Indelible Grace Church

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Reflection on Gratitude

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Gratitude is one of the central characteristics of the Christian life. The Bible is replete with commands to give thanks: Colossians 3:15, “and be thankful,” 1 Thessalonians 5:18, “give thanks in all circumstances,” Ephesians 5:20, “give thanks always and for everything to God.”

And there is Jesus’ encounter with the ten lepers in Luke 17:11-19. In the story, ten lepers cry out from a distance to Jesus, “master, have mercy on us.” Jesus tells them, “go show yourself to the priests,” and on the way, all of them are cleansed and healed. But only one returns to Jesus, falls at his feet, and gives thanks. Jesus replies, “were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine?”

We can all sympathize with the nine. They were eager to get on with the business of returning to their lives. They had homes and families waiting for them. They had missed so much of life, they didn’t want to miss another minute. But they forgot to give thanks to the source of all their good things. And most tragically, they missed the Savior Jesus.

We are very much like those nine lepers. So busy and occupied, we don’t pause to reflect in wonder and awe at God’s bountiful goodness. Every breath, every ray of sunshine, every stray moment of happiness is a gift. Let us pause and give thanks to God, most of all for the gift of Jesus.

 

Staff project: memorizing Colossians

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As a spiritual exercise, the staff has challenged itself to memorize Colossians. All of it. Every single verse, word for word. What better way to "hide God's Word in our hearts" (Psalm 119:11) than to have it fully recollected in our memories?

To be perfectly honest, it's been both much harder than we imagined – you literally find yourself muttering Scripture in the shower, in line at the grocery market; it encompasses the whole day – and much more rewarding than we suspected. You begin to notice little details and connections. Suddenly grammar and syntax matters! You pay attention not just to the famous verses, but also to the surrounding context. And you notice even the littlest words and marvel at the meaning behind it. There are so many insights we'd love to share.

Next time, ask one of us – Becky, Christina, Michael, Nate, Tracy and Wade. We're memorizing 5 verses a week and we're currently near the end of Colossians 2. Only 2 more chapters to go!

 

Reflections on the cross

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Recently, I’ve been reading The Crucifixion by Fleming Rutledge. Rutledge makes the great point that our historical distance from the first century Mediterranean world inures us to the absolute horror of Roman crucifixion.

And what we often miss is that the essential point of crucifixion was not that it was a long and agonizing death, but that it was for public display. Roman crosses were placed at major thoroughfares, trading crossroads or near city gates. Passersby would stop and gape at the condemned man; mockery and ridicule was encouraged and an essential part of the event.

The condemned man was stripped completely naked, lifted up on a wooden crossbeam, stretched out and exposed, and then slowly tortured. The prolonged death was designed to strip the victim of dignity and humanity. The assembled crowd would watch the victim writhe in pain, crying and screaming in agony. It was an utterly degrading and dehumanizing form of death.

The essential point was its very public nature. It served as a ghastly warning and a deterrent for anyone who would oppose Rome. Thousands of crucifixions occurred yearly throughout the Empire, and even little children were exposed to these public executions from an early age. It was unavoidable and seared into the memory. In the ancient world, crucifixions were not spoken of in polite company. The Latin word crux was equivalent to a curse word. It was the most horrifying way to possibly die. To be crucified meant you were cursed by God.

Here is the astonishing truth of Christianity. At its heart is a community worshiping a crucified man as lord and king. It is difficult to describe how vile and reprehensible this idea was to ancient peoples. And indeed, early Christian writers, like Paul of Tarsus, wrote about the scandal of “preaching Christ crucified” (1 Corinthians 1:23). Converts were subject to ridicule, persecution and even death. And yet almost immediately after Jesus’ death, there were thousands of early believers. How can this be accounted for? What historical explanation is sufficient for the rise of Christianity?

Only the resurrection of Jesus is historically strong enough to give a satisfying answer. Only the vindication and reversal of the verdict of the cross that rising from the dead provides can explain how Christianity not only begun, but eventually became the dominant religion of the ancient Mediterranean world.

by Pastor Michael Chung

 

Confessions of an Introvert

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All my life, I’ve been a strong introvert. There is nothing I prefer more than curling up with a good book. And nothing is more taxing and exhausting than spending lots of time with people. But midway through my life, I became a pastor. And the great irony is that a significant portion of my job is being with people all the time--hearing their sorrows, sharing their joys, and just being deeply involved in their lives.

Before I became a pastor, I would always make the calculation if going out to a social event was "worth it."  I would do a little cost-benefit analysis in my head. What were the odds that the experience might be awkward or uninteresting or unpleasant?  In the end, I would usually stay home, convinced that was the happier path. But now that I’m a pastor, I don’t have a choice in the matter. All throughout the week, I’m surrounded by people.

I’ve been a pastor now for 7 years; my life is full of friendships and community engagement. To my great surprise, I am happier than ever before. Truly. I realize now that happiness is a byproduct of community. Happiness happens when you stop calculating if it’s worthwhile being connected to others, and you just plunge yourself headlong into community. And at first, it may be driven mostly by obligation or piety. But on the other side of that choice, you realize your life is full and rich and satisfying.

by Pastor Michael Chung

 

Part III: Other Distinctives of Being Presbyterian

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In the last post, I talked about the main distinctive of Presbyterianism--its form of church government. This post will fill out the other distinctives of the Presbyterian tradition.

(1) Covenant Theology and Infant Baptism
Covenant Theology sees fundamental continuity between the Old and the New Testaments, as opposed to Dispensationalism which sees discontinuity. It’s a way of reading Scripture, so that Genesis through Revelation is a single narrative arc: God rescuing his people in Christ. Closely related to Covenant Theology is the practice of Infant Baptism. Presbyterians baptize the children of believers for the same reason Israelites circumcised their children. There is a fundamental continuity between the covenants.

(2) Confessionalism
How do we determine between true and false doctrine? Rather than each individual believer determining for themselves what Scripture teaches, we listen to what Christians have historically believed throughout the centuries. These classic doctrines are preserved for us in the historic creeds and confessions of the church. This is called Confessionalism. The confessional documents of the PCA are the Westminster Confession of Faith and Larger and Shorter Catechisms. We also subscribe to the Apostles’ and Nicene Creeds from the ancient church.

(3) Doctrine of Predestination
Predestination teaches that God is the author of our salvation. As Jesus said in John 6:44 – “no one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him.”

There are other minor distinctives, but these are the big four: Ecclesiology, Covenant Theology, Confessionalism and Reformed Soteriology.

Finally, it’s important to emphasize that one doesn’t need to agree with all the tenets of Presbyterianism to be part of Indelible Grace Church. In fact, most IGC members are not necessarily Presbyterian by conviction. What unites us as a church community is the gospel of Christ. If you believe in Jesus as savior, you are welcomed to be a member of IGC. I hope this three-part series has been informative and encouraging.

 
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