The Wall Between Us

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One thing your going to find in Christian community- and its going to be unexpected- it might be surprising. Your going to find a strange mix, this strange brew of people. People that you normally wouldn’t be hanging out with. Different ages than you, backgrounds, nationalities, family types.

The gospel does that. It takes away all the boundaries and groups that we tend to clump ourselves into and uses the most unlikely people in our lives. And it makes for an unlikely church.

Now, if Christ is your Savior, God has broken down the wall of partition between you and God. A consequence of that, a side effect- is that partitions between people, walls between nationalities and tribes, skin color- rich/ poor, red state/blue state- those walls are also torn down.

Because we should no longer be identifying ourselves like that- those things are no longer most important- where we go for our acceptance. Now- our identity- is supposed to be found only in Christ and in what He accomplished for us. In other words, groups aren’t so important. So we no longer find our worth and accomplishments there.

In Paul’s time- a wall similar to what we see today, separated Jews and Gentiles. We often refer to this in theological terms- but in simple terms, they really just hated each other. Some of them would’ve been fine throwing down at a first century version of Charlottesville.

Here’s what Paul wrote about that- speaking of Christ- he says in Ephesians 2:14:

For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility…

Will You Rest?

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In Hebrews 4:1-13 the author alludes to the rest God offered to the Israelites entering the promised land. But can Christians enter that rest today?

According to the author of Hebrews, the answer is yes. This rest is a place where his audience (Christians) have the opportunity to enter “today.”

Interestingly though, he writes that some may have fallen short (v.1)- (not meaning that they are not saved.)- while others have entered the rest already (v.3).

So you can be a Christian who rests- or you can be a Christian who doesn’t rest.

Depending on when you catch me, I’m both.

The key is in v.2: the ones who rest and the ones who don’t-both have had the “good news” (gospel) proclaimed to them- they are Christians- but its their response, with/without faith, that determines whether they are able to rest.

Do you really practically believe, in every area of your life, every day, that your acceptance is found in Christ?

What rest means for the believer today is this: you can rest in Christ today because of His work. Or… you can march on in your anxious frenzy.

You can only rest when you don’t feel that you have to seek acceptance anyplace else, whether its through following the law like a set of rules, or seeking approval from vocation, wealth, friends, parenting, or whatever else drives you.

Most of the anger I have as a parent stems from the pressure I feel to solve everyones problems, provide for them and put my own time aside for their time. When I’m angry, I’m not so much angry at others as I am angry in myself for the potential for failure- either as a parent- or in all the other things I spend time on- like writing this blog:)

But if I’m resting in Christ, those pressures are off, because in Christ, the believer is loved without exception by the God of the universe. And my anger gets short circuited when I remember that whether I fail or not, God still loves me and the sun will rise tomorrow.

  • That may shock. What? No Ten Commandments for me? And I can be a deadbeat in my life too?

Au contraire, mon frère. We are to uphold the law even more now (Romans 3:31)- but in a different way. The believer is now free to follow the law, not out of fear of rejection, but out of love for what Christ has done for us in following it himself. The pressure is off in our own success or failure. We can rest.

And in following that law, the other aspects of our lives: work, parenting, relationships- become easier, precisely because I don’t need to be accepted for my success or failure in any of those areas. And I can find rest. I’m no longer worn out worrying if I miss a swim practice drop off.

So I am actually even freer to follow the law and resist the culture even more.

I’m not so pressured for acceptance by others that I have to break God’s laws to conform to the culture’s laws.

That is rest today. Will you rest?

Dirty Windshield Effect

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Sometimes during winter, the chemicals on the road put a light film on my windshield. At night, when I am driving on a dark road alone, I really don’t notice it.

But when an oncoming car shines its headlights onto my windshield, that slight, unnoticeable film makes it almost impossible to see. I had no idea that something that potentially blinding was there until it got illuminated.

  • God’s Word is the set of headlights that reveals the junk that keeps us from seeing things as they are. Stuff in front of us, on a collision course even, that we might not have even noticed before.

Psalm 119:105 states:

God’s Word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.

Christian, God is at work, even in your darkest times. But God’s will, the Law He has written in His Word and in our hearts, may become clouded over and difficult for us to see in the middle of it.

Church family helps to hold and aim that lamp as an instrument of God, helping us to see clearly and putting us back on the road. That’s one reason that Life Groups are so important.

  • True change can only be accomplished if we allow the Holy Spirit to rewrite our code with God’s.

Ezekiel 36:26- I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.

 

Jeremiah 31:33- I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.

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Jesus gives us a risky new way of Being Human. How do we do it? How do we live this new way? The difference is in who is keeping you. Someone is always keeping us. We’re either keeping ourselves or someone else is. 1 John 5:18 says:

the One who was born of God keeps them safe, and the evil one cannot harm them. 

Who is the One “born of God”? Jesus.

When we keep ourselves, we base our worth on how well we do what the world expects of us. How well we keep all the balls in the air.

But when Jesus keeps us- the pressure comes off. What he did for me- accepting me even though my kids aren’t perfect and I didn’t get the job I wanted. That freeing.

Being “Born of God” gives us a whole new way to begin to be human in the way that God originally designed us. We gain a new understanding of both ourselves and Jesus that changes our hearts. And because its Jesus who keeps us, we can take the risks associated with this new way of living.

Click to listen to the whole thing…

https://www.cedarrun.net/sermons/being-human/

Injustice and Suffering

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How do we handle injustice and suffering?

1.   Mourn for the sins that are in the world. In Ezek. 9. When God gave Ezekiel a vision of men slaying idolaters throughout Jerusalem- he only spared the ones that  mourned what was going on. So don’t ever become numb to it. Think about it, lament it, pray about it, do something in your community about it.

2.  Sanctify God through it: By mourning- we are sanctifying God. When we are being sanctified- we are becoming more holy- when we sanctify God however- we are simply recognizing his holiness- in every circumstance- as in mankind means something for evil- while God will use it for good somehow and will also come to the aid of the oppressed.

3.   It prepares us: mourning prepares us for when suffering comes upon us. If we can sanctify God when others suffer injustice, it will be easier to sanctify Him when we suffer as well.

If we’re not ready when it comes, if we’re not sanctifying God and thinking of his supreme magisterial knowledge- if all we know is to say trite things to people- like oh it’ll be OK- then when suffering comes to us, its going to go badly.

  • Ultimately, its a low view of humanity that causes the injustice and oppression that leads to the suffering we experience.

Click below to hear the “rest of the story”-

https://www.cedarrun.net/sermons/injustice-and-suffering/

 

The Politics of the City

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So we have this biblical wisdom- Christian beliefs, theology- based on scripture. And we have a mandate to live them out. Biblical wisdom teaches us what is desirable- and politics is a way we implement it. Biblical wisdom teaches us what ends are desirable. While politics teaches what means are effective. Wisdom is the end- politics are a means to that end.

Now the means doesn’t always justify the end- so biblical wisdom also tells us what means are permissible- not all laws are lawful…scripturally. You can find a clear example in the sanctity of life issue, i.e. abortion and euthanasia. But what about the poor? There are different and perfectly acceptable political means that we can disagree on as ways to try to remedy that.

  • Biblical wisdom is the heart changing, lifelong growing and maturing guidance that comes from scripture and the gospel. It’s bottomless.
  • While politics has a very limited scope. There are only so many ways to apply government, laws and regulations.

But when we take God out of the equation, we’re left with politics alone- and that’s pretty limiting. Trying to use politics alone to make the world a better place is like using an ice pick to sculpt a glacier.

Listen to the whole talk here:
Or here: https://www.cedarrun.net/sermons/the-politics-of-the-city/

Staying Off The Rollercoaster

Staying Off The Rollercoaster- Forgive

How do you do the best for someone who has wronged or betrayed you? Especially when they still need your help?

The only way you can truly help them is to forgive them unconditionally.

Forgiveness with conditions, i.e. the offender doing what I think is right- whether its some practical decision to fix things or a simple apology- is really just a way we want them to earn our forgiveness.

  • But unconditional forgiveness keeps me from the emotional rollercoaster of the both the best and the worst outcome.

Because only when I forgive unconditionally, not based on them doing what I want, does it allows me to act truly in their best interest. Because I’m not manipulated by the sometimes irrational hope that everything is going to be all right; or the despondency of “its never going to get better.”

  • My action for their benefit is not tied to an irrational hope that everything is going to be alright.
  • And my action is also not triggered only by their failure to do want I want.

So in both cases, I am able to stay off the rollercoaster and act independently of their actions, or my demands, and do what’s best.

The only way we can respond to people in a way that is truly helpful to them (loving them)- is to forgive them.