Yearly Archives: 2017

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Awkward Church Moments

It’s a Sunday morning, you are getting coffee after the worship service. You say ‘hi’ to someone, and they ask how things are going. You say, “fine, how are you?”. “Good,” they say. Then you stare at each other, utterly helpless to move the conversation along. Awkward church moments-and they happen all the time.

Recently I was alerted to a new book out (Brent McCracken, Uncomfortable: The Awkward and Essential Challenge of Christian Community),* and I was stunned by the foreword written by Russel Moore. Here is an excerpt:

That sense of awkwardness can hinder us, in many ways, but it can also be a gift. That uncomfortable feeling can remind us that there are times when we don’t know just what to say or do. It can give us a compassion for the occasional awkwardness of those around us. It can remind us that we are part of a humanity that, from our near-earliest history, found ourselves furtively hiding in the bushes from the presence of our God (Gen. 3:8–10).

We often, though, want to protect ourselves from awkwardness. We want to appear to know just what to say, just what to do, just how to act—in ways that can either distinguish us or help us to blend in with whatever herd we’ve chosen. Sometimes that self-protection means deflecting the very reality—presence and relatedness—that can draw us out of ourselves and toward wholeness. The intense moment, the “I love you” or the “I am concerned about you” or the “Here’s what you mean to me” moment, becomes deflected with a joke or a change of subject. Sometimes it is not comfortable to be loved… (12)

In a church, be it big or small, there will always be the temptation to run away. But what Christ has done is pulled us together in this wet-and-wild thing called the Church, which is so dear to Him that He calls it his body. The church is filled with people who are not like me, who don’t always get it right the first time, who don’t always know what to say or don’t always say the right things at the right times–but all who have been bought by Christ and have been sovereignly placed in my life for us to grow together and encourage one another. Even if it does get a little awkward.


*Brett McCracken, Uncomfortable: The Awkward and Essential Challenge of Christian Community (Crossway, 2017; Wheaton IL)

The Heart of Our King

The pace is picking up a little bit now, as we move forward through scripture and look at some key events and themes in its grand narrative. In Lesson 4 we looked at the Heart of Our King. Specifically, we looked at how God’s everlasting love for his children is expressed through covenant, what that means, and the first few instances in which it appears in God’s story.

If God’s response to sin was merely punishment, scripture could end after Genesis 3:19, and 3:15 could be removed, for there would be no good news of one who would come to bruise the serpent’s head, no good news of one who would come to be bruised for your sake, and for mine. Since we know that scripture clearly does not end with Genesis chapter 3, there’s obviously more to the story! And that more is the unfolding, increasingly revealed picture of a God who pursues a people in love to rescue and redeem them from sin to be their God and to dwell among them, restoring (wholly by his own gracious initiative) what was lost and broken by man’s rebellion in the garden.

Our hope is in the unchanging LOVE of God. In Deuteronomy 7:6-8 God told his people Israel that they were his treasured possession, whom he had chosen and loved not due to any might or strength (or merit) of their own, but because he had set his love upon them and was keeping the oath (covenant) he had sworn to their fathers. If you wonder whether there’s biblical warrant for applying these verses to us today, consider Ephesians 1:3-8, which similarly indicates that God chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before him, in LOVE predestining us for adoption as sons (daughters) through Jesus Christ.  Jeremiah 31:3 proclaims the word of the Lord to his people in exile as a result of their rebellion (sound like a theme?): “I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you.”

God’s LOVE compels him; his COVENANT binds him. That’s what Courtney Doctor emphasized in Day 2 of our study. She says, “Covenant is the way that God goes about accomplishing his purposes – he makes certain promises to his people and then he binds himself to those promises,…knowing that he will be the only one who will be faithful and keep the covenant. Our faithful God enters into a binding relationship with unfaithful people.” (From Garden to Glory: A Bible Study on the Bible’s Story, pp. 75, 76) God’s binding himself to his promises is good news for us, because he cannot lie and his character does not change! (Numbers 23:18, Hebrews 6:13-20) If you’ve read back through Genesis 15 carefully, you have likely noted what Abram was doing while God was “cutting covenant” with him. I hope it encourages you to realize that God’s promise did not depend upon Abram’s commitment to it, but his own! This will be important to keep in view as we continue through our study.

In Days 3-5 of our study, we looked more closely at God’s covenant commitments to both Noah and Abraham. Though God has one mission in redeeming his people and establishing His kingdom, he is accomplishing this mission through many covenants, each of which builds upon the one before it and expands our understanding of who God is. Michael D. Williams says that “Genesis tells the story…of the pervasive spread of sin in the world. When Adam and Eve were expelled from the Garden, they took the fruit of their disobedience with them. After sin broke into the Garden (Gen. 3), it broke out into the whole world (Gen. 4-11).” (Far as the Curse is Found: The Covenant Story of Redemption, p. 84)

The flood of Genesis 6-7 shows both God’s righteous judgment against that sin, and his great mercy and faithfulness to his own promises. Though “the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and…every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually,…Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord.” In our discussion time, we talked about the connection between Noah’s blamelessness in Gen. 3:9, and the word favor that we see in v. 8. Noah was not a sinless man, but by God’s grace, he was called righteous, and we see that he was obedient to God’s command to build an ark. Speaking of the story of the worldwide flood, Michael D. Williams says, “Sin and judgment is at best only half the story….The point is rather to communicate God’s resolve to redeem in spite of fallen man, and that sin cannot thwart the promise made in the Garden. It is about grace, that God will protect the seed of the woman and will affect his plan to redeem in spite of sin’s power and allure. Like all of Scripture, the story is about the faithfulness of God.” Genesis 9 records God’s post-flood blessing of Noah and his sons, a blessing that shares many elements of God’s original blessing of our first parents in the garden. How encouraging this is! Despite the pervasiveness of sin and the necessity of judgment, God still blesses and establishes his covenant with man. God is indeed faithful to his promises.

The problem of sin was not solved by the flood, however. The very next episode in the narrative after the flood is the tower of Babel. Genesis 11:4 records these words spoken by the people of the land of Shinar: “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.” Williams says, “Thus the trajectory from the Garden to Babel moves from the illicit promise of moral autonomy in the serpent’s lie to a full-blown culture of godlessness in which every human energy is employed in the ‘ultimate act of rebellion – the total denial of God in the absolute assumption of self-sufficiency. This is sin in totality, with finality.'” (Far as the Curse is Found, p. 85, quoting B. Davie Napier, From Faith to Faith, p. 56.)

God’s grace, man’s sin, God’s grace, man’s sin. It’s a recurring pattern, isn’t it? Williams says “At the heart of the pattern of sin and grace lies the fact that God remains ever faithful to his covenant promises even though man proves himself faithless to the covenant.” (Far as the Curse is Found, p. 89)

In Genesis 12, and then again in Genesis 15, we see God calling and covenanting with Abram (later renamed Abraham). Williams points out that God promises to Abraham what He opposed at Babel. “Abraham’s greatness will be conferred by divine grace, not wrested from the world as the Babelites attempted to do. Blessing will come only from the Word of God.” (Far as the Curse is Found, p. 110) Abram is promised offspring in Genesis 13 and 15, another important term to trace through scripture, as we first saw it in God’s promise of Genesis 3:15. As often occurs in scripture, there are both immediate and future realizations of God’s promises. Abraham will be the father of many nations, as promised, and all the families of the earth will be blessed through him. But this will involve more and extend further than Abraham will ever realize in his earthly life.

Referring back to Genesis 3:15, our study book points out that “the first promise given is that there will be a descendant of Adam – a man, a human being – who will crush the head of the enemy.” This one who was promised, who would be the fulfillment of all the covenants, would be fully man, but not ONLY man. He would also be fully God. God is the one who both initiates and fulfills his covenants.

So what should we do with what we are learning? It is right and good to rest and trust in the truth that God is faithful to his promises as a covenant maker and covenant keeper as he works to rescue and redeem from sin a people for himself. But we should also note that when God covenants, he also calls and commands. God calls us to vocation in and obedience to Him.

So will we believe God, as Noah did, and Abraham? Will we follow where he leads us through His word, even if it doesn’t seem to make sense or appear to be the wisest course of action in man’s eyes?

Will we pursue a walk of blamelessness – making every effort to trust and obey, and to repent when God graciously shows us our sin?

Will we praise God for his faithfulness not only to His covenant promises, but also to us as his people? Will we seek to reflect and represent him well as his image bearers, testifying of His mercy?

Eden, the flood, Babel – each of these shows us that sin is not without consequence. Is there any unfaithfulness in us that grieves us today? Are there seeds of self-sufficiency or self-made glory that we might need to see and repent? Our Heavenly Father/King is gracious and merciful. He called and covenanted with his children in the garden before their rebellion, and has done so ever since. He still blesses us in order to make us a blessing, allowing us to participate in His work in His world. I am praying for each of us that we will respond to God’s gracious initiative with love, obedience, and faith, trusting Him to work out his promises in us as He has been faithful to keep and work them out in His world.

 

But Then an Evil Serpent…

“If I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world.” C. S. Lewis

I have always appreciated this quote. I think Lewis does an effective job of concisely communicating the sense of longing that causes us to chase after satisfaction and fulfillment, and the futility of the pursuit. But as I consider the quote in light of our study of Genesis 1 and 2, I realize that he was probably off target on the last bit of it. If we understand Genesis 1-3 correctly, we recognize that we don’t long for another world, but for the world that we presently inhabit before it was wrecked and ruined by sin.

Genesis 1-2 explains the origins of our longing: we were created to inhabit God’s very good creation of perfect harmony, purity, and peace not only as subjects of the High King of Heaven but also as the children of a good and loving Father. In that perfect world for which we were created, there was NO SHAME (Gen. 2:25), and no grief, because there was NO GUILT.

Genesis 3 introduces us to the origins of our grief and sense of loss: SIN. What is sin? The Westminster Shorter Catechism defines sin as “any want of conformity unto, or transgression of, the law of God.” I appreciate how Michael D. Williams’ words help us to understand the nature of sin. In Far as the Curse is Found: The Covenant Story of Redemption, he says,

“The law is the personal God’s declared will for his creatures. To violate it is to rebel against God himself. Consequently, Scripture often describes sin in relational terms. Sin is man’s betrayal, desertion, faithlessness, breach of covenant relationship, and treachery, directed against a personal God. (p.66) In essence, sin is man’s flight from God.” (p. 65)

Sin is not impersonal. It is relational.

Set against the perfect goodness of God’s design, and the opportunity man was given to live in eternally harmonious relationship with Him and one another, we see clearly that sin doesn’t make sense. It is irrational, absurd. As we talked about in our lesson, sin is an intruder.

Throughout the first two chapters of Genesis, Adam and Eve had known ONLY goodness from God: they enjoyed God’s perfect and generous provision, had a good work to do, a beautiful garden to tend and keep, and relationship with God and one another marked by intimacy and uninhibited openness. God’s words to Adam in Genesis 2:16-17 give both abundant provision and a single, solitary prohibition: “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” (emphasis added)

The remainder of Genesis 2 describes God’s creation of woman, and his bringing her to the man, culminating with the words “and the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.”  While the last verse of Chapter 2 describes the pinnacle of human purity and peace, Chapter 3 introduces us to a new character and opens with an entirely different tone.

Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?”

No. That’s not what God actually said at all. But the serpent’s words planted seeds of doubt and distrust in Eve’s mind. God had given Adam and Eve every tree of the garden but one. God had been abundantly lavish in his provision, and if we read Genesis 2:17, we see that what he had withheld was a knowledge of evil. A good and loving parent withholds that which would harm the child!

But here we see the insanity of sin play out in Eve’s actions. She has every reason to trust God, and no reason to doubt him. None, that is, but the serpent’s word. It is interesting to note that in her reply to the serpent, Eve adds a prohibition not recorded in God’s words from Gen. 2:17.

And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” (Genesis 3:2-3)

Eve’s reply introduces the possibility that the serpent’s suggestion has influenced her perception of God. Having used his cunning to hint at a malignancy in God’s character, he now openly challenges and contradicts God’s word.

“You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Genesis 3:4b-5)

Here the serpent holds out the shining fruit of Eve’s desire – and of ours as well. Rather than living under the perfect protection of God as king, and the perfect provision of God as father, Eve is enticed by the serpent’s suggestion that she can be autonomous, independent, like God. Why live under ANY prohibition, why submit to even a good and loving king/father if we can enjoy the freedom of self rule?

We know from Genesis 3:6 -7 that Eve took a closer look at the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. When she did so, she “saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desired to make one wise, [so] she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.”

Sin brought shame. And shame drove Adam and Eve to hide, and to blame. Sin devastated all that was good and pure and right in Eden. The gravity and burden of loss in Genesis 3 is crushing. But God does not allow his children to hide in their shame and sin without pursuing them. As the scene unfolds, we are introduced to another aspect of who God is: righteous judge. God calls to the man and his wife, and pronounces a sentence upon each of the guilty parties (including the serpent!). Sin is never without consequence, and it is responsible for all of the brokenness of humanity and creation that we see around us today. God didn’t only deliver a sentence in Genesis 3, though. He said one would come who would bruise the head of the serpent, whispering the first hint of the gospel even amidst the devastation in the garden. And he made Adam and Eve garments of skins and clothed them. He covered their nakedness, and their shame, and sent them from the garden to keep them from partaking of the tree of life, and thus prevent them from living in a state of sin forever.

“The gospel is the story of God covering his naked enemies [rebels], bringing them to the wedding feast, and then marrying them rather than crushing them.” Ed Welch

In summary, consider our “take aways” from last week’s study:

– Our enemy always tempts us to doubt God’s word and God’s goodness

– There is no rational answer for sin; it is absurd and makes no sense in light of God’s goodness.

– Sin leads to shame and hiding, but God call us out and covers us.

– Curse is not God’s ultimate answer to sin; redemption is.

– It is the mercy of God not to leave us in the state of sin forever.

I am praying for each of us this week, that the Lord will shape our understanding of sin and help us, who are in Christ, to enjoy the grace of walking in joyful obedience to our Father. Psalm 19: 7-14

6th Annual Mission Conference Schedule

Mission Conference Weekend Schedule

Our speaker this year is Pastor Hunter Dockery of Serge Missions (formerly known as World Harvest). Here is his bio.

Saturday, November 11th
5:00pm – 8:00pm: Main Program: Welcome, Dinner and Missionary Updates/Presentations (Sanctuary)

Sunday, November 12th
9:30am – 10:45pm: Worship (Sanctuary)
11:15am – 12:00pm: Congregation/Missionary Prayer Groups (Sanctuary)
12:00pm – 1:00pm: Quarterly Luncheon (Fellowship Building)

6th Annual Mission Conference Speaker

I am pleased to announce that for our 6th Annual Harbor Missions Conference our guest speaker will be Pastor Hunter Dockery!

Hunter and Julie Dockery have 12 years of church planting work spread all over Ireland (with Jack Miller’s team), into Eastern Europe, and Russia during their time on the field with Serge (formerly World Harvest Missions). Hunter served as a Serge board member for six years after returning to the U.S. to pastor Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Winston Salem, N.C, where Michael and Lindsay Colvard attended while they were at Wake Forest University. They returned to work full-time with Serge in October of 2015.

Hunter works with the executive director of Serge, Bob Osborne, to develop ministry partnerships. He’s passionate about helping people get a glimpse into the mission’s work and see how to invest leadership skills, wisdom, and financial resources into this ministry. Because of Serge’s recent growth, Hunter believes ministry partners are needed now more than ever.

Once Upon a Time…

When we hear the words “once upon a time,” we know that what’s coming next is an introduction. Generally, an introduction that includes the concept of beauty, calm, order, or peace – or maybe all of the above! Whether it’s the character(s) we encounter, or how the setting is described – or perhaps both – “once upon a time” usually precedes a depiction of something good and beautiful and right. Something that is as it should be. We all know from experience with fairy tales that the depiction of the kingdom as a place of goodness and beauty doesn’t endure much beyond the introduction. In most cases, a problem or conflict is described pretty quickly thereafter. But that’s jumping ahead a bit.

This past week, we looked at the “once upon a time” of scripture’s story in Genesis 1 and 2, which shows us the goodness of God both in and toward his creation. In Genesis 1 we see God creating all things by speaking them into existence. Using the repeated pattern “And God said…, And it was so,” Genesis 1 introduces us not merely to a king, but to the High King of the Universe. We are not told that he is the king; we are shown in the depiction of sovereign decree. A king speaks, and his words become law. God speaks, and light exists. Matter is created, set in order, gathered and separated to form heaven and earth, land and sea. God speaks and vegetation springs forth. Sun, moon, and stars are set in the heavens to preside over days, seasons and years. Birds, fish, sea creatures, and living creatures of all kind inhabit the earth. All because God spoke, and it was so. Another repeated refrain echoes through Genesis 1, as well: “And God saw that it was good.” In God’s culminating act of creation, man, male and female, is created in the image of God, blessed, commanded to be fruitful and multiply, and given dominion (authority from God to fulfill his mission) over the other created beings. God’s work of creation is complete, at this point, and declared “very good” in its entirety. (Genesis 1:31) Thus we are introduced to God as king, and the kingdom over which he rules as creator. As king and creator, God is worthy of our obedience.

Fortunately for us, “king” is not the only image of God scripture provides. While we might agree conceptually with the notion that a king’s subjects owe him allegiance and obedience, our knowledge of earthly kings probably doesn’t inspire us to offer that obedience joyfully and unreservedly – nor should it, in many cases. It certainly wouldn’t have done so for the Hebrews, who as the first audience of Genesis, had been cruelly oppressed by Pharaoh as slaves in Egypt. As Courtney Doctor noted in our study book (p. 36), “The kingdom is affected by the virtue of the king.”  The Hebrew people knew this from their experience under Pharaoh, but in hearing Genesis 1, they see more clearly that the God of creation – the God who had called them to be his people – is still (and always) the sovereign king over that creation. The High King of Heaven is not the king of their oppression, but of their rescue! He is not like the kings of man.

Though we will see the image more fully and clearly unfold as we continue our study, even in the garden kingdom of Genesis 1 and 2, we see glimmers of another aspect of God’s relationship with man: God is also our Father. Just as our knowledge of earthly kings might affect our heart’s inclination or disinclination toward obedience, our experience of earthly fathers may give us pause (or pain), as well. But, “when God refers to himself as Father, he is referring, not to our experience of fathers, but to the kind of father we were created to have….your heavenly Father is perfect in his love in every possible way. (p. 42)” We see God’s fatherhood in four specific aspects: presence, provision, protection, and parameters. God is not a deadbeat dad, an absentee father, or worse. Understanding and trusting God as the perfect Father our hearts long for is essential to our understanding of who he is and how we are to relate to him. Though kings and fathers alike are to be obeyed, though kings and fathers alike bear responsibility toward their subjects and children, we do not look for a king to love his subjects in the way that we expect a good father to love his children. Yet scripture speaks plainly of God’s enduring, abundant compassion, tenderness and love toward those who are His. Stop and ponder this for a minute. The God of all creation, the High King of Heaven is and longs to relate to us as our perfect, loving Father!

Whether as a parent, a child, or a keen observer of humanity, I’m sure you’ve realized that having a job to do as a member of the family is more meaningful than simply existing. Every character has to have a purpose in the story. Being the good Father that he is, God didn’t create us simply to exist; he calls us to participate in his work in the world as members of his family and his image bearers. We are to resemble and represent him as we exercise dominion over the creation as he commanded. The authority we’ve been given is not an authority of autonomy, but of stewardship. We answer to the High King of Heaven, who is our Father, as we do the work he has given us to do. Courtney Doctor describes that work, God’s mission, as “the establishment of his Kingdom in all the earth (p. 51).” Simply put, as God has made himself known to us, we are to make him known throughout the earth!

So how are we doing, ladies?

-Are you submitting yourself to the High King of Heaven in obedience?

-Do you entrust yourself (your relationships, your needs, your concerns, your fears) to your loving Father in humility, trusting Him to care for you as you cast your anxieties on Him?

-Are you enjoying and engaging your Father in relationship?

-Are you growing in resemblance to Him as you do so?

-Are you making him known in your arenas of influence and dominion?

We have the protection and provision of a great King, the love of a good Father, and a good work to do as his image bearers and representatives. I’m praying he’ll help us to more fully understand and walk in His light and truth this week!

Cliff’s Notes: A Framework for Understanding

If you’re reading this on the web and would like a copy of our study calendar and schedule, please email Tracie at womenscareteam@harborchurch.org. This week we’re completing Lesson 2, “Once Upon a Time” for our meeting next week. The lessons don’t actually take that long, but if you’re finding it difficult to find that “chunk” of time you’re looking for, I encourage you to start into your study by reading pages 35 and 36. Then, when you get your next few minutes in the day, read through Genesis 1, or Genesis 1 & 2. Once you’ve done that, you’re prepared to answer the questions for Day 1, and can jot those answers two or three at a time as you have a few minutes to do so.

I know “finding time” (isn’t that a curious expression?) to study is challenging when your calling in life includes work responsibilities and/or making yourself available to provide love and care for others through scheduled activities, interruptions and unexpected hiccups in the day’s routine, but I promise that a little bit of strategizing is worth the effort. If you’re like me, and your vision of a perfect “quiet time” includes actual quiet, calm, and enough time to get through the entire lesson, you might rarely have a “perfect quiet time!” But I hope you will join me in endeavoring to let go of perfect and work toward pursuit. Be encouraged: you’ve already started by committing to this study!

Most of us are unlikely to go without eating for days because we simply can’t find time to grab a bite. Whatever is going on in our lives, we’re probably managing to get calories into our bodies somehow, and I’m quite certain we’re not relying on the ones we consumed a few months ago to pull us through and meet our nutritional needs. Yet how often do we view Bible study that way? Jesus calls himself the bread of life; his word is spiritual food for us! If you and I are trying to make do on last month’s time in God’s word, it’s quite likely we’re spiritually malnourished. Jesus won’t love us more because we’re working to prioritize time in his word, but I am confident that we will come to love him more if we do! So I am grateful that we are leaning into pursuit together. I trust we’ll all be better off for it.

Yesterday in our time together we covered Lesson 1, “Cliff’s Notes.” If you’re not familiar with them, Cliff’s Notes are a series of pamphlets that summarize and provide basic analysis of common works of literature. Though some among us might confess to making use of Cliff’s Notes instead of reading the book (don’t do that for your Bible study!), their purpose is not to replace study of the original work, but to enhance it by providing a framework for understanding. Some books are hard to read. But if we have a basic summary, and can identify key themes, we can more readily make sense of the individual chapters.

Lesson 1 helped us to identify a few essentials of scripture:

-Its primary author is God, though his chosen vehicle was “men [who] spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” (2 Peter 1:21)

-Its setting is history – real time, real places, real people, and real events.

-The primary genre of scripture is historical narrative, though it makes use of many other genres in telling the story of God’s work in the world on our behalf.

-God’s purpose in giving us his word is to reveal himself to us in love, that we might respond to him in relationship and receive eternal life in Christ.

In the video we watched together, Courtney Doctor pointed to our need for God’s revelation, and that it is above all, an act of grace.

While scripture tells us that certain attributes of God are evident in creation by God’s general revelation, that which is made available and should be evident to all in the world God made (Romans 1:19-20), general revelation is insufficient to show us our need for a savior, or to tell us all that God desires to reveal to us about who He is and who we are in relationship to him. In scripture, we have God’s special revelation, his specific revelation of his nature, his character, and his work in and purpose for his creation. Within scripture, we see these things most fully and clearly in the work and person of Jesus Christ. While we cannot know all that there is to know about God from scripture (because he is unsearchable, inscrutable, and incomprehensible), we can delight in the reality that God loved us enough to make himself known to us that we might have sufficient knowledge to respond to him in repentance and faith unto eternal life and fellowship with him.

A few things to remember about special revelation from the video:

-The word of God is not just a revelation from God, but a revelation of God. It is not a to-do list, but a love note!

-ALL of our knowledge of God is dependent upon God’s revelation of himself to us.

-God’s special revelation is a “gracious condescension” in which he stoops down to accommodate our “slight capacity” to comprehend him.

How amazing is it that the infinite, eternal, omniscient, omnipotent God of the universe would pursue you and me in love to reveal himself to us?! I am praying for each of us that our wonder will be increased and our affections kindled as we consider and review this amazing story of God’s work in his world.

Introduction Day – From Garden to Glory: A Bible Study on the Bible’s Story

Last Tuesday in our time together we heard the word STORY quite a bit. It’s there in the subtitle of our book: A Bible Study on the Bible’s Story.

What do you think of when you hear the word “story?” Several years ago, I taught two-year-olds as a member of a Bible study class. In our training, we were encouraged NOT to use the word “story” so we wouldn’t confuse these little ones. “Stories,” to two-year-olds, are most often fun, fictional tales accompanied by bright illustrations, aren’t they? They’re often outlandish or silly. And, of course, they’re not true.

While scripture does present us with a story, I assure you that everything we find in its pages is true. Referring to scripture as a story does not cast a shadow on its reliability as truth, but points us toward the fact that it presents us with a narrative arc. When we first learned to write stories, our teachers taught us they had to have a beginning, a middle, and an end. Further along in our education, we might have learned a more sophisticated version of this general structure. Simply stated, this included exposition, complication or conflict, rising action, climax, and conclusion. I’m sure you can see where I’m headed with this. While scripture is no work of fiction, it is indeed a story in the highest and truest sense. It has all the essential elements, and the knowing the grand story of scripture gives us a framework for understanding how the varied books, authors, and genres we encounter within it contribute to the big picture. It also shows us that scripture, by design, has a purpose, and a point! It isn’t just a random collection of varied writings of different genres by a group of people separated by time and space.

We talked a bit yesterday about how knowing the story gives us much-needed perspective. I can follow the turn-by-turn directions of a GPS, but they make a lot more sense to me if I’ve consulted Google Maps and checked out the satellite view of my route ahead of time. I can put together the pieces of a puzzle, but I MUCH prefer to do so with the picture on the lid as a reference! Whether this is our first experience learning the meta-narrative of scripture or a refresher course, each of us will benefit, I’m sure, from a studied consideration of God’s story. As Christians, such perspective is essential, because this is not only God’s story, but OUR story, as well.

I appreciate Courtney Doctor’s words from her video introduction, reminding us that our part in this story is not performance, but faithful participation. Using the words of author and seminary professor Michael D. Williams, she encouraged us to realize that we are heirs of the story, actors in it, and bearers of it.

With her, my prayer is that through this study we will…

-love scripture more

-see more clearly our purpose in God’s plan

-be captivated by the love of our Heavenly Father, and

-respond to God’s gracious and lavish affection with increased love and faith

As I might have said to those little ones many years ago, “This is God’s word. Everything in it is true.”

I hope you enjoy your first week of study, and are blessed as you lean into the work of understanding the true word of our infinite, inexhaustible God as He has revealed himself to us.

Luther and the Reformation – Notes and Tidbits

This October 31st, 2017 marks the 500th anniversary of the nailing of Martin Luther’s 95 Theses to the doors of Wittenberg Chapel that started the Protestant Reformation. For many of you, this has a lot of significance, for others maybe not so much or you are not very familiar with the origins of the Reformation and its importance today. So I wanted to take just a brief moment to give you some bullet points on the context, and maybe give you a few tidbits you may not be aware of! This October I will be preaching a sermon series on the Five Solas (Alones) of the Reformation, so hopefully, this peaks your interest.

ALSO: This October I will be preaching a sermon series on the Five Solas (Alones) of the Reformation, so hopefully, this peaks your interest!

– Martin Luther (1483-1546) was a Catholic monk who taught theology at the University of Wittenberg in Germany. It was in his own study of the book of Romans that he began to change his views about God’s grace, Christ, and faith. Instead of seeing salvation as something that he had to work toward, he found that the Bible clearly taught it was by God’s mercy in Christ that we are saved.

– He did not see himself as a revolutionary, but he wanted the church to be corrected and uphold good, Biblical practices. Hence the movement that resulted is referred to as the ‘reformation’ rather than the ‘revolution’ because Luther (Calvin and others) saw themselves trying to correct the church universal rather than starting a new one.

– The ’95 Theses’ were 95 sentences that were up for academic debate at the university. Pinning articles of debate on the chapel doors was not all that unusual. It was similar to maybe an academic blog of today. Luther wanted to debate the points, but it was quickly taken and printed by unknown printers who distributed the work.

– The ’95 Theses’ were not full-fledged Luther in the sense that he was very much still reflecting many Roman Catholic doctrines. The issue that caused Luther to write the 95 Theses was the sale of indulgences.**

– At the time, the Roman Catholic Church taught that Christians who had not done their best to live righteous lives had to ‘burn off’ their impurities in Purgatory after death. This process could take hundreds, thousands, or even millions of years, according to church tradition. But the extra merits from the good works of Jesus and the saints were stored in heaven, and the Pope could distribute these merits as ‘indulgences’ for a person’s sins or for a loved one who is stuck in Purgatory. Pope Leo X needed funds to pay for the rebuilding of St. Peter’s Basilica, and he began a campaign of selling indulgences to raise the funds. A man named Johann Tetzel had peddled indulgences throughout Germany with some pretty underhanded fear-mongering, which Luther took exception to.

– But remember, Luther still (at this point) had the belief the Roman Catholic Church could be reformed and returned to its original orthodoxy. In fact, he believed that if only the Pope knew the abuses that were taking place, he would denounce the sale of indulgences. Thesis #50, “Christians are to be taught that if the pope knew the exactions of the indulgence preachers, he would rather that the basilica of St. Peter were burned to ashes than built up with the skin, flesh, and bones of his sheep.” If anything, at that point, Luther was defending the Pope!

– Yet, in response to the 95 Theses, Roman Catholic officials, and the Pope refused any debate with Luther but told him to recant or be condemned. It was Luther’s refusal to recant because Scripture compelled him was the beginning of the Reformation, of which we are inheritors of.

 

Next Week:

Why preach on the Five Solas of the Reformation?


** The Council of Trent (1563) abolished the selling of indulgences for money, however, the council also stated the practice of printing and giving of indulgences was ‘most salutary to Christians’.

Community Pregnancy Center of LKN Life Walk

On September 26th from 8:30-11:00 am we will be participating in the Community Pregnancy Center‘s annual Life Walk. You can sign-up to walk or sponsor someone in the link HERE.