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Selected Writings 2

17 Mar

Today’s text: Genesis 14:16, 18-20:

Then he brought back all the possessions, and also brought back his kinsman Lot with his possessions, and the women and the people. (v. 16)

And Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine.  And he blessed him and said, “Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth; and blessed be God Most High, who has delivered your enemies into your hand!” 

Abram saves Lot, delivering him from the enemy kings, and receives the blessing of God Most High, from the priest-king Melchizedek.  There is some amazing typology going on in this passage, revealing the consistent, and amazing, faithfulness of God to his people.

Abram serves as the kinsman redeemer, saving his relative, Lot.  Just like Boaz and Ruth, Christ and his Church.

God uses his chosen to save a people (Lot, his family, all their possessions), and be a blessing to the nations (like Sodom, Gomorrah, etc.).

Abram receives the blessings of God Most Hight through the priest-king, pointing ahead to a day when man would receive the immeasurable riches of God’s grace by the perfect prophet, priest, and king, Jesus Christ.

Immediately after this passage, God again covenants with Abram.  God declares that he will bless him.  And how?  Promising himself to Abram as a shield, and to give him the son needed to guarantee the perpetuity of the Covenant of Grace.

So what does this mean for me?  I can take confidence in the patterns, promises, and faithfulness of God to his people.  He will do what he has said he will do, and I need only to look to the cross to be reminded of this.  I can rejoice in this and, despite my fears, failures, and unfaithfulness, strive each day to live obediently in light of the Lord and his faithfulness.  Amen.



Selected Writings

11 Mar

The ESV Bible and Diet Coke

Over the next few weeks, I’d like to share some selected passages from my devotional journal.  This past year, I have been making a more concerted effort at writing down my observations, thoughts, and prayers in a journal (something that has always been a struggle for me).  Today’s selection comes from Genesis 7:1:

Then the Lord said to Noah, “Go into the ark, you and all your household, for I have seen that you are righteous before me in this generation.”

God tells Noah that he is righteous before him (God) in this wicked, violent generation (Gen. 6:11).  Noah’s righteousness points ahead to that of Abraham.  His righteousness was based upon faithful obedience to the command of God.  The Lord tells Noah that he is going to destroy all flesh, and that Noah is to build an ark to preserve the remnant (another fascinating type throughout the Scriptures).  In faith, Noah does this, to which God declares him righteous.

Hebrews 11:7 states that Noah, by faith, and in reverent fear, constructed the ark.  Through this, he and his household were delivered, the world was condemned, and he received the righteousness that comes by faith.  So, it was not the building of the ark itself that brought righteousness, but the manner in which it was built: faith.

And just as Noah became an heir to the righteousness that comes by faith, so, too, does Shem, his son.  And one of Shem’s sons, Terah, had a son named Abram (Abraham), who also received this righteousness as he trusted the gospel preached to him beforehand by God (Gal. 3:6, 8-9), and acted out of this faith in all that God commanded him.  And through Abraham’s offspring, Jesus Christ, all peoples would be, by faith, found righteous as well.

Today, I must trust in these hopeful words, and live by faith in the God who sent his Son to bless the world by his life, death, and resurrection.  Not only this, but I need to remember these truths when faced with temptation to sin, as well as opportunities to serve others:

1. I am united to Christ, the holy, righteous one of God
2. Because I am united to Christ, I can resist temptation, and strive to put sin to death (just as my old self was put to death, and then raised to new life in Christ)
3. It is Christ in me who works for the good of others, and he empowers me by his Spirit to minister to their needs
4. Daily I must turn to Christ, rejoicing in the blessings he’s secured for me, faithfully obeying the commands he’s given me, and looking ahead to the promises yet to be fulfilled



Photo Credit: Scott Fillmer (

Unity, Diversity, and Belhar

6 Feb

I just wanted to share some of my notes on a verse in Jesus’ high priestly prayer that has stood out to me:

…that they may all be one even as we are one.

To be one as the Trinity is one is to be one in essence but many in being.  I find that to be a nice way of understanding the nature of those who make up the body of Christ, the Church.

What this allows for is a great deal of diversity in the midst of the uniting essence of being God’s covenant people in Christ.  This diversity is meant to represent God (glorify Him), the Gospel, and show the world the love of God for His people and the love shared by His people (witness).

Therefore, this diversity should not divide people in ways that detract from, or fail to magnify, the unique and powerful love of God, a love shared by believers in Christ.  Diversity, when properly understood and embraced, serves to build up the body and better equip the saints for the good works God has prepared for them.  Each person brings his or her gifts, talents, and abilities to serve the common good of the body, each one serving his or her role, just as the persons of the Trinity serve one another in their specific roles to the glory of the Godhead.

In the midst of all this, I cannot help but think of the Belhar Confession, the way in which it promotes diversity, as well as unity.  Particularly, I enjoy reading this lengthy quote from Article 2, which states this about the unity of the Church:

“We believe that Christ’s work of reconciliation is made manifest in the Church as the community of believers who have been reconciled with God and with one another…that this unity of the people of God must be manifested and be active in a variety of ways: in that we love one another; that we experience, practice, and pursue community with one another; that we are obligated to give ourselves willingly and joyfully to be of benefit and blessing to one another; that we share one faith, have one calling, are of one soul and one mind; have one God and Father, are filled with one Spirit, are baptised with one baptism, eat of one bread and drink of one cup, confess one Name, are obedient to one Lord, work for one cause, and share one hope; together come to know the height and the breadth and the depth of the love of Christ; together are built up to the stature of Christ, to the new humanity; together know and bear one another’s burdens, thereby fulfilling the law of Christ that we need one another and upbuild one another, admonishing and comforting one another; that we suffer with one another for the sake of righteousness; pray together; together serve God in the world; and together fight against all which may threaten or hinder this unity…that the variety of spiritual gifts, opportunities, backgrounds, convictions, as well as the various languages and cultures, are by virtue of the reconciliation in Christ, opportunities for mutual service and enrichment within the one visible people of God…”

Unity and Diversity.  May we, the body of Christ, both globally and locally, be filled with both.

Truly Pharisaical: Interpreting Matthew 9:10-13

28 Jan

Matthew 9:10-13 reads as follows:

And as Jesus reclined at table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and were reclining with Jesus and his disciples.  And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”  But when he heard it, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.  Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’  For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”

So what should we take away from this?

Some would say that this passage is a rebuke of modern day legalistic Christian conservatives, who cry out against a host of sins and refuse to accept them as good and/or right.  Jesus was a friend of the outcasts, the tax collectors, and sinners, and rebuked and rejected the religious men of the day.  It doesn’t matter what one does so much as one is merciful and loving towards all people.

And while it is true that Jesus did embrace outcasts, tax collectors, and sinners, the modern interpretation which takes aim at “legalistic Christian conservatives” is misguided.  Those who accept this interpretation miss the true point of the passage: Jesus came to call sick sinners.  

You see, Jesus’ entire ministry was about calling sick sinners to himself to be forgiven of their sins and made new in Him.  And while it is true that the Pharisees sought to adhere to the law in an effort to earn the favor of God (Covenant of Works), it was not for their law-keeping that Jesus rebukes/rejects them here.  He does so because they did not see themselves as sinners. 

Many overlook the fact that just because Jesus spent time with tax collectors and sinners did not mean that he did not view them as sinners.  In fact, he calls them both sick and sinners in this passage.  And this not only makes them prime candidates for the temporal love and mercy of Jesus, manifested in his reclining with them at table, but also for his eternal love and mercy of the atonement.  Sinners are in need of forgiveness and new life.

Many also overlook the fact that Jesus was a advocate of the Law.  He says in the Sermon on the Mount that he did not come to abolish the Law, but rather to fulfill it. The reason he did not abolish the Law: Because it was a good thing when properly understood.  The Law was to guide the people in holiness, love, and witness to the nations around them.  The people of Israel would live differently than the people in the rest of nations around them.  They would see their need for the grace of God, and rejoice in his forgiveness as pictured in the sacrificial system (a system which pointed ahead to the final sacrificial work of Jesus for man’s sin).  This would flow out in love towards one another, justice for all people, and in an embracing of the foreigner.

True Pharisaism is not a desire to keep the law.  A desire to keep the Law is a good thing when its understood rightly.  It is a guide for life, not a means of salvation.  No one can be saved by the Law, because all have sinned and fall short of its requirements.  And yet, the Pharisees thought they were righteous and deserving of God’s blessing based upon their adherence to the letter of the Law.  But they missed the point: It was supposed to show them their sinfulness and need for Jesus, the Savior and fulfiller of the Law on behalf of man (Covenant of Grace).  Not only this, but in their adherence to the letter of the Law, they failed to do the acts of love and mercy that flow out from true obedience to the Law.

So, to be truly pharisaical is to be blind to one’s sin.  It is a rejection of the fact that we are all sinners, all sick, all in need of the grace of God revealed in Christ Jesus.  Both the conservative and liberal Christian is guilty of this.  The conservative is guilty when his calling out of the sins of others comes at the expense of forgetting his own sinfulness (hypocrisy and lovelessness).  And the liberal is guilty by his vehement denial of the sinfulness of various beliefs, behaviors, and practices (typically done by downplaying the authority of Scripture, bad hermeneutics, or citing cultural change).

But praise God for Christ!  Though we are all guilty of pharisaism–guilty of being sinners–Christ came to save us! He came to save sick, sinful people, unite them to himself and make them truly righteous.  And in this way, we might be enabled to live lives of love and mercy towards others in the power of the Spirit.  Amen.


A Thought on Preaching

24 Jun

There are so many ways in which one can preach a sermon.  Something that I have thinking about as I prepare texts for Sunday school, the pulpit, and other occasions is the Trinity.  In light of this, I want to encourage others to pursue a “Trinitarian” approach to preaching.  By this, I mean:

-Proclaiming the work of the Father’s hand in the particular passage, and how it reveals His character to us
-Announcing the way in which the passage fits into God’s redemptive plan, culminating in the Gospel of Jesus Christ
-Make known the Spirit’s role in applying this Word to believers’ hearts and minds, to sanctify them and lead them to obedience

This will look different in each sermon, and one aspect may shine more brightly than the others, but, we should always remember that each person of the Trinity is involved in the biblical text and in the lives of believers. And reminding those we lead, as well as ourselves, of this, can be both encouraging and edifying.  

What are some things that have proved helpful to you in sermon prep, teaching, etc.?  

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