Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Truth AND Love

An Inkling
It’s one of the most helpful aphorisms I ever heard, and I believe I heard it first from John Claypool:  Truth without love is brutality; love without truth is sentimentality; the Lord wants always to hold truth and love together.  And when we don’t?  Well, just look around.
But how?  It’s not as if we can simply decide to be people of truth and love, and then become so by sheer willpower.  Yet the gospel is clear that in Jesus, whose very life defines truth and love, we, too, can become people of truth and love.  And we stand most ready to receive such gifts when we take up particular disciplines.  Two disciplines are particularly important for such readiness.
First, study.  Study is the central discipline for becoming a person of truth, and the center of our study must be the scripture.  Do you have a plan for scripture study, and are you working the plan?  If so, truth will advance in your very being.  An effective study discipline will also include learning from good teachers, of which there are many.  There are also a lot of erroneous and trivial teachers.  Check with one of the pastors or elders as you sift what is worth your while in study.  God intends to work his truth into your very being!
And then service.  Service is the key discipline for growing us in love.  What do you do regularly for others that demands self-sacrifice?  I go to the gym regularly, and that demands self-sacrifice, but I’m doing it for myself.  Service is for others, and it’s the for others part that begins to reform our natural bent toward self-centeredness.  From that soil love begins to grow.
Study and service are not the only means God provides for becoming people of truth and love, but they are key means.  There are many who major in truth, and many who major in love.  Either alone brings distortions to life.  In Jesus both together bring life to distortions.  How is that working for you?


Tuesday, July 15, 2014


An Inkling
The studies are in:  friendship is in trouble in America.  Nearly a quarter of Americans report that they have no close friends, and more than half report two or fewer confidants.  Thirty years of data shows a surprising drop in the number of friends, and especially in the last two decades.
Why?  That’s harder to figure.  Some conjecture that longer working hours and commutes play a role.  Others suggest that television and home air conditioning have added to our isolation (no porch sitting or down the street visits).  Whatever the causes, weakened friendships are a troublesome sign for our society, which very much needs the stability and safety net such friendships bring.
What does this mean for us as Christians in metro Richmond?  It means that a lot of our neighbors and co-workers are lonely.  However much of they have of gadgetry and the good life, it doesn’t suffice as a substitute for companionship.  We all need friends.
We Presbyterians are famously inept at evangelism.  You may have heard the old joke:  “What do you get when you cross a Jehovah’s Witness and a Presbyterian?  Someone who knocks on the door, but doesn’t know what to say.”  Oh dear. 
But what if evangelism were largely about making friends?  It is, and we can do that.  When we build friendships we build a context for sharing about what is important to us.  In time our friends can’t help but know that Jesus is important to us.  That’s a big part of evangelism.
Who are your friends?  Some of them are with you at St. Giles.  Because many cultural factors tilt us toward isolation, we are intentional as a church about fostering friendship.  Small Groups, Discipleship Classes, Wednesday dinners, Sunday lunches, and dozens of ministries all create friendship contexts.  Are you making friends here at St. Giles? 
And how about beyond the church?  Who are your non-Christian friends?  How might you build such relationships?  Take the initiative.  Join a club, have a neighborhood cook out, go to lunch with a co-worker.  Be creative.  Such simple initiatives both satisfy our hearts and advance our mission.  Be a friend, make a friend, and thereby serve our Lord.


Tuesday, July 8, 2014

May I Introduce...

An Inkling
Little Heidi is a week old today, born to Anna Beth and Jonathan Strong on July 1.  So many firsts happen that first week:  the first good look at her eyes, the first happy (and angry) sounds, the first realizations of whom she favors, etc.  But one first was of special significance – and actually it is something we experience in some manner almost every day.
Sarah and I were privileged to be in Alexandria for Heidi’s birth.  She is our sixth grandchild, and I’m still amazed every time I meet a new member of the family.  It takes me several days to absorb what my eyes are telling me.  But what a happy struggle!
That afternoon we took big sister Susan with us for a couple of days until Anna Beth and Heidi came home from the hospital.  The picture here is of the moment when Susan was first introduced to her new sister.
What a big moment – for sentimental reasons – meeting a new sister for the first time.  Awww...
But it was not just an “awww moment” – it was an awesome moment!  Susan was meeting someone for the first time who is made in the image of God, specifically chosen by God for her family, redeemed by Jesus at the cost of his life, and destined to be her companion in his presence forever.  That’s not just an “awww moment” – that’s an awesome moment!
The headlines on July 1 were that the Supreme Court ruled for Hobby Lobby, that Israel bombed the Gaza Strip, and that the US would play Belgium in the World Cup.  While the world was riveted on such “big events,” they missed entirely something truly huge that happened on the front porch when Susan met Heidi.
And though it happens so frequently with us each day that we hardly notice, you and I would be hard-pressed to find something more important than meeting someone for the first time, who, like Heidi, is made in the image of God and redeemed by Jesus. Those are awesome moments, and they happen all around us!  May God give us eyes to see and a heart to praise.
Welcome Heidi!