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Thanks to a Facebook friend we found a treasure…
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We still get lots of inquiries about the state of the movement, though I find it less than compelling anymore to find answers to those inquiries.
I believe what we’re seeing in CC is the end of a particular time in the history of American evangelicalism and what we’re hearing are the death rattles of what once was.
Calvary Chapel’s place in church history is first of all as the fulcrum of a genuine revival and secondarily as innovators who used contemporary music styles combined with fundamentalist Bible teaching to give that revival structure.
As is common with true revival, the action was on the edges of society and CC exploded by accepting the marginalized youth of the day.
Also as is common with revival, the revival doesn’t last, but the structure does.
Then the structure becomes institutional, and over time denies it’s own origin and history.
This is the story of CC in my opinion and the reason that the group split and is no longer a “movement” at all, but a stagnant institution with little vision of the future other than a fruitless attempt to grasp it’s former glory.
Calvary Chapel in it’s heyday was a personality driven movement… first with Chuck Smith and Lonnie Frisbee, than with Smith alone as he navigated the church away from the fringe and into the mainstream of American evangelicalism.
Smith’s unique personality and business acumen set the parameters of what his “affiliate” churches would look like.
When Smith died, there was no one of his stature in the group who wanted to take over, but plenty of lesser lights who desperately wanted the position.
A split was inevitable, and even then, the lack of charismatic leadership on both sides meant neither would succeed in unifying the tribe.
What is left is splintered and irrelevant, the emotions of both the founders death and the bitter divorce having dissipated like the revival that birthed the movement.
The cultural fringe is now something to preach against, not to minister to.
The ability to innovate musically and artistically has been replaced with a continual nostalgia for what once was.
The power of the untamable Holy Spirit has been replaced by the power of authoritarian pastors and dogmatism.
The current leadership is aging and the younger generation is less inclined to fully identify with the brand.
A lot of pastors simply don’t care about the conflicts or the brand anymore.
In the coming days, I’ll look more closely at the state of both sides of the split…but there’s not much worth writing about…
2. The world divides itself between “good” people and “bad” people…the Bible divides it between “sinners” and “redeemed sinners”. One view actually reflects who we are, the other does not…
3. Social media is a reflection of a culture that is quickly losing the concept of redemptive grace…without which everyone goes to hell and the culture becomes it…
4. The only thing harder than raising a child these days is being one…
5. I am fully persuaded that as a person on center/left of the political scale I could go in a room with any of my conservative friends and hammer out reasonable solutions to most of the issues of the day in a matter of hours. We should be inquiring why the people paid to do so cannot or will not…
6. Some people watch the stock market…I watch the price of cat food…
7. It seems like the most frequent verse I repeat these days is “as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord”…not as a declaration of piety, but as a choice made…
8. We are all born with an inner ambivalence between needing fellowship and seeking war…
9. We are becoming a people devoid of heroes and saints…that may be realistic, but it feels awful…
10. My Vikings lost in embarrassing fashion yet again…and again I will hope in next year. Hope in the face of defeat is a Christian virtue which evidently takes practice to achieve…
in Christ you make all things new:
transform the poverty of our nature by the riches of your grace,
and in the renewal of our lives
make known your heavenly glory;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.
To the Church in Smyrna
- The city of Smyrna had a well known stadium – that is never good news to the Christians.
- The city also had a very large Jewish population.
- Polycarp was the Bishop of Smyrna and was persecuted and killed for his faith in Christ. All that was asked of him was to take the oath that Caesar is lord, curse Christ and he would be released, His famous calm reply was, “Eighty-six years I have served him, and he never did me any wrong. How can I blaspheme my king who saved me?” And he was put to death.
- The point? – John is writing these letters and this book to them to tell them what they will be going through – what the church will be going through – then and today.
- This is the shortest letter to the seven churches.
8 “And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write: ‘The words of the first and the last, who died and came to life.
- So we know the speaker is Jesus – as he is in all 7 of the letters. The description comes from 1:17 – Jesus is the first and the last – eternal and unchangeable. Hebrews 13:8
- With each description we are hearing from Jesus. Luke 10:16 = “The one who hears you hears me, and the one who rejects you rejects me, and the one who rejects me rejects him who sent me.”
- When Jesus speaks, it is important that we listen. How Jesus describes himself sets the tone of the letter.
- If Jesus speaks of himself as dying and coming back to life, what does that convey – what does that make you think?
- Is it a scary picture, is it a comforting one? Is it encouraging? What does it do?
- For those in Smyrna facing death, this should be offering hope and comfort – Jesus died and Jesus came back.
9 “‘I know your tribulation and your poverty (but you are rich) and the slander of those who say that they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan.
- We heard from John in Rev 1:9 about his tribulation – a shared tribulation.
- Now Jesus recognizes the tribulation of the church.
- Poverty – now it is possible that the Christians were just poor, or perhaps their exclusive message about Jesus got them shut out of the local economy.
- We could also be speaking of poverty in the spiritual sense which would match up with the (but you are rich) comment – rich in the eternal spiritual sense.
- Jews who “are not”. – What did Paul say in Rom 9:6-8
- Jesus, a Jew himself likens unbelieving Jews to the followers of Satan. Does this sound familiar? John 8 telling the Jews that their Father was really the devil. And who were these Jews? John 8:31”the Jews who had believed him”
- But know this, all unbelievers are the enemy of God and all are of the synagogue of Satan.
10 Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have tribulation. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life.
- Note that Jesus tells them the future they face – note also that he does not say he will rescue them from this – in fact Jesus delivers the news that they will be executed (“be faithful unto death”). Jesus tells them how to stand.
- Jesus comforts for coming suffering – there is a coming suffering.
- What is the comfort? “Do not fear” – do not be afraid. We saw this with Jesus with his disciples in the storm tossed boat – Matt 14:27 and with the 3 disciples on the Mount of Transfigurations – Matt 17:7
- The devil cannot touch Jesus, so he goes after those Jesus loves. Whether it is the Jews or the Romans, who toss you into prison, just recognize who it really is. Who is our fight against? Ephesians 6:12
- Do we understand what is meant by “Do not fear”? Read Luke 12:4-7
- 10 days is a symbolic number and it equals a short period of time – just as in Rev 20 1,000 years equals a long period of time. If it were a literal number then what is the big deal – anyone can handle 10 days in jail.
- Whatever the actual length, it is a set time known to God.
- “That you may be tested” – this is really a gospel statement because it is not just suffering for suffering sake.
- “Be faithful …” What is the goal? What are the marching orders for this church? Be faithful until the end – persevere to the end – run the race until the end and receive your reward.
- The crown of life = a crown of thorns? That was the crown Jesus wore.
- This is not the plan for success, but the plan to be faithful – on the surface the cross was not a success.
11 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. The one who conquers will not be hurt by the second death.’
- The pattern is repeated – he who has an ear. Note that the messages of Jesus are spoken to two different audiences (1) he who has an ear and (2) to those who do not have an ear.
- Those willing to listen and those who will not. Those willing to listen are those who “have and ear” and obviously those who do not listen do not.
- The 2nd death = the end of grace for the unbeliever.
- These gifts are not specific to the individual churches. You do not try to pass the Ephesus challenge to receive the tree of life and then move on to the Smyrna challenge conquer the 2nd death and then move on to…
- When you conquer, when you remain faithful, you get them all.
So what have we seen?
- The church of Smyrna seems to have been persecuted heavily but remained faithful. For this, they received only blessings from Jesus and no condemnation. They do not receive any negative words about any apparent weakness in their devotion, theology, worship, love, or service.
- This letter is filled with paradoxes. The believers in Smyrna are said to be poor yet rich. The opposition claims to be faithful Jews but were not. The path to a victor’s crown lies in death and is guaranteed by the eternal one who died.
They’re calling it the “Minnesota Miracle”
If you aren’t a football fan, what happened is this.
The Vikings were trailing the Saints in a playoff game with only ten seconds remaining.
The game was, for all intents and purposes, over.
It was going to be another crushing defeat for a team that has seemed to specialize in crushing defeats over it’s history.
Then what you see in the video happened.
Another defeat became one of the most unexpected victories in NFL history.
Adam Thielen of the Vikings said “that’s a God thing right there”…
Now, I don’t know if God is a Vikings fan (He hasn’t demonstrated such in the past) but Thielen has a point.
It’s a God thing to turn a history of defeat into blessing and victory.
Now, I am a lifelong fan of the Vikings.
Thus, I spent the week before this game accepting the fact that something bad would happen and losing was inevitable.
That’s just the way it goes for us.
Then I realized that that’s how I approach most of life.
The losses have piled up over the years and I have accepted that no matter how hard I try, defeat is inevitable.
The objective now is to deal with defeat with some modicum of dignity.
Then Diggs made this catch…
By the time the next game kicks off, I may believe it happened.
It can happen again…not just in sports,but in life.
We serve a God of promises and even though it seems that the promises have failed before, you’re still in the game.
If you’re breathing, you’re still in the game.
It may seem like the clock is running out on a situation you are in, but the games not over.
Remember Abraham and Sarah…the clock had not only run out, it had rusted and stopped.
The promise of God still produced the miracle of Isaac.
There are promises to you, too.
Hang on to the promises and the Promise Maker in faith, not in preparation for defeat.
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever…and he’s a lot better quarterback than Keenum.
Make your own application…
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“1 Why do the nations rage
and the peoples plot in vain?
2 The kings of the earth set themselves,
and the rulers take counsel together,
against the Lord and against his Anointed, saying,
3 ‘Let us burst their bonds apart
and cast away their cords from us.’ ”
This is Part 2 of a four part series on Psalm 2. It is a prophecy of Christ, that He would suffer and become King of the whole world. Regarding the psalms of prophecy, Luther taught:
“They speak, for example, of Christ and the Church or what will happen to the saints. This class includes all the psalms that contain promises and warnings – promises for the godly and warnings for the ungodly.”1
In Part 1, we examined verses 1-3. Psalm 2 opens with the nations, peoples and kings of the earth raging, plotting and taking counsel together against God and Christ. Of course Pilate, Herod, Caiaphas, the Sanhedrin, the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel were ignorant of the fact that by opposing Jesus, they were opposing God, because they believed neither that Jesus was God’s Son nor that He was sent by God. They thought by crucifying Jesus, they were honoring God and the cause of freedom, but in reality they were rejecting God and the real freedom which God in Christ offered to them.
The psalmist, who believes the promises of God and that His will cannot be thwarted, asks in astonishment: “why?” Crucifying Jesus would not burst the bonds of Christ’s reign as King. To the contrary, Jesus’ death on the cross for the sins of the world would burst the bonds of sin, death, Satan and hell for everyone who believes in Him. Therefore, “the peoples plot in vain.”
Thus we are given an example of how the works of God in the world and in our lives often are contrary to all human understanding and our senses. In the midst of suffering or when it looks as if sin and evil have the upper hand, Christ is reigning and will deliver His people according to His Word, despite all appearances to the contrary.
We pick up this week at verse 4:
“4 He who sits in the heavens laughs;
the Lord holds them in derision.
5 Then he will speak to them in his wrath,
and terrify them in his fury, saying,
6 ‘As for me, I have set my King
on Zion, my holy hill.’ ”
The mismatch between the power of God and that of the tyrants, whether men or devils, is so vast and the outcome in God’s favor so certain, that the psalmist portrays God laughing at his adversaries, holding them in derision (i.e., scoffing, ridiculing, mocking, making fun of them). For what God decrees will most surely comes to pass!
Although who would have thought, while Christ was suffering and His adversaries triumphing, that God was seated in the heavens laughing at them all the while? Similarly, when we are oppressed or afflicted, how will we believe that God is holding our adversaries in derision, when it seems to ourselves that we are the ones held in derision both by God and men?
Faith, therefore, must hold fast to the Word and promises of Christ, and join with the psalmist: “He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision.”
Pharaoh imagined that by drowning the Israelite males, he had found a way to diminish them. But at the same time, Pharaoh’s own daughter, in his own court, gave a prince’s education to Moses, their deliverer. Did not God laugh and hold Pharaoh in derision?
Similarly, the Jews and Gentiles imagined that by crucifying Jesus, they could eliminate Him and His kingdom. But did not God hold the whole world in derision by raising Jesus from the dead, taking what began as a kingdom among one people and making it into a worldwide eternal kingdom?
In the midst of oppression and affliction, unbelief sees God as nonexistent, absent, disinterested, or uncaring; whereas faith sees Christ caring for His people and reigning over His enemies. The psalmist encourages us to rise up by faith and hope above all our tribulations to Him who sits in the heavens. From this perspective, we will bear the evils of the world and hold them in derision. Of this the Apostle Paul also wrote: “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Eph 2:4-6); and “For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” (Col 3:3)
“Then he will speak to them in his wrath, and terrify them in his fury”
God’s laughter is no joke, nor does he take the suffering of His people lightly. God will “speak to them in his wrath, and terrify them in his fury.” Caiaphas had prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation: “it is better for you that one man should die for the people, not that the whole nation should perish.” (John 11:50)
God held the vain meditations of Caiaphas in derision until: first, He raised Jesus from the dead; and second, not many years later, He destroyed both Jerusalem and the temple by the hand of the Romans. They killed Jesus, but God set Him up as King! They withdrew themselves from under Jesus, but God placed His holy hill of Zion and all the kingdoms of the earth in subjection to Him! Thus, they are laughed at and held in derision, and openly shown to have meditated vain things.
“I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill.”
The Church of Christ is called “Mount Zion” because it began in Jerusalem by the sending of the Holy Spirit. Though it is not confined to any particular place, it began there. From there it has spread throughout all the earth, that the words of Jesus might be fulfilled: “the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father.” (John 4:21)
It is a “Mount” because God has highly exalted her above all power, wisdom and righteousness of men, not in riches and influence, but in faith, hope and love, and all those virtues that despise the riches and power of the world.
It is His “holy hill” because the kingdom of Christ is the people who are made holy by faith in Christ, who alone by His cross sets us apart from sin, the world, Satan and our own flesh, and makes of us His holy hill. Amen.
Thank you for reading. Next week we will pick up Psalm 2 at verse 7, in which Christ proclaims the Father’s decree: “You are my Son; today I have begotten you.” Amen.
1 Concordia Publishing House. Reading the Psalms with Luther. 2007. Print. p. 14.