Thursday, October 8, 2015

Ex Nihilo and Books

Have you ever noticed that when you open up a piece of literature you are thrust into the middle of a story?  You are introduced to Billy, who is twelve and on his way to school, or to Bilbo Baggins celebrating a birthday at a very old age.  But how could this be?  You are only on page 1.  Why is the author writing in such a way to give the appearance of age?  Why does this really not bother us?  Why does it seem to bother so many when they look at the universe?  What does the universe look like on page 1?  What does a universe look like an instant after ex nihilo?  Could it look like Billy at age twelve?  Is that OK with you?

Thursday, October 1, 2015

A Table Before My Enemies

I mentioned Psalm 23 in the sermon where it tells us that God prepares a table for us in the presence of our enemies – and here we are.  Now, we don’t see any enemies, it seems, here in our immediate midst, and praise God for that.  But we all know that they lurk nearby – the world, the flesh and the devil always, and often in the history of the church, these enemies are also found in those who would persecute the church for doing just what we are doing now – proclaiming the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ and His rights over the whole earth.

In addition, right here, in the middle of your life, right here, in the beginning of this new week which will be filled with problems, with enemies of sorts, with stumbles and encumbrances, distractions and temptations, right here, right now, He has prepared a Table for you – to dine with Him and to partake of His Son – His death for your sins and shortcomings – His resurrection life – your new life in Him.  Come and welcome to Jesus – He will now equip you, walk with you, fill you, direct you, oversee you and yours – to the glory of His name – Amen.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Putting Time in Perspective

While vacations and getaways are great, you don’t need them to find peace.  And you don’t need a pilgrimage away from normal life to strengthen your faith.  In fact, it is the very circumstances that God put in your life this week, and the ones that will come in this coming week, these are the faith-building assignments He has given you; He hand-picked each and every one.

But He does give us this first day of the week, this rest at the beginning, to cause us to put Him first and to find ourselves first resting in Him, first devoted to Him, first honestly pleading with Him, before the week goes forth in all its strength.

This is not a time to give God a quick nod before you go off and do your other things, your own things.  This is the time to come before God and offer up to Him everything you have and everything you are in the coming week.

It is also a time to bring to Him with thanksgiving all that He gave you to do this past week, all that you were able to accomplish – and to lay it all at His feet.  We do this ritually through the giving of tithes and offerings.  We also come before Him knowing that we have fallen short and that we need His forgiving mercy to wash us clean before we serve Him here in worship and before we move on into the coming week.  And we will also come and feast upon His Word in transformation and at His Table in deepening fellowship with Him and His people.

This is the work of worship, the work of covenant renewal, the time to honor Him and hear His words of honor upon us.  Come and worship the Lord.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Hezekiah's Prayer

Hezekiah prays, as recorded in Isaiah 37:14-20.  It is worth noting this prayer - my prayers are so feeble in comparison - and Webb makes these good points - 

"It begins and ends with God, and its overriding concern is that God might be glorified in the situation.  Hezekiah has gone up to the temple and spread out Sennacherib's letter before the LORD.  And now, as he begins to pray, he recalls who it is he prays to:  O LORD Almighty, God of Israel, enthroned between the cherubim...Hezekiah's prayer is so magnificent because it arises from a deep and true understanding of who God is, and is fundamentally an act of worship.  Such praying lifts people out of themselves and into the presence of God.  And in that context, present problems are not lost sight of; they are just seen from a new perspective, and the cry for deliverance becomes a cry that God's kingdom may come and his will be done." - Webb, p 152.

And note why Hezekiah wants this prayer answered - " us from his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that You are the LORD, You alone." - Isaiah 37:20.  He has become consumed with the glory of God.

Friday, September 4, 2015

The Power of the Wind-Spirit

In Hebrew and in Greek, the same word which translates Spirit also translates wind.  And so, when you have a day like yesterday here – you see the power of the wind – and you remember the power of God’s Spirit.

That Spirit has blown over you.  That Spirit leveled you in your sin and rebellion.  That Spirit whipped you around and while you were going one way, you find you are now going another way.  That Spirit upended the tables of fleshly indulgence, the table of idols, and brought you here, to the Table of the Lord.

That Spirit opens your eyes to this truth:  nothing is more important than believing on Jesus Christ – and nothing is more important than feeding on that truth with all your heart, soul, mind and strength.  Do so, here at the Table and find again how great the love of the Father is for you.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Pro-Life Homes

A few more words on the good work and testimony of many Christians over the last several weeks in revealing the wickedness of Planned Parenthood and the whole abortion industry.  First, may God have mercy and answer our prayers, shut down these human-butchery centers and hold accountable those who have protected them.

Last week we mentioned that it was a time to make war, to stand in protest, and we celebrated that we did just that.  One of the speakers at the rally we hosted in Seattle mentioned that we should make sure that we returned every Saturday, week after week, until our voices were heard.  I believe she was well-intentioned in saying this, but I believe the point is misdirected and I want to encourage you, at least most of you, not to feel as though you have to go and protest day after day and week after week – or that the one particular Saturday was in vain, and that otherwise you didn’t really mean it.

Oh you do mean it.  You love life.  Trinity Church:  You love to bring forth life, to sacrifice yourself for life, and to give yourself to the nurturing, educating, discipling, feeding, and washing dirty clothes for that life.  Sometimes, the best thing we can do to proclaim a pro-life, pro-Jesus, pro-grace and gospel life to the world – is to do the long and hard work of having and raising kids in grace-saturated homes.  And frankly, that takes an incredible amount of time and energy – but it is well spent on the pro-life movement and God is very pleased.

            There are seasons in life.  Some of you need to really take advantage of this time where the social conscience of our nation is at least being pricked.  You should consider helping out at Care Net, writing congressman, and maybe, just maybe, participating, even organizing more rallies.  But some of you, and I would say to our congregation, most of you, are best setting your time to your duties at home.  That is not to turn away from the pro-life movement.  Rather, it is the fruit of the pro-life movement and it will bear more and more fruit for the pro-life movement. 

            Actually, it will bear more and more fruit for the kingdom of God, to which you have been called.  That is your first duty.  And the first manifestation as a community of that duty is right here, right now, before the presence of the Father Almighty in the name of Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit.  Come and worship our God – and watch the world come to Christ, for Christ has come for the world.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Why This Particular Hope is So Important

"As the argument of this book develops, it will become clear that we cannot simply regard this as a problem at which we simply shrug our shoulders and say, "Well, there are different views on these topics."  What we say about death and resurrection gives shape and color to everything else.  If we are not careful, we will offer merely a "hope" that is no longer a surprise, no longer able to transform lives and communities in the present, no longer generated by the resurrection of Jesus himself and looking forward to the promised new heavens and new earth." - Wright, SBH, p25.

No longer able to transform lives and communities.  That is certainly what I see in the overall impotence of millions of evangelicals in America who are, for the most part, pessimistic about this present age.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Heaven and Earth Rejoined

"And when we come to the picture of the actual end in Revelation 21-22, we find not ransomed souls making their way to a disembodied heaven but rather the new Jerusalem coming down from heaven to earth, uniting the two in a lasting embrace." - Wright, SBH, p19.

Monday, August 31, 2015

God's Kingdom and Not Postmortem Destiny

""God's Kingdom" in the preaching of Jesus refers not to postmortem destiny, not to our escape from this world into another one, but to God's sovereign rule coming "on earth as it is in heaven."  The roots of the misunderstanding go very deep, not least into the residual Platonism that has infected whole swaths of Christian thinking and has misled people into supposing that Christians are meant to devalue this present world and our present bodies and regard them as shabby or shameful." - Wright, SBH, p18.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Satan's Sly Speech

On Sennacherib's speech:

"The speech is so persuasive precisely because it contains so much that is true.  But its basic premise is false:  namely, that the LORD has forsaken Judah, and therefore that trust in him is futile.  It is always Satan's way to make us think that God has abandoned us, and to use logic woven from half-truths to convince us of it.  This speech is so subtly devilish in character that it might have been written by Satan himself.  The truth is that the LORD had brought Judah to the end of her own resources so that she might learn again what it meant to trust him utterly.  But he had not abandoned and would not abandon her." - Webb, p149.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

The Wrath of Sennacherib

The scriptures quickly bring us to Sennacherib's stand at the city-walls of Jerusalem.  Ancient documents, including a sculpture from Sennacherib's palace in Nineveh, now in the British Museum, portrays his siege and capture of Lachish.  Other documents describe Sennacherib boasting to have conquered forty-six of Judah's strong cities, walled forts and countless small villages in their vicinity.

When Sennacherib arrives at Jerusalem, Hezekiah truly is shut up like a bird in a cage.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Armed with Hope for Tomorrow

The stark contrast of the glorious vision of victory in chapter 35 and the frightening world of chapter 36 displays something of what we experience living in today's world with God's promises.  It gives us a sense of what we have to stand on when Monday comes after a glorious covenant renewal service on the Lord's Day.

"It leads us not away from reality, but more deeply into it.  It arms us with the knowledge of what will be, so that we can confront what is...with renewed courage and steadiness of purpose." - Webb, p147.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

A Time to Protest - A Time to Worship

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 says, 1 To everything there is a season, A time for every purpose under heaven: 2 A time to be born, And a time to die; A time to plant, And a time to pluck what is planted; 3 A time to kill, And a time to heal; A time to break down, And a time to build up; 4 A time to weep, And a time to laugh; A time to mourn, And a time to dance; 5 A time to cast away stones, And a time to gather stones; A time to embrace, And a time to refrain from embracing; 6 A time to gain, And a time to lose; A time to keep, And a time to throw away; 7 A time to tear, And a time to sew; A time to keep silence, And a time to speak; 8 A time to love, And a time to hate; A time of war, And a time of peace.

Yesterday was a time to speak.  It was a time to hate and a time of war.  It was a time to break down; a time to pluck the horrors that have been planted.  Yesterday, across the nation in over 300 cities at different sites it was a time to say to this nation – no more – stop killing babies – stop chopping them up – stop selling them like they were not human – for it has made you, America – unhuman.  It has made you anti-human.  It has enslaved you, America, in a culture of death.

It was exhilarating and exciting to be a part of the protests yesterday and well done to all who prayed and or participated in these events.  May God be merciful and hear the prayers of the saints across this land.

Yesterday was a particular time.  But now is another time – just as specific, called and labelled by God Himself.  This is a holy day.  This is the Lord’s day – and this is the time to gather in the heavenlies with all of God’s people across this world and with the saints who have gone before us in heaven itself.  We do so by faith and in the work of covenant renewal.

It honestly doesn’t feel quite as exhilarating and exciting, maybe, to some, as the protests yesterday – or watching films later, of protest after protest across the nation.  But what we must understand, listening carefully to the Lord, is that we have been called even now to something far more potent, far more world changing.  We are now going to come before the Lord in concert, all across this land and world, and we are going to ask Him, because He told us to ask Him, to make this world look like and imitate heaven itself.  And He is in the business of answering that prayer.  That will have a profound impact on your heart and soul and life first – and then that will have a profound impact on the world around you – around us.  Come into the worship of God the Father in the name of Jesus through the power of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Monday, August 24, 2015

From the Inside Out

In the ancient church, these “holy things” of the Lord’s Table were deemed to be too holy for ordinary people, ordinary Christians to touch.  That was reserved for the clerics and priests – the real Christians.

But no one, in and of himself or herself, is ever holy enough to approach this Table – unless they are in Christ – and the only way to be in Christ is to believe.  That faith is a powerful leaven in one’s life.  It makes one’s functional faith come into line with one’s confessional faith.

What this means, simply, is that all you have to do to come to the Table is believe in Jesus – and you are holy.  But if you come to the Table, know this:  God is declaring something as well:  He is changing you, remaking you, and He is going to do so from the inside out.  Come and welcome to Jesus Christ.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

A Memorial to Action

When we come to the Table, it is our Table of Fellowship and Peace with the King of kings, with and for Jesus Christ Himself.

But this is not only a time of peace.  It is a memorials – and memorials were always understood to be times where Israel called upon God to remember them, to bare His arm and fight for them.  In one sense, each Passover meal was a cry for a new Exodus.

When Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper, He called it “His memorial” (Luke 22:19), and so while this meal is in place to remind us of what Jesus has done, it really is also essentially a cry to direct the Father.

What He has done is called on us to call on Him here, in this meal, to see the once-for-all blood shed by His Son for us, to see our situation now, and to act on behalf of His children.  Seeing the blood of the true Lamb, the Father passes over His redeemed children and carries out His judgments against Egypt – against those who would harm His children and the work of His kingdom.  This is another memorial of God’s active sovereignty and His active love.

Monday, August 10, 2015

The Horror of Your Abortion

The news is filled with the horrible videos of baby-parts being separated and sold by Planned Parenthood along with their cold and callous reaction, claiming not only to be not doing anything illegal, but also to be doing nothing but providing wonderful services to women and all of mankind.  Their lies are one thing – their arrogant defiance against God’s law, their celebration of so-called liberty and choice, their cavalier attitude in the face of such gruesome activities staggers the imagination and our souls.  Lord, have mercy on us.  Christ, have mercy on us.

In the midst of declaring the horror of abortion for what it is – the murder of children and the butchery of their parts as a sacrifice to our future health – we must not forget the grace of God for anyone who turns to Him in repentance and faith.  After 42 years of “safe and legal abortions” should it come as a surprise to hear statistics that 1 in 3 women who call themselves Christians have had at least one abortion.  The blood on the hands of our nation are therefore not “out there” – they are right here in our midst – on the hands of women and the men who forced, encouraged, abandoned, or looked the other way while such murders took place.

What that means is that there are many Christians in churches who may be living in hidden shame, guilt, pain.  They may feel as though they could never share the atrocity they committed.  They may think they are the only one – or worse – they may try to think that it really was not a big deal because they also have heard the statistics, “others have done this – how could it be that bad?”

If there is blood on your hands you must hear the truth and the Good News.  The truth is that you have murdered or been complicit in the murder of a child, a human being.  And you must hear the Good News:  Jesus Christ died to save murderers.  He did not come to die for good little boys and girls.  He came to die for dirty sinners like you and me.  Call upon the name of Jesus, believe in Him, see the penalty of your sin as the very nail that went through His hand, the spear through His side, and know that it has all been paid for – even the shame of it all – was covered in the blood of your perfect Savior.

Let me say as well on behalf of this church:  If you ever found yourself in a situation where you became pregnant, no matter how, no matter why – and you thought you would be shunned here – as God is my witness – you and your baby would never be “unwanted” here.  Come and we will care for you, we will care for your baby.  And you can tell your pregnant friend that as well.  Come and welcome to Jesus Christ.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Isaiah 29 and Joy Inexpressible

Have you humbled yourself before God?  Are you self-identified as one who is “poor in Spirit?”  If you have done this in Jesus by faith, what are you promised?  “The humble also shall increase their joy in the LORD, and the poor among men shall rejoice in the Holy One of Israel.”  This is the “joy inexpressible” which Peter promised those who put their trust in God (1 Pet 1:8).  Joy in His sovereign hand of Creation and Redemption; joy in the participation  in that work here and now; joy in the promises of where this is all going; joy in being included in the “marvelous work” of Jesus.  Maybe you should ask yourself:  Is a new beginning possible in me?

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

The Immortal Soul Shuffles Off its Mortal Coil

"In my church we declare every day and every week that we believe in "the resurrection of the body."  But do we?  Many Christian teachers and theologians in recent decades have questioned the appropriateness of this language...Let us again be quite clear.  If this is true (that there is no bodily resurrection, that this is simply an old idea of ancient Christianity), then death is not conquered but redescribed:  no longer an enemy, it is simply the means by which, as in Hamlet, the immortal soul shuffles off its mortal coil." - Wright, SbH, p16.

On Whom Are You Depending?

In opening his comments on chapters 36-39, the center of this book of Isaiah, Webb writes, 

"Ironically, it was the Assyrian invader who put the issue most succinctly:  On whom are you depending? (36:5).  It is a question which the book of Isaiah forces us to ponder again and again, and with good reason, for our response to it will determine the whole shape of our lives." - Webb, p147.

A question that of course we should ask ourselves and proactively answer in every situation we find ourselves in.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Three Popular Pagan Views of the Afterlife

"The main beliefs that emerge in the present climate seem to me of three types, none of which corresponds to Christian orthodoxy...First, some believe in complete annihilation; that is at least clean and tidy...(second) more and more people today seem to believe in some form of reincarnation....Also on the fringe of New Age ideas is a revival of the views we discovered in Shelley, a sort of low-grade, popular nature religion with elements of Buddhism.  At death one is absorbed into the wider world, into the wind and the trees..." - Wright, SbH, pp9-11.

And how hopeless each of these really is when you play it out in the end.  We truly are left with "eat, drink, for tomorrow we die."  Thank God for Jesus and the hope of the resurrection of the body (and the world).

The Necessity of Judgment

In his section on Isaiah 34, Webb says, "A king must rule, or he is no king at all, and that means that rebellion must finally be put down." - p142.

If God were not to bring His righteous vindication down upon all sin, He would not, by definition, be righteous or holy.  His wrath upon sin is not an anger-reaction of God, it is a righteousness-action; it is what righteousness does.

Monday, August 3, 2015

The Confusing Views of Hope

"Even a quick glance at the classic views of the major religious traditions gives the lie to the old idea that all religions are basically the same.  There is a world of difference between the Muslim who believes that a Palestinian boy killed by Israeli soldiers goes straight to heaven and the Hindu for whom the rigorous outworking of karma means that one must return in a different body to pursue the next stage of one's destiny.  There is a world of difference between the Orthodox Jew who believes that all the righteous will be raised to new individual bodily life in the resurrection and the Buddhist who hopes after death to disappear like a drop in the ocean, losing one's own identity in the great nameless and formless Beyond." - Wright, Surprised by Hope, p7.

From Grain to Broken Bread

The bread is the body of Christ – and we are the body of Christ.  The bread is broken and we partake of this broken body.  But at this Table we are the bread for God.  And God has prepared both – the meal for us and the meal for Him – at this glorious Table of Peace and Thanksgiving.

But what must happen to make bread?  The illustration of the Wise Farmer in Isaiah 28 is helpful.  Ground must be plowed, furrows must be cut.  Seed must be planted into the soil, covered, hidden, where death occurs.  Fruit must come forth and then be cut and then threshed and then crushed in order to make flour.

God is threshing His church here at this Table, separating the wheat and chaff in your life.  He is kneading you into dough and baking you in the fire of God.  Then He will take you as bread and break you and give you as bread broken to feed the world.  For you are the body of Christ.

You cannot be bread for the world unless you are crushed.  And you cannot be the wine of gladness unless you are trampled.  Come and welcome to Jesus Christ.  Come and welcome to life from death.

Be Our Strength Every Morning

"Be their arm every morning." - Isaiah 33:2

Webb notes that the morning was a time of particular danger because of the threat of a new launch and a fresh attack from the enemy.  The prayer then is for God to be our strength in the most dangerous times as well as our constant, every-day, defense.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Fatherlessness and Planned Parenthood

If we demand that congress defund Planned Parenthood (as we should), we cannot expect God to hear our prayers and give us success in this if we do not simultaneously with all of the same vigor and disgust defund fatherlessness in every form in our land. How can you demand that "Planned Parenthood be defunded while you search for porn on your computer? How can you demand that Planned Parenthood stop selling the body parts of human beings, while you are ogling the body parts of other human beings for sale. Don’t you see how it’s all connected? Don’t you see how it’s all related? How can you sleep with a woman who is not your wife? How can you move in with your girlfriend? How can you treat the possibility of bringing a fatherless child into the world casually and feel disgust about aborted baby livers and hearts and lungs? That disgust needs to spread into the American soul. We need to feel that disgust at the thought of a woman stripped bare on a screen. We need to feel that disgust at the thought of our children ignored and neglected. It makes you mad to think of a baby being crushed with forceps to harvest its brain for cash, but it should also make you mad to think of a child crushed by the absence of her dad. Because fundamentally, it’s the same thing." - Toby Sumpter

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Learning to Drink Wine Here

I alluded to this in the sermon:  It is here at the Table of the Lord that we learn about drinking wine.  Wine portrays many things in the scripture.  It is pictured as the cup of wrath to be poured out in places like Psalm 75.  It points to the blood of Christ which declares both the wrath of God and the life of Christ for us.  It is used to describe the enjoyment and rest at the end of hard work, the celebration of good things in feasting, and the act of giving thanks and partaking of thanks.

And so it is important to note that the Lord took wine, gave thanks for the thanksgiving cup, declared it to be His blood of the new covenant, and then told his disciples to drink it – all of you.  Grape juice is offered here not for those who do not have a preference for wine, but for those who still have questions about the use of alcohol based on temperance laws of the past.

Actually, I think the Lord instructs us to drink wine here so that we might learn to drink wine appropriately throughout the rest of our lives.  He brings us here, to a Table where the work is finished, where rest and celebration is offered and received, where fellowship is enjoyed and unity is treasured  - unity with God and with one another.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Beating the Flesh

The world, the flesh, and the devil.  Our three enemies.  Battles on three fronts.  How do we win?  How do we keep up our guard?

Remember that the old man has been crucified in Christ.  We have put off the old man, Paul tells us, and so therefore we are to put off the ornaments, the clothing of the old man.  And having put on Christ, we are to put on the garments of the new man.  We are to put off lying, for instance, and put on the truth.  We are not to get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but we are instead to be filled, overcome with the Spirit.  We are to put off all forms of fornication and put on lives sexual purity, either in celibacy or in the marriage bed as defined by the Lord.

The world and the devil are strong enemies.  But they are external.  They cannot make great gains against our sanctification unless we first yield to the flesh – our fleshly desires.  There is no reigning sin in a Christian – or else he really isn’t converted.  But there is the problem of remaining sin and that is where the internal battle rages.

And so we are instructed to mortify that flesh – and to do so daily.  We do so by faith and in the power of Christ in us, the hope of glory.  In other words, do not battle flesh with flesh.  Battle flesh with the Spirit.  Do not allow the flesh to lease a space in your heart for a time – that internal enemy will open the door to the other two external enemies when you aren’t watching.  Every time the works of the flesh start showing up in your heart, escort them out immediately in the name of Jesus.  We are to have no place for it to reside, to rest, to make itself comfortable or for us to be comfortable with.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Providence and Individual Human Life

"...God controls the course of our individual lives.  That control begins before we are conceived.  God says to Jeremiah:

Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you,
and before you were born I consecrated you;
I appointed you a prophet to the nations - Jer 1:5

Is Jeremiah an exception to the general rule because he is God's prophet, or does God know us all before conception?  If God knew Jeremiah before his conception, then God must have arranged for one particular sperm to reach one particular egg to produce each of Jeremiah's ancestors back to Adam...God's foreknowledge of an individual implies comprehensive control over the human family." - Frame, ST, p153.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Prayer over the Message

"But, beyond this, there is something specially helpful with which to conclude our preparation for the pulpit, and that is to pray our way through the forthcoming sermon, taking each section and each sentence in turn.  To start with a prayer that the Lord will grip the attention of the listeners, a prayer for the opening, for help over the forseeably difficult places; praise too for the wonder of the truths that are shared; prayer that at each point of the sermon our demeanor may commend the message." - Motyer, Preaching?, pp139-40

Vulnerable Wisdom

And so we are to work with all our might, seeking and applying wisdom.  And applying wisdom takes wisdom because we live in the mist.  Even Jesus, Who is Wisdom Incarnate, came into this world of folly knowing that He must entrust Himself fully into the purposes and will of His good Father.  These words should come from our lips as well – “not my will, but Yours be done,” not in despairing submission, but rather with a fierce hope in God and not in this world “under the sun.”

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Cremation and Hope

"Cremation, almost unknown in the Western world a hundred years ago, is now the preference, actual or assumed, of the great majority.  It both reflects and causes subtle but far-reaching shifts in attitudes to death and to whatever hope lies beyond." - N.T. Wright, Surprised by Hope, p4.

We have lost our hope in the resurrection of the body, of the resurrection of creation, and of the collapse of the gulf between heaven and earth.  And this affects how we live in the here and now.

Planned Parenthood EXPOSED!

The Diligent Pastor is the Most Welcome Preacher

"...His position gave him the right to preach; but, Monday to Saturday, he was not purchasing the right to be heard.
Just as our prayers for those whom we serve are the product of our love for them, and also cultivate a context of love for our pulpit ministry, so - possibly to an even greater extent - does our 'care for souls', displayed in the home, at the fireside, by the bed, in the hospital, in wedding preparation, in baptismal classes, in preparation for church membership.  The diligent pastor is the most welcome preacher." - Motyer, Preaching?, p134

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Who Does God Think He is?

We have seen how God-centered God is; and that His dogged pursuit of His own glory is for our good, for our blessing, for our fullness and happiness.
We have answered the question – Who does He think He is – and as we come to the Table – listen again to Who He is – Psalm 23 –

1 The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. 2 He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. 3 He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake. 4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. 5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; My cup runs over. 6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me All the days of my life; And I will dwell in the house of the LORD Forever.

That is Who He is – and He bids you come and sup at His Table.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Worship and Rest at Another Place

As Psalm 122 demonstrates, the saints of God always ascend up on the Lord’s Day, up to the holy mountain of God.  Getting away from our regular meeting place can help us to remember that wonderful truth.

Getting away and hanging out in fellowship with one another helps remind us of many things – the unity we enjoy in Jesus Christ and the opportunities that God gives us to keep that unity and grow in that fellowship.  Make time this day after our worship together to get to know brothers and sisters you may not really have met yet – or deepen those relationships that God has already given to you and yours.

But all of those relationships, and all the blessings God has and ever will give you, and all the circumstances, large and small, hard and easy, all of these – find their meaning, their purpose, and your ability to live in and through them – here – in the central and first place of your existence – in the worship of God.

Never lose that center – always reset – always give yourself to the reformation and revival the Lord has for you and for us as a congregation here – in His place, in His time, and in the power of His Holy Spirit.

Come and worship the Lord.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

The Sin of Complacency

Isaiah 32:9 (NKJV)

9 Rise up, you women who are at ease, Hear my voice; You complacent daughters, Give ear to my speech.

"Complacency is a perennial problem, and it is the way of perverse humanity to indulge in it even when disaster is staring them in the face." - Webb, p137.

How prophetically applicable in our day!

In Isaiah's day:  In a little more than a year, the crops would fail (v10), the cultivated land would be full of thorns and briers (v13a), removing the joy (v13b).  But Isaiah even points to something far in the future:  the fall of Jerusalem (v14).  This did not happen (the first time) until Nebuchadnezzar and more than a century after Sennacherib, but Isaiah sees these two as one process of judgment.  

And beyond that, this still fits the prophecies for the final destruction of the temple and Jerusalem in 70AD.

And just as immediately, vv15ff portray a great and longstanding blessing that will come forth by the pouring out of the Spirit from on high.  The New Creation would be brought forth.

When the Work is Done

You sit down at a meal, a supper, when the work is done.  And this meal of peace declares that the work is done.  First of all it declares that the finished work of Jesus for you and for the life of the world is done.  Jesus said “it is finished” as His body was broken and His blood shed.  There is no more work to be done, come, sit down and eat.

Second, the work of this worship service is done.  You have been summoned, cleansed, consecrated and changed, you have grown up a bit more in the Lord and in the image of the Son of God.  That work is done and you are summoned to the supper.  Come, sit down and eat – in peace.

Finally, because you will be called to rise today and go out into the world for the work that is prepared for you to walk in, there will come a day where all in Christ will with resurrected bodies like His, sit at the final Wedding Feast of the Lamb.  We will sit with glorious bodies and we will feast like we have never feasted before – and we will hear these words – Well done, good and faithful servant – come and enter into your rest.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

When Kings and Princes Love God - part 2

What would this good government look like?  Isaiah paints a picture in vv2-5 of chapter 32.

First - "Instead of being exploited by their rulers (e.g. 1:23; 29:21), the common people will be defended and cared for by them." - Webb, p136.

Second - A reversal of the blindness and deafness (e.g. 6:9-10) so that seeing, hearing, and understanding God's ways will become manifestly clear.  Imagine leaders who clearly and exuberantly responded to God's Word!

Third - People will be judged righteously and lawfully (v5).

The Lord of Fools

This good hymn allows us to do the two things that a nation refuses to do when it is in rebellion against the Lord.  In this hymn we acknowledge God as God, maker of all, sovereign over all, ruler over all; and in this hymn we give thanks for all His wonderful blessings and mercies we enjoy.

This is the key to protecting oneself and one’s nation from falling away from Christ.  Acknowledge Christ in everything and give thanks in all things.  Note that He is Lord in whatever circumstance you find yourself in and give thanks in everything, even in the hardest trials, even as you cry out to Him for deliverance.

Jesus Christ died for fools and sinners like you and me.  He died for those who, lost in themselves would find the declaration of the deity of Jesus and His bodily resurrection after His shameful death a myth, a lie, an exaggeration, or a useless piece of information as far as our individual lives go.  He died for sinners who hated His law.  He rose again to bring those who died with Him by faith into a new resurrected life with Him by His Spirit, empowered to love and obey that same law – the law to love God with everything and to love one’s neighbor – with the love of Christ.

The world calls us fools for believing this.  And they always have.  Paul writes, “For the message of the cross is foolishness ot those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved  it is the power of God…and…we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness.”  To believe in Jesus is to give oneself over to being called a fool by the world.

But, as we will see later, a fool, defined by the Word of God, is actually someone who refuses to believe that God is the Lord, that He has rights over our bodies and our lives, that He has ordained every day we will live and the day we will die, that He will judge us, each one, on the last day according to our works.  A fool is one who hates God’s ways and refuses to fear the Lord.  And that fool will fall into the traps he has set for himself.  That foolish nation will fall into its own traps as well.

But we have come to worship the God who saves fools and foolish nations.  Come and worship the Lord of fools.  Come and acknowledge Him; come and give thanks to Him – and you will find wisdom.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Malicious Fools in Black Robes

Malicious Fools in Black Robes – Psalm 58/Acts 4:8-31

On Friday, June 26th, 2015, the Supreme Court of the United States of America, issued its decision that the Fourteenth Amendment guarantees the right of two members of the same sex to be married, and thereby ordered the roughly 30 states which have defined marriage as the union of one man and one woman to immediately begin issuing same-sex marriage licenses.  The following Sunday, I read the CREC response to the ruling and gave an exhortation in the Call to Worship on the matter.  Since then, there have been some excellent sermons, articles and posts on social media making very important and well-reasoned responses to this travesty.  In previous sermons, we have addressed the sin of homosexuality and the illegitimacy of so-called same-sex marriage.  Finally, in Washington State, this was officially a non-issue as we had already made homosexual unions legal and have already shaken our fist at God, officially calling such unions “marriage.”

So why another voice, why another sermon or statement or response?  Three reasons.  First, I know that many of you have read or heard much regarding this SCOTUS decision; but I also know that some or many of you have not.  And it simply goes without saying, regardless of which side any individual is on this issue, that this decision and its implications for our nation and culture - is huge.  Second, while there are many pastors out there responding, writing, and speaking far more eloquently than I can, we are your elders and as a pastor I have a responsibility to speak to you personally.  With that in mind, please note that I will be taking many quotations and ideas shared by men and women I have found incredibly helpful in putting together my own thoughts and this sermon.  And third, we frankly need more voices, more public voices, public AMENs to what is being said in faithful congregations around the country.  Let God be glorified in the preaching of His truth and mercy, His lovingkindness and His holy wrath.

I have already made clear in other sermons on these topics that what I am about to say should never be construed as hating homosexuals or denying that they do in fact have real feelings, attractions and desires while acting as though heterosexuals do not have any desires that also need to be mortified.  Homosexuals are welcome to come to the kingdom of God, to come to Jesus, in the same way that all fornicators, all liars, all thieves; all drunkards are welcome to come (1 Cor 6:9-11).  This church is not a holy-club filled with people who have never sinned.  The church is filled with people who have fallen in many and varied sins – but who have called out to Jesus in repentance and faith for the forgiveness of their sins and the gift of eternal life.  In addition, in my call to worship a couple of weeks ago I made clear that the fundamental problem with our nation is not in the civil realm; what we are witnessing is the outworking of the corruptions within the church.  We have taught the world how to twist Scripture to make it say whatever we want it to say.  Judgment begins here, in the household of God.

That said, this sermon will more narrowly address a response to the Supreme Court, to the decisions and arguments made, the implications both declared and implied, along with how we in the church should think and what, as the light of the world, we should do.

Wicked Judges Judged (Psalm 58) – God’s hymnbook gives us songs to sing to and about our enemies, something that cannot be found in modern hymnbooks.  These are not easy songs to sing; they are not easy words to say.  But they are the words of God.  Jesus sings these Psalms in the courts of heaven.  This Psalm easily breaks down into three sections.  The ungodly and wicked enemy is indicted (vv1-5).  A just judgment from God is sought (vv6-8).  And by faith, the psalmist sings the inevitable victory of God and he sings it now, as though the victory had already been won (vv9-11).

The violence of these judges in the days of David pales in comparison to the malicious judges of our day when you consider the greater Gospel light which exists in our age.  To whom much is given, much is required.  These judges are fools – and that is not a word being used with hate-filled emotion; this is a scriptural term for those who refuse to follow God’s Word.  To call them fools is not to say that they are not intelligent men and women – of course they are.  To call them fools is to say that they say in their hearts, “there is no God” and interpret words of law and constitution accordingly.

But are these justices malicious?  “…in your heart you work wickedness; You weigh out the violence of your hands in the earth” (v2).  “…Their poison is like the poison of a serpent…charming ever so skillfully” (v3) – like a sharp-edged scissor poised to slice the developed spinal cord of a third trimester boy or girl.  In 1973 this court determined that no one inside a womb had a right to life and that the mother could decide (or be coerced) herself as to whether or not her child should live or be murdered.  Those seven justices were filled with malice – and those seven justices have all gone now to meet their Maker, the holy Judge.  Did they hear the King of kings singing these words as they came into eternity – “Do you indeed speak righteousness, you judges?” 

And so, five judges, malicious fools in black robes, declared that the entire nation and culture must recognize that triangles can have four sides, that 2 + 2 can equal 5, and that two keys can be joined together in the same way a key and a lock can – there is no difference.  The malice in this declaration is and will be shown forth in the public hatred that will be manifest to anyone who publicly refuses to acknowledge, accept and celebrate such a decision.  It is clear that the godless homosexual agenda is not tolerance; it is acceptance and approval.  The tolerance crowd will not tolerate the Bible’s view on marriage even though it has been the accepted definition since Adam and Eve, long before the invention of a nut and bolt.

Pastor Jeff Meyers wrote, “Look, this decision is huge.  Massive.  Unless something unforeseen happens, our future as a country has been decided.  And for thoughtful Christians contemplating the implications of this, it doesn’t look good.”

Al Mohler, the president of Southern Baptist Seminary wrote, “The threat to religious liberty represented by this decision is clear, present, and inevitable.  Assurances to the contrary, the majority in this decision has placed every religious institution in legal jeopardy if that institution intends to uphold its theological convictions limiting marriage to the union of a man and a woman.  This threat is extended to every religious citizen or congregation that would uphold the convictions held by believers for millennia.”

Are these men exaggerating the case?  Well, listen to the majority opinion speak for itself in the voice of Justice Kennedy – “The history of marriage is one of both continuity and change…History and tradition guide and discipline the inquiry but do not set its outer boundaries.  When new insight reveals discord between the Constitution’s central protections and a received legal stricture, a claim to liberty must be addressed…The limitation of marriage to opposite-sex couples may long have seemed natural and just, but its inconsistency with the central meaning of the fundamental right to marry is now manifest…The nature of injustice is that we may not always see it in our own times.  The generations that wrote and ratified the Bill of Rights and the Fourteenth Amendment did not presume to know the extent of freedom in all of its dimensions, and so they entrusted to future generations a charter protecting the right of all persons to enjoy liberty as we learn its meaning.”

The arrogance should take your breath away.  If you have sung Psalm 2 enough, you should hear the words of the God-scoffers, “Let us break Their bonds in pieces and cast away Their cords from us” (Psalm 2:3).  “Give us our liberty – we will define reality!”  And if you have sung Psalm 2 enough – you know where this song is going…it ain’t pretty.

Pastor Toby Sumpter wrote, “What thoughtful Christians need to read and hear in the reasoning of this decision is the fact that nothing can now be prohibited by the laws of our land.  Nothing.  Anything can eventually come to be understood as liberty.  Within hours of this ruling, articles were circulating pointing out that the same reasoning could defend polygamy, incest and pedophilia.  If the standard is the deepest desires of an individual, how can you tell an individual that he may not marry his mom or his own daughter?”  (I would add, or who can withhold the right for a man to marry his rifle or his truck – for I have seen many a man caress his gun or vehicle with far more passion than he might his wife – but I digress).

Where will such incoherence and arbitrariness end if the only standard is whatever the courts declare to be “reasoned judgment?”  In fact, again as Pastor Sumpter writes, “What this decision guarantees is that there will be no guarantees.  And follow this carefully:  This means that justice will be decided by whoever is shouting the loudest, has the biggest caliber rifle, or the deepest pockets.  When nations are not ruled by law, they are necessarily ruled by mobs and thugs.  And anyone without a voice, anyone without recourse to some form of material power will be left undefended, unprotected, and crushed in the mad rush to get whatever their ‘intimate choices’ demand now.  And since liberty is an evolving concept, you never know what fundamental right might dream up next.”

“But the point is simply this:  without a fixed standard, arbitrary justice will crush the defenseless, the poor, the orphans, the widows, the disabled.  And we know this because we are already a nation that executes the unborn by the millions in the name of ‘intimate choices’.”

And so, the first thing we do as God’s people is – we sing.  That is why we have been given such psalms as Psalm 58.  We are to sing to God, asking Him to break the very teeth of the rulers who speak with such poison, whose teeth are filled with that venom (v7).  Let the actions of their lives result in nothing more than if they themselves had been aborted; let them be as impotent as the trail of slime behind a snail (v9).  This is to be sung and declared by God’s people in the public worship of God with every intention that Jesus Himself would join us in the heavenlies, singing and answering such prayers.  And this is just what the Gospel declares has and will happen.

Malicious In-Justice Turned on its Head (Acts 4:8-31) – This is just where Peter and John and the first post-Pentecost church found itself as recorded in Acts 4.  Peter and John were preaching the resurrected Christ and the very men who had seen fit to murder Jesus Christ, based on false charges and lies, arrested these two disciples.  So-called “justice” had already been decreed:  Jesus Christ was a criminal and his story was not to be told.  How did Peter and John respond?  “…let it be known to you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by Him this man stands here before you whole.  This is the ‘stone which was rejected by you builders, which has become the chief cornerstone.’  Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” (vv10-12).  They knew their call; they knew their priorities – and they weren’t backing down no matter the cost.

This is what God does with malicious acts of injustice.  He is never mocked.  But you must see beyond the confidence of the apostles as to why they had this confidence.  They had just a few weeks before been in hiding because their leader had been killed.  The decision of the courts had been made and Jesus was murdered – publicly in the most humiliating of ways.  And then, on the third day, He rose from the dead.  The very act of malice brought forth the blood of a perfect sacrifice that would provide forgiveness for the whole world.  God was right.  God was vindicated.  And God would work through any short-lived victory by His enemies to bring forth His purposes – and His ultimate purpose – which is to save His enemies by making them His reconciled friends.

Pentecost came and with it the outpouring of the Holy Spirit that the disciples of Jesus might be empowered witnesses to the resurrection and the teachings of Jesus Christ to all nations – to all heathen – to all who refused to bow the knee to God – repent and believe – believe and be saved – be saved and be a part of the new creation, the new world, the new and only way to God.  This is why they said to their enemies, the enemies who had the power to put them to death as well – “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than to God, you judge.  For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.” (vv 19-20).

Where did this boldness come from?  The disciples knew the psalms.  Peter and John are let go, they rejoin their companions and they raised their voice with one accord – most likely in singing – and sang Psalm 2 because they had just seen Psalm 2 happen in their own lifetime – The kings of the earth and rulers had taken their stand against Jesus – and God had laughed and mocked them to scorn.  His derision was testified to them in the resurrection of His Son and the giving to Him of all nations – all the nations these kings and rulers had represented.

Boldness – And yet, they prayed for more boldness:  “Now, Lord, look on their threats, and grant to Your servants that with all boldness they may speak Your word….” (v29).  And God granted it to them:  “And when they had prayed, the place where they were assembled together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the word of God with boldness” (v31).  They prayed for boldness.  They prayed for courage.  They prayed for strength – to do what?  To disobey their rulers.  Again, Pastor Sumpter:  “The time has long since come for us to pray for the same courage and boldness.  Christians are men and women under orders; we are under the orders of the Lord Jesus Christ who is seated at God’s right hand and rules over the kingdoms of men.  Our American rulers have ordered us to disobey the Lord Jesus, and we may not and we must not for a moment flinch or back down.  The states and their citizens who have defined marriage as a man and a woman must refuse to acknowledge the Supreme Court’s right to make this decision.  And we must be ready to face whatever consequences come.”  I must add to that:  for those states like the state of Washington, its citizens must repent of the rulings we already had in place to establish so-called same-sex marriage and we must reverse those laws in the name of Jesus Christ.  To our shame, it appears in the weeks since the Obergefell decision that most, if not all, states have caved to five unelected, black-robed enemies of the King of kings.

Brothers and sisters, as Christians we are committed to the Word of God as revealed in the Scriptures.  We have been told plainly on these matters what is right and what is wrong.  And these are rights and wrongs that are not just for the ‘religious,’ they are for all men created in the image of God, “male and female He created them.”  God established marriage in the Garden with one man and one woman and called that consummated union under His covenant a marriage.  That is what a marriage is.  Jesus referred to the same decree when He was teaching on marriage.  He didn’t treat Adam and Eve as a mythical story deep in the shadows of some evolutionary past.  He said that what God declared for that actual man and woman He did so to declare what a marriage would be – always and for everyone. 

And this is a gospel-issue.  It is central to the very gospel of Jesus Christ.  Paul makes this clear when He tells us, in instructing husbands and wives with regard to their God-given roles:  “This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church” (Eph 5:32).  To mess with the definition of marriage is to mess with the gospel of Jesus Christ, pure and simple.  In addition, the Word makes clear that homosexual sex is sinful, a violation of God’s commandments.  It is a perversion of God’s intention for human sexuality; it is a terrible distortion of what we were made for.  To proclaim the truth of God’s law is not hate speech; these are words of life and liberty.  Jesus says that His commandments are not burdensome.  He says they are life-giving.  Living in rebellion against God’s law does not bring happiness, freedom, or human flourishing.  Quite the opposite.

The SCOTUS decision has not made homosexual behavior come into existence in our land.  Homosexual sin, along with many sexual perversions, has been around as long as the fall itself.  What SCOTUS has done is require the normalization and institutionalization of this particular sin.  John Piper wrote, “What’s new is not even the celebration and approval of homosexual sin.  Homosexual behavior has been exploited, and reveled in, and celebrated in art, for millennia.  What’s new is normalization and institutionalization.  This is the new calamity. – It’s not the only sin mentioned (in the list of sins in Romans 1 or 1 Corinthians 6), but it is different from all the rest, at least right now.  At this moment in history, contrary to the other sins listed here, homosexuality is celebrated by our larger society with pioneering excitement.  It’s seen as a good thing, as the new hallmark of progress.”  The church must be given the courage, the boldness, to stand and speak and sing against this and the other horrible sins, most notably the carnage of abortion, to the world.  Here is a threefold call to boldness for us all:

Boldness to Worship God Rightly – Throughout the Bible we are taught and shown that worship in the heavenlies changes things on earth.  That is why we pray, “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”  The book of Revelation is a display of the worship of the saints in God’s court and the effect that then takes place on the earth.  But this means that we must let the Word govern our worship; our worship services must not be governed by our own individual preferences.  We are not here to occupy a couple hours of our Sunday mornings according to our own whims.  God calls us to renew our covenant with Him, to confess our sins, to hear His words of forgiveness, to sing His praise, offer our petitions, be re-formed by His Word, arranged more into the image of His Son, fed at His Table of Peace, and then sent out into the world as His ambassadors.  All of this is to be done by faith in the One we are worshipping and all with an eye to world-transformation, beginning with ourselves.  We come here to offer up ourselves as living sacrifices.  We come here to die to ourselves and to be raised up new and refreshed in Jesus – and we come here to do so in community – all brothers and sisters in Christ.  As Psalm 2 commands, we are to Kiss the Son, we are to come and worship Him with fear, rejoicing with trembling.  This is a holy place – not the geographical location, but the covenant gathering.  And in this holy place, wonderful and terrible things take place.  People are brought to life and people are disciplined for their hypocrisies if they will not let them go.  This is the glorious and powerful and terrifying work of the Holy Spirit as God’s Word is unleashed in our midst.  Prepare yourselves for worship.  Prepare your family.  Prepare and come with expectation to see your life and the life of the world changed.  That is what God is in the business of doing.  He is changing the world.

Boldness to Sacrificially Build Godly Marriages and Families – Many writers have emphasized this point in many ways.  The best defense of marriage will always be marriage itself.  If you are a Christian, this is the time to reaffirm your commitment to sexual purity whatever your station in life, married or unmarried.  If you are married, this is the time to reaffirm your vows of faithfulness and proper role-keeping in God’s ordained covenant of marriage.  Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the church – and do so in a way that she and everyone around you could not bring charges against you that you do anything other than that.  So much of our society’s rejection of traditional marriage is actually a rejection of abdicating, angry, selfish, neglectful, impatient and absent husbands and fathers who claim to be followers of Jesus and His ways.  Wives, respect your husbands and submit to them as the church does Christ – and do so in a way that everyone around you would find delightful and honoring of both roles in marriage.  Wives are the crown of their husbands; she is his glory.  Husbands and wives, live in such a way that glory is bestowed, received, and rebounded back and forth in the true definition of love, the love of Christ.

Boldness to Speak the Truth in Love – Of course, it is going to happen that there will be many more opportunities to speak to this issue and bring the gospel to bear – and that is a great opportunity.  The fact of the matter is that homosexuals are just like any other sinner.  They know God exists and they are at the core of their being miserable in their sins.  They have been deceived or deceive themselves into thinking that they can take care of their broken relationship with God and their sin-problem with this or that vice, with this or that precious.  We must pray for the opportunity to speak and we must speak boldly, unvarnished truth and in the love of God the Father for sinners – For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever (and He means whoever, it doesn’t matter the sin, it doesn’t matter how long the sinner has been in that condition, it doesn’t matter how shameful, it doesn’t matter – whoever) believes on Him should not perish but would have everlasting life.

But to preach that Good News we must not back down on the bad.  Everyone comes to God the Father with their sins.  Everyone.  They either come to Him with their sins in Christ or they come to Him with their sins not in Christ.  Everyone comes under the judgment of the law.  And everyone is either judged in Christ Jesus and given His righteousness or they are judged outside of Christ and find they are lost forever.  But Jesus Christ came to save sinners and He has come that the world might be saved and not lost in that judgment.  Christian, as you look at this darkening culture around us do not lose heart in the saving work of the Gospel; do not lose heart in the predetermined plans and power of God.  The Lord is able to change hearts and minds – in fact He is the only one who can change hearts and minds.  And He has declared that the earth will be as full of changed hearts and minds, of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.

To the five justices filled with malice and pride masquerading in black robes of justice, “personal intimacy choices,” “reasoned judgment,” and the faux inability to know the difference between a boy and a girl, or the difference between a baby and a kidney – to those five and to the rulers of this nation and its sovereign states, and to every ear who will hear, we declare – God saves individuals by taking away their sin.  He does not save individuals by changing His created order or His law.  He does so by changing sinners.  He saves individuals by taking away their sin, their shame, and their guilt because Jesus took it for them.  Our sin was condemned in His body on the cross.  Our guilt was satisfied by His suffering in our place.  And by the cross, He frees us from the power of sin and Satan and death so that we are able to be unafraid of anything and anyone.  All powers, all authorities, all principalities, every king, every husband, every minister, every human being must submit to the ultimate authority of God – and when they do – they will find that authority is an authority of mercy, forgiveness, grace and love.

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Lewis on our Times

“For the wise men of old the cardinal problem had been how to conform the soul to reality, and the solution had been knowledge, self-discipline, and virtue. For magic and applied science alike the problem is how to subdue reality to the wishes of men: the solution is a technique; and both, in the practice of this technique, are ready to do things hitherto regarded as disgusting and impious.”

–C. S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man (HT -

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

A Biblically Closed Communion

To come to the Table at our church, you do not have to be a member here.  All baptized Christians who are in good standing in their local churches are welcome and we believe the Lord has summoned them here – to this Table now, with these brothers and sisters – to partake of the body and blood of the Lord.

This is what we consider a biblically closed communion.  The fact that we require that you be baptized means that we require that God, by means of His church and Holy Spirit, has marked you out as His.  He is the One Who, providentially, has called you out.  To not allow unbaptized persons to the Table is not a sign of high-arrogance, quite the opposite.  It is a declaration that the only ones who may come must come in humility – and that humility was poured over them or they were dunked in it – in the form of water.

We are all sinners – forgiven sinners – washed sinners – marked sinners – saved sinners – and hungry-for-the-Lord sinners.  Come and welcome to Jesus Christ.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

The Visible Communion

We know we are in Christ if we come to this table with faith and are able to discern the Lord’s body.  And what is the Lord’s body?  The Lord’s body is this visible community around you – your brother and sister in Christ.

As you come to this table, you are by faith receiving Jesus’ body and blood, but you are doing so with the body of Christ, your brothers and sisters to your left and right.

We are partaking of the One Who gave Himself, all of Himself, all of His body, for us – and we do so giving ourselves, all of ourselves, to Him – and to His body.  And how do we give ourselves like that to His body.  Jesus tells us – “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.”

On that basis and on that basis alone, come and welcome to Jesus Christ.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Same-sex, SCOTUS, and the Lord's Day

All people, all the earth, is summoned to come and joyfully serve the LORD with worship and praise.  This is not a request or a suggestion.  It is the command of God.  Jesus Christ is King of kings and Lord of lords and there is nothing we can do to change that or His holy law.

Woe to a nation who calls evil good and good evil.  Woe to a nation who defines those things God has named with their own crafty definitions.  Woe to a nation who brazenly defies the law of God.  Woe to this nation which has done so with the strokes of the pens of five fools in black robes, fools who cannot even see what the purpose of a man and a woman are for, rebels who will not acknowledge that the value of all human life only rests in these words – “So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them,” as well as these words, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.”

As we gather on behalf of this nation before the Lord on this holy day, this Lord’s Day, we must remember that the problems of this nation, the immorality and rebellion before us, has not come upon the church because of the world – it has come upon the world because of the church.  Same-sex so-called “marriage” is now the law of the land because of the nod it has been given by the major denominations and churches of this nation for decades.  We taught them how to do this.  We showed them how to reinterpret law; we have disparaged the roles of husband and wife, we have ordained women and homosexuals to be the masculine ministers of the church, and we have blessed homosexual unions for years and years.

In addition, the evangelical church in America has been preaching for generations now that Jesus Christ has no Lordship in the public square, that while we are to worship Him, we should do so in our hearts and in our churches, but we have no obligation as a nation, nor even as Christians, to do so in the halls of justice, the halls of legislation, or the halls of schools and universities.  The devil is winning not because he is stronger, but because we keep giving him the battles, one after another after another.

Same-sex mirage exists in our nation as a publicly-acceptable option because we, the church, made it so in our churches when we gave way to egalitarianism decades ago.  Limp, effeminate, impotent Christianity exists in our public halls because we, the church, taught that it should be so from our own culturally relevant, make-me-feel-good pulpits decades ago.  Masculinity and male leadership have become repulsive in the eyes of the world because the church has failed to hold up the offices of husband and father with dignity and accountability.  Repentance for this nation begins here in the church and in our own lives.  

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Prayer for Your Flock

"I have no experience of mammoth-sized churches, but I do know that in a church growing in the 200s it is possible to pray for every member by name once a week, and for all the members by name in the early hours of Sunday morning." - Motyer, Preaching? p133.

When Kings and Princes Love God

Isaiah 32:1 (NKJV)

1 Behold, a king will reign in righteousness, And princes will rule with justice.

This passage (vv1-8) is about the quality of government that will characterize the rule of the king of the new age.  He and those who rule with him will be those associated with righteousness and justice.  "That is, they will reflect, in the way they exercise their rule, the very character of God himself (i.e.5:16)." - Webb - p136.

Imagine a world of kingdoms ruled by kings and princes who reigned in righteousness and with Word-defined justice.  Now pray the Lord's prayer again - with more fervor!

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

The Primary Work of Shepherds: Prayer

"The first duty of ministers is to pray for those to whom they are sent in ministry.  I can't think of any one verse which commands this, but it coudl be inferred from Paul's example (e.g. Rom 1:9; Eph 1:16; Phil 1:3-4; Col 1:3-4; 1 Thess 1:2-3; 2: Thess 1:11)." - Motyer, p132.

Of course this should be applied to all in shepherding and ministerial roles and not simply to the ordained pastor.  Parents and husbands in particular have to heed this truth as well.  But they will probably only rise up to the level of their minister who must lead the charge in believing prayer.

No Political Maneuvering

There is a central confession that only the LORD will save the nation in this section - 

Isaiah 33:2 (NKJV)
2 O Lord, be gracious to us; We have waited for You. Be their arm every morning, Our salvation also in the time of trouble.

Isaiah 33:22 (NKJV)

22 (For the Lord is our Judge, The Lord is our Lawgiver, The Lord is our King; He will save us);

And so this new age that is hoped for in Isaiah 32-33 is an age brought forth, not by any political maneuvering, nor by any human achievement, but by the divine gift of God.

What do we learn?  We are in that new age, this gospel age of hope.  Then how do we move forward?  We do not primarily take up political activism nor place our hope in the progressive human race.  We turn to the Lord.  We trust and pray and wait and cry out to Him.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Prayer By-products

"Objectively, our prayers are heard, answered, and bring forth results.  Subjectively, there is a kickback:  prayer not only changes 'things'; it changes those who pray." - Motyer, Preaching? p129.

Promises Amidst Dire Circumstances

In Isaiah 32-33, Isaiah looks forward to an ideal situation where a king shall reign in righteousness (32:1, 15-16; 33:5-6, 17-22), but the present situation is one in which Judah sits in complacency and under judgment (32:9-10, 33:1, 18-19).  Some of the context could be the great tribute Hezekiah paid to buy off Sennacherib, emptying the temple treasury and even stripping the gold from the doors (2 Kings 18:13-16).

"It is against this background that Isaiah pointed to the only alternative that could secure the nation's future:  government grounded in the kingship of God.  Hezekiah reverted to this kind of government at the eleventh hour of the Assyrian crisis (2 Kings 19:14-19), but Isaiah looks in these chapters to the day when this will be the habitual stance of leaders and people alike.  Then indeed a new age will have dawned.  This is the state of affairs we pray for in the words of the prayer Jesus taught us:  'Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven." - Webb, p135.

Of course, Jesus taught us to pray that prayer in this age because He intends to answer, and is answering, that prayer in this age.

Repeating Everything Repeating

We live in a world of repetitions.  And in this world, all repetitions are vanity.  They are empty, they are without meaning – unless God gives faith and joy to believe and receive them from Him – the Maker of all things, the Meaning in all things.

We live in a world governed by repetitions.  The earth spins, the moon revolves around the earth and the earth spins around the sun.  We experience the rising and setting of the sun, another summer is upon us, school is ending.  But fall will come, and then winter.  An infant comes into this world, grows up, brings other children into the world, and then dies. Cycles and circles.  Mothers wash clothes and then they all get dirty, and then she washes them again.

There are two kinds of people or two kinds of ways of seeing this.  One kind of person sees the stupidity of it all and bows beneath the weight of a vain and fruitless world.  Finding any lasting satisfaction in whatever the world might offer is like trying to hold a gallon of water in your hand without a bucket.  But the other person sees all of this and through the eyes of faith, receives it all as gift – and true enjoyment is experienced because this one acknowledges that God is the Author, Sustainer, Redeemer, and the End of all things.

Ecclesiastes 9:7–9 Go, eat your bread with joy, And drink your wine with a merry heart; For God has already accepted your works. 8 Let your garments always be white, And let your head lack no oil. 9 Live joyfully with the wife whom you love all the days of your vain life which He has given you under the sun, all your days of vanity; for that is your portion in life, and in the labor which you perform under the sun.

To receive all of these repetitions, all of these vain little ditties of life, and enjoy them, God has given us the Sabbath, the Lord’s Day, the beginning of the new week, every week, to practice repetition, to practice receiving, to practice renewal and the glory of doing it again and again – all under the sun, but all in the Lord Jesus.  For those with faith, come, and worship the Lord – it’s going to be great.