Archive for the ‘Jesus’ Category

Christmas Joy

December 25, 2007

Luke 2:8-20

Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. 10 Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. 11 For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.”

13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying:

14 “Glory to God in the highest,

And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”

15 So it was, when the angels had gone away from them into heaven, that the shepherds said to one another, “Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 And they came with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger. 17 Now when they had seen Him, they made widely known the saying which was told them concerning this Child. 18 And all those who heard it marveled at those things which were told them by the shepherds. 19 But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told them.

The heart of Christmas is mysterious joy. At every turn the wisdom of the world is turned upside down and confounded. Here is the treasure of God placed into an earthly vessel. Step back and wonder at the wisdom of God in this passage.

An Angel and the host of heaven, herald the arrival of Prince of Peace and the God of Goodwill. They rend the fabric separating heaven from earth so that the glory of the Lord shone all about the place. The attention of the Omniscient, Omnipotent Triune God was focused like a laser on – shepherds?

Like so much of the Advent of Christ this seems incongruous with what we think we know about God. For instance, He is an Infinite Spirit, filling space and time while existing outside that same space and time, yet the Holy Spirit overshadows a small girl in an insignificant village and God becomes local. The God of the universe is wrapped up in the womb of a virgin.

Here, the angel tells the shepherds that this news was to be for all the people – kings and prophets, rulers and teachers, judges and magisterium, but the lowest class of working man is granted this greatest of favors, they were told where to find the Savior of the World. The good tidings of great joy were placed in the earthiest of earthen vessels, keepers of sheep.

This is the message of Joy… There is a baby in Bethlehem, wrapped tight in swaddling cloths, lying in a food trough and all of that is a sign that unto you is given a Savior who is Christ, God’s anointed, the Lord of the Universe.

That is the sign of a visit from God? A poor family – living with animals – at a public inn? How can this be the same God? The hope of all the world, past, present and future, is mysteriously cooing and feeding at the breast of teenager. Who would look for the Savior of the world in a baby?

Ah, but there was treasure there. That earthen vessel of low reputation and common birth contained the Lord of all the universe. Look with the eyes of heaven. Look at that child with God’s eyes! Here is Jesus the Christ, Savior of man, the Son of God and of Mary Glory to God in the highest!

That Christmas conundrum continues today. Who would look for the Savior in me and you? All of our inconstancies and frailties; our flesh marked with sin, frame a poor dwelling for the Savior who is Christ the Lord.

1 Cor 1:26-31

For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. 27 But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; 28 and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, 29 that no flesh should glory in His presence. 30 But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God — and righteousness and sanctification and redemption — 31 that, as it is written, “He who glories, let him glory in the LORD.”

Born to you this day in the City of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. Glory to God in Highest and on Earth peace, goodwill toward men!

al sends

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Three Cups

October 3, 2007

Lord’s Supper
Matt 26:29

When Jesus offered His disciples the cup after supper he followed it with this promise:  “But I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom.”    Jesus waits on the consummation of all things to have his next glass of wine. 

But there was anothercup waiting for Him.  He would leave this warm, pleasant room and head to the Garden of Gethsemane, where the cup of God’s wrath was presented to Him.  A cup full of pain and cursing.  It hurt to even look at it.

At the sight of that cup there was sorrow and as that sorrow grew he began to bleed from His pores and at that moment the Savior prayed, “O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.”  He would drink this cup down to the bitter dregs. 

He offers you a third cup… a cup of blessing and not cursing.  You see, His cup was bitter with sin while yours is sweetened with grace, peace, mercy.  His tasted of betrayal; you taste communion.  His cup was full of stripes and hammer blows; yours is full healing.  He willingly took up His cup and He bids you to do the same.  Come to Him, believing saints of the most high God, for His body is food indeed and His blood is drink indeed.  Next time you are offered this cup at the table – take it and drink it down. 

You Aint So Smart

September 18, 2007

We are very excited about some doings at Providence Church here in Pensacola, FL. We are preparing to move our church onto the campus of the University of West Florida. UWF is a small town university with a small town feel. A good portion of the student body is local, but they also have dorms and students who remain on campus over the weekends. We look to impact those men and women with the gospel.

In our Bible study after the sermon one Sundatruth.jpgy a student from UWF was in our midst and asked a very important question. While not a direct quote his question went something like this:

“How do we confront the culture at the university with the truth, when the culture does not hold that there is anything like truth?” Good question, one we should be ready to answer.

While pondering that question and seeking to provide an answer, Dan Phillips shows us how we ought not handle ourselves in the public square when contending for the truth. He says, basically, that we are not all that smart. We have been given insight into the things of God by the grace of God. That being the case, we should be full of humility, contending for the truth not because we are right and like to be so, but because Jesus has been revealed as the Son of God and He is Truth. Taking the focus off of us (those on path to life everlasting) to the One True God (true Life itself).

Proverbs, being full of proverbs and not laws, has this to say in chapter 26:4-5

4 Answer not a fool according to his folly,
lest you be like him yourself.
5 Answer a fool according to his folly,
lest he be wise in his own eyes.

If we join the professors from the philosophy department on campus, saying that “to understand reality we must understand there is no reality outside of ‘self'” just to gain entrée into the discussion, our battle is lost before it began. We have answered the fool according to his folly. That (as Dan Phillips might say) is arrogance. The same arrogance shown by the unbeliever.

We are contending for the destination not the journey. So don’t waste your time with foolish speculation. Get to the crux of the matter by doing two things:

1. Exposing their poor foundation. Their certainty that there is no certainty is not sustainable logically, so by answering a fool according to his folly (v. 5) you show him or her that they are on sinking sand. They operate under the banner of truth; they just don’t realize it. Wave in front of their face.

2. Point them to the foundation of all truth: In John 18:37-38 Pilate questioned and Jesus answered: 37 Then Pilate said to him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.” 38 Pilate said to him, “What is truth?” After he had said this, he went back outside to the Jews and told them, “I find no guilt in him.” The life, death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ is the truth. It is the destination of all our witnessing and living before the unbelieving world.

Remember: …God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong… You ain’t so smart.

al sends

The Divine Warrior’s Women, Battles, and Death

September 18, 2007

This is a sermon I preached at Providence Church on September 16, 2007. The theme for this series is “Christ the Divine Warrior.” May the Lord bless you with it.

There is probably no more colorful, exciting or puzzling story in all the Bible than that of the judge Samson. I remember having my imagination captured by the strongman Samson as a child in Sunday School. He was the hero who slew a thousand men with the jawbone of an ass, who ripped apart a lion with his bare hands, and who brought down a whole temple by single-handedly knocking over its columns. And then there is the riddle contest and the revenge with the 300 foxes tied together with torches and set loose to burn down the grain fields of the Philistines. Yet I also remember hearing about Samson losing his great strength when Delilah tricked him into having his hair cut, and I remember hearing about Samson becoming enslaved and being ridiculed by the Philistines. These stories capture the imaginations of children and adults alike, but what does it all mean? Is this Samson something like a Hebrew G.I. Joe? Or was he a superhero for a biblical comic strip, like a pre-incarnate Bibleman? (more…)

Messiah on a Couch

July 19, 2007

I generally am not a fan of contemporary authors putting Jesus in a scenario and imagining Him having a conversation with someone. Generally.

But I read a book recently called A Scandalous Beauty by Thomas Schmidt that has this very kind of thing in it. It communicates some quite profound things, though you have to be careful not to push all the details too far. The scenario has Jesus speaking to a modern psychologist.

Here’s an excerpt from pp. 55-57:

P: That’s great, Jesus, but I need to challenge you on this because I’m sensing some denial issues here. Let’s keep talking about your relationship with your Father. (more…)

A Feast of Covenant Riches Shared With Us

July 7, 2007

Jesus Christ was the Son of God who came to Israel in human flesh. The Messiah of Israel who is Lord of all entered time and history, and it is important to see that He did so in order to embody the people of Israel. Christ Jesus was Himself the new Israel re-enacting the history of redemption in His life and death and resurrection.

Where the nation of Israel failed and veered away from the Lord toward idolatry and immorality and lawlessness, Christ remained utterly loyal and worshipped the Lord His God alone. Where Israel passed through the waters of the Red Sea in the Exodus and then failed as God’s covenant people, Christ Jesus passed through the waters of baptism and obeyed God in covenant with Him. God promised Israel that the one who sins will die, and yet God also promised Israel a day of resurrection and vindication. Christ took on the sin of His people and died in their stead, and then rose from the dead as the vindicated true Israel of God. Christ Jesus was the true Israel in the flesh, living out the true life that pleases God and fulfills His law and fleshes out His covenant mercy. When He died, His body, the chosen of God, died with Him, and when He rose, His body, the Israel of God, rose with Him to receive His invincible life.

So, when we look at the life of Jesus, what do we see? What should we expect to see? (more…)

Very God of Very God

June 18, 2007

I was going to put something up about the guy who won Britain’s Got Talent… but this just blew me away.

Let me start with a story from my Navy days … (Civilian equivalents placed in parentheses for Squid Talk)

I was in my rack (bed) onboard the USS Nimitz, having just returned from the head (bathroom) after my shower. Right before taps (the announcement that the work day is over, 10 PM) by tradition the chaplain (Navy preacher) provides the evening prayer.

On this occasion we had a visiting Roman Catholic Priest who was on his way to one of the small boys (Navy ships that escort the larger aircraft carriers) and he was given the opportunity to lead this evening’s prayer. So, he gets on the 1MC (ship’s intercom) and begins to intone, “Dear God, Yahweh , Jesus, Allah, Buddha, Mother Earth… You are known by many names…” I have no idea what he said since I practically hit the deck (floor) at those words coming out the mouth of a man with a cross on his sleeve (a Christian chaplain).

I had that same feeling when I read this story in the Seattle Times. Here is a quote but you should read the whole thing:

Shortly after noon on Fridays, the Rev. Ann Holmes Redding ties on a black headscarf, preparing to pray with her Muslim group on First Hill.
On Sunday mornings, Redding puts on the white collar of an Episcopal priest.
She does both, she says, because she’s Christian and Muslim.

Redding, who until recently was director of faith formation at St. Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral, has been a priest for more than 20 years. Now she’s ready to tell people that, for the last 15 months, she’s also been a Muslim — drawn to the faith after an introduction to Islamic prayers left her profoundly moved.

Her Bishop does not have a problem with it. Heck, he is down right pumped about the whole thing:

Redding’s bishop, the Rt. Rev. Vincent Warner, says he accepts Redding as an Episcopal priest and a Muslim, and that he finds the interfaith possibilities exciting. Her announcement, first made through a story in her diocese’s newspaper, hasn’t caused much controversy yet, he said.

Listen, If you do not believe that Jesus Christ is uniquely very God of very God, then rip the cross off your sleeve. If you do not think that John chapter one teaches that in the beginning Jesus was “the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” then you really should turn in your preaching robes, even the rainbow ones.

If Jesus Christ is not God then His promises are worse than lies. They are death and hell. His proclamation of forgiveness to the woman who washed Jesus’ feet with her tears? The ravings of a mad man. His promise to send His Spirit? Merely spit in the eyes of His grieving friends. Jesus Christ not God? No resurrection with power, no ascension to the right had of the Father, no return in Glory and you are still in your sins.

Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved.

Al sends

(HT Mark Steyn, Dave M.)

A Sweet and Satisfying Savior

June 11, 2007

In Psalm 81 the Lord remembers the sins of Israel and calls the nation to repentance. The Lord recounts the words He gave Israel that called them to covenant faithfulness. He said to His people:

Hear, O My people, and I will admonish you!
O Israel, if you will listen to Me!
There shall be no foreign god among you;
Nor shall you worship any foreign god.
I am the LORD your God,
Who brought you out of the land of Egypt;
Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it. (vv. 8-10)

The Psalm goes on from there to show the ways Israel failed to worship God alone, and so the Lord laments Israel’s hardhearted refusal to submit to Him and love Him.

Verses 13-16 say,

Oh, that My people would listen to Me,
That Israel would walk in My ways!
I would soon subdue their enemies,
And turn My hand against their adversaries.
The haters of the LORD would pretend submission to Him,
But their fate would endure forever.
He would have fed them also with the finest of wheat;
And with honey from the rock I would have satisfied you.

I don’t read these verses as a warning to frighten you into repentance. I read them so that I can highlight the way the Lord makes promises to Israel. In v. 10 the Lord says, “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt;” and then He promises, “Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it.” And in v. 16 the Lord says that “He would have fed them also with the finest of wheat; and with honey from the rock I would have satisfied you.”

The Lord knew Israel was prone to wander. What would prevent that wandering? What would prevent that idolatry that was so destructive and brought covenant cursing? The God of redemption, the God who delivered Israel, promised to feed Israel and thus to sustain her and establish her and cause her to stand in faithfulness.

“Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it.” “With honey from the rock I would have satisfied you.” It is God’s grace that wins our hearts and expels inferior affections so that we cleave to the Lord alone and reject sin and idolatry. The Lord promises to fill our mouths and satisfy us with honey from a rock so that we will find sin distasteful and overcome temptation and cleave to Him in loyalty and covenant faithfulness.

What is that food that the Lord fills our mouths with and satisfies us with? It is Christ Himself. He is the true food and the true drink, and those who eat Him and drink Him by faith find Him to be a sweet and satisfying Savior.

He is our food that fills our mouths. He is the honey from the rock. And He is offered to you here in this communion meal by faith. You receive Him by the Spirit and are strengthened in Him by faith. Come, receive the food of God that fills your mouth and satisfies you. Come, feed on Christ by faith.

Come, taste and see that the Lord is good.

A Sweet Smelling Aroma

May 22, 2007

In the Old Covenant God ordained that Israel would offer sacrifices to Him. These sacrifices would cover trespasses and atone for sins. God would receive the offerings as payment for sins committed and would be kind and gracious to forgive Israel. A phrase that is repeated over and over again in Exodus, Leviticus and Numbers (when God is giving instructions for these sacrifices) is “a sweet aroma to the Lord.” The smoke of the burned-up sacrifices was a sweet aroma in the nostrils of the Lord because His children, who trusted Him to forgive their sins, were offering sacrifices to Him as He ordained, which brought about continued fellowship with His treasured, covenant people.

When we come to the New Testament we find that the Old Covenant animal sacrifices are no more. But God is still seeking a sweet aroma that will secure unhindered fellowship with His beloved people. So we read in Ephesians 5:2, “Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma.” When Christ died on the cross, He was giving His life as a one-time, final, ultimately significant offering for sin, and His death was a sweet-smelling aroma to His Father.

This bread and this wine is a remembrance of Christ’s cross. In the breaking of this bread and the drinking of this wine, there is a showing forth of the body and blood of Christ which were burned up and offered to God on the cross. And so this remembrance is a sweet-smelling aroma to God – not because Christ is sacrificed all over again by a miracle of transformation. But because this bread and wine are a remembrance before the Father of what Christ did when He gave His life as a payment for sin and secured us for Him.

The New Testament also speaks of our lives as a fragrant aroma to God and our lives as living sacrifices acceptable to God (Romans 12:1-2). When we take up this remembrance as the body of Christ, God is pleased with us. God is delighted to behold His children feeding on Christ and drinking Christ. This remembrance is a sweet-smelling aroma to Him.

So feel the smile of your Father, you who believe and who are casting yourself on Christ as you take up the bread and cup. Know that your Father is delighting in the sweet aroma of Christ as we enact this remembrance of the cross of the Son of His love.

Come, let us taste and see that the Lord is good.

Generic God

May 15, 2007

Frank Turk has an interesting post on the dangers of a church that is seeking cultural relevance. Culture is important. Christians are commanded to bring every thought captive to the obedience of Christ. But you know, every thought really means every thought. So, when the “Christian Right” subsumes its Christian identity to its conservative politics, the Church is in trouble.

One area this has proved true is in education. It mystifies me that the Church of Jesus Christ would push to have prayer “returned” to the government school system. It is not so much prayer that I object too (though in principle the government should not be writing our prayers) rather it is the form of prayer the Church whole-heartedly supports… that bothers me.

The Christian Right would like to see us return to a form of godliness, while denying their powerful Head.

I said this elsewhere:

There is only one true God, revealed to us in the person of Jesus Christ and His greatness is unsearchable. However, the church is not trying to get Jesus back into school. The prayer we are trying to get past the plurality police is a prayer to a generic God of questionable power and finite greatness. Like generic beer, this God will do what the heathen wants but it leaves those who are capable of tasting the difference between gall and hops strangely dissatisfied.

Ps 145:1-5

I will extol You, my God, O King;
And I will bless Your name forever and ever.
2 Every day I will bless You,
And I will praise Your name forever and ever.
3 Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised;
And His greatness is unsearchable.

4 One generation shall praise Your works to another,
And shall declare Your mighty acts.
5 I will meditate on the glorious splendor of Your majesty,
And on Your wondrous works.

Al sends