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Setting Our Minds on Things Above

We resume our Wednesday night dinner and Bible study on February 17th. Last fall, we considered some of the hot button topics of our time. After that series was over, I found myself semi-burned out and convicted that I needed to spend some time getting back to Christian basics. And getting back to things that bring me great joy. Hence my Sunday School series on Reformed Theology. And now our new Wednesday night study on Heaven.

Colossians 3:1-2 says, "If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth." This may be the command Christians, myself included, disobey more than any other.

With the seemingly omnipresent barrage of media and social media in our culture, it's hard to take our minds off "things that are on earth." I heard a political commentator say a while back that the media in our country (regardless of its political bent) serves like the Eye of Sauron from the Lord of the Rings. They are like an all-seeing eye constantly looking for the next emergency to shine their light, and fix our gaze, upon. They make a living by fixing our minds on "things that are on earth." And they tend to focus on the worst things that are on earth.

I've unplugged from social media lately and have been reading Randy Alcorn's book, Heaven. I recommend it to you. The one thing that has struck me most is that while Alcorn shines his light on the Bible's description of Heaven, I've found myself actually wanting to go there. I say "actually wanting" because the reality is that most of the time Heaven is far from my thoughts. I needed a reminder of where my true home is. I think we all do. How often do you think about the fact your true citizenship is in heaven? That you are a pilgrim and stranger on the earth? That here you have no lasting city, but are seeking a city that is to come? That you are commanded to set your mind on "things that are above?"

C.S. Lewis writes, "If you read history, you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were precisely those who thought most of the next." Great thoughts of a great Heaven lead us to do great things for Christ on earth. We don't need to think constantly of the things on earth in order to change the earth. We change the earth by proclaiming the gospel of the Son of God, who came down to earth to bring us up to heaven.

So come, join us, and we'll spend a few weeks thinking about our true home, setting our minds on "things that are above." Reservations for dinner are open beginning today. The menu and reservation form are located here. I look forward to seeing many of you. And if you have non-Christian friends, invite them. This would be a great time for them to listen in on our conversation about a far better world - a world they long for, even if they don't realize it.

Posted by Heath Cross

Resolutions

Happy New Year! I have a New Year's tradition, and this is my way of inviting you to join me in that tradition. Every January, I read Jonathan Edwards' Resolutions. I love Jonathan Edwards. Several of his books have had a massive impact on my life. (The End for Which God Created the World is an all-time favorite.) But the thing about his resolutions is that they're pretty much hardcore. Here are some examples with brief commentary by me, designated by "note."

5. "Resolved, never to lose one moment of time; but improve it the most profitable way I possibly can." (Note: How is this possible? I mean this literally.)

15. "Resolved, never to suffer the least motions of anger to irrational beings." (Note: I think he was angry at his horse. I was angry at my daughter's Nintendo Switch the other day when I was playing Mario Kart. Does that count as an irrational being?)

20. "Resolved, to maintain the strictest temperance in eating and drinking." (Note: Does 'temperance' mean I need a food thermometer?)

40. "Resolved, to inquire every night, before I go to bed, whether I have acted in the best way I possibly could, with respect to eating and drinking." (Note: This seems to be a recurring theme.)

31. "Resolved, never to say anything at all against anybody, but when it is perfectly agreeable to the highest degree of Christian honor, and of love to mankind, agreeable to the lowest humility, and sense of my own faults and failings, and agreeable to the golden rule." (Note: I must never speak again.)

34. "Resolved, in narrations, never to speak anything but the pure and simple [truth]." (Note: I must never tell a story again. How am I going to preach?)

59. "Resolved, when I am most conscious of provocations to ill-nature and anger, that I will strive most to feel and act good-naturedly." (Note: I must never express my true mood or feelings again.)

I have no doubts (Note: or do I?) of Jonathan Edwards' personal holiness, and he is one of my heroes, but I can relate better to the writer Samuel Johnson. He has some interesting resolutions in his diary. For example, in 1738, Johnson wrote, "Oh Lord, enable me to redeem the time which I have spent in sloth." Nineteen years later, in 1757, he wrote, "Oh mighty God, enable me to shake off sloth and redeem the time." In 1759, he wrote, "Enable me to shake off idleness and sloth." In 1761, he wrote, "I have resolved until I have resolved that I am afraid to resolve again."

That only lasted a few years. In 1764, he wrote, "My indolence since my last reception of the sacrament has sunk into grossest sluggishness. My purpose from this time is to avoid idleness and rise early." Five months later that same year, he wrote, "[I will] rise not later than six if I can." A year later he wrote, "I purpose to rise at eight because, though I shall not rise early, it will be much earlier than I now rise, for I often lie until two."

A few years later, in 1769, he wrote, "I am not yet in a state to form any resolutions. I purpose and hope to rise early in the morning, by eight, and by degrees at six." Six years later, in 1775, he wrote, "When I look back upon resolution of improvement and amendments which have, year after year, been made and broken, why do I yet try to resolve again? I try because reformation is necessary, and despair is criminal." In 1781, three years before his death, he wrote, "I will not despair, help me, help me, oh my God." And he resolves once again to rise at eight or sooner and to avoid idleness.

The moral of the story is that you will never be perfectly moral this side of glory. We can't live up to our own standards, much less God's perfect standard. If you've made resolutions this year, that's fine. Just don't let failure lead you to despair. God's grace means that we can aim high. But His grace also means we can survive the lows. We have motivation for greatness because we have a great Savior. But we also have consolation in failure because we have a great Savior. We are not the ultimate promise keepers, but Jesus is. The church is at its best when we admit that we are at our worst but have a Savior who is the best.

I look forward to seeing many of you Sunday (whether in person or online). We'll be doing what we're always doing, and the most important thing we can be doing: confessing that we are sinners in need of a Savior and giving Him the glory due His name. (Note: When you confess your sin, try to mean it this time; and when you hear the assurance of forgiveness, try to believe it this time.) Grace and peace to you in the year to come.

Posted by Heath Cross

Thankful for 2020

How vividly I remember sitting in Bridgestone Arena last March on the opening night of the men's SEC basketball tournament. At halftime it was announced that the remainder of the tournament had been cancelled because of a highly infectious virus called COVID-19. The announcement was met with a chorus of loud boos that lasted for at least 10 seconds. I remember feeling as though something dark and dangerous had invaded our world that was about to change our lives in unforeseen ways.

I have an idea many people are still booing nine months later! We've heard it frequently said that "2020 has been a difficult year," or "2020 has been the worst year of my life." Indeed, 2020 has become the standard for all things difficult, unpredictable, and novel.

But 2020 has also been a good year for us spiritually. We've learned not to take simple things for granted. We've learned how fragile our health is. We've learned that the greatest medical minds don't always agree and sometimes change their minds. We've learned, because absence makes the heart grow fonder, the blessing of Christian fellowship and corporate worship. And hopefully we have learned that God alone is trustworthy.

I am thankful that God opened the doors of our new facility two weeks before the virus hit. We may have been homeless if the opening had been delayed or the virus struck sooner. I am thankful that 40 new members have joined our church since mid-September. I am thankful that our December giving has been strong to date and taken a big bite out of our operating budget deficit.

And finally, I am thankful that happier days are ahead. C.S. Lewis once said, "There are far better things ahead than any we leave behind."

I wish each of you a happy, healthy, and prosperous new year full of growth in the grace and knowledge of our Savior!

Posted by Jim Bachmann

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