Archive for November, 2008

Friends,

This is a podcast of a sermon I preached this past Tuesday evening at a community Thanksgiving Worship event in my hometown. The sermon is 18:14 long and is based on Luke 1-2. A good, thorough reading of those two chapters will aid you much as you listen. You can also access the manuscript at the link below.

The sermon itself opens with a breif look at the current popularity, among some preachers, of preaching sermons about sex. Many people have no problem justifying this activity. I see it as a monumental waste of time. I also point out in this sermon that I think at least part of the reason why preachers preach this stuff is because they are bored; bored with the Gospel Jesus story.

Manuscript: Jesus and Sex

Download MP3: Jesus and Sex

Listen online:

Thanks for stopping by.
Semper Deo Gloria!

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Friends,

Well, it’s been about a week or so since I posted my own challenge to ‘Rev’ Ed Young in an open letter format. My open letter concerned his ridiculous Seven Day Sex Challenge and his use of his pulpit to promote it. Well, it’s all the rage. People are talking about it and evidently participating. I have seen stories on CNN, Foxnews and Friends, and today even Glenn Beck made passing reference to it (I only listened to 5 minutes of Beck on my way to my part time job!!) Of course Drudge has picked it up too. I’m sure others. *Yawns*

In a not surprising, and yet still ironic twist, people are still not talking about church or Jesus of Nazareth or marriage between a man and a woman. Instead, all anyone can talk about is sex, pastor Young, and his seven day challenge. But then again, it is isn’t designed to spur our interest in Christ now is it? From the KLTV 7 News web page (see Drudge link above), Young says “the challenge will help couples in his church focus on each other, reclaiming sex for married people.”

Said another preacher in the same story:

Minister Mark Edge says sex is in the Bible. So why not the church? In fact, he says last week’s sermon was about Christian sexuality.

“God’s Word is certainly not ashamed to talk about this. God’s Word understands. God understands that it is a very important part of our lives….we really should have been talking about this all along,” said Edge.

Yes, I agree: The Bible has something to say about sex. Sadly, I think we only want to hear the parts that we like. We don’t want to hear the parts about ‘don’t commit adultery,’ or ‘do not visit prostitutes,’ or ‘the practice of homosexual sex will prevent inheritance of the kingdom of God,’ or ‘keep the marriage bed pure’ (ie., don’t have sex outside of marriage). But we are a curious lot. We are bored. Tired. In the church, therefore, we must spend more time taking about the things that people want to hear because, as one pastor in the above referenced article said, “And if we don’t address this, then I guarantee you, Desperate Housewives will!”

That’s certainly motivation.

We must be a pathetic group of people.  We church folk must appear to be to the rest of the world a bunch of loons. Imagine that you were on the outside looking in and here you see a group of people who claim to belong to the very God of the Universe and the only mystery you see them exploring and expounding is that of sex. We claim to be sons and daughters of the Holy One of Israel and yet for all that we can only find it within ourselves to preach on something in order to prevent Desperate Housewives from doing so. We claim the oracles of salvation, the mysteries of the Holy Spirit, the hope of eternal life, God’s plan of redemption, forgiveness of sins, grace, hope, pure love, sanctification, holiness…and all some preachers can find to talk about on Sunday mornings is sex. *Getting sleepy*

I’d rather watch Desperate Housewives. (Which I don’t, btw.)

In other words, there are much better things to talk about on Sunday mornings. People must think we are fools. They must think we are the most desperate group of people on the planet. The apostle Paul cried out, “Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor? Who has ever given to God that God should repay him? For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen!” (Romans 11:33-36).

But all we can find to discuss on Sunday mornings is sex.

We have explored God enough, I guess. I suppose that is the message Rev Young is really conveying: “Hey we have God all figured out here. We need not explore Him for his own sake.” It is said that the Old Testament prophets searched and searched to understand what has been revealed to us: “Concerning this salvation, the prophets, who spoke of the grace that was to come to you, searched intently and with the greatest care, trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories that followed. It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves, but you, when they spoke of the things that have now been told you by those who have preached the Gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. Even angels long to look into these things” (1 Peter 1:10-12).

But we are so in tune with these mysteries that we can afford to take time away from preaching to talk about sex. Or, we are so bored with these mysteries that we can move on to other things–like sex.

These mysteries have been revealed to us! We preach on Christ from now until eternity and never exhaust the story. It is not sex people need to hear about from the preacher. It is Christ. We are petty folks, to be sure. We settle for sandcastles when Christ has put within our reach immense wealth. But I know what the response is: “Christ wants us to be well-rounded, balanced, living life to the full, exercising the full breadth of our salvation. This includes much discussion about the proper ways Christians ought to practice sex. After all, if the preacher doesn’t tell us, we might seek advice from Desperate Housewives. Get with it preacher!”

My ears are itching just a bit.

My previous post on this subject, an open letter to ‘Rev’ Young, has generated mostly negative feedback from the Rev’s supporters, but I stand by what I’m saying here. I think we are bored and that is why such stuff makes it into the pulpit. You mean to tell me that the treasures of infinite glory are at our fingertips, that the very oracles of God are at our disposal for us to mine, search, chew, meditate upon, digest, and expound and sex is all we can come up with for Sunday mornings? I’ve always been taken aback and somewhat amused by this paragraph from CS Lewis:

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. (Weight of Glory)

Yes, I agree. We are far too easily satisfied if we know the Christ of Scripture and all we can find to preach about on Sundays is sex; and we are far too easily amused if we can reduce marriage to a mere seven day challenge. Yes, I quite agree that we are half-hearted. There has been no true turn to our true love, our first love, if the best thing we can do with the Word of God is reduce it to a manual for sex within a marriage when there, on every page, is the Glory of God become man: Jesus of Nazareth, the Messiah.

Perhaps the reason why sex must be preached from the pulpit is because we haven’t yet really had any encounter with the living God?

Lord, may it never be that we lack so much desire for you, so much hunger for you, so much thirst for you that we are satisfied with motivational speeches about sex and sexuality from our pulpits. May you always be our delight and our Joy. May it be that our souls long for you. May it be that as the deer pants for streams of water, so our souls long after you. May it be that you are so infinitely grand that we see you first and your kingdom and that anything else that is added is beside the point. May we, your church, never run out of things to say about Jesus and so reduce your Good News, your Gospel, to mere sex-talk. May it be that we would find more delight being a doorkeeper in your house than to dwell in the tents of the wicked. Purify our speech, Lord, and may your Gospel go forth.

Semper Deo Gloria!

Friends,

Here is the latest Skycast from my series 90 Days with Scripture. In this sermon, I explore Luke chapters 1 and 2 and examine four areas that that are subverted in the birth narratives of Jesus. The problem we have as modern disciples is that we have sacralized and sanitized the birth narratives of Jesus and turned them into Christmas. This is unfortunate because it really, terribly detracts from the subversive work that God was doing through His Holy Spirit in those days. The four areas I examine in this sermon are: History, human power, our conceptions of discipleship, and worship. In all four of these areas, God undoes humanity. It is, to be sure, terribly frightening in that it these ideas are drawn from the birth narratives. The sermon runs about 35 minutes and I have posted the manuscript below and also at my box.net account. jerry PS–my recorder failed during part 8 of the series from Matthew 1. I have, however, posted the manuscript below.

You can download here: Luke 1-2, Jesus pt 1

Or use the inline player

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Part 1: Genesis 3, Where it All Went Wrong
Part 2: Genesis 12:1-9, A Blessing for All People
Part 3: Exodus 7-12 (a), Freedom For God’s People
Part 4: Exodus 7-12 (b), Freedom For God’s People, b
Part 5: 2 Samuel 5-7, The King
Part 6: Isaiah 60-66, The New Heavens and New Earth
Part 7: Jeremiah 31, The New Covenant
Part 8: Matthew 1, Jesus pt 1
Part 9: Luke 1-2, Jesus pt 2

Other download options are available through feedburner and archive.org.

Always for His glory!

Alert, alert!

A professional golfer did the right thing while at Q School: He told the truth about playing an unapproved ball over two strokes on one hole.

The only thing more ridiculous about this story is that it is a story. Imagine living in a culture so devoid of truth that someone telling the truth becomes a headline story at ESPN.com. A commenter made this wry observation:

If Hayes didnt have more than $7 million in career earnings, status as a veteran player and past tourney champion, as well as sponsors’ exemptions, he would have kept his mouth shut.

This is no slight to Mr Hayes. He did the right thing. It is a slight to silly news reporters who think that we need to know this sort of stuff and that telling the truth is news. Oh, wait. It is news. My bad.

jerry

Friends,

I don’t think this needs or requires much comment.

Friends,

This is a remarkable quote:

It is backward to believe that we must secure a social order wherein we enjoy the blessings of liberty so that we can then grow in grace. It is an evil wagging of the dog, on the other hand, to pursue Christ so that we might enjoy greater political liberty. Instead, we must pursue Jesus.

That’s enough, isn’t it?

Friends,

**UPDATE** For more on the drivel coming from “Pastor” Young’s Challenge, see the New York Time’s Online edition: Pastor’s Advice for Better Marriage

There we read this gem:

It is not always easy to devote time for your spouse, Pastor Young admitted. Just three days into the sex challenge he said he was so tired after getting up before dawn to talk about the importance of having more sex in marriage that he crashed on the bed around 8 p.m. on Tuesday night.

Mrs. Young tried to shake him awake, telling her husband, “Come on, it’s the sex challenge.” But Mr. Young murmured, “Let’s just double up tomorrow,” and went back to sleep.

Aren’t you glad that you live in a culture where the pastor of a church feels comfortable sharing the intimate details of his sex life with the world! I know I am!!

___________________

It seems that, from time to time, a local church ‘pastor’ comes up with a ‘novel’ idea that is supposed to turn the world upside down and bring forth the next revival, the next wave of Holy Spirit renewal to the lost land of America. *Yawns* *Shakes head* It is terribly frustrating when the idea has nothing to do with the actual Gospel of Jesus. What one must do nowadays is preach stupidity like this: “God may have rested on the seventh day, but the Rev. Ed Young wants married couples to have sex all week long.” This is what ‘church’ is in some parts of the world. Frankly, it makes me sick.

So I have decided, in the interest of the Gospel, to write an open letter to ‘Rev’ Young. I realize that he is successful in ministry, and that I am not. I realize that he has a very large congregation, and I do not. I realize that I am a nobody, and that he is a somebody. That’s exactly why I am writing to him.

________________

Dear Pastor Young,

The reason America is in such decline, morally, spiritually, etc., is because we are thinking too much about sex, not because we have somehow been deprived of it. We are deluged with it. We are being suffocated by it. Sex is everywhere. It’s hard sometimes to think about anything but sex. It’s in the cartoons. The movies. The magazines. The last thing we need in the pulpit is sex. It’s in the music. It’s on the internet. I can’t tell you the last time a woman was shown on television as a wholesome woman who loved her husband and family or a man who worked hard, took care of his family, and didn’t suffer the angst of unfulfillment because he didn’t have hot, younger woman to satisfy his sex-drive. I’m no Puritan, but please. Worship is not about sex. It is about God. Worship is not about anything but the Lamb who was slain from the foundations of the earth (Revelation 4-5).

I just saw, while I worked out this morning, on the Today Show, an interview with Tyra Banks about an upcoming show Ms Banks is doing. She will have young, teenaged girls who have, and I quote, ‘had multiple sex partners.’ One, 15, has had nine different sexual partners. I’m just thinking, and of course I admit that it is none of my business what you preach at your church, you might want to tackle a subject a little deeper than getting the married couples in your church to ‘do it’ God’s way or otherwise. Maybe what we need is a little abstinence and fasting? I don’t know, maybe, holiness, righteousness, sacrificial living, purity, marriage as an image of the relationship between Christ and His Church–you know, something that might actually benefit the hearer. Something that might actually exalt Christ instead of the flesh. Sex doesn’t make the Gospel attractive. Jesus does.

If you would like to do something really, really innovative try this: Preach the Gospel. Tell people what it means to ‘take up your cross and follow Jesus.’ Want to do something risky? Tell your congregation to abstain from sexual relations for seven days as a sign of repentance in preparation to meet the Lord in worship (See Exodus). Tell them to abstain for seven days so that they might pray and fast.  (See 1 Corinthians 7:5) Want to get really, really crazy? Stand up on Sunday morning, or whatever day you preach, and open your Bible and tell the people that marriage is more about perfecting holiness and grace than it is about perfecting sex or tell them that even marriage is more of a sign pointing in the direction of the Messiah and his relationship to the Church. (See Ephesians 5)

Yes, yes. Sex is, uh, important in the marriage. Yes, yes. Married people should do it. But isn’t there far more to even sex than merely satisfying the flesh? Is this all your training taught you? As a minister of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, don’t you think that you ought to take that calling a little more seriously? I’m sorry, I’m being far too general in my comments. Of course you are preaching the gospel.

I read this in the article:

Jim Dale of Coppell said he figures the pastor is trying to create more buzz for his five-church mega-ministry.“Draw ’em in, no matter what or how,” wrote the Coppell resident in a posting on dallasnews.com. “Sex? You betcha. That’ll pack the pews (or theater seats).”

Mr. Dale, author of a book about individual relationships with God, said he has attended Fellowship Church a few times. And he offered some praise: “I’ve got to hand it to them, they are brilliant marketers.”

But didn’t Jesus say that the thing, or the Person, that attracts people to God would be, well, himself? (See John 12:32). I guess what I don’t understand is why you seem to think that your formula is better. I mean, master marketer you may be, but what is your purpose? Are you trying to win them to Jesus or to your audience? I know, I know. I’m being judgmental and I repent. I just wonder if you are giving your congregation the best you can give them? I wonder if you are selling them a bad bill of goods in your efforts to market and fill the chairs?

Then I read that you wrote at your blog, that God has a ‘pure desire for sex in marriage.’ Sir, can I ask you a real, not-in-any-way-sarcastic question? What the hell does that mean? Where in the Bible have you read about God’s ‘pure desire for sex in the marriage’ other than that we should ‘keep the marriage bed pure’ (Hebrews 13:40) and that it should be between a married man and woman (Genesis 2:23-24)? Do you really think that is what the Bible has been preserved for? Do you really think that is what God had on his mind when he told the prophets to speak ‘thus sayeth the Lord’? Do you really think that is what the martyrs were concerned with as they were burned alive? Do you really think that this is what Jesus had in mind when he suffered for our sins? Surely God’s great plan was for our sexual perfection.

Then I read: “The most exciting part of this right now is the potential that this challenge has to help heal and strengthen so many marriages and families.” So, what you are saying is that if me and my wife have sex for 7 straight days all of our problems, or even some of them, will heal; that my entire family will be strengthened? Shall I share this news with my sons? I’m not being snarky, I just want my entire family to get the most out of this that they can. Do you really think this is a matter we should pray over? Should we share this revelation with the Christians in the Middle East or in Asia or in Africa who are persecuted because of the Gospel? Have you really been able to discern, from Scripture, that God Almighty, the Holy One of Israel, the One who spared not His own Son but gave Him up for us all…have you really been able to discern that that God has a specific way that we should ‘do it’? Is that really in the Bible? Truly it must be divine, and I’m so glad that after 2,000 years of Gospel, Reformation, martyrdom, etc., that you have finally discerned the truth about God’s way of doing it. Thank you.

With all the, excuse me, shit going on in the world, do you really think that American Christians need to make this a matter of prayer?

Are you actually bragging, in your blog post, that the idea for this ‘challenge’ came from a woman in your church who got the idea from a ‘magazine article’? Did you really need a woman to say this in order to justify it to your congregation? Are magazines now really where we begin when preaching the Will of God? Seriously?

Well, that’s about all I have for you. I don’t imagine you will read this letter, and that’s OK. You have important things to do in your ministry and, in your bedroom. I will say this, I feel badly for your children. I’m sorry that you have decided to ‘practice what you preach’ in this instance and to make it public for the rest of us. I’m sorry your children have to be exposed to this sort of nonsense. I hope they are not to embarrassed about the private matter you and your wife have decided the rest of us need to be aware of. I’m sorry that in your effort to do something that will market your product, you have actually defiled the marriage bed instead of keeping it pure.

PS–Can you show me that verse in Scripture where we are told how to do it ‘God’s way’?

PPS–My wife, after hearing about this ‘challenge’ said, and I quote, “I think it is disgusting that a preacher would suggest this. How many times I ‘do it’ or ‘don’t do it’ with my husband is my own business. I don’t need a preacher giving me suggestions or challenges about my sex life. I don’t need a preacher telling me how many times to have sex with my husband or encouraging me either.”

PPPS–Said my son, whom my wife and I have decided to keep in the loop so that our ‘entire family will be strengthened’ through this challenge, added to my wife’s comment, ‘But what if your husband is a preacher?’

The ‘gospel’ at work my friends, at work!

HT: SOL

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Friends,

I finally managed to find my CD copies of my manuscripts from The Dangerous God sermon series of which I have posted a couple of the mp3’s here. I will be posting more of the mp3’s, but for now I would like to provide you with the sermon manuscripts. These sermons are filled with quotes from authors like David Wells, PT Forsyth, Mark Buchanan, Philip Yancey and more. Expository sermons from the lives of Gideon, David, Joshua, the disciples and more.  I hope they are a help to you.

Dangerous God, pt 1: Judges 7,  The God Who Does More with Less, PPT

Dangerous God, pt 2: 1 Samuel 17:1-58, The God Who Does Greater with Smaller

Dangerous God, pt 3: Joshua 1:1-18; 5:13-27, The God Who Does the Impossible with the Improbable

Dangerous God, pt 4: Matthew 1:18-25, Revelation 12, The God Who Enters Chaos to Bring Order

Dangerous God, pt 5: Luke 23; Various, The God Who Saves in the Midst of Loss

Dangerous God, pt 6: Acts 2:22-36, The God Whose Life is Greater than Our Death

Dangerous God, pt 7: Acts 9:1-18, etc., The God Who Uses the World’s Rejects

Dangerous God, pt 8: Matthew 5-7,  The Dangerous God’s Message to His People: A Radical Way of Counterculturally Living

Thanks for stopping by. Again, I hope you find these sermons helpful.

And, as always,

Soli Deo Gloria!

Friends,

I’d like to share some personal reflections concerning president-elect Barrack Obama and how I have chosen to respond to his recent election to the highest office in our land (save for that of the local church preacher.)

I shall state from the beginning of this post that I am a conservative. That does not mean I am a Republican. Nor does it mean I am not a Democrat. What it means is that I believe certain things about fiscal responsibility, certain things about morality, and that I believe certain things about personal responsibility. It does not mean that I am a misogynist, homophobe, redneck, indigent-phobe, or racist.

It does mean that I think homosexuality is a sin (although for some conservatives it does not mean this at all), men are men and women are women and we are not alike, and that America has come a long way in its race relations since the Emancipation Proclamation. It does not mean I think America is the best place to live for everyone, but it is the best place for me to live (and that our history is rich, diverse, and blessed.) It does not mean I think America is perfect. It does mean I think a lot of places in the world would be rather bad-off if the USA didn’t exist. It does not mean I love war and violence. It does mean that I am not so naïve as to think a world, fallen as it is, will be devoid of war apart from the reign of Christ. It does not mean that those in elected-office get a blank check from me, but it does mean that I respect the office they hold and that per the Scripture, I should pray for them. It means that I think abortion to be one of the most despicable, heinous and outrageous crimes a person can perpetrate against the human body, against life. It does not mean that I think those who have had abortions have committed the unforgivable sin.

Being a conservative gets a bad rap because most think it means being intolerant of those who are living differently or believing differently—as if God’s grace depends upon the rightness of our opinions and convictions. Being conservative does not mean we are intolerant of people even if we are intolerant of certain ideas that people hold or certain lifestyles that people, for whatever reason, live. For that matter, intolerance does not mean or equate to hatred. My conservatism flows out of my being a Christ-follower and not the other way around. It doesn’t mean this for everyone, but it does for me. Being conservative means not being liberal. Neither idea means being less than or more than human. It means having ideas about things that matter this much.

I have made a very difficult decision to champion Barrack Obama. I have written critically of President-Elect Obama and some of his (political and theological) views at my own blog. I had an argument with family members at a summer picnic because they already supported him (actually they just opposed President Bush). I have harbored terrifying thoughts about what an Obama presidency might hold for America. I have read the blogs of those who also live in terrific fear of what an Obama presidency might hold. Like here. And here. And here. (And there are many, many more just like this.)

Suddenly it came over me last week at a prayer meeting, as I listened to a man I know speak about some of his concerns and how God is using this shake this and squeeze that and how the church needs to get ready, that I don’t need to or have to fear a so-called liberal president. Why should I fear? Whom shall I fear? The Psalmist wrote, “Some trust in horses and chariots, but we trust in the Lord our God.” Whom shall I fear? I will not live the next four years of my life in constant fear of some imagined agenda people have put into his mouth. I have other things I’d rather worry about—like prayers, Scripture, those God has put in my life and the lives that God has shoved me into. Fear is not high on my list of fun ways to live, nor is it on my agenda for tomorrow.

So I have decided that I will be a supporter of Barrack Obama for a few different reasons.

First, I will be a supporter of Obama because it is not in my nature to act like an ADM. That is, I will not be one of those who will sit back and engage in schadenfreude. The writers of .info have always impressed me not because I agree with the position they take in regard to everything, but precisely because they do not engage in delight at the failure of others. I don’t want him to fail. Granted, I hope some of his policies fail and do so miserably. But I can hope for him, without supporting his particular ideas about morality.

Take abortion for example. When I went to Great Lakes Christian College in 1991, I remember gathering one night to pray for upcoming elections. The candidates were Bill Clinton and George Bush. We had one issue, mostly, on our minds: Abortion. Then Clinton was elected, much to the chagrin of many people. And you know what? Not a thing happened concerning Roe v. Wade for 8 years of the Clinton Administration. Then George W Bush was elected. And not a thing has happened to Roe v. Wade for 8 years of his administration. I’ll grant that Mr Obama is a flaming lunatic when it comes to his opinions on abortion, but I’m not naïve enough to think that John McCain, had he been elected, would have suddenly swung the pendulum so far right that Roe v. Wade would have been overturned. I’m not saying it doesn’t matter. I’m just saying that perhaps it is time for Christians to find alternative ways for dealing with the abortion issue besides putting all our stock in a presidential candidate who will ‘get the right people on the Supreme Court and get Roe v. Wade overturned.’ I think that is a pipe-dream at best.

To the point, I will not engage in schadenfreude when it comes to Pres-E Obama. I am not an ADM and I never will be.

Second, I don’t have to live in fear of him. He is a man and I just find it impossible to believe that it is his stated or secret goal and purpose to ruin the America we all know and love. Fact is, if he produces policies that differ from my point of view that is fine. If he produces legislation that is forcibly contrary to God’s Law, I have the biblical obligation to disobey. I don’t have the obligation to live in fear of Obama any more than liberals had reason to live in fear of George W Bush or than first century Christians had to fear Caesar. I will not conduct myself or raise my family or practice my faith based on fear of any man or woman in political office. The only fear I have a right to practice is fear of God.

The bottom line for me is this: God is still Sovereign. I heard someone say the other day that our fate lies in Obama’s hands. Pshaw! I saw an ad on facebook that has a picture of Obama with the word “Hope” underneath. Pshaw! I have heard people comparing him to the Messiah. Pshaw! I hear people say that the president of the United States is the most powerful man in the world. Horse****! He is none of these things for me because Christians are strangers, pilgrims, sojourners and aliens…I have as much fear of him as I do for the little old atheist lady who lives next door. Christians live under the sovereign watch-care and covenant-love of God Almighty. Whom shall I fear? This is not so much about should I support him, as much as can I support him. The answer is yes. I didn’t vote for him, but I’m not about to abandon him either. This is a matter of trust: Do I trust God who loves me or fear a man who cannot do me any harm?

Third, why not give peace a chance and take him at face-value? Pres-E Obama said he is a Christian and that his hope is in Jesus Christ: Why should I believe differently? For example, I might not like the things his pastor (Jeremiah Wright) said, but on the other hand…I don’t suppose that Jeremiah Wright would like everything I said about America either (and who’s to say that behind the sound-bites and rhetoric Wright is not making a larger point about which he is, well, right?) Point is, as a Christian, I belong to God first and America last. I am happy to be an American, but I am not defined by my nationality in the Kingdom of God. I’ll give Obama the benefit of the doubt and accept his word that he belongs to Christ. It’s the ADM culture that calls other people’s confessions of Christ into question, not .info’s. Barrack may have worshiped at a church for 20 years that has some questionable theology, but unlike many politicians, he was at least worshiping. Besides, whom among us doesn’t have impaired theology? None of us, not one of us, has it all right.

Fourth, I will support him because Jesus told us to love. He said, Love one another. Love God. Love your neighbor. Love your enemies. Love those who persecute you. Well, at this juncture, the worst Obama is is my neighbor. He’s hardly persecuted me. He’s hardly my enemy. In fact, if he claims Christ as he says he does (and who are we to question that?) then don’t I have a biblical obligation to love him as I love myself? Even when Jesus said, “Love your enemies” he did not put any conditional strings on that love. He didn’t say, “Love them until they do something that offends you.” When he said to pray for those in positions of authority, he didn’t say, “Pray for them so long as they make policy decisions that you agree with.” He said: Love. Pray. He left these terms profoundly undefined and agenda-less. If Obama is my brother in Christ…well, love keeps no record of wrongs. Is God’s grace only efficacious for those of us who are not politicians we disagree with fiscally and morally or preachers we disagree with theologically? Is being a liberal senator an unforgivable sin now?

Fifth, because I will not treat Barrack Obama the way liberals (and many conservatives!!) treated George W Bush. My heart breaks for President Bush because he is a good man who became president at the wrong time (or the right time!) and he has been treated like absolute garbage by everyone. It is downright shameful how people have treated that man, that fellow American, that brother in Christ (as he too claims). He has protected our country—perhaps in ways we disagree with—and done a good job. He was called to serve and did so.

I read an essay at Wall Street Journal online by Jeffrey Scott Shapiro who makes this very case. He wrote:

The treatment President Bush has received from this country is nothing less than a disgrace. The attacks launched against him have been cruel and slanderous, proving to the world what little character and resolve we have. The president is not to blame for all these problems. He never lost faith in or her people, and has tried his hardest to continue leading our nation during a very difficult time. Our failure to stand by the one person who continued to stand by us has not gone unnoticed by our enemies. It has shown to the world how disloyal we can be when our president needed loyalty — a shameful display of arrogance and weakness that will haunt this nation long after Mr. Bush has left the White House.

You know what? I will not treat Barrack Obama that way. Jesus also said, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” I will not stoop to the levels that many Americans have with respect to President Bush.

Finally, I will support Barrack Obama because I prayed that God’s will would be done and I trust that it was. Many Christians spent a lot of energy and blog space lamenting the campaign and election of Barrack Obama (I no less than anyone else). I have a friend who wonders how the nation is even going to survive the next 20 years. Well, you know what? It might not. We might all be swallowed alive tomorrow by a flying spaghetti monster, but does that matter? Tomorrow, the stock market may crash and we may have to actually start planting gardens instead of going to Wal-Mart for food. Or perhaps tomorrow the rights of the church will be taken away: We could lose tax-exempt status, or be forced to close our doors, or told we can ‘no longer speak His name,’ or perhaps people might start burning down our buildings and then what would we do without heat and air? So what? Do we think that this means God has suddenly abandoned us? Do we think that this means God’s will is suddenly being thwarted?

Are we the type of Christians who think that the election of one man to political office suddenly means that God has been escorted from his throne? Do we think God cannot handle such things? Do we think this is a mere eventuality to God? Do we think that this makes God shake and quiver?

I’m going to support Barrack Obama because I can, I should, and I must. I can because God is Sovereign. I should because he is my brother in Christ. I must because he is the president for the next four years. PT Forsyth wrote an amazing book back in 1917 called The Justification of God. It is a fabulous book written to the world in the midst of a Great War and a time of economic peril. It was reissued again after WWII. In that book, he said this:

“It is not easy to believe that the Kingdom of God is the greatest Empire now in the world—and especially at present it is hard. But faith’s greatest conquest of the world is to believe, on the strength of Christ’s Cross, that the world has been overcome, and that the nations which rage so furiously are still in the leash of the redeeming God.” (158)

He’s not my choice. I didn’t vote for him (neither did I vote for McCain), but I will support President Elect and soon to be President Obama because my faith is in God who is faithful. I will pray that he will be a vessel of God’s grace, an agent of mercy, an ambassador for freedom and liberty that we in America enjoy because of God’s grace and mercy. But I will not just ‘support’ him in some meaningless, backhanded way. I will go a step further and do for him what others have not done for George W Bush: I will love him, his wife, and his children, and give honor to whom honor is due. I can either work hard to make it hard for him and more difficult or I can love him and pray for him. I will love him because I am commanded to love, because I want to love, because I choose to love, and because I have been empowered by God’s Holy Spirit to love. Perfect love casts out fear and God has created us to love, not to fear; to love, not hate; to love without an agenda all those created in his image.

Soli Deo Gloria!

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Friends,

This is part seven in my series 90 Days with Scripture which coincides with our efforts at North Madison Church of Christ to read through the entire Bible in 90 Days. In this sermon, I focus in on the New Covenant that God promised through Jeremiah. The repeated refrain ‘this is what the Lord says’ gives us a direction to travel if we are to understand the current climate of our culture (with special attention given to ballot issues in the recent elections). This New Covenant, promised as it was by God, found fulfillment in Jesus of Nazareth. This is how Jesus understood it when he said, at the so-called last supper, ‘this cup is the New Covenant in my blood.’ This is also how the author of the letter we call Hebrews understood Jesus as well. The question remains, however: Are we listening to what God said? It is my fear that we are not. The manuscript is provided in the link below. jerry

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You can download the audio here: The New Covenant, Jeremiah 31

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Part 1: Genesis 3, Where it All Went Wrong
Part 2: Genesis 12:1-9, A Blessing for All People
Part 3: Exodus 7-12 (a), Freedom For God’s People
Part 4: Exodus 7-12 (b), Freedom For God’s People, b
Part 5: 2 Samuel 5-7, The King
Part 6: Isaiah 60-66, The New Heavens and New Earth
Part 7: Jeremiah 31, The New Covenant

Other download options are available through feedburner and archive.org.

Always for His glory!

Friends,

This is the audio version of my sermon in the 90 Days with Scripture series from 2 Samuel 5-7. The sermon is simply titled, The King. (The manuscript version is also published here at this blog.) The sermon is about 31:28, but goes fast. God bless. Soli Deo Gloria!

You can download here: The King, 2 Samuel 5-7

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Print version available here: Exodus 7-12, Freedom For God’s People (or at Box.net)

Part 1: Genesis 3, Where it All Went Wrong
Part 2: Genesis 12:1-9, A Blessing for All People
Part 3: Exodus 7-12 (a), Freedom For God’s People
Part 4: Exodus 7-12 (b), Freedom For God’s People, b
Part 5: 2 Samuel 5-7, The King
Part 6: Isaiah 60-66, The New Heavens and New Earth

Other download options are available through feedburner and archive.org.

Always for His glory!

Friends,

This is the manuscript from part 6 of the series. We are reading through the Bible in 90 Days and at this point those who are participating are midway or so through the Psalms. This sermon, from Isaiah 60-66, is fairly simply and makes three major points–derived by scanning the entirety of Scripture from Genesis to Revelation. One, that the new heavens and the new earth and their creation are something that God is about the business of doing. It’s not, no matter how much we are Advance Signs, something we can accomplish on our strength. Second, that there is necessarily a future element to this work. You will notice as you read through these chapters in the Prophet that he continually uses the word ‘will.’ Not everything is accomplished now, which is one of the paradoxes of Christian faith. Furthermore, I might add as a side note, just because we are doing things now as Advance Signs, just because our work now gives hints and clues of what God will do, this doesn’t necessarily translate into an exact representation of what God will do. For that matter, it doesn’t necessarily mean that God is even involved in what we are doing. We give hints, glimmers, sign-posts, but we are shadows. God is the Real and His plans for the New Heavens and the New Earth are likely vastly different than ours. Finally, I will conclude the sermon by noting that what God has done and will do have been inaugurated and completed in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus uttered those word ‘it is finished,’ and we sense in those words a finality and Luke tells us in chapter 4:18-19 that Jesus said these words of Isaiah were fulfilled in him! Yet Luke, when he begins the book of Acts, tells that he wrote the first book (Luke) to tell of all that ‘Jesus began to do and teach.’ This leaves us with the distinct impression that his second book (Acts) is about all that Jesus continued to do and teach by His Spirit through His disciples. So God has done it; God will do it.  Admittedly, I have too much text. The idea, however, was not to exhaust Isaiah’s vision, but, much like we are to the world, to give just a hint, a glimmer, of what he was pointing us to and we see completed in Jesus. Then we ask: Is Jesus enough? jerry

90 Days with Scripture

Week 6: November 2, 2008

Isaiah 60-66

Introduction

“Arise, shine, for your light has come,

and the glory of the LORD rises upon you.

See, darkness covers the earth

and thick darkness is over the peoples,

but the LORD rises upon you

and his glory appears over you.

“Chapters 58-66 begin, as does the book as a whole, by exposing hypocritical and manipulative approaches to worship that insult the glorious God whom Isaiah has so powerfully portrayed. If the worship that is supposed to restore and sustain fellowship with God is itself sinful, how can the barrier of sin between God and his people be removed? The answer lies in God’s commitment to his purpose and in his creative power. The God who created the world will not cease to work until he has defeated sin, turned hearts to him, and established new heavens and a new earth. All that remains is for people to recognize the true nature and work of God and to respond to him in faith.” (109, Briley)

________________

I suppose that we cannot really begin to describe what that time will be like. I can’t even begin to imagine what that place will be like. Sure we have ideas and notions, but they are only ideas and notions; premonitions perhaps. I don’t know really. All I have to go one is Scripture. All I can do is take Scripture at its word and trust that God will make good on his Word.

Some say that we currently are involved in the process of making things better in this world. We are, they say, Advanced Signs of what God is doing or will do. Those who live out their faith in practice are ‘making this a better place’ or at least showing the better place it will be when God finally finishes the work he has said he will finish. We are workers for justice, among other things, but we are we really? I know we are supposed to be working for justice and for freedom and shining our lights before men…but is man realistically speaking capable of such a thing?

Admittedly, I have too much text for today, but if I learned any one thing out of all that I learned this: What Isaiah was prophesying, what he was pointing to, what he was directing our attention to, what he was promising-is that what needs to be done on the earth, even if we are Advanced Signs, needs to be done by God. So consider what led into this chapter:

He saw that there was no one,

he was appalled that there was no one to intervene;

so his own arm worked salvation for him,

and his own righteousness sustained him.

He put on righteousness as his breastplate,

and the helmet of salvation on his head;

he put on the garments of vengeance

and wrapped himself in zeal as in a cloak.

According to what they have done,

so will he repay

wrath to his enemies

and retribution to his foes;

he will repay the islands their due.

From the west, men will fear the name of the LORD,

and from the rising of the sun, they will revere his glory.

For he will come like a pent-up flood

that the breath of the LORD drives along.

“The Redeemer will come to Zion,

to those in Jacob who repent of their sins,”

declares the LORD.

“As for me, this is my covenant with them,” says the LORD. “My Spirit, who is on you, and my words that I have put in your mouth will not depart from your mouth, or from the mouths of your children, or from the mouths of their descendants from this time on and forever,” says the LORD.

I think history demonstrates rather conclusively that human beings are not that good at fixing things. We really do want things to be better, but we have only a marginal notion of what ‘better’ even means and an even worse idea of how to accomplish that. It’s a terrible way to live, really, but we seem to take some comfort from the fact that every now and again slight progress is made. I have to be honest with you though, I’m not particularly interested in the sort of world that man makes better.

It’s not that I am a fatalist or anything. I’m a realist. I know who I am: I know what I think is a better world necessarily conflicts with what 90% of the population thinks is a better world. Faith then consists of the willingness to allow that God’s version of what is a better world is necessarily right and that my conception is necessarily right.

This takes us back to Genesis 3 where we started all this. It was there that man had the silly idea that having knowledge of good and evil was a good idea. It was there that man said, I want to be the creator of life, the creator of destiny, the creator of a standard of living. We have lived content in that place for a long, long time, scarcely acknowledging that God’s way is right, that his judgment is just, that his creation is good and ours is not.

God, however, does not just take us back to Genesis 3; he takes us back to Genesis 1. The opening verses of today’s sermon reflect that:

“Arise, shine, for your light has come,

and the glory of the LORD rises upon you.

See, darkness covers the earth

and thick darkness is over the peoples,

but the LORD rises upon you

and his glory appears over you.

Here it is, then! Darkness covers the earth; thick darkness covers the people. And what sort of light to we want to cover the earth and raise our hopes? Artificial light? Fake light? Do we want light that man creates out of his conception of good and evil or do we want light of the glory of God? Well, truthfully speaking, we probably want the light of men. We are still likely convinced that man can solve all the problems that man has created.

I’m not so optimistic. I want better solutions. But the solution is not merely a solution. The solution is God. This is not about God setting the world right by our standards of good and evil, right and wrong, justice and injustice. This is about God setting the world right by His standards.

” ‘Hear the word of the Lord,

you who trembled at his word:

‘Your brothers who hate you, and

exclude you because of my name, have said,

“Let the Lord be glorified,

that we may see your joy!”‘

_____________________

And God is not cautious in his description of what he means to do, in what he is already doing, in what he means to finish. But he does speak in futuristic terms. If it is something God does, it is something God will do, and something we will participate in.

  • You will look and be radiant.
  • Your heart will throb and swell with joy.
  • I will adorn my glorious temple.
  • Foreigners will rebuild your walls.
  • I will show you compassion.
  • You will be called priests of the Lord
  • You will be named ministers of our God
  • I will not keep silent till her vindication shines out like the dawn
  • You will be a crown of splendor in the Lord’s hand.
  • I will measure into their laps the full payment for their former deeds
  • But be glad and rejoice forever in what I will create, for I will create Jerusalem to be a delight and its people a joy.
  • They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain
  • See I will create new heavens and a new earth, the former things will not be remembered.

And there is more. All I am saying is that we may see Advance Signs now, we may be Advance Signs, but there is still an aspect of it that even we are looking forward to. In the meantime I believe we will find it terribly difficult at times to wait. We have to be ready, we have to be patient, we have to be busy. But we have to wait. It’s not all here now, even if it has been inaugurated.

Well, it will be a grad and glorious thing when it happens. He uses imagery that we can understand and relate to, images like weddings, wealth and prosperity, new clothes, great beauty, war, abundance, birth of a child, and more. He points us back to the beginning when God saw all that he had made and it was good. He tells us these days will be like those days of the Exodus when Moses led the people out of captivity. It will be a time marked by peace and joy and abundance and good food and justice and righteousness and peace (‘no longer will violence be heard in your land, nor ruin or destruction within your borders, but you will call your walls Salvation and your gates praise.’) He goes on:

“Then will all your people be righteous

and they will possess the land forever.

They are the shoot I have planted,

the work of my hands,

for the display of my splendor.

“The least of you will become a thousand,

the smallest a mighty nation.

I am the LORD;

in its time I will do this swiftly.”

_______________________

Finally, this work, this mighty, mighty work, was announced in Genesis 3: You will strike his heal, he will crush your head. It was set in motion in Genesis 12: You will be a blessing to all nations. It was inaugurated in Jesus of Nazareth when he quoted Isaiah 61:1-3 as recorded in Luke’s Gospel:

The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me,

because the LORD has anointed me

to preach good news to the poor.

He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,

to proclaim freedom for the captives

and release from darkness for the prisoners,

to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor

and the day of vengeance of our God,

to comfort all who mourn,

and provide for those who grieve in Zion–

to bestow on them a crown of beauty

instead of ashes,

the oil of gladness

instead of mourning,

and a garment of praise

instead of a spirit of despair.

They will be called oaks of righteousness,

a planting of the LORD

for the display of his splendor.

Jesus said, after reading this Scripture: “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” Today? Fulfilled? Already? In Jesus? You mean we are already living in the time when God has begun his work of renewing, restoring, and re-creating? Jesus announced the beginning and ending of Scripture’s fulfillment. Jesus did. No one else makes that claim, only Jesus of Nazareth. And should we be so disappointed then when he is found at Calvary?

What I love about these verses here in Isaiah is that by and large, far and away, they are mirrored in the book of the Revelation. And Luke, combined with John’s portrait in the Revelation, demonstrate to us that God’s plan has not changed. In Jesus we see an inauguration and an acceleration of the plan, but not a change in his plan. This is what Jesus came for, this is what God is working towards, this is the fulfillment of all things: A New Heavens and New Earth. A new life that is free from the tyranny of the urgent, free from the tyranny of tyrants, free from the tyranny of obligations to anyone but God Almighty Himself. As Cottrell notes, “What this means is that heaven is not the elimination of time itself, but the elimination of time limitations. No more deadlines! No more expiration dates! No more having to quit before the job is done! No more, ‘I just ran out of time’!”

Should we then be so surprised and shocked that this work of God involved the cross?

Jesus makes a bold statement. He says: I am the fulfillment of this prophecy of Isaiah. He says, “I am the one whom the Lord has sent to start and finish this work.”

__________________

But as I noted at the beginning:

“All that remains is for people to recognize the true nature and work of God and to respond to him in faith.”

So I am asking: Where is your faith? In whom have you placed your trust? I suspect that many of us live with some sort of apprehension or anxiety about today or tomorrow or Tuesday. Where is your faith? Do you have confidence that this God who began a good work in you can and will finish it?

I don’t need to be complicated this morning, and I don’t need to go deep. I just need to ask you: Where is your faith? Is your faith in the One who certainly cannot fail because He spared nothing, even giving his own Son to die? Is your faith in the world which is bound over to destruction? Is your faith in the One who has guaranteed His promise in the Resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth? Or is your faith here in the place and in the ones whose worm will not die, whose fire is not quenched?

Yet:

18I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. 19The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. 20For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.

22We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? 25But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.

Soli Deo Gloria!

Friends,

My friend Chris at Fishing in the Abyss has written a rather brilliant personal anecdote that I think you might be interested in reading (especially if you are a fan of president-elect Obama). He called it: Spreading the Wealth Around. In fact, you should stop by and give Chris a read, I think you will like his stuff.

jerry