Archive for March, 2019

Pastors Evaluating Other Pastors

March 31, 2019

I’m a pastor.  It’s what I do, and what  I have done for over a decade now.  Not long by some metrics, nearly eternal by others.  I’ve never loved what I’ve done as much, for as long, as I have the office of public ministry.  Whether I’m any good at it or not, however, is largely a subjective matter.  I try to keep this in mind.  The fact that I was certified by a seminary and ordained by a denominational body with a respectable history and some reasonably rigorous standards is  no guarantee that I’m a good pastor.  Psychological evaluations and other metrics by professors and others during my graduate work were all an effort to  ensure they ordained a reasonably competent person rather than turning loose a potentially deadly canon.

But those are all best efforts, not guarantees.  As such I try to maintain a modicum of humility about myself and my work.  And I try to extend that  humility when I find myself in the pew of  someone else’s congregation rather than my own pulpit.

Over the past week I’ve had the opportunity to worship in two different congregations.  Two (or more accurately 4) different pastors.  All within my same denominational polity.  All different in terms of personality, worship  styles and preferences, and a host of other things.   Just as you’d expect differences between people  in any professional field, or just people in general.  Yet somehow, among my colleagues,  there is a dangerous temptation to  pass judgment on one another.  I want to avoid this but find myself  struggling with it as well.

Nobody preached heresy.  Both experiences contained historic liturgical elements of one sort or  another.  One was very traditional and the other was decidedly not.   One was packed full of people well-past retirement age, the other was populated by a staggering number of children, young adults, young couples and families, and a few older folks as well.  One pastor utilized a puppet as an object lesson before his sermon, a holdover from the days when he gave children’s sermons, even though there aren’t any children in the congregation any longer.  The other pastor led a rock band praise team.  Literally.   As the lead singer.

I  trust and pray and need the Holy Spirit of God to work in more ways than I’m  capable of imagining or expecting and therefore, more ways than I might  even think necessary or want.  I have every reason in my own life  and the history of God’s people to expect this sort of lavish, ridiculous outpouring of God’s love and effort.  And like God’s people pretty much throughout  history, I don’t always react to it enthusiastically or affectionately.  I’m prone to critique.  To worry.  To furrow my brows, as some who know me well are fond of  saying it.

I like to think I’m not so traditional as to still be using puppets when there are no children in my congregation.  But I also know full  well that I’m no rock star.  I like to think I have a few surprises up my sleeves, but I also know that I’m undoubtedly far more staid and predictable than not.

Both experiences lead me to naturally compare and contrast what I do with my own congregation and ministry.  They lead me to examine and rethink.  Both experiences showed me successful pastors and ministries where God the Holy Spirit is at work whether I prefer the methodology or not.  And so both ultimately direct me back to the work that God is calling me to here and now, in my own context.  To follow as I feel his leading, even if I’m exploring uncharted paths.  To continue even though there will be those watching and evaluating, some appreciatively and others with furrowed brows.

Ultimately what I pray is that God would be glorified rather than myself.  That God would be praised for his imagination and creativity as well as his amazing continuity and steadfastness that can hold so many different people and personalities and ideas together into a homogenous body.  Because if  He’s not behind these various things, they’ll ultimately dissolve and blow away in the wind.  Humbling to  remember, and a good reminder to get back to the work.

And that work remains the same: Preach the Gospel.  Die.  Be forgotten.  By  my fellow men, for a time to be certain, but never by Christ.  Solo dei gloria.

History is Fascinating

March 28, 2019

At least at times, and in unexpected ways and connections.


Living What We Believe

March 27, 2019

There’s a funny dichotomy at play in our culture today.  On the one hand, people  with alternative values and ideas about reality are expected not simply to believe these things but put them into practice to transform traditions and time-honored ways  of doing and thinking.  On the other hand, religious people (ie. Christians) and others who find value and meaning and purpose in tradition are told they can believe these things privately (for now) but are publicly castigated and punished if they attempt to live out their beliefs in the public sphere.

I love the headline on this article.  The Christian school is allegedly “denying education” to this young person, rather than simply denying them admittance to their particular school.  The sad thing is here at play are many actual members of the Catholic parish that runs the school, who think that the Roman Catholic teachings on sexuality are a “notion”  rather than a long-standing theological understanding of not only Christians but Jewish people before them.  The situation also highlights the importance of consistency, as making exceptions in one area can lead to the misunderstanding that exceptions are appropriate in all situations.

Connectivity Doesn’t Stop Loneliness

March 26, 2019

An interesting essay challenging our concepts of success and suggesting that a robust community should be one of our top goals in life.

While I struggle with some of the language towards the end of the essay, it’s a good case study in the importance of people around us.  Not just bumping against each other on separate trajectories but rather walking with one another in and out of the various situations we can find ourselves in.  I don’t know that I would describe community as an “insurance policy”.  While there are elements of accuracy there, it strikes me as too calculated, too transactional.  Yes, community can support us in amazing ways, but it goes beyond just what happens when things fall apart.  Community shapes us, strengthens us for everyday life together as well.

Nor is community an “immunity”, some sort of vaccination that keeps us from suffering “loss and disappointment and rage”.  But it is true that community helps us deal with these things in healthier, more constructive, less destructive (whether internally or externally) ways.  Community is not a means of  “future-proofing”.  Community is a way of shaping today and therefore shaping tomorrow.  In the process today is richer, and we can look forward to a richer tomorrow.

And of course ultimately community in and of itself, with nothing greater within it or behind it or ahead of it is as pointless as any other isolated human experience or endeavor.  What gives community it’s real power is being grounded in the ultimate, eternal community, a God who in his very essence is communal as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  It is this reality that gives meaning and purpose to our communal experiences here and now, knowing they are preparations for an eternal communion not simply with one another but with Him.

Reading Ramblings – March 31, 2019

March 24, 2019

Reading Ramblings

Date: Fourth Sunday in Lent – March 31, 2019

Texts: Isaiah 12:1-6; Psalm 32; 2 Corinthians 5:16-21; Luke 15:1-3, 11-32

Context: We cross the threshold past the midway point of Lent. Since Holy Week is now accentuated as a somewhat separate entity from the rest of Lent, there is only one more Sunday of regular Lent. The readings today emphasize the great grace and forgiveness of God the Father. His promises to a broken and rebellious creation move past who we are now, to who we become through faith and trust in his promises of amnesty and forgiveness, offered through the condition of faith in our Redeemer, the Son of God Jesus the Christ. No confession of sin or self-examination is proper unless it proceeds to the word of absolution and promise of transformation that originates not from within ourselves but externally from our Creator. It is not good enough for us to reimagine ourselves in our own image, but we must be remade by the God who created us to be in the image of his Son.

Isaiah 12:1-6 – A refreshing pause in the words of judgment and discipline in the majority of Chapters 1-10. Chapter 11 promised a transformation – after discipline and hardship that all but seems to destroy God’s people, there will be a new creation. Rooted in past promises and history and identity but seemingly a miraculous new creation, a shoot that rises from the stump of Jesse. What will our response be in that day? Joy. Thanksgiving. Peace. Not fear but trust. No longer vulnerable and exposed but now sheltered and protected. This is not something that we accomplish but something that God will provide to his people. So great will this be that all nations will recognize it as the work of God, but the greatest rejoicing and proclamation will be among and from his own people – at last.

Psalm 32 – A psalm of relief – the relief that can only come through brutal honesty and confession, so that only then can the hidden sin be healed and forgiven. We fight this, thinking that somehow secrecy will bring us more comfort than exposure but David knows the inward agony of hidden guilt. And he now also knows the liberation and healing that comes from confession and accepting the Lord’s word of forgiveness. The simple statement at the end of verse 5 changes everything – And you forgave the guilt of my sin. No more silent, secret suffering. No more fear. Only forgiveness. David then exhorts the faithful in vs. 6-7 to give God praise and trust in him alone rather than their machinations. Only God can sing the song of deliverance that truly does deliver. Are verses 8-10 still David speaking, or God? I hear the voice of God, who is the only one able and willing to fully keep his loving eye upon us. But a reasonable argument could be made that David the formerly unfaithful king is now David speaking as the proper king, the proper servant of God who as king is responsible for ensuring his people know the will and way of God and are able to pursue it. Verse 8 is a beautiful summary of the true and best purpose of any government. The alternative to willingly receiving the Word of God is to be brought to it kicking and screaming. Every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord, but not everyone will come willingly! Yet how beautiful for those who receive God now, and can trust in him now!

2 Corinthians 5:16-21 – In Christ we are no longer the same and cannot regard one another the same way. The past is not eliminated but transformed. The disciples knew Jesus as an extraordinary teacher and wonder-worker, but after his resurrection from the dead this was no longer an adequate category for him. Now they better understand who He really was and is and will be all along, and they regard him now as this – Lord and Master and Redeemer and Son of God. Similarly with you and I. Our pasts may not be picture perfect, but when we come to the forgiveness of Christ our past no longer defines us, as St. Paul knew and experienced firsthand. He is not speaking figuratively – he has shown how transformative the power of the risen Christ can be in a person’s life. Would any still dare to regard Paul as Saul, the persecutor of the Church? This is only possible through the power of Christ, who truly can and does transform. It isn’t pretend. It isn’t uncertain. It may be imperfect, but it is real and true. This is not self-improvement on our terms but re-creation in Christ on his terms, and his terms are best because He has known us since the dawn of creation and knows who we are created to be. The ministry of reconciliation that Paul speaks of is first and foremost reconciliation to God (v.20). This will naturally extend itself in reconciliation towards one another and creation itself, but it must originate in reconciliation to God, meaning the acceptance of God’s conciliatory offering on our behalf, the incarnation, death, resurrection, ascension, and promised return of the Son of God, Jesus the Christ. This is what accomplishes our change, and what will complete it on the day of our Lord’s return.

Luke 15:1-3, 11-32 – The premise for the stories that comprise chapter 15 and part of chapter 16 are the complaints of the religious teachers and devout Jews that Jesus not only welcomes sinners but eats with them. Their understanding of holiness was one of separation, an extension of the ritual laws that governed clean and unclean status for objects and sometimes for people based on particular circumstances. Eating with a sinner would, according to their theology, make them ritually unclean, would tarnish their holiness and ritual cleanliness. Jesus does not share this perspective. He criticized the religious for this misunderstanding in Chapter 11. He addresses the issue again here. The father is not compromised by his love for his wayward son. Any reasonable person would be amazed at the father’s love and care for his son despite his son’s cruelty and selfishness! So it is with God and sinners. Welcoming sinners to himself does not lessen God’s holiness but rather accentuates it and further demonstrates his almost incomprehensible holiness. If parents struggle with loving a wayward child, and if we can’t fault them for this but empathize with them, how much more immense is the love of God towards his sinful, corrupted, rebellious creation – including you and I! How incredible that he does not simply stand waiting for us to acknowledge our failures and grovel for his mercy, but rather runs to meet us with arms open. Our words of apology are almost pointless now that we are in his arms again, and our sin is smothered and washed away by his generosity and love.

This is the love that Lent drives us to remember. We focus on our sin but not towards abjection, rather ultimately and best towards a fuller and more astonished inkling of God’s great love for us. That He would sacrifice the brightest and best of the sons of the morning for the absolute worst of us, those that we would be unwilling to dirty our hands with, that we would be unwilling to even sit down at the same table with or be seen even conversing with them or acknowledging their existence. In our culture of polarization and rejection of anyone who disagrees with us, what an incredible example of true love which is always humble and not selfish. Our God does not merely welcome and eat with sinners, He invites us to live with him for eternity having been forgiven and cleansed not with our imperfect words, but with the blood of the perfect sacrifice, the fattened calf, the Son of God.

Reading Ramblings – March 24, 2019

March 17, 2019

Reading Ramblings

Date: Third Sunday in Lent, March 24, 2019

Texts: Ezekiel 33:7-20; Psalm 85; 1 Corinthians 10:1-13; Luke 13:1-9

Context: Our actions have consequences. While the Reformation restored (at least in some quarters) the centrality of Christ and redemption through faith alone in him, in some of those same quarters there was, I suspect, a corresponding casualness that grew up in regard to sin and the serious business of sanctification. When you confess that it is the life, death, resurrection, ascension and promised return of the Son of God Jesus the Christ that is the only thing that saves you, it is easy to presume that the sin in our lives is not really an issue after all. Scripture never allows us this ease with our sin, however. The call to repentance is clear and constant from beginning to end of Scripture. That repentance is perfected and made pleasing to God through faith in the Son of God’s atonement, but the repentance itself remains serious business as it should lead us to truly battle against the persistent sin in our lives. It’s important to remember that each of the passages this morning is not a railing against the sinfulness of the pagan world, but rather warnings and reminders to God’s own people!

Ezekiel 33:7-20 – Ezekiel is given the command to speak the Word of God to God’s people and not to pull back or soften it. Lives are at stake, and it is not a stretch to think that these lives are eternal as well as mortal. Salvation is at risk of Ezekiel is not faithful to his task. This is the job of the watchman. The job of the people is to listen when the watchman raises the alarm. This is an important aspect of this passage. Ezekiel functions as a prophet of God who speaks the Word of God. It is the duty of God’s people to listen to the Word of God Ezekiel speaks and respond appropriately. But instead of doing this, instead of recognizing the alarm that the watchman of God is raising, the people instead want to debate theology and accuse God of being unfair, as though God is desiring their death, when this is exactly the opposite of what God wants! Moreover, God is gracious and merciful, so that those who hearken to the watchman’s warning will be saved from death. Those who feel they are already righteous and don’t need to listen may find themselves at risk of the same death they presume others are deserving of but they are not. Our attitude towards God is paramount, as it drives our actions, including genuine repentance which is more than a mere apology but rather a concerted effort to fight against the sin we have apologized for.

Psalm 85 – Verse 8 ties in so beautifully with the reading from Ezekiel. Yes, God indeed always speaks peace to his people, but to do so He must constantly warn them away from dangerous, rebellious folly. Here is the heart of the matter – God speaks life and forgiveness but our sinful nature is always seeking a way to maintain our sinfulness rather than listening to the Word of God and turning from folly. But is this series of actions that is necessary for God to turn from his wrath. The first seven verses of this psalm are exactly what God desires, but it is verses 8-9 that are the central issue. Will we receive God’s forgiveness (v.2) or seek to justify our sin? Will we accept the Lord’s restoration (v.4) or insist on doing things our way. Will we allow God to revive us (v.6) or insist on death? The proper answer to these questions requires our affirmation of v.12. The Lord gives what is good. Always. Therefore we should turn to his Word and learn from it and be saved from our folly.

1 Corinthians 10:1-13 – Paul stresses the idea that simply doing the things of faith and receiving the things of faith is not equivalent to faith. All the people of Israel in the Old Testament were saved from slavery and genocide by God. They were all guided by the pillar of cloud and fire. They were all given water from the rock and all fed with God’s manna from heaven. But not all of them had faith in the God who gave these things. Likewise, it is possible to be churched but without faith. It is possible to act in a Christian manner without being a follower of Christ. And it is possible to pollute our faith through practices that are completely antithetical to it. Idolatry, testing God, ingratitude – these are all matters that pollute and dilute our faith. The life of a follower of Christ is one of humility – understanding that we have an external enemy as well as our sinful nature inside of us colluding to sidetrack us from faith in Christ. It is dangerous to dabble in sin, presuming it will never ensnare our hearts away from Christ. Instead, we should seek to resist sin, trusting in the God who has saved us through his Son to provide strength via the Holy Spirit to fight against temptation.

Luke 13:1-9 – One of the ways we seek to justify ourselves and feel safer and more secure is to judge others, particularly those who suffer from misfortune or disaster. It seems that without fail after some catastrophe or another, there are Christian preachers asserting that this was God’s judgment against a sinful people (anyone remember Hurricane Katrina and New Orleans?!). Of course is this a possibility? Certainly. Yet without an authoritative revelation from God are we free to speak in such sweeping terms? I am not so sure. Likewise, Jesus cautions his disciples about making equally quick and easy leaps to judgment in the Gospel lesson. Those who suffer disaster in this world are not necessarily intended as examples of God’s judgment. They are not necessarily more sinful than the rest of us. In fact, this is never the case, even when God decides to judge someone’s sin, their sin is not any worse than the sin in the rest of us. We cannot take such a leisurely approach to sin. Their sin is worse than mine so God punished them. However He won’t punish my sin because it isn’t as bad.

God seeks hearts of repentance and faith in his people. Rather that presuming God stands at the ready to smite us immediately in our sin, we should rather consider God’s graciousness and mercy, his patience in trying to lead us towards producing fruit in keeping with our repentance (Matthew 3:8). Judgment comes to all of us sooner or later, and we should try to keep from assuming that misfortune or disaster in this life is either the direct retribution of God for sin, or that it is indicative of an eternal fate. Rather, not knowing what the future holds or how long we have ahead of us, we should take repentance seriously now, today.

Sad But Not Surprised

March 13, 2019

So scandal has broken loose again.  The rich and famous have been found using their status and money to set their children up with admissions to top universities.  People have been paid to take tests.  Lies have been told.  Money has been paid.  And former starlets have been arrested.

Most of the people I’ve heard talking about this are shocked and outraged.  I can understand the outrage, but shock?  Really?  Are we that naive?  Or are we that convinced that our sinful human natures have been sufficiently remedied by our rule of law?  C’mon, people!  You shouldn’t believe everything you hear, and you should assume that somewhere, in some manner, money is talking and people are listening and systems are compromised.

This is how it’s always been.  Money buys influence.  The rich have access to myriad options that the rest of us don’t.  It’s not fair or right, it just is.  It can and should be illegal but people will still find ways around it.

This is not justifying the behavior and saying we shouldn’t care.  Sure, go ahead and care.  Allow justice to do its work when it gets the chance.  But don’t imagine it has solved the problem or eliminated the practice.  Some people got caught.  Others haven’t and won’t.

Nor is this another argument for redistributing the wealth.  Fiery politicians seem to think they can just take money away from rich people and end all of our problems that way.  This won’t work either.  Corruption conducts business in all sorts of currency, whether monetary or  related to prestige, influence, beauty, etc.  Once again the sinful human temptation won’t be erased, you just change what it looks like and how it plays itself. out.

It’s a shame.  It’s unfair.  But, despite the insistence of some folks, life isn’t fair.  Hasn’t been since Adam and Eve got booted from the garden for pilfering fruit.  It won’t be fair again until God restores it to that status.   In the meantime, be outraged, but don’t be surprised.


March 11, 2019

Evangelism is getting harder, according to one of today’s oft-noted theologians and pastors, Tim Keller.  The reasons Keller cites for evangelism getting harder than it was just a few generations ago are several.  Some are external to Christians and some are internal.

First he cites that evangelism  is more complicated in a highly diverse population that does not have a general, cultural understanding of the Bible and Christianity.  Without a common baseline understanding, evangelism requires a lot more effort.  To someone conditioned by our culture to not know what sin is, and once you explain it to them, to reject the notion as depressing or relative means the person trying to witness has a lot more ground to cover.

Next he cites a greater difficulty in sharing the faith because our culture no longer has a basically good attitude towards Christians and the Church – even if they themselves are not Christians or church-goers.  Emphasis on the abuses and sins of the Church both historically (slavery, religious wars) as well as currently (pedophile priests and other sexual scandals across the denominational spectrum) mean we can’t assume the person we’re talking to even thinks Church or God  is a good thing as a whole for society.  I’d argue that in addition to these factors, there is the deliberate downplaying or ignoring of valuable roles that the Church has played historically and currently, whether in the development of universities and hospitals or current social justice issues.

Finally there is the relativism that pervades our culture now, so that any time someone wants to share the truth, that truth is seen as relative and subjective – maybe good for the sharer but maybe not good or necessary for the hearer.  This can in turn lead to a lower level of empathy among people which makes it hard for them to see things from another person’s perspective.

In a typical evangelical response, Keller cites Christians as basically the problem despite the overwhelming issues noted above.  Nor does he mention sin and an active – though defeated – Satan as elements that contribute to the difficulty of Christian evangelism.  I think he would agree with all of those things he just doesn’t mention them here.

He thinks Christians need to be more humble and sensitive in their witness, and I’d argue that’s always a good thing.  He also thinks Christians need more courage, and of course this is always good as well.  Finally he argues that Christians ultimately don’t really care enough about others to evangelize.  Here I disagree.  I know plenty of Christians who care a great deal about others but their efforts to evangelize have been stymied by many of the factors noted above.  That doesn’t denote a lack of love on their part, but rather a reality of our age.  I question the evangelical assumption that every Christian needs to be an evangelist, since there are pretty few Scripture passages that can be interpreted that way (and those that can are often argued as not applying to the average Christian).

Rather than blaming a lack of love, perhaps we should blame churches for inadequatey catechizing their members, teaching them not only what their church believes but also why.  Perhaps we should blame churches that presume that just because people are members they believe everything the Bible or the church teaches, when in reality most of their lives are lived out in thoroughly secularized school and work environments that are actively hostile to Christians and at times seek to make evangelism an actual offense that could affect admissions or promotions.

Yes, Lord, change our hearts.  But also grow and strengthen our churches and pastors to better ground and equip their parishioners in the faith.

Reading Ramblings – March 17, 2019

March 10, 2019

Reading Ramblings

Date: Second Sunday in Lent – March 17, 2019

Texts: Jeremiah 26:8-15; Psalm 4; Philippians 3:17-4:1; Luke 13:31-35

Context: The readings for this Sunday focus on the reality of struggle in this world between the followers of Christ and those who resist the message of grace and truth and seek to silence it by persecuting those who proclaim and carry it. The idea of worldly opposition should not be a surprising one. Our ancient enemy The Accuser was at work in Eden to throw creation into sin and death, and he continues his work today actively. While defeated, he is still able to inflict collateral damage on the Church and individual Christians. A brief investigation of world news will show that persecution of Christians is alive and well in a stunning number of areas. Yet we are called to faithfulness in spite of the threat of persecution and harm.

Jeremiah 26:8-15 – The word of God is first and foremost always the Word that calls us towards life. God always speaks for our benefit, and even his Word of warning and discipline is for our benefit. It is often not heard this way, however. People have always been offended by the idea of an actual God with actual expectations, who has a moral order that He expects us to follow, even if imperfectly. Our sinful self-centeredness balks at this restriction, always crying more, more and me, me! To the sin within us the Word of warning and discipline is outrageous and offensive. We would rather God affirm us in our sin, even though our sin leads to our own destruction and the destruction of those around us. Jeremiah stands firm in the Word he was called to deliver, delivering it again even as he stands in public accusation, under trial, with the very real possibility that he will be sentenced to execution for God’s Word that calls for repentance and warns of discipline. So we are to keep our eyes fixed on Christ rather than on the threats we imagine or fear or actually face around us. God is faithful, and has promised us victory through faith in his incarnate Son Jesus, who knows all too well what the road of faithfulness will sometimes lead to.

Psalm 4 – This psalm is often interpreted in three parts – where David speaks first to God (v.1), then to those around him (vs.2-6), and finally to himself (vs.7-8). The psalm is thought by some to date to the conflict between David and his son Absalom, who sought to depose his father from the throne and led an armed rebellion against David. David first prays to God, acknowledging him as the source of his own righteousness, his own standing in God’s eyes, and asking God to hear him. The David addresses those around him, perhaps officials who are uncertain in their loyalties in the midst of this situation. Perhaps he calls to those who have deserted him in favor of Absalom. He calls them back to truth, and affirms that God will vindicate his righteous ones, of which David already professes he is one. He calls his followers to calmness of heart. Verse 4 is fascinating. The Hebrew word translated in the ESV (and some other translations) as anger can also refer to strong emotion of any kind, including fear. It may be that it is translated as anger because of Ephesians 4:26. There, Paul speaks of being angry and not sinning. Is Paul quoting Psalm 4? Perhaps. The Greek word for anger here very clearly means anger, while there are other Hebrew words better and more frequently translated as anger in the Old Testament. If it is anger, David warns against sin in thinking ill of their enemies, calling them to rest on things as a means of cooling their anger. Continue to do the things the Lord has required (v.5) rather than focus improperly on the larger issues at hand. Finally, David takes his own advice to heart. He remembers all of God’s goodness to him, and reminds himself or exhorts himself to right behavior, trusting ultimately in God as his protector.

Philippians 3:17-4:1 – Paul exhorts the Philippians to focus on those who walk faithfully, rather than focus on those who do not. There are no shortage of the latter – people who focus on short-term pleasures and self-gratification rather than the bigger picture of what pleases God. We are called to keep our focus straight. This life is not the end all of our existence. In some ways it is just preparation for our eternal life, and that eternal life is not defined by our own selfish desires but rather by Jesus, who is our Lord and Savior, appointed by God the Father himself for this role. It is in Jesus that we will receive life, so that our eternal lives will not be enslaved to the passions of our flesh as they often are now. This is what we are to strive towards and focus on.

Luke 13:31-35 – Jesus is warned of political schemes to execute him. Rather than being knocked off course by this, Jesus focuses on the work at hand as dictated by his heavenly Father. Jesus has a job to do and a time frame to do it in, and Herod cannot thwart the will of God in this respect, so Jesus will not thwart it either in fear. And Jesus clarifies the situation further. Herod may be threatening, but the real issue is with God’s own people rather than Roman-designated rulers. It is Jerusalem, the capital of God’s people, center of the worship of God that has proven time and time again to be fatal to the very messengers of God himself. It is Jerusalem that is the real threat, which is why Herod won’t be able to do anything until Jesus reaches Jerusalem and faces the leaders of God’s people who will in turn hand him over to Herod.

Jesus final words in this chapter are fulfilled as He enters Jerusalem (recorded by Luke in chapter 19). It is there and then that Jerusalem does see Jesus for who He is, the crowds acknowledging that Jesus comes in the name of the Lord, He is the messenger of God who comes on behalf of God and should be listened to and revered as such. But just as Jesus predicts, just as the prophets of old such as Jeremiah understood, speaking the Word of God can be dangerous business, particularly when speaking it to God’s people.

Book Review: No Little People

March 9, 2019

No Little People by Francis Schaeffer

Another of my impromptu used book store purchases, this is a collection of sermons from Francis Schaeffer.  They aren’t sermons in the sense that my denomination thinks of sermons.  They’re more like treatises, essays.  Theological and intellectual discourses.

Writing sermons is hard business.  My first homiletics professor rubbed his hands with glee, telling us that he was going to “forever ruin us from listening to sermons”, and this is true.  Once you’ve studied homiletics and once you’ve gotten into the flow of preaching 60-70 sermons a year or so, you can’t just listen or read someone else’s sermon without critiquing, and I know I’m not the most charitable of reviewers.

Schaeffer has some good points and thoughts in here, though.  His observations in two essays in particular are helpful – The Ark, the Mercy Seat and the Incense Altar and The Water of Life.  He provides some cultural and ritual as well as linguistic background that is helpful in seeing subtle (or not so subtle) connections across Scripture.  But he’s not here to offer you worldly encouragement in the sort of hang in there cat poster sense.  Don’t be mistaken though – Schaeffer does offer encouragement, but his encouragement – as with the first disciples and thinking Christians throughout the centuries – is based in the real presence of a God who is there and who has revealed his love towards us in the incarnation, death, resurrection, ascension and promised return of his Son, the Christ.  Aside from this objective reality Schaeffer rightly understands there can be no hope and no basis for much  of anything beyond personal preference.

Not my favorite Schaeffer work, but not without merit, either.