Don’t Look Back

Luke 9:62 Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” 

A person can only go in one direction at a time, just like he can only have one master at a time. Which way are you going? Who are you following?

We’d all say “following Christ,” of course, but lives can be compartmentalized. You are not facing forward all the time because you are still looking back to sinful pleasures of your former manner of life. .

Following Christ requires a long obedience in the same direction.

And as we keep our eyes set on the joy set before us, we are acted upon.

It’s through the back-breaking labor of sowing real seeds that God yields 10, 100 and 1000 times the produce. But a farmer plows by driving his plow in a long straight line, not weaving or doubling back over the same ground.

It’s by the turning of the head from the immodest women that God turns our heart wholly to our wife.

It’s in the regular habit of hospitality that true encouragement, belonging and generosity are found. It’s in the giving away that God ensures that you receive.

It’s in the self-denial that God gives Himself fully without reserve.

God says take this field and clear it of trees – roots and all. Clear away the rocks. Turn the earth. Scatter seeds and remove weeds and fertilize the soil. Eyes forward and stay on task.

He calls us to follow Him and to labor and instead of an obedient “yes, Lord,” our mouths are filled with questions as we look back toward Egypt.

We kick against the goads. Our work is sporadic and poorly done because its half-hearted.

So, when God says, “take this woman as your wife and lay your life down for her as Christ laid His down for you. Raise these children in the fear and admonition of the Lord. Love one another as I have loved you. Be Holy as I am Holy. Make Disciples of the nations. Follow Me.”

Your mouth should not be full of questions.

He wants you to obey, knowing that in yourself it is impossible but that with Him all things are possible.

Christ has called you into a relationship with Himself that is transforming you mind and soul, spirit and essence into something like Himself.

For no other reason than the fact that He loves you.

And believing it is how it happens. Believing the one who promises to do it is how He does it.

Obeying the command to follow, putting our hand to the plow and not looking back but looking to the sky expectantly for the rain He promised, the rain that the whole venture depends upon.

This is discipleship; the process by which Jesus who came in the image and likeness of man is remaking us into the image and likeness of God.

Believing Jesus’ promises to do it is how He does it.

The Gospel in the Gospels

What is the Gospel?

The gospel is hard to distill down to its essence. Lots of things could be said about the Gospel and its implications. But how does one summarize it into a forceful, hopeful, prayerful, encouraging statement?

Before the word gospel referred to a book of the bible, It was a Greek word that referred to a message of good tidings issued from the lips of an appointed messenger.

We are accustomed to using the word all the time. Gospel worship. Gospel community. Gospel preaching. Gospel music. We know the first four books of the NT belong to a literary genre called gospel.

Mark 1:1 “The beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.” So, here Mark is referring to the document He is writing, right, the Gospel according to Mark?

But that word referred to something before the four evangelists’ books were designated with it. Matthew, Mark, Luke and John wrote accounts of the Gospel.

One Gospel. Four accounts. The Gospel according to…. Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.

Accounts of what? The gospels are not biographies in the modern sense. A Gospel is a proclamation. A proclamation of what? By whom?

The distinction I want to make is that the Christian Gospel was originally a message delivered by an appointed messenger and the four books that begin the New Testament are hand written accounts of that one messenger and His message. The gospels, plural, are a literary genre – a gospel is a message of good tidings proclaimed by an anointed messenger.

The original anointed messenger of the Christian Gospel was Jesus. And His Gospel was that He, Jesus, the son of God, is king. Not just of heaven, but of earth.

The Christian Gospel is that Jesus is King.

This is an earth altering, worldview altering, cosmic message of joy. It’ what the Apostles were proclaiming in 2nd Corinthians 4:5–6 “For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”

Those living in darkness and the shadow of death have seen a great light and that light is the king, the son of God – Jesus. Jesus was the first messenger of this good news and He was the message.

Before we continue, let’s review this word Gospel that we know so well. Like I said last week, the words the NT authors chose to use had a context in the original Hellenistic culture. Understanding how the words were used before and outside the NT can help us a great deal in our understanding of their use in the NT.

It was a strategic move to incorporate this specific word into the Christian message.

The word gospel, or evangel among the Romans, meant “joyful tidings,” and was associated with the cult of the emperor, whose ascent to the throne or great military victory was accompanied by a gospel proclamation.

A calendar inscription from about 9 B.C., found in Priene in Asia Minor, says of the emperor Augustus: “the birthday of the god was for the world the beginning of joyful tidings which have been proclaimed on his account.”

This inscription is remarkably similar to Mark’s initial line and it clarifies the essential content of an evangel in the ancient world: a Historical event which introduces a new setting for the world.”

Jesus’ proclamation of the coming of His kingdom in this world is the Christian Gospel.

Mark is writing one account of this world shattering news. The Roman world would have understood Jesus and then Mark’s use of this word, as both controversial and weird.

A poor Jewish on-time carpenter, traveling rabbi is a God? What affect could he possibly have on the world?

The use of the word Gospel by Jesus, is a tacit statement that His coming is an event that brings about a radically new state of affairs for mankind.

As biblical and historical scholar N.T. Wright sums up the evidence, “in the Greek world… a Gospel, is a regular technical term, referring to the announcement of a great victory, or to the birth, or assent of an emperor.” The point here is that a “gospel,” refers to a public announcement of glorious news about an emporer.

The gospel is not primarily about salvation. It’s not primarily about going to heaven. It’s not primarily about adoption as God’s children. All of those things are the fruit of the Gospel.

But the Gospel is not about you and your salvation. It’s about Jesus. Continue reading “The Gospel in the Gospels”

Church Newsletter 8-15-2018

Saints,

Isn’t it amazing how quickly we forget what the sermon was about? Isn’t it amazing how quickly the cares of the world drain our Sabbath joy?

Hoping to encourage you all, I am going to send out a newsletter on Wednesdays that will consist of “filling up the edges;” follow up to the sermon or excerpts edited out on Sunday morning, resources from around the web and a devotional to aid in your preparations for the next Sunday Service.

It’s important to slow down, quiet your mind and reflect on what we are learning as a church, as a church. There are a lot of distractions in the world but consider the following a point of renewal, which the whole church is participating in together. Pray for the recipients of this email and the worship service to which we are all heading together.

I pray that this is an aid to stay in touch with you all midweek, as well as, a way to “be of the same mind,” (Phil. 2:2).

Filling up the edges

The whole idea for the sermon titled “The Gospel according to Mark according to Peter according to Christ,” came from the idea the scriptures are a product of the Body of Christ. Jesus is the message, He first entrustred that message to men who would write it down. Jesus then preserved it through centuries of history. Finally faithful men died that it might be transmitted into English and the Lord blessed their effort by putting the gilded leather copy in your hands. Give thanks.

The following was edited out of the sermon do to time restraints but summarizes the whole sermon nicely:

John Piper explains “From the beginning of his ministry, Jesus was preparing for the transmission of his truth and authority to his church through authorized spokesmen who would teach with his authority, commit their teaching to writing, and leave a body of inspired writings through which Christ would govern his church until his return. Christ did this by calling, commissioning, and then sending the spirit to guide the apostles.”

The Word of God always intended to govern the church of God through words. Not just any words, words he arranged by the power of the Holy Spirit to be read and understood by the power of the Holy Spirit.

This is called organic inspiration and we can see through the transmission of the Gospel from Jesus to Peter, Peter to Mark and Mark to us, that this is indeed the case.

Theologian John Frame explains organic Inspiration this way; “God used all the distinct personal qualities of each writer. God used the differences of heredity, environment, upbringing, education, gifts, talents, styles, interests, and idiosyncrasies to reveal his word. The differences were not a barrier that God had to overcome. Rather, they were God’s chosen means of communication with us. God’s word is complex and nuanced, muliperspectival. God used the organic complexity of human persons and the diversities among persons to communicate the complexity of his own personal word. He used Human persons to communicate with us in fully personal ways.”

In Genesis God said he made man in His image, male and female He made Them. A community is the best image of the Triune God. The best written revelation of this God is transmitted the same way; through a community in all its diversity and unity.

Jesus was the first Christian preacher and He declared His kingship in word and Deed. Peter preached that same message as an eyewitness. John Mark Recorded it and compiled it for Roman Christians, all the while, Jesus the Lord, by the Spirit, was preparing a message for the whole world.

Mark’s task was to project Christian faith in a climate of uncertainty where martyrdom had been a reality. He selected and arranged the tradition to present the Christ who continues to speak and act meaningfully in the context of crisis. What was demanded by the Roman Christian’s situation was not a past word, descriptive of what Jesus had said and done, but a word from the present through which the Living Lord could be here and known. 

And so reading the gospel of Mark we meet the Lord Jesus here and now.

Around the worldwide web

The link is to the podcasts of Parish Presbyterian Church. #19 is Pastor George Grant’s first sermon on Mark and it is wonderful. I suggest you subscribe, if you like good podcasts or good sermons.

https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/parish-presbyterian-church-podcasts/id691474731?mt=2

Devotional

The Gloria

Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace to people of good will.

We praise you,
we bless you,
we adore you,
we glorify you,
we give you thanks for your great glory, Lord God, heavenly King,

O God, almighty Father.

Lord Jesus Christ, Only Begotten Son,
Lord God, Lamb of God, Son of the Father,
you take away the sins of the world, have mercy on us;
you take away the sins of the world, receive our prayer;
you are seated at the right hand of the Father, have mercy on us.

For you alone are the Holy One, you alone are the Lord,
you alone are the Most High, Jesus Christ,

with the Holy Spirit,
in the glory of God the Father.

Amen.

 

Out Of Darkness

“What does God say in the gospel? He announces the most staggering free gift of all time. He offers total rescue (that is, Salvation) from the rebellious nonconformity to himself which is the root of all our guilt, misery and frustration, and whose bible name is sin. He promises a new, endless life of pardon, peace, moral power, and joyful purpose to all who are humble enough not to try and earn it, but simply receive it.

How can God make this offer? Through Christ’s death as a sacrifice for sins. How do we receive this life? By renouncing rebellion, and embracing the risen savior as our Master; the life is found within that relationship. What happens then? Increasingly we prove the truth of Jesus’ words, “He who follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12). ”

Growing in Christ. Packer, J.I. 104.

 

 

 

Sifting the Sons of God

Luke 22:31-32 “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.”  

Now a few things to note. Jesus uses Peter’s pre-Christian name foreshadowing Peter’s fall back to old ways of thinking. He also says Simon twice which is a Jewish rhetorical device signifying emphasis and sorrow like when Jesus laments “Oh, Jerusalem, Jerusalem,” in Matthew 23:37.

The circumstances of our life that result from sin and the necessity of its cure, grieves Jesus. He is not a doctor working on lab rats. He is a wholehearted and invested physician.

Also, the “you,” is plural. Satan desires to sift all the disciples, not just Peter.

Furthermore, Satan asks permission. Satan is God’s instrument. Satan only has the authority granted to Him by God. That should put our spiritual warfare against Satan into some much needed perspective. Dualism is a modern sin common in Modern Christianity. Satan is not God’s equal. Satan is God’s errand boy. Also, Jesus grants permission. Why would He do that? Why would a good God allow bad things to happen?

To sift wheat means to shake it violently, so that the chaff flows away on the wind and the wheat remains. Now, to be shaken violently does not feel good, but it does purify the wheat.

So here is the set up. Jesus tells Peter what is going to happen to Him and what the result will be. But does Peter take it to heart? Does it prevent Peter from going through it?

Satan asks to sift Jesus’ disciples and Jesus allows it because He wants us to be shaken, so that we will learn to cling to Him, the immovable rock, the solid cornerstone. That we might experience and know what we are incapable of and what He is capable of.

Cancer asks to sift us. Infertility asks to sift us. Doubt asks to sift us. The election asks to sift us. And God grants to them the opportunity to show us our weakness and show us His strength.

Most astoundingly, Jesus foretells Peter’s fall but also His return. Jesus knows that Peter will be sifted, will fall for a time but ultimately will prevail, he will “turn again” which means repent. Peter will be shaken to His very core but will stand strong.   Continue reading “Sifting the Sons of God”

Don’t Kill Your Wife With Curriculum

I want to tell you homeschool husbands a secret. Something you don’t know that, if you did know, would bring more joy and contentment to your home. I worked for two years at a Classical Christian School. I was in the staff meetings and homework planning sessions. The secret is: NO TEACHER, TEACHES THE ENTIRE CURRICULUM IN EVERY SUBJECT, IN ANY GIVEN YEAR.

You know why? Because the curriculum is a guide, its an estimation –  its an ideal. You teach to the student’s ability and understanding, not a strict, objective standard. For teachers there are things that arise like difficulties in some concept that requires a great deal more time and effort. There are illnesses and snow days. There are distractions. Every teacher gets in the final weeks of a school year and has to decide what is the most important concept or concepts to cover. Because there is always next year.

The ditches for homeschool families are either – viewing the curriculum as a mere suggestion and not covering most of it, or,  for most homeschoolers, the ditch hubby drives mom into where she MUST do all the curriculum in a given year. ALL OF IT.  This is the fear of being left behind, or undereducated. The ditch that looks at the money spent and and the professional looking syllabuses and wants to keep up with the standard.

But curriculum isn’t that kind of standard. Any given curriculum is going to outline more work than can be done in a year.

The thing with homeschooling is that depending on the number of kids, the amount of resources and the gifting of mom, you are making an exchange.

We have six kids. Five boys. We did the day school thing. But we exchanged all that rigor and professionalism and TIME because I would rather my kids get slightly less “professional” instruction, if it means they can get it done in 1/3 of the time and then go outside and build a tree fort. We exchanged seven  subjects for four because, its not the quantity but quality that matters. If my kids spend years and years reading their bibles but don’t do a science lab till they are sixteen, then amen.

Reading covers a multitude of sins.

Husbands, your wife doesn’t have to cover the whole curriculum. Its summer time. Its time for your kids to learn other things. How to mow the yard or build a birdhouse. How to change the oil in your car and power wash a sidewalk. Its time to perfect their sidewalk chalk art and lemonade mixing skills. Its time to learn that trampoline backflip and how to make a campfire.

Be like the good teachers. Look at what’s left, decide what’s the most important, teach it, then put it away and open a bottle of wine and let the kids read comic books.

Relax. Its not about getting it all done. Its about growing up to be Godly, competent learners. And the yard is calling, full of lessons that only come in this beautifully unique time of year.

Gratitude is the Serious Business of Heaven

“For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.” – Romans 1:21

How did they become futile in their thinking and foolish in their hearts? Not by denying that God exists, they can’t do that. It says quite clearly that they knew God. But how did they become futile in their thinking and foolish of heart? By not thanking God.

Mistakenly, we think that people are grumpy and ungrateful because of their unbelief. But the opposite is true. Grumpiness and ingratitude leads to unbelief. Ingratitude leads to futile thinking and a foolish darkened heart.

We have it all backwards. We want to lecture and instruct – but our mission in the world ought to be gratitude.

Christ commanded us to disciple the nations by teaching them about Christ, and we project our modern theories of education and psychology onto this. We think outreach in its various forms is a matter of head knowledge or behaviorism. We strenuously attack atheism, liberalism and Darwinism while instructing the masses in an ethic of noism. But the root problem of disbelief is ingratitude.

Jesus taught by example. On the night that He was betrayed, the eve of his trial and brutal execution, Jesus held up the loaf and He gave thanks. Broken hearted and teary eyed at the door of Lazarus, as the rolled away the stone Jesus lifted his eyes to heaven and said “ Father, I thank you….” Rejoicing in the Father’s abundant provision, he lifted up the single loaf and fish and gave thanks. Jesus taught by example and so should we. In the midst of excruciating circumstances. In the face of loss and tragedy. In the grip of miraculous blessing. Jesus was grateful. Continue reading “Gratitude is the Serious Business of Heaven”