Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Hear and Taste

Here, at the Table of the Lord, His people partake of the sufferings of Christ as nourishment for our souls.  Why?  Why are we to commune in the sufferings of Christ?  Because it is here, in participating with Him, that we are shaped to be like Him in this world full of sufferings.  It is here that we receive, by Word and sacrament – in the power of the Holy Spirit – courageous faith.

There was a connection in Isaiah 50 between the ear and the tongue.  The Servant listened to the Word so that He could teach it with His tongue.  Tongues are for tasting as well and this time at the Table moves from ear to tongue as well.  We hear the Word of God, then taste His food (thanks to Peter Leithart for some of these thoughts).

Word and Sacrament.  If you want to be nourished, you have to observe that sequence.  If your spiritual ears are closed, this food will be bitter as death to your tongue.  But if God has opened your ears to His voice, He gives you a tongue so that you taste that the Lord is good.  Come and welcome to Jesus Christ.

Monday, September 12, 2016

911 - 15 Years Later

September 11th will always be a sober day in our lives because of the events our nation experienced 15 years ago.  It is good to pause, remember and reflect, both with patriotism and in honor of those who tragically lost their lives.  But, fifteen years into this tragedy, the foundational issue by which this nation will ultimately stand or fall has yet to be addressed by our leaders.  As a nation, we continue in our outright rebellion of God’s laws, and we continue to embrace the god of the people, demos, and his brother, relativism, to the exclusion of the only true King of kings and Lord of lords, even Jesus Christ, the Son of God..  If we continue to do this, we will certainly reap what we sow.

If we continue to arbitrarily determine who deserves the right to life and who does not, refusing to submit to God’s Holy Law, how dare we point an accusing finger at holy-war Jihadists.  They are simply doing what we are doing, making up their own rules.  Just as we have seen throughout the book of Isaiah, God is simply using them so that we might see how bloody we are, how callous we are, how wicked we are. 

If we continue to arbitrarily determine what is true and what is false, what is ethical and what is not, using our so-called humanistic wisdom, then God will continue to send those to us who are simply living this out according to their own so-called wisdom.  It is a glorious thing to die while trying to kill as many infidels (non-Muslims) as possible.  What’s wrong with that for an ideology?  Who says?

If we continue to say that all gods are equal, that there is no difference, as long as you don’t hurt other people, God will continue to challenge that back end “toleration” statement.  “What do you mean, ‘as long as you don’t hurt other people”?  Who gave you the right to set that standard?  What if my god says it is a good thing to hurt other people?  What if I find pleasure in hurting other people?

In my lifetime, Columbine High School and the brutal murders of 9/11, were the very same, absolutely, carefully measured, and yet pulled-punch message from God.  And that message is simple:  Do not continue to demand that God be separated from your public affairs.  Do not demand separation from God, something which is also called hell – for a day is coming that, if you do not repent, that is exactly what He will give you

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

When the Sermon Wasn't for You

Sometimes, especially with a topical sermon, we are tempted individually to think that “this sermon wasn’t for me.”  While you may not have children in school at this time, I did pray in preparation for you that you would hear and see from the texts other applications particularly for you.  And there are many.

One of those applications is in coming to this Table.  We are not a bunch of individuals only, like so many marbles gathered in a bag.  We are members of one body, the body of Christ – and we come to this Table as that one body, that one loaf, where we partake together, desiring to see Christ minister to His body corporately even as He meets each one of us individually as well.  Strengthening each one, he then sends us to minister to one another throughout the week with our particular gifts and abilities and our brother or sister’s needs before us.

If you are identified with Jesus through baptism then must come to this Table and partake, for He has called you.  But He has called the person next to you as well with the same call.  Together, we all are being fed, knit together in Christ, with Christ, and by Christ.  Come and welcome to Jesus Christ.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Steadfast, Immovable Worship

With a right understanding of death and the problems of this world because of sin, along with a right understanding of what the hope of the resurrection really means for us, Paul wrote at the end of 1 Corinthians these words –
“Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.”

Our labor is never in vain if God is in the business of saving this world – and He is.  Our labor is never in vain if it is in the Lord because the Lord rules over heaven and earth now.  One author noted that “English evangelicals gave up believing in the urgent imperative to improve society (such as we find with William Wilberforce in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries) about the same time that they gave up believing robustly in resurrection and settled for a disembodied heaven instead.” (NT Wright).

Brothers and sisters, you are not being summoned here to worship a God who rules in heaven and has called us here to remind us that one day we will finally go home to be with Him, away from this terrible place called the world.  No – that is not the Christian doctrine.  God so loved the world – this world – that He gave His only begotten Son – and He did so in order that the world – this world – should be saved.

You are summoned here to worship a God who rules over heaven and earth and is shaking the things of this earth that He intends to bring down in order that the things which cannot be shaken, His kingdom, would remain forever.  Even if we are going to die, even if our labors appear to be accomplishing so little – nevertheless hear the Word of God:  Be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing (knowing) that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.”  Come and let us worship the Lord.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Platonic Opium

"Karl Marx famously spoke of religion as the opium of the people.  He supposed that oppressive rulers would use the promise of a joyful future life to try to stop the masses from rising in revolt.  That has indeed often been the case.  But my impression is that religion is an 'opium' when the religion in question includes the Platonic downgrading of bodies and of the created order in general, regarding them as the 'vain shadows' of earth, which we happily leave behind at death.  Why try to improve the present prison if release is at hand?  Why oil the wheels of a machine that will soon plunge over a cliff?  That is precisely the effect created to this day by some devout Christians who genuinely believe that "salvation" has nothing to do with the way the present world is ordered." - Wright, SBH - p26

Thursday, August 25, 2016

About to Sing Psalm 29

Many of you do not remember – and many of you were not here, when we took the time to learn to sing this version of Psalm 122.  It was not easy.  We had to work.  But when we, as a congregation together, found ourselves able to sing it, we delighted in it, we delighted in our ability to sing to the LORD with greater skillfulness – and we thought about, I preached about, the meaning of this Psalm.  It is worth considering.  It sings of calling everyone to come here, to the house and gathering of the LORD, to see His beauty and the beauty of His temple of whom we are. 

Now you have heard the choir sing Psalm 29 in a through-composed form.  We have sent you links to listen to it, we have practiced it in numerous Psalm sings.  Here we go.  Another challenging piece.  We will be singing it as a congregation shortly in this service of worship – and God will be listening.

Hope you are up to it.

Seriously, as we venture into singing another Psalm (although we have one version of Psalm 29 that we sing), let me help us all come before the LORD with what this Psalm is declaring.

It commands the world and especially all the mighty ones to give glory to the Lord – to lay down their weapons of unbelief and strife and give themselves to God in humble service and worship.  It declares mighty, violent work of the voice of the LORD in powerful pictures - full of majesty, passing over forests, splitting the tallest cedars and mountains, skipping to the strobe-light of the lightning, and then down into the deserts, terrifying the wildlife and shaking the wilderness.  The voice of the LORD is heard seven times in this Psalm – a number of fullness and completion.  We are singing of the triumphant, salvific work of the Word of God over all nations, over all the earth.  You are about to sing of the victory of God over everything, everyone – to the glory of His name.  Get ready…

Saturday, June 11, 2016

The Delight of God

The Peace Offering, of which this meal is the fulfillment, occurred when God partook of the offering along with those who made the offering, in a meal of peace and reconciliation.

One of the things this means is that God is enjoying this meal with you.  We often are reminded that we are partaking of  Jesus, covenantally and by His Spirit, here at this Table.  Maybe sometimes you are not delighting in the meal.  Maybe sometimes you are bored with the meal.  Maybe sometimes you would rather the meal hurry up and be done.

Well consider this.  God is also at this Table, and He is partaking as well.  United to Jesus Christ in His death and resurrection, He is partaking of us.  He is partaking of you.  It is here that He is receiving in token your pledge of your life as a living sacrifice offered up to Him.  And He is always delighting in this, never bored with it, never in a hurry to see it come to an end.  In fact, what He wants is for this meal and all that it signifies, to go on and on all week until the next Lord’s Day when He will sit here with you again.

And so all who are baptized into Christ Jesus are welcome and summoned to this Table.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Not Cheap Comfort

"Isaiah's new message (Ch's 40 and beyond) is for people whose whole world has been shattered.  And for people like that, cheap comfort is not only a waste of time, it is cruel.  Comfort that is not grounded in reality is no comfort at all." - Webb, p162.

And so Isaiah is for anyone who lives in a world that has been shattered.  

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Isaiah 6 and Isaiah 40

In Isaiah 6, the commission is to go to ears that will not hear and preach a message of judgment.  In Isaiah 40 a new commission is given to go and preach a message of comfort.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Isaiah's Latter Years

"As early as 712 BC, as much as twenty years before his death (simply an estimate), (Isaiah) could see that the Babylonian exile was coming (39:5-7).  It must have weighed heavily upon him, but as far a we know he did not enlarge on it in his preaching.  For most of the following fifteen years the more immediate Assyrian crisis demanded his attention and, with the accession of Manasseh, and the fierce repression that came with it, it would have become impossible for him to preach at all...It is therefore likely, ..that in the latter part of his life Isaiah was called to a new task:  to comfort God's people in words that his disciples would cherish and preserve in the dark days ahead until Israel was at last ready to hear them." - Webb, p 160.

In his footnotes, he recalls what Isaiah recorded back in 8:16-17, 

16 Bind up the testimony, Seal the law among my disciples. 17 And I will wait on the Lord, Who hides His face from the house of Jacob; And I will hope in Him.

What do we do when people will not listen to the Word, especially the warnings?  Bind them up and save them for another day will come when there will be ears to hear.

O Lord, grant us such days today!

Thursday, April 7, 2016

In Order to Test Him

"In order to test him..." - Those are the words in 2 Chronicles (32:31) that describe what God allowed to occur as recorded in Isaiah 39 with Babylon and Hezekiah.  After being healed, “his heart was lifted up” (2 Chron 32:25), Hezekiah, dazzled by the envoy from Babylon, showed them his own treasures, all of them (Isaiah 39:1-2), indicating his intention to impress and align with Babylon at all costs.  Here was the opportunity to give glory to God, but all Hezekiah revealed was his worldly riches.  There is similarity to the self-glorying declarations of Moses at the rock in the wilderness (Num 20:2-13) which also ended with consequences from the Lord.  Isaiah shows up unbidden (v3) as the Word of God often does to confront us.  God’s questions are like those to Adam and Eve (“where are you…what did these men see...where are they from”), questions that we know God already knows the answers to, but which indicate his judgment.  Hezekiah tells the truth (either in repentance or brazenly, we are not sure – v4) and then Isaiah replies with deadly calm that one day all those treasures would belong to Babylon (vv5-6), and that Hezekiah’s descendants would become eunuchs serving in the courts of Babylon (v7).  

Hezekiah’s answer in v8 leaves us all scratching our heads (v8); he doesn’t seem to care (at that moment) about the future of the country he leads.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

The Ironic Sundial Steps of Ahaz

When the shadow goes down on the “sundial of Ahaz” this is probably referring to the idolatrous altar that Ahaz had built after returning from Baal-worshipping Israel (2 Kings 16).  The sign showed that the kingdom of Judah, which was on its deathbed because of wicked Ahaz’s unbelief and idolatry, was going to be given an increase of years.  Ahaz, committed to his unbelief, had refused any sign offered by God (Isaiah 7); Hezekiah, because he believed, asked for a sign and received one (38:22).

Providence and Individual Human Life II

"To make us who we are, he must control our heredity.  So he has given us the parents we have, and their parents, and their parents.  And to give us the parents we have, God must control many of their free decisions, such as the free decisions of Jeremiah's parents to marry, and their parents, and their parents...

...Negatively, God's purposes exclude many free decisions that would otherwise be possible.  Since God had planned to bring Joseph to Egypt, his brothers were, in an important sense, not free to kill him, though at one point in the story they planned to do so...Nor could the Roman soldiers have broken Jesus' legs when he hung on the cross, for God's prophets had declared otherwise." - Frame, ST, p155.

My only thought about this is that Frame doesn't go far enough.  How could God have controlled "many of their free decision"?  Would He not actually have control of every single free decision we have ever made?

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Hezekiah and Jerusalem - the Looming Similarities

How are the stories of Hezekiah's illness and Sennacherib's attack linked?  They are both in crisis and in both stories, a salvation is granted.  Assyria is struck a blow and sent away.  Hezekiah's illness is struck a blow and sent away as well.  In Hezekiah's reprieve we learn explicitly that it is temporary.  He is granted an additional 15 years.  Jerusalem's reprieve will also be temporary.

"In short, the fall of Jerusalem in 587 BC is already beginning to loom up on the horizon of the narrative; it will come into direct view at the end of chapter 39, and dominate the scene from there on.  Chapters 38 and 39 are not (as they might at first appear) a digression from the main drama, but an introduction to its second major movement." - Webb, p155.