Church Newsletter 2018-10-31

Saints,

I pray that, as the fall gets going, the Lord grants us all good health. As a family we need to pray for one another as often as we can. We are scattered around the Puget Sound so, instead of a prayer meeting, I think it is important to hold a designated day of prayer as a church. So, on Thursday Mornings from 7am to 9am, we will hold a weekly prayer vigil. As often as life and work allow, between 7am and 9am, concentrate on praying for our community; both Redeemer and the city in which you live.

Pray for the Worship service, marriages, vocations, childrearing, health, stewardship and gratitude of Redeemer Church and your city. Write this list on a sticky and put up somewhere you can see it.

As we do this together, separately, we will actually be drawing closer to one another and the Father as a body. Prayer is the key to a healthy spiritual life and a healthy church. Praise and petition God. We are all sufferers and sinners, so together we need to grow stronger in this key spiritual discipline.

Blessings.  Continue reading “Church Newsletter 2018-10-31”

Being and Doing

Comment on Mark 1:35-39

Amid a whirlwind of activity, Jesus seeks a still point in prayer with the Father. There is a suggestive parallel in wording between Jesus going out to pray (v. 35) and his going out to preach and expel demons (v. 39). The work of the Son of God is both an inward and an outward work. Jesus cannot extend himself outward in compassion without first attending to the source of his mission and purpose with the Father; and, conversely, his oneness with the Father compels him outward in mission. The significance of Jesus’ ministry consists not simply in what he does for humanity, but equally in who he is in relation to the Father. Jesus is, according to Mark’s narrative, neither contemplative ascetic nor social activist. He does not promote an agenda but derives a ministry from a relationship with the Father. He is the Son, one in being with the Father; and the Servant, one in purpose with his will.

 Edwards, J. R. (2002). The Gospel according to Mark (p. 66). Grand Rapids, MI; Leicester, England: Eerdmans; Apollos.

Serving Like the Servant King

Mark 1:30–31 Now Simon’s mother-in-law lay ill with a fever, and immediately they told him about her. And he came and took her by the hand and lifted her up, and the fever left her, and she began to serve them.

There is no other remedy like this one. Without a doubt, in emergencies the means God has provided should be pursued; doctors in times of sickness, lawyers in legal disputes, the help of friends and family. But the first thing and throughout, we should be crying out to the Lord. No one can heal us as effectually as Jesus can. None are as compassionate or ready to aid and relieve us.

Philippians 4:4–6 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.

When Jacob was in need, he first turned to his God (Genesis 32:11). Hezekiah knew the only one capable to aid Israel, so he spread the letter of Sennacherib before the Lord (2 Kings 19:19). As soon as Lazarus fell ill, his sisters sent immediately to Jesus (John 11:2). This is the response of faith. When troubling circumstances befall us or our loved ones, turn to the one who has the compassion and authority to respond.

1 Peter 5:6–9 Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.

We are sinners and sufferers. The days of darkness are many and the valley of the shadow of death is long. Its no prophesying to say that our tears and doubts will be many before we die. But we are armed against despair before the day of trouble comes. Remember that in sickness, bereavement, loss or disappointment oppresses us that the deliver is at hand. Before the crown is the cross and we follow the Lord of Life, the nourishment of heaven; our daily bread.

Let us respond as the believers in Simon’s house at Capernaum, let us tell Jesus at once. Continue reading “Serving Like the Servant King”

We Wrestle with God Himself

And Jacob was left alone. And a man wrestled with him until the breaking of the day. – Genesis 32:24

John Calvin says…

Although this vision was particularly useful to Jacob himself, to teach him beforehand that many conflicts awaited him, and that he might certainly conclude that he should be the conqueror in them all; there is yet not the least doubt that the Lord exhibited, in his person, a specimen of the temptations — common to all his people — which await them, and must be constantly submitted to, in this transitory life. Wherefore it is right to keep in view this designs of the vision, which is to represent all the servants of God in this world as wrestlers; because the Lord exercises them with various kinds of conflicts. Moreover, it is not said that Satan, or any mortal man, wrestled with Jacob, but God himself: to teach us that our faith is tried by him; and whenever we are tempted, our business is truly with him, not only because we fight under his auspices, but because he, as an antagonist, descends into the arena to try our strength. This, though at first sight it seems absurd, experience and reason teaches us to be true. For as all prosperity flows from his goodness, so adversity is either the rod with which he corrects our sins, or the test of our faith and patience. And since there is no kind of temptations by which God does not try his faithful people, the similitude is very suitable, which represents him as coming, hand to hand, to combat with them. Therefore, what was once exhibited under a visible form to our father Jacob, is daily fulfilled in the individual members of the Church; namely, that, in their temptations, it is necessary for them to wrestle with God… For since God appeared under the form of a man, the name is thence assumed; just as, because of the visible symbol, the Spirit is called a dove; and, in turn, the name of the Spirit is transferred to the dove. That this disclosure was not sooner made to the holy man, I understand to be for this reason, because God had resolved to call him, as a soldier, robust and skillful in war, to more severe contests. For as raw recruits are spared, and young oxen are not immediately yoked to the plough; so the Lord more gently exercises his own people, until, having gathered strength, they become more inured to toil. Jacob, therefore, having been accustomed to bear sufferings, is now led forth to real war. Perhaps also, the Lord had reference to the conflict which was then approaching. But I think Jacob was admonished, at his very entrance on the promised land, that he was not there to expect a tranquil life for himself. For his return to his own country might seem to be a kind of release; and thus Jacob, like a soldier who had kept his term of service, would have given himself up to repose. Wherefore it was highly necessary for him to be taught what his future conditions should be. We, also, are to learn from him, that we must fight during the whole course of our life; lest any one, promising himself rest, should wilfully deceive himself. And this admonition is very needful for us; for we see how prone we are to sloth. Whence it arises, that we shall not only be thinking of a truce in perpetual war; but also of peace in the heat of the conflict, unless the Lord rouse us.

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.