Tuesday, November 29, 2016

At the Feast: Matthew 22

In Summary:

Remember, first of all, that this chapter of Matthew falls within the Passion Week, the last week of the earthly life of Christ. (Ever consider how it is to describe a time-limited event for the Eternal Son of God? It’s not really the “last week of the life of Christ, because He’s eternal, but it’s the last earthly week, except for when He come back at the end of time….)

That this chapter falls into the Passion Week brings us important context for our understanding. There are no more tours of Galilee or the Decapolis. Matthew records no more miracles performed after this point. These are the closing teachings of Jesus. We read here the parable of the wedding feast, which we’ll look at more in a moment. We also see Jesus address paying taxes with the statement that even the hyper-liberal Jesus Seminar decided had to be Him, “Render to Caesar that which is Caesar’s, and to God that which is God’s.” (Matthew 22:21) We also see Jesus rebuke the Sadducees for not believing in the reality of the resurrection of the dead, and a revisit of the question, “Which is the greatest commandment?”

The chapter wraps up with Jesus asking a question, which the Pharisees, the Sadducees, and the lawyers are unable to answer. And at this point, they stop trying to trap Him. Of course, they shift focus to killing Him, but that’s another discussion.

In Focus:

Let us put the parable of the wedding feast in focus today. First, Jesus tells similar parables at other times, like Luke 14:15-24. This parable aligns the Kingdom of Heaven with an image the people would have been familiar with: a royal wedding feast. (He does this again in Revelation 19:6-9). Based on various sources (like the New American Commentary Matthew volume by Craig Blomberg), Jesus’ hearers would have associated the king with God Almighty. This was typical in the rabbinic traditions as well as fitting with a Christ-centered examination of the parable.

The son, then, is Jesus. The identification of these two parties in the parable is fairly easy. What we are left with is understanding who the rest of the characters are. There are the slaves who are sent out and rejected, the slaves who are sent out and attacked, the slaves who go out to gather guests from the highways and hedges, and then there are the guests. There are the invited guests who refuse to come, the invited guests who respond violently, and the surprise guests who do come. Oh, and that one guy who gets thrown out. Each of these groups stands for something, and possibly multiple somethings. Who is he? (Other than an add-in to keep anyone from being certain they have Jesus completely figured out?)

First, the slaves in their various groupings. Who are they? A good argument can be made that the slaves of the King stand for the prophets of old. I think that fits easily, for we see in other places that the prophets served God by calling others to Him. It is also true that Israel, as a nation, was to be a light to the Gentiles (Isaiah 60 gives us a hint of that). To that extent, they are part of that group of slaves. The ones who tried to live according to the Word of God were part of the invitation to the nations, including their own people.

Then there are the guests. First you have the invited guests who just don’t care enough to respond. There are plenty of people like that, and at times you or I may even slide into that group if we are not mindful. Then you have the invited guests who respond violently to the invitation—these are destroyed in the wrath of the king and show those who will face the wrath of Almighty God. Finally, you have those who come in. The hall is filled with the good and the bad (and probably the ugly). One guest, though, has come in on his terms rather than in accordance with the king’s invitation. He gets the boot.

In Practice:

The first practical step is to get this through our heads: we are neither the King nor the Son. We do not, therefore, set the attendance rules for the wedding banquet. God sets that. We do not choose who gets in or who is kept out—if God has set a limit to those who believe in Jesus, then that sticks. No matter what.

The second practical step is to accept the invitation. Our pride is our greatest foe here: we weren’t the “worthy” ones initially invited. So what? If I was the backup guest for table at the Nobel Prize banquet, I’d take it in a heartbeat. Would you not take front-row, center seats at the Grand Ole Opry if they were the gift of grace from someone? (If not, seek help immediately). That we are invited now by the slaves of God to come to the feast means we should take the invitation rather than cast aspersions on His grace. Who are these slaves? Read the opening lines of Paul, Peter, or James…they are the “slave of Christ.”

Finally, take the practical step of bringing others with you to the banquet. There is an abundance of grace there, and the hall is not yet full. Take someone with you to Jesus.

In the process, though, be sure to come as the King commands rather than to try and take it all your way. You cannot stay even if you do sneak in. And I like what Gregory the Great (6th Century) suggests the garment is: love. Love for the King of Kings and love for our fellow man.

In Nerdiness:

Above, I mentioned the “Jesus Seminar.” This was a group that met and attempted to determine what Jesus really said…using their own logic for eliminating some sayings of Christ. If I remember my reading about it (it was the 90s, so it’s been a while), the one phrase that was unambiguously Jesus was Matthew 21:21, “Redner to Caesar that which is Caesar’s, and to God, that which is God’s.” Why this? Because no Jew would have wanted to pay Caesar, and neither would the church later in its political power. So, a command to pay taxes and tithes seemed to them the one thing Jesus definitely said.

Now, first of all, I think Jesus pretty much said everything the Gospels have Him saying. The “pretty much” comes from Greek’s lack of quotation marks, meaning that some places could be summarized speech rather than direct quotes.

Leaving that aside, let’s consider the idea of that one saying. Jesus says Caesar can have what’s his after calling for a coin and asking “whose likeness” is on the coin.

Now, in whose likeness are people?

Caesar can have the pocket change. Leave your pennies at Lincoln’s feet. But humanity? We belong to God.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Book: StarStruck

Yes, I do still plan to maintain the blog. And even hope to post to it from time to time :)

Space. The Final Frontier. Well, those words aren’t exactly mine, but they are words I grew up with and love as a description of the skies above us. While I remember being fascinated by Jacques Cousteau and the underwater world, space was where I wanted to sea, study, and be… (still willing to pastor First Baptist Church, Lunar Rock, The Moon). Into that space-fascination comes today’s book, Star Struck, by Dr. David Bradstreet and Steve Rabey. Dr. Bradstreet has a Ph.D. in astronomy, which would support his qualification to write about space. Rabey’s background is church history, which is relevant…how?

In this manner: one of the goals of Star Struck is to deal with the supposed conflict between Christian faith and scientific work. Rabey provides some good background information on the interaction between the church in history and scientific exploration. The collaboration does an excellent job explaining the debacle that was the treatment of Galileo, for example, and how Christianity as a whole is not against studying the skies with honesty and integrity.

Overall, this is a good read. Bradstreet’s insights into astronomy are educational. The additional benefits of pointing toward the Creator in the process are evident. I do wish he would take my side about Pluto, but I guess it’s just not a planet after all…

As the astronomy in a theology text needs to be double-checked, so I would caution that some aspects of the theology in an astronomy book might be different from one’s background. Bradstreet and Rabey are in agreement about the Sovereign Creator God, but their views may not line up with yours. It’s still worth reading—let your thoughts be challenged!

I have enjoyed reading this. I handed it off to all three of my students—15, 13, and 10—and they all enjoyed it as well.

A good add to the shelf!

 

I did receive a copy of this book from Booklook.

Sermon Recap for November 28

Happy beginning of Advent to you all! Here is the Sunday morning sermon from November 27 and the Thanksgiving service sermon. Sunday night didn’t film out well, so it’s not here.

Tuesday night Thanksgiving Service

 

Sunday Morning: Isaiah 40 (audio here)

 


Joy--Advent 2016

Isaiah 40


Joy in  Chaos


  Remember where they are


  Remember the height from which they have fallen


Joy in  Opposition


  Consider Isaiah's life


  Consider Hezekiah's life


Joy in  Sacrifice


  Not to false idols


  Not cheaply


Comfort in  the King


  The King who leads forth the stars


  The King who holds the oceans


Comfort in the  King's Message


  The Unfailing Word


  The Everlasting Word


Comfort in the  King's Arrival


  The Messiah is coming!


  Prepare Ye the Way!


What of your life is ready for the King?


What of your life is surrendered to the King?


What of your next 5 weeks would change?

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Sermon Recap for November 13

Well, it’s Thursday afternoon. And I’m just now getting this done. Partly because of insanely slow Internet service. Partly because stuff had to get done. I’m hopeful that the craziest part of the week is over.

Since the bulk of the week is over, that is.

Sunday Morning: The Longest War (audio here) Ephesians 6:10-17

(Outline and notes are after the evening video, just scroll down.)

Sunday Evening: Ephesians 6:18-20 and Q&A (Audio here)

On Sunday nights, we typically take some time to do Bible questions and answers. That is in the video but not the audio. I think I repeated the questions well enough to understand what was going on.

 


The Longest War

The Longest War

Doug Hibbard / General

Ephesians 6:10–17

 

Ephesians 6:10–17 NASB95

    Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might.
    Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil.
    For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.
    Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm.
    Stand firm therefore, HAVING GIRDED YOUR LOINS WITH TRUTH, and HAVING PUT ON THE BREASTPLATE OF RIGHTEOUSNESS,
    and having shod YOUR FEET WITH THE PREPARATION OF THE GOSPEL OF PEACE;
    in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.
    And take THE HELMET OF SALVATION, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

 

The Longest War


Know Your Enemy


Look to your  left  and your  right


Those people are  NEVER  your enemy


Look to  up here  and  back there


Those people are  NEVER  your enemy


Look to your  political left and right


Those people are  NEVER y our enemy


Look to the  past  and to the  future


Ready for it.... NEVER  your enemy


Your enemy is the enemy of your C ommander


  You don't pick your enemy


  Your Lord picks your enemy


Know Your Commander


Look....well, all those directions you looked for the enemy.


That's not where your Commander is, either.


Know Your Objective


It's a rescue mission.


Not a slaughter.


And those people?


Remember: not your enemy.


Use Your Tools


Girded loins? Think tool belt, Batman!


Breastplate of Righteousness: slows assaults


Shoes! The Gospel, the foundation


Shield! Which is used WITH OTHER SHIELDS!


Helmet. For your  noggin '. Little things destroy our heads without a helmet.


One tool of offense! The Sword of the Spirit---which is the Word of God

 

Exported from Logos Bible Software, 4:35 PM November 17, 2016.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Triumphs and Cleanings: Matthew 21

In Summary:

Matthew 21 opens with a familiar scene: the Triumph! Typically, when conquering kings entered cities, they came with a triumphal procession. It was a common practice in the ancient world. It remains a practice to this day—victors are given ticker tape parades in New York City, after all! The other time for the triumphal procession was when the conqueror returned home from conquest. Either image can work for Jesus’ entry to Jerusalem at this point in history. Jerusalem is the place “where God chose to place His name” (2 Chronicles 6:6) and as such is where the returning King comes to celebrate His victory. Jerusalem is also the starting point for His conquest of humanity. 

The catch is, victory parades are only moments in time. The Conquering King remains victorious, but so many of the adoring fans go back to work that the celebration ends and is quickly forgotten. This happens here—Jesus is victorious. People are forgetful.

The next thing the King does upon His return is see to the problems that have come up at home while He was out. In this case, He cleans out the Temple. (I would recommend J. Daniel Hays’ The Temple and The Tabernacle for good information on the overall structure of the Temple.) Jesus then curses a fig tree, responds to the challenge of the chief priests and the elders, and then shuts them down with one more parable. 

The last parable is a direct jab at how the religious leadership of the Jews have treated God’s representatives over the years. (Matthew 21:33-44). It’s worth its own blog post, but here’s a very clear depiction of Jesus as the Son of God. Remember when you look at parables that most everything has meaning. Some things have layers of meanings—in this one, the “landowner” is a stand-in for God the Father, Jesus is the “son of the landowner.” The religious leaders saw who they were, too. 

In Focus:

Dial back to Matthew 21:12-13. I’ve been reading Dr. Hays’ book on the Temple that I mentioned above, and something finally, fully clicked about the cleansing of the Temple here. The money changers and the animal sales people were set up in the Court of the Gentiles of the Temple. This was the closest to the Temple that most people could come—the Jews could go further, but the bulk of humanity are not Jews—and so this is where they needed to pray. Jesus quotes Isaiah 56:7, and Mark’s parallel account records that He uses the whole phrase, that His house should be a house of prayer “for all nations.” 

But the Jews have taken the area that they themselves had designated for the rest of the nations (i.e., the Gentiles) and decided it needed shared with the market space. This left the Gentiles without a peaceful place to gather. Without a place to draw as near to God as they could, hear His word, seek His face. 

Jesus was not going to have this. In what is likely the best example of “righteous anger,” He drives the chaos out of this area of the Temple. It was only the edge of the Temple, it was distant from the allegedly important things. Yet here was where God took His stand for who and what should be involved.

In Practice:

First of all, remember that the answer to “What would Jesus do?” could be “Get rightly angry and drive out religiously false profit seekers.” 

Second, think about where we stand in relation to that principle. The Gentiles were barely welcome in Jerusalem, even as it was a city in the Roman Empire. At the dividing wall between the Gentile area and the rest of the Temple (what the Jews considered the “Real Temple”) was a sign warning that a Gentile caught in there was responsible for his own death. For a Gentile to draw near was difficult. Think about those who have a hard time freely coming before God. 

And before you get indignant about how location doesn’t matter, realize that it does. Because those we keep from church fellowship and real relationships with believers are going to find out about the Omnipresent God exactly how? We just put up more barriers.

Then God comes along and reminds us: all nations. All people. What are we going to do about it? The poor, the oppressed, the sojourner, the single mother, the biker, the tattooed lady, the interracial couple, the kid living on the streets.

When our religious expectations put a price on their interaction with God, God does not side with us. When we put profits between people and God, God takes that seriously, and it is far better to be on His side than our own.

In Nerdiness: 

The Synoptic Problem raises its lovely head here again. First, there are minor differences between Matthew and Mark, like the length of the Isaiah quote. That’s one fun part.

The other, bigger question is this: what about John? In John’s Gospel, the Temple is cleansed at the beginning of the public ministry of Jesus. In Matthew, Mark, and Luke, it’s at the end. Does it happen twice? Or does one of them, probably John, shift the event in the telling to make a point? That is acceptable in the concept of biography at the time, so it’s no slap about accuracy.


I’m not sure where I sit with that. I can see the valid arguments on both sides, but I almost see Jesus coming into the Temple this last week with the same look as a parent, “I just cleaned this mess up! What are you doing?”

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Sermon Recap for November 6

It was the Sunday before Election Day, so naturally I kept the sermon focused on something else entirely. We spent the morning addressing loving one another and submitting to one another that God be glorified in our lives. And the evening was on spiritual gifts. The evening video, if it ever uploads, has our usual Sunday night question-and-answer festivities followed by the message.

Morning Sermon: Ephesians 5:21 (audio here)

Video:

 

Notes:

Ephesians 5:21 NASB95

and be subject to one another in the fear of Christ.

This phrase links two of the most contentious subjects in church. How we act in marriage and what we sing as Christians.

Submission is a touchy subject

But it's worse than you think

"Submit" in one translation is "be subject" in another

Ὑποτασσόμενοι

Our rights?

Subject to the needs of others.

Our desires?

Subject to the needs of others.

Our comforts?

Subject to the needs of others.

1. Be considerate of others

2. Be worthy of other people's trust

3. Focus it on the glory of God!

Individualism is the most dangerous "ism" in the church today

Think about your "I" statements around church, family, and life...

Even simple things...like "I want to know before I..."

We are to submit to one another, for the sake of Christ.

Evening Sermon: Ephesians 4 (audio)

Video:

 

Notes:

What are Spiritual Gifts?

Who has them?

What do we do with them?

Talents/skills

Unchanging?

Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12, Ephesians 4

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Vineyard Viewpoints: Matthew 20

In Summary:

Matthew 20 records the parable of the workers in the vineyard, and then goes on to another foretelling of Jesus’ death. In light of that, the mother of James and John requests that her sons may sit at the left and right hand of Jesus in His Kingdom. The chapter wraps up with the healing of two blind men on the road out of Jericho.

What do we make of this? This is the third prediction of the Cross and the Resurrection we see in Matthew, which tells us, again, that Jesus was not surprised by anything that happened in the Passion week. The second passage, requesting special treament in the Kingdom, connects with the laborers in the vineyard, so we’ll deal with those together In Focus. The last passage highlights that Jesus never overlooked people.

In Focus:

Let us put the opening story, Matthew 20:1-16, in focus. Jesus returns to an agrarian motif here, highlighting that the Kingdom of Heaven is like a farm with a harvest. The landowner, the one whose harvest it truly was, went and recruited workers. There was more harvest than workers, though, and so he went and got more workers. By the end of the day, there were many workers, and all received the same pay. The longest working were angered by this, but the landowner rightly highlights that it’s his business who he pays what.

First, consider this parable and its meaning. The best basic understanding has us seeing the Landowner as God Almighty, believers as the workers, and the world as the field. After all, we see this in other parables. It’s also the way the disciples saw it—James and John’s mother saw this as an opportunity, after all to ask for the payment she wanted for her sons in the Kingdom. The best way to make sense of it is that God is just and righteous in how He handles the payment of His laborers.

Keep in mind that this parable is taught shortly before the Crucifixion, and follows immediately after the disciples (through Peter) have asked about their reward for having followed Jesus from the beginning (Matthew 19:27-30). There are those who will be coming on board late, but Jesus is instructing that they are all in the same boat, on the same mission.

In Practice:

Practically, what do we do this? There is the first application, that those who come late to Christ still receive the blessing of eternity. And that we should be more concerned to welcome our fellow laborers than to bemoan their sharing in the rewards.

There is another angle to this parable. Note that the day ended, and the workers were paid. It is not that the harvest was finished. Too often, we want to receive our reward and call it a day, but the harvest is not done yet.

Further, we miss the point of recruiting more laborers. As we read this parable, there were laborers waiting for opportunities throughout the day. Each time, the landowner hired a few, more remained to be hired later. Why did their fellow laborers not bring them along?

Knowing us, it’s because first, they wanted to reserve opportunities for their friends or family members. Plus, by not encouraging those “other” workers to join them, they ensured plenty of work for themselves. After all, stable income was a necessity.

Yet harvests are a limited time event. If the work is going to get done, you need as many people as possible. And harvests are about the landowner and the crop—it is not for us to decide who works and who does not. Let the Lord of the Harvest hire who He will. Let us encourage others to join us in the harvest, that the land be fruitful!

In Nerdiness:

First, note Matthew 20:15. The literal rendering would be “Is your eye evil because I am good?” We translate it as “envious” because that’s what the context supports, but recognize this: envy is evil. There’s not way to slice that.

Second, James and John think they are able to follow Jesus, but it takes them years to follow through with drinking the cup of suffering.

Third, a group that we should keep in mind as late-comers to the Kingdom are Jesus’ own brothers, like James and Jude. These came around to the faith later, yet God still used them well.

Sermon and Service Recap for November 8

Looks like I forgot to post this! Thank you!