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The Apostolic Witness

Introduction

For a moment, imagine a young Jewish man living near Jerusalem in 33 AD. He’s heard the stories of Jesus of Nazareth; how He taught with authority greater than the scribes and pharisees, how He healed the sick, raised the dead, cleansed lepers, and had a Messianic fervor surround Him, yet was eventually crucified under Pontius Pilate.


But he’s also heard this Jesus was raised from the dead, and there are rumors He’s gone back to doing just what He did before He died; namely, teaching his disciples about the kingdom of God. Then imagine, one day on his way to work, this young man came upon this very scene and discovered Jesus instructing His disciples in the message and the actions they must take to function[1] as His “witnesses (Ac. 1:8).”[2]


From his vantage point behind the tree, what would he have heard?


If the actions and teachings recorded in the New Testament are an accurate picture of what Jesus’ message and instructions were to those disciples for forty days, then we can deduce the young man would have heard a gospel message with the core ideas of creation, covenant, cross, and consummation, all confirmed and attested to by the power of the Spirit (or charisma, to round out our “c’s”.)


Of these things, creation, covenant, cross, and consummation, the apostles repeatedly proclaimed, “We are witnesses (Ac. 2:32, 3:15, 5:32, 10:39).”


It is vital that disciples then and disciples now understand these core ideas, as each one of them is crucial to our witness[3], both in Tonkawa and around the globe. Like a cake, if any of these ideas are left out, or if one is emphasized over the others, the witness is blunted, and the cake is dry. My plan for this Sunday is to work through each of these elements of the apostolic witness, and then ask the Spirit to confirm the message with power to equip us for the task.


Creation

           First, the apostolic witness is rooted in a Jewish understanding of a good creation destroyed (Gen. 6:7). A real God Yahweh created[4] a real heavens and earth (Gen. 1:1) and blessed and tasked real people to steward His good creation (Gen. 1:28-31). But Yahweh’s Image Bearers, joined by the serpent, rebelled against Him, and wrought death[5] into a world that was never meant to die (Gen. 3:1-13)[6].


This understanding of creation is crucial to the apostolic witness because it answers the fundamental questions of “What went wrong? Why is there sadness, suffering, and death?” According to the apostles, “What went wrong?” is that “by a man came death (1 Cor. 15:19-23).”


The apostolic witness assumes a “God who made the world and everything in it (Ac. 17:24)” and that “sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men (Rom. 5:12-17).”


For the apostles, these are not allegorical, metaphorical, or spiritual tales. In real time and space, God’s good world was destroyed.


 The apostolic witness is not only a downer, however. The gospel the apostles bore witness to is filled with real hope, not of disembodied eternal sing-along in the sky, but of a world[7] newly remade by the power of God’s Spirit.[8] Put simply, the gospel assumes a restored physical creation, not an annihilated or “spiritual” one. The restoration of all things (Ac. 3:21) involves a “new heavens and a new earth (Is. 65:17-19)” where “righteousness dwells (2 Pet. 3:13)” and a “new Jerusalem (Rev. 21:1)” where twelve apostles will sit on “twelve thrones (Matt. 19:28)” and reign with the Messiah.


Further, the apostolic witness assumes this restored creation to be inhabited by the resurrected righteous. Romans 8:18-24, a paragraph penned by an apostle “untimely born (1 Cor. 15:8)”, portrays this apostolic understanding beautifully. The real sin from a real man brought real death and suffering into God’s good creation. This present time is then marked by “suffering (Rom. 8:18).” In view of these sufferings, humans and creation groan and wait (Rom. 8:19, 23).


And what are they groaning for? What is the ache within God’s people? According to the “faith handed down (Jud. 1:3)” from the apostles, the aching and groaning is not to “fly away old glory”, but for the “sons of God to be revealed” and adopted (Rom. 8:19, 23), for creation to be set free from its “bondage to decay (Rom. 8:21)”, and for the “redemption of our bodies (Rom. 8:23).”


When Jesus and the apostles spoke of “eternal life (Jud. 21)”, this is what they meant. This is not to disregard the joys of the intermediate state “with the Lord (2. Cor. 5:8)” before the resurrection, but it is to understand the joys of heaven as but a footnote in the apostles’ gospel when set next to the glory of the resurrection. Consider: “this life” (Lk. 21:34; 1 Cor. 6:3; 15:19), “the present life” (1 Tim. 4:8), “this body” (Rom. 7:24; 2 Peter 1:13), “our lowly body” (Phil. 3:21), and “this perishable…mortal body” (1 Cor. 15:53) contrasted with with eternal life and the resurrected body given on the day of the Lord.[1]


This emphasis on resurrection[10] leads to the last component of the apostolic witness as it regards creation: the Day of the Lord. If the restoration of the heavens and the earth and the resurrection of the body dominate the apostolic message, what it the mechanism for those events?


What is the mentos dropped in the coke bottle that sets these things off?


The catalyst for the restoration of all things is described in our bibles as “the day of the Lord (2 Pet. 3:10).” While lower-case “d” days of the Lord are peppered through the scriptures as a whole, they are projected into a future and upper-case “D” Day of the Lord where divine judgement (Rom. 2:5) also brings with it divine restoration (Is. 24:21-23)[11]. In this way, on the Day when the “blessed hope” appears (Tit. 2:11-13), the “old order of things” will pass away, and everything will be made “new (Rev. 21:1-5).”


At the Day of the Lord, Yahweh will “again Genesis (Matt. 19:28)”[12] all things, showing that his original intent in creation is his final intent in recreation.[13] Sin made the world and those who dwell on it broken, yet the apostles declared that God loved the world and is deeply committed to fixing it once and for all.[14] In other words, “…now is not always. God’s ultimate triumph, and with it the comforting of those who have grieved over evil, is sure.”[15]


Covenant

 These hopes and this message did not appear out of thin air and Jesus’ teaching regarding these things was not the first time the apostles heard them. Rather, these realities of a good creation gone bad and a glorious reversal of the old order at the Day of the Lord were well attested to these Jewish men in the covenants Yahweh had made with the forefathers (Rom. 9:4-5). In other words, the apostolic gospel is predicated upon real words God has spoken to real people.


First, God’s covenants with Israel fuel Messianic expectation.[16] Drawing once again upon the creation narrative, the Messianic offspring promised in Genesis 3:14-19 finds a home in the seed of Abraham, who will “possess the gates of his enemies” and bless the nations of the earth (Gen. 22:17-18) as a king with a scepter and a “ruler’s staff (Gen. 49:10).”


This promise of a kingly Messiah is then further clarified in the Lord’s covenant with David (2 Sam. 7:12-14, Ps. 89:3) as he is promised he will have a son who will forever inherit the nations and rule from Zion, Yahweh’s “holy hill (Ps. 2:2-9).” It is for this reason and understanding of the covenants that that Matthew begins His gospel (Matt 1:1-16) by naming Jesus as a descendant of Abraham and shouting, “David!”[17]


Jesus is the “King of the Jews (Matt. 2:2)” and the “King of Israel (Matt. 27:42)” according to the covenants. But how Jewish is his kingdom?[18]


Were the disciples dead wrong in their assumptions when they asked if the now risen Jesus would “restore the kingdom to Israel (Act. 1:6)”?


In His death, resurrection, and sending of the Spirit, did Jesus reinterpret, reimagine, rehabilitate[19], or subvert what early Jews believed and hoped in for the Kingdom of God?


Should the events of 66- 70AD be interpreted as the end of the Jewish people’s priestly role among the nations[20] and as God’s divorce of ethnic Israel?[21]


Certainly not.[22] The consequences of believing that Yahweh has in anyway abrogated his clear promises to His first-born family has terrifying implications Jew and gentile alike.[23]


Rather, the hopes of the Jewish people; hopes for Jerusalem to be a joy (Is. 65:17-19), for the Lord to reign on and “build up (Ps. 102:16)” Mount Zion in “Jerusalem (Is. 24:23)”, for the nations come up to “to the House of Jacob” to learn God’s ways (Is. 2:2-4) were not subverted by the Messiah’s death, resurrection, and forty days of teaching, as if the simple understanding of the Kingdom was reimagined to now be present in the heart of believers or in the church.[24] Instead, they were confirmed! This much is clear based on the disciples only recorded question after these events, “Lord, will you at this time restore the Kingdom to Israel (Ac. 1:3-8)?”


After Jesus’ resurrection, the apostles still very much looked forward to eating and drinking with their Lord in His Kingdom (Lk. 22:15-30) and interpreted His individual resurrection as heralding the one to come (1 Cor. 15:20), confirming for them that the Kingdom, and with it the resurrection of the dead, was near[25]. In Jesus’ victory the promises to the patriarchs (Rom. 9:4-5) and the promise of the salvation of Israel (Rom. 11:11-29), are still on track.


Similarly, while the apostles held to an unchanged vision of the Kingdom of God according to the covenants, they also held to and proclaimed and an unchanged vision of the administration of that kingdom. According to the promise to Abraham (Gen. 12:1-3), the firstborn Son of David (Ps. 89:27) will superintend His Kingdom the firstborn family (Ex. 4:22, Jer. 31:9). This simply follows the basic pattern of Yahweh’s dealings with Israel the nations.[26]


The gospel is to the Jew first (Rom. 1:16). Wrath, tribulation, and fury at the Day of the Lord is for rejecting that gospel is to the Jew first (Rom. 2:9). And glory, honor, and peace at the Day of the Lord is to the Jew first (Rom. 2:10). This understanding of the administration of blessing to the nations through the first born[27] is undoubtedly what Jesus had in mind Matthew 19:28 when he assured His disciples they would sit on twelve thrones around his glorious throne, superintending the renewal of all things.[28]


This overtly ethnic portrayal of the Kingdom of God is often confusing to gentiles as they can feel slighted or feel as if the Lord’s administration of the Kingdom through Israel means God loves them less. This feeling of rejection or of the need to redefine Israel as the church,[29]however, is not necessary, for the apostles make clear that in the Messiah, God loves both Jew and Gentile alike (Gal. 3:28) and that both will inherit eternal life according to the grace of God (Ac. 15:11). The role of Israel in the administration of the blessings of the Kingdom is not according to love, but according to their responsibility as the firstborn.


For example, when a father dies, the oldest son, according to birthright, is charged with meting out the inheritance. This birthright is a responsibility, a privilege, and the mechanism by which the entire family is blessed with what the father has in store for them. Thus, gentiles should not see God’s faithfulness to His covenant and his choosing of Israel to administer those covenant blessings as off putting. Rather they should rejoice that God’s Kingdom plan for Jews and Gentiles is one of mutual blessing[30] and that indeed the glory of Isaiah 25 will come to pass.


In the City of the Great King (Ps. 48:1) gentiles will, as sons of Abraham (Gen. 17:4) and as happily engrafted olive branches[31] enjoy a rich meal with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Matt. 8:11-12) as they celebrate God’s fidelity to Jewish flesh[32] and the swallowing up of death forever. This is the apostolic hope according to the covenants, both of Jews who believed Jesus to be the Messiah and those who did not (Ac. 24:15).


Cross

Which brings us to the main contention of the New Testament: the cross.[33] For those expecting the Messiah’s kingdom to appear “immediately (Lk. 19:11)”, the death of the one they believed to fill that role was earth shattering.[34] Though John the Baptist seemed to have an inkling (Jn. 1:29), and though Jesus warned them (Matt. 16:21), the sentiment of the apostles was that “this shall never happen (Matt. 16:22)” as the common expectation around Jesus’ life and ministry was “that He was the one to redeem Israel (Lk. 24:21).”


Due to this confusion, we can surmise that this understanding of the necessity of the Messiah’s suffering before eschatological glory was the dominant topic of Jesus post-resurrection teaching (Lk. 24:13-27) and what that young man behind the tree was eavesdropping on. Consider, had Jesus not explained what was happening in His death, how would they know? It was necessary that the Messiah suffer, and it was necessary that He explain what His suffering meant.


To teach the early disciples, Jesus explained the cross via the Levitical system and the direct prophecies of messianic suffering (Is. 53:4-11) found in the Tanakh. As Jews, the disciples understood worshipers in the Levitical system were saved and forgiven by faith through the judgement that falls on the sacrifice (Lev. 17:10-11, 16:20-22).[35]


In this same way, the substitutionary death of Jesus[36], whereby He is both the victim and the priest who offers it,[37] functions to save and forgive those who trust in the sacrifice offered.


Thus, after being taught these things, the apostles declared that everyone who believes in Jesus’ cross as a sacrifice for sins will receive forgiveness of sins at the Day of the Lord and inherit eternal life in the Kingdom of God (Ac. 10:42-43).


For the apostles, the sacrificial cross functions as the mechanism for reconciliation[38], whereby those former enemies in Adam who now trust in the sacrifice are at peace with God (Col. 1:19-22) in Christ.  


The cross also functions for propitiation (Rom. 3:21-15) to appease God’s right wrath on sin and serves the means by which God justifies and those with trust righteous on the Day of the Lord (Rom. 5:1-9). In the cross and in the blood shed there, those with trust are also redeemed (Eph. 1:4-8) by the ransom Christ paid (Mk. 10:45). Finally, the cross is the means by which both Jew and gentile may inherit the “promised inheritance (Heb. 9:13-15).”[39]


Charisma

With these simple realities in view: a restored creation and Jewish kingdom inaugurated at the Day of the Lord and the cross as the means by which Jew and Gentile alike may inherit eternal life, the Lord gave the gift of the holy for three primary purposes.


First, the Lord gave the Spirit as deposit of the resurrection and the age to come (Eph. 1:11-4, 2 Cor. 5:15). The gift of The Spirit is not then perceived by the disciples as the entire bag of skittles, but one skittle, likely a green one, that fills them with hope of God’s appointed end to this age and the birth of the new one.


Second, the apostles understood the gift of the Spirit before the Day of the Lord as the means by which they are to bear witness to Jesus[40], especially among a hostile crowd (Ac. 1:4-8, 4:29-31).[41]

Time and time again, the apostles are “filled with” the Spirit to proclaim that the gospel is true.


And finally, the gift of the Spirit is understood as divine approval and confirmation of the message[42] of the cross and the Day of the Lord as Peter, by the Spirit, speaks that the one hung on a cross is in fact the Messiah (Acts 2:36-40) and that Lord has appointed Him to mete out judgement on the Day (Ac. 10:42-44).


By the Spirit he also proclaims that the gentiles who received the same Holy Spirit will seek the Lord when He returns to rebuild David’s fallen tent (Ac 15:21-21). Because these things are happening now by the Spirit’s power, they will assuredly happen then by the Spirit’s power.


Bearing Witness in Word & Lifestyle

The apostolic gospel is not hard to understand: “Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all…rose from the dead…He is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead. All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name (Ac. 10:36–43).”


Therefore, churches must give themselves to declaring this simple message so that people might hear, believe, and be saved from the wrath to come (Rom 10:10-13), and, like Paul, open eyes that people might turn from darkness and receive the forgiveness of sins (Ac.26:16-18). For this reason (1 Tim. 2:7), we have been recipients of this message and the empowering Spirit that we might serve in the gospel of the son (Romans 1:9) and speak with boldness (Ac. 4:29), preparing the world for the coming Kingdom.[43]


However, like the apostles, we are not sent only with a message of the coming Kingdom, we are also charged to live a life that matches characteristics and qualities of that coming kingdom. Or to say it another way: Those who proclaim the hope of the age to come must live for the age to come,[44] walking in such a manner (Eph. 4:1) that commends our gospel (Phil. 1:27) and is pleasing to the Lord (Col. 1:10). This way of living befits those who are called into the Kingdom (1 Thess. 2:2).


In the same way, if we are to preach the apostolic message of the cross, we must live out the cross.[45] If preach the cross without taking up our cross (Lk. 9:23), then the message of the cross is “emptied of its power (1 Cor. 1:17).” This simple call to all disciples and all churches (Matt. 16:24) is not optional (Lk 14:27) if our hope is to inherit eternal life (Jn. 12:25-26).


Though it is unlikely opportunities that would garner true martyrdom will reach Tonkawa’s borders anytime soon, this radical posture of laying down our lives to show mercy in little things and to forgive our enemies even in the face of death (Lk. 23:34) must be a defining feature in our community.[46]


Conclusion

The young man behind the tree behind the tree heard a message that changed, is changing, and will change the world.


He heard Jesus reaffirm God’s commitment to His creation, to His covenants, and to His Messiah.[47]


He heard Jesus teach that this promised kingdom and inheritance may be entered into by faith in His cross.


And lastly, he heard that this message of the cross before the day of the Lord would be confirmed by the giving and witness of the Holy Spirit. We too have heard this same message.


May God grant us grace and the Spirit’s power[48] to now bear witness to these things in word and deed.  Amen.


------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

[1] Millard Erickson, Christian Theology (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2013), 972.

[2] Unless otherwise specified, all Bible references in this paper are to the English Standard Version, (ESV) (Wheaton: Crossway, 2008).

 

[3] John Harrigan, The Gospel of Christ Crucified: A Theology of Suffering before Glory (Fayetteville: Paroikos) Kindle, Loc. 5812.

 

[4] Paula Eisenmbaum, Paul Was Not a Christian: The Original Message of a Misunderstood Apostle (New York: Harper Collins, 2009), 171.


[5] James M. Hamilton Jr., God’s Glory in Salvation through Judgment: A Biblical Theology (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2010), 78.

[6] Erickson, Christian Theology, 734.

[7] N.T Wright, Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church (Sydney: HarperCollins), 41.

 

[8] Erickson, Christian Theology, 790.

[9] Harrigan, The Gospel of Christ, loc.1733

[10] Erickson, Christian Theology, 1099.


[11] Eisenmbaum, Paul Was Not a Christian, 171.

[12] Harrigan, The Gospel of Christ, loc. 1397.

 

[13] Sandra Richter, The Epic of Eden: A Christian Entry into the Old Testament (Downers Grove: IVP, 2008), 129.

 

[14] Timothy Miller, Poised for Harvest, Braced for Backlash: Birthing New Testament Movements When Jesus Disrupts the Systems (Irving: Xulon Press, 2009), 67.

 

[15] Leon Morris, The Gospel according to Matthew, Pillar New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: IVP, 1992), 97–98.

[16] Walter Kaiser Jr, The Messiah in the Old Testament, Studies in Old Testament Biblical Theology (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1995), 42.

[17] Hamilton Jr, God’s Glory, 363.

 

[18] Joel Richardson, When a Jew Rules the World: What the Bible Really Says about Israel in the Plan of God (Winepress, 2018), 86-101.

 

[19] N.T. Wright, Jesus and the Victory of God (London: SPCK, 1996), 446, 47.

 

[20] Mark Kinzer and Russell Resnik, Besorah: The Resurrection of Jerusalem and the Healing of a Fractured Gospel (Eugene: Cascade, 2021), Kindle. Loc. 315.

 

[21] Brock Hollet, Debunking Preterism: How Over-Realized Eschatology Misses the “Not Yet” of Bible Prophecy (Kearney: Morris, 2018), 206.

 

[22] Michael Brown, Our Hands are Stained with Blood: The Tragic Story of the Church and the Jewish People, Revised & Expanded Edition (Shippensburg: Destiny, 2019), 166.

 

[23] Hamilton, God’s Glory, 102.

[24] Erickson, Christian Theology, 702.


[25] Paula Fredriksen, Jesus of Nazareth: King of the Jews (New York: Vintage, 1999), 262.

 

[26] Eisenmbaum, Paul Was Not a Christian, 207.


[27] Carmen Imes, Bearing God’s Name: Why Sinai Still Matters (Downers Grove: IVP, 2019), 169.

 

[28] Barry Horner, Eternal Israel: Biblical, Theological, and Historical Studies that Uphold the Eternal, Distinctive Destiny of Israel (Nashville: B&H, 2018), 17-33.

 

[29] Erickson, Christian Theology, 965.

[30] Kendall Soulen, The God of Israel and Christian Theology (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1996), 132.


[31] Barry Horner, Future Israel: Why Christian Anti-Judaism Must Be Challenged, NAC Studies (Nashville: B&H, 2007), 252.

 

[32] Soulen, The God of Israel, 133.

 

[33] Erickson, Christian Theology, 740-744.

[34] Fredriksen, Jesus, 265.

 

[35] Hamilton, God’s Glory, 111.

           

[36] John Stott, The Cross of Christ (Downers Grove: IVP), 1986, 161.


[37] Erickson, Christian Theology, 741.

 

[38] Erickson, Christian Theology, 743.

 

[39] Harrigan, The Gospel of Christ, Loc. 4923.

 

[40] Craig Keener, Gift and Giver: The Holy Spirit Speaks Today (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2001), 109.


[41] Jack Deere, Why I am still Surprised by the Power of the Spirit: Discovering How God Speaks & Heals Today (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2020), 168-177.

 

[42] Roland Allen, Missionary Methods: St. Paul’s or Ours? A Study for the Church in the Four Provinces (Abbotsford: Aneko Press, 2017), 33.

 

[43] Benedict Viviano, The Kingdom of God in History (Eugene: Wipf & Stock, 1988), 22.

 

[44] Harrigan, Gospel of Christ, Loc. 5990.

 

[45] Dalton Thomas, Unto Death: Martyrdom, Missions, and Maturity of the Church (Tauranga: Maskilim, 2012), 119.

 

[46] Craig Keener, Revelation, NIV Application Commentary (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2000), 223.

 

[47] Mark Kinzer, Jerusalem Crucified, Jerusalem Risen: The Resurrected Messiah, the Jewish People, and the Land of Promise (Wipf & Stock, 2018), 8.

 

[48] Erickson, Christian Theology, 803. 

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We’re Moving!

IMPORTANT DATES:

  • SUNDAY | FEBRUARY 20 | PRAYER MEETING & PICTURE

On Sunday, February 20th, we will have a little shorter worship service and then head to the new church property for a time of prayer and a church picture. 


  • MONDAY | FEB 28 | LITTLE SPROUTS AT FBC


  • MONDAY | FEB 28 | OFFICE MOVING DAY

Gloria and her office will move to FBC. 


  • SUNDAY | MARCH 13 | LAST WORSHIP IN WEST GRAND

We chose the worst Sunday of the year (Daylight Savings) as our last one in the West Grand property. Wake up an hour earlier and gather with the church to thank the Lord for all He has done on this corner block. 


  • SUNDAY | MARCH 13 | “GRAB A CHAIR” SUNDAY

After worship, we ask that those with trucks or trailers make themselves available for us to load our black and green sanctuary chairs, and deliver them to the west side of the FBC. 


  • MONDAY | MARCH 14 | GARAGE SALE DROP OPEN

If you have any items for the April 2nd Garage Sale, you may begin dropping them at the church. 


  • SATURDAY | MARCH 19 | “WHERE IS MY CLASSROOM?”

If you’re worried about finding your classroom, Josh will be at FBC from 6:00-7:00pm to give a tour. 


  • SUNDAY | MARCH 20 | FIRST SUNDAY AT FBC

Worship will begin at 9:00am sharp and will end before 10:30. Classes will begin as soon as members can get to their classrooms after (between 10:35-10:45). 


  • FRIDAY-SATURDAY | APRIL 1-2 | GARAGE SALE

Our church will hold a garage sale in the Fellowship Hall. All funds raised will go towards the new building. 





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Kyle's Memorial Sermon

Good afternoon. My name is Josh.

On behalf of the family, I am grateful that you’re here, but I’m also sorry that you’re here. 

We shouldn't be here, in this place, on this day, doing this thing. But we are.

It’s not a dream or trance or make believe. It’s real.  And because it’s real, because this won’t go away if we just open our eyes and roll out of bed, I need to share some really important news with you.

Michelle had two goals for this service. 

  1. That we would worship the Lord and 
  2. That the gospel would be preached and heard, and believed. 

Michelle’s hope in having a funeral was that, by Kyle’s death, someone else might get on the path of life. 


What is the Gospel?

And so because today is real, I get to give you real news. 

And the news is this: 

Because God raised Jesus from the dead; literally, physically, and bodily, we can trust all of God’s promises. 


  • We can trust God’s promise to Eve that the serpent's head, along with Sin and Death, will be crushed. 
  • We can trust God’s promise to Abraham, that all the peoples of the earth will be freed from the curse of death and receive the blessing of resurrection life. 
  • We can trust God’s promise to David, that a Son will sit on His throne and rule all the nations in righteousness and they’ll turn their swords into plows in a kingdom that never ends. 
  • We can trust God’s promise to the prophets, that all those who mourn will be comforted, as as the Lord prepares a feast of rich food and well aged wine, and the Lord Himself serves the meal and wipes every tear from our eyes and all things are made new. 


Because God was faithful to His promise to raise Jesus from the dead, we’re confident He’s faithful to come through on every other promise that He made, the promise of the resurrection of the dead and the restoration of all things. 

The hope of the gospel is simple: 


Now is not always. Things won’t be this way forever. 


Mourning

But right now they are this way.

Right now we’re born, we live, and then go back to the dirt. 

This the curse of the present evil age. This is the sting of death that we all acutely feel right now. Things are not yet made right and so we grieve. 

Right now we’re mourning the death of a son, husband, father, and friend. 

We feel the pain of death right now. We feel its ache. And that is good and that is right. 

But even as we feel this loss and this pain we remember with the Psalmist that:


“the Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit (Psalm 34:18).”


We remember that:


“He keeps count of our tossings, He puts our tears in His bottle (Psalm 56:8).


But as wonderful and as true as those words are, they’re not the gospel. 

The gospel is not Jesus saying, “I’m so sorry.”

On the day Jesus wept with Mary and Martha when their brother Lazarus died, He didn’t just say, “I’m sorry.”  He had a solution, a gospel, for their problem. 

And in his own grief, and to the grieving sisters he said,


“Because I am the resurrection and the life, your brother will rise again.”


In other words, Jesus in his own grief and to their grieving said: 


Now is not always. Things won't be this way forever. 


There is an appointed end to the curse of Sin and Death.

There’s a real day:

  • When sadness stops
  • When crying stops
  • When suffering stops
  • when funerals stop
  • When cancer wards are empty
  • and when the grind of this age finally ends.


There’s a coming day when the Lord returns, destroys sin and death, and restores the heavens, the earth, and everything in them to glory forever. 


Now is not always!! Your brother will rise again!

Now is not always! Kyle will rise again! 

Now is not always! And you, if you believe what Kyle believed? You too will rise again to everlasting life. 


Why I Believe the Gospel

This is what I believe in, and it’s what all followers of Jesus believe in; every tear wiped away and a restoration of all things by the power of God; all things new. 

And I believe this for two reasons. 


First, because God raised Jesus from the dead. 

And the guy who gets raised from the dead gets to tell people like me and you what’s true. 

And if Jesus says it’s true that everyone who trusts:

  • in His cross for their sins,  
  • In His tomb for their death
  • In His resurrection for their eternal life
  • And follows him in repentance until He returns
  • will never die, but live forever in His Father’s Kingdom

I believe Him!

That’s the first reason I believe the gospel. 

Jesus loves me this I know, for the bible tells me so. 

But I have a second reason for believing the gospel. 


Second, Kyle and Michelle.

Kyle and Michelle are my friends. He knew me before I knew him. My family of 7 moved from the country to Tonkawa and as Kyle tells it, he was introduced to the Reese’s because some of us were playing in the sprinkler in the backyard, buck-naked. In the country you didn’t wear clothes. On Meadow Lane, you should.


Fast forward from those early years and I knew them from church, specifically when the cancer diagnosis came about. If you don’t know that story, they kicked its butt. Glioblastoma gives you 18 months tops. 

Kyle wasn’t supposed to live, but he did and when he did, they stood up in church and told us about it and everyone else who would listen how the Lord kept and strengthened them and  healed them how they grew nearer to Him through it. 


Fast forward a bit more and they’re more involved in our church’s life, Kyle serving as a deacon and Michelle giving leadership to the food pantry (and everywhere else). I started pastoring then. 

During this time, Kyle is getting jacked. He was a real life Popeye the Sailor Man. I wanted to get in shape and so I asked him what time the gun show started and he said 5:00am, which was not the answer I wanted to hear.


But this is really when we became friends; when I met near daily with this godly, humble, husband, father, son, churchman, cancer survivor, happy-go-lucky dude, who rolled into the gym at 5:00 and never complained, but instead was always positive and encouraging.

Even when the cancer came back, he wouldn’t complain and neither would Michelle. They just kept believing the gospel. 


Fast forward from there just to last year, and we’ve spent the past 60-70 Sundays in a living room together with our house group, eating, singing to the Lord, praying for each other, and discussing the scriptures when the kids volume is low enough. 

I say all that to say, these are my friends. 


And through this friendship, I’ve been given yet one more reason to believe the gospel. 


I can believe it because they believed it and are still believing it. 

You want to know the measure of one’s faith? It’s not on display when everything is going well. 

It’s easy to say you believe the gospel and you love Jesus :

  • when your kids are healthy, 
  • when you get a raise, 
  • When things are going well at home.

Anyone can say “We love you Lord!” on the beach. 


The measure of a person’s faith, the litmus test for what someone really believes deep down in their guts, is only on display when the wicked powers of this age raise their head. 

  • When you have a seizure at Thanksgiving
  • When you get a diagnosis that says, “You have 6 months.”
  • When you have two craniotomies
  • When your can’t play with your kids
  • And when you hold you hold your husband’s hand as he passes away.

Kyle and Michelle’s faith was tested. 

Do they believe the gospel? Do they believe God’s promise that things won’t be this way forever for those who trust in Him?

Well I can tell you that they do. 

I watched Kyle run His race faithfully. 

And I’m watching Michelle run it right now. 

When Kyle passed and went to be with the Lord and to wait for the resurrection, Michelle knelt down at his side, not to cry, not to scream, but to worship and thank God 

  • for every gift He’s given them, 
  • for the time they had together, 
  • for their children, 
  • and for the gospel that guarantees the day when death, sorrow, and pain, are no more, and when God will wipe away every tear from our eyes (Revelation 21:4). 


I believe the gospel because the bible tells so. 

But I also believe the gospel because the Owen’s have shown me so. 


Kyle will,  in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye be raised from the dead! (1Thes 4:16),(1 Cor. 15:51-52). 

And on that day, when He’s looking again like Popeye we’ll say: 


“Death is swallowed up in victory.” “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” (1 Cor 15:53-55)


Now is not always.  

  • Kyle’s story didn’t end with a cancer diagnosis. 
  • Kyle’s story didn’t end with the first or second craniotomies. 
  • Kyle’s story didn’t end in a hospital bed in Ponca City. 


What I’m telling you this afternoon, and what I’m pleading with you to believe, is that because of Jesus, Kyle’s story doesn’t end.

Because of Jesus, He’s gonna live forever. He’s done with death. 

And because that’s true, we can hold on and not lose heart because we know the afflictions we endure in this age are only light and momentary. And they can’t compare to the eternal weight of glory to come. 


Now is not always. Things won't be this way forever. 


Repent of your sins and believe the gospel and you will see Kyle again. 



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Shatter the Wish Dream: Part 2

In the last post (read it here:https://tonkawaclc.com/blogs/3155720--shatter-the-wish-dream-part-1 )I shared on the glories and dangers of the wish dream for churches, writing:


"We all have wish dreams about the church we want. But in all of our wishing, and dreaming, and even praying, we cannot, allow grand visions about what our church could be, prevent us from loving what our church is. We must not allow the wish dream about the flock to prevent us from loving the flock of God that is among us.

Love the flock you have in the present. Love the flock you are becoming. And, like Jesus, love the flock we will become. "


Welcome One Another, As Christ Has Welcomed You


So what are we to do instead? 

How do we “shatter” the wish dream like Bonhoeffer said?

Paul tells in Romans 15. 

Romans is a letter written to believers who needed their wish dream shattered; who needed their ideal church community drowned so their actual church community could live. 

The church at Rome began as a Jewish church, meaning Jews who were at Pentecost and believed Peter’s words about Jesus being the Messiah, went back to Rome and started what we would call “Messianic Jewish” congregations, or more accurately, true Judaism as it was meant to be (and will be!) Then, because this is part of their task in their election to be a light to the nations,  the light from these Jews went to the gentiles and the gentiles joined the church. 


Things were messy!


The Jewish believers are adhering to the Torah, but the gentile believers weren’t so sure about circumcision and not eating bbq. But, because of their shared worship of the Messiah, they were determined to work it out. 


However, in AD 49 Emperor Claudius expelled all the Jews from Rome, Messianic and otherwise and the once Jew/Gentile church became simply a gentile church with potluck bbq every Sunday and circumcision scalpels in sight.  

But then, 5 years later, Claudius reversed the law and here come the Jews back into Rome! And with their return come the same problems, this time flipped; not, “How can gentiles worship with Jews, but how can Jews worship with gentiles?” 

Due to the ethical and theological questions this posed, Paul wrote 16 chapters to help them figure it out, and by my count, he didn’t and essentially told them, “You’re all sinners. You all need Jesus. He’s coming. Do your best in the meantime. Sincerely, Paul.”

The church in Rome had a wish dream. And that thing needed shattered. 


(Romans 15:5)

May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. 


That’s all beautiful. But verse 7 is what this post is about. 


7 Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.


Verse 7 shatters our wish dreams. 


Verse 7 causes us to view, think about, care for, and live with our fellow members in terms of how Jesus has viewed, thought about, and cared for us.


Do you see? 


Christ welcomed you even though you hated Him. 


Christ welcomed you even though you ignored Him.


Christ welcomed you even though you’re the cause of the nails in His hands and thorns on His brow. 


This is the posture of our Lord, welcome; open arms of mercy! 


Earlier in the same letter Paul wrote:

(Romans 5:8–10)

God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. 



If Jesus welcomed us according to our merit or what we could do for him, he’d welcome none of us. But because He welcomes according to his tender mercy and loving kindness, He welcomes all of us who repent of our sin and trust in Him. 


And he does not sulk or sigh about us. He’s eager to love us. He’s eager to minister to us. 

So how do we shatter our wish dreams for christian community and fellowship?

We welcome one another as Christ has welcomed us. 

We forgive one another as Christ has forgiven us.

We love one another as Christ has loved us. 

We don’t just welcome the wish dream version.

We don’t just forgive the wish dream version

We don’t just love the wish dream version.

We love, welcome, and forgive, the real version, the reality right in front of us, the flock of God that is among us. 


Jesus Will Make All Your Dreams Come True

In all of that life-laying-down-cross-carrying-long-suffering-love, there exists good news.: Jesus will make all our wish dreams come true. 

Here’s what I mean. In the present moment, in what the Old Testament and New Testament attests to over and over and over, we’re in a present evil age. 

The effects of the curse of sin have not been reversed. 

However, because of the cross, the resurrection, the ascension, and the Spirit sending, It’s reversal has been guaranteed. God is indeed going to do the thing He promised to Adam and Noah, and Abraham, and Isaac and Jacob and Moses and David, and the prophets. 

And though it’s reversal has been guaranteed for the future, the present still looks like it does, with Satan prowling, creation groaning, and bodies decaying. And for believers, part of living in this present evil age means that believers are still presently susceptible to sin. 

Which means this: We sin and hurt one another. We're less than our wish-dream versions.

But the curse is not the end of the story. 

Jesus will actually make all of our wish dreams come true. He has a day in heart, burning like an oven


  • when the curse will finally be reversed, 
  • when the Lord will light Gehenna on fire with the breath of His mouth and that prowling lion and his minions are tossed into it
  • When creation is “Re-Edened”
  • When our bodies are “Re-Edened”
  • And the Lord sits on David’s throne in Jerusalem, ruling the nations in righteousness. 


In that day, our wish dreams and the Lord’s wish dreams, come true as the Lord presents the church “to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.”

There’s our wish dream come true. 

That day, when Jesus receives the reward of His suffering, is real. 

We won’t have wish dreams anymore because reality has taken it over as we are presented to the Son in splendor, without spot, wrinkle, or any such thing, holy, and without blemish, no wish dream necessary.



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Shatter the Wish Dream: Part 1

Shattering The Wish Dream Part 1

"Shepherd the flock of God that is among you…"

  • 1 Peter 5:2

Do you have dreams? Dreams about your life, your spouse, your job, your children? 

It’s good to dream; to sit and ponder, even fantasize, about what could be. 

But there’s often a hidden danger in dreaming about what could be; a malicious spirit of discontentment that can cripple families, empires, and even churches.

 

In describing this danger as it concerns congregational life, Dietrich Bonhoeffer termed this, “the wish dream.”


So what is the wish dream? For churches, for members, for deacons, for pastors, the wish dream is loving the idea of your church and not the reality of your church.


1 Peter 5:2’s eight word admonition to the elders tells us a few things to keep in mind about the church we’ve found ourselves in. 


The Flock is God’s

The first thing Peter teaches us to keep in mind about our church? It’s God’s. 

As much as we think about these people/this place being “ours”, it’s good to be reminded, and reminded often, that ultimately it isn’t ours and whatever portion of it belongs to us only belongs to us as a gift. 

Why does the church belong to God? Because He paid for it in blood. 


“Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood.”

  • Acts 20:28


Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.

  • Revelation 5:9-10


In our wish dreaming about our church, don’t forget Who it belongs to. 

But Peter doesn’t just tell us this is God’s flock, he directs our attention to the location of the flock. 

And where is the flock? “Among you.” 

Well duh Peter, as opposed to where? As opposed to who? What other flock could we possibly love and care for?  

Well, rather than shepherding the church we have, our wish dreaming could tempt us to love another imaginary flock instead!

What’s your wish dream church like?


What about the members?

 Are they all growing in holiness? Evangelizing and discipling? Attending worship? Attending prayer meetings? Attending...anything? Are they serving without being begged? Are they giving without being guilted? Are they thinking maturely, acting lovely, speaking kindly, and forgiving quickly?


What about the pastors? 

Do they hit a homerun every Sunday? Are they as skillful with the greek as they are at the hospital bed?Are they as doctrinally precise as a professor, as powerful as a revivalist, and as engaging as a tv personality? Do they run the church like a well-oiled machine but also treat the members as family? 


What about the programs?

Is the children’s ministry polished? Is the youth group fun? When is the next senior’s trip? Is the church running out of leadership opportunities because the amount of apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, teachers, and deacons being raised up is happening so quickly?


What about the worship? 

Is anyone there? Do you feel loved when you walk in? Has the room been prepared in prayer? Is the music your type? Too many hymns? Not enough hymns? Does it seem like the heavens open when we sing? Are people comforted, healed, delivered, or encouraged, when we pray? Is the Spirit present in a powerful way? Does a new person join the church or turn to the Lord every week? Is our hot water bill rising due to all the baptisms? Is the Lord worshipped in Spirit and truth? 


Warning Against the Wish Dream

These are all wish dreams. And they’re all good ones. It’s my hope for my own life, that when I wish dream about the church, I do it like this, wanting all the Lord is willing to give us for His glory and our joy.

But we cannot forget that this is a dream and to combat the wish dream, to love the church we have and not the one we’d like, we do well to remember Bonhoeffer, who writes in Life Together


"If we do not give thanks daily for the Christian fellowship in which we have been placed, even where there is no great experience, no discoverable riches, but much weakness, small faith, and difficulty; if on the contrary, we only keep complaining to God that everything is so paltry and petty, so far from what we expected, then we hinder God from letting our fellowship grow according to the measure and riches which are there for us all in Jesus Christ. 

This applies in a special way to the complaints often heard from pastors and zealous members about their congregations. A pastor should not complain about his congregation, certainly never to other people, but also not to God. A congregation has not been entrusted to him in order that he should become its accuser before God and men. When a person becomes alienated from a Christian community in which he has been placed and begins to raise complaints about it, he had better examine himself first to see whether the trouble is not due to his wish dream that should be shattered by God; and if this be the case, let him thank God for leading him into this predicament.But if not, let him nevertheless guard against ever becoming an accuser of the congregation before God. Let him rather accuse himself for his unbelief. Let him pray to God for understanding of his own failure and his particular sin, and pray that he may not wrong his brethren. Let him, in the consciousness of his own guilt, make intercession for his brethren. Let him do what he is committed to do, and thank God . . .

What may appear weak and trifling to us may be great and glorious to God. Just as the Christian should not be constantly feeling his spiritual pulse, so, too, the Christian community has not been given to us by God for us to be constantly taking its temperature. The more thankfully we daily receive what is given to us, the more surely and steadily will fellowship increase and grow from day to day as God pleases."


We all have wish dreams about the church we want. But in all of our wishing, and dreaming, and even praying, we cannot, allow grand visions about what our church could be, prevent us from loving what our church is. We must not allow the wish dream about the flock to prevent us from loving the flock of God that is among us. 


Love the flock you have in the present. Love the flock you are becoming. And, like Jesus, love the flock we will become, which will be in the next post. 


Until He Comes,

Josh

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If You Can't Sing Now

*This article is based off the sermon notes from the Blue Christmas service*


Psalm 13 is a Psalm of lament and sadness. 

But more than that, Psalm 13 is ultimately a Psalm of hope; a Psalm for Blue Christmases past and present. 


Blue Christmas is meant for lamenting and grieving, but it is not meant for lamenting and grieving as those without hope.


And our hope is a distinctly Christian hope, a hope anchored in the truth that the present state of things will one day cease and instead of lament and grief all we’ll know forever is glory and goodness and love and life and light and peace.

 

How Long?


The psalmist begins:

“How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day? How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?”


This is common parlance for despair, words and thoughts that afflict the sufferer. 


“How long, oh Lord? How long will I feel this way? How long will this ache remain? I keep waking up in the night with this weight on my chest, this weight on my heart, this weight on my mind, how long will it be this way, oh Lord?”


If you’ve prayed this way, consciously or unconsciously, you’re praying like the King of Israel prayed when he felt abandoned by God. 


Of this lament John Calvin writes:

“... when we are for a long time weighed down by calamities, and when we do not perceive any sign of divine aid, this thought unavoidably forces itself upon us, that God has forgotten us.


Alone


And when it feels like God has forgotten us, we feel alone.

David continues:

“How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day?”


These pains, whatever they are, were meant to be shared with our Maker, and secondarily, they were meant to be shared with other believers. We’re not designed to grieve and lament alone. 


But that’s what seems to be happening here. David’s only counsel, only solace, seemingly, is in himself. He’s alone.


Consider Me


But note David’s next move. Even though he feels alone and feels as though the Lord has abandoned him in his time of need, he still returns to the Lord in prayer. He bears his soul to His God. He kept, like Jesus later, entrusting his soul to the righteous judge on the throne. “My God my God why have you forsaken me?” is still prayer; still incense. 


“Consider and answer me, O LORD my God…”


This is all David can do. He might not be able to get out of bed. He might not be able to keep it together at work. Whatever. But he can pray and so he does. 


“...light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death…”


David’s despair is to the point of death. If the Lord doesn’t intervene, if the Lord doesn’t “light up his eyes”, David’s assumption is he will perish and go down to Sheol. 


It is very real for the sufferer to feel so discouraged, so downtrodden, and so hopeless, that death would be relief. The king of Israel (past and present) dealt with emotions deep as these. 


It Won’t Be This Way Forever


But verse 5 and 6 bring a turn. Verse 5 and 6 are the promise of the gospel, the promise that the present state of things, of this age with its sickness and sadness, earthquakes and hurricanes, cancer and covid, depression and suicide, and funerals and death WILL ONE DAY CEASE! THINGS WON’T BE THIS WAY FOREVER!


And so David prays:


“But I have trusted in your steadfast love”


This is primary. To reap the benefits of verse 6, we trust in the Lord and in His steadfast love, and we do so in a way far greater than David could.


Why? 


Because we know of the Christmas story, of Immanuel coming to dwell among us! 

We know about the crown of thorns. 

We know how He carried that beam up Golgotha. 

We know about the nail-scarred hands.

We know the lengths God went to show His steadfast love for sinners. 


Now watch the turn. 


“I have trusted in your steadfast love”


Saying, “Past and present, I am trusting you because it’s all I have. No amount of money can cure what ails me, no pill, no vacation, only you and your steadfast love.”


And now he looks forward to ultimate hope:


“....my heart shall rejoice in your salvation, I will sing to the LORD, because he has dealt bountifully with me.”


Note David’s progression:

  • “I have trusted” :PAST. 
  • “My heart shall rejoice” :FUTURE
  • “I will sing” :FUTURE


And why can David say these things? Why can he believe them to be true? 

  • Because “He has dealt with me bountifully” PAST


Or, to read the phrase backwards:


“Because God has shown us mercy in the past, we know that He will also deal bountifully with us in the future!” 


Just as we rejoiced when He saved our souls, we know we will also rejoice at the resurrection when He makes all things new; when he raises our bodies up out of the grave to dwell with Him forever on the earth! 


But not our body only, also the bodies of those we’ve lost who have died in Him. 

And when we see those things on that future day, our heart shall rejoice in His salvation and we will sing to the LORD. 


The sorrow may be so great that you can’t sing right now and that’s ok. 


But you better believe that you will sing later. You will rejoice in His salvation. And you will sing. 


My hope is not that we stop grieving. Grief is a gift of God to remind us of the present evil of this age and point us to the age to come; to the resurrection and the kingdom of God. Grief keeps us from placing our hopes where they should not be placed. 


My hope is, that as we grieve, we would not grieve as those without hope. 


But in the end, it’s only a passing thing, this shadow.

Even darkness must pass.

A new day will come.

And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer.


And on that day, we will no longer grieve, we will rejoice and we will sing. 

As the apostle Peter wrote to elders of the churches in the dispersion, now I say to you:


And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.”


Christ will come. He will wipe every tear from our eyes and make all things new. 

“It is winter in Narnia,” said Mr. Tumnus, “and has been forever so long…. always winter, but never Christmas.”


But Aslan is coming. 

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How Many Times?


A Quick Review

On Sunday, September 27th, I preached a sermon on church discipline and good times were had by all;)


Church discipline is simply the idea that the members of local churches take seriously their call to formatively discipline one another by “exhorting” and “encouraging” one another (Heb 3:13, 1 Thess 5:11) AND correctively discipline one another by “rebuking” and “warning” one another (1 Tim. 5:20).


For the health, witness, and holiness of the local church, this type of discipline should happen on a daily/weekly/monthly basis, just like we would discipline our bodies on a daily/weekly/monthly basis for its livelihood.


However, due to the depth of sin and the evil of the present age, there are times in the life of the church where this general formative/corrective discipline is not getting through and a brother continues in their wandering away from the truth. 


When this happens, Jesus teaches local churches to, after much patience, prayer, and pleading, excommunicate the wandering brother as an act of love to wake them from their slumber. 


The process is as follows:


15 “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. 16 But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. 17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. 18 Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. 19 Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. 20 For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them. (Matthew 18:15-20)”


The member the church had “bound” in through baptism is now “loosed” through excommunication. 


How Many Times?

I won’t re-preach the whole sermon here (you can listen anywhere you get your podcasts), but as I was thinking more on the subject and discussing it with church members these last two weeks, the thought was handed to me,


“How many times do we do this?”


Meaning, imagine a member walked through this process once. He/she loved their sin so much and they refused repentance even with the pleading of an individual, several members, and eventually the whole church. And then they were excommunicated.


But several weeks, days, months, later, they repented! They saw their sin for what it was and felt the kindness of the Lord and the kindness of the congregation’s actions in taking such serious steps to wake them up. They were brought back into fellowship; the prodigal came home. 


But then, a year later, the same thing happened. 

The member went through the discipline process again. 

The member was excommunicated again. 

And it worked, eventually they came to repentance again. 


But then, a year later, the same thing happened…


You see where I’m going. 


So, how many times? Jesus tells us in the very next section of Matthew:


21 Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” 22 Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.


Jesus seems to imply that as long as there is breath in the lungs, churches are to forgive when a sinner comes home, whether that be once, twice, three times, or, yes, seventy-seven times. 


As a member of a local church, this thought thrills me. Jesus calls us to love our brothers and sisters with real love; love that would offend us rather than let us continue in our delusion and love that will always receive us like the Lord does when we repent, for “a broken and contrite heart He will not despise (Ps. 51:17)”


Until He Comes,

Josh


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More Than Bathroom Reading

Why a Church Directory?

There are many reasons churches create directories. 


Ranging from 

  • the nostalgia that comes from remembering saints gone by, 
  • to the laughter that comes from the hair and clothes 15 years removed from their hay-day, 
  • or to having something to read in bathroom,

church directories are a nice item to have. 


The Second Most Important Book

Nice as those things may be, the main reason for producing a church directory is for discipleship.

Mark Dever (one of the most influential voices in my life concerning pastoral ministry) is famous for saying, “Next to the bible, this is the most important book I own.”

Dever says this because the most important book, the bible, says this: 

“Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you. (Hebrews 13:17)”

And

“Shepherd the flock of God that is among you (1 Peter 5:2)”


A Tool For Prayer

As elders and pastors, by having a church directory,  we can be regularly reminded of the saints that the Lord has entrusted us to watch over, those we will give account for; those that are among us. The directory then becomes useful, not simply for nostalgia, or laughter, or something to set on the coffee table, but useful as a tool for prayer, not just for elders, but for every member. 

Once these are made available, every member of the church will be able to (online or in print) take time each to pray through “The A’s” on Mondays, the “B’s” on Tuesdays, “The C’s” on Wednesdays and so on, putting names with faces and faces with names. 


Using the directory as a tool can only be beneficial in our mission to make disciples so Jesus is worshipped in Tonkawa and the nations, and I’m looking forward to getting them in our hands. 


Until He Comes,

Josh



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The Living and Active Word from a Living and Active Life

“And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.”

  • Paul to the Corinthians

The Living and Active Word

Many times during the sermon portion of worship last Sunday, I felt the urge to cry. As a non-crier, I wanted to share why. 


Followers of Jesus believe God’s word is “living and active (Hebrews 4:12).”

We believe that when it’s read, sung, taught, preached, etc; it’s doing something, “teaching, reproofing, correcting, and training (2 Timothy 3:16).”

However, while we believe it is always living and active, there are times when it is “living-er” and “activ-er”,  especially when it comes with (Pentecostal people, go with me here), “unction.”


Living and Active Messengers

Where and when is this “unction” most noticeably present?

I believe unction is most present when the messenger of the living and active word, is someone who has lived out the living and active word. 

For example, 


  • Have you ever heard a frontier missionary teach on the necessity of the gospel advancing to the hardest and darkest places? 

Did that living and active word hit differently? It did! The living and active messenger not only believed what they were saying, they’d practiced it in real time.


  • What about a compulsive giver? 

When my dad, who is not the (materially) richest man in the world, takes the offering at church, I feel it. He can’t go 5 seconds without sharing what the Lord has blessed him with (I think he learned it from his dad). The living and active word hits differently when it comes through a living and active messenger.

You can see where I’m going. 


Last Sunday, hearing a cowboy shepherd teach the premiere shepherd text in the bible came with unction. 

Joe has loved and served the members of this flock as an imperfect under-shepherd to the Good and Perfect Shepherd for decades and when he read “shepherd the flock of God that is among you, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you (1 Peter 5:2)” it hit differently. 


Do Our Words Come With Unction?

This moment caused me to think, “Do my words come with unction?” Not just as a preacher, but as a disciple of Jesus who is about His business to make disciples. When I talk about Jesus with an unbeliever, do they “feel” my words? When I’m reading the bible with another Christian, am I simply parroting the texts, or are they coming out of me as someone who has, however imperfectly, aimed to walk them out? 


These are good diagnostic questions to ask yourselves. The word of God always has been and always will be living and active, but we should ask our Father for the good gift of living them out so that when we speak that living and active word to believers and unbelievers alike, it comes with unction. 


Until He Comes,

Josh


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What's a Few More Laps?

Arm Yourselves

 

In 1 Peter 4:1, the apostle writes to marginalized believers:

 

"Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking...(1 Peter 4:1)"

 

Meaning this:

Prepare your heart, mind, and flesh, to suffer for righteousness sake; for the cause of Christ. Arm yourselves. Get ready. Don’t put off thinking big thoughts about whether or not this Jesus stuff is just a hobby for you, or if it is SOMETHING and He is SOMEONE

 

  • you’d willingly be thrown to lions for, 
  • willingly burn at a stake for, 
  • or willingly stand in front of a firing squad for.

 

Have you armed yourself in this way?

 

If you haven’t and you live where I live, I get it.

In the US of A, most of us live in heart and spirit-numbing comfort and ease and it’s easy to dismiss apostolic commissions such as these by thinking, 

 

“It will never come down to that. I’ll live here, sing songs on Sunday, take the kids to soccer practice during the week, raise grand kids, and die peacefully in my sleep in my 80’s.”

 

And you could very well be right.....But what if you’re not? 

 

One Big Yes

 

Peter, and every other prophet and apostle (Jesus included!) always lay out discipleship (and the faith required for discipleship) in terms of life and death; in terms of martyrdom. 

 

Why do they do that? 

 

Why, when calling people to discipleship, do they first call people to suffering and martyrdom? 

 

The reason is this: Bound up into that big “YES” to martyrdom; to death, are a thousand smaller “yeses" along the way.* 

 

“Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God (1 Peter 4:1-2).”

 

Peter’s not saying, “If you suffer in the flesh, you will never sin again.”

 

He’s saying, 

 

“If you’ve got the big “YES” martyrdom, suffering in the flesh, and death, taken care of, these other calls to follow Jesus, the little “yeses” needed along the way, are already also taken care of. You won’t live for human passions, you’ll live for the will of God.”

 

What’s a Few More Laps?

 

I’ve always run distance races. Reason one being because I am mostly legs, and reason two being because I like to win. (From my earliest days racing, everyone signed up to run the 100 meter dash or long jump, but few signed up to run the mile and 2 mile; so in the worst case scenario, I’m getting 3rd place every time.) 

 

Once I got to high school , I really started running the distance; 4 miles every meet. 

The day started with the 2 mile run (8 laps), then the 2 mile relay (2 laps), then the 800 meter run (2 laps), and then to cap it off and bore people before the mile relay (which is just a ton of fun to watch), the day ended with the mile run (4 laps).

 

Do you know why I was able to do that every Saturday in the spring? 

 

I was able to say “yes” to 2 laps, 2 more laps, and then 4 more laps, because I’d already given my big “YES” to 8 laps.

In my head every Saturday I’m thinking, after running 8 laps: 

 

“Two more laps? Ok. I already did 8.”

“Oh, two more laps again? I already did 8.”

“Wow! 4 more laps now? I already did 8.” 

 

By giving the big “YES” to the hardest race (this illustration isn’t perfect because the 800 is actually the hardest race and the hellscape of track and field, but you get the point) I could do the rest of the small “yeses”. 

 

Martyrdom = 8 Laps

 

That’s what the call to martyrdom in scripture is about. 

 

A big “YES” to this big commandment covers the small “yeses” to small commandments.

 

  • By giving the big “YES” to martyrdom, we’re simultaneously giving the small “yes” to not consuming porn.
  • By giving the big “YES” to martyrdom, we’re simultaneously giving the small “yes” to resisting gossip.
  • By giving the big “YES” to martyrdom, we’re simultaneously giving the small “yes” to gather with the church or share the gospel. 

 

Do you see what I’m saying? 

 

If we can’t follow Jesus four blocks to the church building once a week for an hour and a half (a hilariously small “yes”), what makes us think we’ll follow him to the gallows (a great big giant “YES”)?

 

If we can’t confess Him as Lord to our neighbor who is a nice guy (a small “yes”), what makes us think we’ll confess him as Lord on the guillotine* (a big “YES”)

 

Or like the Lord posed to Jeremiah, “(Jeremiah 12:5) If you have raced with men on foot (a small “yes”), and they have wearied you, how will you compete with horses? (a big “YES”)

 

If we can’t say yes to 8 laps, what makes us think we’ll be able to say yes to two?

 

Dalton Thomas, in his book “Unto Death” writes:

 

Though not every believer is called to give a martyr-witness, every believer is called to embrace a martyr-mentality, every church a martyr-mandate, and every minister a martyr-theology. Whether we live or die is ultimately in the hands of our Master, and if we have not entrusted Him with that decision, we may be deluding ourselves into assuming we are His bondservants when in fact we are not.”

Beloved, if we will arm ourselves with this way of thinking, if we give our big “YES” to suffering in the flesh, to martyrdom, even if it doesn’t come, all of our little “yeses” are taken care of and sin will gradually lose its grip.

 

Give the Lord the big “YES” and watch as the other “yeses” follow. I mean really, what’s a few more laps after 8?

 

Until He Comes,

Josh

 

 

*(this is a paraphrase from Dalton Thomas, but I can’t seem to find the source)

*(I use guillotine cause you’ve got 70s,80s,90s, rapture movies in your heads and it’s always a guillotine, isn’t it!)




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