Posts Tagged Romans
One of the realities that we deal with in STL is the fear of the city. Many people who live in the greater St Louis metropolitan area are afraid of going into certain parts of the city. For some, the line is north of Delmar Ave. For others, it’s east of Skinker. One person I met in St Charles, once told me that they never cross “the bridge” into St Louis COUNTY!
There are several reasons for this fear being perpetuated in the community. Some of it is racism – this place that people fear is predominantly black (our neighborhood is 98% black). Some of it is class-ism – there’s not a lot of money in our part of town. Some of the fear comes from the myth of a violent and chaotic inner city perpetuated by the media – all the news stories that come from our community are about violence. Sometimes people read statistics about our neighborhood. Statics are not always truth, and they can be used to created fear combined with the false impression that these fears are ground in scientific facts. Its a mess and it breaks my heart to think that these fears are probably not going to go away for a long time.
Honestly, I’m a musician and so I can’t speak with authority on any of the causes of the fear of the city. However, I can tell you about my life in one of the most dangerous cities in America these past 4 years. Basically, it’s been kind of boring. Not that it hasn’t been fun; it’s just that there hasn’t been a lot of action. We’ve had some possessions stolen (pretty typical to living in close proximity to humans). We have some drugs and other illegal stuff on the block – just like I had back at my Christian high school. I haven’t been violently attacked (like I was during my freshman year at the University of Tennessee, on campus, by a white dude in a North Face vest – but that’s another story).
There are some fears that I still have. I’m not that thrilled about walking alone in my neighborhood. I don’t like to let my kids play outside of our fence without parental supervision (we have a lot of pedestrian traffic.) Sometimes, we call the police because of hearing or seeing strange activity (gun shots, loitering, trespassing, drunkenness). Some fears are no longer an issue for me. I have met my neighbors so that I see a lot less “suspicious strangers” and see more friendly smiles. Trust in our neighbors also means that we feel like there are people who are looking out for us and who would stand up to defend us if we were in a dangerous situation. We matter to our neighbors and so the city is no longer a mysterious place of crime and violence, but a home where we belong and we feel accepted.
My blog is called “Worship in the City”. For us, life in the city is an expression of worship just as much as the songs that I prepare every week. The kingdom of God is something that takes our whole lives into service as we live our resurrection life in Jesus. There is no fear of anything when we have the love of Christ who is our peace. I want to emphasize that our life in the city is not some kind of holy martyrdom as if we are making some kind of grand sacrifice to “survive” in the big bad city. Rather, we get to live the abundant life of the NEW CITY expressed in the love and community we share in simply living together as an expression of the gospel. This passage from Romans 12: 9-21 sums up a lot of what I’m thinking and it’s been for Sarah and me a kind of mission statement for our family:
Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
Peace with God.
“Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” – Romans 5:1
Is there peace with God in your heart? Are you at war with him or have you been reconciled to God? I as thinking about Moses this week as we were talking about him in staff prayer. Moses was a murderer. When his sin was exposed he was driven away into the dessert. Moses named his son, Gershom which means “I am an alien in a foreign land”. In this broken context, God remember his covenant to Abraham and called on murdering Moses to be the leader of his chosen people. Is your sin greater than God’s grace? Have you made your sin (I’m a murderer) larger than God’s grace (I’m justified and have peace with God)?
Rejoice in the hope of glory
“Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” – Romans 5:2
Is there joy in your heart for the hope of glory? The glory of God is not about harps and pearly gates. The glory of God is the process of his love, mercy and justice being revealed every day, across the planet in the lives of his people. Standing firm in grace, this peace with God, we are filled with joy at the eager anticipation that God’s glorious plan is being made a reality. You might already know that Genesis was written by Moses. Moses was not only the main character of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy, he was also the narrator of Genesis. In this story, we learned about our place in the created order, our fall and God’s covenant plan of redemption. In Genesis, there is a deep underlying hope in each story that God has not given up on his creation, but he is desperate to see it restored and redeemed. This story was Moses’ hope, that God’s glory was not permanently hidden by our sin, but it would once again explode into expression on the earth through the promises of God to the seed of Abraham. The hope of glory produces joy.
Our pastors have just completed a series on Romans. I wrote this tune as a dedication prayer derived from Romans 12:1-2.
A Living Sacrifice
I offer my body; I offer my mind
I offer my spirit as a living sacrifice
In view of your mercy, I lay down my life
Jesus, receive me as a living sacrifice
Make me holy; make me holy
Make me holy as a living sacrifice
Make me holy; make me holy
Make me holy as a living sacrifice
as a living sacrifice
Tomorrow, Sarah and I are going to find out if we’ve been selected to be able to adopt a child who needs a family and a safe home. This song is a statement of faith in Jesus to receive us and make us holy in order to be up to the task of living in His kingdom. We come to Him as sinners, poor and needy, weak and wounded, sick and sore, and He will make us holy by His priestly work on the cross and the power of His resurrected kingship. Please pray for us as we wait to hear if we have been selected. Regardless, of whether we are selected, we can praise God that He has already answered the prayers for this little child to be placed in a home. He is faithful to remember the fatherless.
I’m pretty excited about attempting my father’s song, “Romans 11 Doxology” this Sunday. Our pastors are preaching through Romans and we are in the general vicinity of that passage, so it’s a good time to use it. We actually tried it with our church in my first year in STL, but it was not the right time. The song is also featured in the recently published, “New City Fellowship Songbook Volume 1” that my dad put together. I want to make sure that we try out all the tunes in that book at NCF STL. We already do most of the songs in the songbook, so it’s just a few that I need to add to our repertoire. You can buy the NCF songbook from my dad’s website. (I aught to also mention that two of my songs are in it as well.)
Apparently, my friends in “The Distribution” perform a cover of “Romans 11 Doxology” in the clubs. That’s pretty cool, eh?