Tag Archives: church

galatians 2.11-14

This Sunday I am preaching from Galatians 2.11-14, the oft discussed collision between Paul and Peter in Antioch.  It is a fascinating scene that understandably flows out of the previous sections even as it captures the magnitude of the theme of Galatians as a book (what it means to have an identity rooted in Jesus and his righteousness, adding nothing else that restricts our freedom).

11 But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned.12 For before certain men came from James, he was eating with the Gentiles; but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party. 13 And the rest of the Jews acted hypocritically along with him, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy. 14 But when I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, “If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you force the Gentiles to live like Jews?”

Here are a few thoughts that will likely not be a major part of my sermon, or mentioned at all.

If you desire to listen to our series in Galatians, visit http://www.westvalleypres.org.

For your consideration:

The flow up to this text could be summarized like this…

In 1.11-24 – A GOSPEL NOT FROM MAN.  Paul is adamant that his gospel did not come from man, but from God by revelation of Christ.

In 2.1-10  – A GOSPEL CONFIRMED BY MAN.  Paul expands his declaration to include an acknowledgment that, while his gospel did not come from any man, he went up to Jerusalem after more than a decade of fruitful ministry (again by revelation) and received confirmation by man that indeed his gospel was from God!   He was affirmed in that the apostles added nothing to his gospel, and he was privileged to preserve it in their midst (2.4-5).

Now, in 2.11-14 – A GOSPEL WORTHY OF CONFRONTATION WITH MAN. Paul recounts a story in which Paul confronted his fellow Christian man (Peter of all people!) in defense of the truth of the gospel and the necessity that one walk in it, adding nothing to it.

Two questions that are worthy of thought…

First, was Peter acting with good intentions in his breaking table fellowship with the Gentiles upon the arrival of the “certain men from James” (which I take to be a delegation of Jerusalem Christian leaders)?

Some cannot fathom that Peter could so boldly deny his revelation in Acts 10, that he is not to call unclean that which God has made clean.  Thus, they propose that Peter was trying to do the right thing by way of the Jewish Christians of Jerusalem, who may have been dealing with factions of zealots who were opposed to the unrestricted table fellowship happening in places like Antioch, where the gospel of Jesus had taken root among Gentile and Jewish “Christians.”  See Acts 11 for clarification on how Gentile/Jew followers of Jesus were first called Christians.

Richard Longenecker, in his brilliantly technical commentary, makes the case that: It was simply a misguided tactical maneuver made under pressure, he became confused under pressure, could not bring himself to express his true convictions, and so found himself retreating from what he knew to be right.

Maybe.  To me, that sounds a bit minimizing.  Paul does not mince words in Galatians 2.11 when he says that he opposed Peter to his face, because he stood condemned (assumedly before God, in Paul’s view).  Even more, Paul describes Peter’s withdrawal from table fellowship as “separating” himself, a theological description of what happened (v.12).  And again, twice in v.13 Paul labels the behavior of Peter, Barnabas and others as hypocrisy.  This all was not in step with the truth of the  gospel (v.14).  There is hardly a minimization, dismissal, qualification by Paul for Peter’s actions!   Rather he uses the strongest semantics possible (condemnation, separation, hypocrisy, non-gospel) to make his case for the gravity of Peter’s actions.

Thus, I will be preaching and applying this from the vantage point that – IN THE MOMENT – something else ruled Peter’s heart/actions other than the magnificent gospel of Jesus that had also been revealed to him.  In the moment, Peter caved to an alternative passion.  This is not unlike our testimony of passionate Peter in other stages of his journey (consider Matthew 16 and his standing toe-to-toe to obstruct Jesus on the way to the cross; also Matthew 26 in his denial of Jesus at the cross).  I am all too like Peter.  In spite of what I believe to be true, confess to be true, long to be true … at unguarded moments I live my life guided by sabotaging “ruling passions” that are not in step with the truth of the gospel.  I need the body of Christ in relationship to show me my blindness.  My guess is that my congregation is no different. We need to weigh this text vis-a-vis our ruling passions as well.  God give us relationships under the umbrella of the truth of the gospel to uncover our deception and blindness for Jesus sake!

Second, why did Paul wait so long to call Peter out in front of other Antiochan Gentile/Jew Christians?  How long did Paul let this un-gospel separation continue before he spoke up?

On one level, we simply do not know how long Paul observed Peter’s “separation” before he publicly spoke up.  We do know, however, that sufficient time elapsed such that Barnabas and “the rest of the Jews” could fall in line with the hypocrisy.  Perhaps Paul waited to watch matters unfold to discern whether he should go to Peter privately (Matthew 18.15-18) or to pursue things publicly due to the communal defection at play.  We do not know.  I simply point out to you that on first read, it appears this whole incident occurs in one lunchroom encounter.  Having examined the text and extant reading, I am now convinced that this situation went on for some while such that it had time to permeate Barnabas and others before Paul was compelled to speak up on behalf of the gospel.

May God work through his Word studied and preached and heard in his local church, such that we will walk in step with the gospel and not bow IN THE MOMENT to our own ruling passions that sabotage what we know to be true in Jesus!

Peace.

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galatians – Christ who lives in me

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The book of Galatians is ALL about identity.

What is our identity when it is defined by God in the gospel?

What was the identity of the apostle Paul when he wrote these words?

What did he long to define the identity of the Galatian church, of our church?

Essentially, in the book of Galatians, Paul passionately reveals how finding our identity in Christ changes EVERYTHING for his church in the world.

Our identity IS Christ who lives in us.

It is only this.

The patristic fathers (the earliest Christians in the post-apostolic era) and reformational church (1600s to present) oft looked to the themes of freedom and righteousness within Galatians as being the definitive description of “essential Christianity.”   Duncan called Galatians “the Magna Carta of evangelical Christianity.”  Luther so loved Galatians that he called it “my own epistle, to which I have plighted my troth; my Katie von Bora” (the name of his wife!).  Richard Longenecker aptly put it: “Paul’s Galatians is like a lion turned loose in the arena of Christians.  It challenges, intimidates, encourages, and focuses our attention on what is really essential as little else can.  How we deal with the issues it raises and the teachings it presents will in large measure determine howe we think a Christians and how we live as Christ’s own.”

Likely the earliest of the apostle Paul’s letters, Galatians was written to churches within provincial Galatia within 15 years of the cross of Jesus (AD 49).  As such, the content of the letter reveals the earliest collisions and conversations amidst the church – what is our identity NOW, as Jews and Greeks, as a recipients of THIS “gospel”?

While not an easy read, Galatians yet contains the gospel in its purest and most unadulterated form.  The gospel (lit. “good news”) is the message of Christ who lives in us for our salvation and transformation, now and forever (2.20)!   This gospel is from God not man (1.6);  it is not to be merely believed, rather it MUST become us (4.19).

In clarifying the gospel, Paul posits many questions to the Galatians,which we must ask and answer.

He engages these questions by way of CONTRAST.

How does God’s saving work in Christ work? By faith, NOT works (2.15-16); by promise, NOT law (3.21-22).

Who do we become when our identity is rooted in the gospel?  We become sons/daughters of God, NOT slaves (4.6-9).

What does that mean for our daily life?  It means we are free, NOT enslaved (5.1)!  We are at liberty to love, NOT in bondage to legalism (5.1-13)!  It means we are playing host to an internal civil war – flesh versus Spirit.  While the flesh does not bend easily, it will NOT prevail over the Spirit of God in us (5.16-24)!

From the beginning of the letter, Paul writes with urgency and attitude.

Having recently delivered the simple gospel of Jesus to believers in Galatia, he was astonished that they could so quickly turn to a different gospel… a performance-rooted pursuit of God that was no gospel at all (1.6)!  O foolish Galatians, who bewitched you?  Did you receive the Sprit by works of the law or by hearing with faith?  Are you so foolish?  Having begun with the Spirit are you now being perfected by the flesh? (3.1-3)  Paul evidently knew the Galatian people.  Even more, he knew the content of the gospel he had delivered to them as being about CHRIST’S completed righteousness for our salvation.  However, it appears that Paul did not know the false teachers who emerged to push the Galatians past the simple truth of Jesus to a works-based identity (from the first act of circumcision to a worldview and system of self-defined external righteousness).  This piped Paul!!  5.10 – The one who is troubling you will bear the penalty, whoever he is!  These infiltrators had one platform – to turn Christianity into “making a good showing in the flesh” (6.12), totally challenging the essential CORE of the upside-down truth – that we boast “only in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to us, and us to the world.”  Our selves and our works and our “showing” have nothing to do with it at all!  This led Luther to define Christian righteousness as “passive righteousness – a truth Galatians and Romans drive home with ruthless precision.

When comparing Galatians to the narrative of Acts, we understand it to likely have been written some time around the end of Paul’s journeys in Acts 14, but before the Jerusalem Council of Acts 15 (AD 50).  The Jerusalem Council dealt definitively with the circumcision/works/righteousness conversation as it related to Jews and Gentiles.  Had that council already taken place, Paul would have surely brought it into his letter to bolster his case!    Thus, the churches to whom Paul is writing are probably the churches in Acts 13-14 (in the towns of Lystra, Derbe, Iconium, etc) that were a part of the Roman province of Galatia through which Paul travelled early in his ministry.  Thus the term Galatians is provincial in nature, versus ethnic (the Galatian people derived from the Gauls who had settled further north, where we have no record of Paul traversing).

Thus, in an effort to place the book of Galatians within the narrative of Paul’s journeys in Acts, it is likely that the first Jerusalem visit Paul references in Galatians 1.18 corresponds with his journey in Acts 9.26; while his second visit (Galatians 2.1-10) corresponds with the briefly mentioned visit in Acts 11.30.   The Jerusalem Council was soon to happen which would BLOW these issues up for the glory of God and the IDENTITY of his church.

The outline we will use at wvpc.

1-2a the gospel – whose it is

2b-3 the gospel – how it works

4 the gospel – who it makes

5 the gospel – what it means

6 the gospel – where it works

There is no better time than now.

Your identity is always at stake, always being expressed,  always being formed.   Amidst all the competing influences in your life, both internal and external, what if your identity was sure?  Not at risk?  Not in question?  Not circumstantially derived?  THAT is the POINT of the book of Galatians.  Your identity must be, well, not yours…  It is Christ who lives in you.  It is not more or less than that.

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.

And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me (2.20).

*for weekly thoughts on Galatians, continue to check back to: www.weakchristian.wordpress.com

 

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the sound of renewal

What is the sound of renewal?

What should we be listening for when God’s people gather as a collection of individuals all uniquely exposed to the renewal of the gospel in their lives? Or, what should I be listening for when I sit across a table at Starbucks, or Perk on Main (our local coffee shop), talking to a broken person whom God is redeeming in the present through the past work of Christ and the continual work of the Spirit?

I have been thinking about this.

I have been wrestling.

As regards West Valley PCA… we are a church that is growing.  Every Sunday when we gather, the critical mass is expanding such that the SOUND of our gathering should crescendo just the same.  But what is that sound?  What is the sound of a people gathered by God, whom he has been renewing daily, personally, and thus corporately?  How does renewal sound when we call to God in worship, or sing in celebration, or collectively repent in liturgical prayers?  How does renewal sound in small groups and coffee shop meetings?

I want to know the sound of renewal that grumbles within people.

We should know the sound of renewal that the gathered of God should be known for.

While pondering all this, I happened upon Ezra 3.  Immediately, I knew I was being informed by the Word of God about the SOUND of RENEWAL.  This is the hope of my soul… that I would pastor a church that has the acoustics of redemption.  That my family would sound this way… and be part of the sound.

It’s an honest sound, to say the least.  But let me not analyze it…I will leave the Word of God to you.  The context of Ezra 3 is simple: God’s people have been brought back from exile, and are privileged (by the decree of Cyrus) to rebuild the temple which had been destroyed.  Upon the completion of the new foundation, the people all gathered in worship.  They were back in the land promised them by God!  They were together!  They were experiencing a renewal of God’s plan and place and presence!  What was that sound???

Ezra 3.10-13 – And when the builders laid the foundation of the temple of the Lord… they sang responsively, praising God and giving thanks to the Lord, “For he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever toward Israel.”  And all the people SHOUTED with a great shout when they praised the Lord, because the foundation of the house of the Lord was laid.  But many of the priests and Levites and heads of fathers’ houses, old men who had seen the first house, WEPT with a loud voice… so that the people could not distinguish the sound of the joyful shout from the sound of the people’s weeping, for the people shouted with a great shout, and the sound was heard far away.

Yep.  That sounds about right.  God’s people, renewed by God yet struggling because it is all still so broken, so imperfect, so not quite finished.  Yeah, to me as the pastor of West Valley PCA and as a man and husband and father… what I hear from the renewed is all so, indistinguishable.  People weeping as they long for MORE, God, please MORE!  People shouting as they taste freedom and see the glory of God in their lives for the first time.  That is the life.

Sounds like renewal to me.  Sounds like reality til Jesus returns and the weeping fades away (Revelation 21)…

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calling or quitting

I vacillate too many times a week because IT is hard.

I vacillate between calling and quitting – that is, pastoral ministry.

I don’t mind the sound of that, even for people whom I serve as their pastor.  In fact, I am beginning to wonder if my wandering thoughts toward quitting pastoral ministry (for reasons that are too familial and spiritual and personal for a public blog) is in reality, my beginning to wrestle with the reality of God’s calling over my life, in the truest sense.

So I am not saying I am quitting.  I am saying that the thought of quitting makes me wonder about having been CALLED by God in the first place.  Does that make sense?  Maybe when I never wrestled with the difficulty of how gospel-living and ministry was supposed to be a battle of spirit-vs-flesh, of Spirit-vs-world… maybe when I never wrestled within my soul and tired body about that normal reality in a world of Christ’s already-not-yet kingdom, I never really understood calling.

Hmm.

Our home has been trafficked by more spiritual upheaval than I thought possible.  Most always my sin.  But how about loneliness now.  How about exhaustion… too little sleep.  How about hospitality of a homeless person to recently BREAK me of how I don’t want to be inconvenienced… at all.  How about not pastoring my wife and kids as well as I should.  How about having the shortest leash in the world for 120 adults.

So I think “quit” when in reality I guess I am looking up to God – my Father – for help about “calling.”  Is this how things go in an inaugurated kingdom?  Is this my immaturity as a pastor of only 8 years?  Is this the collision of kingdom-v-world that will always be, whether one is a banker, a welder, an at home mom, or a pastor?

Calling or quitting… crashing makes me ask.

Sometimes I wonder what Timothy was going through in Ephesus when Paul said to him:

Set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.  Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching.  Do not neglect the gift that you have, which was given you by prophecy when the elders laid their hands on you (CALLING/ORDINATION).  Practice these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress.  Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching.  Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers (1 Timothy 4.12-16)

That sounds so hard.  Timothy, were you vacillating?

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still here

We are still here… no blogs of late.  My apologies.  Too many hours away from home as it is.

God is doing an amazing work in my heart, in the lives my children, in the eyes of my wife, and in the congregation that God has called us to serve.  Times they are a changing and they are a crazy.

Sunday we had more folks at WVPC than ever before, and we are praying for wisdom.  We are cramming people into a space that doesn’t fit us.  We are seeking wisdom on facility mayhem.  We are praying for small groups that are forming, for discipleship relationships that are beginning, for broken people who are hurting, and for both the comforting and exposing AFFECT of the saturating Word of God -in all whom we engage!  I am preaching through Colossians.   We are having membership classes.  We have transitioned into year numero two – budgeting, leadership training, etc.  We are out hosting community events.  I think the buzz is contageous.  Acts 2 tells us so!

O God have mercy.  We are in over our head.

As I told our congregation at our annual meeting on Sunday – I believe they are crazy for following a 31 year old.  Someone said: Jesus was only 33.  To which I replied: no one here actually knows how badly I need Jesus.

I do.  Jesus Christ, thank you for rescuing me from sin.  Covering me with righteousness.  Giving me your Word.  Implanting your Spirit.  Being my Wisdom from God that appears foolish to the world.  For letting me fail time and again so that I can meet my need for you face to face.  thought to thought. 

O God, draw people into your midst in all churches that declare your gospel for the glory of Christ.  Do it at West Valley.  Bring your kingdom to earth as it is in heaven – by your people declaring your Word and embodying your resurrection power in a spirit of humility and weakness.  The powerful work, then, is all yours for your namesake.  Amen.

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west valley pca prayer update – september 2009

blog checkers, below is the prayerletter for West Valley PCA, where i am growing up as the planting pastor of a church that God has richly blessed in both exposure to his glory/goodness and exposure to our need/sin/dependence.  Would you pray  for us?
______

September 2009

“Jim, do you think I’ve made enough progress in my journey to join the church and receive communion?”

It’s not about progress. It’s about righteousness from God given to you in Christ.

“It just sounds too free. I must be missing something. It can’t be a free pass.”

It is.

“But what is to keep me from living however I want?”

Now I think you understand grace.

“Can I still wrestle with my questions?”

A man once said to Jesus, I believe, help my unbelief.

“Sounds like me.”

__

“Jim, can you recommend the names of some biblical counselors?”

For a friend, or for you?

“For us. I think we need some deconstruction and rebuilding our marriage on the gospel.”

__

“Jim, someone just came into church. He wants to see you.”

Jeff, is that you?

“Yeah, its me. How do I look?! I’ve been clean for 90 days, since the trip to the hospital. Like my new glasses?”

You look great Jeff! Like the man of the tombs resurrected. Where are you living?

“Still at the homeless shelter.”

The above fragments answer the question: What is church planting like? Maybe you’re not asking that question. But I did. Almost every day (before we started) I asked myself: What will it be like? Sure, it will be like vision casting, like demographic and sociographic research, like searching for a facility, organizing teams, setting up a unique historic-indigenous worship service, preparing contextualized sermons, marketing and praying and networking in our community. It will be like trying to learn how to lead a group of gifted and diverse people. It will be vision REcasting again and again. It will be like small group formation over and over! It will be like setting up of an office – with all the administrative hoopla.

It has been all that. BUT.

More than anything church planting has been an exercise in repentance and faith – realizing and repenting of my duplicitous fear-of-incompetence which somehow manages to coexist with excessive-self-reliance. It has become a daily exercise to believe in the glory of God to rescue sinners not once at their conversion, but daily in innumerable ways according to his sovereign mercy that is ALWAYS undeserved. That’s the gospel! It has been the complicated world of trusting the Spirit to restore marriages, to rehabilitate the homeless and addicted to a place of sobriety (even in the suburbs). It has been the pleasurable discovery that God is at work breaking the calcified in his church, and rebuilding the contrite. It has been the experience of watching an intellectual skeptic bow the knee to Jesus Christ in the most existential of experiences – his Creator’s converting his heart!

What am I saying? I think I am saying that church-planting has been like… well, church. In a sense, I am coming to believe that we are not a church-plant, but the CHURCH in fullness (just recently planted)! As I leaf through the pages of Acts, for the first time I am recognizing a connection between my world and that of Philippi, or Thessalonica, or wherever. This summer I have preached through the Acts of the Apostles (aka- the Acts of the Spirit) and we have discovered an uncanny connection to kingdom/church then and now. We have asked the Lord with expectation to define our experiences like THAT… that church in that day with that God!

Robert Coleman, in his work The Master Plan of Discipleship writes:

Getting into the book of Acts is like opening a window in a stuffy room. The wind of the Spirit blows through it. HERE IS REALITY. Feeling its emerging freshness, we should neither try to excuse our spiritual ineptness, nor relegate its vitality to a bygone era. The apostolic church, not the prevailing mediocrity of our religious community, sets the norm. Where we perceive our shortcomings, in all honesty, we should seek to bring our lives into conformity to the New Testament standard.

Is it happening? I think so. I need so. I want so. I surrender so. I pray so. I die so. Whatever church planting is… whatever the stories above are… I can’t help but think that, well – we’re a church now. HERE IS REALITY.

at home: Please praise God with us for our family growth and maturity that coincides with his work at West Valley. By God’s grace (and ashamedly for the first time in my life), I want to lay my life down over and over and over for the love and beauty of Kori. Then the kids. I want to do it more today than yesterday. Through a painful and disciplinary year of trials and ‘ministry’, the Lord has brought his kingdom of righteousness and mercy to a home that I had subliminally and self-righteously pervaded with gospel-less standards of performance and happiness. HERE IS REALITY.

On the homefront, please pray for our homeschooling of Lina and Meggie’s adjustment to Kindergarten in our local school district. Pray for Nate as the footprint of the “torNATEo” is expanding as he grows and participates in family! Pray for Kori to find an excellent set of ear plugs, as she needs the quiet moments to be the strategic and beautiful gospel-loving mom that she is.

at church: For West Valley, pray for our continued facility needs, for the establishment of discipleship and digestion strategies (i.e. small groups and theological/worldview training), for staffing considerations (sounding way ahead of myself, I know – but as we grow, this is REALITY!) and for a sacrificial conformity to the norm of the early church!

Even more, please pray for our financial situation, as the Lord has seen fit to grow the church numerically in a way that has increased our expenses above our income. I have been commissioned by our session to seek to raise Twenty-Thousand dollars, Lord willing, to supplement ministry and vision. Would you prayerfully consider partnering with us and/or honoring any pledges you may have made in 2008? We are at a key phase of ministry and identity confirmation, and we need the resources to grow into what we are – a Jesus Christ celebrating, culture engaging, brokenness renovating, gospel declaring, community invading church! HERE IS REALITY.

Much love to you all, and may Christ expose your REALITY and need for his mercy! -jim

Should you desire, please contact me at jim@westvalleypres.org and/or send any gifts to West Valley Presbyterian Church, 326 Main Street, Suite 1 – Emmaus PA 18049. All gifts will be tax-deduct and a year end statement will be provided.

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thoughts, not mine so enjoy

Been a while since blogging anything.  I am not apologetic, just up to my eyeballs.  Life has CHANGED!  A church has been planted.  God, plant maturity and discipleship and direction in it.  What a new season this is!

God give me the wisdom to prioritize my FAMILY.  My LIFE basking in the love and calling of obedience of Christ.  My PREACHING.  My PASTORATE.  I have never thought life could go mach speed like this.

So, below are some quotes from people I have been reading as a means of keeping me grounded in truth.  Typing them out for you all (my minimal blog friends because I never post anymore) – that the typing would also implant them into my heart, soul and mind.

Since I occupy a position of responsibility in the church, I think I am more responsible to be humble even than others are.  God demands that I be DEAD to EVERYTHING.  (Fenelon)

Die to jim jim.

The moment we decide to start listening to the voice of self screeching its complaints in our ear, we can no longer hear the more modest wisperings of divine love… The love of God desires that self should be forgotten, that it should be counted as nothing, that God might be all in all.  God knows that it is best for us when SELF IS TRAMPLED under foot and broken as an idol, in order that He might live within us.  (Fenelon)

Die to jim jim.

I have no doubt that God considers you to be one of his friends.  Otherwise, he would not trust you with so many crosses, sufferings and humiliations.  Crosses are God’s means of drawing souls closer to himself.  And these crosses accomplish his purposes much more rapidly and effectually than all of our personal efforts put together.  Crosses DESTROY SELF LOVE at its very root, down in the depths of the human spirit where we can hardly detect it.  But God knows where it is lodged, and he attacks it in its greatest strongholds.  (Fenelon)

Die to jim jim.

What shall we say then?  Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?  By know means!  How can we who died to sin still live in it? … We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin.  For one who has died has been set free from sin.  Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.  (apostle Paul, Romans 6)

Die to jim jim.  Never has the thought of noNOT being ME been so freeing to be ME in Christ.  Sorry for all the excessive self – emphasis.  Kind of ironic in light of a DEATH to self and life to Christ consideration!

Well, one more quote … using it at WVPC as we consider the book of Acts this summer as far as WHO we are called to be as the church of God in this place ast this time.

Getting into the book of Acts is like opening a window in a stuffy room.  The wind of the Spirit blows through it.  HERE IS REALITY.  Feeling its emerging freshness, we should neither try to excuse our spiritual ineptness, nor relegate its vitality to a bygone era.  The apostolic church, not the prevaling mediocrity of our religious community, sets the norm.  Where we perceive our shortcomings, in all honesty, we should seek to bring our lives into  conformity to the New Testament standard.  (Robert Coleman)

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learning where I’ve been

Monday night, I took out the trash – and like in the movies – looked to my right, and my neighbor Wil and I were synchronized in our husbandry.  Two dads simultaneously taking out the trash at 10:45pm.

“I like your beard,”  he said.  “It makes your eyes pop.”

To which I said, “Don’t ever tell me that again.” (or something)

Then I told him that it has nothing to do with a beard.  Maybe its because I haven’t been a person for about the past 6 months.  You see that in peoples eyes, right?  Distance, disengaged, empty.  So now my eyes pop, and neighborhood men have noticed.  Sweet.

Actually, he’s right.  I feel a bit like Paul in Acts 9, after his conversion encounter with the resurrected Christ (not conveying that I have recently been converted).  After he had been stricken with blindness at the appearance of Christ, Ananias was sent to say to him, Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus who appeared to you on the road by which you came has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.  After which Scripture says, immediately something like scales fell from his eyes.  Maybe passerbys taking out their trash noticed the change in his eyes.  Or was it the beard?

Seriously, I am daily learning where I have been.  Something like scales are coming off of my spiritual eyes as I feel like the calcification of my heart is chipping away.  I can weep for people, pray with people, study Scripture to preach to people… and all to discover Christ who alone can cure blindess. 

It’s weird to feel like I can see again, because now I want to look back to figure out where Ive been in the months of launching out West Valley PCA (www.westvalleypres.org).  But its hard to look back to where you’ve been when – at the time – I wasn’t seeing much of anything.

O God, help my eyes to pop.  My tears to flow.  Your heart to care.  My eyes to read.  Your Word to convict. 

Maybe the patchy beard is here to stay…

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the most important day for Christians this week

On Sunday, prior to the prayer time at the worship service of West Valley PCA, I made the comment that I believe that Wednesday, not Tuesday is the most important day for gospel-centered Christians during an election week.  The day is upon us.  Has our hope, joy, confidence, graciousness, otherness changed?

O God, may your church be the salt and light of the gospel in how we speak, in how we depend on you alone as the King above all nations…  May your church speak graciously into one another’s lives, in our workplaces.  May we listen and love.  May we pray and share peace.  May we encourage and not slander. 

For your church, may the salvation of society and culture not be found in the election of a human leader and government.  Equally so, for your church, may discouragement not reign due to the election of a human leader and government!  Neither/nor.  O God, thank you that you have already revealed the hope of the  nations, the gospel of salvation – YOU ALONE CHANGE HEARTS and you have begun the advancement of the kingdom of full justice and mercy and truth among weak individuals, societies, cultures!

Today, may your church be prayerful for its elected leaders (Romans 13) – whom YOU have put in your place of leadership for your purposes!  May your church be the aroma of grace in how we show our true hope of Christ and his reign in our hearts above all things!  May we listen and learn and consider the interests of others (Philippians 2) that we might truly love, truly engage, and truly contextualize the hope of the world for people irregardless of their political hopes/fears.  Me what we believe MOST in – your gospel – be revealed today by our speech and conduct.  

May we not be ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for the salvation of all who believe and for the transformation of all things!  All things.  The only power. 

No matter what we hoped for yesterday – from left to right, from the cities to the farms, from North to South… this Wednesday, we still love our worldwide, eternal, timeless, unchanging Government.  Our King of kings and lord of Lords.  Come Lord Jesus Come!  Amen.

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west valley presbyterian church – services have begun!

our worship space before the addition of people and folding chairs!

our worship space before the addition of people and folding chairs!

 

Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.  Psalm 127:1

We are so thankful that the Lord gathered his people and inhabited our praises this past Sunday as west valley presbyterian church (pca) gathered for our first preview service.  It was an unadvertised sacrifice of worship wherein we planned to give God our new expression of praise, unsure of exactly what it would be!  The Lord was gloriously present in our worship and community – and he brought more than we expected… college kids, neighbors and friends in our target area… close to 100 people to hear his gospel, to offer our broken but made-beautiful selves in thankful worship.  The text that resounded throughout the service was John 17, where Jesus prayed that we might share in both the GLORY and ONENESS of the Father and Son.  And that, I think, we did!  Through the gospel, we are glorious not grotesque.  Through the gospel we are one with each other and the Godhead!  What a gift.

kids sermon, the first try.  "I spy..."

kids sermon, the first try.

 

It is clear, that like children, we at west valley pres are being cared for and fed by our Creator and Redeemer and Father.  We are bruised reeds whom he holds and cherishes.  We are conduits of his kingdom into our broken world.  O God, may your kingdom come to the west valley as it is in heaven.  May we receive your gracious gospel in your church even as you extend it through your church.  O God, what is man that you are mindful of us?  What is a new chuchplant that you would gather people to yourself through us?  What is in store O God!

If you live in the lowermac and emmaus (west of allentown) region of the Lehigh Valley, come check us out!  We long to be a “come as you are community where Christ is celebrated and brokenness renovated”   www.westvalleypres.org

 

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