Brotherly Love as Literary Criticism

The Call of Ministry

Ephesians 4:11-12 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ. 

The word “equip,” in v. 12 is generally used in reference to act of mending something that is broken. In Matthew 4:21, Zebedee and his sons are “mending,” the nets. Mending is another form of the word for equip. In 1 Thessalonians 3:10Paul tells them that his desire is to “supply what is lacking in their faith.” The word “supply,” is a form of the same word translated as mending and equipping. Equipping, mending, or supplying. These are forms of the same Greek word. It means to bring someone or something to completion (perfect and adequate in every respect) and fit for its intended purpose. That is the sense of the final verses of this section.  Ephesians 4:15–16 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. 

The body, speaking words of love to one another grows up into the head, it grows up to Christ, who sits at the right hand of the Father. We reach our heavenly perfection together, growing up to Christ, the measure of holiness. Equipped. Joined together, working properly, building itself up in love. 

God has always worked through his children to train up his children. 

Romans 10:17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. Nehemiah 8:7–8 …the Levites, helped the people to understand the Law, while the people remained in their places. They read from the book, from the Law of God, clearly, and they gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading. Galatians 6:1–2 Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. 

Douglas Wilson expounds on this idea, 

“The teaching of Scripture on this point is very clear. God requires uninspired teachers to exposit His Word and apply it to the lives of God’s people. The Bible does not say that worship services should consist of Scripture reading only—with no interpretive voice inflections. On the contrary, the Bible tells us that we are to receive much of our religious instruction from uninspired sources—parents (Deut. 6:6–9), husbands (Eph. 5:25–27), elders (Heb. 13:7), and fellow Christians (Heb. 10:25). And if some of the believers are tempted to give too much wide-eyed credence to their fallible teachers, then their teachers should warn them about that, just as they warn them of other sins. And because all human teachers are fallible, it is very important for them to stick as close to the text as they are able. Those who refuse to listen to such teachers (and who refuse to read books by them) may do so in the name of honoring Scripture, but they are really kicking against the requirement of Scripture. They say, in effect, that the Bible should be honored—so long as it is kept barren and produces no teachers, and no books. And incidentally, it must also be remembered that although they maintain that they sit at the feet of no man, there is at least one kind of human teaching they do think highly of—whatever has been forged in their own brain.”

A healthy church member is devoted to the teaching of the local church, its ministers, and its members. 

As Paul David Tripp explains, “the times of formal, public ministry are meant to train God’s people for the personal ministry that is the lifestyle of the body of Christ.”

Timothy Keller writes, “Every Christian should be able to give both…instruction and admonition…a common word for strong, life-changing counsel… that conveys to others the teaching of the Bible. This must be done carefully, though informally, in conversations that are usually one on one. That is the most fundamental form of the ministry of the word.”

He goes on to say that a Church’s “gospel ministry should be pulpit-centered, but not pulpit-restricted.”Healthy church members are ministers to one another. 1 Peter 2:9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 

What does this mean? Bearing and proclaiming the divine word can be very hard. We don’t like confrontation or being “judgy.” We don’t want to pry or have others pry. But we must mature in this. We must be exegetes of the bible, and likewise, exegetes of people so that we know how to apply the word of God to those around us. 

Crosstalk 

In his book, Crosstalk, Michael Emlet writes, “Reading the Bible without reading the person is a recipe for irrelevance in ministry. Reading the person without reading the Bible is a recipe for ministry lacking the life-changing power of the Spirit working through his Word” (p. 90)

To make sense of our lives, each of us relies on a complexity of largely unconscious beliefs and assumptions about ourselves, our identity, purpose, and our environment. “Ministry,” says Emlet, “is about helping others see the storylines by which they are living” (p. 71). 

Failure to recognize the dominant story that is shaping and directing the course of one’s life leads to a solution-focused approach that looks “a lot like putting out multiple brushfires” and that will likely neglect what most needs to be addressed (p. 79). Are we the villain or hero? Is the story of our lives a tragedy or a comedy? 

Emlet makes the same assertion as Keller, Wilson and Bonheoffer, “Any attempts at ministering God’s Word that do not fundamentally connect the good news of the Redeemer, Jesus Christ, with the details, themes and plotlines of people’s lives will miss the mark” (p.7). 

Life is full of material – gifts of character and plot – providentially authored by God and we must learn how to exegete the text, just like we are learning to exegete the bible. Our biblical Hermeneutics matter, so too do our Hermeneutics for interpreting the story of our own life, and the lives of those around us. Suffering comes to us all, but when it comes to giving counsel, it matters if you are dealing with Job or Jonah. Peter or Judas. Especially, when your knowledge of the situation is so limited. We are working with sanctified wisdom, but still creaturely wisdom.  

There the kid is on the couch with a fist full of hair and a pair of scissors. There’s the husband on the couch watching baseball on a Saturday afternoon while the yard looks like a safari. There’s the clickbait. 

There is a friend telling you something in confidence. There is your sister asking you how you can believe in a God that allows miscarriage. Here’s the rainstorm just as you finalize the tent in your campsite. All these plot points require a response from you. What kind of character are you? What kind of story is being written? 

Each of us live our lives as a saint, a sinner, and a sufferer. The Christian’s fundamental identity is that of a regenerated, forgiven, and accepted child of God. Though sin’s power has been broken, sin’s presence remains, influencing our motives, thoughts, and actions. To varying degrees and in different ways, we are likewise sufferers because we have been sinned against, and we live in a fallen world. We tend to focus on one, or perhaps, two of these realities when we seek to help fellow believers but doing so results in a truncated understanding of the person we are trying to help, as well as, a failure to bring necessary truths to bear on a person’s life. 

We must minister the biblical truth of who and what we are, to one another in a gracious and firm way. As an aid, these three categories help guide us – saint, sinner, and sufferer. 

The Bible confirms the identity of the saint (Ephesians 1-4). Here are some questions that you can use to affirm someone in their identity in Christ. 

  1. What evidence of God’s grace do you see in the person’s life? 
  2. How does the person already exhibit the character of Christ in word and deed? Use examples from scripture. 

The Bible comforts the sufferer. Here are some questions for the sufferer. 

  1. What significant situational anxieties are you currently facing?
    1. Consider intrapersonal, interpersonal, and extra personal influences, such as health, relationships, and cultural pressures. 
  2. What were the significant aspects of life outside the person that are influencing them?  
  3. Ask if the person has been sinned against? 
    1.  Are they seeking reconciliation? Galatians 6:1-2; 1 Corinthians 6:9-11; James 5:19-20. 
  4. How is the person coping? 
    1. Avoidance, medicating, anger, despair, condemnation? 
    1. Fear, confusion, shame, guilt?
    1. Bible reading, prayer, singing, or fellowship with Christians? 

The Bible confronts the sinner. Here are some questions for the sinner.

  1. What desires, thoughts, emotions, and actions are out of line with the law of God?
  2. What motives, themes and interpretations of life ‘compete” with the biblical story?
  3. Discover the narrative and presuppositions that are guiding the person and leading to sinful words, attitudes, emotions, and actions. 

Dietrich Bonhoeffer encourages us with our responsibility.

“Christians are dependent on the Word of God spoken to them. They are directed outward to the Word coming to them. Christians live entirely by the truth of God’s Word in Jesus Christ. If they are asked “where is your salvation, your blessedness, your righteousness?,” they can never point to themselves. Instead, they point to the Word of God in Jesus Christ that grants them salvation, blessedness, and righteousness. They watch for this Word wherever they can. Because they daily hunger and thirst for righteousness, they long for the redeeming Word again and again. It can only come from the outside. In themselves they are destitute and dead. Help must come from the outside; and it has come and comes daily and anew in the Word of Jesus Christ, bringing us redemption, righteousness, innocence, and blessedness. But God put this Word into the mouth of human beings so that it may be passed on to others. When people are deeply affected by the Word, they tell it to other people. God has willed that we should seek and find God’s living Word in the testimony of other Christians, in the mouths of human beings. Therefore, Christians need other Christians who speak God’s Word to them. They need them again and again when they become uncertain and disheartened because, living by their own resources, they cannot help themselves without cheating themselves out of the truth. They need other Christians as bearers and proclaimers of the divine word of salvation.”

The more you understand a person’s situation, the more you understood the person. God’s word can be tailored to people in specific situations. The more you understand the situational factors at play in a person’s life, the more you bring the Word to their specific need in a helpful way. 

One of the delightful aspects of ministering to brothers and sisters is when someone returns to report growth that goes beyond the issue we originally hoped for. Always acknowledge it!

Remember that the bible speaks to the underlying intentions and attitudes of the heart. Confirmationcomfort, and confrontation—all have a place in personal ministry, and the Scriptures function in all three modes (p. 101). 

What we must learn how to build one another up in love, using the word of God. May the Lord grant you deeper understanding of his story, your story, and the stories of those living around you. 

What Has Athens to do with Jerusalem?

An apology for Classical Christian Education

Have you ever wondered what Classical, Christian education is? Why do some Christians encourage their children to read about pagan gods and culture? What as the Western Canon to do with God’s Canon? Who cares what happened in ancient Greece? Maybe, with that that 3rd century Christian author Tertullian, who’ve asked, “what has Athens to do with Jerusalem?” Athens here represent Hellenistic culture and Jerusalem represents biblical culture. 

This is a broad and important question. Does ancient pagan culture – literature, art, etc. – have any value for a Christian? There are so many good books written by Christians – why should we waste our time with anything else? There are so many modern authors? Why do we need ancient, pagan ones? 

Augustine had a ready answer for Tertullian on this important question. Augustine called studying classical Hellenistic culture “Plundering the Egyptians,” taken from the Exodus account. 

Exodus 3:21-22; 12:35-36 I will give this people favor in the sight of the Egyptians, and it shall be, when you go, that you shall not go empty-handed. But every woman shall ask of her neighbor, namely, of her who dwells near her house, articles of silver, articles of gold, and clothing; and you shall put them on your sons and on your daughters. So you shall plunder the Egyptians. 

Later, as the Israelites gather materials for the building of the Tabernacle, God’s house, they are well equipped with rich raiment. 

Exodus 25:1–7 The LORD said to Moses, [2] “Speak to the people of Israel, that they take for me a contribution. From every man whose heart moves him you shall receive the contribution for me. [3] And this is the contribution that you shall receive from them: gold, silver, and bronze, [4] blue and purple and scarlet yarns and fine twined linen, goats’ hair, [5] tanned rams’ skins, goatskins, acacia wood, [6] oil for the lamps, spices for the anointing oil and for the fragrant incense, [7] onyx stones, and stones for setting, for the ephod and for the breastpiece. (ESV)

Israel plundered the Egyptians to build a beautiful, portable cathedral to God’s glory.  

There are several examples of the Apostles using their plunder, their classical education, to construct the word of God. The Apostles used truth and methods created by pagans. 

First, the apostle Paul himself sets an example of familiarity with pagan literature that is used for the glory of God. 

Acts 17:24–29 The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, [25] nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. [26] And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, [27] that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, [28] for “‘In him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your own poets have said, “‘For we are indeed his offspring.’ [29] Being then God’s offspring, we ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man. (ESV)

In v. 28, Paul, on Mars Hill, he quotes from two pagan Greek poets. “In Him we live and move and have our being” is from De Oraculis, a work by the 7th century B.C. Cretan poet/philosopher Epimenides. And the next line, “we are also His offspring,” is from The Phenomena, written in the 3rd century B.C. by Aratus. The same line is found in the Hymn of Zeus by Cleanthes. Notice that Paul is clear about what he is doing – “as also some of your own poets have said.” Paul has no problem knowing and using Pagan poets while arguing for the validity of biblical truth. But note, he denies the validity of idolatry in v. 29. Paul uses the same strategy in the Pastoral epistles. 

Titus 1:12–13 One of the Cretans, a prophet of their own, said, “Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.” [13] This testimony is true (ESV).

Paul again quotes the De Oraculis, in making a point about the wickedness of certain deceivers, and says in the next verse, “this testimony is true.” All truth is God’s truth. 

1 Timothy 6:10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs. (ESV)

The phrase that “the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil,” is a quotation from a Greek philosopher – Diogenes the Cynic. Some may remember Diogenes as the one who went around in broad daylight with a lantern – looking for an honest man. That is a metaphor that can be validated by all Christians.  

This method of studying the wisdom and literature of pagans to use against them is exactly what Moses did. 

Acts 7:22 And Moses was instructed in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and he was mighty in his words and deeds. (ESV)

Moses studied these things, not to worship Isis, but to destory Isis. This is precisely what Daniel did, as well. 

Daniel 1:3–6 Then the king commanded Ashpenaz, his chief eunuch, to bring some of the people of Israel, both of the royal family and of the nobility, [4] youths without blemish, of good appearance and skillful in all wisdom, endowed with knowledge, understanding learning, and competent to stand in the king’s palace, and to teach them the literature and language of the Chaldeans…Among these were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah of the tribe of Judah. (ESV) Daniel 2:27–28 Daniel answered the king and said, “No wise men, enchanters, magicians, or astrologers can show to the king the mystery that the king has asked, [28] but there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries, and he has made known to King Nebuchadnezzar what will be in the latter days. Your dream and the visions of your head as you lay in bed are these: (ESV)

Daniel studied and learned and when it came time to answer Nebuchadnezzar, he could articulate the failures of the Babylonian intelligentsia while promoting true biblical wisdom – the fear of God. 

Much later, this is exactly how Calvin argued in his masterwork, The Institutes of the Christian Religion, in which we observe how willingly he quotes secular authors – Homer, Aristotle, Plato, Galen, Cato, Cicero, Horace, Josephus, Juvenal, Lucretius, Ovid, Plautus, Pliny, Plutarch, Seneca, Suetonius, Virgil. Christian writers of Calvin’s day had more of a grasp of what plundering was supposed to look like. And it wasn’t to bow to idols but to destroy them. The doctrine of common grace, means that some men will discover the truth, Pythagorean theorem for example, even if they are not believers in the living God.  

To return to the New Testament authors, we can see how their classical education equipped them to be God’s mouthpiece. As Ben Witherington III articulates in his work New Testament Rhetoric;

“The dominant paradigm when it came to words and the conveying of ideas, meaning, and persuasion in the NT era was rhetoric…in terms of both structure and content, most NT documents look far more like rhetorical speeches.” 

These speeches are the exordiumnarratioproposititoprobatiorefutatio and peroratio, as developed by Aristotle, Cicero and the Greek rhetoricians. Examples abound thoughout the sermons of Acts, the book of Philemon, the epistles, and the gospels. 

Take the Chreia of Mark in Mark 1:1-6, which meets all the rhetorical criteria of the basic exercises of beginning rhetoric. It is pithy and concise, ending with a memorable saying in v. 4. This also ends the first major division of Mark’s Gospel. Mark has a sense of rhetorical development, leading the reader from one summit in the narrative to another. It helps makes Mark’s gospel so unique. The art of Rhetoric was stolen baptized and used to tell the glorious, good news of the Lord Christ. 

The Apostles were instructed in the classical forms of argumentation and persuasion and so, if we understand these forms, we can better understand the NT. This will equip us how to articulate the faith in the same well-reasoned, impassioned, and pithy style of the Apostles. 

Reading Old Books

C.S. Lewis, the medievalist Oxford don and Christian thinker, wrote an essay called the Reading of the Old Books, in which he argued;

“A new book is still on its trial and the amateur is not in a position to judge it. It has to be tested against the great body of Christian thought down the ages, and all its hidden implications (often unsuspected by the author himself) have to be brought to light. Often it cannot be fully understood without the knowledge of a good many other modern books. If you join at eleven o’clock a conversation which began at eight you will often not see the real bearing of what is said. Remarks which seem to you very ordinary will produce laughter or irritation and you will not see why—the reason, of course, being that the earlier stages of the conversation have given them a special point. In the same way sentences in a modern book which look quite ordinary may be directed ‘at’ some other book; in this way you may be led to accept what you would have indignantly rejected if you knew its real significance. The only safety is to have a standard of plain, central Christianity (‘mere Christianity’ as Baxter called it) which puts the controversies of the moment in their proper perspective.”

Context matters. This is true in reference to farming practices in Ruth, the competing Sanhedrin and Pharisee parties of first century Palestine and the Classical metaphysical term “logos.” Context matters when reading Spurgeon or Athanasius. But it is even truer when reading parenting books by the Pearls, or Karl Barth’s systematic theology or studying the doctrine of Lesser Magistrates or listening to Crosspolitic. Let the fresh sea breeze of orthodoxy blow the chaff from your mind. And that healthy sea breeze is found in the reading of old books.

Warnings

Now, as classical Christian education continues to grow and flourish, the question of what to do with “the gold” from what we’ve plundered, must be considered. Greek, Roman, and Egyptian cultures are thoroughly pagan, after all, and we don’t want any nonsense about he the “noble savage.”  

We must be weary. There is an old adage, “beware of Greeks bearing gifts.” And this truth comes to us from a Roman poet named Virgil, in reference to the Trojan Horse. Learning how to discern gifts that bring destruction from gifts that bring wisdom is crucial to the education of our children. There are plenty of modern examples in entertainment; sports, movies, Netflix, books and much more – that are trojan horses of worldview rolled to our front door all day. Learning how to engage in the best and brightest of human thought, the “Great books,” is the best way to detect subtleties and errors in our own day.  

We can all agree that the Iliad is objectively better than the Hunger Games. We know that Shakespeare is objectively better than J.K. Rowling. But why? Shakespeare is often thought to be highly suspect because of his use of pagan mythology. But context matters. He was a thorough going Protestant. But given the censorship laws, he used the popular device of substituting “Jove,” for Jehovah. Jove, being Jupiter, the King of the heavens in Medieval cosmology. Context matters and learning that context has shaped the greater thinkers and artists of the modern era. 

To couple this with Lewis’ idea about old books, how do we articulate the obvious qualitative differences between Christopher Nolan and Woody Allen? Or Nickel Creek and Nickelback? The greatest Christian poem is, arguably, either Beowulf or Dantes’ Inferno. Well, its Beowulf, but why? 😉 And what has that got to do with our choice of worship music? 

A thorough going classical and Christian education prepares our children to take on the ideas of western culture, old or new, from a biblical perspective. 

Conclusion

Augustine, the Doctor of Grace, the most influential Christian thinker outside the bible (we are all Augustinians, whether we know it or not) argued that we “plunder the Egyptians,” to use the achievements of pagan society to construct God’s house and city. This is tricky, since the ideas we find in Plato, Virgil, Aquinas or Kant must be “baptized” – cleansed and converted. There is conflict here. But the kind of mental conflict, or wrestling that God intends for his Children.

Ephesians 6:12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. (ESV)

It requires sticking close to God and His word, the measuring rod for our faith and practice. But with care and wisdom, our children can be greatly enriched, even from pagans, just as God intended. 

Proverbs 13:22 A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children, but the sinner’s wealth is laid up for the righteous. (ESV)

A Well Aimed Faith

David immense skill and tactical wisdom were not the reasons he prevailed against Goliath.

1 Samuel 17:48–53 When the Philistine arose and came and drew near to meet David, David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet the Philistine. [49] And David put his hand in his bag and took out a stone and slung it and struck the Philistine on his forehead. The stone sank into his forehead, and he fell on his face to the ground. So David prevailed over the Philistine with a sling and with a stone, and struck the Philistine and killed him. There was no sword in the hand of David. [51] Then David ran and stood over the Philistine and took his sword and drew it out of its sheath and killed him and cut off his head with it. When the Philistines saw that their champion was dead, they fled. [52] And the men of Israel and Judah rose with a shout and pursued the Philistines as far as Gath and the gates of Ekron, so that the wounded Philistines fell on the way from Shaaraim as far as Gath and Ekron. [53] And the people of Israel came back from chasing the Philistines, and they plundered their camp.

Goliath was dressed like a serpent with his scale armor, and he died like a serpent, with a head wound, just as the Philistine god Dagon had his head crushed. Psalm 115 says that all those who worship idols will be like them – dead. 

David knows where true power comes from. Psalm 33:16–19 The king is not saved by his great army; a warrior is not delivered by his great strength. The war horse is a false hope for salvation, and by its great might it cannot rescue. Behold, the eye of the LORD is on those who fear him, on those who hope in his steadfast love, that he may deliver their soul from death and keep them alive in famine. Psalm 147:10–11 His delight is not in the strength of the horse, nor his pleasure in the legs of a man, but the LORD takes pleasure in those who fear him, in those who hope in his steadfast love. 

What matters is not whether you have the best weapons but whether you have the true and living God. In fact, your “inadequacy” is precisely our qualification for serving Him; for his strength shines most brightly behind the foreground of our weakness. 2 Corinthians 12:9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

And by crushing the head of the Philistine army, David began a rout, driving the Philistines down the valley to the coastal plain back to Ekron. David’s boldness and heroism inspire the whole Israelite army, just as Jonathon had. And their destruction would serve a high theological purpose; it would be a revelatory event by which “the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel.” What happens when God’s people arise armed to the teeth with faith, defiant? We need to learn what this means: “it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves, for the battle is the Lord’s.” 

David was not self-confident; he was God-confident. We are not facing down our own Goliaths of secularism, statism, communism and the like. We are not going out, against all odds, facing our enemies, as if our lives are a sanctified version of a scrappy underdog. We’re not Appalachian state beating Michigan in a NCAA football game. We are not David. We are Israel; cowering, incapacitated by fear, fixated on the size and power of our enemies. Wallowing in disobedience. Israel sees Goliath. His size and armor. David sees Yahweh. Hapless and helpless Israel. We are more likely to accuse and malign obedient sons like David – just as Eliab and Saul did. 

We need someone to deliver us. We need saving. We need courage. We need proof that faith overcomes. That God’s promises are true. That our enemies and circumstances are not bigger than God. David comes and shows us, with defiance, confidence and grit what the life of faith could be. He is the captain leading the way. He is a type of Christ: Colossians 2:15 He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him. 1 John 5:4–5 For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? Psalm 37:1–6 Fret not yourself because of evildoers; be not envious of wrongdoers! For they will soon fade like the grass and wither like the green herb. Trust in the LORD, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness. Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him, and he will act. He will bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your justice as the noonday. 

Our shepherd, armed merely with a staff has gone out to the chasm between our armies and Satan’s, and has thrown him down and cut off his head. Up Israel. The enemy is dismayed. The enemy is routed. Let us to the battle and follow our captain. Let us hunt down every sin and every lie and put them to the sword. In our hearts. In our homes. In our community.  Take up the sword of the spirit, the word of God. The battle is God’s battle. If our confidence is fixed on the power of God, rather than in any armor or sufficiency of our own, we may be certain the world’s utmost might cannot withstand us, because they could not withstand Christ. God resists the proud and pours contempt upon those who bid defiance to His people, humiliating them by a defeat with the meanest of instruments.

The humblest of tools – you and I. 1 John 4:4 Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. Do you believe this? Do you know the Christ who has delivered Israel from Goliath? Who has delivered you? Herman Bavinck explains, 

“Saving faith is not only a certain knowledge, a firm assurance, and undoubted certainty concerning the prophetic and apostolic testimony as the word of God, but is at the same time a sure confidence, as of one person in another, in Christ Himself as the fulness of grace and truth revealed in Him by God. The one stands in inseparable connection with the other. Without knowledge no confidence or trust is possible. For how should we trust anyone whom we do not know? But, conversely, too, if the knowledge does not lead to confidence and trust, it was not the right kind of knowledge. They that know the name of the Lord put their trust in Him. But those who do not trust Him have not yet leaned to know him from his word as he really is.”

Do you need to repent of the wrong kind of knowledge of Christ? Knowledge that knows of him, but does not know him? Do you trust him? Are you confident in him? Not just in words of ink about him – but Him. Do you have knowledge that does not penetrate beyond the head, to the heart? Are your eyes fixed on Him or your circumstances? Him or politics? Him or Economics? Him or COVID? Him or that which you fear? Him or wayward Israel? Him or the failed leadership? Him or his kingdom? 

A Faith well-aimed at Christ, eyes fixed on him, a head full of Christ and a heart full of Christ will overcome all opposition because he has overcome all opposition. In Him, you discover that you are already, whether fighting lies or sin or the world, victorious, because he is victorious. Do you believe it? 

Psalm 9:10 And those who know your name put their trust in you, for you, O LORD, have not forsaken those who seek you. There are giants in the land. But our captain, our king, our Lord is a giant slayer. Up Israel. Follow Him. 

Study Questions

1. 1 Samuel 16 is a very reassuring chapter, coming as it does before Chapter 17. Isaiah 52:13–53:12 is an amazing prophecy of Christ. Can you see that Isaiah 52:13 fulfils a similar function in relation to that passage?

2. A person’s words should be weighed, not counted, and the same applies to the books in a Christian’s library. How heavy are your words and books?

3. ‘Theocentric thinking’—it should be normal for Christians but often proves to be rare. Is it the normal way you think?

4. ‘In God’s economy no experience is wasted.’ Think that through in terms of your own life. It will enable you to find causes of thankfulness in the unpleasant as well as the pleasant times.

5. 1 Samuel 17 emphasises David’s weakness. Study the way Paul deals with the theme of weakness in 2 Corinthians 10–13.

 Davis, D. R. (2000). 1 Samuel: Looking on the Heart (pp. 190–191). Scotland: Christian Focus Publications

Spiritual Power Chords (Church Newsletter)

Saints,

Isaiah 40:9 Go on up to a high mountain, O Zion, herald of good news; lift up your voice with strength, O Jerusalem, herald of good news; lift it up, fear not; say to the cities of Judah, “Behold your God!” 

May the Lord grant to us the medicine of melody and singing. 

Blessings, 


Mike

Filling up the edges

If we want to be a people with a heart after God – we should look to the man whose heart was after God is whole life. David was a warrior. But in Yahweh’s kingdom things are done differently than they are in the world. Before we see David as a soldier or general or king, we see him as a musician subduing evil spirits. Because, as we read in Ephesians 6:12 “…we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” 

How? With music. And in this he is like his Lord. Isaiah 30:29–32 You shall have a song as in the night when a holy feast is kept, and gladness of heart, as when one sets out to the sound of the flute to go to the mountain of the LORD, to the Rock of Israel. And the LORD will cause his majestic voice to be heard and the descending blow of his arm to be seen, in furious anger and a flame of devouring fire, with a cloudburst and storm and hailstones. The Assyrians will be terror-stricken at the voice of the LORD, when he strikes with his rod. And every stroke of the appointed staff that the LORD lays on them will be to the sound of tambourines and lyres. Battling with brandished arm, he will fight with them.

Through Spiritual power chords, we are set free from evil spirits, we tear down strongholds, we ambush the enemy, and we delight our God. The weapons of our warfare must include Psalters, Hymnals and instruments. The enemy trembles when we sing and make melody. But are largely blind to the purpose of music and the power of music. We must come to understand and delight in this weapon if we are to reform the church and our country. 

1 Samuel 16:23 And whenever the harmful spirit from God was upon Saul, David took the liar and played it with his hand. So Saul was refreshed and was well, and the harmful spirit departed from him.

Puritan Increase Mather observed, “that music is of great efficacy against melancholy,” and “the sweetness and delightfulness of music has a natural power to overcome melancholy passions.” The secular world is increasingly aware of this common grace. A meta-analysis is a statistical analysis that combines the results of multiple scientific studies. The results of 35 studies from 1995 to October 1, 2012 were compiled into a meta-analysis of the medical efficacy of music. This comprehensive summary of SRs demonstrated that MT treatment improved the following: global and social functioning in schizophrenia and/or serious mental disorders, gait and related activities in Parkinson’s disease, depressive symptoms, and sleep quality. Those who practice music therapy are finding a benefit in using music to help cancer patients… hospitals are beginning to use music and music therapy to help with pain management, to help ward off depression, to promote movement, in speech therapy, to calm patients during and after operation, to ease muscle tension…”  We are discovering that listening to music activates every portion of our brains, from emotion to memory to motor function.

Though David’s musical efforts were effective in providing relief for Saul, the writer understood that David’s success was due to the fact that the Spirit of the Lord was with him in power.  David played Spirit-empowered chords, not just chords. The Power of music over the mind and emptions, as well as over the spiritual realm is why music and song were at the heart of temple worship. 

1 Chronicles 15:15–16 And the Levites carried the ark of God on their shoulders with the poles, as Moses had commanded according to the word of the LORD. David also commanded the chiefs of the Levites to appoint their brothers as the singers who should play loudly on musical instruments, on harps and lyres and cymbals, to raise sounds of joy. 2 Chronicles 29:25 And he stationed the Levites in the house of the LORD with cymbals, harps, and lyres, according to the commandment of David and of Gad the king’s seer and of Nathan the prophet, for the commandment was from the LORD through his prophets.

The spiritual power of chords over the spiritual enemies of Israel, was also why every facet of Israel’s life and every stage of its history were marked by music. Music was present when people greeted each other and said farewell, Laban scolded Jacob in Genesis 31:27 Why did you flee secretly and trick me, and did not tell me, so that I might have sent you away with mirth and songs, with tambourine and lyre? In Israel, when they married they played music. Jeremiah 7:34 And I will silence in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem the voice of mirth and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride, for the land shall become a waste. 

Major events in the life of the people, such as the Exodus from Egypt, conquering the Canaanites, recapturing the ark, dedicating the temple crowning the king and returning from exile were celebrated in music and song. This role of music and song was continued in the early church both in everyday life and worship – because worship is warfare. It is believed that quite a few sections of the NT are in fact, hymns; Philippians 2:6-11, Colossians 1:15-20, and John 1:1-17 are only a few examples.  Acts 16:25 About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them. Eph 5:15–21 Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ

The joy expressed in music and thanksgiving and the benefits of mutual submission, then, are results of the filling of the Spirit—but also what we need to experience in our life together. The singing is a kind of conversation among believers. Verse 19 begins with the word “speaking,” which implies that the content of the songs is a communication “among yourselves.” Singing arises from the heart, implying both that it is sincere and that it is not merely superficially. It is to the Lord, which fortifies the truly spiritual nature of the song—in contrast to the unholy conversation and coarse joking in the Ephesians’ former state. Singers are no longer idolatrous grumblers, as in Romans 1, but are giving thanks to God the Father. The words always and for everything are comprehensive and indicate a way of life, not just the experience of a moment. This amplifies the meaning of being filled with the Spirit. Their thanksgiving is in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, showing that they are now in the kingdom of Christ and of God and that Christ has shone upon them.

Calvin believed that Corporate singing subdued the fallen heart and restrained wayward affections in the way of piety. Like preaching and the sacraments, singing disciplines the heart’s affections in the school of faith, lifting the believer to God. It also amplifies the effect of the word on the heart, multiplying the church’s spiritual energy. 

Calvin wrote, “The Psalms can stimulate us to raise our hearts to God and arouse us to an ardor in invoking as well as in exalting with praises the glory of His name.” St. Augustine, “When we sing these psalms…we are certain that God puts the words into our mouths as if he were singing in us to exalt his glory.” As Douglas Wilson wrote, “The psalter is a battle hymnal. If we are serious about conquering the world with the gospel through biblical worship, we will soon discover that it cannot be done without the psalms. What is a good thing to sing while swinging a battering ram at the gates of the enemy? There are many to choose from, why not psalm 68,” God shall arise and by his might, put all his enemies to flight.” 

That is why, on the night Jesus was betrayed and instituted a new Covenant is his own blood is one of the few occasions when it records singing in Mark 14:26 – and they sang the Hallel Psalms – Psalms 113-118 – of Passover. Zephaniah 3:17 – The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing. When the Lord hung dying on the cross, he quoted Psalms 22, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” 

The whole Psalm is a plot point outline about the events of Calvary, written by David, but how could David have understood the depths of what he said? Jesus, in his final struggle against his enemies, has his hands raised singing and living out Psalm 22. 

The church militant needs to restore music to its proper place in our armory, if we are to fight properly and build properly. The reformation of the church is always accompanied by the restoration of music. 

2 Chronicles 23:18 And Jehoiada posted watchmen for the house of the LORD under the direction of the Levitical priests and the Levites whom David had organized to be in charge of the house of the LORD, to offer burnt offerings to the LORD, as it is written in the Law of Moses, with rejoicing and with singing, according to the order of David. 2 Chronicles 29:30 And Hezekiah the king and the officials commanded the Levites to sing praises to the LORD with the words of David and of Asaph the seer. And they sang praises with gladness, and they bowed down and worshiped. 2 Chronicles 35:15 The singers, the sons of Asaph, were in their place according to the command of David, and Asaph, and Heman, and Jeduthun the king’s seer; and the gatekeepers were at each gate. They did not need to depart from their service, for their brothers the Levites prepared for them. Ezra 3:10 And when the builders laid the foundation of the temple of the LORD, the priests in their vestments came forward with trumpets, and the Levites, the sons of Asaph, with cymbals, to praise the LORD, according to the directions of David king of Israel. Nehemiah 12:45–46 And they performed the service of their God and the service of purification, as did the singers and the gatekeepers, according to the command of David and his son Solomon. For long ago in the days of David and Asaph there were directors of the singers, and there were songs of praise and thanksgiving to God. 

The principalities and powers of the air are running amuck. To subdue them, we need to restore music to its place. We see enemies all around. There are giants and dragons in the land. So as we take up the sword of the spirit, let us drive the evil spirits out of our hearts and minds, out of our homes and communities and the public square by singing and making a joyful noise. They fear it. We have forgotten it. Let us remember. Let us repent. Let us cry out to the great Physician for this medicine. 

Around the Web

An Apple app for learning to sing:

https://apps.apple.com/us/app/sing-your-part/id1483413949

The following list was compiled by Joel Eby:

KEY PSALMS TO LEARN FROM CANTUS: 

Psalm 2 – Why do the Heathen Nations Vainly Rage (note – this is the one I add a quarter note to, which may throw some people off, but it’s better) 

 Bonus: Metal version

Psalm 22 – Be Not Far Off For Grief Is Near (Redeemer) 
Psalm 22 – To All My Brothers I’ll Declare  (Redeemer) 
Psalm 40 – I Waited For the Lord (Redeemer) 
Psalm 42 – As the Hart, About to Falter (Christ Church) 
Psalm 47 – All Peoples, Clap Your Hands for Joy (Can’t locate yet; we don’t do it often) 
Psalm 98 – O Sing A New Song to the Lord (Christ Church)  
Psalm 128 – Blessed the Man that Fears Jehovah  (Christ Church) 
Psalm 148 – From Heaven O Praise the Lord (Can’t locate yet… we don’t do this one anymore, but other CREC’s know it well) 

KEY NON-PSALMS FROM CANTUS: 

The Son of God Goes Forth To War (Random guy – this is folky and kinda cool) 
At the Lamb’s High Feast We Sing 
God Moves in a Mysterious Way (can’t find this one yet… will do it soon and you’ll have a recording) 
Sing Praise to God, Who Reigns Above 

KEY EASTER HYMNS FROM CANTUS: 

Ah, Holy Jesus, How Hast Thou Offended (Cantus) (Chris Thile and Sufjan Stevens) 

Stricken, Smitten, and Afflicted (Fernando Ortega) 

Devotion

Psalm 126

A Song of Ascents.

            [1] When the LORD restored the fortunes of Zion,

                        we were like those who dream.

            [2] Then our mouth was filled with laughter,

                        and our tongue with shouts of joy;

            then they said among the nations,

                        “The LORD has done great things for them.”

            [3] The LORD has done great things for us;

                        we are glad.

            [4] Restore our fortunes, O LORD,

                        like streams in the Negeb!

            [5] Those who sow in tears

                        shall reap with shouts of joy!

            [6] He who goes out weeping,

                        bearing the seed for sowing,

            shall come home with shouts of joy,

                        bringing his sheaves with him. 

God’s Grove

God plants and tends a garden of Righteous servants.

Genesis 2:15 The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. 

Psalm 1:3–4 [the blessed man] is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers. The wicked are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away. 

Psalm 92:12–15 The righteous flourish like the palm tree and grow like a cedar in Lebanon. They are planted in the house of the LORD; they flourish in the courts of our God. They still bear fruit in old age; they are ever full of sap and green, to declare that the LORD is upright; he is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him. 

Isaiah 61:3 to grant to those who mourn in Zion— to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit; that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he may be glorified.

Hosea 14:5–7 I will be like the dew to Israel; he shall blossom like the lily; he shall take root like the trees of Lebanon; his shoots shall spread out; his beauty shall be like the olive, and his fragrance like Lebanon. They shall return and dwell beneath my shadow; they shall flourish like the grain; they shall blossom like the vine; their fame shall be like the wine of Lebanon. 

God’s Harlots

Before we play the harlot with Idols, we play the harlot with God.

“For at the window of my house I have looked out through my lattice, and I have seen among the simple, I have perceived among the youths, a young man lacking sense, passing along the street near her corner, taking the road to her house in the twilight, in the evening, at the time of night and darkness.” (Proverbs 7:6-9).

“Simple,” means lacking sense, unwise, foolish. An empty-headed man heads out in bad company down the path of temptation. Paul says in Ephesians 5:16 (KVJ) “redeem the time.” Spend your time profitably, renewing the mind, mending habits, progressing in sanctification, growing up to mature manhood. 

How valuable are self-discipline, self-control, constant Godly employment and positive pursuit of God? They are the preservatives of God’s blessing from sin and danger. Idleness and habit. Bad company and an empty mind. Courting sin and tempting the tempter. These are dangers that beset us on every side. 

Looking at unholy things will lead to touching unholy things which will lead to tasting unholy things which will lead to consuming unholy things and unchecked the unholy thing – the idol, lie or false comfort will consume you. It will eat away at your friendship with Jesus bite by bite until there is nothing left. 

Repent and believe. Open your eyes and look at your habits and rituals, your daily liturgies. Where are your affections? Where is your comfort? What are you filling up on? Grace? Or the offerings of the world like this young man did with the harlot? Are you walking in the counsel of the wicked? Are you Standing with sinners? Are you sitting with scoffers and mockers of God and His Law?  Is your head empty? Are you tempting temptation? Are you easily taken in by putting yourself in a position to be tempted?

“She is loud and wayward; her feet do not stay at home; now in the street, now in the market, and at every corner she lies in wait. She seizes him and kisses him, and with bold face she says to him, “I had to offer sacrifices, and today I have paid my vows; so now I have come out to meet you, to seek you eagerly, and I have found you (Proverbs 7:11-15).” 

The young woman allures her victim with the garb of sanctity. She doesn’t play the harlot with man till she’s played the hypocrite with God. Sin comes closely on the heels of spiritual pride – all act without true belief. The offering the young woman mentions is the Peace-offering, in which, the majority is returned to the offeror, to feast upon with friends. 

This law of charity and generosity is abused as an opportunity for gluttony and excess. It was a pity that the peace-offerings should thus become, in a bad sense, sin-offerings, and that what was designed for the honor of God should become the food and fuel of a base lust. But this is certainly not the only example of this religious hypocrisy. The Israelites, after their miraculous deliverance made a golden calf and gathered around it to worship God in name only, using it as an opportunity to satiate their lusts. 

And they rose up early the next day and offered burnt offerings and brought peace offerings. And the people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play,” (Exodus 32:6). The Apostle comments on this in 1 Corinthians 10:6–8 Now these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did. Do not be idolaters as some of them were; as it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play.” We must not indulge in sexual immorality as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in a single day. But we didn’t take the way offered us. We use the grace and feast of God’s blessing for sensual license and self-gratifying sin. We test Jesus. We grumble.  We need to take heed. God says eat and drink, but do it before Him, in His name, to His glory.  

Let us guard our hearts. As we celebrate before the Lord, as we learn to rejoice before Him, as we learn to suck the morrow out of the bones of blessing, let us at the same time be vigilant. We often do not know what spirit we are of and when we rise up to play, if it veers toward self-gratification, fornication, drunkenness, debauchery, etc., then let us remember the twenty-three thousand who fell. 

God calls us to celebrate before Him, but this is to be done in a spirit of Holiness, selflessness and generosity. Let us not use the liberty of God’s Grace as libertines or antinomians – who have no law, no ethical restraint – self-gratifying in every sensual way. 

Let us offer ourselves as sacrifices to the lord, let us heap our idols up here and rise up to play with the same holy, generous, loving spirit of our Lord Jesus and not like the harlot, tempting temptation and relishing licentiousness. 

Let us learn at our father’s table, what true feasting and festivity look like, so that rising up to play we don’t use the feast of God’s blessing as the harlot did, for her own pleasure, but us use the feast of God’s blessing for God’s glory. 

The harlot “seizes him and kisses him, and with bold face she says to him, (Proverbs 7:13) and “With much seductive speech she persuades him; with her smooth talk she compels him,” (Proverbs 7:21). In this we see that temptation and sin are affectionate. Temptation and sin are patient and kind. Sin prepares for us, lures us in with decadence and excellence. We are deceived to think that sin is always tawdry, low and degraded. Egyptian cotton sheets, roasted lamb and scented candles sound pretty nice. Sin is hard to see as sin when it smells like mulled wine. Sin is rarely repulsive – it’s almost always pleasant in appearance. Think of Eve in Genesis 3:6,

“the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise.” The fruit that leads to death doesn’t sound so bad.  

The real deception of sin is that it offers real pleasure. It assaults us with kisses and flattering words. It isn’t always cruel and vile, but often is very affectionate. Eve grew in wisdom as she chewed the tasty fruit. The problem is that we are in an abusive relationship with sin. It draws us in with tenderness but always produces death. Its sugar-coated poison. When hemlock tastes like double dark chocolate, it’s hard to why it’s bad. When iniquity is so nice, how could it be bad?

 “Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy,” (Proverbs 27:6).

The kisses of an enemy are meant to appease the heart in order to hide the hurt that has or is to come. A villain must bring you into intimate fellowship before they can stab you in the heart. Like Judas in the garden, it was a kiss that Judas used to betray His friend Jesus, think of the affection over an extended period – the long toil of deceit necessary to stab Jesus in the back. 

Sin is rarely presented as raunchy and vile. It can be, but more often, especially once you’ve matured a little, raunchy and vile sin is easier to avoid. Sin, most often, deceives us with kisses. It softens our defenses through affection. We all have an ongoing relationship with sin and though it no longer enslaves us, it sure is reliable and willing to comfort us – anytime, anywhere. 

So many of us are not at war with sin, but an abusive relationship with it. It entices us with affection but leaves us with black eyes, shame, brokenness and confusion. But is so ready the next morning with a kind word, a tender look and promises to not hurt us again. And delivers real pleasure, so we forget for a time the real pain. Sin deceives us because the pleasure it offers isn’t illusionary – its real pleasure. But its fleeting. It’s temporary. It costs us so much on the backend. It’s the deal that is always too good to be true. Your abusive sin – what is it? Porn? The bottle? The needle, cigarette, frying pan, soda can or television? Is it your hand-held distraction? 

What sin has enticed you and lured you into an abusive relationship – a cycle of pleasure and pain? What promises you goodness but only delivers brokenness? What offers itself to you freely like the harlot in proverbs but is always a trap of death and shame? But there is another way. The way of the cross, the way of self-denial – not of pleasure but of fleeting pleasure – abusive pleasure, pleasure that draws near with a kiss to stab you in the back.

Moses knew the way, “By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward.” (Hebrews 11:24–26). But one greater than Moses is here, and He is the way, the truth and the life and at His right hand is pleasure forevermore. The greater prophet Jesus who chose the way of the cross for the Joy set before Him. 

Ours is not a faith of don’t taste, don’t touch, don’t look. It’s a faith in which our chief end is glorifying God by enjoying Him – forever. In the wind and work and food and drink and embrace of loved ones. In fellowship and praise. In confession and restoration. 

Let us enter the way – the narrow gate – let us enter our Father’s presence and taste and see that God is good. Overflowing with yes and amen. Sin, in the beginning was a tree of no in a vast garden of yes. And it is still so. 

“With much seductive speech she persuades him; with her smooth talk she compels him. All at once he follows her, as an ox goes to the slaughter, or as a stag is caught fast till an arrow pierces its liver; as a bird rushes into a snare; he does not know that it will cost him his life. And now, O sons, listen to me, and be attentive to the words of my mouth. Let not your heart turn aside to her ways; do not stray into her paths, for many a victim has she laid low, and all her slain are a mighty throng. Her house is the way to Sheol, going down to the chambers of death,” (Proverbs 7:21–27). 

We come now to the end of the matter. The simple empty-headed man, like so many of us, has tempted temptation. Sin was all too ready and welcoming. The woman has allured him with a pietistic religious façade – offering the sacrifices of God as self-gratifying sin offerings of iniquity.

Like Judas, the woman has drawn near to the man through affectionate lies and though pleasure was found for a time, the lasting fruit is death and destruction. The young man is hunted. Sin has hunted him down. It has laid a trap for him. Like a sparrow or ox or deer – the empty-headed young man has been lured, and at times – all too willingly. Sin, like a skilled bowman or trapper or rancher – remember ranchers are the most patient and affectionate of hunters – always affectionate, methodical and forbearing hunters. This is what Satan is like. He is a prowling lion seeking someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8). Sin is a smooth operator. The skilled hunter, crouching at our door seeking to rule over us (Genesis 4:7).  The lady leads the empty-headed young man down the path of death. Sin hunts us with fine speech and delectable pleasures – promises of delight and but in the end it’s the path of death – her only fruit is a pile of dead bodies – a rotting heap. 

We are prey for sin, Satan and death and sadly, all too often, oh so willingly Don’t be like the empty-headed fool, fill your mind with the truth. You need a rescuer. A defender. A friend and confidant to keep you on the true path. You need a protector and redeemer. Someone who will defend you, keep you from the prowling lion – everyday – who will guard and keep you. He had better be strong – the strongest – he better be good – the goodest. We need another path, another way around the sin, through the traps, out of the eventual grave of sin we’ve so justly earned. 

His name is Jesus. The lion of Judah, the friend of sinners, the beloved son of God, the pure lamb, the victor, the mediator – the God man. Put yourself in the way of sin and you will fall. Go unguarded for one minute and you will be hunted down like a dog. Let sin lure you in, let affection grow between you and sin, cover your idols with pietistic religious hypocrisy and they will drive the knife into your heart with a kiss. We are here to seek another way – to seek the way, the truth and the life. His power, goodness, righteousness and grace. Open before you is the peace of God, the feast of heaven, the living water, the Hightower and fortress of God – Jesus Christ. Our defender and redeemer. So open the gates of your heart to let Him in. 

Church Newsletter 2021-3-10

Saints,

Enjoy the glorious sunshine and this bit of spring amid winter. 

Here is an interesting thought from C.S. Lewis. “Do not be scared by the word authority. Believing things on authority only means believing them because you have been told them by someone you think trustworthy. Ninety-nine per cent of the things you believe are believed on authority. I believe there is such a place as New York. I have not seen it myself. I could not prove by abstract reasoning that there must be such a place, I believe it because reliable people have told mc so. The ordinary man believes in the Solar System, atoms, evolution, and the circulation of the blood on authority—because the scientists say so. Every historical statement in the world is believed on authority. None of us has seen the Norman Conquest or the defeat of the Armada. None of us could prove them by pure logic as you prove a thing in mathematics. We believe them simply because people who did see them have left writings that tell us about them: in fact, on authority. A man who jibbed at authority in other things as some people do in religion would have to be content to know nothing all his life.”[1]

Digging deeper

Study Questions

1. Do you agree that if God pronounces judgement, we as believers must not quarrel with him but agree with him?

2.  ‘To obey is better than sacrifice.’ This is true, but how superlatively good is that ultimate Sacrifice which is itself perfect obedience (Hebrews 10:9–14)?[2]

Filling up the edges

The Christian Life requires conforming to the standard of both God’s ethics and God’s emotions. What he condemns, we must condemn. What he curses, we must curse. What he loves we must love. What saddens him, ought to sadden us. 

Ephesians 5:1 Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. 

“But Jesus didn’t hate!” is a common retort. 

Hebrews 1:8–9 But of the Son [the Father] says, “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever, the scepter of uprightness is the scepter of your kingdom. You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness beyond your companions.” 

Some of us need to stop letting the world define words like love, mercy and compassion. The fruit of the spirit does not negate the Holy War, it frames it. Some of us need to hate sin and grieve over the fall and moral failure of our brothers and sisters and stop letting the world define words like war, enemy and hate for us.  Nightlong lamentation – crying out to God over the failure of church leaders and fellow Christians, this is a prescription for what ails many of us. 

Discipleship and imitation are inseparable. The call of Jesus to “follow me,’ demanded a life-long determination on the part of his disciples to pattern their values, beliefs, and behavior after their Master. For Paul too, imitation had a cruciform character. Saul does not have a heart after God. Samuel does. Reject Saul’s version of the Christian life and imitate Samuel’s. 

So here is how I propose growing in our imitation of the Lord Jesus. These are the areas I think we should all focus on.

Learn to love properly. We must give ourselves to the love of God and the love of our neighbor. Desire to rejoice in the Lord, in the public worship of God, in the commands He has given to us. Eagerly pursue evangelism and mercy work. We must love our husbands, wives, children and grandchildren. We must love our neighbors and co-workers. 

Romans 13:9–10 For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.

The more we are given over to these things, the more difficult it will be for the world to accuse us that our hatreds are just “phobias,” or some other sign of a broken mind. We don’t hate because we love hating. We hate because we love what we are defending. Zeal is a prescription for what ails many of us.

Learn to hate hypocrisy. When we hate the sins of others more than we hate sin in ourselves, we are a couple of miles down the deadly road to hell. When we judge others by their actions and words, while judging ourselves by our motives, we are already in the grip of Satan. When we judge others by a different standard than the one we desire to have applied to ourselves, we are rejecting the Lord’s teaching. Judgment begins with the household of God, and this is why there will never be a restoration of the republic without a reformation in the church.

Learn to hate jargon, buzzwords – any words detached from the objects they are supposed to represent – which is what happens when we deny the correspondence view of truth.

The correspondence theory of truth is that epistemological theory that states that the truth or falsehood of any statement is determined only by how it relates to the world and whether it accurately describes that world. Our beliefs and statements must correspond to the actual state of affairs. Evolution is a theory that does not correspond to the reality of a fossil record.  Identity politics assert many things about sex and gender that do not correspond to the physical attributes providentially distributed at birth. 

So, learn to love objective truth, and hate all subjectivism. Learn to mean what you say, and say what you mean. Target every form of verbal pretension and postmodern word games and redefining of terms. We must all master precision. Put a scope on the proverbial truth rifle. Sight it in. Go out for target practice in an abandoned garden patch. Get a sight on the pumpkins of postmodernism. Use hollow points. The results will gratify you.

Learn to hate every form of egalitarianism, feminism, metro-sexuality and associated fropperies, pomosexuality, and androgyny. In the image of God He created them, male and female (Gen. 1:27). And every true Christian has since that time said, amen

Learn to hate every attempt to turn the Scriptures against itself. No verse trumps any other verse. Dicing up the word of God into mantras and appeals to “simplify,” our interpretation is of the devil. No word from God is at war with any other word from God. The very first thing that “red letter Christians” do in their insistence to go “by the words of Jesus only” is reject the words of Jesus about the rest of Scripture. All you need to grow in this hatred rightly is a special edition of the Bible, which you can get at any Christian bookstore, with the words of the Holy Spirit in black.  All of Scripture and only Scripture — that is the ultimate and infallible rule of faith and practice. Those who seek to divvy up the Word are hostile to the Word, and so we must return that hostility with verve and pep.

Learn to hate every form of coercion that is not mandated by the Almighty God Himself. Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. Love liberty and love it in every lawful form. Hate every suggestion that would — apart from an explicit requirement from the Creator — bind, restrict, limit, constrain, constrict, curb, inhibit, stifle, bridle, disallow, immure, compel, or deprive the lawful liberty of another person. This is not done for the sake of an abstract idol called “individualism.” It is nothing more complicated than love of neighbor. In this, our statist and despotic age, it is not possible to love your neighbor without also hating an intrusive police state or the Green new deal, Government stimulus or the AOC Squad all wrapped in golden promises of prosperity and freedom. Hatred of coercion also includes every form of unjust warfare — hatred of ungodly compulsion is not limited in any way to domestic politics. We must reject the evangelistic program that spreads democracy with F-18’s and tomahawk missiles and expeditionary forces. 

Learn to hate the suggestion, made by some on our side, that we “take no prisoners.” The strategy outlined by the Lord Jesusvis that we disciple the nations, baptizing them and teaching them obedience. This means that we first recognize that they are undiscipled, unbaptized, and disobedient. The whole point is to persuade them, not to nuke them. As we undertake the endeavor of imitating Christ well, in our midst we will soon enough discover more than a few who do not know what spirit they are of; Luke 9:54–55 And when his disciples James and John saw it, they said, “Lord, do you want us to tell fire to come down from heaven and consume them?” But [Jesus] turned and rebuked them. 

We must learn to listen to the voice of God and obey it. Let the Lord define the terms, not our feelings and not the world. Let us take up the whole counsel of God, bearing the fruit of the spirit, wield the sword of the spirit with faith and wisdom

Around the Web

Pastor Wilson has some encouraging words on being the Prophetic voice. 

Here is a beautifully produced explanation of Psalm 8 

Devotion

Call my wandering heart home

Dear Lord of your people, let every evening toll the bell of recollection to call home my poor wandering heart. And when the tumult of a busy, unsatisfying, and troublesome world is over, oh for grace to do as my Lord did: to send the multitude away, and get up apart into the holy mountain of faith and love in the Lord Jesus, to meditate and pray! 

Amen.


[1] Lewis, C. S.. A Mind Awake: An Anthology of C. S. Lewis . Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Kindle Edition.

[2] Davis, D. R. (2000). 1 Samuel: Looking on the Heart (p. 164). Scotland: Christian Focus Publications.

Giving Stew to Esau

Modern Christians think the Christlike thing to do, would have been to feed the hungry and just give the stew to Esau.

“And Saul defeated the Amalekites…But Saul and the people spared Agag and the best of the sheep and of the oxen and of the fattened calves and the lambs, and all that was good, and would not utterly destroy them. All that was despised and worthless they devoted to destruction” (Chapter 15:7-9).

Saul was given the assignment to carry out the “ban,” against the Amalekites. According to this form of warfare, Israel was to utterly destroy every man, woman, child and animal. The command to ban the Amalekites continued the warfare that the Lord declared on Amalek in Exodus 17:8–16. The Amalekite story is an undercurrent through the rest of the Old Testament, finally coming to resolution in the book of Esther, when Mordecai, a descendant of Saul’s father Kish, overcomes Haman the “Agagite,” a descendant of the Amalekite king Agag.

In the aftermath of the battle, Saul interprets God’s instruction in his own way. Saul makes his own value judgement about those things that God has cursed. He decides what is good and what is worthless, when God said that it was all worthless and must be destroyed.  

God waited over four centuries to fulfill his plan to destroy the Amalekites. Yahweh deemed nothing of the Amalekite nation worthy of being spared. Saul disagrees. Saul shows mercy to Agag, the king and his choicest livestock. Saul doesn’t spare the women and children, but the things Saul deemed worthy of salvation, valuable, profitable. Saul’s judgment is opposed to God’s Judgment.  Saul spares things God commanded him to destroy. 

The word translated as “spared,” means to have or show compassion. It is translated as mercy in Lamentations 2:2. This is difficult ground. Saul is showing mercy where Yahweh commanded him to show no mercy. 

Mercy is one of the most essential qualities of God so it is important to understand what mercy means. “For the LORD your God is a merciful God. He will not leave you or destroy you or forget the covenant with your fathers that he swore to them,” (Deuteronomy 4:31). Mercy designates that quality in God by which he faithfully keeps his promises and maintains his covenant relationship with his chosen people, despite their unworthiness and unfaithfulness.

God’s mercy is more than punishment withheld. At the heart of the concept of mercy is the love of God, which is freely manifested in his gracious acts of salvation on behalf of those to whom he has pledged himself in covenant relationship. The Lord says,  “I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed,” (Genesis 12:3). If God were to not curse those who dishonor us, then he would not be a merciful, compassionate or a covenant keeping God. To show mercy to the Amalekites would be to withhold it from Israel. 

Christians struggle with these kinds of distinctions. We take words like love and mercy and compassion and miss apply them with our own fallen ethic, like Saul. Christians are called to hate what God hates and love what God loves. Failing to do either is sin. To give and withhold mercy based on God’s command, not our own reason.

Saul has usurped God’s moral judgements; Saul has seized Yahweh’s Lordship as Lawgiver and judge for himself. The scriptures are full of difficult passages that frame our understanding of love, mercy and hate. 

A good example of this confusion is highlighted by Paul. 

“As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.” What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills,” (Romans 9:15–18). 

God hated Esau. What is our responsibility then? To be more righteous and loving than God? God forbid such a thought. Should we hate Esau according to the world’s standards? God forbid. But many go back to Genesis hating both Esau and Jacob, treating them both as equally sinful. Or they pity and sympathize with Esau and hate Jacob. I mean, the Christian thing to do would have been to feed the hungry – like Jesus – and just give Esau the stew! And in this we show how far from God’s ethics we truly are. 

Why did God hate Esau while he loved Jacob? Only the perfect and hidden wisdom of God knows. What we have to do is reconcile ourselves to who and what God reveals himself to be and do and imitate Him. 

Remember, “the fear of the LORD is hatred of evil. Pride and arrogance and the way of evil and perverted speech I hate,” (Proverbs 8:13). Would our Netflix cue demonstrate our hate for evil ways and perverted speech? 

God curses the Amalekites and commands Israel to show them no mercy. Therefore, showing them mercy is sin. God commands us to hate pride, arrogance, evil and perverted speech and to fail to hate them is sin. Is that easy to understand? No. Should we therefore reject it? No. God’s ways are not our ways. God’s ways are perfect and righteous. 

This issue plagues us. Christians oppose the death penalty, which God commands in Genesis 9:6. Woke Christianity wants preferential treatment for particular races while and supporting racial unity based on Critical Race Theory, which is contrary to God’s word in Galatians 3:28. Modern Christians send their children to be indoctrinated at atheistic, Marxist, Darwinian, revisionist public schools, justifying it for financial reasons or poorly conceived arguments about the Great commission or the lie that academics are, or can be, neutral. All of these violate God’s command in Ephesians 6:4. 

Christians are always compromising. Showing mercy to own sins, those “respectable sins,’ those “every-body-does-em,” sins in one another, like gluttony, drunkenness, avarice, pride, gossip, apathy and indifference. We flatter ourselves with our holiness, forgiveneness, compassion and love. But what if we are loving things God hates? Or showing mercy when God desires us to show no mercy? Or we create idols out of half-truths, supplanting biblical ethics with the idols of “nice.” As if offending people is the unforgivable sin.

Ashamed of the word of God, and of one another, we compromise with sexual sins, homosexual sins, feminism, Americanism and conservatism. Failing to differentiate between the spirit of the age – progressivism and the spirit of God. We stay home from church justifying our disobedience by ham-fisted arguments about Romans 13.  

We probably all have a favorite verse on love. But what about our favorite verse about hate? Or showing no mercy? Try Deuteronomy 25:11-12. 

“Loving your neighbor,” is used to justify all kinds of disobedience. The fruit of the spirit are used to justify all kinds of disobedience. The great commission is used as justify for all kinds of disobedience. Let the hearer understand. We need to love what God loves and hate what He hates. And must study the word of God until those definitions are down in our bones. Loving and hating the way God loves and hates. 

We need to conform to his Character and command, no matter how hickified or “old-fashioned,” or “unscientific,” the world thinks it is. We need the whole counsel of God. A Love for God and neighbor. The Fruit of the Spirit and the Sword of the Spirit. We need to baptize and teach the nations ALL that Christ commanded from Genesis to revelation. 

Marxism is not the collectivism of Acts 2. Deistic evolution is antithetical to Genesis 1. Romans 13 does not teach absolute obedience to the state. To raise your children in the fear and admonition of the Lord, means there is not neutrality in any academic subject. The Law of God ought to be the Law of the land because it is the law of love. And our society is need of love. Homosexuality, greed, envy, sexual perversity, avarice, apathy and anger are all surefire paths to hellfire. There is no queer treasure that heaven will accept. The gay culture, just like the Scottish culture, American culture, Japanese culture and Portuguese culture – all have to die. They have to be placed under the ban. They must be refined by the fire of baptism. Everything that is Amalekite must be devoted to God in utter destruction, without mercy. 

So that the culture of heaven will prevail. 

Think Local

Christians need to regroup and refocus on that part of the world in which God providentially placed them to have the most influence.

This was an open letter sent to the saints of Redeemer Church at the start of 2021.

Saints,

One of the things that I have been struck by, through the holiday season, is the source of strength and stability our church has been, when everything else has been turbulent and unpredictable. I am thankful for your faithfulness and fellowship throughout 2020. 

I think we can strengthen it, even as we harness its strengths to be a city on a hill. I want to highlight a theme that I think we should focus on in 2021; local. We should focus as locally as possible. Our own hearts, our own homes, our neighborhoods, our local church (redeemer and the broader church in the Puget Sound), local businesses and local politics. 

The national scene is distracting and overwhelming. Social media and MSM are diluting our local witness, by getting us focused on things well beyond our control and responsibility. 

How is your own heart? How is your spouse? How are the kids? How are your neighbors, next door and in the next pew? 

Get out the church directory. Plug some addresses into google maps. Which redeemer folks are nearest to you? Can you host them? For meals and fellowship, bible/book studies, movie nights, song sings and service projects? 

Who have you never had in your house before? Who hasn’t been there in a while, wherever they may live? 

Who in your neighborhood might be suffering unduly from the lockdowns? Who might be lonely? Even if you have to wear a mask, is there someone who could use a visit? Some prayer? 

Who is the police chief, utilities manager, mayor and local judge? Are you praying for them by name? Are there first responders in your neighborhood who could use some support and encouragement? 

Are there some homeschool moms who could use some help grading? A care package? Some midday babysitting so they can go shopping? A meal? Is there a couple who could use a date night? 


Put away the social media and put down the phones and the distractions and look around your pew, your street, your life. 

This year, I don’t want us to build a ghetto, but we need to strengthen the Christian community through mutually beneficial infrastructure like Christian educational organizations, businesses, church plants, inter-church fellowship, etc. 

Is there a Christian who owns a business you could spend money at? Are there Christians at work who you could meet with for prayer? Is there a neighbor who owns a business you could spend money at? 

Is there a local volunteer position or public office that you could run for? A foodbank, crisis pregnancy center or senior center? 

Now is the time to live like Noah. Noah? Yes. Noah built an ark in which he would save a community and yet was a preacher of righteousness (2 Peter 2:5). Noah knew judgement was coming, built a means to endure it and called people to it. 

Now is the time to be like the Israelites in Nehemiah 4:16–20 From that day on, half of my servants worked on construction, and half held the spears, shields, bows, and coats of mail. And the leaders stood behind the whole house of Judah, [17] who were building on the wall. Those who carried burdens were loaded in such a way that each labored on the work with one hand and held his weapon with the other. [18] And each of the builders had his sword strapped at his side while he built. The man who sounded the trumpet was beside me. [19] And I said to the nobles and to the officials and to the rest of the people, “The work is great and widely spread, and we are separated on the wall, far from one another. [20] In the place where you hear the sound of the trumpet, rally to us there. Our God will fight for us.” 

Take up your sword and trowel. Fight for the truth, don’t hide or shy away from the overwhelming odds. Don’t fear men. Remember you were once “a slave in Egypt,” too and your world is full of “Egyptian slaves,” who need salvation. Spread the good news, even as you construct an Ark. Arm yourselves to defend the city, for which you labor. 

Study history, economics, poetry, theology and YOUR BIBLE.  

When the hordes came down from Central Europe to decimate Rome, it was in churches that the pagan people fled and where they were spared, because many of the barbarian Germans were actually Christians, who would not attack churches. This salvation was Augustine’s main argument for the City of God, in which he argued against the pagan accusers, who said that Rome was destroyed for abandoning its paganism.  The church was a place of refuge for many Romans, a refuge prepared by God, who worked through his people to save many. 

The Green Martyrs of Ireland, who lived at places like Glendalough, chose secluded places at the corners of the world to build thriving monastic cities devoted to God and neighbor, spending their days serving one another and copying books. When all Europe was destroyed by Vikings, Huns and Muslims, Western culture was preserved by little monks, who built and protected little Arks, in out of the way places. 

The Church offers community, order, culture and stability in a time when the world goes mad and implodes. For me, Redeemer is such a place. An Ark. A refuge amidst invasions. A city devoted to God.  

A local place from which I can draw stegnth. A place to call others to. Let us strengthen one another and from this overflowing grace and provision, draw what we need to feed and water a dying world. 

Blessings and Happy New year, 

Mike

The Constitution is King

**Guest post from Deacon Jered Leslie.

Saints, we have failed to uphold Paul’s words in romans 13: verse 1. … yes you heard me correctly. 

Saints, we are guilty of failing to obey his command, but not in the way you may be thinking and certainly not in the way the world would have you believe. 

Paul writes to the church in Rome. 

Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. – Romans 13:1

The great thing about his verse is that it is clear and simple in its original context. Paul is most likely writing to the Christians in Rome during the reign of Claudius Caesar.  And during the era of the Caesars, the supreme authority of Rome and of the Roman world was what they called the imperium; the law of the Caesar. Under this imperium, Roman governors and officials were vested with authority from Caesar and served at his pleasure. They were appointed by him to rule and govern as the hand of Caesar himself. Therefore, Paul is echoing the same thing that Christ taught to his disciples. Don’t fight Rome, do not fight against your Roman authorities. God has placed them over you as your governing authorities. Pretty clear. 

But we do not live in first century Rome and if we assume our present context is identical to theirs, then we commit eisegesis

So how are we failing to obey our governing authorities? 

We must be reminded of who, in fact, is our governing authority as American citizens. The authority, that according to romans 13:1, God has instituted over us. 

Do we have a Caesar? No. 

Is jay Inslee your governing authority? No, he is not. Was Trump or is Biden our governing authority? No.

Who then is our authority? It turns out that we have the same governing authority as they do, the authority that they are sworn to support and defend; the Constitution. 

And the Constitution is very clear that it is the supreme governing authority. 

Article 6 reads;

“This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding.”

That last phrase means if a state law is contrary to, or violates, the federal Constitution, then that state law is not legitimate. Thus, the U.S. Constitution remains the supreme law of the land .

It continues…

“The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the individual States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution.”

Saints, we have forgotten what our real governing authority is, just like our representatives have forgotten what they are sworn to support. 

Now, If Paul is correct, then God has instituted our U.S. Constitution as our governing authority to which we are subject. 

So, how can we be subject to men who are subject to the same thing we are? They are subject to the same authority that we are. 

We have abdicated our true governing authority and let godless men control us as though they wielded power. And By doing this, we have violated Romans 13:1. We are not subject to our true governing authority. Rather we are subjecting ourselves to men who have no authority at all. 

The fact that this is not common knowledge is to our shame. So, saints if you are willing, let us kneel and confess our sins of failure to be subject to our true authority.