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.