Have you ever walked in on your family that was halfway through watching a movie? You step right into the most thrilling action scene. The hero is swinging hard against the evil villain. The background music is intense and energetic. Victory is starting to emerge. Frankly, just jumping in here, you might find the movie quite enjoyable, even though you have no idea who these people are and what their backstory is. That’s precisely what we’ve been doing over the last three Sundays with the Book of Romans. And we’ll do it again this Sunday too. There’s a real purpose to this method of madness. I’ll tell you all about it in Deeper Thoughts below…
But first…three things you need to know (and only two if you’re a fella…)…
1. Ladies: We are launching a brand-new, seven-week-long evening Women’s Small Group starting this next Tuesday, January 30 at 7:00 p.m.! Led by Tracey Schlitzer, this group will focus on hearing God and discovering our identity in Christ. Click here for more information and to RSVP!
2. Men and Women: Don’t forget one of our other brand-new small groups is open to anyone who wants to explore the “Basics of Faith.” Join Sherri and me at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday nights upstairs at the church. Click here to let us know you’re interested!
3. We are carefully exploring an expansion to our church facility. We discussed all the details last Sunday night, and our Covenant Partners (voting members) voted unanimously to take a few next steps. Here’s what you need to know:
o We are considering a direct expansion to our sanctuary that would occur in two phases: First, taking the east wall (facing Belmont Ridge) and moving it seventeen and a half feet towards the street; and then secondly, doing the same to the west (towards the brick education building) sometime much later. Each phase would provide us 70 new seats per side and can be completed in a fiscally responsible manner.
o The next steps are to engage JTC Consulting to manage the architectural design phase of the project (with congregational input and approval) and handle zoning issues with Loudoun County. Maintaining the historical beauty, architecture, woodwork, culture, and appearance of the sanctuary (and its exterior) is a non-negotiable first priority, following the example of our church forefathers in their previous expansion of the sanctuary in 1898.
o To get caught up on all the details, click here for the PowerPoint presentation that goes with it.
o As always, our door (and email inbox) is wide open to any questions, thoughts, concerns, or ideas!
OK, that’s it today for you email skimmers and you who only care about the exciting action scenes. BUT…
Some Deeper Thoughts…
The New Testament book called Romans is perhaps the most comprehensive and important explanation of Christianity in all the Bible.
It starts out with bad news. Very bad news. So bad, in fact, that if you don’t read it with the good news in mind, you’re likely to get up and walk out of the movie.
I’ve only walked out of two movies in my life. The reason: They were both painful beyond repair. They were so bad, so offensive, and I didn’t know where they were going. I stuck with them for a little while to see if the value would improve. But at about the 20-minute mark, with no clarity that anything was going to turn the least bit worthwhile, I bailed.
There are a lot of people doing this with Christianity.
Instinctively, people dislike the pain that our story begins with. If we are to be really honest, the first 20 minutes of our story doesn’t sound very hopeful. A hapless couple blows it for the entire human race. They lost the perfect garden that God had created for us all. Then, sin infects every one of us before we were born. It becomes a nasty “body of death” hanging around each of our necks. We get stuck in this up-and-down, success-and-failure cycle over and over again. We know God wants--even expects—better for us. But we end up battling immense amounts of guilt and shame as the sin just keeps rolling on and on and on and…
So, society bails. Who wouldn’t? Without the hope promised in Romans chapters 5 - 8, all the world sees in Christianity is a negative message of sin, guilt, shame, and damnation.
Now, I know you all can handle the tough word we find at the beginning of Romans. In fact, we do need to face it squarely, as there’s some bad news that we need to recognize about ourselves that might even include a few present-tense patterns among us. And we will do that NEXT Sunday. But just not yet. Why?
Well… here’s what I want for every one of you, and what I believe God wants for you: That you would be so well-versed in the Gospel narrative of victory that when we square up on the bad news, you are fully armed and ready to be the hero demolishing all the evil villains in your life.
Those robust action scenes you love in the movies? How did the hero get so well-equipped to face the enemy with such creative, instant, and skillful battle? They prepared. They became a master of their battle-craft. And that’s what we are doing with Romans.
Can you become a master of the Gospel promise, so that when we square up with what we need to know about the bad news, we are armed, ready, enthusiastic, and prepared to joyfully do the right thing with it?
We only have one more Sunday to get this right before we turn to the bad news. Get the master-craft down tight this week, will you? Believe with clarity and resolve what the Gospel promises you, and how the Gospel defines you. Put your faith down fully upon it. Reject the outright lies about your identity that the enemy is flaunting. Grasp firmly and forever the weapon of Truth found in this Gospel narrative.
We will lay it out one more time this Sunday, cycling carefully and in ever-widening fashion from that core promise of Romans 8:1—that “there is no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.”
Spend some time digging around Romans 6 this week. Compare it to what we’ve read and studied thus far in Romans 7 and 8. Then, let’s hammer it. God’s promise in the Gospel is your identity, which to so many of us is an “Uncharted Territory: Taking Life Where You’ve Never Been.”
Can’t wait!! See you Sunday… in-person (yay!!) or online livestream (ok…I guess…um…but wanna come in person???)… 10:00 a.m.
Much love to you all!
Mt. Hope Pastor