Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God.
Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith.
— Hebrews 13:7 —
On Christmas Eve in 1912, some eight months after the sinking of the Titanic, there was another loss of titanic proportions. On the other side of the world, on a boat in the harbor of Kobe, Japan Lottie Moon—all 50 pounds of her starving body—breathed her last. She had run her race to the end and finished well!
For forty years, this 4′ 3″ firebrand served as a missionary to the people of China. After growing up in Charlottesville, Virginia and becoming one of the most educated women in the South, this single woman took her teaching gifts to the other side of the world.
At the age of eighteen she was convicted of her sin and trusted in Christ. For twelve years, she taught school throughout the South. But compelled by the need for the gospel in China, Lottie Moon followed her sister Edmonia to become a teacher on the other side of the world.
In a short time, she faced incredible difficulties. Personally, she was forced break an engagement with C. H. Toy, a prominent but every-increasing liberal Hebrew professor. Vocationally, she faced the hostility of a people who despised her and called her a “foreign devil.” And relationally, she saw her own sister succumb to sickness, forcing Edmonia to leave the mission field.
Still, through the difficulties that spanned twenty-years and beyond, she changed her gospel methods, adapted her accustomed dress, and endured in the face of hardship. Continue reading
You have been invited to covenant meal—a table set in the midst of hostile enemies. Bread and wine are the food and drink of choice. The host is a righteous king who is lives in the holy city Jerusalem, and serves God Most High as a faithful priest.
When you look at your invitation, the RSVP calls you to renounce your idols and acknowledge the greatness of your host. This table, offered freely to you, is set for those who believe God’s promises and refuse to partner with the kings of this world. Indeed, this table does not communicate righteousness. Rather, it is for those who have been justified by faith in the promises of God Most High.
What is this invitation describing?
If you said, the Lord’s Supper, you’d be correct. And if you said Abram’s meal with Mechizedek, you’d also be right. But how can this be? How can one description point to two events? The answer is that God ordained the Old Testament events of Genesis 14 to prepare the way for Jesus Christ and the covenant he sealed with his blood and celebrated on the night before his crucifixion.
Therefore, just as learning the history of Passover helps us appreciate and apply the Lords’ Supper today, so does learning the story of Melchizedek and his covenant meal. Continue reading
But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood,
a holy nation, a people for his own possession,
that you may proclaim the excellencies of him
who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.
— 1 Peter 2:9 —
From Genesis to Revelation, the themes of priesthood and kingship overlap and intertwine in the history of redemption. In this new sermon series we are examining how royal priesthood applies to Jesus, the church, and our identity in Christ.
In this first sermon, we consider how Adam and Eve were created in God’s image to be royal priests serving and worshiping in the Garden of Eden. You can read about the background to this sermon series here and listen to the sermon online here. Response questions and Additional Resources can be found below. Continue reading
What does the Bible say about divorce?
Unfortunately, it says quite a bit. As a book that gives us everything we need for life and godliness, the Bible gives instructions about marriage and warnings about divorce. But that is not all that it says.
If our minds jump too quickly, we may only remember the words of Malachi 2: God hates divorce. But we can’t read that prophetic utterance without reading Jeremiah 3, a passage that tells how God issued a certificate of divorce to his covenant people Israel, when their sin destroyed their covenant with God. Moreover, we cannot forget the grace God gives to heal past sins, even as we read and repeat his instructions about covenant marriage and the sinfulness of divorce.
Accordingly, we must understand divorce according to the full gospel story of creation, fall, redemption, and new creation. In this context, we begin to see how the whole Bible gives comfort and conviction about this and every subject.
But why are we taking about divorce?
Well, to our series on the Sermon on the Mount, we had to return to one section of the Sermon our schedule forced us to postpone—namely, Jesus’s teaching on marriage and divorce in Matthew 5:31–32. With help from Jeremiah 3, I preached a message on the root problem of divorce (a hard-heart) and how Christ enables covenant-breakers to be covenant-keepers.
You can listen to the sermon online. Response questions are below, as are additional resources—both ethical and practical—regarding marriage and divorce. Continue reading
How deep the father’s love for us / How vast beyond all measure
That he should give his only Son / To make a wretch his treasure
These words by Stuart Townend express in song what Jesus tells us in the Sermon on the Mount, namely that the Father in heaven loves his children and longs for us to come and find our greatest reward in him. Indeed, this is why Jesus Christ came, to bring the Father’s kingdom to earth by means of his death and resurrection. In the new covenant Jesus made a way for sins to be forgiven and for forgiven sinners to enter God’s presence.
In Matthew 7:7–11 specifically, we find another place where Jesus’s focus on the Father teaches disciples about the kind of access they have to God and the kind of prayer our Father in heaven loves to hear. On Sunday considered this passage and how Jesus teaches us to pray.
You can listen to the sermon online. Below you can find discussion questions and additional resources, including the majestic rendition of How Deep the Father’s Love for Us by the Austin Stone Church. Continue reading
For the last two days I have been in Iceland teaching a biblical theology of the Old Testament. Drawing on The Drama of Scripture by Craig Bartholomew and Michael Goheen, I have sought to explain how the Old Testament is organized around the twin concepts of Kingdom and Covenant.
The following videos are put up by Loftstofan Baptistakirkja (Upper Room Baptist Church) and their pastor Gunnar Ingi Gunnarsson. They review the teaching I did last year in Iceland and dive into the Kingdom of David and the New Covenant. Tonight, we will finish with a look at the Psalms.
Please take time to pray for this church, for their pastor, and the spread of the gospel in Iceland. And if you are interested, you can watch some of the teaching videos here (please excuse the opening few minutes of each where I bumble around until I start teaching). Or better, go watch Christian By Default (see above). It will tell you more about the spiritual climate of Iceland.
Soli Deo Gloria, ds Continue reading
In the Bible we learn that preaching is not the only way God’s Word is communicated. In the Old Testament, the Levites are seen explaining the Law to the people of Israel (Nehemiah 8:7–8). And in the New Testament, Paul says of his ministry, “I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you in public and from house to house” (Acts 20:20).
In both of these contexts, teaching occurred in small groups, where God’s teachers could answers questions, give the sense of the word (Nehemiah 8:8), and lead discussions about applying the Law to life (see Ezra’s approach in Nehemiah 8:10). Today, teachers of the Word are called to do the same, and experienced teachers will master the art and science of leading discussion that is fundamentally different than just declaring what Scripture says.
To lead this kind of dialogue profitably is challenging and takes time—a lifetime even—to master, but it is invaluable for helping disciples of Christ learn to read Scripture, ask questions, think with others, and apply truth to life. And in what follows, I want to suggest ten principles for leading a good discussion. Four of them simply relate to question-asking; the other have to do with developing a conviction for the value of discussion and the need to change your preparation habits for leading discussion, as opposed to preaching.
I pray these principles may be helpful. If there are other ways you have learned to facilitate discussion, please share in the comments. Continue reading
If you have read the Bible, you’ve probably come across it. It’s mentioned about 75 times. Maybe you’ve even tried to it. But what is it?
Some testify to the miraculous results of this ancient practice. Others just skip over it, an impossible practice that is for “major league” Christians. And still others may be confused by the whole thing, or practice it for the wrong reason(s).
In Matthew 6:16–18, fasting for the wrong reason is what Jesus is targeting. Still, his words are not just relevant for his first century context; they also teach us important truths about denying ourselves and seeking God’s reward.
The truth is, everyone fasts every week, but I suspect most of us don’t think of it as fasting. Yet, how we deny ourselves and indulge ourselves is one of the most important things about who we are and who we are becoming.
Therefore in this week’s sermon I sought to answer a number of questions related to fasting and how Jesus’s words instruct all of us how to tune our fasting to seek the reward of knowing God. You can listen to this sermon online. Further resources about fasting can be found below, along with a few discussion questions. Continue reading
In the middle of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus gives instructions about giving (vv. 2–4), praying (vv. 5–15), and fasting (vv. 16–18). In our church we have taken one sermon per “spiritual discipline,” but really in the structure of Matthew’s Gospel, we should read these three disciplines together. And in fact, when we do there are some observations we discover that we might not find on our own.
So here are nine observations about Matthew 6:1–18 and Jesus’s instructions about these critical elements of worship, discipleship, and spiritual communion with God.
1. Giving, praying, and fasting make up the center of the Sermon.
From the structure of the sermon, we discover verses 1–18 should be read as the center of the sermon. Even more specifically, giving (vv. 2–4) and fasting (vv. 16–18) should be seen as a concentric ring around Jesus’s instructions around prayer (vv. 5–15), which itself is centered around the Lord’s Prayer. And that pray too is shaped to put three imperatives on both sides the words “on earth as it is in heaven.”
In other words, the shape observed in the image above continues right to the summit of the mountain, where we discover that prayer in the presence of our heavenly father is the goal of the Law (5:17–48) and the Prophets (6:19–7:11), as well asthe center of Jesus teaching about discipleship (6:1–18).
Moreover, because of this intentional shaping and the balanced presentation of giving and fasting around prayer, we may find that these various disciplines are not as independent as we often think. In fact, to get the full meaning of Jesus’s words we should read them together. Continue reading
The Sermon on the Mount is probably the most famous sermon ever preached, and for good reason. Its speaker is the Lord Jesus Christ; its location on a hill overlooking the Sea of Galilee is unique; and its language is both beautiful and profound. Even non-believers are familiar with many of the words Jesus spoke in this sermon.
Yet, for as well-known as the Sermon is, it is often misunderstand and misused. Therefore, as we begin to study this passage of Scripture, we should look at three common, but misguided ways to approach the sermon. Continue reading