When was the last time you smacked your forehead and said, “Why did I just do that?” Or clenched your teeth with rising emotions you just couldn’t seem to control? Or worse…looked in the mirror through your tears and said with desperation, “what is wrong with me?” For some of us, it might have been a while; for others it was just earlier today. But we ALL have faced these questions of why we can’t seem to do or be what we wish we were. There is victory over this cycle we cannot seem to break, but it seems that very few have found this treasure promised in scripture. I’ll tell you more about it in Deeper Thoughts below.
But first…a few important new year’s items:
· “Really Big Deal” Mt. Hope Family Meeting and Worship Night – Sunday, January 21, 5:00 – 6:30 p.m. We have some exciting and significant vision to discuss with you and pray together about. Mark your calendars and plan to attend! (For our “Covenant Partners” (official church members), this will also serve as our quarterly business meeting.)
· We need Small Group Hosts and Facilitators! Would you be willing to learn more about what is involved in helping create and facilitate small group life at Mt. Hope? No commitment implied by attending, but we’d love for you to join us NEXT Sunday, January 14th for an after-church discussion (11:45 – 12:30 or so) to share with you the vision, purpose, and process of leading or hosting a small group. Click here to let us know you might be interested!
· Ladies: To kick off the new year, we will be creating individual “Vision Boards” for 2024 with goals or aspirations we each have for the new year. Saturday, January 20, 2:00 – 4:00 p.m. at the church. Click here for more details and to RSVP!
· Oh… and winter is here! The weather forecast this weekend has some cold rain, slush, and a bit of snow late on Saturday, but it looks like it will all be clearing overnight before Sunday. We will have the parking lot and sidewalks treated, the heat on, and the coffee hot for church, so c’mon out! IF the weather turns significantly, we will send an email and post on our website any updates to our status by 7:00 a.m. on Sunday. (If you decide to hunker down at home (boo!!), don’t forget we are online-livestream at 10:00 a.m… and be sure to say “hi” in the chat so we can connect with you!)
OK…that’s it today for you email skimmers and you who have absolutely perfected your life. BUT…
Some Deeper Thoughts…
I know you are just like me. If you claimed you weren’t, I would think you were lying.
(Gosh…did I start that off a little too blunt??)
There are tons of things in my life that I regret, and many that I do not. I’ve done some really stupid things, and others have been brilliantly positive moves. I have tripped up in relationships, compromised my values, and disappointed God, others, and myself. And then, I have stepped up and been a fantastic friend, I’ve followed Jesus with integrity, and have been blessed by God.
There is a cycle to it, isn’t there? It is up and down. Good and bad. Consistent and inconsistent. Righteous and unrighteous. Godly and ungodly. Holy and sinful.
We see it in our workplace: Sometimes we are easy to work with and make others feel fantastic; other times we are a total grump and alienate everyone around us.
We see it in our emotions: Sometimes we have a settled confidence and joy about us; other times we feel the rage or fear or nastiness boiling uncontrollably inside us.
We see it in our morals: Sometimes we are the most honest, stable, gentle soul we know; other times we are well aware we’re cutting corners and compromising, but we just can’t seem to stop ourselves.
We see it in our relationships: Sometimes we are loving, patient, attentive, and true; other times we are selfish, abrasive, hurtful, and stupid.
So, go ahead and smack your forehead right now, won’t you? Let’s say it out loud together: “What is wrong with me?”
There is something wrong, but it may not be what you think it is.
If you’re like me, when you are on the upswing and things are going well, you quickly pride yourself with your success. You enjoy a confidence that you’re a pretty good guy [gal], you’ve got things nicely figured out, and you’re not that bad after all.
And then the downswing comes. Circumstances come unglued again, or the bad behavior pops up out of nowhere, or you realize the choice you just made was not nearly so brilliant as it seemed an hour ago. In those moments—if you are like me—you probably consider yourself to be the worst of the worst… the dumbest, weakest, ugliest… [you fill in the blank…]. And you certainly consider yourself to be a terrible Christian, do you not?
The Apostle Paul—arguably one of the holiest, most devout Christians to ever live—revealed his own up and down cycle that looks an awful lot like ours: “I do not understand what I do,” Paul wrote, set down his quill, and smacked his forehead. “For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.” He goes on: “I have the desire to do good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do--this I keep on doing” (Romans 7:15-19).
He even expresses that chilling despair I know you have said at least once in your life, and I have too: “I know that nothing good lives in me…” (Romans 7:18).
Theologians have been debating for oh… roughly 1,967 years ever since Paul wrote this down in the early spring of 57 AD. It just cannot be, they say, that the apostle whom God chose to write the majority of the New Testament and reveal the core of the Christian life to us was also a man who couldn’t keep his act together. But a quick dive into the original Greek language Paul was writing reveals that he chose his words carefully in the immediate present tense. This is him. This is real. This is just like you and me.
But thanks be to God, we are not trapped in this cycle. And neither was Paul (see Romans 7:24-25).
This Sunday, we are going to embark on a 20-week journey as a church studying every inch of Paul’s letter to the Roman Christians. We are going to discover an incredible “Uncharted Territory: Taking Life Where You’ve Never Been.” We are going to discover the unbelievable promise of how we break free of the cycle we cannot presently seem to stop. We are going to see the path of faith to a day-by-day victory that Paul was discovering and presenting to us.
We will orient our small groups around this study. We will provide you with resources and midweek content. We will empower you to understand the strength of God for your life that is far beyond what you ever imagined. We will discover together the door that stands wide open for you and me to step through into a brand-new way of living.
Let’s start this Sunday… 10:00 a.m. Dig around Romans 7 and 8 before you come!
Much love to you all…
Mt. Hope Pastor