Archive for September, 2008

Friends,

This is lousy video from Blackberry Pearl, but it shows my son starting and finishing his cross country race tonight. He placed 4th on the team and set a new PR of 15:04 better than 1:10 off his personal best time.

jerry

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Friends,

I have been enjoying Stanley Hauerwas’ fine theological commentary on Matthew. It seems that on every page I find something that I say, “Yes,” to. It’s my first in depth reading of Hauerwas and I suppose to be fair I should read some more of his work.

Nevertheless, here’s another of those paragraphs that really stood out to my mind and the current revolution my faith is undergoing:

Scripture is the weapon of truth that enables those who follow Jesus to disarm the powers by exposing their lies and deceit. Christians are not without defense, having been given God’s word to shield us from our delusions that are the source of our violence.

Jesus, however, is clear. Attempts to secure our lives through the means offered by the world are doomed to failure. If we are to find our lives, it seems, we must be prepared to lose our lives. But this is not a general recommendation meaning that we should learn unselfishness–even unselfishness that may cost our lives–for the life we must be willing to lose is the life lost ‘for my sake,’ that is, for Jesus. Self-sacrifice, often justified in the name of family or country, can too easily be tyrannical. The language of sacrifice is often used by those in power for perverse ends. Jesus does not commend the loss of self as a good in and of itself. He demands that we follow him because he alone has the right to ask for our lives.

Too often Christianity in our time is justified as a way of life that leads to stability and order. ‘The family that prays together stays together’–but such sentiments cannot help but lead to an idolatry of the family.–109

There’s more, but I don’t want to spoil all the fun. Get the book and have a good read. It is necessary and important that Christians do understand the hard nature of the life of a Jesus follower. Consider well.

Soli Deo Gloria!

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Friends,

I preached this sermon back in November of 2006. It was the first in a series of 8 sermons I preached on the subject, The Dangerous God. Sometimes I think that we Christians are more content to put our faith in places where there is obvious power or obvious safety. But this is not the way of God. God operates in rather ironic ways and a careful reading of the Scripture demonstrates that God is, in fact, dangerous. The sermon takes a little more than 35 minutes and is based on Judges 7. When I can, I’ll post the manuscript version. Illustrations are from Your God is Too Safe by Mark Buchanan, The Jesus I Never Knew, by Philip Yancey, Rosie O’Donnell, and David F Wells’, No Place for Truth.

Listen Here: The God Who Does More with Less, Judges 7

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Always for His glory!

90 Days with Scripture
Week 1: September 28, 2008
Genesis 3:1-24:  When Everything Went Wrong

Introduction

1 Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” 2 The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, 3 but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’ ” 4 “You will not surely die,” the serpent said to the woman. 5 “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

6 When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. 7 Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves. 8 Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden. 9 But the LORD God called to the man, “Where are you?”

10 He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.” 11 And he said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?” 12 The man said, “The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.” 13 Then the LORD God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”

14 So the LORD God said to the serpent,
“Because you have done this,
“Cursed are you above all the livestock
and all the wild animals!
You will crawl on your belly
and you will eat dust
all the days of your life.
15 And I will put enmity
between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and hers;
he will crush your head,
and you will strike his heel.”
16 To the woman he said,
“I will greatly increase your pains in childbearing;
with pain you will give birth to children.
Your desire will be for your husband,
and he will rule over you.”
17 To Adam he said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat of it,’
“Cursed is the ground because of you;
through painful toil you will eat of it
all the days of your life.
18 It will produce thorns and thistles for you,
and you will eat the plants of the field.
19 By the sweat of your brow
you will eat your food
until you return to the ground,
since from it you were taken;
for dust you are
and to dust you will return.”

20 Adam  named his wife Eve, because she would become the mother of all the living. 21 The LORD God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them. 22 And the LORD God said, “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.” 23 So the LORD God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken. 24 After he drove the man out, he placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life.

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“The author uses irony to show the folly of man’s fall. He shows that even though man’s question to be like God was obtained, the goal itself proved to be undesirable. Man, who had been created ‘like God’ in the beginning, found himself after the fall curiously ‘like God’—but no longer ‘with God’ in the garden. In this subtle interchange, the author has shown that man’s happiness  does not consist of his being ‘like God’ so much as it does his being ‘with God’ enjoying the blessing of his presence.” (Sailhamer, 59)

There are a lot of ways that these verses can be approached: we could dissect them and discover an anatomy of temptation; we could look at the different polemics spoken against Canaanite gods that Israel was faced with; we could look at the garden of Eden as a prototype of the tabernacle and temple that would later mark the Israel’s distinctive character; we could examine the insidious nature of evil. All of these are worthy investigations and indeed many commentators choose exactly these routes or at least mark them as significant side-streets or side trips along the way.

But I think there is a more important message here in Genesis 3 that we simply must not miss. We have to be careful to ask what it is that the Lord wishes us to understand from what is written. We can focus on the periphery, but it will serve us better if we have nailed down the center. After all, that is part of the problem in this very story: They didn’t pay attention to what the Lord said and instead they distrusted him and believed a liar. They distorted the word of God and listened to themselves. In doing so, we see that the entire universe has come under serious assault. There is no peace, and there will not be until…until…until…

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Today we are beginning 90 Days with Scripture. The aim is to read through the entire Bible in 90 Days by reading a mere 12 pages per day or spending about 45-60 minutes with the Bible each day. Our goal in this series of sermons is to trace the history of humanity from start to finish, from first sin to final redemption, from Genesis to Revelation, to trace the big story from beginning to end, Alpha to Omega. I think what we will see is that God had a plan from the first. Today we begin where it all started going wrong, Eden, and begin to see the groundwork that God laid down for the future redemption and restoration of man.

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I’d like to begin this series by noting a couple of the more important aspects of this particular passage of Scripture that will be fleshed out in due course of this series.

First, Paul Kissling illustrates my initial observation about this scene:

“The net result of the sin and its punishment is the distortion of every relationship between the Lord God and his creation…Humanity’s relationship with the Lord is damaged as they hide from him and the man blames the Lord for giving the woman to him. The relationship’s between men and women are scarred as the man passes off blame to the woman and they mus cover themselves from seeing each other’s nakedness.  The man and the woman have distorted views of themselves as they are suddenly ashamed of their nakedness. The relationship with the animal kingdom is marred as the woman in part blames the deception of the serpent for her own desires….Humanity’s relationship with the animal kingdom is also distorted by the predicted enmity of the descendants of the woman and the serpent.”—197

Nothing could ever be the same. And nothing has been. Sin and its consequences is the one theological doctrine that is verifiable in every single person on the planet.

After the consumption of the fruit, we see blame. We see shame. We see a fear of the Lord that is newly introduced into the creation as man hides from the mere voice of God: “I heard you in the garden and I was afraid, so I hid.” In a sense we can say that God’s relationship with his creation too is ruptured. No longer is the ground ‘good’, but now it is cursed; no longer is the serpent part of the ‘good’ creation, but it too is cursed. Adam and Eve too are cursed and now there is subordination and authority: Adam names his wife. We see distortion in our own flesh: Eve’s increased pain in childbirth, the sweat of Adam’s brow and his backbreaking labor, and, of course, death. We see distorted hierarchy: her desire would be for her husband (which cannot be specifically sexual since a woman desiring her husband can hardly be a bad thing).

These effects continue in our day and we will see this enmity, this hostility unto murder, played out in the lives of Cain and Abel, Jacob and Esau, Israel and Egypt, 10 brothers verses Joseph. Israel versus Judah. It is a thread, this enmity, that runs the length of the Bible. But it is not without end. Enmity, hostility, violence–enmity unto murder, an eternal conflict–that’s what our relationships amount to now.

Second, sin ruptured God’s intent for the creation. One commentator said it this way:

In Genesis 3, YHWH’s intent for creation is ruptured. In challenging the divine design for creation, the human couple tragically altered their vital relationship with their Creator, with each other, the rest of the created order. Where once there was harmony, productivity, and meaning, there is now pain, struggle, and potential meaninglessness to life. The contrast could not be more poignantly drawn. In their desire to circumvent the need for a Sovereign Lord, the achieve not fulfillment but become keenly aware of the weakness and vulnerability of the creatureliness. In their relationship with each other, equality, mutual concern, and care are replaced by struggle, conflict, and obsession with hierarchical order….The story continues, for the God of Genesis 1-3 is a God who repeatedly calls his creation to realign with his purposes and intent. (Marrs, 36)

This is the core of the problem: We are simply not yet who we are supposed to be, and we live in a place that is not as it should be, and we are not towards each other the way we were intended to be. We live in a world of hostility and violence. Nothing is the way it should be. [See Romans 8:18-27]. Everything is fouled up; everything is wrong. Look the problem is not that someone on Wall Street made a bad choice; it’s that all of us have made bad choices. It’s not that our leadership in Washington is corrupt; it’s that all of us are corrupt. It’s not that hurricanes and tsunamis destroy this island or that state. It’s that nothing in creation is right.

Finally, and perhaps worst of all: we have been expelled from the presence of God. It was made abundantly clear in the commentaries that the exit to the East of Eden and the Cherubim flashing back and forth are two of the many signs that there is some temple or tabernacle imagery going on here. The tabernacle and temple were entered from the east; man exited the garden to the east. The cherubim were guardians of the temple, the holy of holies, and formed the seat on the ark of the covenant. Here they guard the entrance to Eden where man had unmediated access to the presence of God. Gordon Wenham wrote, “These features all combine to suggest that the garden of Eden was a type of the sanctuary where God is uniquely present in all his life giving power. It was this that man forfeited when he ate of the fruit.” (86)

Kissling agrees, “The cherubim serve as a warning and as an impediment to sinful human beings presuming that it is permissible for them to walk into the unmediated presence of the Lord.” (213)

No longer is there unmediated access to the presence of God. Man forfeited this when he sinned. We no longer enjoy that fellowship. Now, we are enemies with God.

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This is what we gained and what we lost. Relationships all around. Creation out of whack. Presence of God denied. I think this story serves two purposes. First, it serves to demonstrate to us a sort of history of our origin and our sin (Wenham). The account of disobedience ‘traces the descent of the whole human race, [and] must have grave consequences for all mankind’ (91). On the other hand, it also serves as a paradigm for every story, of every human. It is, to be sure, ‘our’ story. One need only look to Ezekiel 28:12-19 to see how this story played itself out in the life of another.

What we ultimately see in Genesis 3 is that God himself remains God. He didn’t change because we altered the relationship. But God does become different to us. He becomes distant, distorted, and untrustworthy. His word becomes meaningless and uninteresting. Now disobedience is the defining characteristic because we thought that it was more important to be God than it was to be with God. “There’s a way that seems right to a man, but it only brings him death.” And from that point—everything changed.

Their act of disobedience became paradigmatic in every person, in every generation, in every community. All have this same distorted view of God. But that is not the entire story.

The creation may be frustrated. Relationships may be distorted. Salvation—defined here as unmediated access to God—may be impossible. But we are not without hope. And we see his grace in action here. We see grace in his provision of animal clothing. We see hope in Eve—the mother of all living. We see victory in the offspring of the Woman crushing the head of the serpent.

We see, ultimately, Jesus. He becomes the sacrifice that clothes us and hides our nakedness. Now, we are commended in Scripture to ‘clothe ourselves with Christ.’ To be clothed in his righteousness. He is our provision.

We see, ultimately, Jesus. He becomes for us the Resurrection and the life—our hope. It was he who is the Offspring of the woman who came to crush the head of the serpent and deliver the death blow to death. He is our hope.

We see, ultimately, Jesus. He becomes for us Mediator between God and man when He tears the temple veil. He ushers us in, by his own blood, into the presence of God. He is the Victor who restores the broken relationship between God and man.

The world is a broken place, but one thing we learn is our ‘expulsion from the garden indicates and irreversible change in man’s situation’ (Wenham, 91). But Scripture declares, boldly, that all the world’s ills, all the brokenness, and all the distortion will be put to rights only in Jesus Christ. Many people are looking for change—and rightly so. We want the world fixed. But the narrative of our history indicates that we messed it up and we are thoroughly incapable of fixing it. But the narrative also declares that God has taken every step, not just the first or the last, but every step, to fix what we broke. Turn your eyes upon God’s solution to all that is wrong; turn your eyes upon Jesus.

Soli Deo Gloria!

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Friends,

Here are my sermons and Powerpoints on the Crucifixion Driven Life. The sermons are based Matthew’s Gospel, and, as I said elsewhere, I have drawn illustrative material from a variety of sources. I have also included two study guides that I wrote for my Bible school class. The study guides contain short bibliographies on the back pages. Sadly, I have lost the print version of the first sermon in this series (“The Crucifixion Driven Life Begins with Birth“), but I have posted the audio version in a skycast (podcast)  elsewhere here. As I did with my sermons on Daniel, I have provided links to box.net where the work can be downloaded. You can also use the box.net widget on the right side of the blog.) If there happens to be any incorrect links, please let me know.

The Crucifixion Driven Life, 2006

Sermon 1 Powerpoint (The sermon itself, now lost, was from Matthew 1:18-25; Audio here.)

Sermon 2 The Crucifixion Driven Life is Victorious in Defeat, Matthew 16:21-28, PPT

Sermon 3 The Crucified Life Hates Sin: The Cross and Holiness, Matthew 17:22-23, PPT

Sermon 4 The Crucifixion Driven Life Does Not Avoid the Cross, Matthew 20:17-28, PPT

Sermon 5 The Crucifixion Driven Life Is an Owned Life, Matthew 21:33-46, PPT

Sermon 6 The Crucifixion Driven Life Is Concerned About Jesus, Matthew 26:1-13, PPT

Sermon 7 The Crucifixion Driven Life Partakes of Jesus’ Death, Matthew 26:20-30, PPT

Sermon 8 The Crucifixion Driven Life is Silent, Matthew, 27:11-31, PPT

Sermon 9 The Crucifixion Driven Life Dies With Jesus, Matthew 27:32-54, PPT

Sermon 10 The Crucifixion Driven Life: Carried to the Next Level, Genesis 22; Psalm 22; Isaiah 53; Matthew’s Gospel; Various Letters, PPT
Study Guide 1: January 2006 (Opens in MS Publisher)

Study Guide 2: February 2006 (Opens in MS Publisher)

That’s all. I hope that you find these sermons helpful to you in your own studies of the Word of God. I know that the study and preparation that went into these sermons radically altered the course of my own discipleship in Jesus. May you be blessed in your efforts to serve our Lord.

Soli Deo Gloria!

Friends,

This past Sunday I preached from Isaiah 5:1-7. These are powerful verses and, to be sure, it is terribly difficult to miss their point. They speak of a people, Israel (Judah), specifically planted and given one task: To bear good fruit. And the vineyard God planted was given every possible advantage and ability to do just that. As we learn, however, ‘He went out to look for a crop of good grapes, but it yielded only bad fruit…He looked for justice, but saw bloodshed; for righteousness, but heard cries of distress’ (2c, 4b, 7). God is looking! God has expectations! The question we must ask ourselves is this: Will he be disappointed with what he finds?

But there are more questions we must ask about this notion of fruit bearing–especially in light of the fact that Jesus practically repeated this song, this parable, verbatim in John 15. There is no doubt here that God is judging us: ‘I looked for good grapes, and it yielded only bad fruit.’ This is no different than what Jesus says in John 15: ‘I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes.’ God is judging us; God is shaping us; God is making decisions about who is and is not worthy of continuing as a part of the vineyard. I wonder if we ever stop to consider that?

Sometimes, in my opinion, we get so caught up in our own judgments about who is and is not producing fruit that we fail to consider that God himself is making those decisions far in advance. I wonder if we trust God’s discernment in these matters or if we are more than convinced that He needs our help?

There are other questions, questions such as: Are we bearing fruit that is edible? I mean, if God finds it detestable, how do others find it; that is, the lost? Are we starving the world because the fruit we produce is worthless? Are we bearing fruit that is pleasing to God first? Are we bearing fruit in keeping with God’s character (righteousness, justice, love)? Are we bearing fruit at all?

Assuming we are bearing fruit, do we stop to consider that God himself is not unaware of our vintage, that he makes the ultimate and, presumably, the only judgment about its quality that matters? I mean, if God is the one who prunes and pares the branches, well, does that mean that only his judgment ultimately matters? Does God need additional fruit inspectors? Or do you think that God’s judgment is sufficient?

So, if God himself has defined the nature of the fruit we are to bear (good & righteousness & justice [Isaiah]; love & lasting [John]), and told us how we are to do so (by remaining in Jesus), and told us for what purpose we are to do it (bring glory to God, John 15:8), and told us that by doing so we demonstrate conclusively to whom we belong (Jesus, John 15:8), then are we, the body of Christ, doing that very thing: Producing fruit in accordance with our call? (John 15:16). Are we producing fruit that is pleasing first to God? Or are we producing bad grapes, a wasted crop, a poor vintage, a harvest worthy of only the fire?

I see this as a serious issue in the church because, as I pointed out in my other post, people are dying and being killed and killing themselves while the church is playing games. Sometimes I think we spend more time inspecting fruit than we do actually producing it. Am I the only one who sees that as a serious, serious problem?

Always For God’s Glory!

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Friends,

Here I have found more audio sermons by DA Carson. These sermons are based on 1 Peter and were delivered at the 2001 John Bunyan Conference.

1. 1 Peter 1:13-2:1: Holiness without Suffering
2. 1 Peter 2:4-12: A Rock and a People
3. 1 Peter 2:13-3:12: How Then Shall We Live?
4. 1 Peter 3:13-4:19: Distinctive Christian Suffering
5. 1 Peter 5:1-11: Going to Glory
6. 1 Peter 1:1-12: Headed Toward Heaven

I’m sorry, but I cannot hyperlink to these, and the audio is of a rather poor quality. Nor am I certain they can be downloaded to your PC. There are two parts to each sermon except part 1 where there is only one part. There are other messages available at this sight, but I only recognized Dr Carson’s name. That’s not to say the other messages are not worth listening to.

Also, you can find seven sermons from Dr Carson here at Reformed Theological Seminary.

Session 1 – Revelation 4
Session 2 – Revelation 5
Session 3 – Revelation 21:1-8
Session 4 – Revelation 21:9-22:6
Session 5 – Revelation 12
Session 6 – Revelation 13
Session 7 – Revelation 14

Finally, at atthecastle.org.uk, you will find a series of sermons from Jeremiah:

Jeremiah 1:1 – 3:5 01_Jeremiah_1v1-3v5.mp3 9.04mb
Jeremiah 3:4 – 4:4 02_Jeremiah-3v4-v4v4.mp3 8.80mb
Jeremiah 11 – 15 03_Jeremiah_11-15.mp3 9.25mb
Jeremiah 30 – 31 04_Jeremiah_30-31.mp3 13.30mb
Jeremiah 37 – 39 05_Jeremiah_37-39.mp3 10.45mb
Q&A 06_Question_and_Answer_Session.mp3 10.50mb

You can also find much more of Dr Carson’s material at Christway Media.

jerry

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Friends,

While lurking, and taking a brief hiatus from writing at CRN.info, I read this in the comments thread of another post: “This place is supposed to be the “Christian” blog…er…right?” Well, I can say: “Yes! It is.” We don’t always agree (sometimes we don’t really even like each other very much); we certainly do not all share the same ideas about theology or politics!, but at the end of the day, we still have enough nerve to love each other, correct each other, demonstrate grace to each other, and help one another carry the burdens of this life. This is why I cannot, even though I said I would, stay away for a week. Not only is writing my passion, but I love those I write with here and those who read. This place, as a microcosm of the church, is where I meet grace daily–no matter how badly a post is written or how many people take umbrage with it. Grace. Ahh…how did Annie Dillard write it? “One catches grace as a man fills a cup under a waterfall.”

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My friend and brother Joe Martino wrote a great post about this very subject: Why I Stay in Church: What if it’s about Becoming Holy? What I appreciate about Joe’s post is that he is not afraid to be honest about the church: cuts, nicks, scars, bruises, blood, stink, tears, and sweat. It’s all there. I think it is only people who are not Christians who really expect the church to be perfect, an expectation that the Head of the church, Jesus of Nazareth, doesn’t even have (or else there would be no need for grace). Those of us who are Christians–whatever that means–have no such illusions. We, the baptized, are those who understand only too well that the church is a place for the misfits and losers of the world; those uninitiated in the ways of world domination; those unfazed by exploits of power, rebellion, and ‘wisdom’; those who demonstrate by their faith that they belong to a different time, and place, and person. The church is a place for people who are hungry for grace and forgiveness and mercy because they are tired of the manner in which the world conducts its business.

In short, the church is a terrible place at times; ugly; malformed; malnourished; distorted; unlovely; unkempt; and yet, strangely enough, among the church (es) is the place John tells us he saw Jesus: “And when I turned I saw seven golden lampstands, and among the lampstands was someone like a son of man, dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest” (Rev 1:12b-13, TNIV).

Oh, he’s in the church? Oh, He’s in the Church! Here’s how Joe ended his thoughts:

I mean He didn’t have to create church this way. He could have done it another way.  How many people in church annoy you? How many people in church are just irrelevant to your life? How many people are lying to you? How many are cheating on their spouse? How many could care less if you can’t pay your bills this month?

So why did God design it this way and why should we stay. What are some common problems in the church and how might we wrestle through them?…What would happen if we looked at church more as a means to make us holy than we looked at it as a means to make us happy?

I couldn’t agree more. That holiness is shaped in us not because of the righteous things we do or the right things we believe or the holy places we go. No. It is shaped in us, we are formed for holiness, by the ever present help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us despite all those nicks, cuts, scratches, wounds, sins, etc. Strange that we are loved because of, despite our weakness and not despised for it. Strange that Jesus should walk among us. Strange the Holy Spirit should live in us. Strange that the Father would choose us. Strange that we are such a peculiar people and yet so fondly adored by the Creator of the Universe.

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I learn a little bit more each day about the magnificence of God. What sort of God chooses to align himself with the weak, the underdogs, the unwise–in fact goes out of his way to accept us? What sort of a God is it who loves people like us, people lacking in perspicacity and overflowing with indignation? I hear he is fond of us, his people. I’m glad. He has made me glad. There’s something to be said about ’sticking it out’ when we find ourselves in a place that makes us uncomfortable or unhappy or discourages us or abuses us or unhinges us. After all, God sticks around. In fact, Jesus promised never to leave, nor forsake us. Never. That’s a mighty long time. I guess I can tolerate a few years here on earth. What of you?

Semper Deo Gloria!

PS: Follow the original post and comments here.

Friends,

A few years ago, I became weary of the Purpose Driven Life. We had gone through the program at my church, read the book, preached the sermons. When it was all done, I felt no better and our church did not grow. I felt dirty for using someone else’s sermon outlines. (My content stuffed around someone else’s outlines.) About the time we were going through that series, a couple of books were published that had a remarkable effect on my discipleship. One was Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places by Eugene Peterson and the other The Cross and Christian Ministry by DA Carson. I also read The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer and several others. I began to see, in book after book, something I had not noticed before and something that seemed terribly absent from PDL: It was the cross. It was painful, to be sure, to see my entire ministry turned upside down, my discipleship in Christ radically altered, and my understanding of Scripture forever changed. I had missed it; I had missed the cross. Thus I began a great quest. I started saving quotes and poems and other items about the cross (One file ended up with 27 single spaced 10-point font pages of notes and quotes from biblical commentaries, authors like Annie Dillard, John Stott, DA Carson, Eugene Peterson, James Montegomery Boice, CS Lewis, Bernard of Clairvaux, Martin Luther, and poets like Bob Dylan, Thomas Merton, Jeremy Camp, and more. And that is not all. ). I started reading with a critical eye. The Father began to change me. Somehow, I had missed the cross. This reading, combined with intense study of Scripture (in particular the book of Matthew) and prayer and the Holy Spirit opened my eyes to Christ all over again for the first time. Thus was born The Crucifixion Driven Life which was my response to my congregation after I led them through PDL. This is the first sermon from that series, January 1, 2006. It runs 35 minutes or so. I have others that I will be posting as time permits and, also, as I did with the series on Daniel, I will be posting links to the manuscripts at box.net. Thank you. jerry

Listen here: The Crucifixion Driven Life Begins at Birth, Matthew 1:18-25

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Always for His glory!

Friends,

Here I am too early in the morning thinking about politics. I am troubled by something and I cannot seem to shake it out. I’m thinking about the upcoming presidential election and the constant bombardment of advertising that panders to Christians in an attempt to wrangle a vote from them. McCain thinks he owns that vote because of Palin on the ticket; Obama is doing his best to convince Christians that he is just as worthy of that vote. I belong to a Kingdom that is not of this world, thus I do not need to fight for the kingdoms of this world–or their kings.

I’m not voting for either one. I have never missed an election since I first became eligible to vote at 18. It has been instilled in me by politicians, teachers, parents, peers, preachers–everyone seems to think that the Christian has some necessary obligation to vote just because the Christian happens to be an American. I love how they harden us for battle by informing us of all the terrible things that will happen if we vote for this one while failing to remind us of all the terrible things that will happen if we vote for that one. We are wowed and moved by stories of those who ‘gave their lives so that you can live in a free country and vote.’ I think there is not a little midrash involved in those stories (the fella sitting in a fighting hole during the Bulge was not thinking of my voting rights). We are told hero stories, with romantic nostaligia, of the wars fought against tyranny and how voting should be considered a privilege, an honor, and the highest of all civic responsibilities. I am beginning to rethink all that and I have not missed so much as a local election in 20 years–even when I was in college.

This year I am perplexed by the candidates. I have never liked McCain or his ‘maverick’ politics–which were nothing more than his own push for power. I don’t like Obama because his liberal politics will certainly not benefit anyone in this country–except the rich, the very people he claims to despise and detest. And, to be sure, who cares about the VP. Thomas Jefferson, if I recall correctly from a book I read, considered it one of the most worthless positions in Washington. I’m not voting for McCain just because he chose Palin to be his VP running mate; I’m not voting for Obama just because he didn’t choose Hilary.

You see, politicians–as much as they claim the opposite–are interested only in the power. They are not interested in serving or leading. They are interested in followers, disciples, and power. When I vote, I become a part of the problem, not a part of the solution. When I vote, I put them in power and inflate their sense of importance or I help slake their thirst for power. When I vote I feed their hunger and thirst, not for righteousness, but for power. The Jesus way is not one of power, but crucifixion. I don’t think the power of Jesus, his rule or his reign, needs to be amplified by my participation in ‘getting the right man into the White House.’ It seems to me that only Christians who think there ‘is a right man,’ or that they will somehow benefit from ‘the right man,’ or lack the confidence that is afforded by hope in Christ are terribly concerned about who the next president will be.

The White House does not exist to advance the cause of Christ or to pray for his reign to last forever. The White House exists to serve the powers, and rulers, and principalities that govern this present darkness–the very enemy that the Christian is exhorted to take up arms against (Ephesians 6). It doesn’t mean that I hate America. It means that America is not my destiny or my salvation. I’m not free because I live here, because I freely elect leaders, or because I paying taxes on time keeps me out of jail. I am free because I belong to Jesus–regardless of who the elected power happens to be. I don’t think it is enough for a Christian to vote in an election just so that the Christian ensures her own personal liberties are protected by those in power. Power is not the protector or guardian of Christian faith and practice.

Nor do I think the cause of Christ is advanced simply because the right man, supported by the right people in congress, nominates the right person to sit on the bench of some court. Humans do not dispense justice; they hand down judgments. Judgments are not always justice, nor are they always right. And how can humans make those sort of choices anyhow? The ‘right people’ have, in the eyes of all those who elect them and nominate them, always been on the benches of our courts. ‘The right person’ is a terribly subjective idea. My idea of the ‘right person’ is not anything like social liberal’s idea of the ‘right person.’ So who’s to say? My particular choice is not necessarily God’s particular choice and Scripture is rather clear that it is only his choice that matters. (His choice of leadership is always Jesus, btw.)

I’m not saying there is not truth. On the contrary: there is. What I am saying is that The Truth is not man’s truth or man’s idea of truth. Furthermore, Jesus does not need ‘the right people’ in order to accomplish his purposes on this earth. Rome thought Herod was ‘the right man’ for the job back in his day. Jesus’ response to Herod was something like, ‘You go and tell that fox that I will do what I want to do, on my time-table, and he will neither hinder or enhance my work.’ In other words, Jesus has his own agenda that has nothing to do with who is or is not in power. Jesus has only one agenda: His own. We can neither stop it nor start it. I sometimes wonder if we even participate in it.

I think I have more to say on this, but I’ll end with one more thought. You see, I’ve been reading Psalm 61 this morning which is a decidedly political Psalm. He talks about the Lord ‘increasing the days of the king’s life, his years for many generations.’ He talks about the king being ‘enthroned in God’s presence forever.’ But this is not ordinary king, I think, because even this king says, “I long to dwell in your tent forever, and take refuge in the shelter of your wings.” He also wrote, “Then I will ever sing in praise of yoru name…” This king, David, knew didn’t he: Flesh cannot reign forever. David knew the true King and prayed that God would increase his reign.

You see, I think I can afford to skip this election because I am not putting my hope in politicians. I am not putting my hope in the supreme court or those who sit on the benches. (Would it be the worst thing in the world if Christians in America all of a sudden started losing rights they now enjoy here in America? Have we proven more faithful to God because we possess those rights? I think not.) My hope is not in the White House. (I think too many theologians with bad theology have the ears of politicians now and it has cost the world a great deal of time, money, and life.) I am not putting my hope in the sort of king who will not be ‘enthroned forever.’ (The same arguments for why I should elect someone every four years are spoken every four years and NOTHING ever changes. NOTHING. Has anyone ever noticed this?) Frankly, I’m not putting my hope in people who have nothing in mind but their own power, their own ambition, their own prestige. I’m not putting my hope or trust in anyone who thinks they can alter human history and desires to do it. Nor am I trusting anyone who thinks he can undo 200 years of human corruption in a matter of four years. Both of those ego-maniacs think they can; I’d have more respect if they admitted that the odds were not in their favor at all.

Our help is not in politicians.
Our refuge is not in politicians.
Our power is not in politicians.
Our worship is not of politicians.
Our dwelling is not with politicians.
Our prayers are not answer by politicians.
Our protection is not from politicians.

Our hope is not because of politicians.

Besides, according to the Scripture, I am an alien and a stranger in this land. Perhaps I don’t even possess voting rights after all. I pray that God’s will be done, I just think this year I am going to let it be done with regard to politicians instead of being so anxious to accomplish it for him. This year, I am going to trust that “His dominion is an eternal dominion; his kingdom endures from generation to generation…” (Daniel 4:34, 6:26, 7:27). And that will be enough.

Semper Deo Gloria!

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Friends,

Continuing my series of posts at A Pastor’s Prayer Journal, Prayer Thoughts, I offer you my latest post: Prayer Thoughts, Septembr 8, 2008.

In this post, I offer prayer thoughts on the following Scriptures: (Adoration) 2 Samuel 7:1-29, (Confession) Joshua 7:1-26, (Thanksgiving) Isaiah 7:1-17, (Supplication) Matthew 7:1-29. Thanks for stopping by.

jerry

Friends, Here is the continuation of my series from Isaiah’s Gospel. I think this is part 5 or 6. Anyhow, what governs these verses is the short almost formulaic phrase ‘in that day.’ This was first mentioned back in chapter 2 and ‘that day’ has not always had overtones of happiness for those who do not belong to God. Here, in this fourth chapter (a chapter that is closely related to the short chapter 2:1-5) is like an interjection of hope in the midst of great calamity. The prophet here continues speaking to the people of God and not the population in general. I have reserved my comments in this sermon for the congregation–as an encouragement to them of what we have to hope for. Surprisingly, however, our hope is not ‘that day’ or ‘that place’ or anything like ‘that.’ Our hope, ‘that day,’ is Jesus Christ. It is Jesus we hope for. He is our reward. He is our Pride, our Glory, our Beauty, and our Gloriousness. (Also, you will note that I happen to think that this chapter is very closely related to Revelation 21-22. And, I’ll be posting the audio sometime next week if I get my laptop back from the shop.)–jerry

Isaiah 4:2-6
Beholding God: When God is All in All

Introduction

2In that day the Branch of the LORD will be beautiful and glorious, and the fruit of the earth will be the pride and the adornment of the survivors of Israel. 3It will come about that he who is left in Zion and remains in Jerusalem will be called holy–everyone who is recorded for life in Jerusalem. 4When the Lord has washed away the filth of the daughters of Zion and purged the bloodshed of Jerusalem from her midst, by the spirit of judgment and the spirit of burning, 5then the LORD will create over the whole area of Mount Zion and over her assemblies a cloud by day, even smoke, and the brightness of a flaming fire by night; for over all the glory will be a canopy. 6There will be a shelter to give shade from the heat by day, and refuge and protection from the storm and the rain.

In his sermon, The Weight of Glory, CS Lewis writes:

Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires, not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.

The key to understanding these verses, I believe, is found in the beginning of verse 2: “In that day…”

You will no doubt recall that ‘in that day’ has been a phrase that has marked Isaiah’s gospel since chapter 2.2: “In the last days…” Then we learned that God had something planned…planned for his people, planned for the world. God has a day in mind…and now Isaiah continues that thought here in chapter 4.1: “In that day…” In that day, something is going to happen. But what we have read a lot about in these verses is judgment, destruction, the humbling of the arrogant, the stripping away of pride, the lowering of the haughty. In that day…in that Day…The Branch of YHWH will be beautiful and glorious. In that day things that we have yet to imagine will be happening. In that day, says the prophet, those things we have settled for, those mud-pies, those things we settle for because of weak desires, will all be overthrown, replaced, re-imagined, re-created, purified and inhabited by the presence of God.

So let’s look at the passage from Isaiah-a passage I am certain inspires hope and vision and stokes the imagination of what that day will mean for those righteous to whom God announced ‘it will go well with them.’ If the last chapter spoke little about what will be in store for the righteous, this chapter speaks to no one but the righteous. I’d like to encourage you with 5 images of what will take place on that day.

You know there is a lot that we consider glorious and beautiful. The evidence of this was seen at the end of chapter three: “The women of Zion are haughty…with ornaments jingling on their ankles.” Man has a conception of what is good and beautiful; God has his. Ours is woeful and inadequate, it is incomplete because all it seeks to do is adorn the flesh and magnify the creature. Our conceptions of beauty and gloriousness do not inspire hope, but encourage vanity. But Isaiah says God’s conception of beauty and glory are entirely different: “In that day the Lord Almighty will be a glorious crown, a beautiful wreath, for the remnant of his people.” (28:5)

God’s conception of beauty is the presence of himself. The women of Israel adorned themselves, as do we. The people of Israel took pride in their sin, so do we. The people of Israel rebelled against the Lord’s glorious presence, so do we. But what does he say: “In that day the Branch of the LORD will be beautiful and glorious, and the Fruit of the Land will be the pride and glory of the survivors of Israel.” These are parallel, if the Branch of the Lord is talking about the Messiah, then so is the Fruit of the Land talking about the Messiah. I think Isaiah here is talking about the two-natured Messiah-Son of God, Son of Man; fully God, fully man; Branch of God, Fruit of the Land. He himself will be our pride and glory, True beauty and gloriousness.

EJ Young wrote, “The actual Israel looked for her glory and ornament among foreigners and strangers; she neglected her true inheritance. The Israel of the future, however, will not judge with the eyes of flesh but will understand that her true glory and ornament are found in her real inheritance, the long promised seed of Abraham through whom the blessing was to come.” (178)

In that day, there will be true beauty. Also in that day there will be a holy people. Those who are left, those who remain, will be called holy; all who are recorded among the living in Jerusalem. This means that there will be no place for unrighteousness or unrighteous people in this Holy place.

Thus we can safely assume that some distinction has been made between those who are and those are not holy; there has been some change made to some people and they have become holy. Whatever it is, there will be no unholy people in this place. This place, that day, will be marked by the sort of people whom God has destined to live there: The Holy ones, the Righteous ones, those who belong to God by virtue of his grace and their faith.

He said, “Blessed and holy are those who have part in the first resurrection. The second death has no power over them, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him for a thousand years.” (Rev 20.6) There is, unfortunately, no room for unholy people in that day. It will be entirely up to YHWH to make that distinction, but it is a distinction that he will make

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Friends,

I found a meaningless article at the BBC online today. Turns out that the majority of nearly 23,000 people from 17 different countries would prefer Senator Barack Obama as the next president. Well, I have a couple of thoughts on this poll.

First, who cares what people around the world think of who should be our president? On the one hand, they will not have to live under his authority, deal with the repercussions of his horrible doctrines, make sacrifices when he screws things up, or live with the embarassment of his poor decisions, or live with the consequences of his liberal policies, or his selection of supreme court justices…etc. Of course the world wants Obama–they know he will foul things up in the US and then they can sit back and laugh at us. On the other hand, as history has shown, the people around the world really couldn’t care less: The United States is an equal opportunity immigration center, we are an equal opportunity ‘we’ll send you billions of American tax-dollars when you have a disaster regardless of how many times you have tried to blow us up’ nation, we are an equal opportunity nation of ‘come here and we’ll give you plenty of handouts, plenty of welfare, plenty of….agghhhh…’, we are an equal opportunity enemy of the world because we have an economy that works, freedom of speech, etc. Whatever.

Second, in related news, the votes of the citizens of other nations amount to absolutely nothing in American elections. The good senator Obama proved this to be true by receiving resounding applause from Germans this past summer–I heard like 80,000 people! Who cares? The next president will not be popular in any of those countries regardless of what party he is from–until, of course, they have a disaster and need money from American tax payers.

Third, I wonder why those people in other countries would care about who runs the US? Everyone knows that congress runs the country, not the president. But, what vested interest would those in these other 17 countries have if Senator Obama were elected president? I wonder why these people would be opposed to another Republican president? Hmmm…I wonder….what could it be….hmmmm….????

Well, whatever. I wonder why no one ever polls people in the USA to ask what American citizens think about elections in, say, Iran, or Russia, or Afghanistan, or Saudi Arabia, or…oh, that’s right…

jerry

Friends,

I don’t even know how I found this, but I did and it is funny. Evidently this picture was posted and a contest was initiated to find the best caption for it.

The winning caption from Dave Belcher: “In a surprise move at the Vatican this weekend, Pope Benedict XVI performed a spontaneous same-sex union of renowned theologians John Milbank and Stanley Hauerwas.”

That is really, really funny. I found this at Faith and Theology blog of Ben Myers. Check out the blog if you can.

Here’s the link to the original post.

Link

jerry

Friends,

I’m reading a wonderful new book (Brazos, 2006) called: Brazos Theological Commentary on the Bible: Matthew by Stanley Hauerwas. It’s really very thought provoking and well written. I came across a paragraph I’d like to share with you:

Jesus charges members of the church to confront those whom we think have sinned against us. He does not say that if we think we have been wronged we might consider confronting the one we believe has done us wrong. Jesus tells us that we must do so because the wrong is not against us, but rather against the body, that is, the very holiness of the church is at stake. Moreover, to be required to confront those whom we believe have wronged us is risky business because we may find out that we are mistaken.

In 1 Cor. 6:1-8 Paul admonishes the Corinthians for taking one another to courts of law presided over by unbelievers. Paul reminds the Corinthians, a reminder that surely draws on Jesus’ admonition not to remain angry with one another, that we should be ready to suffer a wrong rather than act against the body of Christ, for nothing less is at stake than the church offering the world an alternative to the world’s justice. If such a community does not exist, then unbelievers will have no way to know God’s grace.

The church, therefore, has rightly thought confession of sin, penance, and reconciliation necessary for the reception of the Eucharist. How could we dare come the feast of reconciliation not in unity with our brothers and sisters? The name given that unity is love. The gifts of bread and wine must be brought by those at peace with God and one another. If we are unreconciled, we best not receive; we dare not dishonor the holiness of the gifts of God. (68-69)

That’s powerful stuff. Makes me wonder if there is anyone in my life with whom I have not reconciled.

Soli Deo Gloria!