Monday, August 29, 2016

Monday Morning Thoughts About Sunday: Obadiah

“Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die” (The Princess Bride,  1987).

"My name is Maximus Decimus Meridius, commander of the Armies of the North, General of the Felix Legions, loyal servant to the true emperor, Marcus Aurelius. Father to a murdered son, husband to a murdered wife. And I will have my vengeance, in this life or the next” (The Gladiator, 2000).

Yes!! There’s nothing like a good revenge story. The scenes described above are among my all-time favorite cinematic moments. However, they do not narrate an approach to life that is helpful for the follower of Jesus. For Esau, Cain, Joseph’s brothers, King Saul, and even Inigo Montoya, a life bent on revenge did not lead toward life. Revenge took these characters down a road littered with sadness, violence, addiction, conflict, and even death.

Here’s the deal with Obadiah. The people of Edom followed the sins of their Father, Esau. Esau started down the road toward getting even when he began comparing himself with Jacob, his twin brother. Although they were twins, these characters could not be more different. Jacob’s natural bent caused his Momma to love him more than Esau, who was naturally drawn to his Father’s love (See Gen. 25.27-28). These differences, that don’t necessarily have to be divisive, proved to be more than the twins could handle. They made the choice to allow their differences to define them. Furthermore, their differences began to define their relationship. When Jacob looked at Esau, he was always the one daddy loved best! When Esau looked at Jacob, he was always the one who received the blessing that belonged to him!. The same was true for Saul who always eyed David as the one who stole his kingdom. A similar tune was sung by Cain who looked at his brother, Abel, as the one who stole God’s favor from him! Each of these stories ends in tragedy for the ones who followed comparison down the road of revenge. Brothers and sisters, comparison is dangerous. Stop playing with it! Only when we have said no to the temptation to compare, are we prepared to listen to and obey Jesus’ words. 
But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you (Luke 6.27-28, ESV).  
Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you (Luke 6.37-38, ESV).
Brothers and sisters, not only has Jesus been given all authority in heaven and on earth, he also created you. He knows you better than you know yourself. He also proved through his life that he knows how to navigate this broken world bent on getting even. According to Jesus, revenge and getting even lead to destruction - to a life that is not worth living.  

What situations are causing you to compare yourself with others? It’s likely these situations are causing the blackness of pride or envy to dwell in your heart. Please, say no to comparison. Please, listen to Jesus, the one who knows you best and loves you most!! When we listen to Jesus, the words of the Six-Fingered Man from The Princess Bride might begin to make sense.       
“Good heavens! Are you still trying to win? You’ve got an over-developed sense of vengeance. It’s going to get you into trouble some day” (Count Rugen)!
Take a listen to our exposition of Obadiah

Here’s what I’m reading. 

Participating In God: A Pastoral Doctrine of the Trinity by Paul S. Fiddes. This book explores the how the topics of prayer, suffering, forgiveness, death, the spiritual gifts, and the sacraments, intersect with the doctrine of the Trinity.   

Deuteronomy: NIV Application Commentary by Daniel Block. This book will form the foundation for our new exploration of Deuteronomy on Wednesday nights at 6pm in room 104. Please join us!

Monday, August 22, 2016

Monday Morning Thoughts about Sunday: Joel

Here’s the deal about Joel. When we are threatened by the pain of waiting, the Father promises us the Holy Spirit to be the means by which we faithfully wait. Habakkuk proclaimed to us that because God is gracious, that means he’s patient, which is why he hasn’t eliminated all evil from the world. This means God’s people are called to bear God’s image by being patient too. The good news, however, is that God graciously equips us to be patient by promising us the Holy Spirit (Joel 2.28-32). John 14-16 recounts for us Jesus’ upper room discourse for his disciples. With these words, Jesus is preparing us for the reality that he is going away and we are going to have to patiently wait for his return. Because Jesus’ teaching in the upper room focuses on hearts that are troubled by his absence (14.1), this discourse contains Jesus’ most direct teaching on the Holy Spirit. Having described the work of the Holy Spirit to take what the Father and the Son share and share it with us (16.15), Jesus now raises the topic of, you guessed it, waiting. Just like Joel 2.28-32 and Romans 8.14-26, Jesus teaches us that the Holy Spirit is the generous gift of the Father to help his sons and daughters wait.

“A little while, and you will see me no longer; and again a little while, and you will see me.” So some of his disciples said to one another, “What is this that he says to us, ‘A little while, and you will not see me, and again a little while, and you will see me’; and, ‘because I am going to the Father’?” So they were saying, “What does he mean by ‘a little while’? We do not know what he is talking about” (John 16.16-18, ESV).

At this point many of us can empathize with the disciples. “In a little while?” What does Jesus mean by “In a little while?” We do not know what he is talking about!” You see it’s in these moments of doubt expressed - It’s in the moment when we stop pretending like we don’t have any questions, that the ministry of the Holy Spirit opens up to us, or rather, we are opened up to the Holy Spirit’s ministry. When we are honest about our doubts, our loneliness, our questions, our pain, a gap emerges that we had previously sealed over with denial and pretend certainty, and that space is filled with the life of God communicated by the Spirit of God who testifies to our Spirit’s that we are God’s children (Rom. 8.16).

With whatever situation is making you feel lonely, go into your prayer closet and open up that situation to your loving Father. The promise of the Holy Spirit is not that the Father will necessarily shelter you from that situation. Rather, the Holy Spirit is the promise of the Father to be with you in that situation because he wants you to know you are not alone. Thanks be to God.

Take a listen to our exposition Joel.

Here's what I'm reading. 

Wendell Berry's unforgettable memoir of Port William's only Barber.

Timothy Keller's topical study of what he argues is the most important aspect of our life with God.

A small book about a big truth by Michael Reeves. Christ is the Christian life. 

A thick book about the Supernatural Worldview of the Bible that has much to commend about how the Bible's worldview can challenge our view of God, the world, and our responsibility as loyal bearers of God's image. This book led to our mini-series on Wednesdays about the divine council.   

Monday, August 15, 2016

Monday Thoughts About Sunday: Habakkuk

Here's the deal about Habakkuk. As I think back over what the Father was saying to us through the Prophet, four summaries occur to me. May the Spirit of God shape our desires throughout this week with these truths.

1) There is never a time when God is not acting.  

As Habakkuk surveyed the religious and international worlds of his day, it seemed as though God was doing nothing. Judah was acting with just as much injustice as Israel. They were being just as unfaithful to Torah as Israel. Yet, God had not sent Judah off into exile as he had with Israel at the hands of the Assyrians. Many of us have felt a similar emotion as Habakkuk and Israel. "Why do you idly look at wrong (1.3, ESV)," is a question many of us could have asked God at one time or another. With Habakkuk, and often with us, God changes our perspective when we direct our complaints toward him. "Look among the nations, and see; wonder and be astounded. For I am doing a work in your days that you would believe if told" (1.5, ESV). Often when it seems God is doing nothing, that is when God is up to something. Indeed, there is never a time when God is not active. 

2) The saving power of God works in unexpected ways.      

What was God up to in Habakkuk's day? God says clearly to his prophet: "I am raising up the Babylonians, that ruthless and impetuous people" (1.6, NIV). "Wait! What?" must have been his response. Yes. God would prove faithful to judge Judah and Assyria. His method, however, was to cause the Babylonians to prosper and increase in power. Babylonian prosperity served a purpose greater than the Babylonians. Through the Babylonians, God had plans to discipline his people by sending all of them - both Israel and Judah into exile. At this point, we must remember that although God planned a difficult exile for his people, God also promised an even greater return to the land (Jeremiah 29.10-14). Furthermore, the exile and return of Israel is meant to point to an even more difficult exile, Jesus' crucifixion (Luke 9.31), and an even greater return, Jesus' resurrection, which will lead to all the earth becoming the promised land (Rom. 4.13). It is indeed strange that God would use the Babylonians to accomplish his will on earth. It is even more outlandish (some would say foolish, 1 Cor. 1.18ff) that God would use a Roman cross to accomplish our salvation. But the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob - the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ works his saving power in unexpected ways. 

3) The people of God are saved in hope.        

In 2.3, Yahweh says to Habakkuk: "For still the vision awaits its appointed time; it hastens to the end - it will not lie. If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay" (ESV). Patient hope is the posture to which God though Habakkuk calls us. While the Israelites wait for God to judge Assyria through Babylon, their responsibility is to keep waiting. Instead of choosing to center their vision on the iniquity of Judah and Assyria, the Israelites can gaze with hope into the future. In the same way God challenges us "to wait expectantly for Him; do not be agitated by one who prospers in his way, by the man who carries out evil plans. Refrain from anger and give up your rage; do not be agitated—it can only bring harm. For evildoers will be destroyed, but those who put their hope in the Lord will inherit the land. A little while, and the wicked person will be no more; though you look for him, he will not be there. But the humble will inherit the land and will enjoy abundant prosperity" (Ps. 37.7-11, HCSB). Where does your mind wonder these days? When my mind is idle, I am faced with a choice. Do I pick up my phone and check for more political rhetoric? Instead, let us choose to invest our idle thoughts in imagining how glorious the new earth will be when all wickedness has been judged and transformed by the "restless raging fury that they call the love of God" (Rich Mullins).

4) Hope rests on the foundation of God's faithfulness. 

Hebrews defines faith as "the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen." Because faith and hope are inseparably linked to the absence of sight, they can be difficult to endure. Andrew Peterson puts it this way:
I say faith is a burden
It's a weight to bear
It's brave and bittersweet
And hope is hard to hold to
Lord, I believe
Only help my unbelief.
From the beginning, our life with God has been fueled by faith. The Bible is clear about this. God has always required faith of his people. It is by faith "the people of old received their commendation" (Heb. 11.2). The Bible is also honest about this. The life of faith is filled with ups and downs, detours and breakdowns, grit and grace. Faith, in its essence, is trust in God's ability and promise to save. You see, during times of weak faith, God does not call us to become what Bonhoeffer called "spiritual navel gazers." Instead, when our faith grows weak, instead of turning inward, we turn to Christ and ask for him to cling to us. I've heard both D.A. Carson and Tim Keller express it this way: "It is not the quality of our faith that saves. It is the object of our faith who saves." This is how our hope can begin to be described as confident. Our hope does not rest on our faith. Rather, our hope rests on the faithfulness of God in Jesus.

Brothers and sisters, many of us are facing situations that require faith. As we look upon these circumstances we are tempted to think God is idly watching. That is not true. God is active, in albeit mysterious ways, and in those moments he is calling us to believe and to hope - to rest on the foundation of his faithfulness on our behalf. Thanks be to God.

Take a listen to our exposition of Habakkuk from Somonauk Baptist Church.