Church Newsletter 2019-3-27

Saints,

Beloved of the Lord! I hope this finds you all healthy, well and grateful! As we consider the good gifts of God and all His manifold graces, let us not lose sight of the giver. The Lord isn’t less interested in your pleasure than your piety, but in your comprehending that He is both!

He is Godliness (1 timothy 3:16) and at His side are pleasures forever more (Psalm 16:11). May you know this truth with every breath you take!

Filling up the edges

As John languished in the dungeons of Machaerus, a totally unexpected and fascinating relationship developed between Herod and him. Mark 6:19-20 describe it:

And Herodias had a grudge against him and wanted to put him to death. But she could not, for Herod feared John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and he kept him safe. When he heard him, he was greatly perplexed, and yet he heard him gladly.

When the gorgeously robed tetrarch met the hair-coated prophet, there was a confrontation. John held nothing back. As a result, though the king held every advantage, he “feared John.” Why? Because goodness is awful. Or put another way, goodness is terrifying to evil. Someone has said, “The truth will make you free, but first it will make you miserable.” King Herod stood at the outside fringes of this reality in uncomfortable fear.

This has been the initial experience of many who have come to Christ. Confronted with righteousness, perhaps through the witness of the Word or a friend, they saw something of their sin and glimpsed the righteousness offered by Christ. At once they were repelled. Then, drawn by that righteousness, they entered a gracious discomfort that eventually brought them to Christ.

While Herod feared, he was also being drawn to Christ. “He was greatly perplexed,” says verse 20b, “and yet he heard him gladly.” What pleasure could there be for Herod in this? Why would bologna like the meat grinder? Perhaps John was a breath of fresh air amidst the social climbing and scheming intrigues of the palace court. John cared not at all about court etiquette or whether Herod or anyone else liked him. He was an original, his own (and God’s) man. Herod could not say that about himself.

Herod may have liked listening to John because he felt that listening would somehow atone for his condition. Similarly, some today think they are good Christians because they listen to the truth and even give assent to it. Very likely John’s preaching elevated Herod’s aspiration to better living. Perhaps he made some attempts at self-reformation, did a good deed, pardoned someone, played with his kids, or gave to a beggar. But he was “a double-minded man” (grossly evil, but with some good impulses) and thus “unstable in all his ways” (James 1:8). Whatever the case, he returned again and again to “take it on the chin” from John. In fact, even though he often wanted to kill John (Matthew 14:5), he also protected him from the murderous intents of Herodias. Herod’s conscience was being stirred by this man of God. We might even say that his conscience was coming alive. Unfortunately, this was not to be for long.

Stag birthday parties were common to the Herodians,5 and Herodias knew what to expect: a drinking crowd that would become increasingly sensual and nasty as the evening progressed, and increasingly demanding of “male entertainments.” From what we can tell, the evening was well along and the crowd was sufficiently under the influence when she made her move, using her teenage daughter Salome.6 “For when Herodias’s daughter came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his guests” (v. 22). Normally this dance would have been by the hetarai, the professional court dancers and prostitutes, but Herodias put forth her daughter. Her sensuous, voluptuous dance, unheard of among women of rank, was outrageous. Young Salome pleased Herod and his guests. This was a treat indeed.

Pleased, the tipsy tetrarch shouted, “Ask me for whatever you wish, and I will give it to you” (v. 22). Then he promised her with an oath, consciously aping the style of the king to Queen Esther (Esther 5:3): “Whatever you ask me, I will give you, up to half of my kingdom” (Mark 6:23). You can imagine the cheers from the men: “All right, Herod. Yeah!” They began to wager on what she would ask. A pair of matched stallions? A pearled dress from Rome? The trap was perfectly sprung.

And she went out and said to her mother, “For what should I ask?” And she said, “The head of John the Baptist.” And she came in immediately with haste to the king and asked, saying, “I want you to give me at once the head of John the Baptist . . .”

Then Salome added her own gruesome idea: “. . . on a platter” (vv. 24, 25). Like mother, like daughter! Suddenly Herod was sober, and the room was silent. This is what Salome wanted? That scheming Herodias!

“And the king was exceedingly sorry” (v. 26). He was in genuine grief. This word was used only one other time in the New Testament, to describe Jesus’ pain in the Garden of Gethsemane (Mark 14:34). For a moment at least Herod’s conscience was mightily torn! On the one hand, John was a good man and had done Herod much good; Herodias had deceived him. But then again, what would his friends think? These tribunes would carry news of his reneging back to Rome, and the whole Imperial Court would laugh. He could not have that. There was only one choice.

What a tragedy! Herod’s conscience had begun to live, and he stifled it because of what he feared others would think. Realizing what was at stake, this seems incredible. But there are many today who are doing just the same thing. How many people’s consciences have been awakened to eternal things and their own sinful plight, and yet they have buried it all because of what they feared their friends or family or fiancé or spouse or fellow-students would think. Some spend their entire lives basing their decisions on what other people think. There are politicians who for twenty years have not made one decision according to conscience, but rather according to what they think the people want. There are business people who spend their entire day reckoning their decisions with a visualized corporate ladder before them. There are students who sell their souls to escape ridicule. More people than we realize have lost eternity because they feared what others think. Is the opinion of others keeping you from following your own best instincts and the witness of the Holy Spirit? If so, do not be fooled.

Around the Web

Check  out your Elder Covey, remembering some of His illustrious service to God’s Kingdom.

Ronnie and Ron from Power to Change on Vimeo.

Devotional

Fixing my eyes on Christ HEBREWS 12:3

Grant, Almighty God,

since you have appeared in the person of your only begotten Son and have revealed in him your glory made visible; and, since you show us the same Christ through the window of the gospel: Grant that I, fixing my eyes on him, may not go astray, nor be led here and there after evil lies, the misleadings of Satan, and the allurements of this world. Instead, may I continue firm in the obedience of faith and persevere in it through the whole course of my life, until I am at last transformed into the image of your eternal glory, which now in part shines in me, through the same Christ our Lord.

Amen.

Church Calendar

NEXT WEEK:

Keith, Confession

Byron, Prayer

 

LADIES’ GATHERING

Wednesday, March 27, 7-9PM at Tami Gamble’s home.

 

GOOD FRIDAY SERVICE

Friday, April 19, 7pm at the Northshore Senior Center in Bothell

 

So That You Believe

John 6:27 Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.”

Jesus commands us to labor for the food which endures to everlasting life. He tells us not to give ourselves to idolatrous labor for that food which perishes in the mouth.

The Father honors Jesus with the name that is above every other name – that that the whole world would bow the knee to Him. The victorious kings give gifts to His entourage and that includes the loaf of living bread. The Son of man gives us living bread because the Father has sealed us in Him in glory by His Holy Spirit.

The disciples then asked Jesus, “how do we work of this bread?” Jesus gave an enigmatic answer; the work the Father does in us is that we believe in Jesus Christ and in thus – we receive this bread.

We sit down at this table in faith. We meditate on what this loaded table means, by faith. We feed by faith. We receive Jesus – the living manna by faith.

We truly are what we eat. By faith we feed on the faithful one and by doing so the Father multiplies His grace to us and in us.

If you show this table contempt, then God uses as a means of judgement. Rather, honor the table, and look to the one who endured all judgment for us on the cross.

We look away then from ourselves and our faithlessness to the one who was faithful in everything – unto death – unto eternal glory above us and above all principalities and powers. To the one whose hands are full for giving.

Look upon Him now and behold, in faith, the food of the gospel.

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 2nd.).

Preaching as Poetry

II

Good communication consists of two elements, logic and poetics. Logic and poetics are the two rails on which communication moves. In preaching, the Spirit is the engine pulling the train and what the spirit is pulling the communication on, are logic and poetry. Logic and poetics are the what and how of communication.  Aristotle defined Poetics as the study of linguistic techniques in poetry and literature.

It’s a study of communication within the framework of poetic knowledge; non-analytical, intuitive, immediate understanding from the inside out.

Poetics is not Poetry – it’s not verse. Poetics is the art of beautiful transformative metaphor, awe inspiring analogy, allegory, symbolism, etc.  This has a lot to do with how every person thinks -interacts with the world using their intellect.

Thisis like that– is the way we interpret new data. This is how we communicate clearly because its how our brains and creation were made to work. This loaf is the body of Christ. The whole OT temple and sacrificial system is a type or shadow or metaphor for Christ. With this ring I thee wed. what is the ring a symbol of? What is it a metaphor, for?

The reason for this is that human thinking, human understanding is based on metaphor.

Genesis 1:1–2 In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.

Romans 1:20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.

Colossians 1:17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.

The universe is a metaphor, a grand statement; this is what God is like. Everything that is, is a spoken word. Continue reading “Preaching as Poetry”

Satisfied Eating

Isaiah 53:11Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities.

Isaiah prophesied that the suffering servant would look upon the anguish of His soul and be satisfied.

The doctrines of Calvinists are the doctrines of grace, but we too often focus on the doctrine of total depravity. We too often draw false conclusions from current events. We see with eyes of flesh – of death, despair and estrangement and not with the eyes of faith – love, hope and peace.

We do not consider the whole counsel of God’s word if we forget or miss or neglect the promises.

One of the promises is that after His passion and after his resurrection, Jesus would look at the fruit of the cross and be satisfied.

He is not reluctant to gather with us. He is not ashamed to sit at table with us. He is not ashamed of our table manners. And has we receive free grace. As we receive the fruit of his cross we can’t be less satisfied.

We are learning new table manners; repentance, peace, gratitude, the fruit of the spirit. This table is not the reward of the worthy. It is a conduit of grace, of satisfaction. It is a means for God to make us worthy. Take and eat and see that the Lord is good.

We don’t work to earn our bread. We are weak, trembling and in need. We are given bread so that we are strong enough to work.

Jesus provides that bread. And We need to learn to be as satisfied as He is, in it. He is satisfied with the table as it is set, with what is set on it and with sharing it with you.

Therefore, it is possible for us to join him, eat of it and be satisfied as well.

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 1st.).

So Come and Welcome to Jesus Christ

I am going to introduce a phrase into to our Communion liturgy before Covey and I distribute the elements. The phrase is “Come and welcome, to Jesus Christ.”

First, the scriptures instruct us that coming to this table means we are coming to the table of the Lord Jesus Christ’s (1 Cor. 10:21).

When we come to this table we come to Jesus Christ. As we approach and take what is freely offered to us in Christ, we are shaped by God’s grace, we grow up into the perfect man, the Lord Jesus. This is not a mere ritual. It is a memorial, but it is so very much more than a mere memorial. It is effectual. It’s is food and food is for strength and growth and celebration of a harvest.

Eating at this table together is one of the means God uses to accomplish His purpose of remaking us. He commands us to come and eat and by obeying we become what God made us to be. When we come to this table in faith we are coming to Jesus. To become like Jesus.

The word “Welcome,” is equally important. Covey and I do not examine you before we give you your food. There is no catechism. There are not armed guards or metal detectors.

If you are baptized and in good standing within the Church of Christ, then you are welcome. This table defines a relationship. And that relationship is one of love, generosity, compassion, familial goodwill and joy.

Furthermore, you are not given bread and wine because you are a ‘good,’ person. You are given bread and wine so that you will grow up to become a good person. You are welcome here, not because of what you have done, but because of what God, by His grace is doing to you.

Lastly, the word ‘come,’ is an open invitation to everyone. For those not baptized, it is an invitation to the water. For those unrepentant it is an invitation to repent. The only barriers to this table are found within the sinfulness of the human heart. Christ on His cross provides cleansing for every human heart and now crowned, He offers Himself – fully and completely – to all.

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, Evening reading, January 1st.).

Preaching 101

I

Like any work, preaching is a craft that requires time and failure to get really good at. This thread will discuss what preaching is, what it ought to accomplish and how to develop it as a craft.

Of course, we turn to the Bible to discover what it is preachers are doing.

Nehemiah 8:1–8 And all the people gathered as one man into the square before the Water Gate. And they told Ezra the scribe to bring the Book of the Law of Moses that the LORD had commanded Israel. So Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly, both men and women and all who could understand what they heard, on the first day of the seventh month. And he read from it facing the square before the Water Gate from early morning until midday, in the presence of the men and the women and those who could understand. And the ears of all the people were attentive to the Book of the Law. And Ezra the scribe stood on a wooden platform that they had made for the purpose…They read from the book, from the Law of God, clearly, and they gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading. (ESV)

So how did it work? The preacher stood on a platform before both men and women. He read the word and the people of God listened attentively. The preacher gave the sense of the words and the people understood the words.

This is preaching in a nutshell. Read the text. Explain the text clearly and the audience receives understanding.

Now let’s move into the NT. Let’s look at the master preacher.

Luke 4:16–22 …[Jesus] stood up to read. [17] And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him.  And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”  And all spoke well of him and marveled at the gracious words that were coming from his mouth. (ESV)

What pattern do we see in Luke 4? Jesus is handed the Scriptures from the attendant while standing. Jesus reads the Scripture. Jesus closes the book and hands it back to the attendant. Jesus sits down and begins to preach to them. At first they marvel but Jesus continues even thought he has already dazzled them. He isn’t satisfied with tickling their ears. He preaches the kingdom of God and repentance. Then we read,

Luke 4:28–29 When they heard these things, all in the synagogue were filled with wrath. And they rose up and drove him out of the town and brought him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they could throw him down the cliff. (ESV)

The main thing we need to notice in these examples is how the sermon worked. The Word would be read, and then the preacher would teach the sense of the words, and preach an exhortation based on them.

But notice that Jesus’ conclusion infuriated the crowd, and they sought to kill him. That is why preaching takes a ton of prayer for boldness and wisdom. If it takes no courage to preach then you are doing it wrong, because if you go to the front lines, you can’t be surprised when the enemy starts shooting back at you. Sermons ought to ruffle feathers and mess up hair, because the preacher is a weapon in the hand of God.

Likewise, at the conclusion of Peter’s Sermon on Pentecost, we read,

Acts 2:37–38 Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. (ESV)

Read the word. Give the sense or the meaning of the word directed toward understanding, so that the crowd responds.

R.L Dabney, in Evangelical Eloquence, says of preaching, “its design is to evoke an act.”

Reading the word of God. Explaining the word of God. Giving an understanding of the word of God. Acting on the word of God.

This is preaching 101.

Church Newsletter 2019-3-20

Saints,

Blessings on you all this week, sons and daughters of God! Enjoy the taste of summer. I pray your families are healing fast or avoiding the flu.

May the work of your hands, your thoughts and your desires glorify God. May your homes be full of the joy of salvation; showing hospitality to God and his messengers.

Filling up the edges

Mark 6:7-13

The success of the disciple’s mission is hospitality. Those who are hospitable to the disciples are giving way to the gospel mission. Those who welcome the disciples, make them comfortable, give them a ready ear; accept the call to repentance and obedience are manifesting and spreading the kingdom of God.

Jesus anticipated that some places wouldn’t welcome the disciples. There are always some who would rather stay sick than face the bracing challenge of a new way of life, a new outlook.

But the disciples are to respond with a solemn symbolic action, shaking the dust of the place off of themselves.  But what does this symbolic gesture mean? We know from the oral traditions of the Jews that it was customary for Jews to shake foreign dust off their clothes when they had been traveling outside the Holy Land.

By this action they dissociated themselves from the pollution of those lands and their ultimate judgment. An analogous action on the part of the disciples would declare that a village was pagan in character. It would provide warning that the disciples had fulfilled their responsibility and that those who had rejected the mission would have to answer to God.37 Continue reading “Church Newsletter 2019-3-20”