Wednesday, December 31, 2014

LORD of the Nations

Isaiah 1-12 focused on Judah and ended with a proclamation to the nations.  Isaiah 13-27 begins by focusing on the nations and ends with Judah

"These nations were all threatened by Assyria at one time or other, and were all actual or potential partners with Judah in anti-Assyrian alliances." (Webb - p80).

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

From Thankful Praise to Evangelism

Isaiah 12 is two songs, both introduced with the phrase, "And in that day you will say," (v1, 4).

The first song is joyful praise for personal salvation.  But that kind of salvation cannot be extolled enough being sung by only those who are saved.  They need more voices, more praise, more glory.  And so the second song demands that we go out and get more voices -

Isaiah 12:4–5 (NKJV)

...“Praise the Lord, call upon His name; Declare His deeds among the peoples, Make mention that His name is exalted. 5 Sing to the Lord, For He has done excellent things; This is known in all the earth.

Let the peoples praise Thee!  Let all the peoples praise Thee!

Monday, December 29, 2014

Where Do We Run from the Wrath of God?

There has been a refrain of God's coming wrath - His anger is not turned away/His hand is stretched out still...

Isaiah 5:25 (NKJV)

25 Therefore the anger of the Lord is aroused against His people; He has stretched out His hand against them And stricken them, And the hills trembled. Their carcasses were as refuse in the midst of the streets. For all this His anger is not turned away, But His hand is stretched out still.

Isaiah 9:12 (NKJV)
12 The Syrians before and the Philistines behind; And they shall devour Israel with an open mouth. For all this His anger is not turned away, But His hand is stretched out still.

Isaiah 9:17 (NKJV)
17 Therefore the Lord will have no joy in their young men, Nor have mercy on their fatherless and widows; For everyone is a hypocrite and an evildoer, And every mouth speaks folly. For all this His anger is not turned away, But His hand is stretched out still.

Isaiah 9:21 (NKJV)
21 Manasseh shall devour Ephraim, and Ephraim Manasseh; Together they shall be against Judah. For all this His anger is not turned away, But His hand is stretched out still.

Isaiah 10:4 (NKJV)
4 Without Me they shall bow down among the prisoners, And they shall fall among the slain.” For all this His anger is not turned away, But His hand is stretched out still.

Where can salvation be found from the wrath of the living God?

Isaiah 12:1-2 instructs us:  salvation from the wrath of God can only be found by fleeing into the arms f the righteous God.

Isaiah 12:1–2 (NKJV)
1 And in that day you will say: “O Lord, I will praise You; Though You were angry with me, Your anger is turned away, and You comfort me. 2 Behold, God is my salvation, I will trust and not be afraid; ‘For Yah, the Lord, is my strength and song; He also has become my salvation.’ ”

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Praise Songs of the Remnant

In Isaiah 11;16, a remnant is mentioned, withstanding the judgment of the LORD and returning to His temple because they remained faithful - 

Isaiah 11:16 (NKJV)

16 There will be a highway for the remnant of His people Who will be left from Assyria, As it was for Israel In the day that he came up from the land of Egypt.

And then Chapter 12 breaks out in a song of praise.  The song is in the singular ("I" and not "we") and so we could translate the beginning as "Each of you will say in that day."  There is an important emphasis on the individual's decision to trust and obey the LORD here.  Most of the consequences that have been written about in Isaiah thus far are national issues as a whole.  But Ahaz had to make His own decision (Isaiah 7:9b) and every other Israelite must as well (Isaiah 28:16).

Friday, December 26, 2014

How Wet is the Sea?

Isaiah 11:6-9 describes the effect of the Messiah's rule.  It will be universal peace, an ideal described here in language which may or may not be symbolic (or may be both).

Isaiah 11:6–8 (NKJV)

6 “The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, The leopard shall lie down with the young goat, The calf and the young lion and the fatling together; And a little child shall lead them. 7 The cow and the bear shall graze; Their young ones shall lie down together; And the lion shall eat straw like the ox. 8 The nursing child shall play by the cobra’s hole, And the weaned child shall put his hand in the viper’s den.

An end comes to all strife between creatures.  Does this mean an end to carnivorous living for all?  I'm not sure at this point.  Of course, the most important strife that will come to an end, and has already come, is the division between Jew and Gentile.  Now, all are justified by faith in Jesus Christ alone and we are all under one new humanity.  Under that reconstruction, all other divisions may come to an end.  The Prince of Peace brings peace to all human relationships.  

And so, the picture of Isaiah 11:6-9 is one of returning to the paradise of Eden.  It is a a picture of the whole creation put back into joint (Webb).  And verse 9 is climactic.  The entire earth and not simply Jerusalem will be the LORD's holy mountain and His Word, His law, His rule will be known, experienced and enjoyed as much as the waters cover the sea.

The spreading of this dominion, peace, and rule of King Jesus began at His first Advent and will continue until His second.  Until then, He rules over heaven and all of the earth while sitting at the right hand of God the Father (Psalm 110:1-2).  

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Messiah: The Anointed King

Isaiah 11:1 promises a descendant of Jesse, a son of David, who will have the Spirit of the LORD resting on him.  That is what it means to be anointed and that is what is promised of the Messiah.

Messiah, in Hebrew, means "anointed" and does not immediately point to only one single person.  In a sense every king of Judah, from Saul onwards, had been the messiah.  Both priests and kings were anointed, but "the LORD's anointed" was shorthand for "the King" (1 Sam 24:10, Lam 4:20).

There is one aspect of this that points to Jesus particularly.  He is the anointed King and the anointed High Priest.  He is particularly anointed to fulfill both roles.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Beating Temptation at the Table

The Lord’s Prayer teaches us to pray for God to keep us from temptation and to deliver us from evil.  It also teaches us to ask Him for our daily bread.  But, as we also heard Jesus say while He was resisting temptation – Man does not live by bread alone, but by every Word that proceeds from the mouth of God.

There are many words that proceed from God.  But they all are summed up here in the Word of God made flesh.  And that Word is here at this Table – and it is offered to You as we partake of Bread.  This Bread and Wine are the Word of God – just as the Bible you hold is the Word of God.  Neither are turned into God – but both, by partaking by faith – are the instruments by which the Holy Spirit imparts the Word, Jesus, more and more into His body, the church.

And so, just as important as hearing by faith when the Word is proclaimed – is partaking by faith when the Word is given – here, at the Table of the Lord.  The Word of God is given to fight temptation.  Come and welcome to the Word of God – to Jesus Christ.

Not Merely Inspiring Words

In this religion we call Christianity, it is not enough to be inspired by the words of the Gospel – and this is part of what sets Christianity apart from every other religion and religious system.  It is not enough to simply hear words and contemplate and meditate and be inspired or motivated to change.

We do not come to simply hear words.  We come to hear the Word.  Even more, we come to eat the Word and drink the Word.  We come to participate in the Word and have the Word which was made flesh participate in us.  We come to renew our union and communion in and with and by the Word.

And this is what the Table of the Lord is for.  As Christians, we always have Christ in us – but here we come and renew that union – here we come and corporately confess the life, death, and resurrection of the body of Jesus – and we do so by faith as the body of Jesus.  It is all Christmas and Easter and Pentecost here – by faith – given for You and for the life of the world.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Called to Holiness

When the Lord calls us to holiness, He is not calling us to a grim, tight-shoed approach to life that pretends to be holiness.  Neither does He call us to a kind of license that doesn’t care at all what God thinks of the matter and treat Christian liberty as freedom to do whatever you want.

The kind of holiness we are called to is a holiness that wants, that longs, that desires to be like Jesus – that wants to be free from sin and that wants to enjoy holiness with the Lord – obedience with great joy and hope surrounded by faith.

And this is something that God gives.  He gives holiness filled with joy, gladness, strength, grace, forgiveness, fortitude, hope and glory that has a backbone in all the details of life.  When you are given this kind of holiness, you don’t have to be told to pursue holiness – you only want to more and more.

This is connected to fighting temptation, which will be the topic of the sermon this morning.  No one fights temptation who has not been given this gift from God that loves holiness, that loves walking in the light, that loves walking with God in fellowship and glory.  Everyone that has been given this love for holiness hates their sin and that hatred is part of what God in you to learn to fight temptation.

As we come to worship our God this morning, be aware of His stirrings in you to love holiness and to hate sin – ask Him for more.  And if you have none of this desire – then come and hear the good news.  The only reason any of us – a pack of sinners – has come to Christ is because He has come to us.  But when He comes, He comes with holiness.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

First Be Right With God Yourself

It’s not enough to simply be in the right.  It’s not enough to be a member of the ‘Moral Majority.”  It’s not enough to be against homosexuality or abortion or feminism or evolution.  It’s not enough to be right about education or government tyranny or biblical liturgy or the doctrines of grace.  We must first be right with God ourselves.  Jesus warns us of such hypocrisy (Luke 6:39-42).  The one who brings discipline must not only have the right doctrine.  He or she must also have the right heart (Gal 6:1).  These principles apply to the family, to the church, and to the state, for each one falls under the jurisdiction of God’s Word.  Judgment will always begin in the household of God.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Searching for Christmas

Jesus rebuked the unbelieving Jews for their stubborn hearts and spiritually blind eyes.  They thought they knew everything about God and His coming Messiah.  They thought they knew their Bible – many had memorized major portions and some had memorized and studied the entire Old Testament.  But Jesus said to them,
John 5:39–40 (NKJV) 39 You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me. 40 But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life.

In a similar way, many are aware of Christmas, know something of a baby born in a manger, and something about religious traditions associated with the holiday.  Unbelievers stroll the malls singing along with carols playing over speakers, “O come, O come Emmanuel and ransom captive Israel…..What Child is this who lays to rest…This this is Christ the King….Angels we have heard on High, sweetly singing o’er the plains, Gloria in Excelcis Deo – Glory to God in the Highest…” but they do not hear what they are singing.

But then, so do Christians.  We sing “He comes to make His blessings flow far as the curse is found” while believing that the world and the church are on their way to apostasy and destruction.  We are guilty of celebrating Christmas without understanding the meaning of it.

There was a marvelous virgin birth – but of what?  Of Whom?  Of the King Who would rule all kings and all kingdoms.  Of the ruler of a kingdom that was like a peck of leaven put in lump of dough – slowly spreading and affecting the whole lump – the whole world.  Of a Light for all Gentiles, for all nations, to show them the way and to lead them streaming to the mountain of the Lord.  Of One upon whom would rest the governments of this earth for His kingdom had come to claim all that He had been given by the Father.

Do not be satisfied with a few moments or days of feel-good secular sentiment about the Christmas season.  Rather, come and view the Savior of the nations born to set His people free, given authority over all of heaven and earth, and perfectly satisfying the requirements of the Law, satisfying the just wrath of God for the world which He came to purchase with His blood.  Be overjoyed that a Child was born, that a Son of David now reigns and rules at the right Hand of God the Father, ruling over your particular life, and over the life of the world and all that is to come.  Come and worship Christ the King.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

From Human Kingdom to Kingdom of God

It is a massive move historically to go from the coming judgment of Israel and Judah (and the accountability laid upon Assyria) to the establishment of a "rod from the stem of Jesse" (11:1), but theologically, this is simply the next movement.  Only a remnant remains; only a stump.  But from that stump comes forth One who has the Spirit of the Lord resting upon Him.  Of course, every Gospel informs us of exactly Who that is (Matt 3:16, Mark 1:10, Luke 3:22, John 1:32).

Because of the breadth of optimistic reign over all of evil in this chapter, some want to regulate it all to the time of Christ's second Advent. But Christ's own ministry speaks to the certain establishment of all of chapter 11 in principle from the beginning of His first Advent and certainly from the beginning of His public ministry.

Jesus came - and, in principle, everything changed.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Faith for More than Justification

For Judah and Israel, 9:8 - 10:34 teaches them, and all generations, that faith in God is not simply about our justification.  It is also a practical approach to all the challenges of life.  Will you trust God in the whirlwind?  Will you turn to the Light when you find yourself in darkness?  Will you walk by faith and not by sight (2 Cor 5;17)?

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The Children Prophecies

The two children of Isaiah are two prophecies.  And those prophecies are the topics of two sections in Isaiah 9:8 - 10:34.  The first is the second named son, Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz.  His name means "Speed the spoil, hasten the booty" and is applied to the swift and soon coming fall of Syria and Damascus to Assyria.  Isaiah 9:8 - 10:4 describe this coming event.  The second section, 10:20-27, follows the prophecy of the first child, Shear-Jashub, whose name promises a remnant that will return.

The children's names are prophecies.  These boys come forth announcing the coming judgment of God.  Little children bring forth news and a new age.  And to the faithful, another Child, Immanuel, brought forth another judgment upon unbelieving Israel, and with that judgment, the saving work of the Lord.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Simply Put: What Preaching Must Be

"Christianity begins with a triumphant indicative; it does not begin with an urgent imperative...Nevertheless, Christianity does not end with the indicative; the indicative always moves on to the imperative...Preaching that lacks application is the bane of the modern Reformed pulpit."  Carrick, IP, pp148-9.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Assyrian Arrogance and the Sovereignty of God

Assyria is the tool of judgment upon Israel, chosen by God to accomplish His purposes - in spite of her arrogance, idolatry, blasphemy and wickedness.

But the Lord did choose Assyria (10:5-6) to "tread (Israel) down like the mire of the streets."  This, however, did not absolve Assyria of her own sins, and that which is charged as the greatest sin, is that of arrogance (10:15), "shall the ax boast itself against him who chops with it?"

There is so much to see here regarding the sovereignty of God and the responsibility of man, how they do not contradict one another but are held together gladly in the wisdom of God.  

For us as well, it is critical that we note the great sin of arrogance and self-boasting pride.  Paul warns, "But God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world" (Gal 6:14).

Monday, December 8, 2014

Back to the Present

Glorious promises in the beginning of Isaiah 9.  And then, from 9:8 through 10:4, the great and coming demise of the northern kingdom, of which the birth of the child Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz was a declaration, is elaborated.

That demise of the northern kingdom (Samaria) takes place almost 140 years before that of the south, but Isaiah knows and has been warning that Judah is headed down the same road, infected with the same rebellious heart.  The fulfillment of this chastisement upon Samaria is to be timely warning to Jerusalem.

She would not listen.

Will we?

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Christ in Us at Advent

Advent is not a time to pretend that Jesus has not yet come.  It is a time to prepare for and in celebration – as we do at this Table.  In the Lord’s Supper there is no denying that Jesus came and that His body was broken and His blood shed – for us.

And so, as we go about our Christmas preparations, reflections, and celebrations, this is the center – this Table.  It is our participation in Christ, it is our union and communion with Him.  God took on flesh and blood and dwelt with men.  To come here with faith and partake is to celebrate Advent, and Christmas, and Good Friday, and Resurrection Sunday.  It is to celebrate Christ in us, the hope of glory.

Friday, December 5, 2014

God Incarnate and the Blessing of Babies

"For unto us a Child is born." - Isaiah 9:6

Taking all of verse 6 and all of Isaiah thus far in context, this can only apply to one who is God incarnate.  Just one for instance, His name will be called "...Mighty God."

This verse must point to the coming and promised Messiah, the great Son of David, and He will be both God and man.

Webb notes as well that it is wonderful to meditate on the whole of chapters 7-9 where purpose of God in history is associated with the birth of babies, of little children.  "Out of the mouth of babes" comes the declaration of the salvation of the world.  His strength is made perfect in weakness; and there, in a manger, lies the power of all powers.

Incarnation and the Apostles' Creed

As we begin the season of Advent in anticipation of celebrating the Incarnation of the Word of God, the only begotten of the Father, we are going to return to reciting the Apostles’ Creed in our service.  This creed speaks abruptly of a Maker of heaven and earth, and of His Son.  Please do not think this rules out the Creative-work and participation of the Son at the time of creation, which we can easily see from passages like John 1:1-4.

But what is more important to remember as we come to worship, is that, having made all things, we come to worship the Triune God who Redeemed all things, Who brought salvation to the world – and personally to you, any of you, who call upon His name in repentance and faith.  The Creed reminds us that this took place because at a particular time and space Jesus came and lived on this earth in order to die.  He is Immanuel, God with us.  He is Jesus who came to save us from our sins.  And He did so by taking on flesh and blood.

Never forget that Jesus was a man and is not a fleshless spirit.  He took on flesh.  He is not afraid of the stuff of His creation.  He doesn’t think it is more holy to get away from the stuff.  If sinlessness was about avoiding the stuff then the Incarnation would have ruined the Lord’s holiness.  But Jesus did not avoid matter at all – He became matter, ate and drank matter, walked on matter, related with matter.  In fact, He loved matter.  He loved the world.  Material is not where the problem lies.  The problem is in the heart, and Jesus was born into the world so that He might be born in your heart as well.  How?  Through His death, you too may die to your sin and to your condemnation – and through His resurrection, you too may be raised to new life in the new Man with a new way to live in all of the stuff of the world which He made.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

The People Walking in Darkness

"The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light."  Isaiah 9:2

Because Isaiah 8 has referred to both the northerners and southerners, to Israel and Judah, it seems we have a hint of the reunification of Israel here in 9:2.  More than that, the message is preached to the "Galilee of the Gentiles" and so the hint goes much further, to the reunification of all men, of Jew and Gentile.  This will be the glorious work of the reconciliation of the world to God and to one another that Christ accomplished on the cross.

When people are walking in darkness, when there is strife between husband and wife, or between nations, the answer is the light of the gospel, the presence and zeal of Jesus, His grace and forgiveness, His law and duty, His justice and mercy.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

The Zeal of the Lord and His Strong Promises

"The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this." - Isaiah 9:7

The promises listed of this glorious Son to be born is as sure to be done as God's promises.  His zeal to make sure this happens speaks of His love of mercy and deliverance and grace (John 3:16).  

Learn to stand on the promises of God.  Learn to stand on them as already accomplished even when they are far from manifested yet.  Learn to declare the dawn long before the darkness has gone.  Then you will know the zeal of the LORD.

Monday, December 1, 2014

He Will Not Remain in Darkness

For all the doom and gloom, Isaiah refuses to remain in the darkness because the LORD refuses to allow the world to remain in darkness.  And so, Isaiah 9 -

"Nevertheless the gloom will not be upon her who is distressed,
As when at first He lightly esteemed
The land Galilee of the Gentiles."

Devastation gives way to glory and so the dawn breaks in the very region that was first to experience God's judgments in Isaiah's days.  

Does this help make sense of the fact that Matthew will highlight the fact that it was in these northern parts, filled with Gentiles of mixed races, that Jesus first proclaimed the gospel (Matt 4:12-17)?

Yes, it does.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Thanksgiving in a Dark World

As we conclude our service of worship, we come to the Communion Table, also known as the Eucharist.  Sometimes protestants are afraid to call this the Eucharist because that is what the Roman Catholics call it and we do not believe what they teach about the Eucharist.

But we do believe in the name – Eucharist is what you will do on Thursday this week.  Eucharist is Thanksgiving and so Eucharist is what Christians are to participate in all of their days.  Thanksgiving to God and to His Christ.

Thanksgiving is a testimony in a dark world of the Light that has come.  This Table is a testimony that this is a world not moving towards a funeral but rather towards a great Wedding Feast.  And so Thanksgiving also celebrates all that is coming and is to come.  Come and welcome to Jesus Christ.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

A Passover Reminder with Promise

As we come to partake of the elements of Christ’s sacrifice on our behalf, we are certainly reminded of His death for us.  But a memorial, according to the Scripture, is given to the people of God as a means, not primarily for reminding us, but for us to remind God of His covenant faithfulness and promises to us.

The blood from the Lamb at Passover was brushed onto the doorposts of the homes of the faithful, reminding the Angel of the LORD as He came over Egypt to pass over those who had sacrificed the ceremonial lamb.  Then the Angel went on to destroy the firstborn of Egypt.  Well, every Lord’s Day, you will recall, is a day of judgment.  And here, as we partake at the Table, we are reminding the Lord to pass over us in judgment and to go on to judge the world around us – both for our protection as well as for justice AND mercy to reign.

We remind God of the potent power of His Gospel, of the death, burial and resurrection of Christ – and of the promise that His death has and will change the entire world.  We partake at this Table looking for an increase in His government – His rule over all parts of creation.  Come and worship, and remind the LORD.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Satisfied in Him

Last Lord’s Day I attempted to challenge us all to consider this time of worship and how we determine what is best by thinking much less about our own personal preferences and far more about what would please the LORD.  I was challenging the modern notion of church consumerism and marketing for the purpose of church growth.

This idea, however, can lead some to a ditch on the other side of the road, and that is the ditch of Stoicism:  I am here to worship God and it does not matter at all how I am feeling about it.  This is not all about me and therefore my emotions, my heart-felt gratitude, my personal delight, has nothing to do in measuring the appropriateness or correctness of the worship of God.  That is a ditch.  That is as wrong as thinking that God doesn’t care about the details of our service as long as we sincerely experience deep feelings of satisfying worship.

And that is why I appreciate the phrase coined by John Piper:  “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.”  He also suggests that we slightly edit the answer to the first catechism question of the Westminster Shorter Catechism, “What is the chief end of man?” to, “The chief end of man is to glorify God BY enjoying Him forever.”  This works so well with the Psalmist who writes, “In thy presence is fullness of joy; in thy right hand there are pleasures forever.”

God isn’t interested in disengaged, unfulfilling worship before Him any more than He is interested in self-centered self-worship with some Jesus-words sprinkled in.  What He intends to do, what He gives us and works in us – and He does so here by means of His Holy Spirit through the Word and sacrament – is to bring praise to the graciousness of His glory, a glory warm with satisfaction in Him.

None of that occurs without God-given faith – faith that “sees” when there is nothing the eyes of flesh can see, faith that hopes when there is nothing to hope in – but the promises of God.  Come and receive that faith; or come and have that faith strengthened more and more in the terrifying and satisfying presence of God the Father.  Come in Jesus’ name.  Come in the power of His Holy Spirit.

Monday, November 24, 2014

How Does God Feel About Your Worship?

Jesus shall reign where ever the sun does its successive journeys run.  The earth will be as full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.  The gospel will go forth to all the nations and they will come to Him bringing their tribute and praise.  Mercy wins.  That is the gospel; that is the work of Jesus Christ.

And so we come to worship God, at His summons, at His command, with great hope and expectation.  Like Sara with Hagar, however, we can be tempted when we do not see the results as quickly as we would like – and think that we need to take matters into our own hands rather than trusting the Lord and working by faith.  Overly zealous in the wrong way, American Christianity in the 20th century took on a marketing, church-growth mentality to growing the church that has caused us to think about churches as products -  and parishioners, even unbelievers, as consumers that we must market to in order to succeed.

Pastors have been told that too much talk about sin or deep doctrine is “off-putting” to the consumer and so he should instead seek to entertain in order to grab the attention, especially in a day where each individual is bombarded with marketing messages, advertisements and enticements, at an almost relentless rate throughout every day and night.  70s style of worship led to 80s style and then 90s much the same as every other style of entertainment in our culture.

And if it is up to us to be culturally relevant, the church has proven that she can never keep up.  Try as she might she just can’t seem to be worldly as fast and as new and as hip as the world.

But what if it isn’t all about us?  What if we are not the audience, none of us, when it comes to the worship service?  What if God is the audience?  What if the thing that should concern us most is whether or not God was pleased with our worship and not whether or not it was our style, or whether it was hip enough for the kids, or whether it was culturally relevant enough for the visitor?  What if churches aren’t supposed to be shopped in the same way you choose your favorite restaurant?  What if we are more like the food than the consumer?  Come and worship the LORD, but make sure you taste good – to Him.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Hallowed Be Your Name

We are instructed in the Lord’s prayer, and in the passage we will study later, to “hallow the Lord,” or “to sanctify Him and His name.”  What does it mean to sanctify the Lord?

That which is holy is distinct from the common or ordinary.  Thus to sanctify God is to demonstrate that He is “high and lifted up” in power and in character, as well as in His very essence.  To fail to sanctify Him is to make Him appear helpless, indifferent, and unimportant (Oswalt).

And so we begin a new week sanctifying the Lord by putting Him first and His worship first and our priority.  But what will the rest of the week look like.  Will it look like we are sanctifying Him?  Are we hallowing His name and seeking for it to be hallowed on earth as it is in heaven?

He is the Lord and He can do whatever He pleases, whenever He pleases and with whatever means He chooses.  Nothing stops Him, nothing thwarts Him, nothing interferes with His plan and His Providence.  Will that be expressed from our lips and from our hearts and hands this week, or will it look instead as though we believe God is helpless – unable to do anything about the present situation.  Maybe we will declare by our actions that He is indifferent, that He doesn’t care or doesn’t know what is going on in our situation, our trials or difficulties.  Or maybe we will act as though He is unimportant – that there are better, more powerful, more practical gods and idols to turn to in order to make our present situation better.

But that is not the God you have come to worship.  His powerful love, His holy love, His terrible jealousy for His people and His name means that He is near, present, immanent at all times.  We see this because we see Jesus, His only Son, Whom the Father sent to be our Savior and King, our Shepherd and Friend, our Elder brother and Lord.  There is not a hair on your head, not an event in your day, not a single need in your situation that He is unaware of or unable to handle.  That is the God you have come to worship.  He has summoned you – and He cares for you very much.  Hallow His name, come and worship the Lord.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Worship and Vote

We have gathered to declare the Lordship of Jesus Christ over all heaven and earth.  We are not hunkering down in our Christian ghetto here away from the world; we are meeting in the midst of the world declaring Christ’s majesty over that world and all of it.  Having begun our work for this week here, resting in the completed work of Jesus and simply offering Him the sacrifice of our praise, we will then be sent out all over this little part of the world to show forth Christ’s love and righteousness in innumerable ways.

One of the ways we should do that this week is by casting our votes in the civil realm for candidates and policies that reflect the Lordship of Jesus and His Law.  In our day, there are no candidates nor are there any policies that openly announce such a submission.  No one says, “I hold to thus and such as the proper way to govern on this issue because it best reflects the law and desires of the King of kings according to the teachings of scripture.”

We do pray that one day the kind of candidates and politicians that we elect will in fact say such things.  However, because we do not have that in front of us today on our ballots does not mean that we should not participate.  Reformation is messy.  Reformation is slow.  And the kingdom of God spreads slowly, like leaven in the lump, like the smallest seed in the garden.

We do not believe that politics or the civil government is our Savior.  We do not, but the world in which we live today does.  And so we must not vote hoping to save our society through politics.  Rather, we should vote believing that God will save our politics; that our Savior, the Lord Jesus, will save our civil government.  If He does not do so, then He will certainly bring His judgment to bear – in even greater measure than He already has.  And so we come here to worship, we pray for mercy, and then we go and vote our consciences, influenced by the teaching of the Word of God and the anointing of the Holy Spirit.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Godly Repentance

As we gather in this time of corporate worship, we follow the plan of Covenant Renewal found throughout the Scripture.  Having been brought into the presence of God in all His holiness, we are reminded of our sinfulness, our shortcomings, our compromises, and we are reminded of our need to repent.  Paul warns us that there is a sorrow of the world, a fake repentance, that produces death.  People are truly sorry, but they are sorry for the consequences of their sin, they are sorry they have been caught, they are sorry that they are getting in trouble – but they are not sorry in a godly way.  For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation.  This is a sorrow that hates the sin, that hates the distance it has made in their fellowship with God who is their Savior, their Friend, their Shepherd, their Stronghold – and they want back – they want the joy of their salvation returned.

Worldly sorrow – the fake kind – can easily creep in here because we have scheduled it.  Sunday confession can become a stepping stone to religious-speak, to going through motions, to saying things with your mouth while your heart is far from God.  Don’t do that.  In the name of Jesus, do not do that.

Instead, remember again where you have come, what is required of you, and all that is provided for you.  What is it that is distracting you this instant from giving your full attention and your full devotion to the Lord?  Throw that bauble far from you – it is not worth it – it will never satisfy – it will never solve any issue – it will never please – the way the Lord Himself will care for, will satisfy, will take care of, will listen and hear and respond, and will draw near to you as you draw near to Him.

But this does mean you have to be aware of your sin, your sins, and your sinfulness.  But this is a gift; godly repentance is a gift, and if you are in Jesus Christ, then you are summoned to take hold of that gift again and be cleansed, brought near, raised up, be nurtured and fed and equipped, for all that you need for life.  Come and worship – but come and confess first as you do so – for you have come to the throne of the King of kings and Lord of lords.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Reaping What We've Sown

We are reaping what we have sown faster than many of us expected.  The movement is sweeping across our land at a rapid pace.  In conservative Idaho, the Supreme Court has overturned the State’s law banning same-sex-so-called marriages, and in just a few days since, a Christian couple who operate a small wedding chapel in Couer d’Alene will face time in jail and/or thousands of dollars in fines for refusing to offer such ceremonies.

Jail time for refusing to follow a practice which stands against one’s religious beliefs.  And not the beliefs of some strange, unheard of religion – but the traditional, well accepted practices and beliefs of Christianity.

We can shake our heads in disbelief, or we can corporately realize that we are reaping what we have sown.  There are pastors all over our land celebrating that just such practices are being offered and are openly offering them, this strange fire, in their own churches and denominations.  The church has taught the world around how to disobey and rebel against their own God.  We lead the way.

And so, as we will see Isaiah do in chapter 6, we must lead the way in repentance.  That repentance should be personal and individual first, for our own hearts must be cleansed.  It must be corporate as the church of Jesus Christ, one catholic church as we say in the Apostle’s Creed, and so we confess on behalf of the Christian church, and then finally it must be people-centered, nation-centered, in that we are a holy priesthood going before God, standing in the gap, and pleading His mercy to the nations.

Our worship here, cleansed by the shed blood of the Lamb, is holy.  And it will cause the shaking of the heavens and earth.  God has invited us to transform the world with Him, in His power, and by His grace.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Blessed are the Hungry

Jesus said, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.”  Here, at this Table, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness are given that righteousness, filled to overflowing, for Jesus Christ is our Righteousness and His righteousness will fill the earth.

Those who refuse to come to this Table because they refuse to come to Jesus will be left hungry and desolate, like the warnings given to unbelieving Judah at the end of Isaiah 8.  And so we come and partake and tell the world, like fellow beggars who have found a feast, to come and join us in the Feast of Jesus Christ.  Life is good.  Eternal Life tastes wonderful.  There is plenty to share at this Table of Life.  Come and welcome to Jesus Christ.

Friday, November 7, 2014

No Hocus Pocus Here

This Table is the Lord’s Table, and He has summoned all who are His children to come here and partake.  There will be no hocus pocus here – words muttered in Latin that somehow produce a magical transubstantiation of the bread into the real presence of Christ’s body and the wine into His blood.

When we stand against this error of the church, we are not making less of communion; we are making more of it.  As we come, we are not seeking to make something into Christ – we are coming as His body and we are coming by faith.  And as we come, we are the ones being changed – in our partaking by faith, we are partaking of Christ’s body and blood and our sanctification is really in process.  This is the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit – and the ongoing effect of our union with Christ – union in His death and in His resurrection.  Welcome to life in Jesus Christ. 

Thursday, November 6, 2014

A Meal Following Atonement

You are not summoned to this Table to make atonement for your sins.  You are summoned to this Table because your sins have been atoned for.  You are not summoned to this Table in order to find forgiveness.  You are summoned to this Table because you have been forgiven.

You are not summoned to this Table to be reconciled to God.  You are summoned to this Table because you have been reconciled to God.  You are not summoned to this Table to find peace with God.  You are summoned to this Table because you have peace with God.

Why do we get this mixed up?  Because we are tempted to not believe that the atonement, the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross for our sins – really took care of our sins.  We are tempted to believe that we still need to do something in order to make us right with God.  And this Table is to remind you, for it is a memorial, that there is nothing left to be done.  Come and eat, come and sit and fellowship with God, come and partake with the body of Christ by partaking of the body of Christ.

A Stone of Sanctuary or a Stone of Stumbling

"He will be as a sanctuary, but a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense" - Isaiah 8:14a

For those who fear the LORD (v13), God is their sanctuary, their safe place, a refuge from the storm.  But for those who fear the circumstances or refuse to trust in the LORD and fear Him, He will be like another kind of stone.  He will be a stone in their path over which they will stumble and fall.

Either way, He is there.  Either way, He is a stone.  He is a stone of safety or a stone of stumbling.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Trusting the Wrong River

Judah's choice to trust Assyria for deliverance from Israel and Syria is likened to choosing the wrong river.  Yahweh is likened to the river Shiloah, flowing softly and peacefully (8:6) and the king of Assyria is likened to the Euphrates, strong and mighty, glorious and threatening.  This river is the river to choose, the flesh says, if you really want to overcome the banks of another land.

Ah, yes, says the Lord, but can you stop this torrent when it begins to overflow your banks?  You will be consumed by that which you worship and put your trust in if it is not Immanuel.  And when this happens, even that will be because "Immanuel" (8:8, 10).

The people, by the way, are apparently well represented by their king, wicked and unbelieving as he is.  They make the same choice as he.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Public After a Private Warning

Isaiah had met, it seems, privately with Ahaz, at the aqueduct, warning him to trust in the Lord and offering him a sign.  When Ahaz refuses, Isaiah gives him a sign nonetheless.  There is no repentance on Ahaz's part, and so Isaiah 8:1-2 seems to follow the model of discipline set forth by Jesus later in Matthew 18.  If a man won't hear you privately, take two or three others, and then finally, lay it out publicly.

The public declaration of the name, "Speed the Spoil, Hasten the Booty," and the fact that this child will be born and before he grows up will see his name fulfilled upon Syria and Israel make this prophecy-in-action a very public one.  And of course, this is not because God is a very good predictor of the future, but the One who speaks and it is so.

But there is something else going on from "private" to "public."  Ahaz had been instructed and warned as the king of Judah and as an individual who had to determine whether or not he would trust God.  He refused.  Now the same warning is given to the people (8:11).  They end up following their king (not King Yahweh, but King Ahaz) with their own disastrous response.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Introducing Ahaz

Isaiah 7 turns to the encounter between Ahaz and Isaiah.  Ahaz reigns after Jotham and so we have jumped from Uzziah to Ahaz and possibly the year 734BC.

We are told that Jotham "did right in the sight of the LORD" (1 Kings 15:34) as his father, Uzziah had done.  But we also know that Uzziah had not been faithful in every way (hence he died under the curse of leprosy for his disobedience and arrogance).

Nevertheless, the narrative is regarding the reign of Ahaz of whom we are told, "did not do what was right in the sight of the Lord his God...he walked in the way of the kings of Israel; indeed he made his son pass through the fire, according tot eh abominations of the nations whom the LORD had cast out from before the children of Israel.  And he sacrificed and burned incense on the high places, on the hills, and under every green tree" (1 Kings 15:3-4).

Here we will see the playing out of Isaiah 6:9-10.  God will promise to give Ahaz a sign in order to trust in Him alone for Judah's protection.  Ahaz will not see, hear, or understand - and he will rebel.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014


Why is the northern kingdom, Israel, called Ephraim in Isaiah 7:2, 5, and 9?  Webb suggests that it is because Jeroboam I, the first king of Israel, was an Ephraimite (1 Kings 11:26).

I just wanted to note this because people always get confused as they read through the Old Testament histories with so many variant names.  For instance, Israel is Israel, all of it, sometimes.  But sometimes it is the northern kingdom while Judah is the southern (but why isn't Benjamin mentioned when Judah is called Judah?).  And so it goes.  

Monday, October 13, 2014

Irony in Judgment

Isaiah 6:9-10 will reveal the irony in God's judgment upon unresponsive Israel.  She will not listen to Yahweh.  Therefore, having chosen their arrogance, God gives them over to that indifference to Him.  They shall be unable to hear Him, see Him, understand Him, or respond to Him with their hearts.

Finally, in verse 12, because they do not want to be close to Him, God will send Israel away from Him, away into exile.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Judgment and Love

 Christ is our Passover Lamb – He is our Passover, sacrificed for us – 1 Corinthians 5:7.  By shedding His blood on the cross, Jesus turned away the angel of death and rescued us from the wrath of God.

And so, by dying on the cross, the wrath of God, the justice of God, the glory of God, was fully and completely revealed, in fearful glory – but the love of God, the compassion of God, the mercy of God, the gracious glory of God was also revealed in all its fullness.

At this Table we celebrate both.  We do not come and partake from a tame God – but a God hot with jealousy for His holiness and overflowing with love for you – for us – for the bride of Christ, His church.  Come and partake of this hot jealousy, this overflowing love – for you.  Amen.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Set Your Mind on Things Above

Paul says in Colossians 3:1-2 , “If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. 2 Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.”  And this command is frequently misunderstood and misapplied.

There is a clear distinction between the “things above” and the “things on earth”, but Paul’s point is not that physical things on earth are to be hated and only ethereal, heavenly things “up there” are to be pursued.  It is not that the earth is bad and heaven is good.  It is not true that the material is bad and the immaterial is good.  That is a false religion and has gotten many Christians into bad lifestyles over the centuries.

The issue is ethical and not material.  What God created, all of what He created, He called good, and we dare not argue with Him about it.  Not only that, but all of the ceremonial distinctions of  “clean” and “unclean” from the Old administration of the covenant have been set aside, and we are to do what Peter was told – Rise and eat.  In other words, we are to help ourselves to the things of this earth.  Those things have nothing to do with our holiness.

It is what we do with those things that has everything to do with our holiness – and that is Paul’s point.  This earth is a place where we are tempted to take that which is good and pervert it, worship it, envy it and others who have it, and sin with it.  Heaven is a place of purity and holiness, where everything is treated according to God’s will – and so we are taught to pray, Thy kingdom come, thy will be done – here, on earth – just as it is in heaven.

Well, here we are, in a service of worship where heaven and earth are joined covenantally, where we are instructed how to take the things of this earth and use them in heavenly ways with heavenly motives and heavenly goals.  And as we learn, we will then be sent out as ambassadors to the world to show the world how to help ourselves to the things of creation, giving thanks to the Creator, and enjoying it all to His glory.

And that is how we seek the things above while living down here.  And it all begins here, in the worship of Christ who is seated in the heavenly places and has raised us up with Him.  Come and worship your God.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Clean Lips

"It now becomes apparent why the 'lips' and 'mouth' have been so prominent in Isaiah 6:5-7.  The LORD seeks a messenger, and Isaiah, now cleansed, is ready and willing to be his mouthpiece.  (footnote - There may be a secondary allusion, in the unclean lips of verse 5, to Uzziah who, as a leper, would have had to cover his lip and cry, "Unclean" (2 Chron 26:21, Lev 13:45)." - Webb

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Cleansing that Separates

Is there something about Isaiah that separates him from Israel as he confesses his sin?  He confesses that he is unclean, as unclean as his fellow countrymen (Isaiah 6:5) but then he is cleansed and he alone is set apart.  He will alone be set apart to go and speak to Judah.

It appears that the same grace was available to Israel as a whole.  It was offered by God through Isaiah in 1;18.  It appears that their pride kept the nation away from such an offer and the LORD sees fit to cut them off because of that unconfessed sin.

Something happens with our fellowship with God when we sin.  But something else, something deeper, seems to happen when we are confronted with it by God and then refuse to confess and repent.

Monday, September 29, 2014

How Much Sin Is On You?

As Isaiah considers his fate when before the holiness of the Lord in His temple and before His throne of judgment, it is amazing how he immediately identifies himself with the sinners, the very ones he has been denouncing in his own sermons.

"Woe is me, for I am undone!  Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts" (Isaiah 6:5).

There is not a hint of comparison in his words.  In fact, the first sin Isaiah notices when before the Lord is his own.  When we are before the Lord, the point is not how much sin is on you compared to the other guy.  That is irrelevant.  The holiness of God reveals to us the stark separation that exists between us and His holy requirements.  

If your arrow falls one inch closer to the target than your neighbors, you will still here the cry, "Sin!"  And that sin is enough to condemn you to an eternity of condemnation.  Under such judgment, no one is comparing themselves against others.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

High and Lifted Up

Isaiah sees the Lord "high and lifted up" in his vision (6:1).  Representing Judah, Isaiah is below; Yahweh is seated on the throne and Isaiah is not.  Judah, who was so sure of her security based on riches, military might, coalitions with nations, and her appropriate rituals, finds that she is in no place at all to manipulate God.

Notice, Isaiah does not break into deep fits of awe and worship and "this is so incredible to be here."  Isaiah's response rather is immediately, "Oh no."

The time of reckoning had come.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Covenant Renewal Pattern in Isaiah 6

Isaiah has made clear in the first 5 chapters that Judah has a big problem.  How can Jerusalem, so full of corruption and idolatry, be transformed into something that resembles her destiny (Isaiah 2:1-4)?

One of the things chapter 6 shows us in answer to this is the pattern of covenant renewal.  Isaiah not only comes as a sinner himself but on behalf of the nation.  He is summoned into a vision (vv1-4), confesses his sin (v5), receives a gracious cleansing, completely apart from any of his own works (vv6-7), and then is commissioned to go (vv8-13).

There may also be a piece of the coal touching his lips that may be related to the consecration, his whole body offered up to the Lord in the smoke of that cleansing-coal.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Water, Bread, and Wine

The passage in Isaiah (3:1-15) reminded us again that God alone is the One Who provides bread and water – and all things that we need for our daily sustenance.  These are the essentials of life and nutrition, of the beginning and the continuation of life.  And so we are told to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread.”

At this Table we also find wine – the drink of finished work, the drink of rest and relaxation and fellowship and celebration – when the work is done.

And so we find Water, Bread, and Wine – all from the Lord, all a part of the sacraments – all memorials to the Lord’s gift of life, of adoption, of growth and maturation, and glory.  Come and partake of life and glory.  You who have received the Water of Life, come and partake of the Bread and Wine of life. 

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

A Table for the Humbled

Jesus said that all who would follow Him were required to take up their crosses to do so – they had to die daily, to mortify the flesh.  They had to deny themselves.  But then, that is just what Jesus did for us, not only to be an example, but to provide for us just what we needed as well for our salvation.

This Table memorializes all of what Jesus did – Who humbled Himself for us.  And so we come, humbled in Him, humbled by Him.  There is nothing here for us to boast in except Jesus Christ – but that leaves us with an eternity of boasting.

For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it – that is what Jesus said.  And then, that is what Jesus did.  And in Christ, that is what we come here to partake of and then to live out by grace through faith.  Come and welcome to the real life – come and welcome to Jesus Christ.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

The House of the Prince of Peace

Jesus, the head of this New Israel, the Ruler at the head of this mountain (Isaiah 2:2-4) has established this house, His house, and we are that house, children of the living God and brothers and sisters to our elder brother, Jesus.

As we gather to worship, we are doing so at the summons of our King who has called all nations to Himself.  All peoples, all tongues, all tribes, all families, everyone is supposed to be here – for God has called them.  He has provided the Way by means of His Son, and He has chosen you to be here now.

It is upon this mountain, in this house of worship, at the throne of grace, where the reconciliation of the world to God begins.  It is also where the reconciliation of all nations to one another begins.  It is where you will find reconciliation between you and your spouse, your child, your parents, your neighbor, and anyone with whom you have been estranged.

All peace, even the peace that passes understanding, is to be found here, at the foot of the cross, at the top of the mountain, in the glorious presence of Almighty God.  When groups or nations or families or individuals come and bow humbly here, they will find reconciliation there.  Laws will not bring this peace, compromises will not bring this peace, treatise will not bring this peace, peace talks will not bring this peace.

Only bowed knees, humbled hearts, men and women who first worship God the Father in the name of Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit – only that will bring peace.  But it will bring peace – for the dividing wall of hostility has been broken by Jesus that all may come.  It is here that we pray for and practice the peace of the nations – for we have come to the house of the Prince of Peace.

Monday, September 22, 2014

The Lord's Day is the Day of the Lord

In the Greek New Testament and in the Greek grammar construction, there is no difference in the term “the Day of the Lord” and “the Lord’s Day.”  And so, when John says that He was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day in Revelation, one could easily understand that he was in the Spirit on the Day of the Lord.  The Lord’s Day is the Day of the Lord – in one sense.

Now, there was a particular Day of the Lord when Yahweh came and brought His judgment upon unbelieving and apostate Israel especially because of her rejection of the Messiah.  This was the undoing of the old created order and the destruction of the temple.  There will be another Day of the Lord when the Lord Jesus Christ physically returns to this earth to judge the living and the dead at the great resurrection.

But every Lord’s Day is also a day of the Lord.  It is a day when He comes and visits us in a special way –and so we gather before Him, dressed in the righteousness of His Son, for His inspection and judgment upon us.  He intends to renew His vows before us and expects that we will do the same with Him.

He will clean you up here, instruct you, bind up your weak faith and strengthen your spirit with His.  He will give You His Word and His Table elements – by which in faith You will partake of His Son and renew that union and communion of peace with Him which only those of us in Christ can have.

Peace with God.  That is the end of the Day of the Lord; that is the purpose of the Lord’s Day.  It is a Sabbath rest.  It is a glorious and refreshing time.  It is a terrible time for any who would come full of sin and presumption and so I urge you not to do so.  But it is a life-giving time for any who would come honest about their sin and hungry for the Lord.  And O, how we need His life.  Well then, come and worship the Lord Jesus.  Come and worship our God.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Truett Cathy - R.I.P.

Truett Cathy - a great man.  R.I.P.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Bring it All But Your Sin

The modern world would tell you that you have to leave your brains at the door if you are really going to come and worship the archaic God we have come to worship.  You will have to leave your brains, your logic, your reason, modern scientific discoveries and such, and just come and play church here for a while.  Then, when you have finished, you can pick those things up again on your way out the door so you can go out into the real world and survive.

But this is just not so; it is not required nor allowed by the Scriptures, and it is not at all necessary.  The Triune God of Scripture is the Creator of all things, including all those discoveries, all that logic, and all that reasoning.  What’s more, He’s the Redeemer of all those things.  In Him alone all those things hold together which is a way of saying in Him alone is the reason the sun rose this morning (or the reason the earth continues to turn at the same rate to produce a sunrise for those of us living here).

Bring everything.  Bring it all.  Come in fully loaded into the worship of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit – nothing bothers Him, nothing is beyond Him.  Bring your brains along with all of your questions and search the Scriptures – but do so with faith or you will find no answers, no help.  Don’t leave your brains, don’t leave your earthly pursuits, your vocation, your hobbies, your leisure activities, all of the blessings and accomplishments, large and small – bring them all before Him.

And don’t leave your concerns either.  Don’t leave your concerns, your questions, your needs, your unanswered prayers, your hurts and troubles, your dreams which have not come true.  Bring all of these with you before the Lord and lay all of them at His feet as well – He is Lord over them all – and He is good.

There is only one thing that you must leave behind  - and this is what the modern world forgets.  You must leave behind your sin.  And you must leave it behind by bringing it out right now and confessing it before Him, repenting and leaving it with Him.  This is what you must do with any unconfessed sin.  And as you do, you will find that you are able to bring everything else before Him with great confidence, with great faith in the God Who loves you.  And He will deal with it all – with everything You bring.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Be Holy for God is Holy

Peter charges us in his epistle in this way; “as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, “Be holy, for I am holy.”

To be holy is to be set apart for a sacred purpose.  It is to be chosen by God, who is holiness, for His use and for His purposes.  To be holy is to be a saint – and we are to understand from the scriptures that all Christians are saints, this is not a word only to be used for some kind of super-Christian.  But that means that all of us who are in Christ are set apart by God for His sacred purposes.

This summons you all have received to this holy convocation, to this Lord’s Day covenant renewal service, is just the beginning of what you have been set apart for this week.  This week, as with each week, you are set apart here for the renewing and equipping of your mind and spirit, to be transformed more and more by the Word and Spirit into the image of Jesus.  We are to be His body, empowered by Him, to go out and live holy lives – lives set apart for sacred purposes.

Everything you do, everything you say, everything you think, everything you take in and give out, is to be in accord with everything that happens here in the presence of the Lord with His people, His body, His church.  You are never autonomous and you are never alone.  Jesus Himself has said, “and lo, I am with you always.”

And so, by faith, you are to let this service shape your thoughts, your motives, your intentions, your self-control, your self-sacrifice, your joys and your sorrows – all shaped by what goes on here in this service of worship.  By God’s grace, you should find yourself reflecting back on this service of worship throughout the week and looking forward to presenting yourselves again the next Lord’s Day as we continue in this ongoing work of bringing God’s kingdom upon this earth as it is in heaven.  What are your particular next steps in holiness.  God will be revealing it to you now and throughout your week, day in and day out.  So come and worship the Lord.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Disciples at the Table

To partake of Christ, as we do at this Table, is to abide in Him – and it is to be His disciples indeed.  We come to this Table and, by faith, we partake of truth – a truth that sets us free.

Here, disciples of Jesus Christ enjoy the fellowship of the Table with Christ and with His children, these brothers and sisters.  And so, here at this Table, we also partake of one another – for we are the body of Christ.

There is a deep mystery here – and while we are to grow in our understanding of it – we are not to do so from a distance.  Rather, we are to come and partake and in that partaking, we are discipled more and more in the truth.  Come and partake of truth.   Come and welcome to Jesus.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

A Reformed Altar Call

In the spirit of American Revivalism, begun in the 19th Century, there are in many churches altar calls after a sermon that demand your repentance and promise the grace of Jesus Christ.  Sometimes those altar calls are for brand new believers, and sometimes they are for believers who need to repent and, having repented, come to Jesus again.  But there is no biblical teaching on this.

There is, however, teaching on the spirit of that kind of thing – and it is here, at the Table, that you are summoned.  Having heard the Word we are often left undone – needing Jesus and the work of His Spirit again and in a fresh way.  This is our altar call, this is our coming to Jesus time.  It is the Table of the Father and by His Spirit He gives you Jesus and all the benefits of being in Christ.  Here you will find comfort, solace, and God’s joy ruling over You, His child – for He loves you.  That is why He gave His Son.  Come and welcome to Jesus Christ.

Monday, August 25, 2014

No Thwarting God

We have come to worship a King Who has conquered.  We are not coming to worship Jesus Who would like to be Lord.  We have come to worship Jesus Who is the Lord of lords, Who is already Lord over all of heaven and earth, Who rules from the right hand of God the Father and Who does so with His staff and rod.

But Jesus’ perfect rule is mysterious; He rules by means of His Spirit and through His church, His body, which itself is quite imperfect at this time.  Nevertheless, God’s ability to conjoin His sovereign purposes and the choices that His people, and even the unbelieving world make is beyond our ability to fully comprehend.  But this is always as it has been.

Let us take the case of Judas as an example.  Among the original twelve chosen to be apostles, Judas saw Christ’s miracles, heard His teachings, and yet Judas seemed especially disappointed in Jesus.  It may have been that Judas was a revolutionary and wanted Jesus to lead an overthrow over the Roman powers, but Jesus seemed more interested in the corruptions in the Pharisees and the Jewish leaders.  Judas also enjoyed helping himself to the money box, probably self-justifying himself that he had a better sense of where the money really needed to go.

On the evening that He betrayed Jesus, the disciples had no idea that he was the one Jesus meant would betray him.  But Jesus knew – and addressed him, “what you are going to do – do quickly.”  Jesus knew the heart of Judas – but He also knew the heart of Judas would not thwart God’s plans – rather, it would fulfill those plans.

You have come to be near Jesus and the Father – but you must understand that while you may be able to fool the closest around you, Jesus knows your heart.  The Father knows your heart.  There is no fooling this God, there is no buying Him off, and there is no getting Him off track of His plans and purposes.

What are those purposes for you?  If you turn to Him in faith, if you offer up to Him everything, if you submit and bow down and fear Him, if you tremble at His Word and rejoice in His reign, then those purposes are nothing but Good news, glorious news, eternal news of joy.  But if you come here dragging your feet because you are holding on to some sin, if you are holding idols of self-glory or self-justification, or your own better-than-God’s-plan plans, you need to know that this is a very dangerous place to be.  You cannot fool God.  You cannot thwart God.  You can and you must only repent before Him.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Remembering How God Delivers the Weak

At this Table, we remember, we partake of a memorial, and we commune with God.  All who have been baptized in Jesus Christ are welcome to come here and participate – but you must come with faith.  This is no place for religious pretenses.  This is no place for prideful presumption.  This is the place for the weak, the needy, the humble.

We will be singing Psalm 35 as we pass out the elements – a Psalm of imprecation against God’s enemies most likely written during a time of great turmoil.  In the midst of the Psalm, verses 9-10 – “And my soul shall be joyful in the LORD’ It shall rejoice in His salvation.  All my bones shall say, “LORD, who is like You, delivering the poor from him who is too strong for him, Yes, the Poor and the needy from him who plunders him?

Friday, August 22, 2014

Worship and the Christian Kurds

The news is full of terrible problems in the church and upon the church, and so we must come and worship our God.  He is a strong tower, and this service of worship is not simply for our own individual spiritual development – it is far more than that.  It is a battering ram against the walls of unbelief and the gates of Hades.  Pick up your psalter, pick up your Bible, gather in the name of the Lord, and do battle with Him, calling upon King Jesus to rule from His throne.

We hear awful news about the Kurds in northern Iraq – again.  This time, thousands of Christian Kurds are being displaced, running for their lives literally, against the militant Muslim group, ISIS, that demands that Christians convert to Islam, pay a fine, or be executed – and there are horrific tales of beheadings of our brothers and sisters in the name of Allah.

These Kurds are the ancient Assyrians – yes those Assyrians, who once were a great Empire.  One of the cities taken is Qaraqosh and this is in the region that even today is called Nineveh – yes, that Nineveh.  These Kurds are mostly Muslim, but there are many Christians and then others from a religion called Yezidi, a religion that is deemed to be so ancient – going back even before the days of Sennacherib – yes that Sennacherib.

World Magazine reports that Qaraqosh, a Christian village in the Nineveh region, is gone, and that, along with attacks on many other towns, more than 200,000 Christians are displaced, along with tens of thousands of Yezidis.  Strangely, our president, announcing air strikes to protect our interests in the area, pointedly avoided mentioning the attacks on Christians, choosing instead to only mention the attacks were upon “religious minorities.”

There are many organizations that you can support to help provide aid to your brothers and sisters in Christ in this terrible situation – do so as the Lord leads you.  But here, as we worship the God of all nations, the Lord of Iraq and the Kurds and the United States, we gather on behalf of our brothers and sisters who cannot gather this morning – we sing their psalms – we pray their prayers – we join with them and for them – to our God Who is Lord over all.  And we cry to Him for mercy – more mercy.  We pray to Him for the Gospel to have a greater impact in our lives, in the lives of the church around us – and over the world.