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”

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.

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”

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”

A Love Story

One of the central truths about the Christian life is that it consists of people who are of the Word, the book; the story. This requires us, then, to be people of words, books and stories. Stories shape our affections. This is why worldviews are always narratives. Darwin tells a tale of a “nobody,” pile of goo becoming, through resilience and self-will, something nearly divine. Marx tells a story of a garden of Eden lost to the greed and lies of the bourgeoise who must be brutally overthrown by the hapless proletariat to return the world to equitable safety and comfort.  C.S. Lewis said, “story always wins.”

This is why the stories we consume are so important. The stories we read, shape us. They inform our imagination, our intellect and our affections. In our hearts and minds; story always wins.

1 Thessalonians 1:6“And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit.”

You became an imitator of the Apostles and the Lord when you were converted. What were you imitators of before that?

Ephesians 2:1–3And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following thecourseof this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.

Sons of disobedience imitate the prince of the power of the air and the spirit of the age. As sons of obedience you are called to imitate Christ; to be Holy as He is Holy; to love as He loved.

To aid in this endeavor, Jesus provided His life to imitate, as well as, apostles and church officers to imitate. Paul says, “Be imitators of me…” 1 Cor. 4:16, “Be imitators of God, as beloved children,” Ephesians 5:1.  Paul says to “Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith.” Hebrews 13:7.

But to the point, the Apostle John says in 3 John 11“Beloved, do not imitate evil but imitate good.”

Taking all this together, we need to place before our eyes stories and biographies full of goodness, worthy of imitation. Good stories are soul food. And for our lack of appetites and for our gluttony for junk food, we need to do a lot of repenting. Continue reading “A Love Story”

Neutrality is a lie

There is no neutrality in Education because there is no neutrality in anything. No aspect of human existence allows us to be both the servant of God and the servant of Satan. The servant of self and the servant of God.

Double minded, double tongued men who are tossed about by every wind of an idea are abhorrent to God.

John Frame, “Christians think differently from non-Christians; and when they don’t, they should. In describing the difference between Christian and non-Christian thinking, Van Til argued that the two groups of people hold different presuppositions. A presupposition, for Van Til, was the most fundamental commitment of the heart, a commitment that governed human life. Some people are committed to Jesus Christ and seek to “take every thought captive” to him (2 Cor. 10:5). The rest are committed to something else, either another religion, a philosophy, a political movement, or their own reason. There is no neutrality. To paraphrase bob Dylan, “you gotta serve somebody.” Our presupposition always commitments govern all our life decisions, indeed all our thinking. And in the end there are only two presuppositions: the supremacy of God and the supremacy of something in creation, which scripture calls idolatry.”[1]

The Fear of the LORD is the beginning of Knowledge.

1:7The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.”

“Knowledge” and “wisdom” are closely tied together in Proverbs: “knowledge” tends to focus on correct understanding of the world and oneself as creatures of the magnificent and loving God, while “wisdom” is the acquired skill of applying that knowledge rightly, or “skill in the art of godly living.”[2]
Continue reading “Neutrality is a lie”

Jesus Thirsts for Wrath

John 19:28–30 “After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), “I thirst.” A jar full of sour wine stood there, so they put a sponge full of the sour wine on a hyssop branch and held it to his mouth. When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.”

Psalm 22:14–15 “I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint; my heart is like wax; it is melted within my breast; my strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to my jaws; you lay me in the dust of death.”

John 19:28-30 is a fulfillment directly of Psalm 22:15. Psalm 22 is the most quoted psalm in the NT.

This moment when he speaks of thirst, as in His whole earthly ministry, Jesus is profoundly misunderstood. Physically, at this point, salving his thirst prolongs his life which prolongs his agony and the roman soldiers were all too ready to oblige him.

But Jesus didn’t mean he thirsted for anything in this world, certainly not the cheap swill the soldiers kept there to stave off dehydration. Here at the height of agony, Jesus is resolved and prepared for that cup, which just a few hours before, He Had asked His father to remove in Luke 22:42 “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.”Jesus, in the garden of gethsemane, said no father I am not thirsty, but I will drink if it you tell me to. We see here mere resignation.

But Jesus goes on to suffer and suffer, and it isn’t until he asks for the cup of wrath that His father gives it to Him. The Father withholds it. Jesus endures the wrath and condemnation of men and through suffering He is perfected. He thirsts for the end. He knows what is required and so He looks to the heavens and says, “I thirst.”

The cup of wrath and judgment for mankind is mentioned often in the OT.

Psalm 75:8 For in the hand of the LORD there is a cup with foaming wine, well mixed, and he pours out from it, and all the wicked of the earth shall drain it down to the dregs.

Someone had to deal with this cup.John 3:36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him. (ESV)

Jesus was not forced to drink. His will was not violated. His will, which wavered under a load of dread and misery, came into full strength and utter submission to His Father’s will. Christ’s faith at this moment, asking for that which was His father’s desire but was contrary to every fleshly desire and comfort he knew – to this Jesus submitted willingly. He thirsted for it. He desired to be satiated with the wrath and condemnation of His father because that is what He was born to drink. It is His father’s will and His fathers will is His sustenance.

The psalms are the prayers of the Messiah. The messianic songbook.

Psalm 42:2 My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.

Psalm 63:1O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.

Jesus thirsted for the end of His earthly ministry which would be the death stroke of death, the destruction of Satan and the obliteration of sin. Jesus asks for that cup and after everything He had endured, His obedience and love for the Father overrules everything else and the cup He feared, that He dreaded, that He wanted to avoid, is lifted to his lips and He drank it off.

There on Calvary, especially there, He submits, and it is a long obedience in the same direction that prepared Him for that moment. Habit over momentary distress. Faithfulness over easy-safe-selfishness.

Christ thirsted for the cup of His calling as the suffering servant– His shame and terror and dread –and He drank it to the dregs because he needed an empty cup. He needed a cup with which to sprinkle cleansing water upon His bride; the living water of baptism. He needed a cup to fill with blessing, cleansing, and salvation.

There was a cup in the upper room in Jerusalem that Paul delighted to call “the cup of blessing which we bless” (1 Cor. 10:16). This is the cup the psalmist alluded to when he wrote, “What shall I render unto the Lord for all His benefits toward me? I will take the cup of salvation” (Ps. 116:13). Jesus was offering them this cup when He said, “Take, drink from it” (Matt. 26:27).

The Disciples too, misunderstood. There was a cup of wrath and judgment that was emptied by the thirsty Christ at Calvary.

By the time that cup is passed to us – all the terror and condemnation is gone. We find only life. Only favor. Only grace. Only the wine and water of the new covenant for the whole world. The cup of life and blessing.

Christ thirsted for the cup of judgment so that He could finish it. Drink it all down. Remove it. Washed, he offers the cup of His blood; His grace – to you.

Are you thirsty? We aren’t as thirsty for the cup of blessing as Christ was for the cup of woe. We are self-centered little wretches who mess about with drink and sex and self when limitless joy and goodness are offered to us.

1 Corinthians 10:21 You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons.

Are we thirsty for the cup of blessing? Is the cup of hope and life our habit? Our Joy? Or have we satiated ourselves with the cup of distraction, disbelief and self-satisfaction? Are we as thirsty for the cup of life and Grace as Jesus was for the cup of Wrath and condemnation?

Escaping the Christian Ghetto of “self”

Get out of the Ghetto

Are there times when you feel isolated and alone? Even amid family, friends or y our church community? When you hear your pastors preach and teach about outreach and hospitality and servanthood – do you feel a lack of resources prevent you from taking our calls and admonitions seriously? Do you feel ill-equipped to obey in all that God has called you to do through your ministers? Do you keep people at a distance because you have experienced pain or difficulty in relationships?

Have people let you down? Abandoned you? Sinned against you? Judged you? Or perhaps you are so judgmental, that people aren’t worthy of meaningful friendship because they are prudish, arrogant, self-important and self-righteous? Pretty much, do you keep people at arm’s length where it’s safest?

Isolation. A lack of resources. Ill-treatment. These are all characteristics of a community, which since the sixteenth century, has been referred to as a ghetto. Modern use of the word tends to mean an ethnic, racial, low-income and inner-city. We don’t refer to trailer parks as ghetto – the word now as certain connotations. But the more accurate definition of the word is an isolated community turned inward from a city that is hostile toward it.

We did not set out to build ghettos. Suburban churches in our denomination are small, generally 30-100 people. We don’t have access to the wheels of cultural or political power. We are spread over a vast geographic area, in Seattle, we are in one of the most expensive regions to live in. We like big families. Continue reading “Escaping the Christian Ghetto of “self””

The Transposition of my Imagination

I was listening to an audio book of C.S. Lewis’ The Weight of Glory when I blinked a few times in the striking light of his prose, realizing for the first time what it meant to look along the light and not merely at it.  I was stunned. Lewis argued logically in poetic prose. It was so rich and clear. Lewis conversed so long in the western cannon that he wrote with a Western-Christendom accent. He spoke like one who had walked with Truth in the cool of the day through the English countryside and could imitate the Poet’s cadence and tone.

I was overcome with the idea that I was listening to someone who didn’t think about God as much as He thought like God. I purchased a copy of The Weight of Glory before I was done with the audio book and devoured the print by night and audio by day. I was transported out of myself. I had been looking through borrowed contacts. The eyes of my faith were altered. Continue reading “The Transposition of my Imagination”

C.S. Lewis and the Academic Theology Echo Chamber

But, more positively, it is at least possible that Lewis – despite not being an academic theologian himself – might have something to teach academic theologians about their own subject. Among other things, this may have to do with the way in which Lewis harnessed his imagination, reason, historical knowledge, wit, and considerable rhetorical gifts in a sustained effort to communicate the substance of his convictions to as wide an audience as possible. In its commendable quest for disciplinary purity and intellectual integrity, academic theology is actually in great danger of sealing itself within a very small, self-enclosed echo chamber in which experts talk to other experts while losing all contact with the outside world. Meanwhile, Lewis continues to sell millions of books a year and to shape the religious faith of thousands.

(2012-10-17). The Cambridge Companion to C. S. Lewis (Cambridge Companions to Religion) (p. 4). Cambridge University Press. Kindle Edition.