God the Generous

Psalm 36:7–9 How precious is your steadfast love, O God! The children of mankind take refuge in the shadow of your wings. They feast on the abundance of your house, and you give them drink from the river of your delights. For with you is the fountain of life; in your light do we see light.

At the head of this table sits a God who is not just rich, but generous. At his right hand are pleasures for evermore, his is a fountain of living water, he owns the cattle on a thousand hills.

Those invited to this table as poor as He is rich. The wealth of the parties gathered around this luxurious table, are as far from one another as the east is from the west. The point of this table is a transfer. What God has, he gives freely, what we do not have, is given to us freely.

One of the obvious pieces of evidence of our poverty is how easily we believe lies that this table is not a table of blessing. Basically, the ease with which we believe lies about the graciousness of God is one of the ways that we reveal how easily we believe lies about our generous God.

But admitting this, isn’t the same as wallowing in it. We have all seen victory in one another, experienced victory as God transfers us from glory to glory. We are not here to review our weeks with morbid scrutiny. In fact, we are here to feast on a God who is seeking to our eyes off of ourselves all together. His lovingkindness endures forever.

What all this means is that you are commanded to come to this table to meditate on the goodness, greatness and generosity of God and the goodness, greatness and generosity of all that He has given you.

You are commanded to repent of unbelief, the attitude that says that God is not really giving you anything worthwhile, here or anywhere else.

Your God is a god of grace, He is God the generous. Neither miserly or stingy. His Son is at the head of this table and has arranged it so that the food will never run out and will always sustain you.

So come, and welcome, to Jesus Christ

Eating the Cross

1 Corinthians 1:18 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

Those the father as given to the son are drawn to Him as He is lifted up. The cross is the source of our healing and hope but to the perishing world it is folly.

The words – this is my body broken for you – are delicious to those being saved and they are repulsive to those who walk in their own wisdom and authority.

Lifting up Christ scatters the worldly wise and insults those who are their own gods. The cross disgusts those who are perishing. But to those who have been given eyes to see and ears to hear – the lifting of the Cross and the word nailed to it, draw all to Jesus.

Eating the fruit of the tree of life, which we do here now, is the only true nourishment for the people of God.

But those who aren’t His people, their rebellion is a hunger strike that surely leads to death.

Yet there is another way to run from this food common among evangelicals. And that is to say that the Lord doesn’t nourish His people in any special way – that the elements before us do not present Christ to us so that we might respond to Him in faithful eating.

But they do. It is the true nourishment of our souls by faith. Not faith in bread or wine but faith in God, faith in His Christ.

So, Come and welcome to Jesus Christ.

 

**In order to learn how to write decent Communion meditations, I am imitating others. This is was a rewrite of Pr. Wilson’s (So come and Welcome to Jesus Christ, Morning reading, January 3rd).

Preacher, Preach to Yourself First

III

Romans 2:17–24But if you call yourself a Jew and rely on the law and boast in God and know his will and approve what is excellent, because you are instructed from the law; and if you are sure that you yourself are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of children, having in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth—you then who teach others, do you not teach yourself? While you preach against stealing, do you steal? You who say that one must not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? You who boast in the law dishonor God by breaking the law. For, as it is written, “The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.”

An electrician can’t cut wire with blunt splicers. The music will be scratchy and unmelodious if the hi-fi needle is worn down. A pie isn’t cut into even portions with a dull knife.

A minister can’t effectively preach if the force of his exhortation is blunted by his own lack of spirituality or piety, if he is physically worn down, or if he is intellectually dull.

Preachers are tools in the hands of the Lord. The preacher must keep himself useful by remaining sharp, well cared for and pointed. If you are teaching others to do what you yourself are not doing or are preaching against impiety that you yourself are entangled, then you are a useless tool.

The preacher must be the hungriest for the table fellowship of the Lord. He must be the thirstiest, neediest sinner. He must pursue, repent, praise, thank and honor God more than any other sheep in the flock. Under-shepherds who aren’t watchful of themselves will be devoured along with their defenseless flock. Continue reading “Preacher, Preach to Yourself First”

A School For Jezebels

Mark 6:14-30

Introduction

As Jesus’ mission began after John’s imprisonment, the disciples’ mission begins after his death. The two events may appear to be unrelated to each other, but Mark deliberately links them together.[1]

This story then clarifies matters for the Markan audience by distinguishing between the two men, while at the same time foreshadowing the sort of violent end that Jesus would also come to. 9:9–13, is in a sense the commentary on 6:14–29. Thus, we would do well not to see this as some colorful digression but rather as a story which sets forth the theme of martyrdom. The righteous often meet untimely ends in a dark and dangerous world.[2]

This and 1:4–8 are the only accounts in Mark that are not about Jesus. Mark devoted much more space to the death of John the Baptist than he did to his ministry and more than any other Gospel. John’s death was significant to Mark as a preview of the death of Jesus.[3] Just as John’s ministry has foreshadowed Jesus’, so does John’s death, for: Jesus, like John, will be executed by civil authorities; Herod, like Pilate later, hesitates to execute the person in question but then does so; Herodias, like the chief priests later, finally gets her way through scheming and pressure; the disciples come and bury John, like Joseph of Arimathea is to do for Jesus.

This tale then serves as an ominous warning about the fate of Jesus. The cross looms in the background from this point on in the narrative. [4]

Exposition

Mark 6:14–15 King Herod heard of it, for Jesus’ name had become known. Some said, “John the Baptist has been raised from the dead. That is why these miraculous powers are at work in him.” But others said, “He is Elijah.” And others said, “He is a prophet, like one of the prophets of old.” 

Mark is driving His central theme. Who is Jesus? What does His ministry mean? All along people are asking who then is this? Where does this authority come from? What does he have to do with us?

So, some of the possibilities are growing in the popular mind. Jesus begins His ministry at John’s arrest (Mark 1:14). Jesus’s disciples begin their ministry at John’s death. John’s ministry is giving way to Jesus’ ministry, is it because Jesus is John Resurrected?

There is also a tradition that Elijah, who did not die but was taken up into Heaven (2 Kings 2), would return to instigate the Messianic reign. Malachi 4:5 “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the LORD comes. Jesus affirms that this Elijah character is John Himself. But there is also a tradition that is older which goes back to Moses. Deuteronomy 18:18 I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers. And I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him. Peter affirms in Acts 3 that Jesus is the greater prophet. But at this point in Marks account, who is Jesus? This has been a major plot point throughout the Gospel. Mark stated in 1:1 that Jesus is the Son of God.

We are approaching the moment the disciples make their decision at Mark 8:30. The center of this gospel account. Who is Jesus and what does His ministry mean? It is the decision everyone must make. We see that Herod Antipas is struggling to determine this as well. Antipas has a troubled conscience. Continue reading “A School For Jezebels”

Church Newsletter 2019-3-27

Saints,

Beloved of the Lord! I hope this finds you all healthy, well and grateful! As we consider the good gifts of God and all His manifold graces, let us not lose sight of the giver. The Lord isn’t less interested in your pleasure than your piety, but in your comprehending that He is both!

He is Godliness (1 timothy 3:16) and at His side are pleasures forever more (Psalm 16:11). May you know this truth with every breath you take!

Filling up the edges

As John languished in the dungeons of Machaerus, a totally unexpected and fascinating relationship developed between Herod and him. Mark 6:19-20 describe it:

And Herodias had a grudge against him and wanted to put him to death. But she could not, for Herod feared John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and he kept him safe. When he heard him, he was greatly perplexed, and yet he heard him gladly.

When the gorgeously robed tetrarch met the hair-coated prophet, there was a confrontation. John held nothing back. As a result, though the king held every advantage, he “feared John.” Why? Because goodness is awful. Or put another way, goodness is terrifying to evil. Someone has said, “The truth will make you free, but first it will make you miserable.” King Herod stood at the outside fringes of this reality in uncomfortable fear.

This has been the initial experience of many who have come to Christ. Confronted with righteousness, perhaps through the witness of the Word or a friend, they saw something of their sin and glimpsed the righteousness offered by Christ. At once they were repelled. Then, drawn by that righteousness, they entered a gracious discomfort that eventually brought them to Christ.

While Herod feared, he was also being drawn to Christ. “He was greatly perplexed,” says verse 20b, “and yet he heard him gladly.” What pleasure could there be for Herod in this? Why would bologna like the meat grinder? Perhaps John was a breath of fresh air amidst the social climbing and scheming intrigues of the palace court. John cared not at all about court etiquette or whether Herod or anyone else liked him. He was an original, his own (and God’s) man. Herod could not say that about himself.

Herod may have liked listening to John because he felt that listening would somehow atone for his condition. Similarly, some today think they are good Christians because they listen to the truth and even give assent to it. Very likely John’s preaching elevated Herod’s aspiration to better living. Perhaps he made some attempts at self-reformation, did a good deed, pardoned someone, played with his kids, or gave to a beggar. But he was “a double-minded man” (grossly evil, but with some good impulses) and thus “unstable in all his ways” (James 1:8). Whatever the case, he returned again and again to “take it on the chin” from John. In fact, even though he often wanted to kill John (Matthew 14:5), he also protected him from the murderous intents of Herodias. Herod’s conscience was being stirred by this man of God. We might even say that his conscience was coming alive. Unfortunately, this was not to be for long.

Stag birthday parties were common to the Herodians,5 and Herodias knew what to expect: a drinking crowd that would become increasingly sensual and nasty as the evening progressed, and increasingly demanding of “male entertainments.” From what we can tell, the evening was well along and the crowd was sufficiently under the influence when she made her move, using her teenage daughter Salome.6 “For when Herodias’s daughter came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his guests” (v. 22). Normally this dance would have been by the hetarai, the professional court dancers and prostitutes, but Herodias put forth her daughter. Her sensuous, voluptuous dance, unheard of among women of rank, was outrageous. Young Salome pleased Herod and his guests. This was a treat indeed.

Pleased, the tipsy tetrarch shouted, “Ask me for whatever you wish, and I will give it to you” (v. 22). Then he promised her with an oath, consciously aping the style of the king to Queen Esther (Esther 5:3): “Whatever you ask me, I will give you, up to half of my kingdom” (Mark 6:23). You can imagine the cheers from the men: “All right, Herod. Yeah!” They began to wager on what she would ask. A pair of matched stallions? A pearled dress from Rome? The trap was perfectly sprung.

And she went out and said to her mother, “For what should I ask?” And she said, “The head of John the Baptist.” And she came in immediately with haste to the king and asked, saying, “I want you to give me at once the head of John the Baptist . . .”

Then Salome added her own gruesome idea: “. . . on a platter” (vv. 24, 25). Like mother, like daughter! Suddenly Herod was sober, and the room was silent. This is what Salome wanted? That scheming Herodias!

“And the king was exceedingly sorry” (v. 26). He was in genuine grief. This word was used only one other time in the New Testament, to describe Jesus’ pain in the Garden of Gethsemane (Mark 14:34). For a moment at least Herod’s conscience was mightily torn! On the one hand, John was a good man and had done Herod much good; Herodias had deceived him. But then again, what would his friends think? These tribunes would carry news of his reneging back to Rome, and the whole Imperial Court would laugh. He could not have that. There was only one choice.

What a tragedy! Herod’s conscience had begun to live, and he stifled it because of what he feared others would think. Realizing what was at stake, this seems incredible. But there are many today who are doing just the same thing. How many people’s consciences have been awakened to eternal things and their own sinful plight, and yet they have buried it all because of what they feared their friends or family or fiancé or spouse or fellow-students would think. Some spend their entire lives basing their decisions on what other people think. There are politicians who for twenty years have not made one decision according to conscience, but rather according to what they think the people want. There are business people who spend their entire day reckoning their decisions with a visualized corporate ladder before them. There are students who sell their souls to escape ridicule. More people than we realize have lost eternity because they feared what others think. Is the opinion of others keeping you from following your own best instincts and the witness of the Holy Spirit? If so, do not be fooled.

Around the Web

Check  out your Elder Covey, remembering some of His illustrious service to God’s Kingdom.

Ronnie and Ron from Power to Change on Vimeo.

Devotional

Fixing my eyes on Christ HEBREWS 12:3

Grant, Almighty God,

since you have appeared in the person of your only begotten Son and have revealed in him your glory made visible; and, since you show us the same Christ through the window of the gospel: Grant that I, fixing my eyes on him, may not go astray, nor be led here and there after evil lies, the misleadings of Satan, and the allurements of this world. Instead, may I continue firm in the obedience of faith and persevere in it through the whole course of my life, until I am at last transformed into the image of your eternal glory, which now in part shines in me, through the same Christ our Lord.

Amen.

Church Calendar

NEXT WEEK:

Keith, Confession

Byron, Prayer

 

LADIES’ GATHERING

Wednesday, March 27, 7-9PM at Tami Gamble’s home.

 

GOOD FRIDAY SERVICE

Friday, April 19, 7pm at the Northshore Senior Center in Bothell

 

So That You Believe

John 6:27 Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.”

Jesus commands us to labor for the food which endures to everlasting life. He tells us not to give ourselves to idolatrous labor for that food which perishes in the mouth.

The Father honors Jesus with the name that is above every other name – that that the whole world would bow the knee to Him. The victorious kings give gifts to His entourage and that includes the loaf of living bread. The Son of man gives us living bread because the Father has sealed us in Him in glory by His Holy Spirit.

The disciples then asked Jesus, “how do we work of this bread?” Jesus gave an enigmatic answer; the work the Father does in us is that we believe in Jesus Christ and in thus – we receive this bread.

We sit down at this table in faith. We meditate on what this loaded table means, by faith. We feed by faith. We receive Jesus – the living manna by faith.

We truly are what we eat. By faith we feed on the faithful one and by doing so the Father multiplies His grace to us and in us.

If you show this table contempt, then God uses as a means of judgement. Rather, honor the table, and look to the one who endured all judgment for us on the cross.

We look away then from ourselves and our faithlessness to the one who was faithful in everything – unto death – unto eternal glory above us and above all principalities and powers. To the one whose hands are full for giving.

Look upon Him now and behold, in faith, the food of the gospel.

So, Come and welcome to Jesus Christ.

 

**In order to learn how to write decent Communion meditations, I am imitating others. This is was a rewrite of Pr. Wilson’s (So come and Welcome to Jesus Christ, Morning reading, January 2nd.).

Preaching as Poetry

II

Good communication consists of two elements, logic and poetics. Logic and poetics are the two rails on which communication moves. In preaching, the Spirit is the engine pulling the train and what the spirit is pulling the communication on, are logic and poetry. Logic and poetics are the what and how of communication.  Aristotle defined Poetics as the study of linguistic techniques in poetry and literature.

It’s a study of communication within the framework of poetic knowledge; non-analytical, intuitive, immediate understanding from the inside out.

Poetics is not Poetry – it’s not verse. Poetics is the art of beautiful transformative metaphor, awe inspiring analogy, allegory, symbolism, etc.  This has a lot to do with how every person thinks -interacts with the world using their intellect.

Thisis like that– is the way we interpret new data. This is how we communicate clearly because its how our brains and creation were made to work. This loaf is the body of Christ. The whole OT temple and sacrificial system is a type or shadow or metaphor for Christ. With this ring I thee wed. what is the ring a symbol of? What is it a metaphor, for?

The reason for this is that human thinking, human understanding is based on metaphor.

Genesis 1:1–2 In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.

Romans 1:20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.

Colossians 1:17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.

The universe is a metaphor, a grand statement; this is what God is like. Everything that is, is a spoken word. Continue reading “Preaching as Poetry”