Year 4

My Resplendent Bride went to be with God four years ago today. When she got there The Crucified Carpenter King had a spot at table awaiting her, and a room in The Father’s house. The Crucified Carpenter King is always adding additions to that sprawling complex, a complex without kleenex because tear wiping is His purview.

Selah. 

This morning I arose at 6ish as I am prone to do. I opened the door to Professor Frank’s room and greeted my old ally. He’s an old mutt now, and we have developed a begrudging respect, no, a warm familiar co-depencancy. His bones are old now, and he always knows when it is raining and won’t go outside until he’s good and ready. I respect this now. So it is I open the door to the mudroom and he lifts his happy head and wags his tail, the glory of God gifted to all dogs, while I make my espresso in the kitchen of this old house. And as I make my espresso I contemplate how to go about this black day, and I know not the answer. I thought to myself that I might go about the usual routine, iron my shirt and pants (when I wear the iron-able variety), knot my usual half-windsor knot (when I do that to myself), and go to work in my little study at The Little White Church.

But my thoughts of usually were invaded and interrupted by a violent lump arising in my throat such as I have not experienced for a while now.

The mourning is a grief inflicted wound the flesh grows over scarless. And I carry it always within me.

Jesus Christ, may your name be adored. You have loved me through all of this. When The Hermitage was an empty wreckage and when You filled it with laughter once again Your Love was and is Polaris. May Your name be adored.

Hallelujah.

The Sun rises like the phoenix over my head, Glory and Fire and Warmth. The stars take over when the sun retires to ashes, and the fire from my weber grill flickers and the shadows dance and play over the yard of The Hermitage as Professor Frank wags his tail in muttly majesty to the glory of the Resurrection King.

My new wife Rachel hugs and kisses away the tears I refuse to let drop in front of her.

No life fashioned by the hands of The Crucified Carpenter King is replaceable. Sometimes in the midst of the mourning deluge we can forget the value of our own lives. The divine spark is left smoldering in the rage of the great was.

Wherever you are on the road, I want you to know God Loves You. Even if you hate me for saying so.

I want to live in the land of the living and see the goodness of the Lord. I want to smile with this lump in my throat and the tears stinging my eyes.

Maranatha.

Father,

Thank you for the Lovingkindness

Thank you for letting me know

I don’t have to save the world today

Four years

Since she saw your glory

And O, how my eyes are filled

Filled to the brim with sorrow

Grant me the peace to stand

In the midst of the tension in the middle

This Day. All The Days.

Of the paradox of sorrow & Resurrection

And The Lovely Crucified Carpenter King.

Amen.

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Thank you, Billy.

God used Billy Graham powerfully. There are unseen and untold ripples of his faithfulness to the Gospel which no doubt have touched your life.
God sovereignly saved a young man in New Jersey while watching Billy preach on the T.V. That man went on to get his doctorate at DTS, and spent his life teaching Greek, theology and Bible at the Bible College I went to.
After college I found myself working for the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association in Baltimore as a local hire. There are a lot of opinions about Billy Graham in the reformedish circles I find myself in. People talk about Finny, decisionism, revivalism, manufactured emotionalism, altar calls…
There’s plenty to be worried about all that. All I know from working for the BGEA is that Graham’s events were grassroots movements led by local churches. They were prayer movements. Churches prayed, for years, for the people they were going to invite to hear the Gospel.
It was called “Operation Andrew”.
The churches worked together. In a city like Baltimore that meant Churches of all social economic, racial, and denominational backgrounds working together for perhaps the first time. Or, rather… since the last time Graham came to town.
I think we all know the bad side of altar calls. Some are manufactured emotionalism: fake decisions that don’t stick. Jesus talks about all this in the parable of the sower. But… Here’s something interesting: MANY of the volunteers for the 2006 Baltimore Festival were saved at the 1981 Baltimore Crusade. They heard the Gospel, and believed it in their heart and professed it with their lips, just like Romans 10 says, and then they plugged into a local Church.
When I worked for the BGEA we kept the office open after the preaching was done for months trying to make sure that people who made professions of Christ were plugged into a local Church.
We held the 2006 Metro Maryland Festival in Camden Yards where the Orioles play. Billy had retired in 2005, but preached the last night of the 2006 Baltimore Festival, on Sunday. Now, in the circles I run in we don’t use a lot of words like “Anointing” and such…
But this frail, elderly man hobbled up to the podium in Camden Yards, and preached a simple, Gospel message of repentance and trust in Christ Crucified and Resurrected for sinners. God’s power was palpable. There is no other way to explain it. His Spirit was there: Mighty To Save.
They said he couldn’t even speak after he preached. He left it all on the field.

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Small People Dwelling Under The Starry Sky.

Hebrews 11:8-12

By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. 10 For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God. 11 By faith Sarah herself received power to conceive, even when she was past the age, since she considered him faithful who had promised. 12 Therefore from one man, and him as good as dead, were born descendants as many as the stars of heaven and as many as the innumerable grains of sand by the seashore. [1]

[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Heb 11:8–12). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

 

Prayer

Father:

Maybe you gave us skies teeming with stars and beeches overflowing with sand to remind us in the cold dark days that infinite goodness nonetheless abides. And abide you do, Father. You have loved us with eyes wide open, crushing your innocent Son in our place that we might live. And maybe you asked the unthinkable of Abraham on Mt. Moriah so that we would learn the depths of your Love at Golgotha. How are we so enamored with what we can see and touch when your mere words made it all? And, how can we settle here on the side of the narrow road when you’re showing us snap shots and glimpses here and there of Home. Help us to go by faith. Help us to take our stakes up and count the cost of whatever light and momentary afflictions may befall us as we sojourn our way to the everlasting prairie. Amen.

 

v.8-10 By Faith We Live In The Temporary In Light Of The Abiding

By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. 10 For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God.

 

 

By Faith.

 

Faith enables the obedience which pleases God. Abraham didn’t know where he was going. God didn’t give him all the details. He didn’t know where he was going; he knew He who calls. He is calling you to Himself today, for redemption, and life, and beauty. He is calling you to the undiscovered country, a home that will never fade, rust or perish. Jesus died for you to wash you clean. He died to save you.

The text says that Abraham firstly obeyed by faith when called (because obedience without faith looks like what the Pharisees were up to, and faith without obedience isn’t really faith at all according to James), and that he was called secondly to receive an inheritance. This theme is all over the old book. Israel was set free from Egypt for the purpose of worshipping the one true God in the Promised Land that they would eventually receive. You have been called out of darkness to worship God in spirit and in truth in the already not yet until you finally wash up on a beautiful long dreamed up distant shore you’ve never been there, but it’ll feel right, like all the rightness that has always eluded you all these years. Rich Mullins once gave an anecdote about Irish sweaters, the kind with all the knots and patterns. He said that Irish fishermen sometimes got lost at sea. His wife would make his sweater or mother so that when he washed up on shore the family would be able to identify the body. Mullins then said that no matter how hard life is, God will recognize you when you wash up on the celestial shore, “He’s mine”.

Abraham did not seek out God. Abraham did not seek out the inheritance. Abraham did not get up from the seductive temporary comfort of the familiar. He arose and set out after God called Him. God gets the glory.

He went out, adventuring in this uneasy and weary world of ours, not knowing where he was going.

Some would call that not having a plan.

Some would look down on that. They might say Abraham was flying by the seat of his pants.

But he had the best plan of all: He stopped making plans based on the fading concrete things he could see, and started trusting the God who calls without explaining Himself. That’s one of the big ideas of Job, after all. God, who was there all along, reveals Himself, and doesn’t explain Himself one bit. Isn’t interesting that your study Bible probably says Job is the oldest book of Scripture. What if we started with Job instead of Genesis, what if we started with God wild, defiant, and good in the midst of suffering rather than starting with creation?

He is a consuming fire, after all.

And because His faith was true, in as much as he believed God when called and acted upon that faith, God counted a dirty old sinner like Abraham as righteous. Some folks who aren’t all that honest about their own sin aren’t too found of what God did there in Abraham’s life, because Abraham did some low key cowardly things in his life. But I imagine that’s why we all are but dust and to dust we shall return and God in His mercy knows our frame is dust… and yet, Mercy for those such as ourselves is what God delights in.

 

Genesis 15.6

 And he brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” And he believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness. [1]

 I wonder what kind of change God might bring about in our lives if we’d stop looking at our selves and kept our eyes pinned upon the promise of Jesus.

Can you number the Lovingkindness of God?

Could you ever wile away the days plumbing the depths of,

the goodness of,

the Lovingkindness of God?

 

And, could you ever, even fathom a better way than His? Could you do better by blindly stumbling along a path of your own?

 

Never.

 

So it was that Abraham believed the Lord, and He counted it to him as righteousness. Counted, reckoned, not earned, because that’s not how such things work. We’d never get there on our own.

Abraham was a sinner. There were moments when he was a coward, and put his wife’s safety in jeopardy. There were times he gave in to the darkness. His only prayer was the same as yours is: that grace really is for sinners.

Here’s what faith looked like for Abraham, the patriarch of old, picked up and moved, and staked down His future and family, and faith to the God of wonders, in a tent, wheresoever God would lead, he would follow.

 

Whomsoever would be forever must follow the Crucified Carpenter King wheresoever He leads.

 

Abraham lived the tent life, faith meant enduring the already not yet of dwelling as a stranger in the land that would belong to his children. The Old Testament weaves a tale of gaining and losing, and restoration, over and over again. There came a time when God’s house lay in ruin while the people made themselves paneled houses (Haggai 1.4), and you gotta believe because you’ve felt it in your own heart that one of the greatest struggles they warred against is the very same one you war against: believing that this is not your true Home.

Maybe if we all lived in tents…

And had to strike camp every couple of days so as not to kill the grass…

The people of the cross are emissaries, of the coming King. The Church is the embassy for the coming City of God. The good city of the good King, a city eternal, not built with hands (2nd Corinthians 5.1)… a city that makes you closer to God just by the mere thought of it. That’s why you’re to look for it.

Hebrews 11:10

10 For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God.

 Keep your eyes peeled, beloved.

The Kingdom is coming.

v.11 Sarah: Made In The Image Of God

11 By faith Sarah herself received power to conceive, even when she was past the age, since she considered him faithful who had promised.

 

Now, if folks are prone to have a beef with a dirty old sinner like Abraham being justified by faith alone then they’ll also take umbrage with his wife being held up along side dirty old Abraham as an example of one who resides in the grace of God.

 

Because she laughed at God, and when she suggested they have an open marriage for the purpose of procreation rather than trust God completely, Abraham jumped at that chance, like every-dirty-dog has his day, like he thought he’d hit the jackpot and could do what his wicked heart always wanted and blame his wife for it, like the dirty old man that he was.

A lot of people who aren’t all that realistic about the darkness residing within have a lot of problems with these two being held up as righteous. I hope you know that they dwelled in the shadow of the most high. I hope you understand they stood in the righteousness of another, by faith. They were declared righteous, and they abided in the alien righteousness of Jesus Christ The Lamb of God.

Where do you get your definition of righteous? Do you get it from the old book? Does your definition come rushing like waters from the eternal and good God? Or is your definition a stain you bleed together piece meal from man made modern malarkey?

The Malarkey is fuzzing up your vision all murky and mildewy when sinners can’t see themselves proper and end up looking down upon other sinners. My only hope is that God’s grace is for sinners. Period. The End.

When God came around looking to bless Abraham in Genesis 18, Abraham rushed to get some water for God’s feet, and rushed Sarah to whip up a meal real quick like. And they sat and talked under the oak trees about great things. In Genesis God promised dirty old Abraham children, which of course, would involve Sarah, and as she overheard it and pondered the rather earthly realities she was all too painfully aware of concerning her and Abraham, she laughed.

Now, there’s no reason for that, and no excusing it. But I would point out that when we sin all we’re really doing is laughing at God because we didn’t believe what He said. We didn’t trust His promises. We didn’t think He could make a way in the desert, or that He could split the Red Sea, or that He could provide a way out of temptation, or that through the death of the prince of peace He’d actually make Heaven our Home. There’s so much we don’t understand with our wide eyes, and half an old tattered spiral of facts to go on, but boy, we sure do like to act as if we have a clue.

 

God rebuked Sarah for her laughter, and his rebuke will save your soul if you believe it: “Is anything too hard for the Lord?”

 

I hope you believe him deep down in your tired old bones. Resurrection Day is coming. Joy may tarry for the night but joy comes with the morning. Blessed are those who mourn. The meek shall inherit the earth. Love your enemies. Turn the other cheek. Trust God. Pray, give, stand firm. Resurrection Day is coming.

Sarah got over her doubts. Sometimes laughter is from doubt, and sometimes your doubt gives way to praise and awe and joy and worship, and so it was for Sarah, because in Genesis 21 she held her little boy. We learn that God loves to astound us, and give us good despite our doubts.

 

He is changing despair into worship.

 

Sarah ended up believing God, that’s what Hebrews 11:11 teaches us. Sarah believed God’s specific promise for her, which involved her and Abraham’s infertility, a condition effecting many around us. You who often suffer in silent despair, I want you to know you are not broken, you are not deficient, and you are not abandoned nor are you forsaken of God. You are made in the image of God, just as you are. And Christ is making you more and more like Him every tear filled day from this very moment until Resurrection day. It is a hard business dwelling here under the sun in the already not yet, the man of Sorrows knows it well.

God Is Infinitely Good

What is God showing us here in the meantime while we sojourn in tattered tents waiting for the reconciliation of all things in Christ?

He’s showing us His goodness. It is hard to see it sometimes, harder still to believe it, easy to say it without meaning it, perhaps, yes. But the cross is always stumping and reshaping my frustration protests. He is good.

We are forced to wrestle with God’s goodness in Abraham’s life here in verse 12.

Hebrews 11.12

12 Therefore from one man, and him as good as dead, were born descendants as many as the stars of heaven and as many as the innumerable grains of sand by the seashore. [2]

My doubting heart is forced to wrestle with the fullness of God’s goodness every time I look up at the stars, because then I have to remember that barren couple who lived long ago in tents.

A couple weeks ago after we locked up the old white Church after Monday Nite Town Wide Worship we all stood around shivering and talking because the fellowship was thick, and stronger than the draw of warmth. You can feel God’s power and pleasure among the saints when we can’t break away from the fellowship. And I glanced up at the stars as I’m prone to do, and I saw Orion up there, and all the others. The great thing about the constellations is you can sort of just make it up as you go, because that’s all somebody else did long ago, before city lights made God’s reminder of faithfulness undeniable. See the star crocodile up there?

The stars are always up there burning and reminding us of God’s faithfulness, you know. It’s just that sometimes you can’t see them, or won’t see them.

God is infinitely better than the infinite amount of things Pop Christianity teaches you can get from Him. He is in and of Himself infinitely good. I know this is no new crick of thought.

He is our greatest good. Not the things He can deliver, not  breakthroughs and deliverances, Him. Christ upon the cross, Christ strolling out of the grave, Christ there shining in the joy long set before Him on Resurrection Day when we all heartbreak comes untrue, and we’ll all find ourselves in His good hands. On that day all that is hard in life will come untrue. J.R.R. Tolkien writes in one of his stories, “Will all that is sad come untrue?”

 

Yes, it will. In Christ it will. Hold on to faith, beloved.

 

I see His Light shining, just around the bend. Hold On.

 

Amen.

[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ge 15:5–6). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[2] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Heb 11:8–12). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

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Jesus & His People

1.7.17

First Christian Church

First Baptist Church

Epiphany

Glenwood IA, USA

 

 

Welcome In The Name Of The Father, The Son, And The Holy Spirit. Amen.

 

Hebrews 10:19-25

“Jesus And His People.”

19 Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, 20 by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

 

Outlines & Outliers

  1. Jesus
  2. His People

 

Prayer:

Father & King,

 

We adore you, we muster praises in the midst of tears, we squeeze out doxology between guttural sobs, we sing songs soaring to the heavens when our hearts are glad and our lives are well and orderly, in every circumstance: you are everything. “You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me: it is high; I cannot attain it.” [1]

 

The house of God is the Church, the house of God is our home, the house of God is the root of human flourishing.

 

22        I was brutish and ignorant;

I was like a beast toward you.

23  Nevertheless, I am continually with you;

you hold my right hand.

24  You guide me with your counsel,

and afterward you will receive me to glory.

25  Whom have I in heaven but you?

And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.

26  My flesh and my heart may fail,

but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever[2]

 

Oh God, make this desire true in our lives. May we desire nothing aside from you. Amen

 

 

 

  1. Jesus

 

 

If you had to put into words what Jesus means to you, you might find it difficult. Or, you might not find it hard at all. If you do not believe what the Bible and the Church say about Him then you might simply reply, “He means nothing to me”. And so your answer would be readily available. But if you love Him, and realize what He has done for you, it might be one of those cases where you say,
“Where to begin?” His incarnation, His teaching, His atoning death on the cross, His resurrection from the dead, His continuing work as your high priest, advocate, and His future return, the awesome fact that Hebrews 10 says Christ’s flesh is the path to the Holy Place, and or that this reference to water is probably talking about Baptism which will really blow your mind…where to begin?

Let’s begin here with all that is packed in this encouraging passage.

  1. The Holy Places. The author of Hebrews has been hitting this nail repeatedly, have you noticed? I think it is a deeper point than the already deep point about the exclusive nature of the earthly temple, which is the exclusive nature of the heavenly temple.

 

3 Glimpses Of The Holy Place. 3 snapshots.

 

{Holy, Holy, Holy}

Isaiah 6

6 In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another and said:

     “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts;

     the whole earth is full of his glory!”

And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!”

Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.” [3]

 

  • Leprous Uzziah is proof we don’t deserve to be in God’s holy presence, his story shows us how prideful we dustings are, how even if God ordains that we be born a king, our sin will always want more.
  • Heaven is the one place that is not in rebellion against God. It is telling that in Heaven, as it is not yet on Earth, the only opinion God’s creatures have on their lips are praises to God, “Holy, Holy, Holy”, is called out and the only reply that can be given is the Amen of , “Holy, Holy, Holy”. In the presence of God we will be consumed with the truth that He is everything, the only one who matters. While we sojourn under the sun we are distracted and troubled by a great many things which veil us from the great truth the Angels and the great cloud of witnesses are consumed with: “Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord of hosts!”
  • The Holy Place: this is it. This is what you should picture in your head.

C.) Jesus is the burning coal who atones for your sins. Jesus is the burning coal who makes you clean. Jesus is the burning coal who calls and equips you for service.

 

{Unapproachable Light}

2nd Timothy 6:12-16

 

12 Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. 13 I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who in his testimony before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, 14 to keep the commandment unstained and free from reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15 which he will display at the proper time—he who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, 16 who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom[4] no one has ever seen or can see. To him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen. [5]

 

  • Notice how perfectly 1st Timothy 6 goes with verse 23?

 

Hebrews 10:23

 

23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.

 

Remember who you are, and remember your destiny. Remember who He is, and where you are going.

 

  • It’s as if the whole Bible has a single, ultimate, Author. Hold fast the good confession, fight the good fight, take hold of the eternal life to which you’ve been called, because it’s all about God, and He is glorious, dwelling in the holy of holies, in unapproachable light. Christians get to go there because of the blood of Jesus.

 

{The Point Of Christianity Is To Be With Christ}

 

John 14:1-3

 

14 “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.[6]

  • Jesus said He was going to prepare a place for you. Where? Heaven. Sure, but that’s the holy of holies, the holy place, the presence of the perfect, Triune God, maker and sustainer of Heaven and earth is there. The beauty of knowing Jesus is you get to go there with confidence, not haughty pride, not entitlement, not without reverence, but confidence in the promises of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the light that chases away the shadow of fear and death. The specter of separation from God melts away in the Love of Christ. We take away a bit from each snap shot: from Isaiah 6, 2nd Timothy 6, and John 14 and we come away with a place where God is worshiped in spirit and in truth: Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord of Hosts, a place where He dwells in unapproachable light yet one day we will approach without being burned in the radiance of His Holiness, and yes, a family home which the Lord Jesus Himself prepares for us.

 

  • Eternal Security is rooted in the love of God.

And the love of God has everything to do with your place in the company of God’s people, the Church.

C.) Some would use fear tactics to make you go to Church.

D.) Some would use fear of ignorance to make you go to Church.

E.) I prefer to show you the glory of God in the pages of His Book, I prefer to show you the Love of God to educate you on why the Church is the only place for the Christian to be a Christian.[7]

 

Hebrews 10:23-25

 

23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

 

F.) The Blood of Christ, not our works, gives us confident access to God, and the path through the curtain is Jesus’s own flesh (Makes you see the communion bread differently, doesn’t it?), because of Jesus, you can draw near because He has made you clean, body and soul, so it is assurance of God’s love that makes us, compels us, exhorts us to hold fast the good confession, and your confession of Christ is not a good confession if you forsake His bride the Church. I think too many are into the fruit inspection business and far too many have usurped God’s place by proclaiming whom they think is in and whom they think is out: only God accurately searches the heart. And, we must give due to the very real phenomenon of “Church Hurt”, and have compassion on those who the Church has through many years and denominations, harmed. It is understandable why a victim of pastoral abuse, for instance, would be reticent to once again unit themselves to the life of a Church. Others may live in an area where there aren’t Churches with whom they can join themselves in good conscience. Some have reasons for not being part of the covenant life of God’s people. While those reason do not negate God’s will, we should let compassion guide our gentle exhortations to those the Church has hurt as we urge them to come home. Others my simply be disobeying God. While you cannot determine salvation by Church attendance, you can diagnose a malfunction, or sickness, in a Christian’s confession of faith if they refuse to be part of the covenant life of God’s people.[8] The Churchless Christian may have some kind of confession, but it’s not the good confession made weekly in the presence of many witnesses, the Churchless Christian may have warm things to say of Jesus, but they are not living a life of obedience to the Word of God. Something has gone awry.

 

  1. His People.

The Church Is The Gospel

 

If we believe that God loves the unlovable and forgives the unforgivable, and that we ought to do likewise, we’ll need a place and a people among whom we put the good news into practice! What better than the Church? If Christianity is belief put into practice rather than belief in theory, you’re going to need some difficult, opinionated sinners to surround yourself with.

Sinners who believe the same thing: that God shines the love of His Son into wicked hearts and that we’re just dust without Christ. Because the boastful pride of life has a way of slithering into our pride loving hearts and making us forget who and what we are: you’re going to need a bunch of redeemed sinners to remind you of the truth. That’s why we do Church. That’s why Hebrews 10 says not to forsake Church, so yes it is commanded, if you were wondering, here it is, and if you’re looking for a gotcha verse to end the low key burning debate you’ve been having with so and so this is the TKO, but we all know how seldom these debates are won by proof texts. Usually there is a heart issue keeping the Churchless Christian from Church, or Church trauma keeping the Churchless Christian from Church. The Church is where sacrificial love is practiced, and remembered, and applied, and proclaimed. The Church is the center: pointing to the true center.

The Church is the Gospel because if Jesus has sheep who are not yet of this fold, and if God is going to gather a people for Himself from all the tribes of the Earth, from the four corners of the globe, surely He can bring His people together in this little town in the corner of SW Iowa.

 

Hebrews exhorts us to do more with our faith, but from a place of total love.

 

Hebrews 10:25

25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

 

We usually put a lot of focus on the not neglecting to meet together bit, or in other words, “Get to Church!”

 

But the rest of the verse is important.

 

  • Encourage one another, all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
  • What this means is that the Church, whether big, or small, exciting or ordinary, is on a divine timetable, and the clock is counting down, and beloved we have work to do, work that will only be accomplished God’s way: through His covenanted people, the Church.
  • And the Church, God’s covenant people bought with a price: the blood of the Son of God, has been God’s plan for a very long time. No, not 160 years, we’re so impressed with that number in our two Churches, but God’s plan stretches back much, much further.

Revelation 13 talks about the beast at the end of time who will make war on God’s people. It’s a strange and dark passage to find hope, but hope is there.

 

Revelation 13:8

and all who dwell on earth will worship it, everyone whose name has not been written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who was slain.[9]

 

So, the Church is God’s people from long, long ago, whose names were written in the book of Life before the founding of Earth, and you’re bored with this?

See, the argument I always hear is that people wouldn’t be bored at Church if the Church knew what it was doing, but I think the Bible teaches that people wouldn’t be bored with Church if they understood what Church is.

 

Psalm 74.12 says,

 

12  Yet God my King is from of old,

working salvation in the midst of the earth. [10]

 

Praise God.

 

Jesus means you can be close to the divine. That is means relationship with the everlasting. That means nearness with the Holy. The Bible says to draw near to God, because you can!

 

Living a life marked by covenant community in the local Church isn’t accomplished by more guilt, it is accomplished by grasping what the Church is. The Church is the Gospel of Jesus Christ manifested in ordinary people that spreads uncontrollable until the whole world has seen the glory of God in jars of clay. Unworthy as we are, the cross means we belong. Unworthy as we are, Jesus means we belong in the covenant life of God’s people on earth. This is a get to thing rather than a begrudging have to thing. If you have never seen Church in this light then you have never grasped what Church really is. You may be too busy looking for flash and feels to see the beauty of God’s redemption moving in the lives of ordinary people, ordinary, everyday, Resurrection people. The Church is God’s everlasting death, and Resurrection people. The Church is the covenant people among whom you learn to live well, rejoice well, suffer well, and die well.

 

The Church is where you learn to receive and give grace rather than living with your head in the sand as you try your best to ignore the painful realities of life under the sun.

 

Amen.

[1] Psalm 139:5-6 ESV

 

[2] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ps 73:22–26). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[3] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Is 6:1–7). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[4] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (1 Ti 6:12–16). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[5] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (1 Ti 6:16). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[6] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Jn 14:1–3). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[7] Eugene Peterson, etc

[8] Assuming there is a Bible teaching Church they can covenant with.

[9] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Re 13:7–8). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[10] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ps 74:12). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

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Warmth

All this waiting for the reconciliation of all things is what Advent is about.

All this yearning.

All this grasping in the cold thin air.

All these verses about God and man reconciled sparks something in my addled thinker about Jesus: He was full of grace and truth.

John 1:14

14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.[1]

How do you love somebody who is bad? Well, Jesus did. During His days on Earth He was hated by the self-righteous because He hung out with tax collectors and prostitutes, and now He is our high priest in the holy of holies (Hebrews 8). How does that work? How can He do both?

He was full of grace and truth.

Rachel’s dad is a Pastor out in California. He sent us an article from Greek scholar Daniel Wallace. The article was about how The King James doesn’t translate 1st Thessalonians 5:22 very well.

1st Thessalonians 5:22 is famously translated by the KJV as

22 Abstain from all appearance of evil.[2]

 The ESV translates it in a better fashion:

22 Abstain from every form of evil. [3]

There’s a big difference between avoiding looking evil, and actually not being evil.

Wallace points out that Jesus was constantly getting in trouble with the religious leaders of His day precisely for not avoiding the appearance of evil. He was always hanging out with sinners, without sinning Himself (as the only sinless person to walk upon Earth He was always hanging out with sinners). He did so to share God’s love with them. He was safe for them. He was a person of peace for them.

He was warm.

And, it may sound odd to you, but one of the things I resolved in my own Christian life a long time ago was to be the warmest person I could be.

I want to be a person of peace. I want to be safe person. I want to be a person people feel like they can go to. And I apologize to you for the times I haven’t been. I want to be full of grace and truth. I want to reflect the love of Christ to a dead and dying world.

Not everybody is warm.

There are times when you get a facebook alert on your phone, and if it’s from certain people, you just know… you just know it isn’t going to be warm. You just know that they’re going to be trying to embarrass you, or correct you about something you probably know more about than they do.

We should be people who are reflecting the new covenant to our neighbors, reflecting the Jesus who is both friend to sinners, and sitting at the right hand of God the Father in the holy of holies, and our Churches need to resolve to be marked by grace and truth too.

We must not be internally focused. We must be externally focused. We must be a safe people; a warm people. Our goal isn’t to be fake happy, (the world has enough puppies chewing on world weary dog’s ears) nor to be wishy washy with God’s truth. Our goal is to be marked by grace and truth so that when we need to disagree with people, or even correct people from the Scriptures, they walk away saying, “I didn’t like what they said, but I know that person loves me.”

Or at least they know you don’t hate their guts.

May we reflect the grace and truth of Jesus Christ, friend of sinners and dweller of the holy of holies.

Amen.

[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Jn 1:14). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[2] The Holy Bible: King James Version. (2009). (Electronic Edition of the 1900 Authorized Version., 1 Th 5:22). Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

[3] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (1 Th 5:22). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

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God Loves You Even When He Says “No”.

Oct. 1, 2017

First Christian Church

First Baptist Church

Glenwood IA, USA

Ordinary Time

Hebrews 5:1-10

Through What He Suffered

 

Welcome In The Name Of The Father, And The Son, And The Holy Spirit.

 

 

Hebrews 5:1-10

 

1 For every high priest chosen from among men is appointed to act on behalf of men in relation to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. 

2He can deal gently with the ignorant and wayward, since he himself is beset with weakness. 

3 Because of this he is obligated to offer sacrifice for his own sins just as he does for those of the people. 

4And no one takes this honor for himself, but only when called by God, just as Aaron was. 

5 So also Christ did not exalt himself to be made a high priest, but was appointed by him who said to him,  “You are my Son, today I have begotten you”; 

6 as he says also in another place,  “You are a priest forever, after the order of Melchizedek.” 

7 In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence. 

8 Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. 

9 And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him, 

10 being designated by God a high priest after the order of Melchizedek.

 

____________________________________Prayer_______________________________________

 

Dear Heavenly Father, We are here on your day to proclaim your excellences. You have loved the unlovable with an everlasting love. You are our hope and comfort during the thin days and dark times. Your Son has passed through the Heavens to save us. We are covered in His blood. We confess our many sins to you as your people gathered. We are wrong. You are right. Forgive us in Christ’s name. Please convict and move us to action through your good and lovely Word this morning.

~ Amen

 

 

Outlines and Outliers

 

Preeminent Idea: Christ was appointed to suffer on our behalf. His obedience is our salvation.

 

Preeminent Application: Suffering, obedience, and reverence are beautiful tools in the hands of a good and merciful God because He uses them to draw you closer to Himself.

 

 

  1. 1-4 Our sin should humble us even as we serve the God who calls us.
  2. 5-6 Jesus humbly served us in His sinless state just as God called Him.
  3. 7-10 How to keep the faith:
  4. 7 Reverence In anguish
  5. 8 Learned obedience through suffering
  6. 9 Trust & Obey are synonyms

 

Part I

 

1-4 Our sin should humble us even as we serve the God who calls us.

 

Hebrews 5:1-4

1 For every high priest chosen from among men is appointed to act on behalf of men in relation to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. 

2He can deal gently with the ignorant and wayward, since he himself is beset with weakness. 

3 Because of this he is obligated to offer sacrifice for his own sins just as he does for those of the people. 

4And no one takes this honor for himself, but only when called by God, just as Aaron was. 

 

 

 

Were we to follow the classic and popular “Jesus is better than” break down of the structure of Hebrews we could say here that Jesus is better than Aaron, and the Aaronic Levitical priesthood. He is. The author here makes the case that the old covenant priests of Israel were, despite all the pomp and circumstance, reverence, and ceremonial beauty: just sinners like all the rest of us. Sinners called to serve, just as we are.

 

And, if a high priest was willing to be vulnerable and transparent with the people about his own frail humanity rather than hiding behind the cloth and blood of the office, he had the opportunity to be grass roots. He could be gentle with sinners because he himself understood what it means to be a sinner. A merely human high priest carried the knowledge of his own darkness, his own pain, his own root of bitterness. A merely human high priest knew all the skeletons partying in his own closet, as well as all the accusations that the enemy of our souls fired his way during the late watches of the gloomy night. A merely human high priest knew he had a duty to do, and a calling to answer not because he was better than the people he taught and represented before God, but because of the One who was doing the calling. Because he was no different in substance being a mere dustling like all the rest, he had the opportunity to fulfill his duty of acting on behalf of men in relation to God, offering gifts and sacrifices for sins, while dealing gently with sinners because he was well acquainted and well aware of his own sinfulness. All of this is still true of your Pastor.

 

Being gentle and compassionate toward those trapped in the snare of sin comes from knowing your own sinful past and potential. Being gentle and compassionate to sinners is a direct result of getting what Jesus did for you, and why He had to do it. All too often when we are gentle and compassionate toward people who are willingly driving over and over again in tired and worn ruts in the bog of their particular favorite flavor of sin, we are accused by others of taking sin lightly.

 

Sometimes that is the case. There are those who wear compassion and gentleness on their sleeves not because they care about the gospel but because they don’t really in their heart of hearts think that sin is all that big of a deal, at least not the ones the Churches or Christians they don’t happen to like very much think matter. When we make a false god in our image, we make him hate the sins we happen to hate more than the sins we love.

 

When we understand the heights and goodness of the holiness of God we understand that what makes a particular sin horrible is not whether or not we think it is a big deal, but that is horrible because God thinks it is a big deal.

 

The upside of our sin, if there is any silver lining at all, is that we should be moved to compassion for our fellow sinners. We should learn compassion for the struggling from our struggle. If you are not sensitive to your own depravity you are likely to judge other people for their sins.

 

The upside down of being aware of your sinfulness is not gentleness toward the ignorant and wayward, but to be indifferent. The upside down is to shrug and say, “I’m wrong, so nothing is wrong”.

 

You are called to be both deeply convicted of your need of a savior and deeply convicted that it is finished. If you are deeply convicted of your need of a savior and not deeply convicted that it is finished you will beat yourself up into a hopeless, condemned puddle. If you are If you are not deeply convicted of your own need of a savior, and yet deeply convicted that Jesus is on your side, then you are likely to be a nosey gossiping gooster always busy-bodying and condemning the sick who need the great physician. You are called to be both deeply convicted of your need of a savior and deeply convicted that it is finished.

 

Your past does not define your present and future, the Gospel of Jesus Christ and His calling define your present and future.

 

 

Part II

5-6 Jesus humbly served us in His sinless state just as God called Him.

 

5 So also Christ did not exalt himself to be made a high priest, but was appointed by him who said to him,  “You are my Son, today I have begotten you”; 

6 as he says also in another place, “You are a priest forever, after the order of Melchizedek.” 

 

 

The author compares the calling of the merely human high priest to the calling of the God-Man high priest. They are similar in that it is the same great Father calling both. Do you realize that if you’re single serving here and there, or a mom covered in bodily fluids, or a husband working himself to the bone, or a deacon cleaning up messes, or a preacher man… that you have been called and appointed by the same Father in heaven who appointed His Son? And here you thought you were microwaving small potatoes, but do no despise the day of small things woven and ordained by a good and sovereign God. In the midst of mess you may be tempted to quit because all you see is futility. Your labor for the kingdom of God is not futile in the hands of a good and sovereign God. Don’t give up, don’t quit, don’t give in, and don’t check out. Fight the nothing. Keep the faith, beloved. Jesus is glorious, and good and worthy of your time and mental energy. Jesus is worthy of your first and foremost allegiance.

 

Jesus is the ultimate high priest, in the order of Melchizedek. Melchizedek is the mysterious priest-king of Salem, king of righteousness and peace {Hebrews 7} who makes an appearance in Genesis 14 after Abraham {called Abram until Genesis 17} won a battle against the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah and their allies. Abraham gives this endless Priest-King a tenth of the spoils, and Melchizedek brings out bread and wine, for he was a priest of God most high. Christ is the beginning and the end of everything we are. He is Alpha and Omega, sacrifice and high priest, Mediator of a better everlasting covenant.

 

Part III

3 v. 7-10 How to keep the faith:

v.7 Reverence In anguish

v.8 Learned obedience through suffering

v.9 Trust & Obey are synonyms

 

 

7 In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence. 

8 Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. 

9 And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him, 

10 being designated by God a high priest after the order of Melchizedek.

Hebrews 5:7-10 are some of the most astonishing verses in the Bible concerning for three reasons. Firstly, verse 8 says the Lord Jesus “learned obedience” secondly verse 9 says “being made perfect” and thirdly, verse 9 says he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey Him.” All of these add up to make a lot of protestant folks a bit antsy.

 

But these three statements are not what make these verses so astonishing. What makes the scripture astonishing is this: Jesus Christ, the perfectly righteous Son of God prayed a perfectly righteous prayer to God who not only heard Him but was able to save Him from death, and yet He died. He died. And this is everything to the fellowship of the suffering.

 

Let’s dig into the first 3 problematic statements and then we’ll end with why Jesus not getting His prayer answered is good news for the fellowship of the suffering.

v.8 speaks of the Lord Jesus “learning obedience”. This shakes people up because they wonder if He had to unlearn disobedience! No worries, this verse is not saying Jesus was sinful and had to learn how to stop being a holy terror. The Bible is keen to show you that Jesus is true man and true God. That’s why last week the author of Hebrews talked about how Jesus was tempted in every way we are yet without sin. To show His radical solidarity with fallen humanity He endured temptation just as we must. I say radical because He always was getting in hot water for being around people who sin. It’s pretty difficult to be tempted when you only surround yourself with perfect people. Since there is was only ever one perfect person, Jesus Himself, it would follow that He was the safest person to be around sinners and the temptation that goes along with sinners. Since we’re all sinners, there will always be some degree of temptation to do wrong regardless of whom you’re with. You can become a hermit, and throughout Church history people have, and temptation still follows because you’re spending a lot of time with a sinner, you.

All that to say, Jesus did a lot of things to fulfill righteousness, He did a lot of things to take away our excuses, and He did a lot of things for incarnational solidarity with us.

 

Jesus was baptized by John The Baptist, who was known for a baptism of repentance, even though Jesus had nothing to repent of (Matt. 3:15). Jesus did so to fulfill all righteousness, and to snatch excuses out of your mouth.

 

Jesus grew in stature, and in favor with God and man (Luke 2:52).

 

And so it was that Jesus demonstrated to a watching public that He was indeed the righteous sin bearer. His life was his resume.

 

People get hot around the collar when they read verse 9 because it says “being made perfect”, and it talks about how He is the source of salvation to a specific group of people: people who obey Him.

 

This idea is one that the author of Hebrews has already mentioned in Hebrews 2.10

 

“It was fitting that He, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering.”

 

You know what we love? We love the eating without the harvest, and we love the harvest without the planting, and we love the planting without the tilling. That’s what we love.

 

Jesus’s status as the lamb of the world who takes away the sin of the world is not merely theoretically true due to His divine nature. His life was His credential.

 

Even more controversial in some circles: not only is Jesus made perfect, but He’s made perfect by suffering, and not only is He made perfect through the pain of suffering, but He is made so at the hand of God the Father. Isaiah 53 says it was the will of the Father to crush the suffering servant. You won’t easily escape this truth in the Scriptures.

 

Isaiah 53:10

10 Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand.

 

 

But redemption grows out of the kernel dropping to the earth and dying.

 

 

 

John 12:24

Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.

 

And you were redeemed by the suffering of the king.

 

Folks also get nervous about verse 9 saying He became the source of salvation to all who obey Him, because it sounds like works righteousness. It sounds like the author of Hebrews is saying we’re saved by our obedience not His, which should be our greatest fear.

 

This is why we preach through books of the Bible at this Church. If this verse were taken out of context a nary do well could do a lot of damage to the peace of God’s lambs.

 

We are saved by believing Jesus when He speaks into your heart to repent of your sins and trust in Him by faith. If you don’t repent and trust Him, you’re disobeying Him and you will not be saved.

 

The Astonishing Good News Of An Unanswered Prayer

 

Hebrews 5:7-8

7 In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence. 

8 Although he was a {THE} son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. 

 

People fly by these verses without applying them to those who are suffering. The scriptures say Jesus prayed, and prayed hard, with tears, that His life would be spared, and God was present, God hadn’t walked out, God hadn’t become the distant god of deism, or the hand tied, pacing, hand wringing god of open theism, no, God heard Him and His answer to Jesus was not “Let this cup pass”, but rather, “Thy will be done.”

 

Jesus died.

 

And He was righteous.

 

James 5 has been used in destructive ways. It went from being verses about confession and praying that God might heal to verses about the sick not having enough faith to be healed by God. These verses of hope have been turned into sledgehammers in the hands of wolves. They’ve been used to crush the Lord’s beloved.

 

When the Lord Jesus prayed that the cup of suffering would pass He did not lack righteousness or faith, but God’s answer was still no.

 

Jesus died.

 

We don’t like to look at pain. We do not like to wrestle with the potential redemptive value of suffering.

 

We’d rather tell the widow not to grieve because their beloved is in heaven than sit with the widow in ashes and sackcloth.

 

Hey, they’re in Heaven. That’s what people say to dismiss pain. People use the future to dismiss the pain of the past.

 

But Jesus died.

 

Jesus died after praying He wouldn’t, and there was nothing wrong with His faith and righteousness.

 

In Heaven we won’t walk up to Jesus and see the holes in His hand and say, “hey, I read about your agony in Gethsemane, your whipping, your crown of thorns, your crucifixion, and your death. No sweat though. God brought you back to life. Hakuna Matata bro.”

 

We will worship Him, not only for what the world considers victory, but also for what the world consideres defeat.

 

The good news for you who have suffered is God loves you, even when He says, “No”.

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Justification Gymnastics & The Great High Priest

September 24, 2017

First Christian Church

Combined Service With First Baptist Church

Ordinary Time

Glenwood IA, USA

 

Hebrews 4:14-16

 

The Sympathetic High Priest

 

Welcome In The Name Of The Father, The Son, And The Holy Spirit

 

14 Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 

15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.

16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

 

 

Outline & Outliers 

 

Main Idea: Christ’s solidarity with sinful mankind makes Him your intercessor, His work gives you safety and confidence to draw near to the Divine in all His glory.

 

Main Application: Talk To God. Confess Your Sin God.

 

  1. 14 Keep The Faith
  2. 15 He Understands
  3. 16 The Practicality Of Grace

 

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Rest

Prayer:

 

Lord we come to you humble and mild standing in assurance of pardon because of your Son’s good work upon the cross. We believe you. We praise you. Open our myopic self-centered eyes to the beauty and truth of your Word this very hour. Grant us understanding, conviction and the most beautiful of things, repentance. ~ Amen.

 

 

Outline

 

Big Idea: Your Rest Is In Christ.

 

Application: Do not miss the one true source of rest by trusting in counterfeit gospels.

 

  1. Hebrews 4:1-3 Rest Is Still Being Offered To You In Christ.
  2. Hebrews 4:4-11 Your Rest In Christ Parallel’s God’s Sabbath Rest On The 7th Day Of Creation.
  3. Hebrews 4:12-13 You Can Believe All Of This Because The Word Is True & Trust Worthy.

 

 

Hebrews 4:1-3 Rest Is Still Being Offered To You In Christ.

1 Therefore, while the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us fear lest any of you should seem to have failed to reach it. 

2 For good news came to us just as to them, but the message they heard did not benefit them, because they were not united by faith with those who listened. 

3 For we who have believed enter that rest, as he has said,  “As I swore in my wrath, ‘They shall not enter my rest,'” although his works were finished from the foundation of the world.  

Context: Last time we left off on Hebrews 3.19 which says that the people were not able to enter the rest of the promised land because of unbelief.

 

Hebrews 3.19

“19 So we see that they were unable to enter because of unbelief.”

 

Rather grim.

 

Yet hope of salvation always shines in Christ Jesus our Lord. Do you see Him even now, shining in the darkness? He is our Redeemer and friend, the very darkness He has beaten back time and time again still tries to bring Him down to His knees, it is relentless, but He is stronger, Jesus will not yield. He will not let go of you, child. Jesus will not hand you over to the darkness. His love shines on in the form of mercy to sinners like you and I.

 

He is standing there, crucified hand extended toward us, the offer of entering His rest still stands. But do not take His offer for granted, as if you’ll live forever, as if you have any inkling as to when you will die. enter His rest today by trusting in Him for forgiveness.

Rest on the promise of Christ. The hope He offers is eternal spring.

Verse two reminds us of the terrible truth that a human can hear the goodness of the Gospel over and over again to no saving effect if the hearing is not married to faith in the Word proclaimed. I think this is why verses 12-13 talk about how God’s Word is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. Because we are bored, dulled by our fallen nature. Mankind is born into a stupor by our sin nature. We take for granted the most wonderful truths as if they were ours by right, as if Jesus is ours to dismiss or be into. As if He were our inferior to do with as we please. He is Lord. Humble and wild, powerful and meek, The Lord of All That Is, yet a servant.

If we are honest with ourselves, and I never assume we are, but if we are, we will see that in Him is all the majesty and mystery swirling in a wild tempest which somehow heals everything it touches. He would heal your torn heart and soul too, but you’re running to tombs for shelter from the storm of God’s uncontrollable love and sovereignty.

So it is, that there He is, the Crucified Carpenter King, who you would not have recognized during the days of His earthly sojourn, but you recognize Him now, you know in your heart that He is true, and that He is calling you Home. Do you see Him now?

Let us look together, at Matthew 11, and just for the fun of making ourselves uncomfortable with the fine marbling of Christ’s Sovereignty so liberally running through all of Scripture, let’s start in verse 27.

 

Mathew 11:27-30

 27 All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. 

28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 

29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 

30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Yes, rest is still being offered to you in Christ at this very hour we call “today”. Do not throw away your shot. Do not invest your life and soul in counterfeit good news which will only leave you high and dry and thirsty and dead.

God’s love is strong. He desires to show you Lovingkindness in Christ crucified for sinners. He Loves you. Believe.

A disciple whom the Lord Loves once wrote,

 

“When I refuse to go to my Father in prayer, I have allowed my pain to turn me into dust all the while the creek of life bubbles nearby. Here I am dying and drying out, if only I would close my eyes and speak to the wellspring of life. ” 

Our fight is against disbelieve. Keep the faith, beloved.

Mark 6.6

6 And he marveled because of their unbelief. And he went about among the villages teaching. 

 

The author of Hebrews begs you to believe while you have the chance, while it is called “today”.

 

The Lord Jesus wants to give you rest now, and eternal rest forever. Rest, or Sabbath, is something stressed often in the Scriptures. Some folks don’t have a problem resting, that is they are busybodies, busy yet doing nothing productive for the Kingdom, or they are slothful, always at rest in the body, yet starving the soul nonetheless. And then there are those who are just busy, running from here to there like a chicken with its head chopped off. We are often running to and fro with our hearts cut out, busy doing, yet never accomplishing anything that will endure for eternity.

Mark 6:31-34

31 And he said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat.

32 And they went away in the boat to a desolate place by themselves. 

33 Now many saw them going and recognized them, and they ran there on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them. 

34 When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. And he began to teach them many things. 

 

 

Hebrews 4:4-11 Your Rest In Christ Parallel’s God’s Sabbath Rest On The 7th Day Of Creation.

 

4 For he has somewhere spoken of the seventh day in this way: “And God rested on the seventh day from all his works.”

5 And again in this passage he said,  “They shall not enter my rest.”

6 Since therefore it remains for some to enter it, and those who formerly received the good news failed to enter because of disobedience,

7 again he appoints a certain day, “Today,” saying through David so long afterward, in the words already quoted,  “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.”

8 For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken of another day later on.

9 So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God,

10 for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his.

11 Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience.

 

 

Have you heard the good news yet failed to enter rest because of disbelief and disobedience? There is still time to repent in the here and now while today is still called “today”. Don’t wait until tomorrow.

 

Christ is superior to Joshua.

The promised land is a picture of Heaven, And Rest in Christ.

Our God is the God who created the universe with His words in 6 days and took a rest on the 7th for our benefit. It was all for our benefit and His Glory, for He didn’t even need 6 days to create all that is. He wanted to teach us something about the rhythm of life, about night and day, and light and dark, and work and sweat and joy an rest. All things He is teaching us.

 

Rest. How do we do that? One theologian whom Jesus loves, writes,

 

“When we listen to His voice and obey, we enter a rest where striving ceases. Because we are admitting that our sin is too great and we need Him. We can’t earn His favor, so we stop kicking and screaming and rest like a toddler in his car seat. In contrast, verse 11. disobedience produces the opposite of rest. We might think our sinful striving is getting us somewhere, but we are walking in the wrong direction on an escalator. Sometimes sin is lazy. But sometimes it is busy and arrogant and it thinks it can reach God. True obedience means admitted that we need rest, and that rest is found in Christ alone.”

Hebrews 4:12-13 You Can Believe All Of This Because The Word Is True & Trust Worthy.

 

Hebrews 4:12-13

12 For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. 

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

 

Read the Bible. Reading the Bible will do more for your formation as a Christian than anything else. Reading the Bible will help you know God more than anything else. Reading the Bible will help you walk in obedience more than anything else, nothing else compares or competes with simply making time to read the Bible and believing what you have read. We are people of The Book.

 

We must give an account for everything we have done, says verse 13. All these verses are leading us to verse 13. Trust in Christ, Rest in Christ, serve Christ, follow Christ, so that your tongue will be ready to confess Christ as your only plea and source of confidence on the the Great Last Day.

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Writers, Social Media, And The Heart.

Somewhere, out there, far beyond the prairie, beyond the mountains forever stretching their stony fingers toward the handy work of God, beyond beaches, even… lurks the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. It is an elusive and accidental creature animated by the sons of Adam the size of Texas, yet, undetectable by the cosmic satellites we’ve built to keep an eye on such things. But it’s there all the same, just under the surface of things. It is a vortex of all that is untethered, tethered to all that is untethered. The current pushes the patch here and there, like a plastic Wal-Mart bag carried by every wind.

 

Writers & Readers

 

Beloved writers, why does this remind me of how we all too often are on social media?

Beloved readers: when you read an article, regardless of the wordsmithing and passion, ask yourself whether the author is tethered to their local Church. Ask yourself whether this author has any sort of pastoral heart for you, or the people their articles so often throw under the bus.

 

Words matter. Words are powerful.

 

I am a Pastor because Jesus is the Word made flesh, and He reveals Himself, among other things, in a book. I’m a writer because He has ordered my heart and mind in such a fashion, and when I write, I do so with fear and trembling because I realize that I have great power in these small words. Even in the incredibly small gift God has granted me there is great power, and I wonder: Am I humble enough to use this power for good? Have I the discernment to use this small mustard seed the Crucified Carpenter King has given me to build up His kingdom rather than my own fiefdom of tyranny?

I have written some on suffering. I believe that the best writers have skin in the game, that vulnerability is often credibility. Yet, vulnerability should never be viewed as the currency by which we pay for platform. I suppose I should stop pussyfooting around and simply state that my pastoral heart is grieved by what I see as manufactured grief produced for the sake of procuring likes and shares. We need to tell truth to power and yet we need to tell truth to ourselves as well. I’m not saying your grief is manufactured, I’m saying if it is you need to check yourself.

And it seems, and feels, like we at times have turned our brothers and sisters into behemoths: monolithic, faceless monsters on whom we can pin our troubles through words and tears in order to win the laudatory label “Brave”. We write that the Church, or the Evangelicals, or whomever, did this, that, or the other thing in cold blood, seemingly forgetting that we are the Church, and collective repentance is all too often lacking in these blogs and twitter rendezvous.

 

The Rat Race Will Run You Down

 

The pressure to produce yet another successful blog or tweet has caused some to feign wounds. Yes, we are to be truth tellers, but we are also supposed to be forgivers of trespasses.

It’s become easy to see which way the wind is blowing and to shoot our wounded accordingly. No one has a bigger target on her back than the Church. Obviously she has her sins, if you want to know why, gaze into your local pond, or baring that, head for a mirror.

What’s missing in so many exchanges and articles on social media is a pastoral heart for the reader and those we write contra to. One need not be a Pastor to have the pastoral heart. But, do not write if you’ve forgotten how to love.

In Matthew 9 the Lord Jesus had people tugging at His clothes, hounding Him, following Him, and laughing at Him. The Scriptures tell us what was going on in His divine heart…

Seeing the people, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without * a shepherd.” ~ Matthew 9.36 (NASB)

When I write, and interact with my fellow image bearers on social media I try to be mindful that I am an under-shepherd beneath The Crucified Carpenter King. I try to remember that 1 Timothy 3:1-7 says I should be above reproach, self-controlled, respectable, gentle, not quarrelsome, and able to teach. It should be noted that if one is cold hearted toward his fellow man, he is not as able to teach. He will not be listened to by those with whom he disagrees, which is why so much of what we see online is nothing more than a tribal red meat potluck served up in comments, likes and RT’s.

The problem is much larger than believers forsaking the accountability and teaching of the local Church in favor of podcasts: it’s the untethered “thought leader” teaching online followers without a lifeline to the pastoral heart that must govern the shepherd.

The dumpster fire we so often are burned by on social media is the result of the untethered, tethering themselves to the untethered.

If you have to defend a writer with, “He’s really quite nice in person.” there’s a problem, and the problem isn’t how they are in person.

Before you write, and before you read, remember what the Apostle Paul wrote to young Timothy,

“But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.” ~ 1st Timothy 1.5 (NASB)

 

And…

 

“Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead…”

~ 2nd Timothy 2.8a (NASB)

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