Matthew 27; Mark 15; Luke 23; John 19

The Sanhedrin condemns Jesus.

Judas returns the money, which fulfills prophecy, and hangs himself.

The Sanhedrin hands Him over to Pilate. He gives Herod a favor by sending Jesus to him, but the true King has nothing to say to the usurping king Herod. Jesus tells Pilate His kingdom is not of this world.

Pilate realizes the Sanhedrin are trying to condemn an innocent man, and tries to get him released, offering Barabbas, then flogging Him. Jesus says Pilate's authority to execute Jesus is from heaven, convicting Pilate of what he is about to do. It doesn't work and the Jews pull the trump card: riot. Pilate gives in.

The soldiers take Him and play their usual mock-him-as-king-before-killing-him game.

Simon carries His cross to Golgotha - Jesus is too weak to do it, apparently.

In the physical agony of nail piercings, Jesus prays for the forgiveness of this sin of ignorance of the Roman soldiers.

He refuses sour wine.

They divide His clothes.

The charge actually condemns the Jews, not Jesus: King of the Jews. They rejected their only king.

Passersby, one crucified with Him, and the Sanhedrin all mock Him, as in Psalm 22.

The other robber testifies to Jesus' innocence, and Jesus promises him paradise.

Jesus asks John to provide for His mother.

"I thirst."

The sun goes dark from noon to 3pm, when Jesus cries out in the agony of being forsaken by His Father. "It is finished." He commits His spirit to the Father, and as He dies, the temple veil is torn, there is an earthquake, and saints are resurrected.

The Jews are silent at this, but a Roman soldier testifies that this man must have been from God.

The soldiers pierce His side to be sure He is dead.

Joseph of Arimathea buries Jesus in his own rock tomb, an expensive sacrifice.

The Jews get a guard placed by the tomb to keep the disciples from any funny business about His promised resurrection.


John 13-17

Jesus washes the disciples' feet, teaching them that His ministry is one of service, and theirs in Him name must be as well. Judas will betray Him, but they must love each other.

Jesus teaches the disciples that He is going to the Father, and He is their way to the Father. When He leaves, He will send the Spirit to them. They need to abide in Him by keeping His commandment, which is to love each other, even when the world hates them. The Spirit will be at work, convicting the world of this, teaching the disciples what to say, and leading them into truth. Jesus has overcome the world, so no fear.

Jesus prays for the greater glory of the Father and Son, for eternal life for us, which is knowing the Father and Son, for our protection from evil and sanctification, for our unity in the Triune fellowship, and for us to be with Him and know Him in His glory.

Matt 26; Mark 14; Luke 22; John 18

The priests determine to kill Jesus.

Judas determines to betray Him to them.

Jesus determines to offer up His life as the Passover Lamb.

He prays for another way, though, for it will be an ordeal to bear His Father's wrath against all the sins of the redeemed.

Judas leads the temple police (and Romans?) to Him, and they arrest Him, but events show that He is in control, not the arrestors. Still, the disciples flee when He is taken. The priests try to convict Jesus on false and conflicting charges. He questions their process of questioning Him (John 18). They go for the jugular, asking Him point blank if He is Messiah. They have ruled out the possibility He IS, so a "Yes" will be automatic blasphemy. Jesus quotes Daniel, referring to Himself and looking forward to His Ascension to the Father. They condemn Him, hand Him over to be abused. Peter sees the writing on the wall and knows His life is in danger if He identifies with Jesus. He caves in.


Matthew 23-24; Luke 21; Mark 13; Matt 25

Though close to the Pharisees in greatest-commandment, big-picture theology, He condemns their application of the Word to life, which is mixed throughout with pride. They major on minors and externals (which are not synonymns, though).

Jesus speaks of the day the Temple will be destroyed (not His yet-future, second coming to judge all men). He describes the Jews' rejection of His apostles after His ascension, leading up to God's rejection of the Jews, leaving them to the armies of Rome. They will be redeemed from the Messiah-rejecting nation of Israel, when the latter is brought low. Once again, God's people will be judged for her sin by a more pagan nation, with a faithful remnant left to glorify Him. Stay awake so this judgment doesn't catch you by surprise.

We stay awake by staying filled with the Spirit (oil), which enables us to steward the master's resources wisely, by feeding the hungry, clothing the naked and visiting those in distress.

Matthew 22; Mark 12

Parables that convict the Jews rejecting Jesus:

God's standards for the wedding feast are embarrassingly low to us: anybody off the street who will come. Some who are there don't know the basic requirements and will be thrown out.

The Pharisees, who hate Rome, and the Herodians, who love Rome, join forces against Jesus. They try to trap Him over taxes, but He eludes them with wise words.

Then the two parties divide again, and try separate attacks. The Saduccees ridicule the resurrection, but they are gravely mistaken, not understanding the transformation of social life in the regeneration, nor even the nature of the God of Abraham. The Pharisees question Him, it turns out they are very closely in agreement, something often overlooked in Gospel studies.

Jesus then turns the tables and questions them. Who will the Messiah be, anyway? Just a son of David, or someone greater than David? Psalm 110 proves it is the latter, which confounds everyone and sends them away wondering.

Jesus compares positively the unknown piety of the poor widow to the false piety for show of the Pharisees.

Matthew 20-21; Luke 19; Mark 11

Those who serve lon gin the Kingdom are prone to compare rewards with others, and expect their greater experience to merit greater reward.

Jesus enters Jerusalem as its king, to crowds expecting salvation from Him.
But He weeps over the city, because they are looking for the wrong thing (sword) to give salvation.
Jesus drives out 1. those buying and selling in the temple (because this invaded the Gentile court where Gentiles were to worship God), 2. those changing money (because they were charging ridiculously high exchange rates to profit from those who couldn't take their sheep all the way to Jerusalem), 3. those selling pigeons (because this was the sacrifice of the very poor, who they were also exploiting, against the Law). The chief priests objections to the children are as much an objection to Jesus, and He dismisses it.

Jesus withers a fig tree, symbolic of leaders, when He finds no fruit on it.

When He comes back to the temple, the priests challenge Him more directly. He traps them, as they have oftened tried to trap Him, and they have to back off. They are the ones who are stuck, and answerable to God for their rejection of John and Him; He is not answerable to them. He says this in parables that they plainly understand. But they can't get rid of Him, because they fear the people (not God).

Luke 18-19; John 12

Jesus restores Zacchaeus, who offers restitution with his repentance. Interesting it isn't said that he gave up his tax collecting profession, though Matthew did to follow Jesus.

Jesus tells the 10 talents/minas parable to encourage us to serve Him until He comes, and not expect immediate Kingdom consummation.

Jesus eats with Mary, Martha and Lazarus in Bethany. Mary gives an extragant offering to Him. Judas protests selfishly, using the poor as a facade for his embezzling.

The priests plot to kill Lazarus, with Jesus, which is hilarious. Jesus already raised him to life once. Why do they think He couldn't do it again? The whole world was going after Him: Greeks were seeking Him, too. Yet the Jews are confused about who He is. They are divided, many believing, even among the rulers, and many rejected Him. Those who reject Him will be judged on the last day, but for now, Jesus has come to save the world, not judge it.

Matthew 19; Mark 10

Divorce is only allowed on grounds of sexual immorality.
Don't keep children from Jesus; His Kingdom is made of child-like subjects.
It is hard to trust Christ instead of riches, when you have money.
Jesus will reward sacrifices made for Him. He Himself will die.
James and John ask for 2nd and 3rd place in His kingdom. They may die like Jesus, but seeking specific positions in the Kingdom are not possible, but up to the Father. Don't jockey for positions. Serve.

Luke 17-18

Be thankful. When blessings flow from Christ, return thanks to Him.
Christ's Kingdom will come suddenly, in judgment, as the flood came on Noah's generation.
But God will give His elect justice, so pray to Him for it persistently.
Do this knowing you don't deserve it as a sinner. Don't distinguish yourself from greater sinners based on your external works of piety.


Thanksgiving: Centerpieces

Williamsburg, VA has a holiday decorating tradition where the houses are adorned with only natural elements, such as pine boughs, fruits, seed pods, and nuts. These beautiful creations inspired my Thanksgiving centerpiece for this year:

Cranberries and boxwood sprigs nestle between fresh apples, pears, lemons, and clementines, crowned with a baby pineapple. A wreath of newly-picked magnolia leaves creates the base.

My creation is not 100% natural - the fruit is all real, but the boxwood sprigs are snipped from a floral spray bought at Michaels. Everything is skewered into a 12" foam cone. This is my third year creating a centerpiece like this, and if you'd like to try one yourself, here are a few tips. It took me a little less than an hour to assemble.

-buy the smallest fruit you can find, and look for good strong colors

-use 1/4" dowels or hefty bamboo skewers broken down to 3" lengths to firmly attach the larger fruits to the foam

-working on a sturdy plate or charger, start by poking the magnolia leaf stems into the base

-Moving from bottom to top, randomly place the large fruit around the cone. Put the biggest of the fruits on the bottom.

- fill in the gaps by attaching cranberries to the foam with toothpicks. Boxwood sprigs are tucked in to conceal any foam. You can skewer a boxwood sprig with a toothpick then anchor it on with a cranberry over the end. Try to leave some longer sprigs at the top to create a nice transition to the pineapple. They also help to support the pineapple.

-place the pineapple on top (I even used an artichoke once). This may be skewered on, or I've used a long screw twisted up into the base of the pineapple, then ram the head end of the screw into the foam. You want to avoid an embarrassing moment during Thanksgiving dinner when the pineapple rolls into Uncle Eddy's mashed potatoes, like this:

Transporting the centerpiece: not an easy task, but since this one will be a hostess gift, it must be done. I wrap plastic wrap around the entire thing as tightly as I can. The pineapple can be carried separately and attached right before the presentation. The whole arrangement weighs a lot, so be sure you have a very sturdy plate underneath!

John 11

Jesus says He is the resurrection - He can bring it forward to the present from the last day. He proves this by raising Lazarus to life. All who are in their tombs will one day hear His voice calling them out, as Lazarus does here.

The Jews are confounded. Jesus has escalated things greatly. They are now concerned about national unrest because of Jesus, which would lead to Roman retaliation and replacement of Jewish leaders... them. So they issue a warrant for His arrest. Caiaphas says He will have to die to preserve the nation, which is ironically true.

Luke 16-17

In the Kingdom of God, money is to be used for greater purposes, not pursued as a goal in itself.
The law of Moses says this, and if Israel won't listen to Moses, they won't listen even to a resurrected Jesus.

Don't tempt others to sin. Forgive others if they seek it, even they need it often from you. You can do this if you remember you are an unprofitable servant.

Luke 14-15

The Kingdom of God is like a wedding reception.
Invite all connected to the couple (Jesus and the Church): everyone.
Don't strive for a better place there.
God intends to have a full house. How does this fit with few finding the narrow way?)
Many invited don't come, so others take their place.

But the Kingdom also involves great cost. It must come even before family, and means a cross for you. Think about it before joining for the party at the end.

God rejoices over sinners who are restored to Him. Piety is not measured by indignation for and separation from sinners.

Luke 12-13

Jesus warns against the Pharisees' who will continue to oppose His disciples. Don't fear them.
Jesus warns against storing up treasure on earth, instead of in heaven.
Jesus warns against slackness over His delayed return. His coming brings division and strife, but many can't even recognize His coming.
Israel is going the wrong direction, not bearing fruit. They need to repent; they need tending, digging and fertilizing.
Jesus heals on the Sabbath again. This is a favorite work of His. It frees God's people from Satan, while also convicting the Pharisees of their errors, and discrediting them before the people.
Enter by the narrow gate: many are presuming falsely they are saved based on wrong criteria. Many will enter who we wouldn't think would. Jerusalem rejects God's prophets and so will be judged and left desolate (again, like Babylon is described in the OT).

Thanksgiving: Whose History?

Our current religious and cultural war in America is encapsulated well by how we fight over the Thanksgiving holiday. The liberals leave out the Pilgrims' religious thanks to God and say they invited and thanked the Indians. Conservatives get mad, fight back, and wind up teaching bad history themselves, saying No, the Pilgrims were thanking God, not the Indians. Well, that isn't true, either. It was both. They sought to thank God for the bountiful harvest, and they wanted to strengthen their friendship with the Indians, perhaps also seeking to evangelize them.

Luke 10-11

We know more about the sending out of the 12, than of the 72.
Jesus warns cities that reject Him and the 72: it will be worse for you than other Gentile cities that weren't as exposed to Him. He even compares His adopted home town of Capernaum with Babylon (compare Luke 10:15 with Isaiah 14:13-15).

Jesus warns the 72 not to sensationalize their power over demons. He saw Satan fall from heaven, like lightning. Far more important to give thanks for your salvation, than for your power over evil.

Jesus is delighted with His Father's plan to reveal Himself to the simple, not the wise. A scribe asks about the Father's revealed, moral will for us: love your neighbor, as even Samaritans do sometimes.

Pray for God's name to be remain regarded as holy; for His Kingdom to come to earth as His will is done in heaven; for our provision, forgiveness, mercy and purity. Pray persistently, to a Father who delights to give.

Israel was to be a light to the Gentiles, as Jonah and Solomon were; don't hide it under a basket.

The Pharisees don't handle the Word well, loading people with rules on minor things while ignoring the big issues. This is connected with their rejection of Jesus, which will lead to the judgment of all past generations in this generation. Jesus intentionally made enemies with these shepherds, because they were wrong and were hurting the sheep.

John 10
Jesus prefers to speak of His works and mission from His Father, instead of using the words Messiah and Christ. Though the two are synonymous theologically, the political connotation was disruptive of Jesus' earthly ministry. They accuse Him of blasphemy; He points to His works to prove what He says is true.


John 9-10

Jesus confounds them again, healing a man and giving them a sign they can't handle, that doesn't fit in their paradigm. They follow Moses, not Jesus. They don't know where Jesus is from (funny that earlier they rejected Him because they knew He was from Galilee; now they don't know).
The man healed understands Jesus' work better than the Pharisees do.

Jesus is the door, the shepherd, not the Pharisees or Sadducees. The latter fleece the sheep with Rome, so they don't lose their position. Jesus refers to Israel's restoration and resurrection in Ezekiel 37 - one flock, one shepherd. Then that He has a mission to lay down His life for the sheep.

John 7-8

Jesus continues teaching among the Jews, though the leaders are against Him and the people divided in their opinion about Him. Jesus says He is living water that the people pray to God for. The one charge against Him they have (healing on the Sabbath) is a bogus charge. Their other objection (He is from Galilee) is based on a false understanding (He WAS born in Bethlehem, and is of David).

They try to drum up another charge, since they know He is right on the first one, above. Jesus makes a stunning statement without words by writing their names in the dust. Please read Jeremiah 17:13 to see what He says: they have forsaken Yahweh, the fountain of living water, which Jesus claimed to be half a chapter earlier. And the critics don't think this text is Scripture.

Jesus deals gently with the woman caught in adultery, as Joseph did with Mary, in what he thought was a similar situation.

Jesus' authority and witness is His Father. The Jews who reject Jesus don't know His Father, so can't believe Him. While some believe, Jesus gets more forceful with those who don't. They are slaves in God's house, refusing to be set free by the Son. Though they are in God's house as children of Abraham (by circumcision), their spiritual father is the devil. Jesus asserts His authority even over death, saying that anyone who believes and follows Him, He won't let die. The Jews take this as blasphemy, ruling out the possibility He is telling the truth.


Matthew 18

Deal gently with the sheep, rejoicing to restore them, seeking out the wandering.
Deal respectfully with the sheep, not broadcasting a private offense to the world.
Deal firmly with a stubborn sheep who won't listen and keeps sinning, or refuses to repent.
Be quick to forgive the repentant, for you have been forgiven much.

A Knitter is born

"In the front door
Out the back
Around the tree
Off pops Jack"

Something made this girl decide she *needed* to learn to knit so she could make a scarf. No looking back, just "Where's the needles and yarn, Mom?" She is a real natural, perhaps from watching it done so often. See the concentration in her face? Warms a mother's heart.

Fiber arts will live on into the next generation.

Thanksgiving Planting

by Owen, 5 yr old


In Non-Essentials, Charity

Great couple paragraphs on how to live in charity with other Christians with whom we disagree


A sampling:

"The Bible tells us to strive to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Eph. 4:3). The many aspects of this require much thought, study and work. One particularly important area is the important distinction between principles and methods....

"Contemporary examples are almost endless. The principle is that Christian parents must provide their children with a biblical education. The methods vary -- homeschooling, Christian private school, co-ops, Internet tutorials, etc. The principle is that Christian mothers must feed their children. Methods vary -- schedule feeding or not, bottle feeding or not, etc. The principle is that we are to be good stewards of our bodies. The methods vary -- workout or not, jog or not, eat salted grease or not, etc. The principle is that children are a blessing from the Lord. The methods vary -- birth control, no birth control, etc. The principle is that modesty is a virtue for Christian women. The methods vary -- makeup, no makeup, jewelry, minimal jewelry, no jewelry with feathers, etc.... Our temptation is to reason from right to left in an improper fashion. If they were really committed to this principle, then they would . . .

"Are you fully convinced on whatever the issues are? That, in itself (assuming you are right), is good (v. 5). But if there is any occasion for troubling others for whom Christ died, then you should keep your supremely correct convictions to yourself. At the same time, know your own heart -- there are many ways to steer a conversation into troubled waters without overt comments. "I don't know why she got so defensive. All I did was . . ." We must pray for a love of peace, and strive for humility of mind. And we should remember that one of the clearest indicators that someone really is correct on an issue like this is that he has the ability to keep it to himself. The more imperialistic a brother is, insistent that being correct is very important, the more likely it is that he cannot hold it in. And the more likely it is that he is factually wrong on top of all his evangelistic fervor. It is far easier to trouble the saints with errors than with the truth."

-Douglas Wilson

Matthew 17; Mark 9; Luke 9

Like God did for Moses, God shows Peter, James and John some of Jesus' glory, with Moses and Elijah. The disciples' weak faith is unable to heal all things. Jesus keeps telling them He is going to die and rise after 3 days, but the more convinced they become that Jesus is Messiah, the more they argue about their comparative rank in His kingdom. This bickering will drive people from the kingdom. They have to become as children: humbly unaware of position. They need to deal ruthlessly with sin in their lives. The more convinced they become that Jesus is king of the kingdom, the more zealous their hatred of those conventionally outside the kingdom: they want to call down fire on Samaritans. The authority theme continues, as Jesus tells Peter sons are exempt from temple tax, but He will pay it anyway, so as not to stumble them.

Matthew 16; Mark 8; Luke 9

The Pharisees demand a sign from Jesus, not believing Him, even yet. Watch out for their teaching, or anyone's today, if they don't know the Source of Truth. But the disciples believe Jesus is the Son of the living God, and Jesus will build His church on them and their belief. They will have His authority (the keys), but will also need to imitate Him in taking up the cross.

Thanksgiving Ballad

This year, I want to teach the kids about the first thanksgiving feast without reading the same old books again. Something fun, something lively... how about a song?? An inspired burst from my pen put down these words this afternoon:

(to the tune of "On Top of Old Smoky")

The English King declared
"You must worship MY way!
And you'll go to jail if
you dare disobey!"

Some folks fled to Holland
to live with the Dutch
but the farmland was swampy
and the pay wasn't much.

So they went back to England
and hired a ship
to cross the Atlantic
to be free to worship.

Upon the Mayflower
the Pilgrims did sail;
they saw naught but water
and the occasional whale.

On day sixty-six they
spotted beach sand.
"O praise the great Lord who
brought us to this land!"

To make sure they'd live with
peace, justice, and tact
The men agreed to the
Mayflower Compact.

That winter was freezing;
they fell hungry and ill.
Half of them died, but
they trusted God still.

A friend came from somewhere
they didn't expect:
God helped the poor Pilgrims
and sent Samoset.

He said to plant fish with the
corn was the best.
They worked hard all summer
for a super harvest.

A great feast was held to
thank God for the corn,
squash, pumpkins, and turkey,
and the friendship just born.

For three days with Indians,
they did eat and play.
All this we remember
on Thanksgiving Day.

Copyright 2008 - Sara Hemmeke


Christmas Cards OVERSIZED

Look what my super-talented sister just finished:

It's a Christmas card for their front yard! They're in a snow-globe world up there right now, so she's been spending a lot of time indoors working on this big project. I believe it is painted on a 4x8' sheet of plywood which they'll stake in their yard and put a spotlight on to spread a Christmas message to all who drive by. These seem to be quite popular in Michigan, with some neighborhoods creating a "Christmas Card Lane" where each house sports their own large cards. She used one of last year's cards for the artwork. Make sure to click on the image to see the details larger! Way to go, sis!


Next up in the ipod...

So I went to load my next set of lectures onto my ipod, from "The Complete WordMp3 Library 2000-2007."

Turns out it is the Auburn Avenue 2002 Pastor's Conference, "The Federal Vision." You know, the one that started all the trouble. Maybe I'll let you know what I think.


Communion Exhortation - 9/28/08

Text: Ecc 2:12-3:15

We come to this table in worship to receive from Jesus Christ. Sitting down to dinner is an act of receiving. You eat, you drink, you enjoy. A worship service is first God serving us, giving us His Son, through His Word and sacraments. It is first about what God does for us, then about our response. If we recoil from this, saying, no no worship is what we do, then we are just like Peter sitting at the table with Jesus before him, towel in hand: “you shall never wash me, Jesus!” No, you must receive baptism, you must receive the washing, you must receive the bread and wine, all b/c you must receive Christ. Of course, we don’t deserve this service for us. That is the point. But He wants you to have it anyway. Receive it humbly and with gratitude. He died for you. Receive Him, believing you need Him. He rose for you. Live and abide in Him, as you rest in His work, and prepare to return to yours.

Matthew 15; Mark 7

Jesus rebukes the Pharisees for breaking God's law by adding to it. Pietists can't see the great danger in adding your own rules above and beyond the Bible, to make sure you don't disobey the Bible. True piety judges - and is judged - by what comes out of you, not by externals like what you see, eat or touch. We ought to be wise and careful - not doing fast food every day, not taking a 5 year old to an R movie, etc - but such wisdom is barely the beginning of piety.

After most confrontations with the Sadducees, headquartered in Jerusalem, Jesus withdraws to Galilee. After this confrontation with the Pharisees, dominant in Galilee, Jesus withdraws farther north, to Tyre and Sidon. He is not there to minister, yet He does. There is a difference between Jew and Gentile. The Son of David is for Israel, but if crumbs fall to the Gentiles and they have faith, that is all the more conviction for Israelites rejecting the bread on the table. Later, the apostles are sent to the ends of the earth, typically still to the Jew first, but also intentionally targeting the Gentiles.

To make the point stronger, Jesus feeds 4000 on the gentile side of the sea of Galilee. He is bread for Gentiles, too. He heals a Gentile, so he can hear and speak, while shaking His head at deaf and mute Israel.


John 6

Like the woman at the well, the crowds come seeking Jesus for physical bread, when He is living, eternal bread/life from heaven. Jesus says they must believe this. Tension grows, as the Jews resist His unique and divine claims. Jesus doesn't back down, but heightens the tension, saying the Spirit is needed, and comes only from His Father. Many leave, but the 12 know Jesus has the words of life.

Matt 14; Luke 9; Mark 6; John 6

John the Baptist is killed, having made political enemies by convicting Herod and Herodias of an unlawful marriage before God. Jesus withdraws, hearing it, feeds 5000, leaving 12 baskets of leftovers. Afterward He sends the crowd away, sends the disciples across the lake on their own, while He goes up the hillside to pray most of the night. He then shows His power over the wind and waves again. He heals the sick on the other side of the lake. Herod hears about Jesus and if afraid He is John come back to haunt his guilty conscience.


Matthew 9-10

Jesus makes a point of asserting His authority to forgive sins, connecting it to His obvious ability to heal.

Jesus takes of His authority and gives it to the 12 apostles, whom He sends out as sheep among wolves to heal, exorcise and resurrect the dead. He warns them to have no fear of man, but to speak the truth about Jesus, the Christ before men. This will bring a sword and a cross for the speaker, not peace. But there will also be rewards for His disciples.


Luke 8; Mark 4

It is a little known fact that Jesus was funded in part by some women, one of whom was the wife of Herod's butler, along with an intriguing "many others."

Jesus crosses to the Gentile side of Galilee. When a storm comes up, He rebukes the wind and waves, as He rebuked many demons. Like them, the wind and waves flee. Jesus controls the demons and He controls Satan's destructive winds (Job 1:18-19).

Jesus drives out the (Roman) "Legion" of demons and sends them into the lake, in the Gentile sacrificial pig, to the same place the demonic wind and waves went. Jesus honors the Gentiles' request for Him to leave (?), but the demoniac stays as a witness to His power.

Jesus heals a 12-year long bleeding problem, and raises a daughter from the dead. This Man has authority and power (Matt 28:18).

Matthew 13; Luke 8; Mark 4

Jesus tells us what His Kingdom is like.

Some reject it, others receive it for a time, yet others receive it and bear fruit.
Speaking in parables fits with this truth.
There are weeds in the Kingdom, that won't be shown and rejected before the end.
The Kingdom expands and permeates (Gen 1:28), we know not how.
The Kingdom is a treasure, worth selling everything to get.

The Nazarenes reject Jesus. Will you?

Communion Exhortation - 9/21/08

Sermon text: Ecclesiastes 1:12-2:11

We do not come to this Table, as Solomon points out, b/c we have straightened out our crooked hearts, and are now acceptable to God because of our hard work. No, God has done radical surgery within us, without our help, and He gives us this antibiotic to stave off any infection from setting in.

We do not partake here , as Solomon points out, b/c we are wise enough in God’s ways to distinguish ourselves from the world. No, we are to receive the Kingdom as a little child, simply, without complete understanding or full appreciation of what we are receiving.

We do not eat this Supper, as Solomon tried, to produce an emotional happy high that will carry us through a downer of a week. No, we receive from the Lord here b/c He tells us to remember Him this way. We do not partake to gratify our flesh, b/c we are hungry or thirsty, but rather so Jesus can feed and strengthen our souls.

We do not partake here of this Table, as Solomon found out, b/c it is the most aesthetically pleasing thing to do – the best wine, the tastiest bread, the professional musicians, wearing the best clothes.

Jesus is the source of every gift like these. His hands broke the bread first. He spread out His hands in the first and only effective sacrifice on the cross. We come here with empty hands to receive Him and His blessings.

This doesn’t mean that we must come having done nothing, that we must come ignorant, that we must come sad and despairing, that we must come afflicting our bodies, that we must come plain and unadorned and ugly. No, as we receive Jesus at His Table, we are enlivened to work harder to fight sin, to work harder in our vocations, to be wise, to be joyful, to care for and enjoy what our bodies can do, to improve our food, music, clothes, and homes, b/c all these things are God’s and not ours.

May we receive the bread and wine in faith, pleading the sacrifice of Christ’s body and blood to pay for our sins, only by His grace, through no merit or labor of our own.

Luke 11; Matt 12

How are we to pray?
First, we pray to God the Father, for His name to be holy, and His Kingdom to come.
Second, we pray for our daily bread, and for forgiveness of past sin and keeping from future sin.
Third, we pray persistently, even if we don't feel like we may, which is crazy if we've prayed #2 above. But we still feel this way sometimes, and God stoops to assure us that even when remembrance of our sins makes us feel impudent to pray at all, the Father wants us to ask and receive from Him.

Jesus criticizes the Pharisees for keeping the external and minor parts of the law while ignoring the inward and important. Their fathers killed the prophets, and they will, too, even though they say they are listening to God.

And God put His rainbow in the sky...

Seeing the full spectrum of leaves around us sparked an idea to see if the kids and I could create a color wheel with leaves. We didn't find find any blues, but got real close to purple! It was a great exercise in seeing colors and how they relate. Our oranges turned brown as you can see, and we didn't find a good yellow-green to bridge that gap. But it was a lot of fun seeing how many colors God puts around us this time of year! The boys really got into this; they were climbing our fence to snatch the bright orange leaves off the neighbor's tree!

If you try this, press the leaves first so the paper doesn't wrinkle as they dry. We used a glue stick to affix them to heavy paper.
After the color wheel, we decided we needed to make a turkey.

Matthew 8:1-13; Luke 7; Matt 11

Matthew 8:1-13
A couple healings continue the authority theme. Jesus sends a leper to the temple to fulfill the Old Covenant law regarding healings (Leviticus 14). A centurion shows he believes in Jesus' authority, understanding something of that authority in his vocation.

Luke 7 ; Matt 11
Unlike Elisha, whose dead bones caused an accidental resurrection amidst a funeral procession, Jesus intentionally resurrects a man amidst a procession. He is the greater Elisha, bringing a double measure of the Spirit to revive Israel and convict her leaders of their idolatry. John was Elijah, going before Elisha, but Jesus was what they were looking for. What made John question if Jesus was the one? Was it something He was NOT doing, like freeing prisoners, bringing justice/freedom to Israel?

Jesus blesses great sinners who come to Him unreservedly. But those who aren't sure about Jesus, and have Him around, but keep Him at a distance, He convicts.

Those with more exposure to Jesus have a harsher judgment if they reject Him. The wise and understanding reject Him, but the insignificant tend to receive Him. Come to Him and rest.

Matthew 5-7; Luke 6

Soon after calling the 12, Jesus teaches them with a new law on a new mountain, like Moses.
He describes the traits of those in His kingdom: poor in spirit, hungering for righteousness, salt and light. His new law doesn't undo the old, but takes in further: beyond murder to anger, beyond adultery to lust, beyond regulating divorce to restricting the reasons for it, beyond hating enemies to loving them, beyond doing good works for show to doing them for God. Don't run after money, clothes or food; seek God's kingdom first. As often as you judge, you will be judged, and with the same measure. Doing to others what you'd want them to do to you sums up the whole Law and Prophets. Notice, it is doing from the heart, not just hearing or even doing in God's name. Many think they're in the kingdom, but are not.


Typical Sunday

Some people wonder what it's really like at "the pastor's house." When I was growing up I was so curious about this - the pastor's family seemed shrouded in mystery. So to blow away any ideas you might have about the little ones reciting Calvin's "Institutes" before they can walk, let me give you a glimpse into a typical Sunday morning:

First, we start the day with great attitudes and try to be respectful for worship.

Then, a little group singing time around the piano is helpful to focus our thoughts. Everyone plays their favorite song - all at the same time! It's more efficient.

Then, after Daddy's done a great job preaching, we all come home for some much-needed nap time. Some of us need naps AFTER nap time.
See, not much different from your home, right?

Luke 6; Mark 3; Matthew 12

The conflict with Pharisees over Sabbath continues, as Jesus heals a man's hand on the Sabbath.

They say He is out of His mind, or of Beelzebub (Satan). But Jesus notes that He is casting out demons, so that can't be, because no house works against itself. He is making a point here, that the house of Israel is currently divided between its owner, Himself, and its stewards, the Pharisees.

Jesus chooses 12 apostles "to be with Him" and then to go out, preaching and casting out demons.

Great books

I just finished two books that I highly recommend. I'm off to host a conference with our church based on Bound for Glory, so will have to tell you later what is so great about these books. But click on the printed titles (not the pictures) to get 'em...

Bound for Glory, by RC Sproul, Jr.

Back to Basics, by David Hagopian, Douglas Wilson, Doug Jones, and Roger Wagner

Apple Dumplings, by Chef Zach

Fall's bounty gives us bushels of apples. I could fit in a bushel basket, so that's a lot. Here's a fine specimen; red, juicy, good-for-you-healthy-fruit.

But why eat plain apples when you can add sugar, cinnamon & a flaky pastry crust? No, we must take dominion of the apple! Let's make dumplings!

For any project to succeed, you need a good, reliable staff. Mom seemed to be handy about the kitchen, and she could reach the oven knobs, so I drafted her.

Ready to make dumplings? Good. Start with the pastry.

Cut together 3 cups flour, 1.5 cups butter, 1 tsp salt & 5-6 Tbsp cold water.

Frequently taste the dough to make sure it's just right, then roll half of it into a big square.

Peel and core 8 SMALL apples. Tossing them into the air then shooting out the core with a rifle is a good way to do this, but my staffer suggested an apple corer. No fun, but it got the job done.

Cut the dough into 4 squares (I'm still learning geometry, you'll notice), then place an apple on each. Spoon into the center some sugar and cinnamon, then add a good glob of butter. We're real technical with our measurements, as you can tell.

We think pastry cutters are overrated and prefer the old fashioned two-knife method of cutting in the butter.

Pretend it's Christmas and wrap each apple in its square of dough. No bows needed.

If you feel really ambitious, you can shape the dough on top to resemble a little stem and apple leaf. Since I'm only two, I can only make snakes and blobs, so I went for the "country rustic" look instead.

Repeat with the other half of dough and 4 more apples. Little apples make just the right size dumpling to eat. Big dumplings are a meal in themselves, which isn't bad, in my opinion. This is a good time to wrap up any extra dumplings in foil and freeze them for later. I follow Noah's example and wrap them in pairs.

Here they are, ready to go in the oven, but first they need some special syrup to bake in. Like Mom, dumplings should get the full spa treatment.

2 cups water
1.5 cups sugar
0.5 tsp cinnamon
4 Tbsp butter

Boil that together then pour over the dumplings. That's enough for all 8 dumplings.

Bake them for 40 min at 400 degrees. Reading a good book is a great thing to do while waiting. Oh, and those dumplings need to be basted after 20 min. I was too absorbed in my book, so my staff handled that little detail for me.

My staff mutnied at this point, insisting I didn't know how to read. So I thought I better look productive and help clean up a bit. Flour can really spread through a kitchen!

Finally! A nice, hot dumpling! They go great with PBJ and carrots (I'd rather skip the carrots, but my staff gets stubborn at times). Oh well, the dumplings are WAY too hot to eat right away, so I guess I'll enjoy lunch while waiting for it too cool.


John 5

Jesus heals a lame man on the Sabbath in the temple, sparking a controversy. He shouldn't be telling people to carry their mats on Shabbat, and He certainly shouldn't be calling Yahweh His personal Father. When the Jews object, Jesus presses on: the Father has given Him - the Son, Jesus - life on His own, and all of the Father's power to judge and raise the dead, too.

John bore witness to this truth about Jesus.
Jesus' own works were bearing witness to this truth about Jesus.
The Father bears witness to this truth about Jesus.
The Scriptures (Moses) bear witness to this truth about Jesus.

Butt Prints in the Sand

Just got this through an email list.
Pretty good parody of "Footprints."

One night I had a wondrous dream,
One set of footprints there was seen,
The footprints of my precious Lord,
But mine were not along the shore.

But then some stranger prints appeared,
And I asked the Lord, "What have we here?"
Those prints are large and round and neat,
"But Lord they are too big for feet."

"My child," He said in somber tones,
"For miles I carried you alone.
I challenged you to walk in faith,
But you refused and made me wait."

"You disobeyed, you would not grow,
The walk of faith, you would not know.
So I got tired, I got fed up,
and there I dropped you on your butt."

"Because in life, there comes a time,
when one must fight, and one must climb.
When one must rise and take a stand,
or leave their butt prints in the sand."

Matthew 12:1-8; Luke 6; Mark 2...

Verses 23-28
These verses have long confounded me, given my understanding of them. Maybe someone can set me straight.

The Pharisees' object wrongly to the disciples plucking grain with their hands. Deut 23:25 allows this, but the Pharisees added to Scripture in forbidding it, reckoning it as work not to be done on the Sabbath. This reckoning is not in Scripture.

In reply, Jesus gives an example of when David actually went against the written law (Lev 24:5-9) and was not held guilty, since it was a special circumstance.

In essence, Jesus says: look, not only is it okay for them to pluck grain, against your extra-Scriptural ruling, it was even okay for David to eat the tabernacle bread, against the Scriptural law.


Pens, Brushes & Wedding Bells

I was asked to create artwork for a wedding covenant about a month ago. The bride envisioned a large (24x36") document that would include Scripture verses & their vows written in calligraphy. She also had the idea of including a grapevine border around the text with the idea that the guests would sign their names inside this border instead of in a guest book. Then the new couple would have some art to grace the walls of their home and remind them of their big day.
Always happy to take on a new project, I couldn't wait to try my hand at calligraphy. What fun making all those swoopy beautiful letters! I wasn't very consistent though, and burned through many many pages just practicing. The biggest challenge for me, however, was getting the layout right and getting everything to fit within the dimensions and yet still have the text be readable as wall art. That's a surprising statement from a graphic designer, eh? After a few go 'rounds on layout and dimensions, and the discovery that "double elephant" sized paper (24x36") is about as rare as a siamese elephant, we scaled down to the standard 22x30" paper found in art stores. I bought five sheets to allow for a few mistakes. Since I would be hand lettering and painting this, I couldn't rely too much on the computer. Here's my old-fashioned paste up, working out type size and layout:

I wrote out the main text about four times and literally cut and taped it together to see how it would work. I no longer take for granted those quick key strokes that instantly flow text inside a shape or increase size and leading! The vows are already penned on the above picture. After I figured out where the text went and made innumerable measurements and guidelines, it was time to wrap this up.

Above is a detail of the finished piece; can you find my two errors shown in this photo compared to the paste up? :) If the bride can't find them, I'll never tell my secrets!!

The watercolor painting of the grapevines was the last step, and the part about which I was most nervous and had the least self-confidence. I was aiming for a loose, brushy look, but was struggling to achieve that. After the first two leaves, I loosened up a lot and took a much more "que sera sera" attitude. Basically, I stopped caring too much and started playing around a bit more. That actually helped my painting to go better and made the whole process rather enjoyable. I had memories of watching an old guy on PBS make paintings, talking in a thick brogue about making "happy trees." I'm not convinced the grapes look very happy, but deadlines pressed me to carry on.

The whole project took about a month from start to finish, but what you actually see took 4 evenings. One to put down guidelines, one to pen the vows, one to pen the purple Bible text, and one to do the leaf border. I started around 9:30 or 10:00pm each night, and wrapped up between midnight and 1:00am. Strange hours, but there were no little hands to "help" or accidentally spill ink, and Hubby was happy to read quietly so I could focus on not misspelling anything. I actually have yet to trim the matboard and mount it tonight, with the big reveal being tomorrow night at the wedding rehearsal. I hope everyone is pleased!

The empty space to the right of the vows is for the immediate family to sign as supporters and witnesses of their marriage.


John 2-4

Chapter 2
Jesus is invited to a wedding in Cana, with His disciples. He is already respected as a teacher in His own right. The 6 stone jars are used for OT ritual cleanliness. Jesus uses them to bring wine to Israel, when they only had water - or even not-as-good wine - before. Jesus provides joy and gladness at His coming. Do you expect joy from His salvation?

Jesus' authority is questioned when He drives the sellers and changers out of the temple. Again, He points not to the temple (or jars) of stone, but to Himself. He prophesies His body will rise 3 days after it is destroyed. Do you trust in buildings of stone or in the sacrificed body of Jesus?

Apparently Jesus did other signs in Jerusalem, so that many believed. But He didn't let them sway His mission.

Chapter 3
Jesus teaches the teacher, but at night. After that temple incident, the establishment is against Jesus. Jesus establishes the tension early on between His signs confirming Him as from God, and His other actions setting Him against the wicked shepherds of Israel. One must be born again by water and Spirit to enter the Kingdom. Jesus must be lifted up to accomplish this eternal life. God sent Him so that whoever believes in Him will live forever. Believing in Him means coming into His light, and forsaking deeds of darkness.

Disciples notice the competition between Jesus and John, and John says Jesus is supposed to increase. "I'm just the messenger; He's the real Groom, come for His bride." The message strengthens from "Jesus has life" to "without Him you are still under God's wrath."

Chapter 4
Again, Jesus is greater. This time, greater than Jacob, who dug the well. Jesus speaks with an immoral, Samaritan woman - something that just wasn't done. But Christ's mission transcends social convention and Jewish provincialism. She evades His convicting words with a theological discussion about worship. The reason for His speaking to her comes clear: she can worship Him without going to Jerusalem or Gerizim, in the Spirit. He is the Messiah she is waiting for. She leaves her water, having living water to give to others inside now. The disciples are eager to eat lunch, but also ready to spurn the society of the Samaritans they got it from. The woman reaps a harvest of Samaritans, bringing them to Jesus, and more laborers are needed as they all believe. Who in your life may be ripe for the harvest, that you can bring to Jesus?

Finally, Jesus heals an official's son, which by John's count is the second sign, though Jesus did many signs in Jerusalem after the wine at Cana. Hm. The man believes on Jesus' word, instead of on His miraculous deeds, which Jesus points out is better.

Church calendar

Great stuff from Steve Wilkins on the Church liturgical year calendar:

"In a sense, the Christian calendar turns the entire year into a drama. Beginning with the Feast of the Incarnation, the world moves progressively from darkness to light. The death of Winter is turned into the resurrection of Spring which corresponds to the Feast of the Resurrection (Easter). Then comes Pentecost and the time of grow and maturity. We do battle with the effects of sin and the curse upon the ground — we fight the weeds and the bugs to protect the seed until the harvest. Now the harvest is coming in and Satan, seeing the defeat of his efforts to destroy us again, seeks one last time to achieve victory before the year’s end. October 31 came to signify that day. Satan seeks to destroy the saints, but he is banished again by the victory of Christ and the joy and gladness that now has filled the earth through the Church."

I would add that the harvest itself (Thanksgiving?) is the symbol of the consummation. Harvest (of souls and offerings) brought in; table set for the Great Feast.

There is more on the true origin of Halloween here, from Pastor Wilkins.

Communion Exhortation - 9/7/08

Sermon text: Ecclesiastes 1:1-11

As Solomon would say, here we are, celebrating the Lord’s Supper... again. But what profit is there in it? Every week we do the same thing, and don’t seem to be ahead spiritually speaking. Sometimes we are doing worse than the week before. The bread rises, the bread goes down our throats, next week it’s right back again and nothing has changed. Our stomachs are not satisfied with eating. The Church has been celebrating this sacrament for 2000 years, and what is there to show for it?

Remember that under the sun, this ritual is just that – an empty, futile ritual. But God has promised to break through, to break in, to feed, nurture and sustain us with His Son. And because God keeps His promises, there is GREAT profit in our baptism, in Joshua’s baptism this morning. There is great profit in this meal. For God has ordained it to be so, no matter how vaporous it appears to us, under the sun. God comes to us, and gives us Himself on the cross, reveals Himself here at the table. Who can find satisfaction apart from God? God has to give it.

And when He does, there is nothing better for us than to eat and drink and enjoy the temporary fruit of our labor. Jesus has seen the labor of his soul, the people He bought with His blood. And He is satisfied. We cannot accomplish so grand an eternal redemption like that, and yet our labor is like His, when we work in faith, looking forward to the joy set before us and provided by God, only by His grace, through no merit or labor of our own.


Matthew 3; Mark 1; Luke 3

Matthew 3; Mark 1; John 1
John convicts Israel of sin. Many repent. Many Pharisees and Saduccees he rebukes for trusting in their heritage and not bearing fruit of repentance. Do we trust in past spiritual accomplishments, and complacently listen for new teachers to teach new things as a curiosity or a hobby? Or do we seek the Word of God? John points to the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

Jesus is baptized by John. The Father speaks, and the Spirit hovers over the waters of this new creation work begun. God says it is good. The world is set right in Christ; are you in Him, part of that "new world order"?

Nathaniel believes Jesus is the king of Israel, since Jesus saw him before Nathaniel met Him.
Jesus is the ladder between heaven and earth, the same one Jacob dreamed.

Luke 3
John preaching applies the values of the kingdom of God - justice and mercy - to their daily lives.
John preached against the sins of the political rulers, naming names. This landed him in jail, and finally beheaded, very unjustly. When is the last time you stood against wrongdoing, at personal cost to yourself? Luke's geneology of Jesus takes us back to Adam, instead of to Abraham. It appears to give us Mary's lineage, where Matthew 1 gave us Joseph's. Mary is said here to come from David's son Nathan, where Joseph came from David's son Solomon.

Mark 1; Matthew 4
Jesus is tempted in the wilderness, returns preaching the same gospel of kingdom and repentance that John did, calls His first disciples, and heals many, becoming very popular. Jesus' reaction to popularity was longer, earlier-in-the-day prayer. What is yours? The popularity turns to opposition, though, when Jesus says He is sent to the Gentiles.

Luke 5; Mark 2
Jesus continues healing and casting out demons, using one case as an argument for His authority to forgive sins.
Jesus is different than expected. He eats and drinks with tax collectors. He doesn't fast as devoutly as John or the Pharisees. Just as you don't treat old and new wine the same, you can't treat Jesus and other teachers the same. Jesus is Older and Better.

Communion Exhortation - 8/24/08

Sermon text: Deuteronomy 6

Paul's warning to the Corinthians in chpt 10 was to avoid idolatry in deciding where they eat. When the whole city of Corinth expects you as a good citizen at the Dionysius festival, you must refuse, because you eat at the Lord’s table. The problem is we can also make idols of good things, like patriotism, family, and a pro-life abortion stand. Your fundamental identity is acted out here. Jesus feeds you with Himself. You are dependent on Him, you trust Him to save you from God’s punishment against your sins. It is good to associate with like-minded people on secondary issues, like family integrated churches, paedo-Communion advocates, and home-schoolers, but if we start to see any of those things as what we need to save society, we are headed for idolatry and pride. All things do not consist and hold together in Calvinism, or in the family, but in Jesus Christ. We cannot be home-schoolers first, or even members of our families first. We are first members of God’s family. All these other things are good, only as they contribute to the life of God’s family, which we believe they do. But if we cannot conceive of saying no to our nation or to our family out of obedience to Christ, we do not understand what this table and our Lord demands of us. We are renewing a blood covenant to belong to Christ. This transforms our identity at the root, reshaping all of our previous loyalties.
Be loyal to Christ. Thank Him for the gifts He gives, of a free country and a faithful family. But here at this table, remember the sacrificial gift that makes every other gift possible. But most of all, receive Christ at His table, as children. Jesus is very clear on this point. We must enter His Kingdom, and receive Him as little children. This is not so easy for adults with higher skills in making subtle and nuanced excuses and rationalizations to stick with our idols. But children must learn gratitude that deepens with understanding of God’s sweet and awesome ways.


Communion Exhortation - 8/17/08

Sermon theme: our primary identity as in Christ

In this meal, we are communing with Christ. The benefits of being united with Him sum up our whole salvation. Only in Christ are we justified. Only in Christ are we sanctified. Only in Christ are we glorified. And this meal represents and seals our union with Him, by which the Spirit applies all these blessings to us. He does this when we trust in Jesus Christ’s obedience and death to satisfy God’s standard of righteousness and His penalty of death for sin.

In this meal, we are communing with Christ, and with His Body. That means with Newport News Lutherans, Williamsburg Baptists, Richmond Assemblies of God, Mississippi Presbyterians, Brazilian Methodists, African Anglicans, European evangelicals, Roman Catholic believers, Russian Orthodox believers, Myanmar CREC, and the Chinese underground church. And we also worship Christ with and commune with, the souls of just men made perfect, like Abraham, Moses, David, Ezra, Mary, Paul, Onesimus, Ignatius, Augustine, Gustavus Adolphus, Aquinas, Anselm, Wycliffe, Hus, Erasmus, Luther, Anne Askew, Wesley, Whitefield, David Livingstone, Jim Eliot.

Now the tie that binds us is not that they were all smart and super-spiritual, and so are we. No, the point is not to pride ourselves on our great heritage. The unifying point is not that we all have the same theology on every point. The center that holds us all together, in whom all things consist, is Christ.

Luke 2:39-52; Matthew 2

Matthew 2
Star-gazing nobility come from the east, expecting a ruler born recently to the Jews. This scares the paranoid Herod, which in turn upsets the whole capital of Jerusalem. The scribes know the Scriptures: He is to be born in Bethlehem. Herod sends the wise men as unwitting spies, but God intervenes, giving dreams to the wise men, and to Joseph, saving Jesus' life, sending Him to Egypt. This way, Hosea 11:1 was also fulfilled. Herod, realizing he was tricked, resolves to be rid of the possible threat anyway, and kills all boys under 2 in the region of Bethlehem. This fulfills another Scripture, from Jeremiah. Herod dies, Joseph's family returns to Israel, but bypasses Judah, where Archealeus is a threat, returning to Nazareth.

Luke 2:39-52
Going back to Nazareth, Joseph and Mary raised Jesus in the nurture and admonition of... the Lord. Already at 12, Jesus knew His Father's business, and was advanced in His understanding of the Scriptures.

Matthew 1; Luke 2:1-38

Matthew 1
The book about Jesus, son of David, Abraham and God.
There are 3 sets of 14 generations, from Abraham to David, from David to Israel's deportation to Babylon, and from the deportation to Jesus.
Mary was found pregnant before she married Joseph. The angel told Joseph it was all right, since it was of God, not man, and that this was to be the savior of Israel - from their sins. This fulfilled Isaiah 7:14.

Luke 2:1-38
A Roman census sends Joseph and Mary to Bethlehem, their city of origin. Jesus is born there, in the stable. Angels appear to nearby shepherds, heralding the good news. The shepherds go see Him, tell everyone there about the angels, and return worshiping God. Jesus is circumcised on the eighth day, and they fulfill the law at the temple regarding purification of mother and child. While there, Simeon and Anna see the Savior and bless God for Him. He is Israel's salvation, the Gentiles' revelation, Jerusalem's redemption, the rise and fall of many, the piercer of hearts.


Communion exhortation - 8/10/08

Getting a bit behind on these. I'll try to catch up slowly...

Sermon text: John 5:25 - on the New Covenant, from Pentecost to Consummation

The resurrection of Jesus is the first fruits of our own. It is tied to ours, since we are in Christ. Likewise, Jesus connects this meal with the feast in the kingdom at the end of time. He will not drink of this fruit of the vine until He does so in His Father’s Kingdom. Christ’s rising is a guarantee of our rising. The Spirit’s presence with us is a guarantee of our coming inheritance with the saints. And this meal is a guarantee and foretaste of the coming kingdom feast. God gives us a vision of what is coming, a partial fulfillment, right now. We are called to live like it’s coming, and even now is, in a broken world until He comes. Have regard for each member; discern the body as we partake. At the great feast, are you going to huddle over your plate, eyes closed, to be spiritual? Or will you share the life and joy of Christ with those around you? Start sharing His benefits with each other now. Take these table manners to your tables this noon. Take them to your family table, and to your neighbor.

Luke 1; John 1

Luke 1
Luke writes to Theophilus about the things done among the disciples of Jesus.
God sent a son, John, to Zechariah and Elizabeth, to fulfill the prophecy in Malachi 4: he would be the one in the spirit of Elijah, turning fathers hearts to their children. The same Gabriel that explained the 70 7's to Daniel at the beginning of them, now comes to Zechariah at their end. But he encounters unbelief, in the old man, a stark contrast with Abraham, who also received news from angels that he would have a son in his old age.

Gabriel continues referring to his Old Testament ministry when he goes to Mary, mentioning the everlasting kingdom of Daniel, to be fulfilled in Jesus. Mary asks the same question Zechariah did, but in faith. She sings in the Spirit, rejoicing in God for saving Israel, keeping His promises to Abraham.

Meanwhile, John is circumcised and Zechariah calls him John, at which God opens his mouth. He then praises God in the Spirit for sending a savior, as He promised by covenant with Abraham that He would.

John 1:1-14
The divine Word with God at the beginning, who made all things, gives light to all men. He came into the world, with John testifying to Him, ahead of Him. But the world He made didn't receive Him. Those who did, He made children of God, supernaturally born again. This Word became flesh, a real man, living among us, His glory seen among us.



Chapter 1
God has chosen Jacob instead of Esau, yet Jacob does not return honor to God. Her sacrifices are impure, half-hearted, and despised.

Chapter 2
The priests have despised God and corrupted the covenant He made with them, so God will despise the priests before the people. Israel has been faithless to her God, through unfaithfulness in her marriages.

Chapter 3
The messenger of the covenant will come and purify the priests, offering clean sacrifice. He will witness against the unrighteous. Israel has been robbing God by holding back the full tithe from God. God-fearers in Israel speak to each other, and God takes note, promising the difference between them and the wicked will one day again be visible and obvious.

Chapter 4
The wicked will become stubble, and the righteous will shine brightly, with the Son.
Remember the law of Moses.
I send you the last prophet, Elijah. Listen to him, or your land will be cursed.
In the regeneration, fathers hearts will be toward their children, and children to fathers.

Zechariah 8-14

Chapter 8
God promises to restore Israel's people and harvest. Where God intended destruction before, and it surely came, He now intends good, and it will surely come. Fasting should turn to feasting. Truth and justice should also prosper in the city.

Chapter 9
God is going to take down the Philistine nations. Israel's king will come to her riding on a donkey, bringing peace. In the conflict with Greece, God will protect and save Israel.

Chapter 10
God will give rain. He will be a good shepherd. He will gather them from the nations. He will fight for Israel, and strengthen her to fight.

Chapter 11
Israel's shepherds fleece the sheep. Zechariah trie sto shepherd them with Favor and Union, but they detest each other. The covenant between earthly shepherd (Zechariah/Jesus) and Israel is broken, and the financial aspect is concluded with 30 pieces of silver thrown into the temple.

Chapter 12
The nations, in seeking Jerusalem's demise, will face their own. Out of it, Judah will rise preeminent among Israel's tribes. The house of David will receive grace from God, as the nations look on the one they pierce and mourn for Him. This will open a fountain of cleansing from sin (13:1)

Chapter 13
Idolatry and false prophets will vanish; social pressure against them will be great.
God will strike His Shepherd, scattering the sheep. One third will be preserved through fire.

Chapter 14
The nations will come against Israel. God will stand on the Mount of Olives. Israel will divide in two. God will plague and defeat the nations. Those that remain will worship God in Jerusalem, keeping Sukkot. Everything in the city will be holy to God.

"They will call upon my name, and I will answer them.I will say, ‘They are my people’; and they will say, ‘The LORD is my God.’” Zechariah 13:9.



Chapter 1
God calls Israel to return. 4 horsemen patrol the earth and find the nations at rest, while Jerusalem lies desolate. God promises to return and comfort Zion, and punish the nations. The horns that scattered Israel will themselves be scattered.

Chapter 2
Jerusalem is measured. But her inhabitants will spread beyond her borders, for many nations will join with Yahweh. He has roused Himself to favor Israel.

Chapter 3
Joshua, the high priest of Israel, is favored and cleansed by God, in spite of Satan's accusations. This can happen because the Branch will come and remove the sin of the land in one day.

Chapter 4
The two anointed ones (messiahs) give light to Israel, the source of which is the Spirit, not might or power. Zerubbabel started the building of the temple, and he would finish it.

Chapter 5
Israel's false swearing is placarded before all heaven on a large banner in the sky.
Wicked Israel is carried off to Babylon in a basket in the sky.

Chapter 6
This time, the patrolling 4 horsemen find God's Spirit at rest, instead of the nations.
Some of the exiles crown Joshua, high priest, uniting kingship and priesthood.

Chapter 7
When Israel asks if they should continue a traditional fast, when times have changed from lamentation to joy. God answers that more important than the outward practice of personal piety, is the heart attitude leading to true outward godliness in mercy and justice.


Through Haggai, God convicts Israel, returned from exile, for not building the temple with as much vigor as they build their own houses. Israel listens, and builds. Haggai encourages Israel with the promise that this temple will be filled with glory, even though it appears humble now. Israel has offered unclean works from unclean hands until now. But from the day the foundation is laid, God now shows favor and blesses Israel. God singles out Zerubbabel, the governor. Promising that he will stand, even when all other kingdoms are shaken.


Daniel 10-12

Chapter 10 - Daniel sees a strong man/angel, who is in the midst of spiritual struggle against the prince of Persia. Daniel is undone before the angel's presence, but receives strength from him.

Chapter 11
The rich king in verse 2 is likely the Xerxes that Esther marries. He attacked Greece. Verse 4 describes Alexander the Great's kingdom split into 4 at his death. The rest of the chapter details the conflict between 2 of those 4 provinces - the Syrian and Egyptian - and how it ravages Israel caught between them. Antiochus Ephiphanes comes on the scene in verses 20 and following. His war against Egpyt is detailed, and then his persecution of the Jews (30-45).

Chapter 12
In spite of all this turmoil coming, God will deliver His saints, raising them to life. The wise will give some understanding to the rest, in the midst of it. They will have rest at the end. Wait for it.


Daniel 7-9

Chapter 7
This vision is analogous to chapter 2, covering the same 4 empires: Babylon (winged lion), Persians (bear), Greece (leopard), Rome (iron & 10 horns). Daniel is constantly reminded not to worry, for the saints will receive and possess the eternal kingdom, from the Ancient of Days, no matter what kingdoms come and go. The application of this is not lost on me, as I watch the presidential elections come in tonight.

Chapter 8
The ram and goat signify Persia and Greece in more detail. Greece will come against God's people very successfully at the "appointed time of the end."

Chapter 9
Daniel's understanding of Israel's determined length of exile in Jeremiah prompts him to confess Israel's sins and seek restoration. Gabriel is sent to confirm and clarify the vision. Messiah will be cut off, make a covenant with many, and put an end to sacrifice. Desolations and abominations will follow.

Daniel 4-6

Chapter 4
Nebuchadnezzar becomes the narrator, telling a separate incident, also involving a dream, in order to glorify the true God. The king calls Daniel by his Hebrew name, honoring his God. The king sees a prosperous, large tree. But it is cut down and left to the beasts in the wilderness. Daniel says it applies to the king himself, and calls him to repent of his pride. He does not, and the dream comes true: Nebuchadnezzar goes crazy and lives "out in the woods" for 7 years. God restores him, and he is humble, faithfully glorifying Daniel's God.

Chapter 5
The next king, Belshazzar, feasts with the temple cups, a great sacrilege. God judges him on the spot - the handwriting is on the wall, and that same night Darius conquers the empire.

Chapter 6
Darius sets up a new administration, with Daniel near the top. Envious underlings trick the king into condemning him to death, by forcing a choice between obeying the king or obeying God. Daniel is put in a den, a stone is sealed over it, an angel comes. No harm was found in him, for he was blameless and trusted God. Those who committed the injustice are punished. Does this sound at all familiar!?

Darius also glorifies Daniel's God. Like Nebuchadnezzar he admits His kingdom is everlasting, just as the vision in chapter 2 said. Now, 2 kings, prophesied in the same vision (2:39,44) have confirmed it.



Chapter 1
Daniel and friends, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, are captured and taken to Babylon. They remain distinct from the culture, in body, mind and heart. This pleases the king.

Chapter 2
Nebuchadnezzar dreams of his kingdom's demise, and of coming kingdoms. God gives Daniel the interpretation; he glorifies God before the king for giving it to him, and is rewarded for it.

Chapter 3
Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah are tested, refusing to submit to idolatry in the face of a fiery death, thus further glorifying God before the king.



Chapter 1
The locusts have eaten up Israel's harvest, and emptied the temple's stores.

Chapter 2
The day of Yahweh is coming. A terrible army that is coming against Israel. But there is still time to repent, and change what is coming. When Israel assembled and wept and lamented and repented, God had pity and restored Israel. So also, now, God will pour out His Spirit on all, and everyone who calls on Yahweh's name will be saved.

Chapter 3
God will restore Israel, but judge the nations.


Chapter 46-48
God describes the sacrificial system in the restored temple (46), and, something new, a river flowing from the sacrificial center, the altar, out into the world, healing the nations. As blood and water flowed from the side of Christ at His death on the cross, that true atonement for many is foreshadowed here as blood is shed on the altar and as water flows out into the world.

The land is divided among the 12 tribes, the priests, the city, and the prince. The city belongs to each of the tribes, and Yahweh is there. This was the fundamental need of the exiles: to know that God would be present in the land, in their city.



Chapter 44-45
God promises to restore Israel, specifically her priests and kings.
The purity of His temple is established, and the ritual cleanliness of its priests. The land is apportioned to priests and rulers. Rulers are described, ruling with justice and not with oppression.
The overall point: to restore Israel before God, it is essential that her political and religious leaders be pure and faithful.