By Nature Sinful and Unclean

June 28, 2020 in Bible - NT - Mark, Confession, Depravity, Heart, Homosexuality, Human Condition, Liturgy, Meditations, Regeneration, Sexuality, Sin

Mark 7:20–23 (NKJV)

20And [Jesus] said, “What comes out of a man, that defiles a man. 21For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, 22thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. 23All these evil things come from within and defile a man.”

Those of you who have been at Trinity Church for some time know that we regularly rotate our liturgical greetings, confessions, and creeds in the course of the year. These changes enable us to focus on a variety of Scriptural commands and promises throughout the year. And, occasionally, we will tweak these liturgical elements in order to grow in faithfulness or to emphasize some other Scriptural principle.

One of the things that you may or may not have recognized is that we made a slight change to the confession of sins that we use at this time of year. In just a moment we will confess as follows:

M: Most merciful God,

P: we confess that we are by nature sinful and unclean. We have sinned against you in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done, and by what we have left undone…

You may have recognized that that first sentence is new, “we confess that we are by nature sinful and unclean.” In the past our confession began with the words, “We have sinned against you in thought, word, and deed…” So why the change?

The purpose of this change is to emphasize that we are not only guilty of those actual sins which we commit but also of the corruption of our nature, historically called original sin, with which we are born. Because we rebelled against God in the beginning of human history, we are sinful by nature. We are, as Paul writes in Ephesians 2:3, “by nature children of wrath.” By nature we are guilty in the sight of God and justly deserve to be condemned for our sin.

In other words, sin attaches itself not only to our actions but also to our nature. We are not sinners because we sin; we sin because we are sinners. It is from within, out of the heart of men, that our evil actions proceed. Consequently, we need both to have our sins forgiven and also to have our nature renewed, to be born again by the grace of God.

So why emphasize this? Well, there are many who are attempting to sow confusion in the church regarding same-sex sin. Some of you may be familiar with the Revoice conference last year where various teachers claimed that while same-sex sexual acts are sinful, same-sex desires are not. But this is a gross distortion of Scripture. The Scriptures insist that the desires themselves are twisted and perverse and must be confessed as sin. They are part of that which must be put to death, must be mortified, if we are to serve Christ faithfully.

So what does this mean for us? It means that our sinful actions are the fruit of our sinful nature – and I am responsible both both and I must confess both. Further, my sinful nature distorts not only what I do but fundamentally what I desire, what I love. A man who commits adultery is a man who has long indulged adulterous desires in his heart; a woman who slanders another is a woman who has long indulged bitterness and resentment in her heart. If we would grow in grace, therefore, we must not simply modify our sinful behavior but mortify our sinful desires. The mere fact that I possess a certain inclination or desire is no proof that that desire is upright or pleasing to God. God’s law is the standard by which my desires must be measured. We must pray that God renew our nature and rid us of covetousness, destroy our sexual lust, uproot our bitterness, humble our pride – for it is not only our actions which are sinful but the nature from which those actions proceed.

And so, as we enter into the presence of the Lord today, let us confess both our sinful nature and our sinful actions – for He is the only one who can forgive us for both and who can renew us in His own image. And as you are able, let us kneel together before the Lord as we confess our sins. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

Preach the Word: Rebuke!

August 27, 2017 in Bible - NT - 2 Timothy, Bible - NT - Luke, Bible - NT - Mark, Bible - OT - Psalms, Meditations, Preaching

2 Timothy 4:1–2 (NKJV)
1 I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom: 2 Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching.

For the last few weeks, our congregation in Coeur d’Alene has been meditating on Paul’s charge to Timothy to “Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season.” Last week we began looking at the series of imperatives that Paul gives to explain his charge. Paul writes, “Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching.” This morning I would like us to consider what it means to “rebuke.”

The Greek word behind “rebuke” is epitimao and, in the Greek OT, is typically reserved for God’s word of power standing against any and every obstacle. Stauffer notes in the Theological Dictionary of the NT:
God’s rebuke shakes heaven (Job 26:11) and moves the earth and the sea (2 Βασ‌. 22:16; ψ 17:15; 103:7). He [rebukes] the Red Sea and it dries up to let the people of God pass over (ψ 105:9; cf. Is. 50:2 Σ). His Word of command whips up the storm so that men cry to heaven in their distress; His Word of rebuke stills it again so that the waves subside and the cries of distress cease (ψ 106:29)… But for the most part God’s reproof is directed against men, against the high and mighty until horse and rider are bemused (ψ 75:6; 118:21), against the enemies of God and His people whose raging is like that of the sea (Is. 17:13 Ἀ; ψ 9:5; 79:16), but also against the apostate people itself, so that it wastes and perishes.

To rebuke, therefore, is to deliver a sharp warning that the attitude or action being taken is in clear opposition to God’s word. So when Peter declares that Jesus shall by no means suffer on the cross, Jesus rebukes Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan!” (Mk 8:33) When James and John, the sons of thunder, want fire to fall on a Samaritan village for its rejection of Jesus, Jesus rebukes them, “You do not know what manner of spirit you are of” (Lk 9:55). A rebuke is a short, verbal thrashing. It is a divine wake-up call.

What this means, therefore, is that the minister of the Gospel must be prepared to speak bluntly about attitudes and actions that are diametrically opposed to the Word of God and the Gospel of Christ. As I emphasized for my flock last week, it is not the minister’s calling to tell smarmy stories that make people feel good about themselves, it is his duty to speak the Word of God to the people of God – and this often means confronting sinful attitudes and actions.
· If you have no interest in understanding and obeying the Word of God, then the Spirit of God is not in you.
· If you think you can thrive spiritually while marginalizing the
importance of your local church, you are likely going to hell.
· If you think God is pleased with your bitterness and resentment just because you have justified it to yourself, you are deceived.
· If you prize happiness more than holiness, then you are serving your own lusts not the Lord of glory.
· If you sit in judgment over your homosexual cousin while routinely indulging your lust for pornography, you may not know Jesus Christ.
· If you are more interested in stockpiling cash than helping the poor, you are an idolater.
· If you refuse to heed correction and to receive rebuke, God will break you and bring your plans to naught.

Do any of these things strike close to home? Then give heed, listen to the prompting of the Spirit, and repent. Turn from your sin, seek the Lord’s forgiveness through the shed blood of His Son Jesus, and cry out for the enabling power of the Spirit to free you from these attitudes and actions and to restore you to fellowship with God and with His people.

So reminded of our sin and that there is only one sacrifice, Jesus the Christ, whose shed blood can cover the guilt of our sin, let us confess our sin, beseeching God’s forgiveness. And as we confess, let us kneel together as we are able. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

Why use wine in the Lord’s Supper?

March 27, 2017 in Bible - NT - John, Bible - NT - Mark, Bible - NT - Matthew, Communion, Meditations, Politics
Matthew 26:26–30 (NKJV)
26 And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, “Take, eat; this is My body.” 27 Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. 28 For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins. 29 But I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom.” 30 And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.
For several weeks, we have been explaining some of the traditions that we include in our corporate worship. Last week we touched upon our practice of celebrating the Lord’s Supper weekly; this week let us consider our practice of using wine in the Lord’s Supper. Why wine?
This is not merely an academic question. As your pastor, I know that many of you are tempted by alcohol; a number who have a history of alcohol abuse in your families or in your own life. Our use of wine in communion is for some of you a personal challenge.
Further, we are part of a broader evangelical subculture which has a history of opposing alcohol. While Lutherans and Roman Catholics were almost uniformly critical of the prohibitionist movement in America, many of our evangelical forefathers jumped on the wagon. “Don’t smoke, don’t drink, don’t chew; and don’t go with girls that do!”
So given these personal and historical factors, why do our elders persist in using wine? One of the questions that we evangelicals are known for asking is, “What would Jesus do?” In the matter of wine, the way to answer that question is to ask first, “What did Jesus do?” And the NT answers that question clearly: Jesus made wine, Jesus drank wine, and Jesus used wine to commemorate God’s salvation.
First, Jesus made wine. The first miracle that Jesus performed was turning water into wine at a wedding in Cana of Galilee. And, as the question that the master of the feast asks the groom makes plain, this wasn’t grape juice. “Every man at the beginning sets out the good wine, and when the guests have well drunk, then the inferior. You have kept the good wine until now!” (Jn 2:10) Jesus made excellent wine.
Second, Jesus drank wine. Jesus contrasts His ministry with that of John the Baptist in this way, “John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.’ The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look, a glutton and a winebibber, a friend of tax collectors and sinners’” (Mt 11:18-19). Jesus came drinking – and many accused Him of being a winebibber, a drunkard. Such an accusation would hardly stick were Jesus known as a teetotaler. Jesus drank wine.
Finally, Jesus used wine to commemorate God’s salvation. When Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper, He used the fruit of the vine as a symbol of His shed blood. Refrigeration was not common in the ancient world. When the Bible references “the fruit of the vine”, therefore, it refers almost exclusively to wine. And if Jesus used wine to celebrate the Supper, why wouldn’t we?
So what did Jesus do? He made wine, drank wine, and used wine to commemorate God’s salvation. And here’s a very important point: Jesus did all this within a cultural context in which drunkenness was a common problem; He established this for His Church knowing that many of His disciples would be tempted by alcohol. So why did He do it? Why didn’t He just use water like the Mormons do?
Because in using wine within the context of the Supper, Jesus declared that wine is good in itself. The problem with humanity is not there in the cup; the problem is here in our heart. Drunkenness proceeds out of the heart (Mk 7:20-23). Communion puts the use of wine in a holy, a sacred context. By giving me wine for communion, Jesus is teaching me that it is possible for me to use and not abuse this gift to the glory of my Creator.
So what of you? Have you thanked God for the gift of wine? Further, have you been using that gift to His glory or have you been abusing it to your own shame? Reminded that God has given us wine to use to the honor of His Name and that we often deny or abuse His good gifts because our hearts are corrupt, let us confess our sin to the Lord. And as you are able, let us kneel together as we do so. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

Why does worship include a pronouncement of forgiveness?

March 12, 2017 in Bible - NT - John, Bible - NT - Mark, Bible - OT - Leviticus, Confession, Liturgy, Meditations

John 20:21–23 (NKJV)
21 So Jesus said to [the disciples] again, “Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” 22 And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”
For several weeks we have been explaining some of the traditions that we include in our corporate worship. Today we consider the absolution. In just a moment, following our confession of sin, I will announce the forgiveness of sins in Jesus’ name. Why do we do this?
You may recall that one of the great controversies that surrounded Jesus’ ministry was the forgiveness of sins. Some men brought a paralytic to Jesus and let him down through the roof into the house where Jesus was teaching. Jesus looked at the man and declared, “My son, your sins are forgiven.” Immediately, the Pharisees began questioning among themselves, “Who does this man think he is? Who can forgive sins but God alone?”
The Pharisees’ question was entirely reasonable. While each of us can forgive those who sin against us, we dare not presume to forgive their sins against God – only God can do such a thing. So the dilemma of our human condition is this: we all have sinned against God, so how can we know whether God has forgiven us? Who speaks for God on earth? In the old covenant, God provided this assurance of forgiveness through the sacrificial system and the priesthood. He appointed the Aaronic priests to speak on His behalf:
‘And it shall be, when [someone] is guilty in any of these matters, that he shall confess that he has sinned in that thing; and he shall bring his trespass offering to the Lordfor his sin which he has committed, a female from the flock, a lamb or a kid of the goats as a sin offering. So the priest shall make atonement for him concerning his sin. (Lev 5:5-6)
The priest shall make atonement for him – the priest shall announce to him, “Believe God’s promise in His word! He has provided a substitute to bear the guilt of your sin. You are forgiven.”

The reason controversy surrounded Jesus’ forgiveness of the paralytic is this: Jesus was not an Aaronic priest, nor was He at the temple where a sacrifice was being offered. So how dare He presume to speak for God? “Who does this man think he is? Who can forgive sins but God alone?”
Jesus knew their doubts; He knew their questions. So He asked, “Which is easier to say to this man, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or, ‘Arise, take up your mat and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins,” (he said to the paralytic), “’Arise, take up your mat and walk.’ And immediately the man arose, took up his mat, and walked.”
According to Jesus, the healing of the paralytic established an important point: the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins. Jesus was announcing the end of the temple and the sacrificial system, that the Judaic Age was over. The priests no longer speak for God; Jesus does. And in this Messianic Age, the forgiveness of sins is declared in His Name, based on His once-for-all sacrifice. Jesus speaks for God.
After Jesus had been crucified and then risen from the dead, He then spoke to the Twelve. “As the Father has sent Me, so I send you…”  Jesus commissioned the Twelve to speak for God in the world and to declare the forgiveness of sins in His Name. “Receive the Holy Spirit,” he said. “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” In other words, the sacrificial system has forever come to an end. Now the forgiveness of sins is preached to all nations based on the sacrifice of Jesus Christ alone.
So every Lord’s Day, following our confession, I have the privilege of reminding you, assuring you, that through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, there really is forgiveness with God. Acknowledge your sin and turn from it, seeking God’s forgiveness through Jesus Christ.
My word does not grant forgiveness; only the sacrifice of Jesus can do that. My word simply reminds you of God’s promise and summons you to believe His word: all those who trust in the once-for all sacrifice of Jesus shall be forgiven and cleansed. Your calling is to hear that promise, even as the paralytic heard the words of our Lord, and to believe Him. “My son, your sins are forgiven.”
So reminded this morning of the gift of forgiveness that God offers through the sacrifice of His Son Jesus, let us confess our sins in His Name, trusting that God will indeed forgive all those who come to Him in faith. And as you are able, let us kneel as we confess our sins. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

Why kneel in worship?

February 5, 2017 in Bible - NT - Mark, Bible - NT - Revelation, Bible - OT - 1 Kings, Bible - OT - Psalms, Ecclesiology, Liturgy, Meditations, Worship
1 Kings 8:54 (NKJV)
54 And so it was, when Solomon had finished praying all this prayer and supplication to the LORD, that he arose from before the altar of the LORD, from kneeling on his knees with his hands spread up to heaven.
In the last few weeks we have explored various traditions that our elders have established to guide our corporate worship. As we have noted, every church has traditions – and those who claim they don’t are trying to pull the wool over your eyes. It is important, therefore, that we regularly evaluate our traditions to make sure that they reflect and not undermine biblical principles – and it is this that we are doing with our exhortations.
Among the traditions we have as a congregation, one of them is kneeling when we confess our sins. In just a moment I will invite you to kneel with me as we confess our sins to God. Many people, visitors especially, find this practice uncomfortable or objectionable (physically challenging is okay!) – in fact, many have refused to return and worship here because we kneel during our service. The preaching is fine; the music is acceptable; the fellowship seems sweet – but why do you kneel?
This question often causes me to scratch my head and wonder what in the world is happening in the church. What is it about kneeling that bothers us? Some say it reminds them too much of Roman Catholicism. But, of course, if we were to reject whatever the Roman Church practices, then we’d have to eliminate Scripture reading, prayer, and public singing as well. So I’m not sure that’s the real issue. I think the real issue is deeper.
Kneeling is an act of humility; it is to bow before another and acknowledge that that other is greater than I, more important than I, and hence worthy of my respect and honor or even my adoration. Kneeling is also sometimes a visible expression of wrongdoing, a plea for mercy as it were. Hence, there are times when kneeling is inappropriate. Mordecai refused to kneel before Haman; Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego refused to kneel before Nebuchadnezzar’s statue; God reserved 7,000 in Israel who would not bow the knee to Baal. There are times when kneeling is compromise and sin.
But there are other times when kneeling is glorious: all Israel bowed the knee to King David; a leper kneeled before Jesus begging to be healed; a man kneels before his beloved and asks for her hand in marriage. There are times when kneeling is the right thing to do.
So what about worship? Is worship an inappropriate or appropriate setting for kneeling? Well, let us consider: we have entered the presence of Almighty God, the Creator of Heaven and earth, the High and Holy One – the One whose power governs all that occurs; the One whose holiness must judge all sin and wickedness; the One whose love compelled Him to send His only-begotten Son to bear the punishment that our sin deserved – how could we imagine that to kneel in this One’s presence is unfitting or inappropriate? Uncomfortable at first? Maybe. But inappropriate? Never.
So in our passage today, we see that Solomon – the Son of David, the King of Israel, and the wisest of men – kneeled before God to make supplication and prayer. And Psalm 95 summons us, O come, let us worship and bow down, let us kneel before the Lord our God our Maker! And note that this isn’t a summons to private but to public kneeling – O come, let us kneel ­– let all of us together bow before God for He is worthy! And so the four living creatures and the 24 elders in the book of Revelation fall down before the Lamb and they sing a new song saying, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and blessing!

So this morning, as we consider that we have entered into the presence of Almighty God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, let us kneel as we are able and confess our sin to the Lord.

The Malevolence of the Devil

February 21, 2016 in Bible - NT - 1 Peter, Bible - NT - Colossians, Bible - NT - Mark, Cross of Christ, Meditations, Satan, Temptation, Word of God
Mark 1:12–13 (NKJV)
12 Immediately the Spirit drove Him into the wilderness. 13 And He was there in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan, and was with the wild beasts; and the angels ministered to Him.
1 Peter 5:8–9 (NKJV)
8 Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. 9 Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world.
As Christians, God has called us to fight against three primary enemies: the world, the flesh, and the devil. And since we find ourselves on the 2nd Sunday in Lent, continuing to anticipate our remembrance of the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, it is fitting that we look at the third member of this unholy triumvirate – the devil. Last week we considered the power of our flesh; today, the malevolence of the devil.
The devil was and is a created being, an angelic figure, who rebelled against God in the beginning. He was filled with pride and rebelled against the Good Creator, seeking to exalt himself rather than to exalt His Lawful Lord. In this rebellion other angels took part – and they are the demons whom our fathers worshiped in their idolatry. These demons often possessed hapless victims and drove them toward evil and to this day they feast on human suffering and misery. The devil is their leader and prowls about seeking whom he may devour, endeavoring to swallow us up in his own judgment.
It was against this malevolent being that our Lord Jesus waged war during His 40 days in the wilderness, an event that Lent recalls. Jesus did three things in the wilderness that we must remember.
First, Jesus fought against the devil. The Spirit drove Him into the wilderness to enter into the lists. He did not go into the wilderness for an extended vacation but to contend with the Evil One. So we are called to imitate Him in this. We too are to “resist the devil” – are to be sober and vigilant; to be on our guard like good soldiers. Why? Because, like Jesus, we are at war with the devil who would like nothing more than to destroy us.
Second, Jesus fought using the Word of God as His weapon. The Word of God was for Jesus (even as for us) the Sword of the Spirit with which He manfully attacked the perversions of the wicked one. You see only occasionally does Satan show himself in lurid displays like demon possession; more commonly he seduces us through sin, temptation, compromise, and mediocrity. He is content to destroy people from behind the scenes. And he accomplishes this chiefly by undermining the integrity of God’s Word and causing us to doubt God’s reliability and goodness. “Has God really said…?” was not only the question he posed to Eve in the garden but also the question he poses to each of us in the moment of temptation. So what is the solution? How do we fight him? By clinging tenaciously and faithfully to the Word of God even as Jesus did. In Peter’s words, we are to “Resist him, steadfast in the faith…” To Satan’s question, “Hath God really said…?” we are to reply like Jesus, “Thus it is written…”
Finally, we must never forget that Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness was but the prelude to the great contest between Jesus and the devil on the cross. The wilderness anticipated the cross even as Lent paves the way for Good Friday and Easter. On the cross, Satan believed he had achieved his greatest victory; in fact, however, it was his ultimate defeat. Paul writes that Jesus has taken away “the handwriting of requirements which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. Having disarmed principalities and powers [Satan and his minions], He made a public spectacle [a laughingstock] of them, triumphing over them in [the cross]” (Col 2:14-15). Hence, though Satan remains a bitter foe, we must never forget that he is a defeated foe. Greater is he who is in you than he who is in the world.

As we continue anticipating the coming arrival of Good Friday and Easter, therefore, let us (like our Lord Jesus) enter boldly into the lists and fight bravely against the wiles of the devil. And reminded of our call to fight, let us begin by confessing that far too often we have given way to our enemy. Let us kneel as we confess our sin to the Lord.

Is God anti-gay?

May 9, 2014 in Bible - NT - Mark, Book Reviews, Coeur d'Alene Issues, Homosexuality, Sexuality, Ten Commandments

I just finished reading Sam Allberry’s recent book Is God anti-gay? And other questions about homosexuality, the Bible and same-sex attraction. Allberry is a single pastor in the UK and has struggled against same-sex attraction throughout most of his life. The book is a store of biblical wisdom, compassionate counsel, and clear thinking.

He writes in the beginning that he refuses to identify himself as “gay” and instead emphasizes that he is someone who experiences same-sex attraction. “Describing myself like this is a way for me to recognize that the kind of sexual attractions I experience are not fundamental to my identity. They are part of what I feel but are not who I am in a fundamental sense. I am far more than my sexuality.” This is a crucial observation and one which all of us need to remember in our increasingly sex-saturated society. Christ defines us not our sexual drives.

Allberry does an excellent job explaining the meaning of repentance. “Repentance means turning around, to change course. The implication is pretty clear and a little uncomfortable: we’re not heading in the right direction.” He goes on to remind us that Jesus calls all of us to take up our cross and deny ourselves (Mk 8:34). And this has direct relevance for the title of his book, Is God anti-gay? Allberry answers: “No. But he is against who all of us are by nature, as those living apart from him and for ourselves. He’s anti that guy, whatever that guy looks like in each of our lives. But because he is bigger than us, better than us, and able to do these things in ways we would struggle to, God loves that guy too. Loves him enough to carry his burden, take his place, clean him up, make him whole, and unite him for ever to himself.”

Allberry surveys the biblical teaching on sexuality in general before discussing homosexuality in particular. He writes, “Sexuality is a little like a post-it note. The first time you use it, it sticks well. But when it is reapplied too many times, it loses its capacity to stick to anything. We are simply not designed for multiple sexual relationships.”

Thereafter he gives a helpful survey of various passages that address homosexuality directly, answers potential objections, and then goes on to discuss ways individual Christians and the Church can assist those tempted by same-sex attraction – both within and without the Christian community. I would highly recommend his book.

Christmas Does not Belong to your Family

December 25, 2013 in Bible - NT - Mark, Children, Christmas, Church Calendar, Church History, Ecclesiology, King Jesus, Worship
Mark 3:20–21, 31-35
Then the multitude came together again, so that they could not so much as eat bread. But when [Jesus’] own people heard about this, they went out to lay hold of Him, for they said, “He is out of His mind.”… Then His brothers and His mother came, and standing outside they sent to Him, calling Him. And a multitude was sitting around Him; and they said to Him, “Look, Your mother and Your brothers are outside seeking You.” But He answered them, saying, “Who is My mother, or My brothers?” And He looked around in a circle at those who sat about Him, and said, “Here are My mother and My brothers! For whoever does the will of God is My brother and My sister and mother.”
What is Christmas? It is the public celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ our Savior. On this day we celebrate that the eternal Word of God, the only begotten Son of God, the Second Person of the Trinity joined Himself to human nature and was not only conceived in the womb of the Virgin Mary but was born of her and manifest among men. He was wrapped in cloths and laid in a manger. He was proclaimed by angels and worshiped by shepherds.
Christmas is intended to be a joyful affair – thanksgiving for the gift of forgiveness and new life and light that God has given to men. The angels announced, Glory to God in the highest! And on earth, peace, goodwill toward men. For the shepherds this was glorious news. They longed for the glory of God and so went and worshiped the Christ Child.
But for those who will not give glory first to God and only then to one another, Christmas is not an occasion for celebration. Christmas divides: the shepherds celebrate; Herod plots and plans. Christmas announces that there is a new King and that His Name is Jesus and that all men and nations are called to worship and serve Him. It announces that peace with God comes only through the sacrificial death of this King who reconciles us to God. It insists that goodwill is the fruit of His reign, the product of His Spirit at work in the lives and characters of men and women and children.
And so we read our text today: Who is My mother and who are My brothers? Jesus’ words often shock us. Who is your mother, Jesus? She is Mary – that woman who bore you in her womb, who carried you on her knee, who fed you at her breast. She is your mother! We remember her every Christmas; we have memorialized her in song, in statuary, in painting. We see her in our minds’ eye, bending over the manger, caring for the newborn child. Who is your mother? How can you ask such a question?
But Christmas cuts. Christmas divides. And at this time Mary, even Mary, appears to have been wavering in her loyalty to her son; his brothers, who did not yet believe in Him, were petitioning her to control him – “He’s gone too far, mom! We’ve got to protect the family name! Let us go speak with him.” And so Jesus asks, Who is My mother and who are My brothers?

You see there is a reason that it is profitable to have a Christmas service every year. Having a Christmas service reminds us that Christmas is not ours. Christmas does not belong to me; it does not belong to my family; it is not a nice family tradition. Christmas belongs to the Church, it belongs to the people of God, it belongs to the family of those who say, “Jesus is Lord!” Christmas summons us to consider our allegiance: Is Jesus your Lord or do you worship some other god? Christmas calls us to declare with the angels, Glory to God in the highest! And on earth, peace, goodwill toward men.

An Open Letter to the Coeur d’Alene City Council

May 31, 2013 in Bible - NT - Mark, Coeur d'Alene Issues, Homosexuality, King Jesus, Politics, Sexuality, Ten Commandments

The Honorable Sandi Bloem, Mayor of Coeur d’Alene
Members of the City Council
Coeur d’Alene City Hall
710 E. Mullan Avenue
Coeur d’Alene, Idaho 83814
May 30, 2013
Dear Mayor Bloem and Members of the City Council,
It has come to my attention that the City Council will be given an opportunity to vote on the anti-discrimination ordinance. This ordinance is designed to protect the lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, and transgendered community at the expense of other community members.
I love our community and do not see a need for this ordinance especially as it sanctions behavior which is immoral, unnatural, and destructive. As a local pastor it is my obligation to speak first and foremost as a representative of the Lord Jesus Christ who simultaneously expresses his love for those ensnared in sexual sin and his abhorrence of such sin. He warns us that from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, sexual sins… All these evil things come from within and defile a man (Mk 7:21-23). Jesus’ term “sexual sins” encompasses the very actions this legislation is written to protect. Such legislation would require Christian businessmen and property owners to endorse behavior that is evil.
I would remind you that as those entrusted with the responsibility to rule, you have been given this responsibility under God. His law is superior to any civic law and forms the basis for civic laws. Central to his law is the protection of human sexuality from abuse and degradation. Even as you would oppose someone endeavoring to paint a mustache on the Mona Lisa, so you are called at this time to oppose those who want to pervert God’s gift of sexuality.
I would urge you, in the Name of God, to vote NO on this legislation. Voting NO would uphold the sanctity of God’s law, be in keeping with Idaho State Law, and preserve the rights of all people living here in our beautiful city. 
Stuart W. Bryan