Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Sabbath-Victory Meal

I have mentioned before that worship is work, hard work, and that you should feel tired at the end of the worship service.  You should feel as though you had to engage your mind, will and emotions, along with your body and lips, in the work of offering yourself, as a member of this body, to God the Father in the name of Jesus and through the power of the Holy Spirit.

And all of that is true.  And the work part of the service is over.  Now you are called to come and sit and rest and partake.  As it says in Isaiah 14, “For the LORD will have mercy on Jacob and will still choose Israel, and settle them in their own land.”  He says that it will come to pass that He will give you rest from your sorrow, and from your fear and the hard bondage in which you were made to serve.  And He has.  And it is here at this Table that you partake in a memorial feast.  It is a feast of victory over just what Isaiah prophesied and the Lord promised to you.

And this should make you want to sing – to sing of the Lord’s victory and of His covenant love and loyalty to us.  And so we will sing as we share the elements.  Come and welcome to Jesus the Victor, Jesus the Christ.

Monday, January 26, 2015

An Architectural Deacon

Maybe you’ve noticed some strange announcements about our upcoming Men’s Meeting.  Yes, we are going to gather in Woodinville, and yes, we are going to talk about one day having a building, one day, in a city we would call home and a hub of ministry.  When churches begin to talk about building and buildings lots of questions arise – and often because a foundational and biblical understanding of buildings has been lost.

Think of a building as a deacon.  Its job is to serve the church in her mission.  And that would be our goal:  to acquire a permanent space where we could be better equipped to do all god has called this particular local body to do.  A building as a deacon would –

Be a place to worship.  And this is our first and most important reason to have a building.  We are called to gather and worship God corporately each Lord’s Day.  A building should exist, and exist in such a way, to promote congregational worship, the preaching of His Word, and the administration of His sacraments – in a public and in a beautiful way – architecturally, acoustically, and aesthetically.

Be a place to feast and fellowship.  Part of being the church is simply being together.  With our distinctives of having a sunny Calvinism and an optimistic eschatology that believes the promises of God to a thousand generations, we are a celebratory people who need a place to help cultivate many aspects of those distinctives.

Be a place to love one another.  A central physical location provides an opportunity to minister together in many of the areas we sense our distinctive callings as well – including all kinds of biblical education, practical theology and counsel, glorious music, excellent musicians, and much more.

Be a place that speaks to and mobilizes for the community around us.  A physical building speaks.  It testifies to the material and earthy presence of the Lord’s people in this world.  It is part of shaping the definition of that city or community.  A building does so with its location and with its architecture.  It also does so as it becomes a beachhead from which to go out and a refuge with which to welcome in.  The stones should cry out with us, “God is good, God is merciful, God calls you to come.”

Friday, January 23, 2015

How Does Isaiah 13-27 Speak to Us Today?

Isaiah is a book of promise surrounded by heavy oracles of judgment.  We begin the second section of Isaiah (13-27) with a series of judgments upon what might appear to be a random set of nations (Babylon, Assyria, Philistia, Moab, Syria, Ethiopia, Egypt – chapters 13-20).  One thing they all had in common was that they were all threatened by Assyria at one time or other and were actual or potential partners with Judah in anti-Assyrian alliances (or in the case of Assyria, an alliance formed to hold off Syria/Israel).  These nations most likely never heard these oracles; but in actuality they were not for their ears; they were for Judah.  But another way to look at this is that these messages were for the nations as they saw their fulfillment with the fall of Babylon – the one in 70AD.  And that is how we come to understand that these messages are for us, the new Jacob, the new Israel, as well.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Odd People at the Table with You

When you come to the Table, you come to Christ’s body and blood.  And when you come to the Table, you come with Christ’s body and blood.  You are to discern the Lord’s body and that means you are to look around you and see the body of the Lord – in the person over there that you think is really odd, or the person over there that you have an attitude about, or that other person whom you think you would never really want to be with.

When we are reconciled to Christ, we are part of the reconciliation of the world where the strangest of relationships will take place.  The wolf will lie down with the lamb, the leopard with the young goat, the calf and the lion, and so on.  What are we learning?  We are learning that in Christ, we are enabled and called to love our brothers and sisters and even enjoy being with them.  We are to see Christ in them.  We are to allow them to see Christ in us.

Coming to the Table is a communal event.  This is not your little, personal devotional time with Jesus.  Look up and around you – who are you eating with?  You are eating with Christ.  Look – there is His body.  Now partake and then go live like it the rest of the week.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Dealing with the Shame of Abortion

One of the problems with abortion being legal these last 42 years, apart from all the blood on our hands, is what we do with the blood on our hands.

Our nation officially tells us that there is no blood on our hands.  Our nation tells us that there is nothing to worry about.  Our nation tells us that any guilt or shame or conviction we feel is illegitimate.  Yeah, right.  Just like that baby was.

I want to say something different – I want to say it to those here who have had an abortion and have never told anyone.  I want to say it openly and publicly to any who would listen and have had an abortion or encouraged a girlfriend, forced a girlfriend, to go and get one.  You feel guilty.  You feel the shame.  You may even feel the conviction – if only for a moment.  Before you turn and harden your heart again – would you hear me out?

The blood of Jesus Christ, the life of Jesus, His death on the cross – it is all for you.  His death on the cross occurred, not only because you did those little sins that no one really worries about but we all commit – bitterness and envy, outbursts of anger and lust, covetousness and filthy language – He died for what you consider “the big ones.”

Why did He die for your sin of murder?  The same reason He died for King David’s sin of adultery and murder.  Because had He not died for our sins, there is no way, no possible way, that we could be saved.  And He has been committed to your salvation since the day He thought of you – which was long before you were ever conceived.

There doesn’t have to be any guilt or shame anymore.  He took it.  Jesus took it.  We stand against abortion because God hates it.  But we stand with you because Jesus Christ died for your sins – and for ours.  There is no reason, no reason that you need to hide your sins from God – you may come – you must come – you must come now – and confess your sins and find forgiveness and healing and hope and renewed promises – in Christ.  Stand with us and with God – He will deliver you.  He loves to do so.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

The Table Where Christ Was Betrayed

We come to the Table of the Lord where Jesus instituted His supper.  On the night in which He did this, one of His own who was not of His own, Judas, betrayed Him.  That betrayal would lead to the arrest and crucifixion of Jesus.

Jesus knew all of this.  He knew that the bread was His body and as He broke the bread He knew what would happen to His body.  He knew the cup of wine was the cup of His blood shed and He knew it would be a cup of violence, a cup of wrath, even the cup of His Father’s wrath.

But He knew as well that this Table pointed to the glorious truth of His exhaustive sovereignty over everything, every event, every wrong, every tear.  And He knew that this Table also declared the completed work which would take place which would right every wrong, deliver every suffering, cleanse any sin, put down every evil – and save the world.

You are invited to come and participate in both.  Come and welcome to Jesus Christ.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Psalm Singing for God

Coming out of the Advent/Christmas season where we pause to enjoy so many of the rich, traditional hymns of that season, we enter into the New Year and return to the regular worship of singing the Psalms.

For most of us, Psalm-singing is not something tied to our past and it certainly is not as easy as singing the poetic verses of Christmastide.  The Psalms are full of biting language, imagery that is not as familiar, often raising more questions than answers to the newly initiated.  That is because Psalm-singing is work – a lot of work.  And that is because worship is work.  It is an activity that should leave you tired when you are finished.  You have been called to offer up yourselves as living sacrifices and to offer up the sacrifice of praise.  You have not been called to come and get comfortable and cozy and enjoy some inspiring entertainment for you and your soul.

So why does God call us to sing the Psalms?  This is His songbook.  These are His first choices.  These are the songs that sing of His victories and the great victory of His Son – but they do so in prophetic ways and not always in straightforward ways.  In the midst of the songs every human emotion, every life situation, every outburst of praise and every cry of despair can be found – and the Lord wants all of that brought to Him and to His throne.

In singing the Psalms we sing of Christ and we do so as the body of Christ.  We sing to God and we sing to one another.  We train and equip, teach and admonish, lift up and redirect the body of Christ, the church, as we do this work of worship.  When that happens, we are then trained to write and sing other songs that imitate what God has written – and what God loves to hear His people sing.  And after all, He is the focus, the center, the reason that this worship service is taking place.  Come and worship the Lord.

Friday, January 9, 2015

We Rule in Community

So it is true that the world is ours because the world is Christ's.  We have been raised up in Christ to rule with Him in the heavenlies.  But that rule is not a ruling by individuals, each clamoring to see how much of the Wild West one can claim for himself.

Frame gets this right - 

"There should be among us no spirit of competition or jealousy, but a desire to 'stir up one another to love and good works' (Heb 10:24).
So we practice the faith always in community.  Our brothers and sisters play a vital role in building us up in Christ, and their needs have a special call on our compassion.  As we have a special responsibility to support our families (1 Tim 5:8), so we should use our resources and gifts to support our Christian brothers and sisters (Gal 6:10)." - Frame, ST, p115

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Adults Receive the Inheritance

Frame writes, 

"Paul speaks of the Mosaic covenant as a time of imprisonment (Gal 3:22-23), captivity (v23), guardianship (v24).  To Paul, these restrictions leave little distinction between sonship and slavery (4:1-3).  But in Christ, we become free: - 'But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.  And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, "Abba!  Father!"  So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.' - Gal 4:4-7."

He goes on, 

"The new covenant age is a time of maturity for the family.  We are no longer little children, but adults, though we need to be reminded of this (Gal 4:8-11).  That means that we are closer to our inheritance, the new heavens and the new earth." - Frame, ST, p114.

This is well said, but I don't think Frame goes far enough and so my postmillenial juices get flowing.  Think about this.  He is right.  We are no longer children.  We are adults.  We have moved past the time of guardians to the time of taking care of the world ourselves.  But what does that mean?  It is not that we are "closer to our inheritance."  Adults receive their inheritance when they come of age.  We have received the new heavens and the new earth.  They have become ours because they have all become Christ's and He has given us all things.

This is important.  We are not the church in exile, waiting for God to come and free us from this dark world.  We are the church triumphant, calling the nations to repentance and claiming them all in the name of Jesus.  We are like the first astronaut on the moon, planting the flag and declaring the whole thing "ours!"  This world is ours because this world is Christ's.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

All That You Will Need You Have in Christ

As a New Year comes upon us, this Table represents a token.  It is a token of the Bread of Life and the Cup of the New Covenant, for all who believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.  It is a token to come and partake of by faith.

If God has given you this, brothers and sisters, what good thing would He withhold from you?  How much does He love you?  How good are His plans for you?  Yes, there will be challenges and trials and difficulties in 2015.  There will be unexpected events that will look like setbacks.  But this Table and the elements at this Table declare to you that everything you need for life, for your particular life, this year, has been given to you and will be yours to walk faithfully and hopefully through every moment of every day.

And so come to this Table – and come week after week all year, so that throughout the year you may taste and remember and partake and celebrate that Jesus is with you, He is walking with you, He is upholding you, He is protecting you, He is making you more and more like Himself – and He will never let you go.  Come to the Table.  Come and welcome to Jesus Christ.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Disciplined Emotions

We are called to love the Lord our God with all of our heart, mind, soul and strength.  And if we are called to love God, then we are certainly called to love Him with all of our emotions as a part of that.  We are to learn how to discipline our emotions and one of the places to do that is here in the service of worship each Lord’s Day. 

Now we tend to view our emotions as inevitable and uncontrollable.  But Paul instructs us, for instance to “rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep.”  These are emotions that God commands us to have in certain situations.  There are times that we are to feel anger, joy, sorrow, love, and so on.  Our whole life is to be brought into conformity to God’s Word and this includes our emotions.

The liturgy of this service carries with it a variety of emotional tones – emotions we should not simply fake, but emotions that we should discipline ourselves to have as we give ourselves to the Lord.  God calls us and we should feel a sense of fear, expectation and anticipation for what He is going to do.  We are called to confess our sins, and we should experience remorse for our sins – against God and in how these sins have often harmed others.  We then hear that our sins are forgiven and we should not only say “Thanks be to God” with great vibrancy – we should feel it – do you not realize what He has just done – do you not remember how much this cost Him and how wonderful it is for your soul to have the guilt and shame of your sin removed?  Give yourself to such emotions.

As we sing our praise, as we say our prayers, there are a host of emotions, often dictated in the words and certainly through the themes, that we should give ourselves to – imitating – cultivating – and mimicking – in order that we would not only say but also feel what is good and right and appropriate at all times.  And when the Word is read and preached, we should feel the thunder of it – both of fear, but also of a hammer that is breaking open our hearts  and freeing us, making us more supple, releasing us to greater truth and life. 

This good liturgy will force us to examine our emotions.  But that means that you must now come and actively participate in every part of the service.  You should be somewhat tired when we are through, for this is not a time of entertainment, but of engaging your mind, will, and emotions, before the throne of God.  Come and worship your God.

Monday, January 5, 2015

When Moralism Isn't Bad

"Moralism as a stand-alone product really is heretical and bad.  But it is apparently not bad to sound moralistic sometimes, like when you are summarizing the import of the Old Testament." - Wilson, AC, p58.

So telling Bible stories to little children and summarizing them with some sense of "the moral of the story" isn't always a bad thing to do.  Jesus did.

Matthew 22:37–40 (NKJV)

37 Jesus said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and great commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”

Saturday, January 3, 2015

The Best Systematic Theology

Matthew 22:37–40 (NKJV)

37 Jesus said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and great commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”

That's it.  Love God.  Love the person in front of you.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Scribes and Professionals

Jesus, it is said, "taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes" (Matt 7:29).

O that the Lord would raise up preachers who preach with the authority bestowed upon them by the Head of the church, and not like the professionals from whom they received their diploma.

To say this is not to condemn the faithful and hard work of study.  It is to condemn the idea that the diploma has granted you authority - at least the kind of authority that Jesus had.  For too long, the church has gotten this mixed up.  And for quite some time, reacting instead of reforming, some have claimed that the faithful hard word of study was the problem.  But that is not the problem.  The problem is putting your faith in the hard work (and in the diploma) and not in the Spirit of God.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Comfortable with the Right Things

"...in order to speak as the Bible speaks, we must get more comfortable with biblical paradox and less comfortable with tidiness of our own systems." - Wilson, AC, p49.

This should show itself in our devotional lives, in the preparation for preaching when you are exegeting a text, and when you are answering questions from the Bible.  We should be careful that we are not always apologizing for what Jesus or one of His prophets just said there in that way.  They probably meant to.  Before "balancing" that strong statement with other statements from the Bible, there is a time and place to just sit in that one truth for a few minutes and see what it does to you.