Although most in the world don't ever want anyone telling them how to live their lives, there is a certain temptation present amongst protestant-evangelicals to only want someone to tell them what to do. But Paul (and God, ahem), are not satisfied to just hand us the Christian book of lists. We are meant to believe in, to revel in, the gospel of Jesus Christ, that glorious freedom which comes only through grace & by faith. And only after we see the truths of the gospel are we called to change our lives. If preachers preach application without the facts of the gospel, if we skip to the "now don't do a, b, or c" without the wonder of God come in the flesh, we become fundamentalists, in the bad sense of that word; i.e., we become the current, conservative version of the Pharisees, who were all sorts of interested in purity, but never had the foundation of purity figured out.
Just because I'm in the habit of agreeing with my friend Micah, I'll point you to his recommendation of two publications: Paste Magazine & Mars Hill Audio Journal (who, by the way, is having a clearance sale right now on past overstocked CDs). I've got the magazine on my amazon wishlist and can only hope that some kind family member remembers me come Christmastime.
A church building I drive by on the way to our building, Calvary Chapel, was torched by an arsonist very early Friday morning. We saw it this morning on our way to worship and it was quite the humbling site. The pastor lost his library and decades of sermon notes; the congregation lost its place of worship, at least for a time. Some in that church family are probably discouraged, but I hope not. We prayed this morning for our brothers and sisters there, that this would be a taken opportunity to show the world that bricks and trusses and computers and parking lots - these aren't the church. They are merely conveniences, things which may or may not help us minister more effectively. The church is the body of Christ, the called out, covenant community. The church is the church whether she's in some air-conditioned brick building, whether she's in the highlands of Scotland on a wet fall day, or whether she meets in a most secret basement of a Chinese province.
Due to no coincidence, a few minutes before I saw the burned-out church, I backed our minivan up into our car. No horrible things, just some nice big scratches and a few value-destroying dents. I winced and then reminded myself that I had to lead worship in twenty minutes and simply couldn't afford the spiritual energy it would take to groan or get mad. And then we saw the church.
Thank God for the perspective renewal that the Sabbath brings us. This day meant to remind us that life is not about me, that buildings and cars are simply conveniences, that possessions are given to help me be more like Christ. As Calvary Chapel continues & thrives after this fire, Christ will prove His promise to Peter through this part of Christ's church. Of far less importance, I am reminded that God's purposes for my life included a few dents in the car and that, even through this, He will use me for His kingdom. And just as Calvary's loss is put into perspective by the eternal character of worship, so my life-view must be shifted and re-oriented every Sunday. How great is our need for the Sabbath!