Indelible Grace Church

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Indelible Grace Church Blog

Christianity and Patriotism

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So I’ve been thinking about the role of patriotism in the life of a Christian. I think there are two extremes to be avoided. First, we should keep distinct the Kingdom of God and the United States. Sometimes, we fret about certain laws or national trends as if the very fate of Christianity were at stake. Augustine addressed this very issue in his seminal book, The City of God, when Rome was sacked by the Visigoths and Christians fell into dismay. We should never forget that nations will rise and fall, but the Kingdom of God endures forever. But second, patriotism and love of country is a good thing because it binds us to our communities and demonstrates neighborly love. We ought not to be detached and remote, but deeply involved and concerned with local and national affairs. And therefore, as Christians, we maintain this dynamic tension. On the one hand, we are the very best citizens, law-abiding and working for our nation’s prosperity, but on the other hand, we are also citizens of a greater Kingdom, and our ultimate loyalties lies there. And so, we live as dual citizens until the age to come. I also wrote a related blog post about a year ago on politics and Christian faith; you can read it here.

 

Singing the Gospel

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Having come to the half-way point in our sermon series on the Gospel of Mark, we’ll take a brief break this week and start a new summer series on the Psalms, the songbook of God's people.

Have you ever wondered why God placed a songbook in the middle of the Bible? In other words, why is singing and poetry essential to the Christian faith? It reminds me of this scene from Jerry Maguire, when he has just secured a contract with Cushman, the expected number one draft pick in the NFL. Jerry Maguire is beyond ecstatic. And on the drive home, there’s this funny scene where he’s searching on the radio for just the right song so he can properly express his joy, until finally he finds Tom Petty's "Free Fallin," and with great effusiveness, he belts out the chorus.

The Bible is saying that we can not understand the fullness of the human condition until we sing it. And therefore, God gives us a book of songs to explore and understand the full range of the human experience: depression, fear, joy, thanksgiving. And so for the next several weeks, not only will we preach the Psalms, but we will also sing the Psalms. Through the summer, we'll work a few Psalms into our worship singing. "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God." --Colossians 3:16

 

Borne on Eagles' Wings

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In Sunday school, we looked at the Mosaic Covenant. The difficulty is how to understand the complex web of both gracious promises (“I will surely save you”) and conditional language (“obey and live; disobey and perish”). Because on the face of it, they seem at odds. Either God relates to us by grace or by works. It can’t be both.

The answer is that the Mosaic Covenant is fundamentally of grace. This is Paul’s argument in Galatians 3:17, when he says the Mosaic law does not cancel out the promises of grace given to Abraham. So also, in Exodus 19:4, God reminds his people that they were brought out of Egypt on eagles’ wings. JRR Tolkien was inspired by this biblical imagery in The Lord of the Rings, when giant eagles come to rescue Gandalf at Isengard (see picture to right). The point is that when you are being carried on eagles' wings, you are doing nothing, contributing nothing. And so the Mosaic Covenant is essentially of grace.

However, in the Mosaic Covenant, there is also law. Obey and the people will flourish in the land; disobey and the people will be banished into exile. As Paul argues in Galatians 3:24, the Mosaic law was a tutor to teach us that we cannot stay in the Promised Land (Eden) on the basis of our obedience, but that we need a savior, Jesus Christ, who would fulfill the law for us as our substitute. This is the point of the whole drama of redemptive-history. The law cannot save - only Jesus can save. This is the gospel according to the Old Testament.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 04 June 2014 16:34
 

The Difference Between Knowing And Experiencing

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There’s a great exchange in the movie Good Will Hunting between a kindly psychologist, played by Robin Williams, and a troubled young genius, played by Matt Damon. At one point, the psychologist says this--"So, if I asked you about art, you'd probably give me the skinny on every art book ever written. Michelangelo, you know a lot about him. Life’s work, political aspirations, sexual orientations, the whole works, right? But I'll bet you can't tell me what it smells like in the Sistine Chapel. And I'd ask you about war, you'd probably throw Shakespeare at me, right, ‘once more unto the breach dear friends.’ But you've never been near one. You've never held your best friend's head in your lap, watch him gasp his last breath, looking to you for help."

The point is that there’s a world of difference between intellectually understanding something, and truly knowing and experiencing something. Christianity is not just a collection of propositions about God but it is the all-satisfying experience of God’s love for us in Christ. How do we experience this and not just cognitively know it? In large part, through Christian community. Paul writes in Colossians, "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God." When we gather together as a church, we impress upon each of our hearts the vivid reality of Christ’s love for us.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 21 May 2014 14:44
 

Bible Tasting

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If you go to a brewery, you can often sample several beers in one sitting. The benefits of this is that you don't fill up on a single drink, but you get a chance to taste the full offerings before you commit. And if your server is good, he'll educate you on the unique attributes of each kind of beer, the subtle nuances of aroma, flavor, appearance. Often, the pleasure is just in sipping a bit of each sample.

On June 1, we're starting a new Sunday school series called "The Whole Bible: 66 Books in 10 Weeks." Think of it as "tasting" the Bible. In rapid fire, we'll walk through each book (spending no more than 5-10 minutes each), giving you a sense of the distinctives, message, and flavor of every book of the Bible. And hopefully, this will lead you to try a deeper dive into a single book and a lifelong love of Scripture study.

Last Updated on Thursday, 15 May 2014 10:14
 


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