Pastor's Blog

Jesus among His church

Jesus walks among His churches. 

That's the image given in Revelation 1 and expanded in the following two chapters. Jesus dictates letters to seven churches. Those letters evidence an intimate knowledge of the character and circumstances of each local church. Jesus acknowledges what is plainly visible. Jesus discerns what is profound in the unseen; not only what is obvious on the outside but what is critical on the inside.

Churches are like that. What is seen are the raw details of location, demographics, and the data of programs, attendance and budget. Unseen - but critically more important - are the capitulations to the powers of a fallen world and/or the bulwark faithfulness to the kingdom of God. Jesus sees both. Jesus sees all. 

A church may look powerful on the outside, say, like Ephesus or Loadicea, yet on the inside be ravaged by a lack of love or a tepid, fecklessness of faith. If a book cannot be judged by its cover then, even more so, a church can't be judged by its bulletin (or web site!).

That Jesus does walk among His people is both a comfort and a challenge. I am comforted that Jesus cares about His people at an intimate, even granular level. No item too small. No member unimportant. No decision trifling.

Yet such care carries a challenge. This fallen world is no friend to grace. Perhaps that is the greatest challenge. Do we - the church - believe we live in a fallen world? Not just a world pock-marked by intermittent eruptions of God-rejection. Not only a world where events occasionally seem to spin out of control, declining now and again into blatant wickedness. (Wars and rumors of wars.) But a world aligned in fiber and synaptic connection of a rebellion against the glory of God? Do we see this? Do we understand our struggle is not against flesh and blood but against cosmic powers?

The signal markers or such a struggle are not the devolution of supposedly "God-honoring" laws, replaced by civil policies more amenable to a secular point of view. No. The signal markers are churches who capitulate in worship, apostolic doctrine and basic discipleship. Is Jesus the Savior? Are people sinners and, if so, do they need saving? Is Jesus the only Savior? Is He the only Lord? 

This is the enduring challenge. Extolling the glory of God in all things and, particularly, in the salvation of sinners. Rallying the church to the cross. Emboldening the church by the power of the resurrection. Shaping and maintaining a cruciform church, a pilgrim church, an outpost of the eternal kingdom.

This is the challenge facing every generation. This is how Jesus walks among us.

Posted by Tim Alexander with

To the Glory of God Alone

Gravity. The ineluctable force of the universe. It cannot be escaped. It cannot be avoided. Even the weightless, airless vacuum of space submits to gravity. It bends light. It controls the planets. Down to the budding of individual seeds or the path of a single raindrop: gravity matters. Skin sagging with age is impacted by gravity. Food cooking, wheels staying on the road, a ball kicked through goal posts or hit into the outfield, air forced through a trumpet to make music, behemoth ocean liners plowing paths through the waters; yes, from the mundane to the majestic all are touched by gravity. 

Yet none of us see gravity. We see gravity's effects. Only a fool - and a foolish fool at that! - would imagine he or she could defy gravity. Let him or her walk off a cliff or stand unmoved beneath a falling boulder and claim exemption from gravity. They will quickly experience otherwise. They are not exempt.

The glory of God is the ultimate of the universe, of all existence. Gravity yields to God's glory, for God created and sustains it. All of the universe, from the stars moving in their course to the firing of synapses in each individual brain in each individual person - all thoughts and actions - are accountable to God's glory. All plans and purposes. All hopes and desires. All prayers. All striving. All rest. All proclamations. All history.

All.

The doxology of Romans 11 cannot be excelled. It is ultimate and exalted.

"For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen."

God has so ordered the world that though people may try to avoid or suppress or excel His glory they try in vain. God's glory has always and will always prevail. Even today (as it has ever been) as modern, or post-modern, or meta-modern thinkers grapple with existence they still fall back (like gravity?) to questions of meaning. Humanity, try though it may, has always been incapable of supplying its own meaning. We have always been drawn inexorably to look for meaning. We know we are not enough. We know there is something more. Something larger, deeper, far more all-encompassing than ourselves. Something more exacting, more precise, even more granular that ourselves.

To pursue the glory of God in all things is to acknowledge our own smallness, regardless how big we may seem to ourselves or to others. God's glory provokes an authentic humility, a sense of awe that strips away pride of self. Yet, too, God's glory is winsome. It is attractive. It pulls us towards God because we are made in His image. We are spiritual beings. We have eternity set in our heart. We know we are over-built for this fleeting world. In being closer to God we find comfort and rest. Oh, and joy! Because God is joyful. He is love.

We were not made to live our lives pursuing ourselves. When we search for our "self" we never find the treasure we think we seek. In the search for "self", what do we seek? What "end point" is the terminus in the search for self? Contentment? Self-acceptance? Finding our groove? What does all that mean? How do we know it when we finally find our self? More self? A better self? More than what? Better than whom?

No, we are not made to pursue our "self." We are made to pursue God. We are made to be content only in God. And God has so ordered life that in pursuing Him, in seeking His glory, the blessed serendipity is our own rest, contentment, purpose, joy and love. 

Our salvation is to God's glory. He is glorified in the salvation of sinners! He is glorified when our hearts and minds are turned to Him and shaped by Him. When His hands become our hands in this world and His heart pulses within our own. What did Jesus say?

"Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven."

The itty-bitty letter of Jude closes with an incredibly large thought:

"Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling and present you blameless before the presence of His glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen."

The large thought is that God's ultimate work for us in Christ - our salvation! - does have an ultimate end. It does terminate. There will come a time when, because of Christ, we will stand blameless before the glory of God ... with great joy! We will see the face of God. We will behold the glory of God. Unfiltered. Without a veil.

Importantly, this will be enough. More than enough. His glory will so embed and overwhelm us that, for eternity, we will be content - no, overjoyed! - to be in His presence. And we will not be before Him rigid and transfixed like the monolith faces of Easter Island, staring forever outward. No, we will have life - active life - to live with Him forever. 

All of life, in life and death and beyond, to the glory of God Alone.

Posted by Tim Alexander with

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