Church Newsletter 2019-4-24

Saints,

May the face of our Lord Jesus Christ shine upon you all and give you peace. May the Spirit so embolden and entangle your heart that bow humbly before your Lord Jesus and praise Him without ceasing. May the Father convict and comfort you that you know no righteousness but Jesus.

Amen

Filling up the edges

John 5:28–29 Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment.

This is called, traditionally, the last things or by some, eschatology. And most of us think the last things take place in a remote time. In a nondescript, enigmatic future era: distant and unknowable. But eschatology, can be understood in two different ways. The end of the world is far off and unknowable, but the end of your life can be reasonably guessed with a fair amount of accuracy by a good doctor or a life insurance agent.

C.S. Lewis again fromWeight of Glory; “When any man comes into the presence of God he will find, whether he wishes it or not, that all those things which seemed to make him so different from the men of other times or even from His earlier self, have fallen off him. He is back where he always was, where every man always is….do not let us deceive ourselves. No possible complexity which we can give to our picture of the universe can hide us from God: there is not copse, no forest, no jungle thick enough to provide cover. It will happen to all of us in the blink of an eye. In a breath, in a time too small to be measured, at any time and in any place, all that seems to divide you from God and from other men, will flee away, vanish leaving you naked before Him, like the first man, like the only man, as if nothing but He and you existed.  And since that contact cannot be avoided and since it means either bliss or horror, the business of life is to learn to love it. That is the first and greatest commandment.” 

The business of life is to learn to love it. Because the Lord Jesus will call you forth from your grave and you will stand before Him. Everyone will be resurrected – those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment.

And that separation into two groups is the end of a long line of decisions. A long line of works. Actions. Words. Things done and left undone.

Because you stand before His gaze every day. But because we don’t see Him, we act as if each moment isn’t happening before His very eyes.

The business of life is to learn to love to stand in His gaze. Loving it is what leads to heaven. Not loving it leads to hell.

Hebrews 4:13 And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.

Loving the one who gazes upon us is what leads to Him – heaven. Continue reading “Church Newsletter 2019-4-24”

I Thirst

The Theologian Fred Sanders explains in his book, How the Trinity Changes everything, this important aspect of Biblical interpretation;

“One of the most powerful features of the Trinitarianism of the New Testament is that it is revealed to us largely in the conversation between the Father and the Son.…Even in the darkness of the cross itself, the Son keeps up an intimate running dialogue with his Father. Jesus is confident that his prayers are heard and that the Father is with him, and in a few spectacular instances of a voice speaking from heaven we get to hear the Father declaring his attitude toward his beloved Son. All this inner-Trinitarian conversation is intentionally held in public, for our instruction….what they said to and about one another for us to overhear is not only a solid foundation for the doctrine of the Trinity, but it is also a marvelous invitation to us to be included in that conversation.

We see this dialogue at Christ’s baptism and at the transfiguration. We hear it in the prayer of Jesus at Lazarus’ tomb:

John 11:41–42, So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me.”

Jesus is talking to the Father, out loud, so that others may hear and join in the knowledge of the Father and the Son.

This is why the disciples ask Jesus to teach them to pray in Luke 11:1. The dialogue between Jesus and His Father is public and meant to draw us in.

So we turn to John 19:28–29 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.

What we think is happening here is strictly an exchange between Jesus and His murderers.

Indeed, Jesus is fulfilling the scriptures, like Psalm 22:15 my strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to my jaws.

But in this moment when Jesus speaks of thirst, as in His whole earthly ministry, He is misunderstood by His immediate audience.

Understanding what is being said, to whom and its meaning – is an invitation for us to join the inner life of the trinity.

Continue reading “I Thirst”

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).