At the beginning of worship every week, you are called to worship. The Call to Worship is labeled Entrance in your bulletin and includes our processional hymn, the Greeting, and our opening Prayer, the Collect for Purity. At the beginning of the worship service, you are summonsed by the God of the whole universe to worship, to enter into His presence, to hear His voice, to eat and fellowship with Him and one another together, and to receive His blessing. One way of thinking about the Call to Worship at the beginning of the service is as nothing less than the Call of Jesus to follow Him as His disciple. Remember at the beginning of the gospels, Jesus walks around telling people to follow Him. He calls James and John, Simon Peter and Andrew to leave their fathers and the nets in their boats to follow Him. He calls Matthew at the tax office. He calls Philip and then Nathanael from under a fig tree. At one point Jesus called a man to follow Him who asked if he might first go and bury his father. But Jesus said, let the dead bury their dead, but you go and preach the kingdom of God. The Call to Worship is the Call to Discipleship, the Call to follow Jesus, to obey Him, to leave everything behind for Him, to preach the gospel of the Kingdom. This is not just something we do, something we say to start the service. This is God addressing you, calling you, and we respond committing ourselves to Him, swearing allegiance to Him. We are here standing in your gates O, Jerusalem. Our help is in the Name of the Lord, Maker of heaven and earth. Continue Reading…
Archives For Bible – Luke
If the church identifies its structures, its leadership, its liturgy, its buildings, or anything else with its Lord — and that’s what happens if you ignore the ascension or turn it into another way of talking about the Spirit — what do you get? You get, on the one hand, what Shakespeare called, ‘the insolence of office’ and, on the other hand, the despair of late middle age, as people realize it doesn’t work… Only when we grasp firmly that the church is not Jesus and Jesus is not the church — when we grasp, in other words, the truth of the ascension, that the one who is indeed present with us by the Spirit is also the Lord who is strangely absent, strangely other, strangely different from us and over against us, the one who tells Mary Magdalene not to cling to him — only then are we rescued from both hollow triumphalism and shallow despair.
- N.T. Wright, Surprised by Hope, 113.
Our sermon text is about a new Exodus that God promises through Isaiah, an Exodus out of exile into freedom, into glory. In the gospels, the turning point in Jesus’ ministry, when He turns His face toward Jerusalem, is the transfiguration, when Moses and Elijah appear with Jesus, and He shines with the glory of His coming victory. And Luke’s gospel says explicitly that what they talked about was the Exodus that He was about to perform in Jerusalem (Lk. 9:31). In other words, the great Exodus that Isaiah foretold began when the exiles returned under Cyrus, but that only prefigured the Great Exodus of Jesus. And like the first Exodus, Jesus began with a meal, shared with His disciples, and He told them to keep celebrating it until He comes again in glory. Isaiah commands a number of things for keeping the Passover Feast which we should keep in mind: Wake up, get dressed, be on the look out, rejoice, get ready to leave, and the sign of their departure will be God’s servant, a new Moses, who will be greatly exalted, but He will be surprising because His appearance will be marred. Week after week, we come to this same table, to celebrate this same Exodus, and so the commands are still for us: Continue Reading…
The greatest thing is knowing God. 1 John was written to give assurance of what it means to know God: keeping His commandments (1 Jn. 2:3-4), being children of God (forgiven & freed from sin) (1 Jn. 3:1-6), listening to the Apostles (1 Jn. 4:6), loving others (1 Jn. 4:7-8), having the Holy Spirit (1 Jn. 4:13), knowing that Jesus is the Son of God and in Him is eternal life (1 Jn. 5:20).
Summary of the Text: Stephen gives us inspired commentary on our text in his sermon in Acts 7. He says that the history of Israel from Abraham to Moses to Solomon was always all about knowing God, walking with God, relying on God. The land, the mountain meetings, the tabernacle and temple, were always all about knowing God, meeting with God. Stephen calls the Jews “stiff-necked” because God has shown up right in front of them and they killed Him. Following Israel’s sin, God offers to lead Israel into the land and drive out their enemies but will not go up “in their midst,” – a definite change from the original plan, which included God dwelling with His people, meeting with them, speaking with them (25:8, 29:42-46). God says He could come into their midst, but He would consume them (33:5). This cannot be because of the presence of sin per se, otherwise the original plan for the tabernacle and sacrificial system would make no sense. Rather, God is questioning whether Israel really wants to be in covenant with Him, and this is signified by the command to remove the “ornaments” which Ezekiel 16 says were tokens of Israel’s maturity and marriage to God (Ez. 16:7-11). Continue Reading…
Last week we framed this covenant renewal scene as God’s aim to clothe His son, Israel, in His glory. The wind and words of Sinai were ultimately accomplished at Pentecost, through the Spirit of Jesus, undoing all guilt and shame. The initial commands regarding worship are an invitation into this glory. We continue into the “judgments” today.
We already considered the introductory directions concerning worship (20:18-26). But the judgments themselves begin with instructions for the care of male and female servants (21:1-11). This may seem random, but it fits with the historical context, as Israel has just been redeemed from slavery. But the law of love of God and neighbor is also illustrated here: you can’t say you love God if you don’t love your neighbor, and this particularly includes the most vulnerable neighbors around you (servants, women, elderly). The judgments begin here and then proceed from the most severe abuse of neighbor (murder) (21:12) to the less severe crimes (accidental damage of goods) (22:15). We should note that these commands are connected to the introductory instructions of worship since all of life is before the “altar” of God (21:14). While penalties are provided for the most severe crimes (22:14, 16, 17, etc.), the principle is stated at the end of the section covering direct physical harm: eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth (21:24-25). Some acts of scorn amount to murder, such as cursing or striking one of your parents (21:15, 17), and this is consistent with Jesus’ teaching that hatred and cursing is a form of murder (Mt. 5:21-22). Likewise, kidnapping amounts to taking life (21:16). The Bible considers animals and property to be extensions of their owners, and this is the basis for restitution. Owners are liable for the actions of their animals (21:28-32, 35-36) or anything else under their control that may cause physical harm (21:33-34). Likewise, stealing and property damage are considered lesser but still real attacks on a neighbor, and justice requires restoration and healing (22:1-17).
The instructions for building the altar include the prohibition against making gods of sliver and gold, and this is at least in part because God has spoken directly to them from heaven (20:22-23). The word “elohim” is a common designation for God/gods through the Old Testament, but it is used several times in the Book of the Covenant to describe the judges (Ex. 21:6, 22:8, 9, 22:28(?)). This should not seem that strange since people are made in the image and likeness of God. This goes back to the garden where the serpent said that Eve would become “like God” if she ate from the fruit (Gen. 3:5) and apparently this was true (Gen. 3:22). The early chapters following the Fall trace the story of the “sons of God” (Gen. 5:1-3ff, 6:2), and Israel is explicitly called the “son of God” (Ex. 4:22). Likewise, Psalm 82 refers to judges and rulers as “gods” (Ps. 82:1-8, cf. Ps. 58:1-3). Therefore, God making covenant with Israel is bringing them back into an Eden-like relationship with him. He speaks to his people on the mountain as he did in Eden, and gives them tasks to guard and keep. Continue Reading…
The booklet lists 8 ways to have assurance of salvation but begins with the recommendation to read 1 John which is written “so that you may know that you have eternal life” (1 Jn. 5:13).
Pastor Wilson continues with the following assurances:
1. The Holy Spirit seals, guarantees, and assures us (1 Jn. 4:13, Rom. 8:16-17, Eph. 1:13-14, 2 Cor. 5:5, 1 Cor. 2:11-16).
2. Change of Character: read the lists of the works of the flesh and the fruits of the Spirit in Galatians 5:19-25. Which list characterizes you? Jesus saves out of the first list into the second.
3. Confessing Jesus as Lord (1 Cor. 12:3, Rom. 10:9-10, Lk. 6:45).
4. Obedience: People who are saved obey Jesus (1 Jn. 3:6, 3:9-10, 5:18, 2:3).
5. Discipline: If you are getting away with disobedience, you are not a child of God. If you are being disciplined, pay attention and repent (Heb. 12:5-11). Continue Reading…
The Eighth Word introduces perhaps one of the areas of greatest conflict and stress in all of life: the areas of possessions and property, economics and money. If you are human, you struggle with being at peace with your situation in life and the world around us. Typical situation: Husband is laid back and the wife is stressed. This causes tension in marriages. Are we saving enough? What about health insurance? What about school? Are we giving enough? Are we charitable enough? Children grow up hearing – “That’s sooo expensive. That’s outrageous. That’s a rip off. We can’t afford that.” This can cause tension with kids: how come you get to buy a new four wheeler and can’t get those shoes? Or maybe you have money, but it’s just stressful. Do we buy this or that? Do we go ahead with the remodel or do we upgrade the car or replace the dryer? What if I lose my job? What if we can’t make the mortgage payments?
On the one hand, some of this stress is just called being grown ups, being mature. God wants His people to grow up into wisdom. But the great complicating factor, the thing that makes this truly stressful, worrisome, terrifying is the fact that every descendent of Adam has a fundamental distrust of God and His world. Because of our own sin, we are thieves. We cheat, we steal, we commit fraud, and vandalism. And because we know that we are untrustworthy, we suspect that everyone else and this world in general is untrustworthy. Whatever the gods of this place are up to (economic forces, societal pressures, bad guys, etc.), they are surely trying to steal and cheat.
Luther said that we are all thieves. Calvin said much the same. You steal from God when you do not tithe. You steal from the poor, when you don’t care for them. You steal from others when You try to get something for free or next to nothing. You steal from your wife/children when do not provide for them. Everyone is complicit in the evil economic systems in our world, run by wicked men. Continue Reading…
Physical adultery is always the result of spiritual adultery. If we want to be faithful to our spouse, we must first be faithful to our God.
Joshua gathers all of the elders of Israel together to renew the covenant with them before God (Josh. 24:1). Joshua reviews Israel’s history, particularly focusing on the fact that their ancestors originally worshipped other gods (Josh. 24:2), and yet Yahweh God has been the one who has repeatedly saved, rescued, and blessed (Josh. 24:3-10). God has brought them into the land of promise and drove out the nations before them, not with their sword or bow (Josh. 24:11-12). God has lavished blessings upon His people and calls them to fidelity to Him, putting away the gods their fathers served (Josh. 24:13-15). The people respond by saying that they will serve the Lord since He has done all these things (Josh. 24:16-18). But Joshua is not satisfied, and pushes back, telling them that God is holy and jealous, and He will not forgive them if they forsake Him and turn away to other gods (Josh. 24:19-20). But when the people insist, Joshua instructs them to put away the foreign gods and incline their hearts to the Lord (Josh. 24:21-24). So Joshua makes a covenant with the people on that day, writing down the words of the covenant in the book of the Law, and set up a stone as witness of the covenant (Josh. 24:25-28). Continue Reading…
Our Advent and Christmas theme this year is the City of God. Last week we looked at faith and the city of God. This week we’re looking at hope and the city of God. While faith sees and obeys, hope is a fierce comfort, a fortress of rest in the future of God. “Therefore my heart is glad and my glory rejoices; my flesh also will rest in hope” (Ps. 16:9). “Be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart, all you who hope in the Lord” (Ps. 31:24). “Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him for the help of His countenance” (Ps. 42:5). “You are my hiding place and my shield; I hope in Your word” (Ps. 119:114). “Happy is he who has the God of Jacob for his help, whose hope is in the Lord his God” (Ps. 146:5). The NT writers tie hope particularly to the resurrection (e.g. Acts 2:24-32, 23:6, 24:15, 26:6-8, 28:20, Rom. 8:20-25). Hope is expectation, anticipation, desire and longing for God’s promises to be fulfilled.
Summary of the Texts: Isaiah imagines a future city with a marketplace with plenty of water for the thirsty and wine and milk for those without money (55:1). Other markets may have food for sale, but it will not satisfy (55:2). Isaiah says that if Israel listens to God, she will eat what is good (55:2). If she listens carefully, she will live (55:3). This city will be protected by God in a similar way to the way David protected Israel during His reign (55:3-4), but instead of conquering the threatening nations, they will run to the glory of Israel (55:5). If Israel seeks the Lord (55:6), turns from wickedness (55:7), and trusts God’s mysterious ways (55:8-9), listening to His word, they will be a city full of bread (55:10-11). Continue Reading…
Luke describes Zacharias and Elizabeth echoing several OT stories.
First, they are obviously an Abraham and Sarah. They walk in the commandments and ordinances of the Lord “blameless” (1:6, cf. Gen. 17:1). And Elizabeth, like Sarah, is barren. This means John the Baptizer is an Isaac, and perhaps Zacharias’ speechlessness underlines this. Zacharias cannot talk, and therefore, presumably, he cannot laugh. It is not until John is born and named that Zacharias can speak again. Only when his “Isaac/laughter” is born can he speak. And then he bursts out filled the Holy Spirit and singing a prophecy of laughter, rejoicing in the salvation of God (Lk. 1:63-79).
Second, Zacharias and Elizabeth are like Manoah and his wife, the parents of Samson. Again, the mother of Samson is barren, like Elizabeth, and here the Nazirite restrictions are imposed. Like Samson, John is not to drink wine or strong drink, and like Samson, John will be filled with the Holy Spirit for holy war. Both are warriors, and both ultimately give their lives in battle. Given this parallel, the implication is that John’s beheading was not merely a testimony of the wickedness of Herod’s house but a prophetic preview of the end of Herod’s house. When Samson pulled the temple of Dagon down on the Philistines, it was full of Philistine lords. These “heads” along with many other heads were literally crushed in the demolition of the temple, and the writer of Judges explicitly points out that Samson was more effective in breaking the power of the Philistines in his death than in his life (Jdg. 16:30). This parallel Christ’s own death of course, but it also implies that John’s death had something of the same effect. John’s death displays the cruelty and weakness of Herod and in so doing, highlights Herod’s weakness and powerlessness. John’s head on a platter is a preview of Herod’s own demise. Cannibalism is not a sustainable practice.
Finally, Zacharias and Elizabeth are like Elkanah and Hannah, the parents of Samuel. Again, Hannah is barren like Elizabeth, and again there is a Nazirite vow in view. Samuel is also a forerunner just as John is a forerunner. While Samuel initially prepares the way for Saul, it is ultimately David who Samuel anoints as king over Israel. But John is the greater Samuel who reverses the curse of the kingdom. Israel asked for a king and rejected God as their king, desiring to be a kingdom like all of the other nations. But John comes in order to lead Israel back to to her true King, back to her God and to His Kingdom. Jesus is the son of David, but He brings the Kingdom of Heaven which is in many ways nothing like the kingdoms of the nations.