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.

The Garden of Obedience

Mark 14:32–42 [32] And they went to a place called Gethsemane. And he said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” [33] And he took with him Peter and James and John, and began to be greatly distressed and troubled. [34] And he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death. Remain here and watch.” [35] And going a little farther, he fell on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. [36] And he said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” [37] And he came and found them sleeping, and he said to Peter, “Simon, are you asleep? Could you not watch one hour? [38] Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” [39] And again he went away and prayed, saying the same words. [40] And again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were very heavy, and they did not know what to answer him. [41] And he came the third time and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? It is enough; the hour has come. The Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. [42] Rise, let us be going; see, my betrayer is at hand.”

 Obedience is a responsive action. It assumes that God has already acted on our behalf, and that our fitting reply is to follow his will. This is understood even in the basic commandments of God. The preamble to the ten commandments, intended to be the basis for obeying those commands, as we see in Exodus 20:2 “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. The ten commandments are a response. To what? To a God who simply commands from on high? They are a response to God’s deliverance.

In both the OT and the NT, the category of words relating to obedience are often words related conceptually to hearing and watchfulness. Both concepts express the ideas of yielding to persuasion and submitting to authority. Commands “to hear” often express a general call to God’s people to follow God’s commands, whereas the visual words (signifying “to watch, to keep”) tend to focus on individual statutes as in the Garden of Eden. The first man was told to Watch and keep the Garden and was given a Command; “don’t eat of the tree of the knowledge of Good and evil.”

The biblical idea of obedience is a response to the actions and commands of God – hearing that leads to compliance with his requirements. The first Adam failed to watch out for enemies. He failed to keep what was given to Him by disobeying the word of God’s command. Adam failed to protect the garden by disobeying in the garden, leading to His hiding in the garden.

Paul comments on this passage in the book of Hebrews.

In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence. [8] Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. [9] And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him (Hebrews 5:7–9).

The only begotten of the Father prayed in anguish, was heard and yet still suffered death, that he might be taught fully what it means to obey. Every word of this passage is full of meaning. Without the dark night of the soul and its anguish of sorrow; no solace would be found in Christ’s suffering for us. Jesus prayed with tears, in intense grief and by showing forth this miracle of the incarnation, Mark encourages his readers to do likewise. Continue reading “The Garden of Obedience”

Newsletter 8-29-19

Saints,

Bless you all. Remember to pray for one another this week. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful, and you are all righteous in Christ, your glorious Lord. Look to Him. Cry out to Him. Appeal to Heaven on one another’s behalf.

May the end of summer be sweet and full of light and sunshine and ice cream.

Filling up the edges

Mark 9:14-29

In the house Jesus emphasizes the theological point of an incident. In this instance the final conversation relates to the central theme of the unit, for the epilogue qualifies the faith of verse 23 as the faith that prays.

In response to the inevitable question of why they had failed, Jesus explained to the disciples that such malign evil spirits can be expelled only by a full reliance upon the unlimited power of God expressed through prayer.

This response contains at least the implicit criticism that the disciples had failed because they had not acted in prayer and sincere faith.

Prayer is a sign of our humility and faith. Our prayer lives reflect whether we think we control our own lives. Whether we are self-sufficient and don’t need anything from one another or God.

Prayer is both a thermometer and thermostat. It heats up our spiritual lives and shows how hot they are.

The disciples relied on Jesus’ previous command and equipping. They relied on their previous success, forgetting where their success had come from.

The father was honest, damaged by the church’s failure, He turned to Christ and humbly stated exactly where he stood in relation to Jesus.

And Jesus responded. Continue reading “Newsletter 8-29-19”

Church Newsletter 2019-8-23

Saints,

This newsletter is a little late, I apologize and hope your week as been fruitful. I have been enjoying a wonderful staycation with my family; celebrating the end of Summer and enjoying some rest for the coming of school and the busy fall schedule. Taking time to reflect on what has been given to us, drawing strength from it, prepares our hearts and hands for the new struggles and difficulties of life that inevitably come. This is a process that God has built into us – Sabbath rest. New revelations. Transfigurations. These are the means of preparation for the way of the cross. Faith is the substance of things not seen. Our faith gives the objects of faith substance. And what God has done, as recorded in His word and in our lives, is the food for that faith.

Blessings.

Filling up the edges

Mark 9:7And a cloud overshadowed them, and a voice came out of the cloud, “This is my beloved Son; listen to him.”

Cloud, or light, had been the sign of God’s presence in the wilderness; and, in true Old Testament style, on this occasion too, there came a voice from the cloud.

The cloud just like the bright, white clothes (v. 3) suggests the shekinah glory and calls to mind the tent of meeting. In the Old Testament clouds are symbols of God’s presence, protection, and authority.

Exodus 13:21And the LORD went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead them along the way, and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, that they might travel by day and by night. Exodus 19:16 On the morning of the third day there were thunders and lightnings and a thick cloud on the mountain and a very loud trumpet blast, so that all the people in the camp trembled.  

The Holy Spirit is glory the cloud that filled the tabernacle and temple according to Nehemiah and Haggai. Continue reading “Church Newsletter 2019-8-23”

Church Newsletter 2019-6-19

Saints,

Please pray for the Schmidt family as Peter undergoes hip replacement and pray for Crystal Grubb. Crystal has attended our church in the past. She has been diagnosed with cancer, her husband is an unbeliever and Crystal’s faith suffers a great deal from her isolation from the Body of Christ. Also, continue to pray for the families traveling.

May this find you all well.

Filling up the edges

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

God wants Adam, the father of mankind to work and to keep. Work has to do with nurture and cultivation, while keeping refers to protection; a man’s duty to be a fortress for his family.

We find a working definition of masculinity right here, in the first few pages of the Bible.

When men take up their responsibilities to nurture and cultivate and the responsibility to protect and guard the fruit of that nurture and cultivation, they are doing something that resonates with their foundational, creational nature.

When they walk away from these responsibilities, in a very real sense they walk away from their assigned masculine identity.

A man has broad shoulders so that he can carry heavy loads. The man who gets u in the middle of night to see what that noise is, isn’t doing it because he has a penis, has one feminist author suggested mockingly.

The father as “provider and protector” is not something man came up with as a pragmatic solution to certain practical problems.

It is not a human invention or tradition, or just a holdover from our hunter/gatherer days. This is an essential part of God’s creation design for Man.

At the beginning these roles were assigned, by God, to the man. Man was placed in the garden with this twofold mandate in mind. This is what men are for.

All men are called, like Adam our first father, to provide for their families and to protect their families.

The fall consisted of sins of omission and commission. Adam ate the fruit but before that he was acting contrary to God’s law, He failed to obey God by inaction.

God said to provide for your wife, so why is she unfed, susceptible to the temptation of Satan to eat? Why is Eve out considering the food of others? Continue reading “Church Newsletter 2019-6-19”

Church Newsletter 2019-5-23

Saints,

May the LORD continue to grant us this glorious sunshine! I hope this finds you all well and in high spirits.

We are getting ready for the family series so be praying for the teaching to be clear, our ears and hearts to be open and God’s mercy to pour out on us as we take stock of our marriages and families in the coming weeks.

Outreach update

Sabrina (the young lady in outpatient rehab who you all so generously supported with sheets and gift cards) is still doing well. She has been sober for 70+ days and continues to experience God’s victory over addiction. Her update is this, “I really appreciate the prayers because I definitely believe God’s hand has been on every situation I’ve been through thus far!”

If you are still interested in helping her out, we are accepting gift cards for her from Safeway or Albertson’s. Or you can make a donation to the church marked “redemption road – Sabrina,” and we will get that to her. Thank you!

I met with the folks at Next Step, a pregnancy resource center in Lynnwood. This is going to be another fertile field for us. The elders will be discussing this and some of us will be touring their facilities, considering various service options. Please be praying for us as a church as we consider this and pray for Next Step – they are in search of a full time RN.

Filling up the edges

Mark 7:25 But immediately a woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit heard of him and came and fell down at his feet. Now the womanwas a Gentile, a Syrophoenicianby birth. And she begged him to cast the demon out of her daughter. 

In the course of events Jesus was approached by a woman whose non-Jewish character is stressed. She was a member of the Hellenized citizen class in the Phoenician republic of Tyre, a Gentile by birth and culture.

The mother’s anguish over her daughter’s condition is thoroughly understandable and does much to explain her bold persistence in begging Jesus to expel the demon from her child. Her prostration at Jesus’ feet was a mark of deep respect as well as of profound grief.

It was fitting that widows should receive help from a God who cares specially for widows and orphans Psalm 146:9 The LORD watches over the sojourners; he upholds the widow and the fatherless, but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin.

Mark 7:27-28And he said to her, “Let the children be fed first, for it is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” But she answered him, “Yes, Lord; yet even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.” 

Now, the readers of the Gospel know that Jesus fed His own people, with twelve baskets of left overs. They know that there are indeed crumbs. But this woman, only just hearing accounts of Jesus determines what kind of man He is, what kind of character He has. She is appealing to His abundant grace and power. His compassion and generosity.

She is the only person in the whole Gospel account of Mark to call Jesus “Lord.” The Jewish leaders question Jesus’ presumption at the head of the Table. The Disciples refuse to accept the import of what Jesus has been doing. Continue reading “Church Newsletter 2019-5-23”

Church Newsletter 2019-5-14

Saints,

Spring seems to have taken a break, but I think our thirst for summer has been officially revived. It is supposed to be a particularly mild summer, so be sure to take the moments when they come. Make the most of the glorious outdoors.

As we come out of the winter and take stalk, do some spring cleaning, consider how we are running our race – we ought to consider what might actually be in our hearts without our realizing it. The following list is from out text on Sunday which I did not have time to enumerate. So, take this list slowly. Talk about them with your spouse and children. Break up the fallow ground of your heart with God’s word.  Pray for insight. Call what is inside you what Christ calls it. Repent. Rejoice. Repeat.

Filling up the edges

Mark 7:20–22 And he said, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness.

Heart

The locus of a person’s thoughts, will, decisions, emotions and the knowledge of right and wrong. The sense of the word is your “self.”

It is the heart which makes a man what he is and governs all his actions Proverbs 4:23 Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.

In the Bible it usually designates the whole personality. Both in the OT and NT it is the seat of wisdom (1 Kgs. 3:12), and of thought and reflection (e.g. Jer. 24:7, Lk. 2:19), the instrument of belief (Rom. 10:10) and of will, the principle of action (Ex. 35:21) which may be hardened so that it resists God (Deut. 15:7; Mk. 16:14).

It is the principle both of virtues and vices, of humility and pride, of good thoughts  and of evil thoughts.

Hence in Scripture the heart is the center of the human person, in which the physical and the spiritual life are concentrated, and therefore in the NT the dwelling-place of Christ (Eph. 3:17) in which reigns the peace of God (Col. 3:15).

In this sense it is used in the language of Christian spirituality, which regards the human heart as the special organ of the love of God.

The heart is a big deal and what does Mark consistently bring into play? What has Jesus been dealing with?

Mark 3:4–5….But they were silent. And [Jesus] looked around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart…

Mark 6:52 for they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened.

Mark 7:6–7 And he said to them, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written, “‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’

The source of true defilement in men is the human heart, and the tragedy of man’s original sin reaches its demonic fulfilment in man’s wanting to sin in his heart.

There is no heart in which this radical evil has failed to take root. We have to be honest about what is going on inside of us.

Jeremiah 17:9 The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?

Sin is just something that “happens,” to us. We wants it. Yet we feel shame, pain and estrangement. We fear man and what they think. Pride, fear and shame ties us in nots or cause our hearts to cool.

The answer is found in Psalm 44:21…God…knows the secrets of the heart.

God knows what is in the heart of man.

We have to let God show us what is inside of us.  And we have to accept the diagnoses and the cure, which is heart surgery. But, Heart surgery is a lot scarier then hand soap. Then gourmet kosher food. Than a religious to-do list.

A man is defined by what he holds in his heart. Eating or refraining from certain foods will not change this list one iota, nor will washing one’s hands. It is the heart that must be cleansed.

Your religion cannot be a matter of externals, but internals. Your internals.

At the head of the list is “evil thoughts.” The word “thoughts,” is itself amoral, which is why the word evil is added.

It carries the idea of discussion or debate, with an under-tone of suspicion or doubt. Either with one’s own mind or with another.

For example; Luke 9:46-48An argument arose among them as to which of them was the greatest. But Jesus, knowing the reasoning of their hearts…

Arguing with brothers about foolish things, quarrelling, ungracious suspicions, and doubt are all implied and summed up with this phrase, evil thoughts.

Fornicationis a broad term covering all acts of sexual immorality; it is wider than adultery.

The word “fornication” is used in the Scriptures to mean several different things. Its general meaning refers to every kind of illegal sexual intercourse, that is, any intercourse except that between a husband and wife.

But don’t be too hasty, patting yourself on the back.

Fornication is as common to modern men and women, Christian or otherwise, as having elbows.

Theft,murderand adultery. The three that stand in the mind of many as the, well I never sins, so I must be a pretty good person.

Matthew 5:21–22“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder… But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment….Matthew 5:27–28  “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery. ’But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

Washing cups, bowls and hands seems a lot easier, doesn’t it? A long list of externals certainly seems a lot easier than what Jesus is teaching here.

So, murder and adultery are two big, yeah but I never sins – always brought up in a self-justifying way. But you can be a serial killer and adulterer and never leave the confines of your heart and mind.

While the Hebrew word for “covet” can also be translated “to desire,” in the tenth commandment it means an ungoverned and selfish desire that threatens the basic rights of others.

Coveting is sinful because it focuses greedily on the property of a neighbor that is his share in God’s grace.

Coveting is a gateway sin. It is a lack of contentment and gratitude.

It leads to theft, lying, adultery and a host of other potential sins. Coveting starts in the heart and unless it is uprooted it will not remain there. It will manifest itself in a host of sins.

Wickednessappears to be a general term denoting acts of deliberate malice, translated variously as evil, Ill-will, spitefulness, trouble or harm.

Wickedness refers to evil in its active form, i.e.mischief (Nu. 16:26). As such, it denotes perversity of mind (Pr. 15:26; Rom. 1:29) by which the natural man surrenders himself to evil impulses (Ps. 10:1–11).

Wickedness has its seat in the heart and is inspired of Satan (1 Jn. 3:12), it is progressive and contagious in its manifestation.

The wicked man is utterly perverse, finding unholy delight in the infliction of injury (Pr. 21:10).

It is like leaven in a bread. It spreads and affects the reaction and condition of the whole loaf. Wicked men seek are mischief. They don’t just gossip, they who to gossip to in order to cause the most damage.

They manipulate, muddy the waters of clarity and stir up strife.

Malice characterizes the life of men under the wrath of God (Rom. 1:29). It is not only a moral deficiency but destroys fellowship.

For believers it belongs to the old life according to Tit. 3:3, so there is still need for exhortation to ‘clean it out.’ 

1 Corinthians 5:7 Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed.

That is what this whole section is about. Jesus has begun a new work in you. You are not yet perfect. There are things in your heart that need to come out.

Deceit implies the components of cunning and treachery.

Sensuality is Moral abandon. Indulgence in sensual pleasure unrestrained by convention or morality.

Envy is more than coveting but a grudging jealousy with which a man looks upon the possessions of another. It’s not merely wanting what another has but resenting that another has it.

Slander is to speak critically of another person with the intent to hurt them. To falsely accuse another.

Elsewhere, Jesus said, “I tell you that on the day of judgment people will have to account for every careless word they speak” (Matt. 12:36).

This should cause each person to be very careful what they say about others.

Pride The emphasis placed on pride, and its converse humility, is a distinctive feature of biblical religion, unparalleled in other religious or ethical systems. Rebellious pride, which refuses to depend on God and be subject to him, but attributes to self the honor due to him, figures as the very root and essence of sin.

Foolishness describes the dominant disposition of the man who is morally and spiritually insensitive; he does not know God and he does not wish to know him.

Foolishness is characterized by thoughts, behaviors, attitudes, or judgments that lack sense, prudence, and discretion. Foolish behavior may be immoral or dangerous and is often used for self-destructive tendencies. Foolishness stands in contrast to wisdom, prudence, and sound judgment.

Conclusion

Titus 3:3–7For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

He gives the spirit. He gives us new hearts and minds. He takes your envy, malice, fornication, lies, murders, deceits, etc. and replaces them. With what? How?

Galatians 5:22–24 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

To you and me. No, don’t turn away. Don’t hide in shame and guilt and doubt. What’s inside you? You don’t want to face it. You don’t know what to do with it. You don’t know where it comes from.

Don’t be so willing to self-justify and remain in self-deception. That is slavery and death.

Let Christ give you the heart surgery you so desperately need.  You are muddled.

But Jesus knows what is inside of you. John 2:23–25[Jesus knows] ‘all people and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man.

He knows what’s inside you, that no one else knows. That you hardly know yourself. He will tell you. He will tell you what to call it. He will take it from you willingly. Its why He came. Its why He reigns. He is here to heal you. To cleanse you from the inside, out.

This parable is still connected to the parable of the sowers. Jesus is giving you the seed of eternal life.

But remember Jeremiah 4:3 For thus says the LORD to the men of Judah and Jerusalem: “Break up your fallow ground, and sow not among thorns.

Come. Don’t linger. Don’t trust in the externals. Trust Him and He will give you new internals – a new heart and thus a new desire, mind, emotion and will and it will work from the inside out.

But you must remove the weeds, thorns and stones.

Come to His word. His spirit will teach you – Him. His law. His heart for you. He will give the new heart.

Godliness isn’t a list of action items. Godliness is not to be attained through a list of rituals. Godliness is not a matter of eating or washing.

What is godliness? 1 Timothy 3:16 Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness: He was manifested in the flesh, vindicated by the Spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed among the nations, believed on in the world, taken up in glory.

Around the web

An important talk for men.

https://www.christkirk.com/sermon/make-men-pious-again/

Devotional

1 John 2:16-17

Increase my faith, O merciful Father,

That I may not swerve at any time form your heavenly word.

Give me an increase of hope and love, together with a careful keeping of all your commandments, that no hardness of heart, no hypocrisy, no lust of the eyes, nor any methods of the world, may draw me away from obedience to you. And, since we live now in these most perilous times, let your fatherly providence defend me against all violence and harm.

Amen.

Church Calendar

NEXT WEEK:

Keith, Confession

Byron, Prayer

GAME DAY WITH TRINITY

Join some folks at the Trinity Church Office for board games from 10AM-4PM on Saturday, May 18. Open house format; Snacks provided, bring your own lunch. Bring a game to play, or try one out there. 14623 NE North Woodinville Way, Suite 201.

THE CHURCH AT PLANNED PARENTHOOD

Worship service (not a protest); Wednesday, May 29 from 5:30-6:15pm, at the Planned Parenthood in Everett. 509 – 32nd St., Everett 98201

FREE BOOKS IN THE MONTH OF JUNE

Free books available, coinciding with a new sermon series in June: The

Meaning of Marriage, Decluttering Your Marriage, Father Hunger, Militant Motherhood, and Raising Little Ones.

PENTECOST PARTY

June 9, 5:30-8:30PM at the Northshore Senior Center in Bothell. More details to follow.