My Sheep Hear My Voice: The Hope of the Addict

I just received a book from a man I have never met, but who sought me a few years ago. He had written a book about his journey from addiction to non-addiction. I phrase it in those words because there wasn’t much he was going to when he left his addiction, except the non-practice of that addiction.

It has been a few years, and now that same book has been revised. I intend to provide a video review for him on youtube. I wrote a short review here some years ago. The revised book has a new title: My Journey Through Addictions to Salvation: A New Beginning. This is no longer an addiction to non-addiction journey, but one from misery to grace.

The Gospel Lesson for this Lord’s Day in John 10:22-30 is a reminder of this grace. Jesus calls His sheep, and what is unique about this calling is that His sheep have a uniquely tuned ear to realize that the voice calling is of their Shepherd.

The question before us is not whether we can free ourselves from addiction; the world has perfected that art in many ways, but the question is to what are we going to after the addiction? If this is going to be a long journey, then what is waiting at the end of that journey? Is it the absence of pills and alcohol? Or is it the presence of the Shepherd who calls you by name?

The reality is that for the addict who is free from his dependence he will always be seeking something to fill that gap. Previously drugs and alcohol (or whatever it might have been) filled that need, but Jesus promises to be the ultimate protector and satisfaction for His sheep. He will be the supplier of that need and no one will snatch His sheep from finding satisfaction in Him.

Advertisements
Posted in Christian Liberty, Christian Living, Culture, Tolle Lege | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Gosnell and the Boston Marathon

One of the great problems of our society is the problem of prioritization. We have not disciplined ourselves. We have a disjointed hierarchy. Since this is the case we walk around limping as a culture. Christians, the architects of society, have a particular distaste for priorities. They want to tackle too many issues with the same level of enthusiasm and dedication. As a result, we have lost our battles again and again. I am not implying that we need to forget certain issues, but that we need to give more attention to others.

One such example of this is the recent cases of Kermit Gosnell and the Boston Marathon Bombing. The media has overwhelmed us with terrorist experts. They have played images again and again. On the other hand–by comparison–the media has avoided the details of the Gosnell case. Where are the terrorist experts when we need them? The grand jury transcripts are all available. The details are gruesome. While Planned Parenthood laments how dirty Gosnell’s facility was and how much cleaner their deaths are, we need to keep first things first. One monster who keeps body parts as souvenirs is no different than another monster who prefers to dispose of body parts. They are all guilty and filthy in every way.

We weep and expect quick judgment to befall the protagonists of the evil that occurred in Boston. The Boston Marathon bombing offered us a glimpse into sin ( I offered a prayer here), but the slaughtered body parts of born infants offers us a gigantic display of the barbaric nature of sin. This is what priorities look like.  Though Christ bore every sin, not every sin is alike. Though people die, not every death is alike. Though catastrophes happen, not every catastrophe is alike.  We know this instinctively, but at times we are afraid to bring it to light. Some may fear we are trivializing an atrocity to bring light to another. This is not the case. I am simply pointing out that certain atrocities are so humanly appalling that it deserves more light than others. I am trying to reverse the prioritization of a culture. I am asserting that not all evil acts are created equal. I am also affirming that God’s wrath burns brighter in some cases over others. I am asserting that when what God so wonderfully made (Ps. 139) is torn and broken, our weeping should last longer.

Marc Lamont Hill made clear his priorities when he stated the following recently:

“For what it’s worth, I do think that those of us on the left have made a decision not to cover this trial because we worry that it’ll compromise abortion rights. Whether you agree with abortion or not, I do think there’s a direct connection between the media’s failure to cover this and our own political commitments on the left. I think it’s a bad idea, I think it’s dangerous, but I think that’s the way it is.”

This type of clarity is rare, but refreshing. It is refreshing in an extremely morbid sense. Hill is one of those that acknowledge that his ideology is to be preferred over what is good, true, and beautiful. Simply put, a philosophy of death needs to prevail. Robert Frost once humorously observed that “In three words I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life: it goes on.” The humor vanishes when we consider that for those dismembered infants life barely started. We lack moral prioritization.

So while we offer our prayers to the suffering and grieving in Boston, let us remember and keep reminding everyone through whatever means that what monsters do to the least of these must not be forgotten. Let us keep reminding everyone and ourselves that what monsters do seconds after birth or seconds (or months) before birth is no different. Let us keep reminding the world that God will not overlook evil. Let us keep first things first. 

Posted in Life Issues | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Prayer Concerning the Events at the Boston Marathon

Most Gracious Lord,

Holy and Blessed be Your Name forever and ever.

History tells us that evil exists. The bombing at the Boston Marathon is a reminder that the effects of sin live on in this world. And in moments like these creation’s expectation increases for a recreated cosmos.

The Psalmist tells us that evil people are trapped by what they have done. We pray that their traps will swallow them. We pray also that your righteous sword will act speedily in dealing with these unrighteous acts committed by lovers of evil.

We pray especially that those deacons of righteousness would act speedily on behalf of those who grieve. May unrighteousness perish!

We are also mindful of those who lost loved ones. We ask that you would comfort them by your Spirit. As the Gospels attest, we pray for the ultimate triumph of good in this world. And for this to happen your Church needs to act in deed and mercy towards those who weep. May we grieve together and never forget that only Christ can truly wipe away our tears.

We ask that you would provide wisdom to pastors, especially in Boston, as they guide their congregations this coming Lord’s Day in prayer and supplication.

In times like these, we are reminded of our finiteness. We are reminded that we are as vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. So remind us, O Lord, that our days are numbered, but also refresh our hearts in the task before us. May we not grow weary in doing good, and though our days are numbered, your kingdom has no end.

Our prayers are not in vain, because we ask these things in the Name of the merciful Lord; the One who never closes His eyes or ears to the cries of His children. Lord, hear our prayer.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Posted in Prayers | Tagged , , , , , , | 3 Comments

In Honor of Jonathon Sutton

Read the Obituary written by Caleb Sutton

His name was Jonathon Sutton. He was one of the rare ones. His gentle spirit was captivating. His soft smile and joyful disposition were contagious. He loved life and life seemed to return the favor. ALS was harsh and painful to this saint, but God was not. God comforted Jonathon with gentle words and a soft embrace. His soul now enjoys bliss; the type of bliss we read in Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress. Yes, it is the bliss of the discontinuation of pain and the continuation of endless delight in the presence of the God he so cherished.

My interactions with Jonathon were many, but now I wish I had many more. I first met Jonathon in one of my interviews for my job at Providence Church at a Cracker Barrel. He and Mickey Schneider were part of Providence’s session on a temporary basis before I was hired. This was in 2008. I took the job and got to know Jonathon well. Some months later he was there with other pastors laying hands on me as I was ordained to the pastoral office.

My mentor, Mickey Schneider, spoke of Jonathon often when I first arrived. He admired Jonathon. He spoke of his constant encouragement to his ministry over the years. He spoke of Jonathan with a glow in his eyes; the type of glow that tells you without a shadow of a doubt that this man is worth knowing. I sat in Mickey’s office too many times to count and marveled as he told endless stories about his faithful elder, Jonathon Sutton.

Jonathon loved the Church. He counted his role as an Elder at Trinity Presbyterian as a noble role. It was not hard to detect his love for the people. Among the many blessings he brought to those saints was the gift of music. Luther once wrote:

“Next to the Word of God, the noble art of music is the greatest treasure in the world.

Jonathon loved music, but his love of music was never for self-gain, but always for the sake of others. The saints at Trinity gained immensely from it. His own family gained from it. And as a result they all blessed the world with it.

As Jonathon leaves behind a legacy of humility, love, gentleness, and faithfulness, our community weeps in a minor chord knowing that our hope is in a major chord called the resurrection.

May your body rest in peace until it is raised again incorruptible.

R.I.P Jonathon Sutton (1958-2013)

Posted in Tribute | 1 Comment

The Benefits of Lectionary Preaching

When I arrived at my local congregation in Pensacola we were using the Revised Common Lectionary. The RCL is a fine Lectionary and provides a wonderful tour of the Scriptures in a three year cycle. But as time went on I realized that the RCL was fond of omitting controversial texts in its cycles. Through the influence of man like Jeffrey Meyers and Jim Jordan I came to realize that there was an alternative Lectionary, namely, the Lutheran Missouri Synod Lectionary (LCMS) who not only dealt with the difficult passages, but also honored Reformation Sunday. We quickly switched to LCMS a few years ago and haven’t looked back.

N.T. Wright also noticed this trend in his own tradition when he wrote the following:

“Whenever you see, in an official lectionary, the command to omit two or three verses, you can normally be sure that they contain words of judgment. Unless, of course, they are about sex.”

Anyone who has been sitting under Lectionary preaching is often more aware of the flow of the Biblical text since the sermons/homilies cover more territory in a year (on a typical year I will give my parishioners an overview of at least 10-15 books of the Bible. This has been my experience. On the other hand, Sunday School lessons can cover a more long term expository-based look into the Scriptures. Our former Sunday School teacher, James Jordan, spent over 30 Sundays on the “Exodus” themes in the Bible. Naturally, preachers are not bound to the Lectionary Lessons (especially during the Pentecost/Trinity Season). Certain times of the year may demand a more personalized sermons to address particular needs or concerns in the congregation.

As for the Lectionary, when it is not hindered by theological fears, it can serve as a remarkable immersion and re-immersion into the Scriptures every three years. It is incumbent upon pastors as they invest on these texts to provide a clear and fresh perspective on these narratives. Repetition is good. And the constant working through the broadness of the Gospel story can be a fruitful liturgical work.

Pastors too benefit greatly from it. As I navigate through the high church year (Advent-Easter) it is always encouraging to detail and consider these marvelous gospel texts that shape our faith and even our own lives.

Christ is risen!

Posted in Advent, Ascension, Attributes of God, Augustine, Catholic, Catholic, Reformed, and Orthodox Resources, Christendom, Christian Living, Christmas, Church Calendar, Lectionary Readings | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Dave Hunt Dies

dave-hunt-woman-rides-the-beast-catholic-church-vaticanI had the opportunity to meet Dave Hunt on a couple of occasions. I sat attentively in one of his talks where he opposed Calvinism. If my memory serves me right, he said something like this:

I was amazed at what I discovered when I deeply researched Roman Catholicism. I came to the conclusion that it is not a Christian Church. I could not believe how much falsehood they affirmed. But I was even more deeply amazed when I began researching Calvinism. It is a web a lies. It causes people to trust in the philosophies of men rather than in the Word of God.

In those days I had been reading through Norman Geisler’s Chosen, but Free. I thought it was a good response to the Calvinist claims. I even taught a Sunday School class in a Baptist Church following that paradigm. I now see Geisler’s treatise as the blending of a schizophrenic philosophy with a high dose of mis-characterized Calvinism.

A few years later Dave Hunt came to town (Tampa Bay) to lecture on this supposed highly problematic doctrine. This was before the publishing of What Love is This? Even then, I had already imbibed of a good dose of Tulip Theology thanks to Michael Horton’s Putting Amazing Back Into Grace. Hunt’s lecture was filled with silly analogies, and my zealous Calvinism saw it for what it was.

Years earlier I had read some of Hunt’s prophetic literature and found it compelling, especially when he combined the false teachings of cults with the coming anti-Christ. He portrayed the world and its future in such dark categories that it was easy to adopt a pessimistic eschatology. In his latter years, Hunt continued his eschatology talks, but focused his attention on his crusade against Calvinism, or as one endorsement referred to it as the “abuses of Calvinism.”His talks and radio show, and the endorsement of almost the entirety of the well-known Calvary Chapel movement made him an anti-Calvinist rock star.

The reason for this short piece is that Dave Hunt died yesterday. It is common courtesy to extend sympathy to memory of those who have died in Christ. I especially wish peace on his wife Ruth and other family members. Hunt offered some very helpful apologetic material early on. He lived a fruitful professional life. Unfortunately to those of us in the Reformed community, Hunt offered some very unwise counsel. His dispensational prophetic interests created–in my estimation–a distorted expectation in the Christian Church. Many have bought into a misguided eschatology and have as a result offered a poor apologetic for the role of the Church in the culture, and the clear biblical vision of bringing all things in submission to King Jesus.

So as one more important piece of dispensational history departs to the presence of our blessed Lord–and Dave Hunt, in my limited knowledge of him loved His Lord Jesus Christ–let us move history into better theological pastures. Let’s raise a generation of optimistic thinkers who battle cults, but then offer a strong apologetic–a Trinitarian one–to fight it. And as we do so, let us not use our cult apologetic to justify or validate our doomsday theology.

And on the Calvinism front, may God raise gentle Calvinists who will argue for grace from the foundation of grace. When we do so, let us also represent our Arminian brothers with utmost respect.

Rest in Peace, David Hunt.

Posted in Arminianism, Augustine, Baptists, Book Reviews, Calvin/Calvinism, Catholic, Christian Liberty, Christian Living | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

The Brothers Karamazov and the Apostle Thomas

In the compelling narrative of The Brothers Karamazov, Dostoevsky  elaborates a little, but beautifully on Thomas’ encounter with our Lord:

The Apostle Thomas said that he would not believe till he saw, but when he did see he said, “My Lord and my God!” Was it the miracle forced him to believe? Most likely not, but he believed solely because he desired to believe and possibly he fully believed in his secret heart even when he said, “I do not believe till I see.”

 

Posted in Christian Living, Church Calendar | 1 Comment

O Sons and Daughters Let Us Sing!

O fil­ii et fil­i­ae (O Sons and Daughters) by Jean Tiss­er­and is a 16th century hymn later translated from Latin into English. It is a fitting hymn for this Second Sunday of Easter when liturgically the Church addresses Thomas’ encounter with the risen Christ (John 20:19-31). The hymn describes richly the Johannine account beginning with the faithful women’s encounter with the empty tomb and the angelic messengers. The hymn is quite stunning and a careful narrative of that historic day when Thomas acknowledged Jesus to be His Lord and His God:

O sons and daughters, let us sing!
The King of Heaven, the glorious King,
Over death today rose triumphing.
Alleluia! Alleluia!

That Easter morn, at break of day,
The faithful women went their way
To seek the tomb where Jesus lay.
Alleluia! Alleluia!

An angel clad in white they see,
Who sat, and spake unto the three,
“Your Lord doth go to Galilee.”
Alleluia! Alleluia!

That night th’apostles met in fear;
Amidst them came their Lord most dear,
And said, “My peace be on all here.”
Alleluia! Alleluia!

When Thomas first the tidings heard,
How they had seen the risen Lord,
He doubted the disciples’ word.
Alleluia! Alleluia!

“My piercèd side, O Thomas, see;
My hands, My feet, I show to thee;
Not faithless but believing be.”
Alleluia! Alleluia!

No longer Thomas then denied;
He saw the feet, the hands, the side;
“Thou art my Lord and God,” he cried.
Alleluia! Alleluia!

How blessed are they who have not seen,
And yet whose faith has constant been;
For they eternal life shall win.
Alleluia! Alleluia!

On this most holy day of days
Our hearts and voices, Lord, we raise
To Thee, in jubilee and praise.
Alleluia! Alleluia!


 

Posted in Music | Tagged | Leave a comment

He Breathed on them

Calvin writes about our Lord’s commissioning of his disciples in John 20:

“And, indeed, to govern the Church of God, to carry the embassy of eternal salvation, to erect the kingdom of God on earth, and to raise men to heaven, is a task far beyond human capacity…no one is qualified unless he is inspired by the Holy Spirit… to perform such an office.”[1]


[1] John Calvin, Commentary on the Gospel of St. John, 20:22.

Posted in Calvin/Calvinism | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Bring Out the Champagne! The Party Has Just Begun!

Easter is gone, right? Actually Easter has just begun! The Easter Season lasts for 50 days. It is glorified in the PENT-ecost season. According to the Christian Calendar, Easter lasts until May 19th (Pentecost Sunday). But didn’t we spend ourselves bodily and spiritually this past Lord’s Day? If that’s the case, stir yourselves unto good works. The party has just begun!

We–who are liturgically minded–tend to carefully attend to the Lenten and Advent Calendar, but yet we forget that apart from the Resurrection Lent and Advent would not make any sense. After all, what are we expecting? A virgin birth to a son who would simply die at the age of 33? What are we expecting? A perpetually closed tomb? A sight for annual pilgrimages to Israel?

I am suggesting we need to stock up in our champagne bottles. Every Sunday meal needs to start with the popping of a champagne bottle. “Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! POP! “Children, that’s the sound of victory!”

For every day of Easter, set aside a little gift for your little ones or your spouse. We set 100 Easter eggs aside for our two oldest children and let them open them up each day. Other traditions can be added, of course. We indulge in Easter hymnody and Psalmnody.  Easter is no time to get back to business as usual, it’s time to elevate the party spirit.

With that in mind, here are a few suggestions for these next 46 days:

First, for evening family readings, meditate specifically on the Resurrection account and the post-resurrection accounts. Digest every detail of the gospels, and also allow St. Paul to add his resurrection theology in I Corinthians 15.

Second, teach one another the art of hope. We live in a hopeless culture. We walk around with little enthusiasm for what God is doing in our midst. We also don’t believe that God is changing us and conforming us to the image of His son. We need to–especially in this season–to rejoice more with those who rejoice and encourage more those who weep with the hope granted to us in the Resurrection of our Messiah.

Third, invest in changing your community. Ask your pastor in what ways can you be more fruitful in your service to the congregation. Consider also your neighbors. Do you know them? If you do, how many have been in your homes for a meal or a drink, or simply to talk?

Fourth, play Easter music in your home and in the office. Here are some selections of great CDs or MP3’s.

Finally, avoid the introspective rituals that are so prevalent in our Christian culture. Do not allow doubts to overtake you. Think of your Triune baptism. Trust in Christ fervently. Allow the Covenant of Grace to shape your identity. The resurrection of Jesus was the confirmation that those in Christ are made for glory. Look to Jesus and serve Jesus by serving others. By doing so, you will not grow weary in doing well, and you will learn to party beside the empty tomb.

Christ is Risen!

Posted in Apologetics, Beer/Wine/Tobacco, History, Home, Hospitality, Humility, Humor, Lent, Links, Liturgy, Lordship, Random Thoughts, Reflections, Religious Art, Resurrection | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

John Piper’s First Day of Not Being a Pastor Anymore

The well-known Baptist minister, John Piper, has officially stepped down from Bethlehem Baptist Church. His long career, and his plethora of books have been a source of tremendous delight for many in the evangelical world. In this short post, he offers his  thoughts on the first day of not being a pastor anymore. He concludes with these words:

Therefore, as I woke up on this Monday morning for the first time in 33 years without the official mantle of pastor, the only tears that came were tears of thankfulness. And under them was a great joy. It is finished. It has a completeness to it. God started it. God sustained it. God ended it. And I have loved it. And I love looking back on it, complete. Imperfect in a hundred ways, but not because it was too long or too short. Being Bethlehem’s pastor has been my life. But now it is finished. And I am thrilled at what lies ahead — for her and for me. Especially in a thousand years.

Read…

 

Posted in Baptists, Tribute | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

On the Death of Bonhoeffer

The doctor who witnessed Bonhoeffer’s execution described it this way:

Early the next morning, April 9, Bonhoeffer, Wilhelm Canaris, Hans Oster, and four fellow conspirators were hanged at the extermination camp of Flossenbürg. The camp doctor, who had to witness the executions, remarked that he watched Bonhoeffer kneel and pray before being led to the gallows. “I was most deeply moved by the way this lovable man prayed, so devout and so certain that God heard his prayer,” he wrote. “At the place of execution, he again said a short prayer and then climbed the steps to the gallows, brave and composed. . . . In the almost fifty years that I worked as a doctor, I have hardly ever seen a man die so entirely submissive to the will of God.”

Posted in Culture, Gospel | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

What is Holy Saturday?

The Passion Week provides vast theological emotions for the people of God. Palm Sunday commences with the entrance of a divine King riding on a donkey. He comes in ancient royal transportation. That royal procession concludes with a Crucified Messiah exalted on a tree.

The Church also celebrates Maundy Thursday as our Messiah’s commandment to love one another just as He loved us. We then proceed to sing of the anguish of that Good Friday as our blessed Lord is humiliated by soldiers and scolded by the unsavory words of the religious leaders of the day. As he walks to the Mount his pain testifies to Paul’s words that he suffered even to the point of death. But hidden in this glaringly distasteful mixture of blood, vinegar, and bruised flesh is the calmness of the day after our Lord’s crucifixion.

After fulfilling the great Davidic promise in Psalm 22, our Lord rests from his labors in the tomb. Whatever may have happened in those days prior to his resurrection, we know that Christ’s work was finished.

The Church calls this day Blessed Sabbath or more commonly Holy Saturday. On this day our Lord reposed (rested) from his accomplishments. Many throughout history also believe that Holy Saturday is a fulfillment of Moses’ words:

God blessed the seventh day. This is the blessed Sabbath. This is the day of rest, on which the only-begotten Son of God rested from all His works . . .(Gen. 2:2)

The Church links this day with the creation account. On day seven Yahweh rested and enjoyed the fruit of his creation. Jesus Christ also rested in the rest given to him by the Father and enjoyed the fruits of the New Creation he began to establish and would be brought to light on the next day.

As Alexander Schmemann observed:

Now Christ, the Son of God through whom all things were created, has come to restore man to communion with God. He thereby completes creation. All things are again as they should be. His mission is consummated. On the Blessed Sabbath He rests from all His works.

Holy Saturday is a day of rest for God’s people; a foretaste of the true Rest that comes in the Risen Christ. The calmness of Holy Saturday makes room for the explosion of Easter Sunday. On this day, we remember that that darkness of the grave and the resting of the Son was only temporary for when a New Creation bursts into the scene the risen Lord of glory cannot contain his joy, and so he gives it to us.

Posted in Augustine, Ecclesiology, Economics, Education, Eschatology, Ethics, Exhortation, Hebrews, History, Holy Saturday, Kingdom, Lent, News/Politics, Politics, Resurrection, Seminary Notes, Sermon Notes, Trinity, Triumphal Entry, Typology/Symbolism/Biblical Parallels, What a Day!, Word/Sacrament | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Music for this Blessed Good Friday

Christ is not a third party inserted between an angry God and sinful humanity; he is the God who was wronged embracing humanity on the cross. —Miroslav Volf
Posted in Good Friday Homily, Music | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Resurrectio et Vita

Delivered at Providence Church…a service with Christ Church in Pace, Fl

Prayer: May the words of my mouth, and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, our Rock, and our Kinsman. Amen.

 

 Sermon: People of God, the story of Good Friday is that it was by a tree that Adam fell in the garden and by a tree Adam is restored.[1]

We see this restoration unfolding for us in the Gospel of St. John. In the narrative, Pilate represents the evil empire that conspires against the Lord’s anointed, but he does not collude in isolation; he conspires with the Jews of the day. These are two manifestations of politics in the Passion Week: the Romans with their propensity to elevate kings to the status of gods and the First-Century Jews with their propensity to elevate Maccabbean characters as their messiah. Both groups with their distinct ideologies share the same contempt for Jesus. The Romans despise Him because…

View original post 381 more words

Posted in Uncategorized | 5 Comments

Maundy Thursday Homily

People of God, this is Maundy Thursday. The word “Maundy” is derived from the Latin mandatum which refers to the “commandment” that our Lord gave to His disciples“to love one another.”

This short section in John’s Gospel is right in between some gigantic events in the life of Jesus, but ultimately there is truth to the idea that this short narrative is perhaps one of the most important of Jesus’ discourses.

Maundy Thursday takes us to that Last Supper our Lord had with the disciples. This Supper was marked by this profound sense that our Lord was only hours from his death at the cross.

The great traitor of history, Judas, had traded his soul for a few coins, and as Judas sat with the other disciples at that last Supper, our Lord described precisely the nature of Judas’ character. Judas was corrupted and unclean, and instead of finding in Jesus the source of his healing, Judas sought to betray the Son of Man with a kiss. Augustine once wrote that once the apostate and unclean one had departed, all that remained …continued with their cleanser.

Of course, this theme of cleansing is a very powerful one in John. Jesus is the priest, and the priest cleanses the temple, and the world of corruption. It was important that as they gathered to feast on this last supper before the New World would come after the resurrection of Jesus, that the disciples, the representatives of God, were clean in body and spirit; in motive and loyalty. Jesus did not want his representatives to betray or corrupt the Kingdom mission.

This is why when Judas departed the Son of Man was glorified. He was glorified so that He was prepared to undergo what was ahead of him in the cruel tree, because the last seed of corruption was gone. Of course the disciples were not perfect, but apart from Judas, they all remained faithful to their Lord until the end. They were cleansed by the Cleanser. And as Judas departs, as corruption departs in human flesh, Jesus now addresses His faithful and loyal servants.

We see tenderness of Jesus displayed as He addresses His disciples as Little Children. For Jesus, they were His own. They belonged in His kingdom. And because they were His He had to protect them from what was ahead. What was ahead was something only He could undergo. “Where I am going, you cannot come,” Jesus said.

But though you cannot go with me, I will give you this new commandment that you are to cling to in life, and as you continue to spread my message: that you love one another. But if know your Pentateuch well, you will note that in Leviticus 19:18 our Lord had already said that you are “to love your neighbor as yourself.” So why is this a new commandment? This is a new commandment because unlike Leviticus, here Jesus says “love one another, just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.” The difference is God became flesh and literally loved His disciples in word and deed. And the disciples now have the example of God in the flesh of what love truly looks like. Yes, it is a new commandment: Love one another. But when Jesus says Do this, it is because He has already demonstrated for us what it looks like.

Love is the center of Christian discipleship. How will the world know who we are? It should not be because of our intellectual expertise, or our professional accomplishments, but rather by the love we have for one another at our tables, living rooms, workplaces, and in the place of worship.

The Christian history has only triumphed because God has loved us in His Son, and Christians have reacted to that love by loving one another. Without love there is no Christian faith; without love we are noise-makers, clanging cymbals, self-delusional religionists, but when we obey this new commandment, the world sees us and they will know that we are disciples of the Crucified King, Jesus Christ.

In The Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Posted in Maundy Thursday | Tagged , , , | 7 Comments

Maundy Thursday Meditation

Maundy Thursday comes from the Latin Mandatum. The word comes from Jesus’ command on the Last Supper to love one another just as He loved them (Lk. 24). The message of love is very much central to the Gospel message. Evangelicals are all too quick to set the topic of love aside because it draws our attention away from the more important doctrinal disputes and discussions. Yet Paul and our blessed Lord keep bringing us back to this theme of love. God is love. No, love is not God, but it is very much a foundational aspect of all His actions toward us in Christ Jesus.

Maundy Thursday then becomes a special historical reminder that we are called to be a people of love. Paul refers to the useless instruments in his I Corinthians 13. If love is absent, our actions become like those clanging cymbals. The very core of Paul’s love narrative in I Corinthians occurs in the midst of a dying Church. Paul’s application then is an ecclesiastical command. In the same manner our blessed Lord on the night in which he was betrayed– by that unclean man called Judas– called us to a greater ethic. It was not an ethic foreign to our Lord. What Jesus commands is first and foremost something he has experienced and displayed already. To a greater and cosmic extent, our Lord proves that love in a cross of hate. But this is love personified in the God/Man. By sacrificing Himself on that cruel tree He turned the symbol of hate into one of the most beloved symbols in the Christian life.

It is then very appropriate that our Lord would command us to love as a response to the Last Supper. This is the case because in the Supper we are being re-oriented in our affections for one another. The Supper is a meal of love and Jesus would transform that meal in His resurrection. He would glorify love for His new disciples. He would become Himself the manna from heaven that would bring joy to this newly created community.

Love is most clearly displayed and obeyed in this new fellowship of disciples we call the Church. This is why Maundy Thursday was a significant historical event. It was not just a didactic lesson for the disciples, it was also a meal that sealed the theme of love for this new community that would emerge from the darkness of the tomb.

Posted in Maundy Thursday, Preaching, Quotes, Random Thoughts, Reflections, Service/Ministry | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Increasing Boldness of Atheism in the Academic World

Atheism has become increasingly bold in her declarations and actions over the years. The atheist star, Madylin O’ Hair, who thrived with her vicious condemnation of Biblical Christianity in the 70’s and 80’s has birthed a new generation of God-hating disciples. College professors in public universities have learned that the classroom is the best place for a non-religious experience. 

An example of this comes from Florida Atlantic University who contrived the following exercise:

‘The assignment called for students to write the name “Jesus” on a piece of paper, put the paper on the ground, and stomp on it.”

A halfhearted apology was issued and now classes can continue with their daily scheduled de-christianization hour. The professor does not claim to be an atheist, but with friend like these. Former Governor Mike Huckabee “questioned if any program at FAU would have allowed “Muhammad” to be written on the paper and stomped instead.” When they reach that fearless pinnacle, I will write another piece.

My point here is not just that education cannot be neutral– that is too obvious– but that public education no longer masquerades her neutrality. There was a time when government curriculum attempted to deny their anti-theistic direction, but that time is past. This is the time when atheists can declare their loss of fear publicly and unashamedly.

Much like the homosexual community is becoming more and more comfortable coming out of the philosophical and theological closet, atheists today put on a robe and march to their pulpits with their well-scripted homilies. These pastors of the dead are not only situated in the comfortable chairs of the academic halls of well-funded state universities, they also sneak into the high-school curricula with a fancy diversity library card. For an example of this, here is the latest fearless atheistic move:

The California Department of Education has revised the statewide recommended reading list for its 6.3 million K-12 students, adding roughly 40 titles focused on homosexuality or gender confusion.

One example will suffice:

The Bermudez Triangle, by Maureen Johnson. “Since childhood, the Bermudez Triangle consisted of Nina, Avery, and Melanie. But when Nina leaves for a summer-school program, all three experience changes in the way they view each other. The three teenage girls explore the meaning of friendship and love while trying to keep long-distance relationships intact. Avery and Melanie begin to understand their homosexuality, and Nina feels left out. This novel illustrates the stresses, jealousy, and anxiety of teenage girls trying to understand themselves as they mature.”

If this is not sufficient to detail the loss of fear in the anti-Christian establishment, media, and the country’s education system, then nothing will convince the reader. “These are just isolated examples,” some may argue. If so, their PR team is performing a stupendous job.

I understand that Richard Dawkin’s atheist camp is not drawing the masses, but can we assert at the very least that atheism is losing its fear? As their platforms increase their hunger for converts becomes insatiable. They want our children and they want them now.

As pietistic Christians become more and more fearful of the world around them, non-Christians continually gain intellectual ground. As the Easter Season approaches, we need to be reminded once again that the tomb is empty and the world is filled with the glory of the risen Christ. Let us not fear. Our faith is not in vain.

Posted in Atheism, Unbelievable!, War | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Collect of the Day: Monday in Holy Week

Andrea Mategna, c. 1460: Agony in the GardenAlmighty God, whose most dear Son went not up to joy but first he suffered pain, and entered not into glory before he was crucified: Mercifully grant that we, walking in the way of the cross, may find it none other than the way of life and peace; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Posted in Holy Week | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

John Frame on Theology as Application

Theology is the application of the Word by persons to the world and to all areas of human life. We need theology not because there is something wrong with the Bible, an improper form perhaps, but because there is something wrong with us. The Bible is fine, just as it is. The problem is that we are slow to grasp it, both because of our weakness and because of our sin. So the theologian, like a good preacher, takes the biblical text and explains it to us.

Quote | Posted on by | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

The Passion Week

“Jesus proceeded toward his holy passion to consummate the mystery of our salvation. The Word had come down from heaven to raise us from the depths of sin. He marched to this destiny without flags and banners, without knives and swords…without the symbols of power people like to use to put others in awe and submission. Meekly, humbly, simply he rode an awkward animal to the site of his blessed passion.”[1]


[1] Alfred McBride, The Divine Presence of Jesus: Meditation and Commentary on the Gospel of John, 112

Posted in Lent | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Riding on a Donkey

The Concordia Journal observes that John is using the donkey as key in this text.  The donkey pointed to the Passion Week. The donkey, though used as kingly transportation in the Solomonic days, was also a symbol of peace.

He was riding on a donkey to show just how he would defeat all our enemies.

Jesus does not come to war against His enemies with human weapons, but with humility and blood.

Posted in John, Lent | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Pastoral Meditation on God’s Justice for the Season of Lent

We treasure by our very nature as new creation beings (II Cor. 5) the justice of God upon injustice. We are imprecational beings. The Psalms are given for and to us for a particular reason. They are our prayers. They belong to righteous sons and daughters of the King. They are our means to communicate our hunger for justice in this world.

The blessedness of these prayers is that they begin to shape us in a new way. Mixed with the blessings of the covenant are the many curses the covenant brings to those who despise Yahweh. Of course, God’s judgments are pure and perfect and they are acted upon in His time and way. Since this is the case, they usually befuddle our expectations. And naturally, this can be frustrating. While we live in this justice-paradox, we also live knowing that God does not forget His justice. Though time passes painfully for us, God is not emotionally moved by His passion to see His Name and children vindicated.

So as we seek the kingdom of God above all else, let us also seek His justice in that kingdom. And while we do, let us continue to pray faithfully and continue to wait patiently for the God of war to act. His kingdom will prevail and His justice will not fail.

Posted in Ethics, Exhortation, Psalms, Quotes, War | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Exhortation: Remembering the Works of Yahweh

In Isaiah 43, Yahweh, the Covenant Lord, says that He is making something new. He is re-creating the world. He proves that by making a way in the wilderness and making rivers run through the desert. Why would God perform such works? “That the people He formed might declare His praise.”

The Lenten Season is a season to remember the works of God. As Christians, we meditate with gladness not only on His present work for us, but also His past work on our behalf. This is why Lent is a season where we practice the art of remembering our Lord’s death. Jesus, fulfilling Isaiah, became a drink to His chosen people; Jesus gave His life that we might live and declare His praises. And this is what we do as we enter into worship. God is re-creating us and causing us to see that His works for us in the past are the guarantee that He will do it again for us in the present and in the future.

Let us pray:

Almighty God, you feed us with by Your Spirit; You make a way for us when we believe there is no way possible. All these things You do so that we might declare your praise. Enlarge our hearts with gratitude, strengthen our faith with hope, and build us up in praise that we might ever remember your works for us, Father, Son, and Spirit. Amen.

Posted in Exhortation | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Communion Meditation: Restructuring our Spiritual Anatomy

The stone given for the sake of the world was despised and rejected. But that stone is that without which nothing can be built: no kingdom, no priesthood, and no life. Jesus is the true stone. He is the foundation of every lasting temple. We, as new temples, created in Christ Jesus, dare not reject this stone. Christ is the foundational piece of our lives. Without His sustaining us, we would be broken into pieces.

Indeed, we were at one time broken, but Christ has put us back together again; He has re-structured our spiritual anatomy and made us whole to partake of this meal.

Posted in Communion Meditation | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

The Trinity and Social Theory

Karen Kilby sees some dangers in using the Trinity as an analogy or model for social theory. She is concerned that the dominance of one particular model over others can actually prove harmful. She opines that once we view the Trinity as framework  community, we end up believing that we have a special grasp of the Trinity. She goes on to assert that it is not erroneous to employ the Trinity as the foundation for different ideas and practices–even community–but that we cannot define the Trinity simply as community, since it limits the Triune expression. As Augustine observed, “once we think we have the Trinity figured out, you know you got it wrong.”

The danger of limiting the Trinity to community, she observes, is the danger of tri-theism: believing that the Trinity is composed of three Gods. She sounds the alarm, but also affirms that there is some validity to the Trinity as a social model. Another danger of using the Trinitarian model as social models for everyday relationships is that we end forgetting that the goal is not in the social theorizing, but in the worshiping of the God who is Three and One. The entire conversation is quite helpful.

Posted in Trinity | Tagged , | Leave a comment

We Need New Ears and Eyes

I began my day reading through Jim Jordan’s magnum opus, Through New Eyes. Jim is a dear friend and we have worked together for three years (09-11). I have literally read and listened to hundreds of articles, sermons, & lessons. If Jim publishes, my eyes will seek to scan it. In many ways, he has taught me to love the Bible in a deeper way than before.

My seminary days were wonderful days. I had the privilege of sitting under some of the most renown Reformed theologians alive. It was filled with excitement and theological epiphanies. But none of these men came near to the theological revivals that James Jordan  caused in my own thinking. Jordan enabled me to appreciate the Bible for its own merit. He caused me to love the Bible for its own structure, poetry, cadence, rhythm, and music. Yes, the Bible is a beautiful song sung by Yahweh Himself in Genesis 1 and closing with the eternal song of eternity in Revelation 22.

In TNE, Jordan observes:

…the universe and everything in it reveals the character of its Creator. God designed the universe to reveal Himself and to instruct us. The problem we have is that sin has made us deaf and blind. We need new eyes and ears, and the Scriptures can help us get them (13).

These new eyes and ears are only re-shaped and re-designed as we allow the Scriptures to do so. The Bible shapes us as a people. The Word of the Lord re-orients our minds to see God’s instruction in everything. The world, and in particular, Scriptures, communicate to us through vast symbols. The revelation of Yahweh contains a specific language that we need to master. And the only way of mastering it is by seeking its guidance day and night.

Hear the Bible

One strong emphasis James Jordan has made over the years is that reading the Bible is not enough. Listening to it is equally important. The ancients did not manuscript copies available as we do, but yet their minds were saturated by the language of Scriptures. Their minds delved deeply into the rich types and symbols of the Old Covenant Scriptures. They heard it read and began to make connections. They did not only accept explicit types and symbols, but they saw that the entire Bible was one story pictured in symbols and types, and since this is the case, therefore every narrative is connected to the one previous and the one after.

Hearing the Bible especially in a community setting takes us away from our natural tendency to isolate ourselves. The isolation of evangelicalism is due to hermeneutical isolation. Individuals are perfectly satisfied to pietize the Bible. And as they do so, they turn their individualism into a standard for others. But when we hear the Bible, when we listen to one another in our communities, and when we allow the Church to speak–as she should–we become part of a greater hermeneutical project.

Hear the Bible, but don’t hear it alone. Hear it, and then contextualize it in this grand story of redemption. And when this is done, sin’s hermeneutical effects began to fade away and our eyes and ears will be able to do those things they were created to do.

For book resources, see here. For his audio series on How to Read the Bible, see here.

Posted in James Jordan, Psalms, Quotes, Random Thoughts, Reflections, Reformed Theology, Theological Thoughts | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Restoration and Redemption: A Sermon on the Prodigal Son, Luke 15:11-32

Tomorrow at Providence I will be preaching through one of the most famous texts in the New Testament Scriptures. The story in Luke 15 centers on the interaction of the father with his two sons. These interactions carry on not only a personal invitation to see a merciful God, but also a corporate picture of how God incorporates us into His covenant.

Posted in Sermons/Lent | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Joy of Christian Roaring

As Jim Jordan makes his way to his piano bench, he looks at us and with youthful excitement asks: “Are you ready to roar?” We all exclaim with one voice Roaaaaarr! It seems rather infantile, but in reality we are made to be roaring creatures. We either roar in triumph or in sorrow. The Christian roars together with His Lord. Our Lord’s roar causes evil to shrink back in fear. Satan’s roaring pales in comparison to the Lion of Judah.

As we joined last night with three churches to do what may seem a peculiarity to the surrounding culture, we roared. We journeyed through the psalmic dance of lamentation and jubilation. We roared because sometimes the bulls of Bashan surrounds us with vicious famine. But we also roared because the Son of God goes forth to war on our behalf.

What happens when 150 gather to sing Yahweh’s hymbook? We are mutually encouraged and foe and enemy are discouraged. Discouraged because their cause is so temporal. Discouraged because singing David’s hymns calms God’s people just as David calmed Saul’s spirit with his music.

It appears to be such a simple activity, but this is how God works. He tears down human wisdom  and silences the enemy’s roaring by the simple Alleluias from the mouths of babes and infants.

Posted in Psalms | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Communion Meditation: Welcoming Us at His Table

For those redeemed by the Word of Yahweh and brought into covenant with Him through their baptisms, this table offers no gloom; in Christ you have light, which means full joy and participation in the activities of the light. The wicked have their meals in darkness, but the godly eat in the presence of the True Light who communes with us in this meal.

Even during the Lenten Season, we are at this table. The table is always here for us because we know that the story does not end on a tree, but in an empty tomb. We do not eat in sadness, but in joy, for we have been rescued from the dark exile of sin into the glorious and bright kingdom of our beloved Savior.

By God’s grace, we have a place at the Father’s Table, for He has washed us in baptism and welcomed us with a feast!

Posted in Communion Meditation | Leave a comment