Jesus, the Poor, and the Mission of the Church: Three Truths about the Gospel

black cross on top of mountain

Photo by Jonathan Borba on Pexels.com

For the poor you always have with you, but you do not always have me.”
— John 12:8 —

What does the cross of Christ have to do with the relief of poverty? Does the gospel address the issue of economic justice? When Scripture speaks of Jesus paying our debt is this spiritual in nature, or material too? How did Jesus think about his cross and what his cross was meant to accomplish? These questions and more can be asked when we think about the gospel and its relationship to poverty and justice—a theme that continues to confront us these days.

Thankfully, Scripture gives us clear direction, recording Jesus’s words about his cross and his concern for the poor. In a passage found in all four gospels, we find Mary anointing Jesus’s feet in preparation for his cross and burial. And from this encounter, we learn much about what Jesus thought about poverty. Let’s see three things. Continue reading

A Few Reflections on Wisdom: Solomon as a Second Adam, Christ as a Better Solomon, and Christians Becoming True Humanity

halacious-OgvqXGL7XO4-unsplashAnd God gave Solomon wisdom and understanding beyond measure, and breadth of mind like the sand on the seashore, 30 so that Solomon’s wisdom surpassed the wisdom of all the people of the east and all the wisdom of Egypt. 31 For he was wiser than all other men, wiser than Ethan the Ezrahite, and Heman, Calcol, and Darda, the sons of Mahol, and his fame was in all the surrounding nations. 32 He also spoke 3,000 proverbs, and his songs were 1,005. 33 He spoke of trees, from the cedar that is in Lebanon to the hyssop that grows out of the wall. He spoke also of beasts, and of birds, and of reptiles, and of fish. 34 And people of all nations came to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and from all the kings of the earth, who had heard of his wisdom.
— 1 Kings 4:29–34 —

In Finding Favour in the Sight of God: A Theology of Wisdom LiteratureRichard Belcher introduces the reader to the world of biblical wisdom (ch. 1). The majority of his book examines the literary and theological aspects of Proverbs (chs. 2–4), Job (chs. 5–7), and Ecclesiastes (chs. 8–10). And he finishes by showing the relationship between Wisdom and Jesus Christ (ch. 11). In all, his book provides a rich resource for studying Old Testament Wisdom.

Still, one of the most helpful parts of his book is explaining the development of wisdom in the first chapter. Contrasting critical approaches which identify wisdom literature with other ancient Near Eastern religions, Belcher connects wisdom literature in the Bible with Solomon, who was granted such wisdom when he boldly asked for the Lord’s help to rule Israel (1 Kings 3).

In his discussion of wisdom’s development, Belcher draws an important connection between Solomon and his royal wisdom and Adam and his royal priestly calling. Here’s what he says, “The account of Solomon in 1 Kings makes allusions to Adam in the garden so that Solomon functions as a second Adam.” He goes on to explain why this is the case, Continue reading

How Justification by Faith Impels Justice: The Biographical Testimony of William Wilberforce

wilberforceAt 4:00am on February 24, 1807, the British Parliament voted to end the British slave trade. With a count of 267 to 16, the House of Commons voted with loud cheers for the abolition of this abominable institution.

Though it would take another 26 years for slavery to be ended in Britain and its colonies,  this decision by the House of Commons, which followed the majority decision of the House of Lords, proved that in the span of 50 years what was unthinkable—namely, the end of the slavery—could be put to an end through a radical change in public and political opinion.

This change raises the question: What led to that remarkable act of liberation? What changed the hearts of the British governors? Was it a war? No, not unless you count the war of words in parliament. Was it a pragmatic argument based upon economics. No, it actually cost Britain a fortune to end slavery. What was it then?

The answer can be given in three words—a man, a mission, and an unusual motivation. Continue reading

A Tragic Irony: What Blacks Lives Matter Means for the Family

Perhaps you have seen this Speak for Yourself  video about the NBA’s decision to paint “Black Lives Matter” on the basketball courts in Orlando. I saw this video last week, as it was sent to me by a handful of family and friends. It’s worth watching, especially the first section with Marcellus Wiley. Here’s the core of what he had to say (You can find a transcript of Wiley’s whole statement here):

I don’t know how many people really look into the mission statement of Black Lives Matter, but I did. And when you look into it, there’s a couple of things that jump out to me. And I’m a black man who has been black and my life has mattered since 1974. And this organization was founded in 2013 and I’m proud of you but I’ve been fighting this fight for me and for others a lot longer.

Two things: My family structure is so vitally important to me. Not only the one I grew up in but the one I am trying to create right now. Being a father and a husband, that’s my mission in life right now. How do I reconcile that with this, the mission statement that says, “We dismantle the patriarchal practice. We disrupt the Western-prescribed nuclear family structure requirement.”

When I know statistics, when I know my reality, forget statistics, I knew this before I even went to Columbia and saw these same statistics that I’m going to read to you right now.

Children from single-parent homes versus two-parent homes. The children from the single-parent homes — this was in 1995 I was reading this — five times more likely to commit suicide. Six times more likely to be in poverty. Nine times more likely to drop out of high school. Ten times more likely to abuse chemical substances. Fourteen times more likely to commit rape, 20 times more likely to end up in prison, and 32 times more likely to run away from home.

I knew that. You know why I knew it? Because a lot of my friends didn’t have family structures that were nuclear like mine, and they found themselves outside of their dreams and goals and aspirations. So when I see that as a mission statement for Black Lives Matter, it makes me scratch my head.

The irony in this statement is thick. Not only does it bring to the forefront the difference between affirming the statement, “black lives matter,” and rejecting the organization Black Lives Matter, a distinction Albert Mohler has helpfully noted. But Wiley’s point also gets at one of the chief aims of the organization, which is to “disrupt” the family and “dismantle” the place of fathers leading in their homes. In this concern, along with others, Black Lives Matter sets forth objectives which have proven devastating to families in and out of the black community. Continue reading

Perfect Praise: Seeing the Seven’s in Psalms 96–99

tanner-mardis-612668-unsplash (1)In his commentary on the Psalms, Konrad Schaefer shows a “pattern of sevens” that permeates Psalms 96–99. In a section of the Psalter that already demonstrates remarkable structure, these “septets” (a group of seven) add to the unity and message of Book IV in the Psalms.

Let’s hear what Schaefer says about these septets, and then consider the merit of his observations. Why should we care about these groups of seven? (Hint: It may have something to do with the number of perfection).

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On Earth as It Is in Heaven: Three Truths about Justice in God’s Kingdom

cloud05Last Sunday, I suggested the source and substance of true justice comes down from Yahweh, the God of heaven and king over all creation. As he brings his rule from heaven to earth—the enthronement described in Psalm 93–100—he establishes his kingdom in righteousness and justice (Psalm 97:2).

In the fulness of time, this kingdom came in the person and work of Jesus Christ. And now, with the full disclosure of God in his inspired Word, we have all that we need for life and godliness, righteousness and justice—i.e., all that we need, until the God of justice returns and makes all things right on the last day.

You can watch the sermon from last week to a get sense of the message of Psalm 97, but today, I want to consider what God’s kingdom justice means for us living in a time between Christ’s two advents. What follows are three points of application from Psalm 97. These will also prepare the way for our consideration of Psalm 98.
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From Dating, To Engagement, To Marriage: A Man’s Meditation on Proverbs 31

photo of couple kissing in hallway

[The following is a biblical meditation for young men considering engagement and marriage. You can find a PDF of the questions here.]

In Proverbs 31, we find a beautiful, twenty-two verse acrostic poem describing an excellent wife. While these verses focus on the character of a godly wife, they are written for a young man to discern and desire these characteristics in a future wife. For men seeking marriage, these verses can provide a fruitful place to prayerfully consider the kind of woman he should marry. With that in mind I’ve drawn a few questions from each verse, attempting to make contemporary wisdom that addressed an agrarian world.

For practical purposes, these questions do not all need to be answered in the affirmative to proceed towards marriage. No one marries a perfect spouse, but these questions can be asked to clarify the enigmatic question: Is this the one? More specifically, when answers arrive as weaknesses or negatives, godly men should ask: Can I embrace that weakness? Or better, is God calling me to lead, love, and lay down my life to bolster this woman and to cultivate weaknesses towards greater strength.

These questions should be asked with significant soul-searching and self-examination; they should not be used to judge another or to point out faults. They are for clarity, not condemnation. That said, many marriages stumble because biblical wisdom has not been applied from the start. These questions, therefore, are meant to stir up wisdom and to press young men to consider from Scripture the kind of characteristics that should be present in a godly wife. In so doing, the man should also grow in wisdom.

10An excellent wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels.

An excellent wife is from the Lord (Prov. 19:14), not from man. So in what ways can you see that God has brought the two of you together?

Does this marriage have the mark of God’s handiwork, or yours?

Do you treasure her? Why? What would you lose without her? Continue reading

Built on the Word: A Theological Vision for Ministry (Audio and Handouts)

Built on the Word

In February, our church joined with Redeeming Grace Church (Fairfax) and Grace Church (Gainesville) to host a seminar on doing ministry built on the word of God.

In an age when churches are experimenting with all sorts of new methods for doing ministry (and I’m not just talking about Zoom), it is our conviction that ministry should be built from floor to ceiling on the word of God. This two-day seminar sought to equip leaders in our respective churches by giving them an historical, theological, and practical guide for doing church ministry with God’s Word, all for the purpose of making disciples.

Here are the messages and handouts produced in that seminar. If building your ministry on the Word matters to you, these resources may be a help.

Introduction: How can we connect our faith and practice?

Session 1: What did we inherit? The Church: Universal, Local, Ancient, and Modern

Session 2: On what do we stand? Sola Scriptura and the Sufficiency of God’s Word

Session 3: What are we to do? Making Disciples Amidst the Idols of Our World

Soli Deo Gloria, ds

Photo Credit: Redeeming Grace Church

In Order to Dwell in God’s Presence: Seven Ways to Read Psalms

IMG_4667This month brings us to the Book of Psalms in the Via Emmaus Bible Reading plan. And I say “Book” because Psalms is more than a collection of random songs; it is a highly structured book which tells the redemptive story of David and his greater Son—the king who is enthroned on Zion.

In fact, the Psalter is composed of five books (Pss 1–41; Pss 42–72; Pss 73–89; Pss 90–106; Pss 107–50) and demonstrates many convincing proofs that the order of the Psalms is intentional. If you have spent any time on this blog, you know how much time I have spent arguing this point and showing how (I think) the Psalms are organized. 

In this post, which begins our look at the Psalms this month, I want to offer seven reading strategies for reading, understanding, and praying the psalms. These approaches are suggestive, not exhaustive; there is not one right way to read the Psalms, but knowing that the Psalms possess a unified message may be helpful for reading the psalms this month. If you have another way(s) to read the Psalms, please include them in the comments. Here are my seven suggestions.

Continue reading