May 192017
 

(comparative more inexplicable, superlative most inexplicable)

  1. Impossible to explain; not easily accounted for.

I offer you the dictionary meaning of the word “inexplicable” because it’s utterly inexplicable how I’m even online this morning.

Just a few short hours ago, before I went to bed, I decided to spray some air freshener about because my little space here smelled like various varieties of wet cat food.

I doused the air with Febreze and laid down for the evening, having exchanged the smell of rotted shrimp for that of “Bora Bora Waters”.

I’m not sure why the waters of Bora Bora smell like old perfume, but that too is inexplicable…I digress.

As often happens, Miss Kitty decided that she needed a snack after I had gotten comfortable, necessitating that I rise and get one for her.

I got up and turned on the lamp…and as I reached for the lamp chain my hand was sprayed with something wet.

When the light came on I saw the bottle of Febreze slowly emptying it’s contents…directly into my modem.

The handle was stuck and it had been spraying a stream into the router for a few minutes.

Needless to say, the drenched electronics no longer worked.

I poured (and poured is the right word) out the liquid from the modem and wondered how in the world I was going to be able to replace it.

I laid down again feeling more than a little depressed and defeated…the inexplicable accidents of life seem to happen here way too often.

This morning, I plugged it in, just out of desperate hope.

One by one, the lights flickered on across the face of the modem.

They stayed on.

They’re on now.

This, my friends, is inexplicable.

The seeming destruction of my modem and it’s resurrection are both inexplicable.

Actually, the fact that it is working is explicable.

God had mercy.

I don’t need any other explanation.

This got me thinking…

We try so hard to explain everything, including the Biblical story of redemption.

We analyze every jot and tittle of the 66 books to come up with precise doctrines and definitions of that which in the end is inexplicable save the love and mercy of God.

Then we condemn anyone who came up with something different in their search for answers to the inexplicable.

We suck every last bit of the joy and wonder out of our salvation and the work of God on our behalf, which is truly inexplicable behavior.

This morning, I’m rejoicing in the inexplicable mercy of God.

Go and do likewise.

Inexplicable mercy is a call to worship, not explanation…

Make your own application…

 

May 182017
 

The Advocate

But now I am going to him who sent me, and none of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart. Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.” (John 16:5-11)

When Jesus said, “I am going to him who sent me,” the disciples did not grasp the full significance of His departure. They understood only enough to cause them sorrow. His leaving would end their hopes that Jesus would establish a visible kingdom and government on earth. Moreover, Jesus had just finished preparing the disciples for the rejection and persecution they would receive from the world. Could they accomplish their commission without Jesus physically with them?

But just moments earlier Jesus had told the disciples they would accomplish greater works than He “because I am going to the Father” (John 14:12). Now He adds: “it is to your advantage that I go away.” Jesus was not leaving them alone. When He returned to the Father, He would send the Holy Spirit to be with them and in them as their Helper, Advocate and Comforter. The disciples would be the instruments of the Holy Spirit, and He would guide them into all truth.

Christ’s kingdom will remain and grow, but as a spiritual kingdom: “he will convict the world.” His kingdom is not a government constituted in worldly fashion by human wisdom and power, but a government of the Holy Spirit, in which Christ rules invisibly, not with bodily power, but through the Word alone. The Church proclaims Christ, His Word and His kingdom to the world.

But first Jesus had to return to the Father: “if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you.” Jesus had work to finish, in the flesh, as the world’s High Priest, by offering himself as the perfect sacrifice and substitute for the sins of the world. Thus His route to the Father would take Him to Calvary, to a sepulcher, to His resurrection, to His ascension and finally to His exaltation at the right hand of the Father.

“And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment:” (John 16:8)

Pilate and the Jewish leaders thought they could convict and put an end to Jesus and His followers, but actually the Holy Spirit, through the office of preaching, would take the initiative, reverse the roles, and convict the whole world – rich and poor, strong and weak, kings and slaves, that the world is in the wrong before God. The world will be compelled to hear the Holy Spirit’s case against it regardless of rejection, threats, intimidation or persecution against Christ, His Church or His preachers. No one will be able to escape sin, death and hell, nor enter heaven, who does not hear and submit to the Holy Spirit.

Jesus makes His case against the world in three counts: concerning sin, righteousness, and judgment.

Count #1: “concerning sin, because they do not believe in me;” (John 16:9)

Because it does not believe in Jesus, the Holy Spirit will convict the world of sin.

When Paul preached in Athens, he accused the Greeks of “ignorance” concerning God (Acts 17:22-31). God is not “an image formed by the art and imagination of man” (Acts 17:29). Ignorance is no excuse when it comes to God. If “sin” is defined as “missing the mark”, then one always will miss the mark if one is ignorant of the target. Unbelief in Jesus is the chief sin, because Jesus is the image of God and without belief in Him one is ignorant of God.

Jesus is “the image of the invisible God” (Col 1:15); “He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature” (Heb 1:3); “Whoever has seen [Jesus] has seen the Father” (John 14:9). Only with belief in Jesus can one begin to fear, love and trust God; only then can one begin to live according to God’s will and commandments.

Belief in Jesus, that He is the Son of God, who has made satisfaction for our sins, who died and was raised for our justification, etc., falls outside of empirical knowledge and human wisdom, so none of us acquires a belief in Jesus through human means. The Holy Spirit must convict the world of who Jesus is and what He suffered in our stead, and of His victory for our benefit. He who does not believe in Jesus cannot be rid of sin nor escape the wrath of God, because he has no forgiveness and abides under condemnation.

Count #2: “concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer;” (John 16:10)

The Holy Spirit will convict the world that Jesus is righteous and the world is unrighteous, because Jesus goes to the Father and the world sees Him no longer.

Jesus is the One of whom the Father said: “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” (Mark 1:11) It is Jesus of whom David was speaking: “The Lord said to my Lord, ‘Sit at my right hand, until I put your enemies under your feet’ ” (Matt 22:44). By His going to the Father, the Holy Spirit convicts the world that Jesus alone is righteous.

On the other hand, there is no righteousness on earth. As God warned Moses: “you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live” (Ex 33:20). David also wrote: “Enter not into judgment with your servant, for no one living is righteous before you” (Ps 143:2).

Therefore, man cannot obtain righteousness by his own efforts; he must clothe himself in the righteousness of Christ through faith in the Gospel. As Paul wrote: “For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith” (Phil 3:8b-9).

Count #3: “concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.” (John 16:11)

The Holy Spirit will convict the world of God’s judgment in favor of Jesus and against the world. He will testify that Christ’s death and resurrection prove that Jesus defeated the powers of sin, death and Satan. By His victory, Satan is judged and condemned. Anyone who shares the unbelief of Satan is similarly judged and condemned.

“Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, ‘Brothers, what shall we do?’ ” (Acts 2:37)

The Holy Spirit has two offices. With the Law He performs His alien work which is to convict and condemn the whole world. With the Gospel He performs His proper work which is to comfort and make alive. “For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life” (2 Cor 3:6b).

What is the Father’s desire for everyone who receives the Holy Spirit’s verdict? Quite simply this: “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38). Amen.

 

May 172017
 

This past weekend while in the car, I put on a CD that I probably hadn’t listened to for at least a couple years.  A favorite of mine from my college days, I was reminded while listening that I still quite liked that album.  Now we all have our different tastes in music, but during my teenage years and into my 20’s I liked a good bit of Contemporary Christian Music (CCM).  I can already see the recoils through the computer screen as CCM is a favorite punching bag here at this blog community, including taking a beating just last week.

Over the past 10 to 15 years, I have lost a lot of interest in the CCM scene, with a good many of the reasons being things that are railed against here – such as the general overall superficiality of the music and the restriction in the industry to more or less keep everything light and positive and to avoid dealing in any kind of depth with issues that have any modicum of darkness, disturbance, complexity, or controversy.  You can tack on your additional complaints of the CCM music and industry.  But I also have never been a big music person to begin with, so as other things have come about to fill up my life, music has been one of the things that has naturally gotten pushed out.  Thus for me, it’s not all about disappointment in the music.

Now CCM is an odd duck that has always had an awkward dance incorporating being Christian and being music and being an industry, that also has occasionally crossed over into the “secular” scene but has mostly kept to itself.  While the music started out more organically, it has evolved to its very commercialized and formulated state today, still with it’s many supporters but also many detractors.  I won’t expound much further because I lack the depth of knowledge and insight on the subject held by others who could speak much more fully.  But I will say this, for as much flack as CCM receives and many times justifiably so, God has certainly had His hand in using the music for His good purposes.

So… that CD I put on in the car was Jars of Clay’s self-titled debut album and on it is a song titled, “Like a Child”.  It is a cry of desire to regain the faith of a child.  Now I’m sure that if some read through all the lyrics on the song, they could find reason to nitpick at some kind of theological shortcoming or inaccuracy that they see.  But I wasn’t listening to gain some profound understanding from a pristine theological treatise.  I was listening because I like the music.

And in that music that I took a liking to and still do appreciate, I was struck and encouraged once again by the image of the faith of a child.  While I have plenty of shortcomings and challenges in life, questioning or doubting my faith has never been something with which I have struggled.  With the exceptions of those brief moments in time as a child when I repeated the “Sinner’s Prayer” just to make sure, I have always felt assured in my faith and in a God who is who He says He is.  Yet despite my substantial assurance, there seems to a qualitative difference between it and that simple yet complete, unadulterated, fully trusting faith of a child.  Where there is trust without a hint of doubt or concern or qualification or a need to reason things out.

I look at my two elementary aged daughters and how they just trust in Jesus.  They may get quizzical looks when trying to explain something like the Trinity to them (not that we understand it much better), but they don’t need to understand it all to believe…… they just do.  There is no jadedness of any sort that God isn’t going to provide or concerns about prayers that might appear to go unanswered.  They just continue to have a pure and innocent faith.

Now these things will change as they mature.  They won’t continue to just take things at face value because Mom or Dad or the Sunday School teacher told them so. I also know that it’s not the case that every child has a faith like this in the first place, but I do think it is a blessing when they can experience such, as we are called to receive the kingdom of God like a child.  With this childlike faith that is humble and free from burden.

As my daughters grow older, God-willing they continue in their faith and their faith will become more their own and will grow and deepen and broaden through whatever their learning and experiences.  As they grow in wisdom and knowledge, hopefully they will come to love and trust God even more with their minds.  But they will also lose that innocent childlike faith, just like the rest of us.  They may begin to doubt that God’s going to answer their prayers because there seemingly have been a bunch he hasn’t.  They may wonder if He really will provide for all their needs.  They will see the hypocriticalness in Dad and Mom and church leaders and may wonder how true this God is that they speak of.  They may get caught up in the minutiae of theological argument and gymnastics and lose focus of the forest amongst all the trees.  They may take in all the tragedies and evil in this world and wonder how a good God can allow for such.  They may get caught up in the worries of life. They may do all this while still remaining solidly in the faith.  Even so, they will lose that element of childlike faith they once had.

“They say that I can move the mountains

And send them falling to the sea

They say that I can walk on water

If I would follow and believe

With faith like a child”

What mountains may God be wanting us to move?  When might He want us walking on water?  And how often do we fail to do these things because while we believe, we don’t believe?

“Lord I believe.  Help my unbelief!”

Maybe I’m off base on how I view this childlike faith.  But to me, there is a pureness and specialness about it that we lose as we approach adulthood.  And it is oh so hard to get back.  Nonetheless, while listening to Jars of Clay this past weekend I was encouraged to fall back on that simple faith.  To not get caught up in having to figure it all out and know all the answers.  To not focus on all the reasons why I think something shouldn’t or might not or can’t happen, but instead focus on the fact if God wants it to happen, well then He certainly can make it happen.  And to recognize, but not dwell on the hypocrisy of His followers, myself included, and instead dwell on our Creator and Savior who is wholly and completely trustworthy.  Worthy to be trusted with faith like a child.       

May 162017
 

In defense of the unspoken prayer request…

Cheap theology classics for Kindle…

New blog with simple bios of the Reformers…

The high calling of corrections officers…

Leveraging my autism for pastoral ministry…

A story of slavery in modern America…

Why millennials leave the church…

The scandalizing exclusivity of Jesus…

Faith based film full of F-bombs…

Baptist catholicity…

Five statements small church pastors would love to hear….and five they wouldn’t…

Sometimes an infant can bring you rest…

The worst idea ever…

Rob Bell takes back the Bible…

Chaplain Mike’s view of Scripture…

The Perennials?

VOM controversy…

The dark side of the Bible…

The Gospel of the Gospel Coalition…

What to do when life gets really hard…

Preaching is inherently political,not partisan…

The role and importance of doctrine for American Methodists…

Americans moral views getting more liberal…

Living communally in God’s good creation… 

Three things to remember when you’re feeling anxious…

A rebellion against our “just the facts ” Bibles…

Huge thanks as always to EricL for the link help…support him at top right.

 

May 152017
 

1. Yesterday was Mothers Day and social media was filled with both posts celebrating mothers and posts from those who were angry that there is such a thing as Mothers Day.

I can empathize with those who want to be moms, but for a variety of reasons motherhood has been denied them. That is a sad and difficult place for many.

I can also empathize with those who don’t or didn’t have a good relationship with their moms…again a sad and difficult place.

What I cannot and will not empathize with are those who believe that their personal suffering demands that others not celebrate any event associated with their suffering, whether that be Mothers Day or Fathers Day or any of the other “days” we note as a culture. There is a common societal good that comes from these days…they remind us of common values and virtues that we find worthy of remembering.

We are in grave danger of losing the concept of a common good in favor of good that is only determined by the individual…and the result will be cultural anarchy and the tyranny of the the one.

Let us rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep…but do so within the borders of a greater community and culture…lest we lose sight of anything greater than ourselves.

2. Friday, I took T to get his very first job application. This is an exciting step for a young person and part of his transition to becoming an adult. Still, I was staggered at how different the world he is entering into is from the one I entered at his age…almost as different as our time is from say, the 16th century. The times and culture change far more rapidly now…and I have far more fear than hope for those his age…

3. I’ve received a lot of email asking how I will deal with the “gay issue” as an Anglican.

The answer is I’ll deal with it the same way I always have.

I don’t care.

By that I mean I refuse to give this issue any more gravitas than any other sin or issue that we deal with in the church and if I’m not dealing with it in the course of pastoral ministry, I’m not going to worry about it at all. If I’m dealing with it in pastoral ministry, I”ll deal with it as I would with any individual who is trying to work out their salvation with fear and trembling…as a pastor…

4. I get almost no email asking how I’m going to address the “idolatry issue”… which seems to take up a far greater amount of biblical space than the “gay issue”…

5. The most difficult part of my transition to Anglicanism is adopting the gentle spirit of the tradition…I still want to pop someone in the mouth who uses the word “retard” in any of it’s variations…

6. Anglicanism uses Scripture, tradition, and reason to form doctrine. Everyone else does too, they just use different traditions and reasons…

7. I can’t help but be curious as to what the function of a “spiritual advisory board” is to a man who doesn’t have a pastor…

8. The prophetic voice of the church is never found among the majority, it is a function of the remnant. When the prophetic voice of the remnant is no longer heard, judgment has already begun…and judgment starts in the house of God…

9. The desire for certainty about all the things of God will always result in the worship of doctrines about God instead of the worship of God. The quest for certainty should end up in worship, not doctrine…

10. It is only when I relinquish the desire to be right that I receive the desire to be holy…

phoenixpreacher@gmail.com

May 132017
 

Almighty God, who hast given us grace at this time with one accord to make our common supplications unto thee; and dost promise that when two or three are gathered together in thy Name thou wilt grant their requests; Fulfil now, O Lord, the desires and petitions of thy servants, as may be most expedient for them; granting us in this world knowledge of thy truth, and in the world to come life everlasting. Amen.

St. Chrysostom

May 132017
 

Matthew 21:23-32

The Authority of Jesus Challenged – Again

23 And when he entered the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came up to him as he was teaching, and said, “By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?”

  • “By what authority” Read the end of Matt 28 – All authority has been given to Jesus.
  • Doing what things – using what authority? What are the Jewish leaders seeing / hearing that they are objecting to?
  • Using his authority over other people’s donkeys – over the temple – over the sacrificial system – even over nature (the fig tree).
  • This doesn’t even take into consideration walking on water, raising the dead etc.

24 Jesus answered them, “I also will ask you one question, and if you tell me the answer, then I also will tell you by what authority I do these things.

  • Jesus as we have seen a couple of other times turns the table with a question of his own.

25 The baptism of John, from where did it come? From heaven or from man?” And they discussed it among themselves, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will say to us, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’

  • Again note that he does not ask them what they think of John the B – but what they think of his baptism.

26 But if we say, ‘From man,’ we are afraid of the crowd, for they all hold that John was a prophet.”

  • Notice that they are aware of what the masses believe … and it’s not what they have been teaching them.
  • Gotcha!! The Pharisees were not asking faith questions – but gotcha questions.
  • Jesus is much better at playing the gotcha game.

27 So they answered Jesus, “We do not know.” And he said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.

  • I would have to look closer but I don’t think Jesus ever had to answer one of their questions.

The Parable of the Two Sons –

This would be a good place to note that Jesus uses judgment stories against his enemies and parables of the kingdom to his New Israel.

28 “What do you think? A man had two sons. And he went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’

29 And he answered, ‘I will not,’ but afterward he changed his mind and went.

30 And he went to the other son and said the same. And he answered, ‘I go, sir,’ but did not go.

31 Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes go into the kingdom of God before you.

  • Can you imagine what was running through their minds at this point?
  • Every time they think they have Jesus just where they want him – he pokes them in the eye.
  • How much longer are they able to take this?

32 For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him. And even when you saw it, you did not afterward change your minds and believe him.

  • This is the point about unbelief – seeing does not cause belief, especially when you already think you have it all together.
  • The ‘sinners’ know their problem – this is why Jesus said he did not come for the righteous.
  • Jesus even says that John came to them first – it’s not like John was offering the leftovers.

 

 

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