Church Newsletter 2019-4-11

Saints,

I pray that the Lord’s grace and goodness fills your hearts and minds with gratitude, peace and hope as you fulfill your callings, love your wives, respect your husbands, obey your parents and raise your children in the fear and admonition of the Lord.

May the face of Jesus Christ shine on you all.

Filling up the edges

Mark 6:48–50 And he saw that they were making headway painfully, for the wind was against them. And about the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. He meant to pass by them, [49] but when they saw him walking on the sea they thought it was a ghost, and cried out, [50] for they all saw him and were terrified. But immediately he spoke to them and said, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.”

Between three and six, in the morning, in their time of greatest need, and in a totally unexpected way, Jesus came to their rescue.

Job 9:8 who alone stretched out the heavens and trampled the waves of the sea.

 Jesus was walking on top of the water, a miracle unprecedented in the history of redemption. Jesus isn’t coming to them as their teacher, as their friend or leader. He is enacting a theophany.

Theophanyis derived from two Greek words meaning “God” and “to show.” A theophany, then, is a manifestation of the deity.

Appearances of God mark significant events in the life of Israel in the Hebrew Scriptures.

Generally speaking, in the OT, God would manifest Himself as something comprehensible within creation as a means of communicating with man, such as the burning bush in Exodus 4 or the pillar of fire and smoke leading Israel through the middle chapters of Exodus or as the military commander in Joshua 5.

Jesus here turns the idea of a theophany on its head.  God, the transcendent revealed Himself to man in a comprehensible way. Jesus here reveals Himself not as comprehensible but as transcendent.

Jesus, a man bound by the “laws,” of creation reveals himself in a way that transcends created limits, communicating that he surpasses creation and the “laws,” of nature as the creator of the heavens and the earth.

The words “pass by them,” doesn’t mean he was going to walk passed them, ignoring them. It means He was going to display himself to them.

They are exhausted, tormented. They are hardened to His revelation. They are resisting Jesus and so Jesus goes further, pushed them further to break up the hardness of heart.

Two of the most famous theophanies in the OT occurred when Yahweh passed before two prophets, revealing His Glory to man.

Exodus 34:5–6 The LORD descended in the cloud and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the LORD. The LORD passed before him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, 

Yahweh also passed before Elijah.

1 Kings 19:11 And he said, “Go out and stand on the mount before the LORD.” And behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind tore the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. 

Jesus is showing himself to be the greater prophet, but He is passing before the disciples which put the disciples on the same footing as Moses and Elijah.

Who does that make Jesus to be, then? This theophany works, in a way, contra to the OT ones, because a transcendent God is not veiling himself in a way human minds and senses can comprehend. Jesus, a man, is pulling the veil back and revealing His transcendence. Continue reading “Church Newsletter 2019-4-11”

Faith is Not Under Your Seat

1 Corinthians 10:1–4 For I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ.

Paul does not want the Corinthians to be unaware. When dealing with holy things, ignorance can be deadly.

Paul wanted them to know that their fathers had all passed into the sea. The Jews in the wilderness are called the fathers of the gentiles at Corinth. There is a covenantal identity between them – together they are the people of God.

This is how those who don’t descend from Abraham in the flesh can be considered His sons and daughters. The thing that unites us is the covenant and the crux of keeping this covenant is faith.

Faith brought the Jews to the banks of the Red Sea and faith brought them to the shores of their baptism.

But there is a warning. The Corinthians and many Christians since have assumed automatic blessings in the presence of God. But it was in the presence of God that Ussah was struck down, Uzziah was afflicted with leprosy, Nadab and Abihu were consumed, and many Corinthians got sick and died.

Unimaginable blessings are set before us today. But don’t be unaware. Blessings are appropriated by faith and faith is not automatic. Faith was not handed out at the door. Faith is not under your seat like an Oprah Winfrey door prize.

Faith receives like a child. Faith is not up in heaven leaving us wondering how it is to be attained. Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God. And this is the word of God. Here is the body of Christ, broken for us. Here is the cup of the new covenant, the blood shed for the remission of sins.

Do you believe? Then take and eat.

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, Evening reading, January 3rd.).

Church Newsletter 2019-4-1

Saints,

May the joy of your salvation fill your mouth with gratitude and praise of the living God, even as He fills your hearts to overflowing with His love by His Holy Spirit.

Filling up the edges

Mark 6:30-44

All the under shepherds failed. The kings failed. The leaders of Israel failed. So God promises to come and shepherd Israel Himself.

Ezekiel 34:14–15 I will feed them with good pasture, and on the mountain heights of Israel shall be their grazing land. There they shall lie down in good grazing land, and on rich pasture they shall feed on the mountains of Israel. I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I myself will make them lie down, declares the Lord GOD.

Jesus is revealing that this is not a merely a poetic flourish. God’s promise to shepherd Israel is incarnational. I’ve said Jesus embodies and parabolically lives out the history, prophecies and promises of God. But what does that mean?

Jesus is revealing Himself to be the true Shepherd of God’s flock. Jesus is revealing that He Himself, is THE Shepherd, the Lord; Yahweh Himself.

Psalm 23:1 The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.

 Everything that follows is parabolic. Its living metaphor. Its fulfillment. Jesus is living out Psalm 23 as a witness to who he is himself and who the triune God is.

Jesus sits the crowds down and begins to “teach them many things,” verse Mark 6:34.

Psalm 23:3“…He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake…”

The news of John’s death is making the rounds. The righteous are meeting a bleak end at the hands of the wicked authorities.

Psalm 23:4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.  

God promised to be the shepherd of Israel and Jesus is revealing Himself in very great detail, to be that Shepherd.

Mark 6:35–38And when it grew late, his disciples came to him and said, “This is a desolate place, and the hour is now late. Send them away to go into the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat.” But he answered them, “You give them something to eat.” And they said to him, “Shall we go and buy two hundred denarii worth of bread and give it to them to eat?” And he said to them, “How many loaves do you have? Go and see.” And when they had found out, they said, “Five, and two fish.”

The disciples felt compelled to call Jesus’ attention to the lateness of the hour and the scarcity of provision for the evening meal which was close at hand. Continue reading “Church Newsletter 2019-4-1”

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”