Thursday, July 31, 2014

Baptism Exhortation - Melody

Doolittles, the Lord has blessed you with another daughter – and thank you for using social media to introduce her to us this last week.  She is as beautiful as the pictures posted.  What a picture of grace and glory, the creative work of the Lord in the womb of faithful and beautiful women.

Baptism of infants is certainly a sweet time.  But it is not to be a sentimentally sweet time.  It is to be a time rooted in the unfailing promises of God that drive us as parents to revive our faith in God and our call to what it means to bring our children up in the fear and nurture of the Lord.

This baptism promises that God will be faithful to His Word.  But it demands your renewed obedience to His Word as well – both to this new little one as well as to all the children He has blessed you with.  And along with that is your covenant relationship as husband and wife.  You cannot give Melody a better gift than parents who love and laugh and forgive and strive after God together day after day in the home she grows up in. 

Don’t strive after perfectionism – strive after God.  Don’t be gnat stranglers – be as fat as this little girl with faith, hope, and love – gifts He has given to you – to enjoy and pass on to her and all your children.  This moment is not for your presumption – it is out of and to strengthen your faith – a faith that brings forth good works – and all to the praise of God’s gracious glory.

The Unbiblical Position Against Application in Preaching

There are those who believe it is selfish to look for or demand personal application to be given, sought for, or received in preaching.  Really.  On a number of occasions I was charged with watering down the message of the Scripture simply because I applied the text to the lives of my congregation.  I was told that I must "preach Christ" and that meant no applications.

Those who attacked my preaching were students of man, who, on one occasion, stated these points in a sermon of his own - 

"But where is your application, you ask?  Did you miss it?  Did you not sense the invitation of the Holy Spirit to feel the power of the Pauline theology?  Have you been so conditioned by modern preaching that you cannot find your life in the text of the Word of God?  Have you been so conditioned by the demand to extract something from the Scriptures for yourself (how selfish that is!  how completely self-centered and man-centered that is!) that you cannot find your life in the text of the Word of God?  Have you been so conditioned by contemporary self centered, man-centered preaching that it is not Christ in whom you find your life, but in the program, in the agenda, in the activity - or whatever else is placed as a barrier to a Christocentric realization of the Word of God."

Carrick attacks this, and does so quite well - "The antithesis that is posited in the above extracts between God-centredness and morality or behavior is, we believe, unquestionably a false antithesis.  It is a false antithesis that sets up a false dichotomy.  It is abundantly evident from 'the Pauline theology' itself that theocentricity and Christocentricity do not exclude the addressing of issues of morality or behavior." - IP, p133.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Passover Memorial

The Lord’s Supper is a covenant meal and a memorial that involves both God and His people.  All who are baptized are qualified to come to this Table because they have been identified as God’s people.

This memorial points back in some ways to the memorial of the Passover meal in the Old Testament.  It virtually goes without saying that this meal fulfills, or that Jesus fulfills, all that the Passover meal promised.

John the Baptist called Jesus the Passover Lamb.  John’s gospel tells us that Jesus was being slaughtered at the same time that the Jews were busy preparing their Passover lambs, and Paul tells us that “Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us” in 1 Corinthians.

By shedding His blood on the cross, Jesus turned away the angel of death and rescued us from the wrath of God.   That blood was displayed on the cross and, as Hebrews teaches us, the blood on the heavenly tabernacle was the blood of Jesus.  And you, like the participants at Passover, and yet so much more, are summoned to come and partake of the Passover Lamb – by faith and by means of the Holy Spirit.

When Elijah Prayed, James Preached

"At the end of his epistle James adduces the example of Elijah in order to illustrate and exemplify the duty of earnest prayer" Carrick, IP, p126.

Here is an inspired example where a minor point in a particular text (a narrative in this case) may legitimately be a major emphasis of a sermon.

"One of the major problems with the charge made by some within the redemptive-historical school to the effect that an exemplary use of an Old Testament or New Testament passage will inevitably be atomistic, subjectivist, anthropocentric, and moralistic is that this charge actually recoils upon James himself - it recoils upon the Holy Scriptures of God." - p128.

Always a bad thing when we think we are smarter than the Bible.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

The Jews as Representative of the World

In his introduction to his commentary on Isaiah (published around 1846), Joseph Alexander writes, 

"If the Jews could have been made to understand or to remember that their national pre-eminence was representative, not original; symbolical, not real; provisional, not perpetual; it could never have betrayed them into hatred or contempt of other nations, but would rather have cherished an enlarged and catholic spirit, as it did in the most enlightened; an effect which may be clearly traced in the writings of Moses, David, and Isaiah....(The Mosaic dispensation) was scrupulously faithful even to the temporary institutions of the ancient Church; but while it looked upon them as obligatory, it did not look upon them as perpetual.  It obeyed the present requisitions of Jehovah, but still looked forward to something better.  Hence the failure to account, on any other supposition, for the seeming contradictions of the Old Testament, in reference to the ceremonies of the Law.  If worthless, why were they so conscientiously observed by the best and wisest men?  If intrinsically valuable, why are they disparaged and almost repudiated by the same men?  Simply because they were neither worthless nor intrinsically valuable, but appointed temporary signs of something to be otherwise revealed thereafter; so that it was equally impious and foolish to reject them altogether with the skeptic, and to rest in them for ever with the formalist." - Alexander, Commentary on Isaiah, p52.

America Needs to Be Born Again

The strongest, richest, seemingly most blessed nation of the last couple centuries, seems to be spinning out of control in its refusal to give thanks to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and in outrageous ways blaspheming His name and His law.

There is now an executive order signed that will make it illegal for any organization which receives any federal funds from following hiring practices that exemplify their fear of God and their love of the Gospel and its Author, Jesus Christ.  If a non-profit charity, a Christian one for instance, says it won’t hire a man who is pretending to be a woman, they can kiss their federal contract goodbye.

Now there is the argument about why the federal government is even involved in funding any of these things –and by what right they have to take our money to do so – but that is for another time.  There is also the argument about why such charities are yoking themselves with a government that continues to strangle our rights to free speech and freedom of religion – but that is for another time as well.  The clear message from our President and his administration is that he intends to push the Lordship of Jesus as far into the dark corners of individual piety as possible – and none of it in the public marketplace.

Our idolatry as a nation is coming of age.  Secular humanism will destroy this country if God is not merciful.  And that is why we have gathered in the name of Jesus Christ for the public and political worship of God, beseeching Him again for the power of the Holy Spirit to pour out upon this nation.  We need national repentance. We need a national revival. America needs to be born again.

Masculine Imagery and God

Frame makes an important (to our contemporary time) case for the theological importance of masculine imagery for the God of Scripture (Frame, ST, pp111-114).  Summing up some of his main points - 

1 - The Scriptures overwhelmingly use male imagery in the revelation of God and we do not have the right to change the biblical concept as revealed.
2 - It is false to say that the ancients were trapped in their cultural view of patriarchy.  They were fully aware of female deities and divine coupling that occurred in the religions of the pagans surrounding them.  They distinctly rejected such a view or practice, but not out of ignorance of the possibility of its existence.
3 - The pagan religions with fertility goddesses and female deities produced a view of creation that was either pantheistic or made creation something divine, something that came forth from god.  The idea of "Mother Earth" or "Mother Nature" comes forth from this and is to be rejected outright.
4 - God's relationship to His people is regularly described in marriage terms where He is the husband and we (corporately) are His bride.  The implications of this require a right understanding of submission and authority, headship and responsibility.  To reverse such relationships or metaphorical thinking would terribly confuse an understanding of God's relationship to us as well as the standard, biblical teaching on the relationship of husband and wife.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Whistling to the Nations

"He will lift up a banner to the nations from afar, and will whistle to them from the end of the earth" Isaiah 5:26a.

Isaiah will show time and again how the LORD sovereignly uses all nations in history to accomplish His perfect plan. And so the destroyer of the LORD's own vineyard will be a foreign invader who will come at the LORD's express command even while being an enemy of Him themselves.

"(This is not) a quaint view of history which can or should be relegated to a museum of intellectual antiquities.  It is a biblical revelation about how history has always worked and still does today." - Webb, p57.

We should read today's newspapers with such a view.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

The Woes Upon Bad Fruit

Isaiah 5:8-25.

"The six woes of this passage specify the bad fruit of verses 2 and 4.  The list is damning:  greedy land-grabbing (8), drunken debauchery (11-12), arrogant defiance of God (18-19), self-justifying sophistry (20), conceit (21), and perversion of justice (22-23).  Taken together, these woes probably reflect the conditions that developed in Judah during the reign of Uzziah...As we have already seen, this was in many ways a golden age of impressive achievements, but it also had a darker side.  A new, wealthy elite emerged, who grew more and more corrupt and oppressive as they became intoxicated (in more ways than one!0 with materialism and the pursuit of pleasure." - Webb, p56.

2 Chronicles 26:1-23 gives us the longest account of Uzziah's reign.  Great military might, fascinating technological advances, his fifty-two years as king was apparently chronicled by Isaiah, something we have apparently lost (2 Chron 26:22).  However, it appears that both Judah and the northern kingdom enjoyed this prosperous time.  Uzziah shows forth his personal pride and rejection of God by disobeying His laws and coming to the temple to burn incense on the LORD's altar - even at the warning of the priests.  Struck by leprosy for this act of insubordination, we cannot help but surmise that this single event was the capstone of a lifestyle of arrogant defiance before God even in the midst of so many blessings.

Friday, July 25, 2014

My Father and Your Father

Jesus teaches us to address God as Father just as He does.  This is remarkable.  But God is not our Father in the same sense as He is to Jesus for we are not God.

"Jesus delicately distinguishes the two fatherhoods of God when he speaks with Mary Magdalene after his resurrection:  "I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God" (John 20:17).  Elsewhere in the NT, the term adoption is used to describe our relation to the Father...Jesus is the Son by nature; we are sons by adoption."  Frame, ST, p106.

Vineyard Justice

When Isaiah sees a vineyard that is not bringing forth fruit, what is he referring to (Isaiah 5:1-7)?  He makes it abundantly clear in verse 7:

He looked for justice but saw bloodshed
For righteousness but heard cries of distress.

(Do you hear those cries in today's abortion mills?)

Thursday, July 24, 2014

From Family to Other Governments

The human race began as a family and from that relationship grew or matured into differentiated relationships of civil and ecclesiastical governments.

"So civil government in Scripture is an expansion of family government.  And, appropriately, Scripture uses father as a metaphor for civil and military rule...Indeed, the metaphor extends to prophets, wisdom teachers, and church leaders...Paul presses the analogy to say that a man should not be an elder in the church if he is not a good father...So the Westminster catechisms understand the fifth commandment, "Honor your father and your mother," as a principle applying to all human relationships." - Frame, ST, p105.

Sharing God's Passion

It is not easy being a prophet when your message is full of judgment.  Isaiah, obviously knowing this, presents himself as a minstrel and "...beguiles his unsuspecting audience with a song.  It is striking example of just how creative and skillful the prophets could be in communicating their message (gospel preachers take note!)" - Webb, p54.

Webb goes on, "...Isaiah loved the LORD passionately, and it was because of this that he could identify so closely with both the outrage and the grief that the LORD felt at the willful sinfulness of the nation.  (We should note this carefully if our religion has become passionless.  Our capacity to share God's anger can be an indicator of how much we really love Him.)" - p55.

And so, Isaiah would sing -
Now let me sing to my Well-beloved
A song of my Beloved regarding His vineyard: (Isaiah 5:1a)

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Blessings of Technology

Think of it as taking dominion of the world in which God has placed us, something we are commanded to do (Gen 1:28).  Consider what happened because of the Guttenberg Press in the 15th century, laying the foundation of getting the Word of God (and in common languages) into the hands of the people of God.  Consider the difference in travel and communication abilities for Hudson Taylor heading to China versus today.  Consider the blessing of technological advances in science, medicine, and under the influence of Christian ethics, the development of hospitals, orphanages, and care for the poor and dying – technological advances for the purpose of serving others.  Universities (rightly understood) have a Christian heritage, all studies in submission to the Queen of Sciences, theology.  

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

When the Fullness of Time Came

When the Fullness of Time Came (Gal 4:4) – God, by means of His Word given through prophets, gave many timelines as to what He would oversee happening before the Messiah would come.  He told Abraham his heirs would spend four hundred years in affliction (Gen 15:13) and they did after Joseph’s time in the land of Egypt before the Exodus (Ex 12:40f).  Isaiah, along with many other prophets, preached warning of another great exile on the northern and then upon the southern kingdoms.  Isaiah named the future Persian king who would release the Jews to go and rebuild the temple (Isaiah 44:28f).  While in exile, Daniel, interpreting the dream of King Nebuchadnezzar, foretold of four kingdoms who would rise up before the kingdom of God would be set up (Dan 2:31-45); a similar vision was given to Belshazzar in his first year of reign, the last king of Babylon before their fall to the Medes (Dan 7).  Following these and other prophecies of Daniel, with the establishment of the Roman Empire and the Caesars who claimed to be the manifestation of a divine kingdom, the time had come (Luke 2:1).

Monday, July 21, 2014

City Life with God

Cities are to be established by those who love God and reflect His triune glory and community.  Cities are places where people can live in such a way that the blessings exceed the sum of the parts - relationally, economically, intellectually, because, as members of a body, we are able to accomplish so much more when we are together.  In fact, we can only accomplish many (most) things when we are in community, when we are in cities.

God calls His people a holy city, the New Jerusalem.  He establishes her to be a beacon to all the cities of the world.  He does so lovingly, taking that which was a harlot and making her holy again.  Only the blood-mercy of God can do that.

"And it shall come to pass that he who is left in Zion and remains in Jerusalem will be called holy - everyone who is recorded among the living in Jerusalem.  When the Lord has washed away the filth of the daughters of Zion, and purged the blood of Jerusalem from her midst, by the spirit of judgment and by the spirit of burning..." Isaiah 4:3-4.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

A Fruitful Land

The land of Canaan had been the fulfillment of God's promises in the days of Joshua, and when God speaks of fulfilling kingdom promises, there is always land involved.

"In that day the Branch of the LORD shall be beautiful and glorious; and the fruit of the earth shall be excellent and appealing for those of Israel who have escaped." - Isaiah 4:2

When Israel departed from the Lord, she lost her land - but there were many promises of that land being restored.  In the New Covenant, we are not to replace "land" with "heaven."  We are supposed to replace "land," that is, the little peace of Palestine, with "the world."

God has given us a fruitful land.  Jesus is Lord of heaven AND earth.  One day, that will be completely manifest in a glorious resurrection of all things and the reuniting of heaven and earth.  Until then, God's people, the New Israel, are to be stewards of this land, the world - making her more and more fruitful in every way a land can be (agriculturally, yes, but also as a means of providing life, cities, and relationships where Gospel hope flourishes).

We are to do so by means of the Word of God in the power of the Spirit of God - just like at creation.

Friday, July 18, 2014

The Branch of Yahweh

Chapters 2-4 of Isaiah make up the second of the seven part chiasm in the first section of the book.  And that section is itself chiastic in structure.  The beginning (2:2-5) declares the future exaltation of Jerusalem, and the end (4:2-6) the future restoration of Jerusalem (Dorsey).

4:2 "In that day the Branch of Yahweh shall be beautiful and glorious..." - The Branch is going to be used in 11:1 and 53:2 to identify the Messiah, clearly appealed to in the New Testament as the coming forth of Jesus.  However, here, it is Israel herself who is being described.  This is not a problem, for Jesus is the New Israel, the Branch coming forth from the stump of unbelief and rebellion.

What does this Branch bring forth?  "...And the fruit of the earth shall be excellent and appealing for those of Israel who have escaped" 4:2b.

Judgement is at the center (chapter 3).  But there is fruit from this cleansing, and as Isaiah pictures all over, this fruit goes all over the earth.  This judgment is also a chastisement from Yahweh, and as Hebrews says, "brings the peaceable fruit of righteousness."

Whenever judgment befalls a people, the righteous must look up and ahead.  God is up to something.  Something wonderful.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Following Christ to the Grave

The man who can look death in the face and say “you are conquered” is the man who is now free to live.  But to do so, that man must follow Christ to the grave.  He must die to himself and his trite little idols of works and self-justifying salvation plans.  He must die to placing God in the dock and on trial for being unfair or unjust.  He must die to his own self-exalting or self-loathing for he must simply die to self.  But the man who has died like that rises up and lives as though he will never die – for he never will (John 11:25-26).

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Father, Forgive Them

Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do” (Luke 23:34) 

The readiness to forgive is a mark of faithfully dying well.  Jesus knows who has perpetrated this injustice and He knows He can entrust all vindication to His Father.  This justice is fully paid in the death of the One Whose blood is being shed.  Forgiving is dying, but it is not dying in a vacuum for the one who trusts the Father.  And so Jesus is saying those words about all who will come to Him.  In Him we are already brought through future judgment and enter a world where God’s mercy is the rule; we die well when we are assured of God’s readiness, willingness, desire and full provision to forgive.  In this new humanity, grace abounds more (Rom 5:20).  This lays the foundation of being a forgiving people, as Stephen testifies to at his martyrdom (Acts 7:60), as Peter learned from Jesus (Matt 18:21-22), and as Paul instructed us to live (Col 3:13).  Jesus looks ridiculous in how far He goes, impaled on a tree and forgiving those who put the nails in His hands and feet.  We should be so ridiculous.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

A Fool in Boasting

This verse hit me personally like never before in morning devotions today - 
"I have become a fool in boasting; you have compelled me." - 2 Cor 12:11a.

Paul has been boasting, although he feels awkward doing so, for the sake of proving his love for the church, for the Corinthians, and his apostolic authority.  This is not what he would prefer to do.  Rather, "...for I ought to have been commended by you: for in nothing was I behind the most eminent apostles, though I am nothing."

It is not natural for Paul to draw attention to all he has done or is doing.  I had to pause and consider myself.  How quick I am to let people know how busy I am right now, to "boast" in all the things I have done or have left to get done.  I find some weird consolation in making sure everyone else knows how much I am doing.

Why?  I am worried about what other people think of me.  Plain and simple.  Pride.  Right there.  Dead on.

I have become a fool in boasting.  But not like Paul.  It's "natural" for me.  Lord willing, no more.

He is Greater and He Serves

We just considered the last seven last phrases that Jesus uttered according to the Gospels.  Just hours before those phrases, He instituted the Lord’s Supper – and Luke records that He also said these words - 

24 Now there was also a dispute among them, as to which of them should be considered the greatest. 25 And He said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those who exercise authority over them are called ‘benefactors.’ 26 But not so among you; on the contrary, he who is greatest among you, let him be as the younger, and he who governs as he who serves. 27 For who is greater, he who sits at the table, or he who serves? Is it not he who sits at the table? Yet I am among you as the One who serves. 28 “But you are those who have continued with Me in My trials. 29 And I bestow upon you a kingdom, just as My Father bestowed one upon Me, 30 that you may eat and drink at My table in My kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” (Luke 22:24-30).

Whether at the Table or on the cross, Jesus taught and gave Himself away.  He did so efficaciously – it changed, even transformed people.  He has done so for you if you have been baptized in Jesus Christ.  Believe upon Him, renew your faith and your vows of faithfulness, and come, partake of all that Christ is and has for you.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Summer Again

Another year, another summer, probably another family or personal vacation.  The season of summer brings with it a number of special opportunities for rest and relaxation.  Be reminded, however, that we are not called to live for Friday night, or for the weekend, or labor for 50 weeks to get that 2 week vacation.  

While we love vacations and weekends, they cannot provide the contentment, the true rest and renewal and refreshment that our souls ultimately long for.  What is it ultimately that your soul longs for?  To know God – to be known by God – to be called afresh by God – to be enlisted by God – to be humbled and then lifted up by God.  Your soul longs to be noticed, loved, wanted – and in this service of worship you hear the words of the Triune God of heaven and earth speak to you again – I call you by name – I forgive you – I am giving Myself to you again – I will strengthen you, instruct you, and send you for eternal purposes, eternal rewards, and finally eternal glory with Me – this is what Your heavenly Father is calling to you again this morning – this Lord’s Day. 

This is the day of the Resurrection where all things are made new.  This is the day of the New week, where God has prepared again the works unto which you will walk.  This is the day of Rest, heavenly rest, in your heavenly Savior at His heavenly throne, by and through His Heavenly Spirit.

This is life – at the Fountain of Life – at the throne of Life – before the Creator, Giver, Sustainer and renewer of Life.  He has called you – He will make You holy and transform You step by step into the image of that Life – even Jesus Himself.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Like a Tree Planted - Funeral Sermon for Mary Kumley, RIP

Like a Tree Planted
Funeral Sermon for Mary Kumley – RIP – Service on July 7, 2014

Psalm 1:1–3 (NKJV)
1 Blessed is the man Who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, Nor stands in the path of sinners, Nor sits in the seat of the scornful; 2 But his delight is in the law of the Lord, And in His law he meditates day and night. 3 He shall be like a tree Planted by the rivers of water, That brings forth its fruit in its season, Whose leaf also shall not wither; And whatever he does shall prosper.

Mary was a planter, a gardener, a tender, and a harvester.  She was literally with her gardens, her flowers, her vegetables, her fruit trees.  And she was metaphorically in the way she planted, tended and harvested in the relationships she had in this life, in the opportunities she knew her Lord put in front of her.

Gardens, planting, growing, harvesting.  These are pictures used throughout the scriptures to teach us about life – about birth, about growth, about bearing fruit, about death – and about resurrection.  From the first Garden for our first parents, Adam and Eve – God has taught us that the good life is in and among His creation full of gifts, blessings, opportunities, relationships and potential.  Give yourself away, die to yourself, plant seeds of faith – these are the kinds of things we learn in gardens.  Faith, hope, patience, faithful waiting, careful nurturing, observing, caring for – and looking to God for the harvest – this is what Mary learned, spoke about in her life and, occasionally with her words.

Mary knew what it was to plant and to be planted.  She, with her faith in Jesus, was planted by the streams of living water where her life flourished with faithful service to her Lord.  But it wasn’t a life of lots of “Jesus” words.  It was a life of “this is just what you do,” a common-sense, simple life kind of way of looking at things.  But whenever I spoke with Mary, it was not the common-sense of a simpleton who hadn't thought about these things.  She seemed to know and live knowing that life was far more than just the sum of all the activities.  She knew her Lord and she knew He was at work in all these little things –with eternal goals in mind.

Mary’s life was a fruitful life – her biography and her heirs, both children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, but also her friends and those of us who worshiped with her at our church these last several years, are a testimony to that.  A gardener knows how to balance faith and works.  Faith is believing that God will do what He has promised – works are our response to do what He has told us to do because of His promises.  A gardener plants a seed knowing that she can do nothing to transform that seed into a tree – but then she waters and cares for it – believing that it will become that tree in God’s good time.  For our futures, Mary teaches us – preaches to us – to be people filled with faith and good works.  Faith in what God has promised – and good works in accordance with those promises – with patience for the Great Harvester to bring forth fruit at the appointed time.

Mary’s life was like a faithful tree, planted by the streams of water.  I was with Mary in the final weeks of John’s life as his body weakened, and then in his passing.  I saw a woman who testified to the goodness and kindness of God, comforted by His promises, partaking of living waters to stand firm in the midst of sorrow and grief.  I spoke with her several times about life without John, how that was different, how she missed him, but how she was confident about moving on with life, with what she was now called to do, and how one day she would be reunited with him.  Even as her health began to fail, when I would speak with her at church, she would acknowledge her weakening body, but with a winsome spark in her eye that all was well with her soul.

That winsome spark would have no meaning, no purpose, no truth to it, however, if this is all there is.  A few years of life and then – what?  There is another verse in the Scriptures with regard to gardening (actually, there are hundreds) –

1 Peter 1:24–25 (NKJV)
24 because “All flesh is as grass, And all the glory of man as the flower of the grass. The grass withers, And its flower falls away, 25 But the word of the Lord endures forever.” Now this is the word which by the gospel was preached to you.

What is that Word – what is that Gospel – what is Mary’s hope – and what can be anyone’s hope regardless of when or in what situation we find ourselves before death’s door?  It is that Jesus Christ died – died for the sins of His imperfect people – and so our imperfect lives, like an imperfect seed, which on its own would never make it – are made perfect so that they can make it.  Make it where?  Jesus did not just die – he was buried and then he rose again, ascending to heaven where He promised to prepare a place for those who believe in Him.

And so one last gardening event happened in Mary’s life.  We buried her body – and we did so in the name of Jesus. We sowed her seed; we planted her body – with the firm hope that her soul is already before the throne of her God and the face of Jesus her Lord – she is perfect and in a perfect place.  And one day, her body will be raised, just as Jesus’ body was – and, united with Him and all the saints, she will enjoy the victorious life of the new heavens and earth fully revealed.  There will be gardens to tend – but they will be far more glorious gardens, far more beautiful, far more glorious, far more fruitful – than we can begin to imagine.  Mary was buried, planted, in that hope – and she would have you all – all her family, all her loved ones, all her friends – join her in the same hope – the same faith – the same promises – so that your stories would never end in death and judgment – but death and resurrection.  

Mary sowed those seeds – the seeds of gospel hope.  The is her final and lasting legacy.  She would have you find comfort, solace, and faith in the same Savior she walked with and now lives in His very presence.  Amen.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

"Born Again" Both Ands

There is a debate as to whether or not Jesus was talking about individual conversion or church-wide conversion when He spoke to Nicodemus in John 3.

But it isn't an either-or.  It is a both-and.

"Unless a man is born again, he cannot see the kingdom (John 3:3, 5).  But then Jesus tells Nicodemus that "you all" must be born again (John 3:7), and He consistently uses the plural in His explanation to Nicodemus.  Nicodemus was an individual who needed to be born again, but he was also a representative of all Israel.  The whole nation needed regeneration, and that is what happened at Pentecost.  The valley of dry bones came to life.  So did the Nicodemus bones." - Wilson, AC, p48.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

The Double Aspect of the Day of the Lord

We can look at one section of Isaiah and see what plays out in many other passages in the book and really throughout the Scriptures.  There is a double aspect to the "day of the Lord."  There is something both terrible and glorious.  Justice and mercy are both revealed.  

So "in that day" there is terrible judgment upon Zion (2:6-22), however, "in that day the Branch of the LORD shall be beautiful and glorious" (4:2 and see all of 4:2-6).

Jesus goes to the cross and the full wrath of God is terribly poured out upon Him.  God's judgment is severe although righteous.  This is because of His holiness, something we will see in Isaiah's vision in Chapter 6 as well.  

Jesus goes to the cross and the mercy of God is displayed; His love is revealed in action.  For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son.  God's merciful love is beautiful in its glory.  This is because He is love and provides a Way of forgiveness and restoration.

Jesus comes to the earth and a remnant believe.  He ascends to heaven and the church grows, many Jews and Gentiles come to faith.  Pentecost-harvest is occurring.  But these come out of old Jerusalem and the old Temple, the place which rejected God and His Son.  There destruction falls and it is terrible (AD70).  But there is the New Jerusalem now, the church, the bride of Christ, made ready by His Spirit in all of her glory.

In principle it is all finished.  And yet we see the promises manifest over the course of this age as God works out His purposes of growing us up in our sanctification.  It is in this process that we have the privilege of working out what God began - only to find out that we are really working out what God had finished.

Filling Up the Afflictions of Christ

As we come to the Table, it has to be asked, “is there something I can add to Christ’s death for my salvation?”  The answer is “No” and “Yes.”

Look at the Table.  What are we about to partake of?  Anything of you there?  No, there is One body and the blood poured out from that one body – represented in the one loaf and the one cup.  No.  Jesus’ death and His death alone and completely procured your salvation.

And “Yes.”  There is something you are to add to Christ’s death and that is your participation in His death by faith.  Or you could say your union with Christ in His death and resurrection by means of the gift of faith which He and the Father have given to you by the Holy Spirit Who indwells you.

And that faith will usher you into a new life – a life of love to God and to your neighbor – a law-keeping that will come from the work of the Spirit in your new man – for Christ is in you – the hope of glory.