Rapunzel and the Sanctity of Life

January 17, 2021 in Abortion, Bible - OT - Ezekiel, Children, Depravity, Judgment, King Jesus, Meditations, Parents, Politics, Responsibility, Satan, Sexuality, Sin

Ezekiel 16:20-21 (NKJV)

Moreover you took your sons and your daughters, whom you bore to Me, and these you sacrificed to [your idols] to be devoured. Were your acts of harlotry a small matter, that you have slain My children and offered them up to [your gods] by causing them to pass through the fire?

Once upon a time there was a man and wife who longed to have a child. But for some years the wife could not conceive. Finally, to their great delight, she found herself with child and both husband and wife eagerly awaited the birth of their first child

It just so happened that the couple’s home overlooked a walled garden that was owned by a terrible witch. As the wife’s pregnancy progressed, she developed an intense craving for the nut lettuce or rapunzel that she saw growing there. She begged and pleaded with her husband to get her some of the Rapunzel. Initially, he refused. He knew it was wrong to steal; besides, he was afraid of the witch. However, his wife persisted and eventually refused to eat anything else. So he relented, broke into the garden, and stole some rapunzel.

His wife was delighted. She made herself a great salad and devoured the rapunzel. But her desire for the rapunzel only increased. The next day she demanded more – and then the next day again. But just as the husband was making away with the lettuce, he was discovered by the witch. Great was her wrath as she loomed above him.

“How dare you steal from my garden?” demanded the witch. “You must die!”

“Please,” begged the husband, “have mercy! I would not have dared to steal from your garden, but my wife is pregnant with our first child and declared that she would die without this rapunzel.”

At these words the witch’s demeanor softened though her lips curled in derision and her eyes bore a hungry look. “Very well, you may take the rapunzel. But this is the price you must pay – when your wife has borne this child, you must give it to me.”

The man agreed. What else could he do? He had stolen from her garden and would surely die if he refused. Besides, perhaps the witch would forget? So he departed with the rapunzel. Soon his wife gave birth to their child, a lovely daughter. Immediately the witch appeared to claim her prize. The parents watched helpless and brokenhearted as she took the child away.

The story of Rapunzel reminds us that when we serve other gods, they sometimes give us gifts – even as the witch gave her rapunzel – but the gifts always come at a cost. And that cost is frequently our children. It was for this abomination of handing their children over to other gods, that God denounced our fathers:

Moreover you took your sons and your daughters, whom you bore to Me, and these you sacrificed to [your idols] to be devoured. Were your acts of harlotry a small matter, that you have slain My children and offered them up to [your gods] by causing them to pass through the fire?

Today is Sanctity of Life Sunday. Since the diabolical Roe v. Wade decision in 1973, we have slaughtered over 61 million children. The gods that we have been worshiping – consumerism, greed, immorality, power, influence, convenience, beauty – have been claiming our children. Like the Israelites, we have taken the children we have borne to God and we have caused them to pass through the fire.

Is there hope? Only in our Prince, the Lord Jesus Christ. He can rescue us and our children from these false gods, deliver us from the madness that has overtaken us, and grant us joy in His own kingdom. For though He too demands our children, He demands them that they may live not that they may die. So let us listen to Him, hear His voice, and turn from the false gods we have worshiped.

Reminded that we Americans have been worshiping other gods and sacrificing our children to them, let us confess our sins to the Lord. And, as you are able, let us kneel together. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

Today the Bridegroom Claims His Bride

January 10, 2021 in Bible - OT - Isaiah, Church Calendar, Church History, Faith, Glorification, King Jesus, Marriage, Meditations, Quotations

Isaiah 49:6 (NKJV)

6 Indeed [the Lord] says, ‘It is too small a thing that You should be My Servant To raise up the tribes of Jacob, And to restore the preserved ones of Israel; I will also give You as a light to the Gentiles, That You should be My salvation to the ends of the earth.’”

Though Epiphany proper fell earlier this week on January 6th, today we celebrate Epiphany Sunday. As we have emphasized each year, Epiphany means “revelation.” On this Sunday, therefore, we celebrate God’s wonderful mercy in revealing His Son to the world. Historically, Epiphany has been associated with three distinct yet related events: the coming of the Magi, the baptism of Jesus, and the wedding at Cana. Each of these events reveals Christ in a unique way.

Consider, first, the coming of the Magi which occurs at the beginning of Jesus’ life. The Magi were a powerful ruling class within the Persian Empire – wise men, counselors, astrologers who were often the power behind the throne. While Herod, the King of the Jews, plotted Jesus’ destruction, these Magi, Gentile rulers, sought out the new-born Jesus and worshiped Him, acknowledging Him as King of kings and Lord of lords. God revealed His Son to these Gentile rulers; they were the first fruits among the Gentiles. So Epiphany celebrates that, through the Magi, God the Father revealed that Jesus is His King, come to rule over all the nations of the earth.

Consider, second, the baptism of Jesus which occurs at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. In the waters of the Jordan, Jesus entered upon His earthly ministry and revealed the purpose of His kingship. He was washed in water to identify with us in our sin and to prepare the way for our forgiveness. As Jesus was baptized, the heavens were opened and the Holy Spirit descended upon Jesus in the form of a dove and a voice from heaven declared, “This is My Beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” Epiphany, therefore, celebrates that, through Jesus’ baptism, God the Father revealed that His Son Jesus is His Redemptive King, come to rescue us from our chief enemy – our own sinful corruption and guilt.

Consider, finally, the wedding in Cana of Galilee which occurs as the beginning of Jesus’ miraculous signs. When the wine at the wedding feast ran out, Jesus turned water into wine and, in John’s words, “revealed His glory” (Jn 2:11). He revealed that He was indeed God’s Anointed King, come to rescue His bride, and to shed His own blood for her that He might restore to her the joy of salvation, that He might make glad the hearts of men through His rule and reign. Epiphany, therefore, celebrates that, at the wedding of Cana, Jesus revealed Himself to be God’s Festal King, come to rule us in joy.

Epiphany, therefore, is a day of revelation, a day when God reveals how determined He has been to eliminate our excuses for rejecting His Son and rebelling against His lawful and joyful rule. As one of the ancient blessings for Epiphany announced, “Today the Bridegroom claims his bride, the Church, since Christ has washed her sins away in Jordan’s waters; the Magi hasten with their gifts to the royal wedding; and the guests rejoice, for Christ has changed water into wine, alleluia.”

So what of you? Have you given heed to God’s revelation of Himself in Christ and acknowledged Him as God’s Son? Have you rejoiced in His coming and brought your gifts before Him? Have you rejoiced that God has revealed Himself to you and to the world? If you have done all these things, then thanks be to God! So one more question: have you then, in turn, been another means of God’s revelation of Himself to the world? It is to this that Epiphany calls us – to reveal Christ to the watching world, to proclaim the glories of our King that all nations and their kings bow before Him and worship Him.

Reminded of our calling to receive the revelation of God in Christ and to be the revelation of Christ to the world, let us kneel as we are able, confess our sins, and rejoice in His mercy.

Six Principles for Faithful Worship

January 3, 2021 in Bible - NT - Hebrews, Bible - OT - Psalms, King Jesus, Liturgy, Meditations, Worship

Hebrews 13:15 (NKJV)

15 Therefore by [Jesus] let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name.

In our continuing study of Jesus in the Psalms we examine Psalm 61 today. As we will see, Psalm 61 articulates David’s longing to worship God with the people of God. He sings, “I will abide in your tabernacle forever; I will trust in the shelter of Your wings… So I will sing praise to Your name forever, that I may daily perform my vows” (Ps 61:3, 8).

Paul commands us in Hebrews to emulate this passion for worship, Therefore by [Jesus] let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name.” Paul gives us six principles to guide our worship. First, our worship is to be Christological: “By JesusPaul writes, we are to praise God. Even as David looked in faith to the Christ to come, we are to look in faith to the Christ who has come. The only way that our sacrifice of praise can be accepted by God is through the substitionary sacrifice of Jesus. No one comes to the Father except through His Son, for there is one Mediator between God and man, the Man Christ Jesus. Our worship is to be Christological.

Second, our worship is to be communal. “By Jesus, let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God…” Even as David longed to be in the tabernacle, the place where God’s people gathered to worship Him together, so Paul commands us to join together to worship the Lord. Where the people of God gather to worship, there is God’s tabernacle, God’s temple, God’s dwelling place. The sacrifice of praise is something that we bring to the Lord together. Our worship is to be communal.

Third, our worship is to be continual. “By Jesus, let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God…” Even as David vowed to sing praise forever and to daily perform his vows, Paul wants worship to saturate our lives. This would obviously include gathering week by week on the Lord’s Day with God’s people. But the worship that we enjoy here with the people of God is to seep into our homes, our personal lives, and our friendships. Our worship is to be continual.

Fourth, our worship is to be theocentric, God-centered. “By Jesus, let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God…” Properly, worship is not a cathartic experience for our own amusement; nor is it a performance for others’ entertainment; it is primarily a sacrificial offering to God. Worship is offered up to God as a pleasing aroma, an offering that brings Him joy. Our worship is to be theocentric.

Fifth, our worship is to be vocal. “By Jesus, let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, the fruit of our lips…” As the fruit of our lips, the sacrifice of praise requires our lips to move. We are to sing praises to the Lord. Like David, Paul wants us to enter into the presence of the Lord with joyful shouts, celebrating the goodness of the Lord. Our worship is to be vocal.

Finally, our worship is to be thankful. “By Jesus, let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His Name.” Thankfulness is the heartbeat of worship. A man or woman who is not thankful is a man or woman who cannot worship. He might move his lips but his praise just bounces off the ceiling. The resentful, bitter, angry man may grudgingly bow the head and speak the words, but his heart will not utter joyous shouts and so he does not truly worship. Our worship is to be thankful.

So hear Paul’s exhortation, “Therefore, by Jesus let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name.” Our worship is to be Christological, communal, continual, theocentric, vocal, and thankful. Often, however, our worship lacks these traits. So as we enter into the presence of the Lord, let us confess our sin to the Lord, seeking His forgiveness. And, as you are able, let us kneel together as we confess. We will have a time of silent confession, followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

Resolutions for a New Year

December 27, 2020 in Bible - NT - Ephesians, Church Calendar, Covenantal Living, Discipline, Human Condition, King Jesus, Meditations, Sanctification, Thankfulness

Ephesians 3:20–21 (NKJV)

20 Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, 21 to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

This morning we find ourselves on the cusp of a new year. The old has passed away, behold the new has come! As we prepare to enter into this new year, I want to meditate on Paul’s words to the Ephesians. New years provide opportunities for renewed resolutions, hopes, and dreams. Paul’s words in Ephesians 3 contain profound wisdom for us as we consider these things.

So let us note that in our text Paul is giving glory to God in the process of which he gives instruction to us. First, Paul gives glory to God: to [God] be glory. So why is Paul ascribing glory to God? Because God is the One who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think. Whatever dreams or hopes you have for this upcoming year, Paul tells us, they are not too difficult for God to accomplish. God is able to do far more than we can articulate with our mouths or that we can even imagine with our heads.

And what Paul tells us is that the power of God comes to us by Christ Jesus. Jesus is the center of our faith. It is through His death and resurrection that we have forgiveness of sins and newness of life; through His death and resurrection that the power of God is at work in us. Paul ascribes glory to God by Christ Jesus our Lord.

So what does this mean for us? Well Paul tells us that this God who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think is the very God whose power works in us. Did you catch that? If you are in Christ, if you have turned from your love of sin and sought out the forgiving grace of God through the death and resurrection of Jesus, then the omnipotent God, He who rules and reigns among the affairs of men, is at work with His power in your life. God’s favor is toward you. Do you believe it? You see, Paul wants you to grow in wisdom and holiness and the way you grow is through a deep and personal knowledge of all that God has done, is doing, and promises yet to do for you in Christ.

So note that Paul writes that God’s glory is revealed in the Church: to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. In other words, God’s glory is revealed in and through you and me. God’s power is on display in His people – He has forgiven us and empowers us so that we might display the wonder of His work in a dark and hopeless world, that we might display the impotency of the world, the flesh, and the devil when confronted with the power of our Christ. In ourselves we are weak and powerless; but in our God we can run against a troop (Ps 18:29). If you are in Christ, God wants to display the wonder and power of His grace in your life; to glorify His Name through you.

So what this means is that those excuses you’ve been making for not addressing that sin pattern in your life are groundless; those despairing voices that have been telling you that there’s no hope for change are lying; those urges to complacency that have said it’s okay that you’re just coasting along spiritually, that you’re not really growing or being intentional about serving Christ; all those excuses, voices, and urges are of the devil. God gives His omnipotent strength to His people because He loves us and longs for us “to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height – to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God” (Eph 3:18b-19).

So as we enter into the presence of our Lord on the cusp of a New Year, let us confess that we have often failed to believe Him, failed to trust Him, and let us seek His forgiveness through Jesus Christ that He might empower us as His humble people to bring glory and honor to His Name in this coming year. 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.

Do Christmas Again!

December 20, 2020 in Bible - OT - Proverbs, Children, Christmas, Church Calendar, Covenantal Living, Fabulosities, King Jesus, Thankfulness, Worship

Proverbs 8:30–32 (NKJV)

30 Then I [Wisdom] was beside [the Creator] as a master craftsman; And I was daily His delight, Rejoicing always before Him, 31 Rejoicing in His inhabited world, And my delight was with the sons of men. 32 “Now therefore, listen to me, my children, For blessed are those who keep my ways.”

As we anticipate the arrival of Christmas, I doubt that I have to remind you that children love these times of festivity. While we adults often grow tired, kids never tire; they long for the celebration. “When are we going to get the tree? When are we going to put up the lights? When are we going to open stockings and presents? When is everyone coming over?”

We see in our text from Proverbs today that the delight and energy and joy of children reveals God’s own delight in all His work. Wisdom was daily God’s delight and rejoiced in His presence, rejoicing in God’s creative genius, and delighting in the sons of men. So who is the blessed one? What does Wisdom speak to you children? “Now therefore, listen to me, my children, For blessed are those who keep my ways.” The blessed one is the one who keeps and observes the way of wisdom – and the chief of wisdom’s ways is to delight in God and to rejoice in His works. The blessed man or woman or child is he who looks upon the world with wide-eyed wonder at God’s creativity and genius and generosity; who marvels at the intricacy of the human cell; who laughs at the gangliness of a giraffe; who delights in the companionship of a friend. The cursed man is the one who has grown too dull to perceive the wonder of the world and those who dwell therein.

G.K. Chesterton explains all this in his inimitable way in his book Orthodoxy. He writes:

Now, to put the matter in a popular phrase, it might be true that the sun rises regularly because he never gets tired of rising. His routine might be due, not to a lifelessness, but to a rush of life. The thing I mean can be seen, for instance, in children, when they find some game or joke that they specially enjoy. A child kicks his legs rhythmically through excess, not absence, of life. Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, “Do it again”; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, “Do it again” to the sun; and every evening, “Do it again” to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.

So what of you? Have you sinned and grown old? Have you ceased to look in wide-eyed wonder at the world? You teens, have you become too insecure, too self-important, or too distant to rejoice with joy? You young adults, have you become too self-absorbed or too ambitious to slow down and enjoy family and friends? You adults, have you become too tired or too lazy to celebrate with joy? Or perhaps too greedy to enjoy the simple delights of friendship?

Reminded that we often sin in various ways and that our sin causes us to “grow old”, that we become bored and complacent with God our Creator and Redeemer and with the world in which He has placed us, that we complain and mutter rather than overflow with thanksgiving, let us kneel as we are able and confess our sin to the Lord. We will have a time of silent confession, followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

Time for a Jehu

October 23, 2020 in Homosexuality, Israel, Judgment, King Jesus, Politics, Sexuality

No doubt you have heard more than enough political commentary in the past few weeks. Yet several times folks have asked me for whom I plan to vote in the upcoming presidential election. I made quite public in 2016 my refusal to vote for either of the major candidates. I did not consider either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton worthy my vote and I do not regret my decision; nor would I have regretted it had my decision been more consequential and Clinton been elected President. I was and am at peace with the decision I made in 2016. It was not the first time, and it may not be the last time, that I voted for a third party candidate. Yet this year I plan to vote quite happily for President Trump. Why the change?

It is not because I think that President Trump’s character has fundamentally changed – though I regularly pray that God matures him and recognize that the media reports about him (from which our opinions of his character are often formed) are far from reliable. Nevertheless, his tweets are at times embarrassing. His past history of womanizing and breaking his marriage covenants remains. And his boasting and bluster and apparent pride are disturbing. So why vote for the man? There are several reasons.

First and foremost, I have four years of experience on which to evaluate what President Trump will do the next four years. In 2016 I had no confidence that President Trump would pursue any of the conservative policies that he was publicly advocating. Yet here we are several years later, and Trump has followed through with his promises. Working with the Senate, he has appointed hundreds of originalist judges to federal courts including (hopefully) three to the Supreme Court. Working with Congress, he has lowered taxes, reduced regulations on businesses, and negotiated new trade deals that have returned manufacturing jobs to America. As head of the executive branch of government, he has promoted increasing freedom in education, protected religious freedom from the LGBTQ+ revolutionaries, achieved historic peace agreements in the Middle East, pulled the United States out of incessant wars overseas, stood up to China’s communist and godless regime, compelled other countries to contribute to NATO’s expenses, calmed the threat of North Korea, and stifled the flood of illegal immigrants. I could go on. His fulfillment of many of the promises he made has convinced me to support him in this election.

Second, President Trump has been the most pro-life President in history. He is the first President in history to speak at the annual March for Life. His speeches have consistently recognized that the unborn bear the image of God and so are worthy of protection. He has regularly criticized the Democrats for their barbaric commitment to late term abortion. Contrast this with the godless pursuit of the Democrats. Consider that Kamala Harris, Joe Biden’s Vice-Presidential running mate, willfully chose as the Attorney General of the State of California to ignore the immoral and criminal behavior of Planned Parenthood selling the body parts of little babies and instead chose to prosecute the heroic journalist who exposed their butchery. I can understand and sympathize with fellow Christians who vote third party. I do not agree with them in this election, but at least I can understand. But any professing Christian who votes for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris is at best utterly confused but more likely on the road to utter apostasy.

Third, President Trump respects the Judeo-Christian and Constitutional heritage upon which our republic was built. He has surrounded himself with advisors, including a Vice President, who openly and publicly claim the name of Christ and live in a way consistent with that claim. He has stated that our rights come from our Creator and that it is the role of government to preserve and protect those rights, not to grant them. He has endeavored to appoint judges who respect the rule of law and understand their limited role in our constitutional republic. Throughout the coronavirus crisis, he has basically followed the principle of federalism, permitting the states to govern themselves and refusing to use the power of the federal government to intrude into affairs which rightly belong to the states. The Democratic party has no such commitments. Joe Biden has signaled a willingness to pack the Supreme Court, has promised to increase taxes, has promoted yet more socialist health care (even going so far as to call it Biden-care already!), and has indicated his willingness to try and implement a national policy on lockdowns, masks, climate change, etc. He will expand the power of a federal government that is already bloated beyond the recognition of our Founding Fathers.

Fourth, President Trump has made all the right enemies. He has unmasked the radical leftist bias of the mainstream media. He has enraged the sexual revolutionaries. He has been willing to critique identity politics and has highlighted its Marxist roots. He regularly warns against the dangers of socialism and praises the blessings of the free market. Though I myself am frustrated with President Trump’s willingness to sign trillion-dollar spending packages, his critique of the socialist trajectory of the Democratic party is heartening. With a Biden presidency, we would get none of this. He will embrace the sexual revolutionaries, abet the socialist “Green New Deal”, enable Marxist ideology in the form of Black Lives Matter and other movements, and fundamentally reshape the nature of our federal system.

I could go on, but these are some of the major reasons I will be happily voting for President Trump. In my own mind, I have regularly likened President Trump to Jehu in the Old Testament. Jehu wasn’t a particularly righteous man. Yet God anointed him to clean house and to purify many of Ahab’s abuses. It is my hope and prayer that God will be more merciful to us through Trump than he was to Israel through Jehu. But at this time in history only a Jehu can do what needs to be done.

Kneeling in Worship

September 27, 2020 in Bible - OT - 1 Kings, Confession, King Jesus, Liturgy, Meditations, Prayer, Tradition, 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 its public worship, every church has traditions. Whether it is a tradition of spontaneity or a tradition of regularity, traditions are unavoidable. They are an inescapable part of human life. It is important, therefore, that we regularly evaluate our traditions to make sure that they reflect and not undermine biblical principles.

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 all those who are able to do so to kneel with me to confess our sins to God. Many people find this practice uncomfortable or objectionable – 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 is wrong with the church today. What is it about kneeling that bothers us? Some say it reminds them too much of Roman Catholic worship. But, of course, if we were to reject whatever the Roman church practices, then we’d have to eliminate Scripture reading and prayer as well. Others are bothered by what kneeling means in other contexts. After all, 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; and several stalwart Christian sports players have refused to kneel in homage to the Black Lives Matter propaganda. There are times when kneeling is compromise or even sin.

But there are other times when kneeling is good and right: 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. In such situations, kneeling is the right thing to do.

So what about worship? Is it fitting to kneel? Well note our text today: 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!

This morning we have entered into the presence of Almighty God, the Creator of Heaven and earth, the High and Holy One – the One whose glory fills heaven and earth; the One whose power governs all that occurs; the One whose love compelled Him to send His only-begotten Son to rescue His people from sin and Satan and death – is it not most fitting to kneel in His presence, particularly when we recognize the many ways in which we sin against Him and stand in need of His forgiving grace? So, as you are able, let us kneel and confess our sin to the Lord. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

Why Marry in Tumultuous Times?

September 5, 2020 in Bible - OT - Isaiah, Eschatology, Glorification, Judgment, King Jesus, Marriage, Politics, Postmillennialism, Sovereignty of God

Isaiah 62:4–5 (NKJV)

4You shall no longer be termed Forsaken, Nor shall your land any more be termed Desolate; But you shall be called Hephzibah [My Delight is in her], and your land Beulah [Married]; For the Lord delights in you, And your land shall be married. 5For as a young man marries a virgin, So shall your sons marry you; And as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, So shall your God rejoice over you.

This is a splendid evening for a glorious occasion. For years now I have known both of you and have appreciated your strong convictions, your willingness to work hard, and your love for Christ and His people. It brings me great joy to unite you in the covenant of marriage today confident that, by the grace of God, your home will be a beacon of Christ’s presence in the world.

You are getting married at a tumultuous time in our republic’s history. There is increased polarization and racial tension in our country. Protests and riots have gripped many of our major cities. Many of our citizens are looking skeptically at those in law enforcement and the military. And so some may wonder if it is worth getting married at such a time. Wouldn’t it be better to wait until things calm down? Or perhaps not to get married at all? After all, with marriage often come children and who wants to bring children into such a fractured, unstable world?

But Isaiah teaches us never to underestimate the power of a good marriage to display the light of Christ in a broken world. Israel was in crisis in Isaiah’s day. The Assyrians were ransacking the country. Jerusalem was besieged. It appeared that perhaps God had abandoned Israel. In the midst of this turmoil, Isaiah turned to a man and woman getting married and held out their love, their union, as a message of hope for all Israel. Even as that man longed for that woman and gave himself to her, so, Isaiah tells us, the Lord longs for His people and will give Himself for her. Isaiah insisted that the future was hopeful not bleak; light not darkness; for God is Lord of the future and God loves His people and loves His creation.

A good marriage points to the central message of the Gospel – a message of hope, of peace, of harmony, of love, of commitment, a message that God so loved the world that He sent His only begotten Son to rescue the world, to marry His bride. Even as Justus delights in you, Stacey, rejoicing over you and longing to marry you, so God rejoices over His people and over His entire creation, and He shall deliver us from all turmoil, causing the glory of His Son to cover the earth as the waters cover the sea. America – like other republics and nations – shall be a glorious place, full of the knowledge of the Lord, singing the glories of the Lord, prospering under the hand of the Lord. Want proof? Just look in Justus’ eyes.

So let me urge you both to remember that you do not marry just for yourselves this day. Obviously, we know that you marry for yourselves – your smiles and joy and delight tell us; the longing that each of you has had to find a spouse and the pleas that you have each raised to the Lord in that regard tell us that you marry for yourselves. We know that. But you do not marry just for yourselves; you also marry for all those assembled here: you remind us of the Lord’s love for His people and His determination to save and bless His own. You give us hope. You marry for all those you shall meet in the course of your married life: to draw them into the circle of love in your home and so to point them to the source of that love, God Himself, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, the first and foundational community of love. You marry for the life of the world: to display God’s glory from generation to generation on those who love Him and keep His commandments and to remind everyone that the future is hopeful. Today you say to us all:

4You shall no longer be termed Forsaken, Nor shall your land any more be termed Desolate; But you shall be called Hephzibah [My Delight is in her], and your land Beulah [Married]; For the Lord delights in you, And your land shall be married. 5For as a young man marries a virgin, So shall your sons marry you; And as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, So shall your God rejoice over you.

But this hope isn’t automatic. Justus, if there were not in Stacey’s eyes also the light of love, a longing to know you and be known by you, then today would not be a joyful day, would it? So Stacey’s longing for you summons us to turn from other loves and to give our hearts wholly and completely to God Himself, our Creator and Redeemer.

So Justus and Stacey, may your home, both now and in years to come, be a beacon of light to point friends and foes to the One who is the Light of the world, our Lord Jesus Christ. For He alone is the foundation of life, of peace, of joy, and of hope. Amen.

 

Ascension Sunday 2020

May 24, 2020 in Ascension Sunday, Authority, Bible - OT - Psalms, Church Calendar, King Jesus, Meditations, Politics

Psalm 110 (NKJV)

A Psalm of David. 1 The LORD said to my Lord,“Sit at My right hand, Till I make Your enemies Your footstool.” 2 The LORD shall send the rod of Your strength out of Zion. Rule in the midst of Your enemies!

Today is Ascension Sunday. On this day we celebrate the moment when the Lord Jesus Christ, having taught the disciples for 40 days following His resurrection, ascended into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God. Ascension Day was actually last Thursday – 40 days since Easter. However, we haven’t yet reached the point of celebrating Ascension Day during the week and so we celebrate it on the Sunday following – today.

But why celebrate this event at all? What’s so important about Jesus’ Ascension? Oft times in history, especially prior to the advent of mass media, the coronation of kings was followed by a time of travel – the new king would journey throughout his kingdom and show himself to his people. It was an opportunity for the people to see their new king, to pledge allegiance to him, and to celebrate his coronation. But eventually the festivities would come to an end and the king would return to his palace, take his seat on his throne, and begin to rule.

It is this narrative that ties Easter and Ascension together. In the NT, the resurrection of Jesus from the dead is understood as coronation day. When Jesus rose from the dead on the third day, he rose as God’s triumphant King; the ruler over all the kings of the earth. For the next 40 days, He showed himself to his people. Our fathers saw the new King in his glory, pledged their allegiance to him, and reveled in his coronation. But eventually this time had to come to an end. So Jesus ascended into heaven, sat down at the right hand of God Almighty, and began to rule and reign over His Kingdom. As God the Father declares to Jesus in our Psalm today, “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies your footstool.” And it is sitting on the throne of His father David, sitting at the right hand of God Almighty, that our Messiah Jesus continues to rule and reign even now.

So what is the significance of Jesus’ resurrection? Brothers and sisters, Jesus is Lord! Jesus reigns! Let the earth be glad and the righteous rejoice! He is the King of kings and Lord of lords and He will cause justice to prevail in the earth.

So what ought we to do? Let us pray that God’s kingdom come, his will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Pray for the expansion of Jesus’ rule, the full manifestation of His kingship in human history. Pray for the proclamation of the Gospel and the conversion of friends, family, and neighbors. For, as Jesus’ kingship becomes increasingly acknowledged, light and life will reveal themselves in ever greater fullness.

And because Jesus is Lord, because Jesus is God’s anointed King, the only way that we can come to God is by pledging our loyalty to Jesus. “He who honors the Son, honors the Father; he who does not honor the Son, does not honor the Father who sent him” (Jn 5:23). This morning we have been summoned into the presence of God Almighty; we may only enter in the Name of His Son. So as you are able, let us kneel together as we enter his presence and pledge our allegiance to him.