Every Sunday, the deacons bring our tithes and offerings forward and set them here on this table. It’s worth pointing this out because it’s not just a nice thing we do. When we bring your tithes and offerings forward, we are doing it as an act of worship, an act of allegiance, an act of praise to Jesus our King. But when we give our tithes and offerings to the Lord, we are of course only giving back to Him some of what He gave us. Many of you practice learning to tithe with your children, giving them money for jobs around the house, and then teaching them to count out their tithe and bring it to church and put it in the box at the back before the service. But really, all of us are always doing that. Jesus gives us little jobs to do and blesses us and teaches us to remember that it’s all from Him. It all belongs to Him. And so we put our tithes and offerings in the box too. But of course when we give, we are imitating Him too just as our children are imitating us. God is our Father and as His dearly beloved children, we imitate Him by giving. God gives us everything: life, health, children, joy, food, possessions, money, houses, clothing, cars, salvation. Continue Reading…
Archives For TRC
The Heidelberg Catechism famously begins: What is your only comfort in life and in death? That I am not my own but belong body and soul, in life and in death, to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ…
Joseph and Sarah, I know that this question and answer are dear to you. And I know that you intend to teach it to your children. The wonderful thing about this catechism question is that it places our hope completely outside of us. Our comfort in every situation stretching from the very beginning of life at conception all the way to our last breath – our comfort is that we don’t belong to ourselves. We are not our own. We have been purchased by the precious blood of Jesus. We are watched over by God our Father, and we are carried along by His Holy Spirit. We have been freed from ourselves, from our sins, from our failures, from the dominion of the devil – and now we belong to the Triune God: Father, Son, and Spirit.
Of course it’s easier to say than to do. Believing this wonderful gospel has daily implications. It means that our time doesn’t belong to us. It belongs to Jesus. Our houses are not ours. Our money is not ours. Our family is not ours. We are not our own but belong body and soul, in life and in death, to our faithful Savior Jesus Christ. Continue Reading…
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…
And since at the center of the world is Jesus Christ, there is no life outside of Him. All things exist and cohere in Him. Therefore, all counterfeit forms of life have to borrow from Jesus. Jesus said that in order to find your life you have to lose it. The greatest in the kingdom is the servant of all. In other words, because the cross has become the center of all human history, everybody is forced to reckon with it. Everybody, even people with qualms, have to live with this fact. And this means there are really only two options. Some bow before it, in true humility, confessing their sins, receiving forgiveness and cleansing, and then they rise bearing that same cross as God works His life into and out of their lives, joyfully following their Savior. Everybody else, failing to actually bow before Christ, must pretend to have humbled themselves. They must pretend to bear a cross. They muster up some kind of limp. They wear it like a cheap toupee. Ever since Jesus came into the world, the old pagan mythos of arrogant strength has been fading away, and now all true power and strength is found in the cross, or else some kind of faux version made with aspartame and a bad aftertaste.
In other words, everybody likes the idea of humility. Ever since Jesus, humility is heroic. Everybody likes the idea of being humble, but nobody really wants to be humbled. In other words, the popular form of humility is a sort of aw-shucks-taint-nothing sort of demeanor. In the broader Christian world it consists of apologizing for everything as often as possible. It’s telling and a little more than ironic that people often describe being humbled at the very point at which they are receiving some kind of recognition, honors, praise. Continue Reading…
God is love, and this is because He is Trinity. The love that binds the Father and the Son is the Spirit (Rom. 5:5, 15:30, 2 Cor. 13:14, Col. 1:8). God’s love is not just a feeling, an emotion, it’s a fierce, personal, saving loyalty. This is what the Bible calls God’s hesed, His lovingkindness, His covenant mercy toward us (Ex. 34:6-7, Dt. 7:9, Lk. 1:72-73). Today we consider the gift of the Holy Spirit as God’s covenant mercy.
The Text: Psalm 50 begins with God calling Israel to court (Ps. 50:1-7). His complaint is not with their sacrifices per se (50:8), but with the fact that they don’t understand what they mean. God doesn’t need their sacrifices because He’s hungry or poor (50:9-13). He wants their sacrifices to embody their worship, their praise, their loyalty, their need for Him (50:14-15). God’s complaint is with the fact that they take His covenant in their mouth, but they are wicked, hate instruction, are friends with thieves and adulterers, and love lies and slander (50:16-20). God has not kept silent because He doesn’t know about it, so they need to do some serious thinking and seek His salvation or be destroyed (50:21-23). Continue Reading…
In the days of the prophet Elisha, the King of Syria was at war with the northern tribes of Israel. But Elisha frequently knew ahead of time the movements of the armies of Syria, and he would warn the king of Israel. This happened a number of times before the king of Syria became convinced that there was a traitor among his cabinet of advisors or generals. But even they knew what was going on, and they told their master that Elisha was a prophet who might even know what you said in the privacy of your own bedroom. So the king found out where Elisha was staying and sent a great army of horses and chariots and surrounded the city where Elisha and his servant were. When Elisha’s servant woke up in the morning, he saw the great army surrounding the city, and he said, ‘Alas, my master – what shall we do?’ But Elisha answered, “Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” And he prayed and said, “Lord, I pray, open his eyes that he may see.” Then the Lord opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw. And behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha (2 Kgs. 6:8-17).
Where is heaven? Where is heaven? We often ask what heaven is like. What is it like in heaven? What will it be like when we die? But perhaps an equally or more important question is: Where is heaven? And actually, I think answer the question where, goes a good ways toward answering the what.
The answer of the Bible, as illustrated in stories like this one with Elisha and his servant and the armies of Syria, is that heaven is here. Heaven is not far away, on the other side of the galaxies. Heaven is close by, nearby, all around us. But we can’t normally see it. The problem isn’t that heaven is far away. The problem is that we are like the servant of Elisha, and we can’t see it though the heavenly presence of God is all around us.
When Jesus ascended into heaven, fire didn’t shoot out of the soles of his feet. He didn’t blast off like a human rocket into outer space (as cool as that might sound). Luke says He was taken up, but He also says that a cloud received Him and He was taken from their sight. Remember other events like this: Enoch walked with God, and then he was not for God took him. Or God’s heavenly presence in the burning bush and the cloud and fire leading Israel out of Egypt, coming to rest on Mt. Sinai, and then later the glory of the Lord filling the tabernacle and temple. Or Elijah was taken up in a whirlwind. Or Stephen who gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. We gesture upwards, we look up, we lift up our hands and hearts, but the heavenly presence of God seems to break out in various places at various times all around us. Heaven is above us and all around us. Heaven seems to overlap with earth in some sense. Continue Reading…
Almighty and Most Merciful God: You spoke the worlds into existence. The mountains stand by your command. The oceans toss and foam because you tell them to. The earth shakes at the sound of your voice.
When we disobeyed your voice, when we did not love your Word, the world grew wicked and so you spoke a flood. When men despised your word again and lifted themselves up and built a great city with a tower reaching up into the sky. You came down and spoke a flood of confusion. When our fathers went down into a strange land, they became slaved by the gods, by the demons, by their sins, by a wicked tyrant who did not know you who refused to bow to your Word. So you spoke blood in their rivers and sores on their backs. You spoke flies and locusts and you destroyed their land. You put out the light of the wicked and they went down into the darkness of death, but you had mercy on your people and you shined your light upon them, and they walked through the sea unharmed with walls of water on their right hand and on their left.
Again and again, you have been our God. You have been our fortress, our rock, our stronghold, our deliverer, our judge, our Savior. When we have forgotten your word, you have risen up for us. When we have rejected your word, you have had mercy upon us. When tyrants and cruel men have oppressed us and taunted us and sought to crush us, though you have turned your face from us for a little while, your mercies are new every morning. Great is your faithfulness.
And in the fullness of time, you sent your Word, and the Word became flesh dwelt among us. But sinful men hated Your Word again. They despised it. They rejected it. They spat on it. They mocked it. They condemned it. And finally, they crucified it. They hung your Word, Your Good Word, Your Life-Giving Word on a cross. They drove spikes through His hands and feet and they drove a crown of thorns into His head. They pierced His side with a spear. And they buried Him in a tomb, sealed with a stone, and guarded by a regiment of Roman soldiers. Continue Reading…
The Gospel that we looked at last week implies a certain view of God and therefore of man made in His image. The good news that Jesus died for our sins and was raised again for our salvation is only the tip of the iceberg.
The most famous Bible verse: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (Jn. 3:16)
Notice two things: God has an “only begotten son.” This implies that there is already community/family in God Himself. Second, notice that God loves. In 1 John, it says that God is love. Furthermore, here, John says that God’s love extends to the world. Last week we established the fact that ever since the first sin of Adam, man has been ungodly, sinners, and enemies of God. This has brought death and destruction and confusion and pain into the world. Again, John says that because of God’s great love for the world, He gave His only Son (cf. Rom. 5:8). And we know that this love is an overflow of the love God the Father has for His Son (Jn. 3:35, 5:20, 10:17, 17:24).
Finally, we have the final marching orders of Jesus after His resurrection: “Go therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you…” (Mt. 28:19-20)
Putting all of this together, we should make several points: First, here we have what Christians call the doctrine of the Trinity. This is a word that the Church coined early on to describe the One, True God as a “Tri-Unity” – God is three persons that exist eternally as only one God. We do not worship three gods. Nor are we Unitarian. Much could be said on this, but we’ll keep our comments short: 1. There is only one God because this is how God revealed Himself to Israel (Dt. 6:4). 2. This one God exists in three distinct persons: Father, Son, and Spirit. The Father is God. The Son is God. The Spirit is God. Three persons in One God. 3. The Trinity is how love and community are inherent in the nature of God. God is Himself a community of persons that share eternal love with one another. 4. Man was created to share in this Triune community of love. But we rebelled and rejected God’s love and built our own cities and kingdoms in anger and bitterness and bloodshed. But God in His mercy came and sought us by His own Son who suffered in our place, rose up victorious over the curse of death, ascended to heaven and poured out His Spirit upon all who believe. Continue Reading…
A Christian is someone who believes that the answer to all the brokenness, pain, and evil in this world is the death of a man named Jesus two thousand years ago.
How could the death of one man be the answer to terrorism, abuse, betrayal, cancer, or crime?
The answer is that this man Jesus was not like any other man who has ever lived or ever will live. This man was actually the One who made this world.
Despite the horror, despite the pain, despite the senseless evil that has filled this world, this world is still filled with unexplainable, astounding glory and beauty. From sunsets to galaxies, from laughter to love, from music to dance to ice cream — this world is gut-wrenchingly good.
Christians believe that God made this world and loaded it with glory. He invented this place. He imagined this place. And He filled it with treasures and wonders and pleasure and beauty. But men and women have not listened to His voice. We wanted to go our own way. We wanted to be our own bosses, our own gods. Instead of listening to the words of the Inventor of the universe, we decided to listen to other words, to make up our own words.
This rejection of the Good God who made this good world is called sin. And since God invented life, and His word is what gives life to all things, to turn away from His word, to turn away from His life, is ultimately to embrace death. The wages of sin is death. Sin is asking for death. Therefore sin deserves death. Of course people don’t think that they are begging for death when they sin, when they disobey the voice of God, but still we sin and still death comes again and again and again. Continue Reading…
Second Sunday in Easter: Col. 3:1-11
What is life? What does it mean to be alive?
On the one hand we might define it purely physically, biologically: a heart beat, lungs breathing, a certain level of brain wave activity. When God created Adam, He breathed life into him, and he became a living being.
But one of the claims that we make as Christians is that life is more than just breathing. Life is more than a heartbeat. It includes those things, but it’s not limited to those things.
There could be ways of taking a sermon series called “Jesus is Enough” in an overly simplistic way. Some people say that Jesus is enough and so they don’t go to the doctor. Others may say they believe that Jesus is enough and it becomes the equivalent of little sticker on their Bible. But when we say that Jesus is enough we don’t mean that this is a small thing, like something that might fit in your pocket. Jesus created the world. Jesus rules all things. In Jesus are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. Jesus is enough because everything worth anything is found in Him. When we talk about Jesus, we’re talking about the one who invented life, the one in whom all life exits: or as Paul puts it, not only are all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge “hid” in Christ, now so is our life (Col. 3:3).
What does that mean? What does it mean to have your life hidden in Christ? Continue Reading…