Church Newsletter 2020-8-5

Saints,

Elder Baker’s sermon came at a providential time. God is in heaven and does as He pleases. I think many of us are getting weary over the lockdown/COVID nonsense and are aghast at the chaos and violence that is baring its teeth in the open light of day. 

In Portland, the protestors are burning bibles and crosses now. 

I am in one sense, quite thrilled by this development. The enemy is showing itself for what it truly is. This is not a culture war. This isn’t a mere political imbroglio. This is spiritual warfare. And we serve the victor. After a long peace those crosses and bibles have never meant so much, to a nation devouring itself in an orgy of emotional subjective relativism. Being a man of God and a woman of God has, in this nation, never meant so much, nor been so risky. 

Now is the time to gather. Now is the time to worship. Now is the time to show, not only the world, but so many professing Christians what it means to serve the living and loving Triune God. 

The public schools are being shut down and people are scrambling for alternatives. The idol of entertainment is being toppled. The progressive revolution is beginning to devour its children. 

You were born to live out the gospel here and now. This is what God providentially decreed. You, here, now. COVID-19 is a virus. It is being obedient as what God made it to be. It spreads, it inflicts, and it is healed just as God designed it to be. 

Are we going to be less obedient to our merciful creator than COVID? What does true obedience look like today, for you, in these circumstances? 

See you on the mountain 

Filling up the Edges

Psalm 18:1–2 I love you, O LORD, my strength. The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.

David was falsely accused by Saul of treason against Israel. Saul attempted to kill David several times. Saul hunted and conspired against David to destroy him. David led Israel in victory over all of her enemies like Edom and Philistia. All of these events are echoed in the life of Jesus. But both David and Jesus experienced God the Father’s protection and deliverance. Nothing could befall them outside of His will. The Father was their refuge again and again, in every danger and threat. 

The text of the psalm is almost identical to 2 Samuel 22. The two songs differ, however, in their context: Second Samuel 22 is David’s personal expression of gratitude to the Lord, while Psalm 18 is the adaptation of that song for the whole people to sing, because their well-being is now tied to the offspring of David (2 Sam. 7:4–17). 

When God’s people sang this, then, they were to give thanks for the Davidic line and to pray that its heirs would be faithful to the Lord and would be valiant military leaders, so that Israel might carry out its God-given purpose of bringing light to the Gentiles.

As Christians these are fulfilled in Jesus Christ.

Psalm 18 opens with a doxological statement of confidence in the Lord’s exalted position, which provides strength and protection for His people.   

The Hebrew term, Horn of my salvation, indicates a place so high as to be beyond the reach of danger. It is a high rock or crag affording a safe refuge. Hence the figure is not borrowed from the horn of the buffalo as most interpreters argue, but from the summits of mountains, called horns in many languages, as in the Matterhorn in the swiss Alps or the Faulhorn in the Bermese Alps. The horn is frequently the figure of strength and victorious power, yet the reference here is not offensive, but defensive. 

The term is more than geographic, it is covenantal. Psalm 121:1–2 I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth. In view here are the covenantal hills; Eden, Ararat, Sinai, Moriah and Zion. All the summits where God met Israel’s needs. All the summits where God renewed covenant with Israel out of sheer grace and loving-kindness. The horn of our salvation is the height of God’s Divine Mountain in Heaven, our place of strength and protection – God’s exalted Son – Jesus Christ. 

Zechariah, John the Baptist’s father prophesied and rejoiced that Christ was the fulfillment of this hope, declaring joyously that “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has visited and redeemed his people and has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David,” (Luke 1:68–69). Our high and sure protection is the exalted Lord Jesus sitting at the right hand of the Father on the temple mount in heaven. 

Psalm 18:1-2 could be translated Christologically as “I love the Lord my strength, my foundation, my fortress, my protector and deliverer; I am in Christ, who sits at the right hand of the Father, high and exalted – where my help comes from.” 

But if David’s confidence in God is so strong, how do we explain phrases like “How long shall my enemy be exalted over me,” from Psalm 13? Or this statement from Psalm 22; “For dogs encompass me; a company of evildoers encircles me; they have pierced my hands and feet – I can count all my bones – they stare and gloat over me” (Psalm 22:16–17)? 

Are the protection of the Lord and a believer’s suffering mutually exclusive? There is wisdom in the fact that no matter what happens to us, we do not get what we deserve as sinners. Suffering is an integral part of God’s discipline and education of His children. Comfort is not the same thing as safety. Sometimes what is safest for us is not what we would consider safe. Like a father teaching a child to ride a bike, there is calculated risk for the purpose of maturity. 

We have to remember the words of God recorded by the Prophet Isaiah, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8–9). This is something the Prophet Daniel knew. God, in his infinite wisdom, may not deliver us from the martyr’s end or from earthly suffering. Daniel knew that God’s ways are above us in wisdom; “our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up” (Daniel 3:17-18). Daniel never doubted that God could, it was a matter of whether God would, save them. 

We have to make distinctions between the redemption of the fallen world and our final hope. No matter what circumstances and travails befall us, our enemies do not have the last word. All of God’s enemies will be defeated. We will stand in the flesh and see Christ face to face, victorious, at the right hand of God, the Father. 

1 Corinthians 15:25–26 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. Revelation 21:4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” 

Even on the pyre of martyrdom, even in the shadow of death, even in the grip of evil men – our present and future security is the exalted Lord Jesus. 

One commentator mentions that “the images, which are most of them of a martial character, are borrowed from the experience of David’s life, and the perpetual struggles in which he was engaged.” 

These analogies are somewhat foreign to us. But the nature of the them is something like our Mother’s lap as a child; a place of security and safety and healing. No matter the booboo, no matter how scary the movie, no matter how uncertain the neighbor’s dog – mother’s lap was always the place to turn for protection. 

Defensive towers dot landscapes the world over, from the Wooden blockhouses of Whidbey Island, WA built by settlers against raiding Indians to the towers like Glendalough and Clondalkin scattered throughout Ireland to protect medieval monks from raiding Vikings. 

The second Amendment is a recognition of our desire to build towers of defense. Since the invention of gunpowder, those small grains of potassium nitrate, charcoal and sulfur are a stone tower of sorts, we build in towers of 17 round magazines. When people need protection and safety, strength and refuge – they build high towers, but what tower is higher than King Jesus enthroned on the temple mount in the Highest heavens? 

John Calvin’s comments on this passage are enlivening; “David, therefore, here furnishes the faithful with a complete suit of armour, that they may feel that they are in no danger of being wounded, provided they are shielded by the power of God…Let us, therefore, learn from his example, to apply to our own use those titles which are here attributed to God, and to apply them as an antidote against all the perplexities and distresses which may assail us; or rather, let them be deeply imprinted upon our memory, so that we may be able at once to repel to a distance whatever fear Satan may suggest to our mind. I give this exhortation, not only because we tremble under the calamities with which we are presently assailed, but also because we groundlessly conjure up in our own imaginations dangers as to the time to come, and thus needlessly disquiet ourselves by the mere creations of fancy.”

There are dangers all around. Some of our own making – the fear of men, anxiety and uncertainty about the future. There is also a pandemic, fallout from our Government’s response to that pandemic. There is social unrest stemming from the brutality and violence of Police officers which has unleashed brutality and violence of mobs. Satan likes to work on our fears to distract us from our calling. From loving God and neighbor. 

We need to remember our rock of refuge and sure foundation. We need to remember our High tower – the horn of our salvation – the Lord Jesus Christ. 

David did not just express need or assurance in receiving something; the gifts and blessings of having Jesus as our fortress. David expressed love. 

David says in Psalm 18:1–2; I” love you, O LORD.” The word is usually used to affirm God’s compassion for people. It implies the need of the one who received the compassion and is associated with a mother’s care for her children. David is expressing commitment to the Jesus, who is David’s source of strength, comfort and sustenance. “I love you,” communicates the intimacy of his relationship with the Lord based on experience. 

Do not merely cry out to God. Cry out to God with endearment, for you know what Christ has done for you and knowing that, you know that you truly have nothing to fear. You know where he sits. You know how far he is willing to go to provide everything you need. You know he isn’t safe, but you know He is good.

Around the web

Pastor Wilson gives us some uch needed aphorisms on liberty. https://dougwils.com/books-and-culture/s7-engaging-the-culture/aphorisms-on-liberty.html

Devotion

Psalm 5 

Give ear to my words, O LORD; consider my groaning. Give attention to the sound of my cry, my King and my God, for to you do I pray. O LORD, in the morning you hear my voice; in the morning I prepare a sacrifice for you and watch.

For you are not a God who delights in wickedness; evil may not dwell with you. The boastful shall not stand before your eyes; you hate all evildoers. You destroy those who speak lies; the LORD abhors the bloodthirsty and deceitful man.

But I, through the abundance of your steadfast love, will enter your house. I will bow down toward your holy temple in the fear of you. Lead me, O LORD, in your righteousness because of my enemies; make your way straight before me.

For there is no truth in their mouth; their inmost self is destruction; their throat is an open grave; they flatter with their tongue. Make them bear their guilt, O God; let them fall by their own counsels; because of the abundance of their transgressions cast them out, for they have rebelled against you.

But let all who take refuge in you rejoice; let them ever sing for joy, and spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may exult in you. For you bless the righteous, O LORD; you cover him with favor as with a shield. 

Amen

Fattening Calves for the Slaughter

Christ sat on the temple mount teaching and there were those who did not receive his words, for they relied completely on themselves. They were wealthy; two car wealthy. Some had a house they owned, some they rented, they ate meat every day, had an income. They even owned more than two coats and two pairs of shoes. 

They could get medical service when they needed it. Dental too. They could choose between 5 grocery store chains. Two kinds of Thai, hell, even two kinds of decent fried chicken. Even their burgers came from cows healthier than the average kid born in the southern hemisphere. 

They had never known hunger. The cops came when they called for them, aid cars too. They could play any song, from any era, whenever they wanted as many times as they wanted. They could vote. 

They could buy guns. They could turn the heat up or down. Sit in the shade or not. Plant gardens of whatever suited them. They could even water those gardens as often as they wanted. They could pay neighbor kids to mow their lawn. 

They were wealthy and self-sufficient and therefore, they were hard of hearing. 

One of them in the front row didn’t have a bible, didn’t need to verify what the Messenger said, he was just there to listen. The messenger was probably right, maybe not, whatever. The rich man’s mind wandered. He thought of all those fools at home, going about their day, lost in darkness out in the world, missing out on the Lord’s service. He was grateful he were chosen, special, different. 

The Messenger mentioned liberals and it was always funny. Always spot on. Those progressives, they don’t know the ear from a hole in the wall. What morons. “Thank God I’m not an idiot,” thought the rich man. 

Jesus got up to pray. Our wealthy friend heard him ask God to give them courage and the rich man chuckled to himself. He had never feared anything. Nothing. God loved him so much and took such good care of him. Not like the loser on the side of the road of the offramp; that addict under God’s judgement, probably a registered sex offender too, just like that filth living under the Aurora Bridge. 

The man’s heart was full of gratitude for being who and what he was. He had a full tithe check in his pocket ready to slide into the box. He was an honest hard-working man who wanted for nothing. He was a faithful husband too – it was all just so overwhelming.  

Further back was another well-to-do rich man. But he lingered just inside the door, clutching his bible, listening from afar. Unable to draw any closer, too ashamed to even lift his head. He knew that all the wealth and worldly blessing were just whitewash. He knew inside, he was as corrupt as a corpse three years in the grave. 

“Mercy,” was his half audible prayer. “Mercy.” 

Only one of these men went home Justified. 

Friendship with BLM is Enmity with God

James, the Lord’s brother, led the first church in Jerusalem and wrote the epistle known as James. He wrote it to the scattered church, intending for it to be a circular sermon read at each house meeting, addressing issues common to all Christians. The content of the letter is a summary of both OT wisdom literature and the Sermon on the Mount, rendered in a uniquely concise and poetic form. James’ overall message is that orthodoxy (right doctrine) must be expressed in orthopraxy (right living). 

An important aspect of that right doctrine and right living is loyalty within the body of the Lord, to the Lord. Wisdom and the tongue are the two things James addresses in 3:1-4:12, which were causing dissension within the body of Christ. More specifically, worldliness expressed in a lack of wisdom and a misuse of the tongue is causing dissension within the body. Worldliness is an extreme form of disloyalty to the Lord and was causing enmity, or warfare, within the body of the Lord. 

If Christians are disloyal to the Lord himself, then they will not have peace with the Lord’s body. James 4:4 says that our unfaithfulness to Jesus his friendship with the world and friendship with the world is enmity with God. Enmity means being at war, the opposite of friendship. It means ill-will, hatred, unfriendly dispositions, malevolence. 

This is an echo of the protoevangelium of Genesis 3:15, where the sons of God were at enmity with the sons of Satan which is a poetic description of Man’s fall and subsequent brokenness and estrangement from God. James is essentially saying that loyalty to the world is an act of war on God and His people. 

Some might say that friendship with the world is necessary for evangelism, because relationship is the best means to live out the great commission and the command to love our neighbors. Especially since Jesus ate with prostitutes and drunks and immoral people, compassionately befriending them in the circumstance in which he found them. But Paul is going beyond mere affection or affinity that constitutes casual, neighborly relationships. 

The word that Paul uses is the Greek word for love; Philia – to have love for someone or something, based on sincere appreciation and high regard – a state of being inclined to help or support someone or something. The Greek word for world is Kosmos – the world system; the people constituting the world whose values, beliefs and morals are in distinction and rebellion to God. We are not called to love the world but hate it. John 15:19 If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Christ has called our hearts, affections, minds and desires out of this world and calls us to focus them on Him, even as our physical bodies remain in this world. We are to be in the world, not of it. The warfare between the kingdom of darkness against the Kingdom of Christ is real and though we fight that war like Christ, we are to seek to save those in the world, without promoting the world’s values and beliefs and morals. 

It’s like neutrality in warfare. A nation cannot say that it is neutral toward both parties of an armed conflict and then sell supplies to one party, aiding them in the conflict. Friendship between nations means lending mutual support. Promoting the welfare and ability of one nation in battle means that you are not neutral, but are friendly – promoting their success, upholding their values, beliefs and morals. Logically, you are not neutral but at war with the third country. 

John Calvin comments that, He calls it the friendship of the world, when men surrender themselves to the corruptions of the world, and become slaves to them. For such and so great is the disagreement between the world and God, that as much as any one inclines to the world, so much he alienates himself from God. Hence the Scripture bids us often to renounce the world, if we wish to serve God.”

Contemporary applications abound. But one prevalent one is the BLM movement. Now, no one can argue with the fact that black lives matter. It is a true statement that ought to be defended. 

However, the organization of the same name is antithetical to Christian values and friendship with God. The BLM creed is social marxism. Marxism is an economic-political theory that the “haves” are oppressing the “have-nots”. The bourgeoise must be toppled and the workers must be ennobled and empowered. 

The BLM form of Marxism is racial rather than financial. Certain races and sexual orientations have all the money, opportunity, power, privilege etc. and they must be toppled, and the oppressed races must be ennobled and empowered. 

It’s a framework for understanding both history and current socio-economic disparities. This social Marxism implores us to see that race is everything, all disparities come down ethnicity.  The social ills of our day are caused by the new bourgeoise – white people. This is the epicenter of the commie revolution in America that is hijacking the real and justified outrage over the death of George Floyd.

The injustice in the world must be remedied. But the heightened outrage is being channeled into support for an organization that is revolutionary and opposed to basic Christian morality. 

Their creed states that are “self-reflexive and do the work required to dismantle cisgender privilege.” Cisgendered means a sense of personal identity and gender corresponds with their birth sex. But there are only two genders and those genders depend on one’s sex at birth; “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them (Genesis 1:27).” 

The BLM creed states further that they, “disrupt the Western-prescribed nuclear family structure.” God gave man the cultural mandate at the beginning of creation and the Word of God places the nuclear family at the heart of society; “from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’ ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate (Mark 10:5–9).” “Did he not make them one, with a portion of the Spirit in their union? And what was the one God seeking? Godly offspring. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and let none of you be faithless to the wife of your youth” (Malachi 2:15). 

The BLM creed closes with this statement, “We foster a queer‐affirming network. When we gather, we do so with the intention of freeing ourselves from the tight grip of heteronormative thinking, or rather, the belief that all in the world are heterosexual (unless s/he or they disclose otherwise).” This is opposed to biblical morality as we see in 1 Corinthians 6:9; “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality.” 

BLM is at war with God and His Holiness. Their ethos is summed up in Psalm 2:2–3; “The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD and against his Anointed, saying, “Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us.”

Promoting the values, beliefs and morals of the BLM movement isn’t neutral. It’s an act of war on God’s holiness. Friendship with BLM is enmity with God. Walking in step with BLM is not right living and promoting their ideology is not right thinking. 

As we seek to right injustices and teach the nations to be disciples of Christ, we cannot compromise with the world and remain neutral to organizations that promote warfare with and hatred of the living God. 

I Don’t Need to Repent of That

A middle schooler sits in PNW history reading, for the first time, about the internment of Japanese Americans during world war II.  He is horrified to learn that 120,000 innocent people were rounded up and imprisoned because some of them might be spies. He thought to himself, “how could the US fight to liberate Europe while simultaneously committing atrocious war crimes against its own people?” 

One of his best friends is a second generation Japanese American. One day after school, at the friend’s house, this young man apologizes to his friend and his whole family, including his grandma, for what Americans had done to their people. 

The family just looks at him in awkward and stunned silence. “but,” his grandmother says, “you didn’t do that…your parents weren’t even alive. And our family was still in Japan, enemies of the United States. But I heard you and my grandson talking about how you were treating your classmate poorly; tomorrow, apologize to him for what you actually did do.” The boys go out to play basketball. 

When we say the United States sinned, what does that mean? The United States isn’t a person. So, who did the sinning? 

When we say that non-Japanese Americans sinned against Japanese Americans who did the sinning? Every non-Japanese american? Against every Japanese American alive then and now? In the case of the Japanese prisoners, US politicians, military officials, local government officials and normal citizens who claimed the businesses and homes of those interred Japanese Americans all participated in particular sins against particular individuals. Specific crimes against Specific people. Who is responsible for those sins? Those war crimes? 

We live in the information age in which we know a great deal about what happened 300 years ago and what is happening 3000 miles away. Meanwhile, we hardly know what is going on 3 houses down our street. When we hear of atrocities, crimes, sins, injustices and wrongs what is our responsibility? 

We are not responsible for the sins of every American or everyone who shares our ethnicity, our language, our creed, etc. 

During the first Crusade, the Christian soldiers marched into the Middle East and promptly slaughtered 30,000 infidels. The problem was, well there are lots of problems with that, but one of them is that they weren’t infidels, they were all Christians who dressed and talked differently than the Germanic soldiers. The first massacre of the first crusade were Christians slaughtering Christians because they looked and talked different. So, you are Christians. Are you responsible for that? 

Does the bible have anything to say about this? Covenantal theology is necessary at this point. A husband is responsible for His wife, a free agent who commits sins. His responsibility does not mean his wife will not answer for her sins, it means he will answer for his sins and her sins. Add children. Add greater and greater spheres of authority and responsibility. 

Hebrews 13:17 Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you. 

Your pastors will give an account for their own sins and yours. This is federal headship, covenantal headship. FDR will give an account for His own Sins and the sins of his administration for Interring Japanese Americans. Mayors, presidents, generals, husbands, mothers, pastors – anyone who has authority and responsibility will give an account for the sins of those in their care. 

We must repent of our worldly thinking. The false belief that the bible has nothing to say about the most difficult questions that face us right now. God’s word is sufficient for the problems of our age, if we have the courage and humility to study it and apply it no matter how unwelcome in the public sphere, we are people of the word. 

Here is an example. Deuteronomy 21:1–3 “If in the land that the LORD your God is giving you to possess someone is found slain, lying in the open country, and it is not known who killed him, then your elders and your judges shall come out, and they shall measure the distance to the surrounding cities. And the elders of the city that is nearest to the slain man shall take a heifer that has never been worked and that has not pulled in a yoke.

Did the whole town repent? No, the elders and judges of the nearest town repented. How were they responsible? They were covenantally responsible, sice the unsolved murder happened in their jurisdiction. Do we want more justice in our community? Then the mayor and judges of Lynnwood ought to repent, on behalf of the city, for every unsolved murder and cold case on record right now. That is biblical justice. And this is just one example. Let us shape our cries for justice with a biblical standard rather than the standard of academics, sociologists, race-baiting social Darwinists. We have a great deal to learn about how to process the injustices we learn about. Whether through history books or the nightly news. 

The struggle is real though, because our culture does not recognize God, his law or the responsibility leaders owe for the sins of their administration. We are tempted to make justice solely an issue of this age. We want vindication now, but we are not promised vindication now. We ought to cry out against injustice, but all injustice will not be reconciled in this age. We can be neither complacent nor without hope. 

In the age to come all injustices will be dealt with by Christ. If that isn’t our ministry than we have a gospel problem. And if that isn’t enough, then we have a gospel problem. We see here an opportunity to pray for our leaders, but prayer doesn’t seem like enough. It seems futile. We want to grasp the levers of power and reshape this world. 

Being a just person is harder than bewailing the injustice we so readily see in others. There is a great temptation in national or ethical repentance. C.S. Lewis sums it up in his essay on national repentance.

 “When we speak of England’s actions we mean the actions of the British Government. The young man who is called upon to repent of England’s foreign policy is really being called upon to repent the acts of his neighbour; for a Foreign Secretary … is certainly a neighbour. And repentance presupposes condemnation. The first and fatal charm of national repentance is, therefore, the encouragement it gives us to turn from the bitter task of repenting our own sins to the congenial one of bewailing—but, first, of denouncing—the conduct of others.

National repentance can rob us of the crucial virtue of charity. There is a great deal everyone needs to take responsibility for. But does that include you and I repenting for the trail of tears or wounded knee or the Tuskegee Experiment? Those are all hard and important lessons from history. Those kinds of injustices are happening today and there are covenanted authorities responsible for them. 

How about the Chief of the Minneapolis Police department repenting publicly for the negligent homicide of George Floyd? The Obama Administration repenting for the fast and furious program? Every government official who has supported the murder mills of Planned parenthood? 

Want to address injustice? Pray that those who are in authority would count the cost of their authority and responsibility for which they will give an account? That they would be converted and seek to obey God’s law in their office?  

Pray that we all would stop being distracted by things three thousand miles away and things that happened three hundred tears ago and start concerning ourselves a lot more about what’s going on three doors down the street. 

What are the sins of millennials? Gen X-ers? Baby boomers? Things they actually participated in?  

What are the national idols and what is the spirit of the age with which you and I are actively whoring ourselves with right now? We can’t let injustice across the country distract us from the most important injustices that involve each one of us – those injustices we ourselves commit. Those sins of omission and commission affecting our spouse, children, friend, family, neighbors and our larger communities.

You Are Not Christ’s Plunder

Christ’s present role in glory is referred to as his “heavenly session.” Session means “sitting.” Presbyterian churches have a form of church government led by elders, who collectively constitute the session. The body of elders is known as the session because when they meet to deliberate, to establish policy, and to give supervision to the spiritual lives of the Christians under their care, they sit down and discuss these things. Likewise, when we say that Congress is in session, we mean that our representatives are assembled, and in their seats, ready to transact the business of the United States. The word session is appropriate to describe these situations because it is derived from the Latin sessio, which simply means “the act of sitting.” The most important session of all is the session of Jesus Christ in heaven.

In Psalm 110 God sets the Messiah at his right hand as king and priest—as king to see all his enemies under his feet, and as priest to serve God and channel God’s grace forever. This picture is applied directly to Jesus Christ, who since the Ascension actively reigns in the mediatorial kingdom of God. This was the early church’s confession and framework for Jesus’ rule.

Ephesians 1:20–23 that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all. Acts 2:34–35 For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he himself says, “‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.”’ Hebrews 1:13 And to which of the angels has he ever said, “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet”? 1 Peter 3:21–22 through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him.

In the NT world the triumphal procession was developed by the Romans to celebrate the occasion of a major victory. The victorious general or ruler in ceremonial dress would drive his captives – usually those of high status – and the spoils of war before him through the outer districts and into the very heart of Rome. When the victor arrived at the god’s temple, the prisoners, or representatives of their number, would be executed. In this processional the glory and power of Rome was celebrated, with the triumphant general playing the role of Jupiter, the god who had blessed the warrior with victory in battle. Then distribute the wealth to his followers. Paul employs the image of the Roman triumphal procession to depict the victory of Christ on the cross. Ephesians 4:7–8 But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Therefore it says, “When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men.”

How does Paul understand his own Christian life amidst these realities? 2 Corinthians 2:14 But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. Continue reading “You Are Not Christ’s Plunder”

Are You Stumbling?

1 John 2:9–11 Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness. Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling. But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.

In John 8:12, Jesus says that he is the light of the world. Romans 6:12 says those who believe in Christ are alive in Christ. If we abide in Christ, we abide in the light. Love for your brothers and sisters is one of the primary ways that you know that you are abiding in the light, abiding in Christ. The one who is in darkness has no capacity to love because his eyes have been blinded by the darkness. If you are walking in the light, then you have no cause for stumbling.

On Good Friday I called our current circumstances a hearing test. Faith comes through hearing and so circumstances that test our faith are a test of our hearing. Likewise, if loving your brother is how you know you are abiding in Christ, then circumstances that test your love for the brotherhood are a test of your life in Christ. Grumbling, complaining, Judging, avoiding, back-biting your brothers and sisters to whom Christ as united to you in Himself? Are you stumbling over your brother’s theology? Over what he calls clean and unclean? Are you stumbling over what your Sister isn’t saying? Are you stumbling over your brother’s foolishness?

Whatever we may personally think of the social distancing standards, the six-foot rule really is too shallow a grave for our unity. If you are stumbling, then you are walking in the dark. You are not walking in the light of a Gracious God. You are not walking in the light of the love that you have received.

Love is not an emotional response to beauty, merit or kindness, but a moral attitude dedicated to another’s good, whether or not that other is lovable, deserving, or responsive. Divine love means to love the undeserving, despite disappointment, worthiness or rejection.

1 Corinthians 13:4–7 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

The circumstances we find ourselves in are the judgement of a good God. The chastisement of Christ. It is discipline for our lack of wisdom. As I said, long before Gov. Inslee said all Israel to her tents in division and confusion – we had already made it a way of life. What confirmation bias is being revealed in your brothers and sisters as these events unfold? Do you love them enough to say something about that confirmation bias? Do you love them despite it? What ignorance, presuppositions, foolishness and worldliness is being revealed in your brothers and sisters? What is likewise being revealed in you? Because your sin is showing.

Jesus associated with the foolish things of the world to humble the wise. That means you. So why are you looking across the aisle thanking God for not making you like that fool over there? The unity of every fool who is hearing my voice right now, and we are all of us fools – our Unity is Jesus Christ.

The moon reflects the light of the sun. It is the lesser light. In the dark of night, the moon is a guiding light. The church is the lesser light that reflects the light of the sun of righteousness. In these dark times are we fulfilling that role? That calling? Showing that we stand in the light of God’s unconditional love? Or is the sky clouded by the billows of our own judgements, preferences and suspicions. Our cumulus clouds of self-righteousness?

John says that those who walk the light know where they are going. Do we know where we are going?  Where we will stand together, eyes fixed, not on one another, but on Christ for eternity? Is there anything so vile, so foolish, so selfish, so unholy that your brother or sister can do – to fall from Christ in whom they abide? So how can they fall out of fellowship so easily with you?

Do we remember where we are headed?  Where we will stand together, eyes fixed, not on one another, but on Christ for eternity? John 17:3 And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.

Let us repent of our lack of love for one another, our lack of abiding in the light, our lack of abiding in Christ – and get started, together, today.

A Death Sentence

Why does God allow suffering and difficulty in our lives if He loves us?

2 Corinthians 1:9-11 Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again. You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many.

The circumstances of Paul’s life felt like a death sentence. Why would God allow one of His loving servants to suffer in this way? What was the point? 

Calvin wrote, “we are not brought to real submission until we have been laid low by the crushing hand of God.” 

Truly, we often need a bout of helplessness, to reduce our self-reliance and strip us of all false confidence, so that we might learn humility and open ourselves to the deep realities of God’s power. 

A severe threat of death led Paul to a deeper trust in God. 

When we rely on our own strength, righteousness and wisdom, we are unable to depend entirely on God, dooming ourselves to frustration, fear and moral failure. Romans 10:3 For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness.

An Object of Scorn

Jeremiah 6:10 To whom shall I speak and give warning, that they may hear? Behold, their ears are uncircumcised, they cannot listen; behold, the word of the LORD is to them an object of scorn; they take no pleasure in it.

On Good Friday, the Christian Church gathers to commemorate the murder her king. This is our unique calling as Christians, to be a very different kind of people, following a very different kind of King.

Jesus, the word of God, allowed Himself to be held up as an object of scorn so that we would have our ears opened and cease to hold His words up as an object of scorn.

Jesus descended from heaven to make a way back to God, the Father, for us all.

Consider the messianic promise of Isaiah 40:3-5 A voice cries: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain. And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together, for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.”

Imagine the word of God booming out over a rough land and in response, the valleys rise while the mountains recede, as the great voice crushes every rough rock and levels every forest, creating a straight path back to the Father in Heaven.

Job’s Response to a Pandemic

When trial and tragedy came to Job’s house, it is startling to consider its source. 

Job 1:12 And the LORD said to Satan, “Behold, all that he has is in your hand. Only against him do not stretch out your hand.” So Satan went out from the presence of the LORD.

So, Satan sets out to fulfill his own evil will on Job, within the bounds set for him by God. But Satan uses means. 

The Sabeans murder Job’s servants and slaughter all his donkey and oxen.

A fire falls from heaven and consumes His sheep. The Chaldeans raid the camels and murder Job’s servants. 

Finally, a wind came and knocked down the four corners of the house in which Job’s children were having fellowship, killing them all.

But Job does not curse the Sabeans or Chaldeans or impersonal “natural forces,” that brought destruction to Job’s household. 

Job turns to the heavens. Job 1:21 And he said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.”

But he knows who is behind it all. Who governs it all? Who is in control of the seemingly chaotic forces at work to trouble him?

Job reasons further in Job 5:6–9 For affliction does not come from the dust, nor does trouble sprout from the ground, but man is born to trouble as the sparks fly upward. “As for me, I would seek God, and to God would I commit my cause, who does great things and unsearchable, marvelous things without number.

Job does not blame God but knows that God is the one to whom he must turn. God is the one to whom he must commit his cause. 

Job knows that man was born to trouble. And that trouble is not mere sport or sadistic torture. It is the discipline and instruction a father gives His children.

Continue reading “Job’s Response to a Pandemic”

Trained by Grace

Grace appears, A Cornucopia of Blessings.

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. (Titus 2:11–14 ESV)

 In verse 11 it says the grace of God has appeared bringing salvation for all people. The grace of God that brings salvation for all people is obviously Jesus Christ. God so loved the world, He gave us His son. God restores man through Jesus. Truly this is unmerited favor, which is what grace means.  This is Good news.

The grace of God that saves us has appeared. We need to look at what this word appear means. The word in Greek is where we get our English word epiphany, which means “a striking revelation.” This Greek word is most frequently used in reference to the sun, as in; when neither sun nor stars appeared for many days, and no small tempest lay on us, all hope of our being saved was at last abandoned (Acts 27:20 ESV). 

But the word is also used poetically in reference to Jesus, as in; because of the tender mercy of our God, whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace (Luke 1:78-79 ESV)

“To give” light, there is the same word translated as “appeared” in Titus 2:11. To appear is to spread light. This is predicated on John 8:12 when Jesus said, “I am the light of the world.”

So, going back to Titus 2, Paul is telling us something else that God’s grace does. The grace of God has dawned; it has lit up the world. The grace of God, in a sudden burst of illumination, has come onto the scene of human history like the sun at sunrise. The grace of God is the light we see by. Believers see by Grace. C.S. Lewis wrote at the end of his essay, Is Theology Poetry; I believe in Christianity as I believe that the Sun has risen, not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.”[1]

Lewis means that he sees the light of Christianity, but he also sees or understands everything else by that light. Continue reading “Trained by Grace”