A Prayer of Praise to the King of Creation

Written by Douglas McKelvey, Every Moment Holy. p. 273-277

Read:  Mark 13

Join me in this prayer of praise to the King of Creation and Re-creation.

Our thoughts of you, O Lord, have been too small, too few –

for seldom have we considered how specific is the exercising of your authority, extending as it does into the myriad particulars of creation.

There is no quarter over which you are not king.

And as creation hurtles toward its liberation and redemption, the full implications of your deep Lordship are yet to be revealed in countless facets unconsidered:

Christ, you are the Snow King.
You are the Maker of all Weathers.
You are the King of Sunlight and Storms,
The King Grey Skies and Rain.
You are the Rain King,
The Sun King, 
the hurricane King.
You are the King of Autumn
and King of the Spring.

And our thoughts of you,
O Lord, have been too small, too few.

The old and impotent gods
our ancestors once believed in were,
at their best,
but imperfect pictures of you,
whose strength and goodness
and creative majesty
and wonderful mystery and love
exceed those old rumors as sunlight exceeds
the tiny dimness of stars reflected
in a dark and wavering pool.

The fairy tales
crafted by our old cultures
hinted at you,
thought they knew it not.
Yet their perfect princes
and blessed ends were
yearnings for all that has found
fulfillment in you.

You are the Lord of the Harvest.
The Grain King,
The Wine King,
The God of Plenty,
The God of Hearth and Home.
You are the Hill King,
The Wildflower King,
King of the Great Bears,
King of the Canyons.

You are the Monarch of Meadows,
The Lord of the Lava Fields,
Ruler of the Desert Wastes,
The Polar King,
The Rainbow King,
The King of the Southern Cross,
and King of the Northern Lights.

You are the King of the Rabbits,
and the Lord of Tall Trees.
You are the God of Youth
and the God of Age.
You are the Acorn King,
The River God,
The Swamp King,
King of the Glades,
King of the Dells,
Ruler of All Hummingbirds.

You are the Horse Lord,
The Crag King,
Lord of the Bees,
King of the Walruses,
Commander of Rhinos,
Lord of the Lighting Bugs,
Cave Lord,
Mountain King,
Ruler of the Grassy Plains,
God of the Valleys.

You are the Captain of the Clouds,
The Wolf King,
The King of the Cockatoos.

And our thoughts of you,
O Lord, have been too small, too few.

For your claim over creation is vast.  You are
The Lord of Antarctica,
The King of California.
The King of the Scottish Hills,
And the King of the Nile.

You are the weaver of the unseen fabrics of the world.
You are Lord of the Atoms,
The Ruler of Electrons,
The Lord of Gravity,
The King of Quarks.

Your dominion enfolds the earth and rises
beyond it to the furthest extremes of the stars.
You are Lord of the Vast Empty Spaces.
You are the King of the Constellations,
The Black Hole King,
Lord of Novas Exploding,
Lord of Speeding Light,
High King of Galaxies,
King of Orion,
King of the Moon.

And still, even still, 
our thoughts of you
have been too small, too few.

You are the God of Justice,
The God of Wisdom,
The God of Mercy,
The God of Redemption.

You are the Lord of Love.

All of this is true.
But our thoughts of you are still too few,
for our minds are too small
to conceive of them all,
let alone to contain them.

You were before all things, you created
all things, and in you all things are
held together.  There is no corner of creation
you will fail to redeem.

You are Lord of lords,
and King of kings,
O Jesus Christ,
our King of Everything.

Amen.

Theology Can Blind You to God

Article by Marshall Segal | The Gospel Coalition

Read:  Mark 12:35-44

Jesus had enemies. As soon as he’s declared Son of God in the Gospel of Mark, he’s driven into the wilderness to face Satan, his first and greatest adversary (Mark 1:12).

Satan lurks behind all opposition to Jesus, and his demons show up repeatedly to entice and corrupt, but surprisingly, his henchmen are more often theologians than demons. Satan is mentioned only five times in Mark, and demons only thirteen times. But the scribes and Pharisees are mentioned 29 times, and in 27 of those verses, they are wielding their knowledge of the Scriptures in opposition to the Christ.

When Jesus told his disciples how he would die, he didn’t blame the evil ruler of this world (2 Corinthians 4:4), but the rulers of his own chosen people,

“We are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death and deliver him over to the Gentiles. And they will mock him and spit on him, and flog him and kill him.” (Mark 10:33–34; also Mark 8:31)

It wasn’t the tax collectors plotting to put an end to Jesus (Mark 14:1). It wasn’t the drunks or the thieves shouting, “Crucify him!” (Mark 15:11). It wasn’t the sexually immoral who executed him. It was the morally respectable and theologically refined who murdered the Author of life (Acts 3:13–15).

Modern Scribes

Jesus almost immediately set himself apart from the Jewish religious leaders — the grand masters of theology — in his day. The people in the synagogue “were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one who had authority, and not as the scribes” (Mark 1:22). He did not come as the supreme scribe, but as something categorically different — all the same knowledge and more, but a different heart and different authority.

Who are the scribes and Pharisees today? Who are the men and women so infatuated with their mastery of Scripture and doctrine that they wind up missing Jesus completely? Christian theologians of every kind abuse such knowledge, but we Calvinists — refined and Reformed, systematic and attentive to detail — can be some of the most vulnerable.

How do we know when our systems for understanding God have become sick with sin and paradoxically subtle justifications for opposing him?

When we study the 27 times Mark mentions the scribes and Pharisees, we learn how even theology can be twisted to blind us to God and rob us of real life and joy when our systems become lackeys of our sin. Consider these six flags that our theology might be leading us away from him.

1. Self-Righteousness

The scribes were blind to their sin, and saw themselves as superior to other sinners. “The scribes of the Pharisees, when they saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors, said to his disciples, ‘Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?’” (Mark 2:16).

Does our theology — our understanding of who God is and what he has done for us — stir us to love and serve sinners?

If we can’t understand why Jesus would move toward the least deserving sinners in society, our theology has not only blinded us to him, but it has blinded us to ourselves. Faith says, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost” (1 Timothy 1:15). Self-righteousness seizes theology for self-promotion and selfish ambition. As the apostle Paul warns,

“Knowledge” puffs up, but love builds up. If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know. But if anyone loves God, he is known by God. (1 Corinthians 8:1–3)

2. Hypocrisy

The scribes worked hard to appear a certain way, being quick to judge and condemn others, while secretly protecting pet-sins in their own hearts. They relentlessly tried to ambush Jesus by proving he had broken the law, when in reality he had come to fulfill it in their place. For example, the Jews had developed traditions of external cleanliness — religiously and ruthlessly cleaning not only their hands, but their cups, their vessels, and even their “dining couches” (Mark 7:3–4). So, they were furious when Jesus’s disciples did not wash up (Mark 7:5).

Jesus rebuked them. “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written, ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me’” (Mark 7:6). They had developed ways of appearing to be godly without preferring and prioritizing God in their hearts. The same truths that were meant to bring conviction of sin, and passion for Christ, tragically led them to glory in their own “obedience” and ultimately reject and destroy him. They hated what Jesus said about them because they had fallen in love with what their theology said about them.

Does our love for the doctrines of the sovereignty of God over all things and total depravity and unconditional election still leave us broken and humble over our own sin?

3. Jealousy

The scribes could not stand to watch Jesus rise in power and influence. “The chief priests and the scribes heard it and were seeking a way to destroy him, for they feared him, because all the crowd was astonished at his teaching” (Mark 11:18). They feared what his message might cost them — in authority, in prestige, probably even in money — not knowing that rejecting him would cost them everything. They lacked John the Baptist’s joy-filled humility to say, “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30).

When so-called theology increases our personal drive to be known, appreciated, and promoted, rather than feeding humility, something has gone wrong. Clearly the theology that killed Jesus had someone other than Jesus at the center. The person most likely to take that place in my heart is me. We should, instead, love to see Jesus lifted up over us, whatever the cost to us (Philippians 1:12–13).

4. Dishonesty

The scribes traded away the truth to get what they really wanted. They lied to preserve their status and comfort in this life, and in doing so, betrayed the one way, truth, and life (John 14:6).

They confront Jesus again, “By what authority are you doing these things?” (Mark 11:28). He replies, “I will ask you one question; answer me, and I will tell you by what authority I do these things. Was the baptism of John from heaven or from man? Answer me” (Mark 11:29–30). Suddenly they’re caught in their own trap:

“If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will say, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’ But shall we say, ‘From man’?” — they were afraid of the people, for they all held that John really was a prophet. So they answered Jesus, “We do not know.” (Mark 11:31–33)

They didn’t care about the truth as much as they cared about getting their own way. If theology is going to be used to oppose Jesus, it must lie. It simply cannot last without lying — about God, about sin, about judgment, about Scripture, about salvation, about Jesus, about ourselves.

5. Greed

The scribes were driven not by godly desires for more of God, but by greedy desires for power, notoriety, and money. Jesus warns his disciples, “Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes and like greetings in the marketplaces and have the best seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at feasts, who devour widows’ houses and for a pretense make long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation” (Mark 12:38–40).

Beware of people who know more than anyone about God, but seem to clearly live for themselves. Maybe we don’t dress loudly, or sound a trumpet when we enter the sanctuary on Sundays, or take advantage of widows, but do the rhythms of our life suggest we’re living humbly, selflessly, and sacrificially for others? Or does it look like we’re spending most of our time, energy, and money taking care of our own needs and desires?

Truly knowing more of God makes us more concerned for others, and less concerned with ourselves.

6. Pride

The sin of all theological sins (and the sin underneath the rest) is pride — the stubborn heart that elevates me, my understanding, and my will above God.

The scribes were skeptical toward Jesus, refusing to acknowledge their own Messiah, while crowds of lesser-educated, Bible-illiterate people were rallying to him (Mark 2:26). Scholars soaked in Scripture mocked the sinless centerpiece of Scripture (Mark 15:31). They refused to embrace Jesus as the Christ, and instead accused him of being the devil (Mark 3:22), doubling down in their mutiny with blasphemy. In and under every rejection of the Truth was a heart of pride.

What attitude do you bring to the word of God? Does your theological system control how you read? Have your definitions and categories become so rigid that not even the plain words of God himself can alter them? Every encounter with the Word of God in the word of God should be another humble, open-handed prayer for truth, not a pride-filled effort to prove our own perspective. Any proud theology proves itself false in some way. Truly Christian theology produces and promotes awestruck, joyful humility.

Not Every Scribe

A developed theology is no guarantee of spiritual life or love for Jesus, but you cannot have either without theology. One scribe in Mark was not like the others. He heard the Pharisees and Sadducees trying to trap the God-man himself with their theological puzzles (Mark 12:13). Jesus answers them by rehearsing Deuteronomy 6:4–5 and Leviticus 19:18 (Mark 12:29–31).

The rogue scribe, then, risking his status and maybe even his life, responds, “You are right, Teacher. You have truly said that he is one, and there is no other besides him. And to love him with all the heart and with all the understanding and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, is much more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices” (Mark 12:32–33).

Jesus had rebuked the other theologians in the room, “Is this not the reason you are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God?” (Mark 12:24). But to this man, he said instead, “You are not far from the kingdom of God” (Mark 12:34). Not proud or self-righteous. Not greedy, dishonest, or jealous. Just soaked in the Scriptures, with the right heart beneath, in love with the God of the doctrines.

That marriage of knowledge and love produced humility in pride’s place, joy where jealousy once lived, honesty instead of hypocrisy, and faith stronger than any promise lust or greed might make. That kind of theology did not kill the Christ, but instead dies with him into everlasting life. It will not blind us to God, but unwrap and highlight more and more of his worth.

Pay Your Taxes But Trust in Christ

Article by Collin Hansen  | The Gospel Coalition

Read:  Mark 12:13-34

Enjoying a sunny fall day, I walked around the National Mall on Saturday afternoon. Before visiting any other favorite sites, I ascended the temple steps where Father Abraham presides on his throne over American civil religion. Designed to recall the Greek Parthenon, this memorial secures Lincoln’s place in the American pantheon. If you champion a social cause and want to leave your mark on America, you must at some point make the pilgrimage to this hallowed ground. All the better if you can deliver a speech that incorporates elements of Lincoln’s famed Gettysburg Address.

Only three weeks earlier self-appointed political prophet Glenn Beck claimed Lincoln’s imprimatur by packing these same steps for a rally. But religious nationalists who invoke America’s greatest president never seem to understand the irony of his memory. The man who saved the Union understood that God transcends and judges it. God’s ways often surpass our understanding. We cannot manipulate him to baptize our pet causes. Read Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address, a stunningly moving model of public theology written by a man whose true beliefs elude historians still today. No, actually read the speech and marvel at this man’s magnanimity after four years of shockingly bloody killing. He captured in this speech a mature political philosophy that shamed the many warmongers masquerading as pastors in both the North and South. Even today, the church cries out to God for him to raise up more pastors and theologians who can help the evangelical public understand that for all this nation’s blessings, Jesus Christ didn’t robe himself in an American flag.

My concern stems from experience working on Capitol Hill in partisan roles. When I struggled several years ago to distinguish between my theological beliefs and convictions on such matters as tax policy and federal bureaucracy, I needed an oasis where I could escape the withering heat of political campaigning. I found it in the community of Capitol Hill Baptist Church. Only here did I associate with anyone from the other party. Only here did I hear a message that would endure forever, long after everyone had forgotten any press releases or speeches I wrote. And when I returned on September 16 for a 9Marks Weekender hosted by the church, I found here again a refuge from the arguments that the world invests with undue importance. Indeed, I heard from senior pastor Mark Dever the best sermon I know on Christianity and government. Thabiti Anyabwile, who formerly worked with Dever, described the sermon as “a biblical theology of Christians and the state, at once full of unction, intellectually challenging, and affecting the heart. I’ve heard a lot of Mark’s preaching, but I don’t know that I’ve ever heard him better.”

While Dever may serve a church on Capitol Hill, he does not commonly address issues of Christianity and government so directly. But as an expository preacher working his way through the Gospel of Mark, Dever obligated himself to address Jesus’ teaching in Mark 12:13-17. In these days of overheated rhetoric and protest rallies, I pray that evangelicals will set aside 70 minutes to listen to Dever’s sermon. Much of the wisdom expressed here echoes the forthcoming book City of Man: Religion and Politics in a New Era, written by Michael Gerson and Peter Wehner, with a foreword by Tim Keller. We need to hear from the best evangelical thinkers about a faithful, biblical approach to politics. Perhaps I can help the cause by summarizing four pages of notes I scribbled from Dever’s sermon.

Jesus Paid Taxes

Dever, who earned his PhD at Cambridge, described in the introduction his experience debating a Muslim friend who claimed Christians have no vision for the state and society. It a common objection, stemming not just from Muslims who unite religion and state but also from Marx, Freud, and other atheists who have regarded Christianity as passive escapism. So is their charge true? Does Christianity have anything to say, Dever asked, in a society where it’s more acceptable for a man to have a husband than to pray in Jesus’ name in a public school?

Jesus sets out a novel, revolutionary philosophy in these five verses, Dever argued. By way of background on this confrontation between Jesus and his religious opponents, Dever explained that Jesus posed such a great threat to Jewish leaders that he united bitter enemies from among the Herodians, who conspired with Rome, and the Pharisees, who rebelled against Israel’s occupiers. Together, they approached Jesus, hoping to catch him in a trap. They asked, “Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not? Should we pay them, or should we not?” (Mark 12:14) By answering, Jesus was in danger of losing either his popularity or his life. In fact, he lost both after a shocking response that subsequently formed the basis for all Western political philosophy.

In his first of three main points, Dever said Christians are good citizens. Though Jesus later suffered the vengeance of his enemies, he actually escaped the rhetorical noose with his answer here. Jesus regarded the pagan state as legitimate when he said, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s” (Mark 12:17). The answer stunned the Herodians and Pharisees, because whatever their differences, Israel and Rome both derived their legitimacy by divine appeals.

Human government is deeply biblical. Dever looked back to Genesis 1:28, where God commanded Adam and Eve, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it.” Authority, by nature, reflects God’s authority. Romans 13 echoes this foundational biblical theology as Jesus developed it. “For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God” (Rom. 13:1). Government is not specifically Christian, but it is good. Certainly order is better than organizing society around unfettered self-interest.

Americans, given our history, often struggle to see authority as good. But Scripture compels us to obey. “Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed” (Rom. 13:7). Dever encouraged and thanked the many members of the congregation who work in government.

In his second point, Dever argued that no earthly kingdom can be identified with God’s people. Christians are international. With his answer, Jesus unhitched God’s people from any one government, severing the national covenant that extended all the way back to Moses. If followers of Jesus could support Rome with their taxes, which government today—no matter how corrupt—can’t Christians support?

“Christians are, by God’s grace, cockroaches,” Dever said. “We can survive anything.”

Muslims often debate how they should live in lands not ruled by Muslims. But Christians have always lived like exiles. As such, the apostle Peter tells Christians, “Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good” (1 Pet. 2:14). Indeed, whatever Christians do, we should do it for the benefit of others. When we do good, we “put to silence the ignorance of foolish people” (1 Pet. 1:15). We should “honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor” (1 Pet. 1:17). Yet while we honor everyone, we delight in knowing that we share more in common with Christians from different nations than we do with our unbelieving countrymen. We especially seek to serve these brothers and sisters, who are children of God by both creation and also redemption.

With his third and final point, Dever argued that Christians are finally accountable to God. Many remember that Jesus told the Pharisees and Heroadians, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s.” Not so many remember that Jesus ended his teaching by saying we should render “to God the things that are God’s” (Mark 12:17). While Jesus commanded obedience to the state, he undermined its final authority with this phrase. The type of denarius Jesus requested to see bore an inscription: “Augustus Tiberius, son of the divine Augustus.” Jesus may have called for obedience, but he flatly rejected all such worship of Roman emperors. Thus, our duty to earthly authority is limited, Dever taught, a fact that becomes clear when authorities clash.

Authority may be good, but it can be abused. Consider the Sanhedrin, who commanded Peter and John to stop speaking and teaching in the name of Jesus (Acts 4:18). The apostles disobeyed, so they were jailed. When asked why they ignored the order, Peter said, “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). This example leaves some space for civil disobedience when the government commands Christians to do something God tells us not to do. If Romans 13 calls Christians to obey government, then Revelation 13 illustrates what happens when the state rebels against God. No government commands the Christian’s unqualified support. Dever explained:

Friends, this is one of the problems with referring to any country as a “Christian nation.” Just because the principles of Christianity clearly influenced our nation’s founders, and some of them were themselves evangelical Christians and even if the Supreme Court has recognized the long history of significant Christian influence in our nation, that does not mean that most Americans are Christians or that a Christian worldview dominates our public culture or our government today, or that one needs to be a Christian to be an American citizen.

Confusion over the gospel ensues, Dever warned, when the church wields the sword that belongs to the state. And besides, the state is but a temporary institution. We worship God alone and must not put our full trust in senators, who retire and die. All the state can offer is but a fleeting glory, as John Wesley observed:

I was in the robe-chamber, adjoining the House of Lords, when the King put on his robes. His brow was much furrowed with age and quite clouded with care. And is this all the world can give even to a king? All the grandeur it can afford? A blanket of ermine round his shoulders, so heavy and cumbersome he can scarcely move under it! A huge heap of borrowed hair, with a few plates of gold and glittering stones upon his head! Alas, what a bauble is human greatness! And even this will not endure.

If we were ever tempted to invest our hope in the state, we should remember that Americans live in a country where spanking children is suspect but aborting children is okay. Christians eagerly long for such a day when abortion will be no more, when human authority will cease, and when partisan squabbling will come to an end.

Though Jesus sowed the seeds of demise for Israel’s nationalism and Roman paganism, he focused his efforts on a much more important revolution. He conquered sin and death on the cross and in the resurrection. We should return coins to Caesar, but we must give ourselves to God. Jesus came to collect what was due: his elect. The Pharisees and Herodians who questioned Jesus would not pay the price of belief, and God will judge them for rejecting his Messiah. Likewise today he will judge Muslims who worship a false god that compels only external conformity rather than the one true God who changes our very nature. Let us give to God what is God’s, Dever exhorted. Everything is God’s.

Let us pay our taxes. But even more, let us trust in Christ.

The Parable of the Tenants

Article by Charles K. Telfer, Tabletalk

Read:  Mark 11:27-12:12

No man was braver than our Lord Jesus. Right to their face and at the risk of His life, He exposed the evil intentions of the self-engrossed leaders of the people of God in His generation. Ironically, our passage ends with these chief priests seeking to arrest Him (Matt. 21:45–46), thereby practicing precisely the kind of hard-hearted grasping that Jesus condemned in the story. Jesus’ strong actions (driving vendors from the temple) and words of coming judgment (the neighboring stories of the cursing of the fig tree and the parables of the two sons and the wedding feast) are weapons in the battle against the religious establishment He had been fighting since He entered Jerusalem.

Jesus’ parable is rooted particularly in Isaiah’s teaching and is unusually allegorical. The owner of the vineyard is God—“the vineyard of the LORD of hosts is the house of Israel” (Isa. 5:7); the ungrateful tenants in Jesus’ crosshairs are the leaders—“the LORD will enter into judgment with the elders and princes of his people” (3:14); and the servants sent by the master refer to the prophets (Jesus makes the same reference in Matthew 23:37 as He weeps over Jerusalem). These servants include John the Baptist, killed at the hands of the wicked rulers over Israel (Matt. 21:25). Jesus ends His parable with the sharecroppers outrageously treating the master’s son like a criminal. In verse 45, the masses listening draw out the implications of verses 41–44—“[The master] will put those wretches to a miserable death and let out the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the fruits in their seasons,” and particularly Jesus’ coup de grâce in verse 43: “The kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people producing its fruits.” Their abusive leadership would soon come to an abrupt end.

No man was braver than our Lord Jesus. Right to their face and at the risk of His life, He exposed the evil intentions of the self-engrossed leaders of the people of God in His generation.

The initial historical fulfillment of these prophecies took place in the disasters of AD 66–70 and 132–35, when the Romans destroyed the temple, the city of Jerusalem, and most of the leaders of the people.

Look at what Jesus underlines as the foundational offense: rejecting Him. Jesus puts Himself forward as the Son in special relationship with the Father. C.S. Lewis argues cogently that no one can take Jesus as just another good moral teacher. He must be either the Messiah or a megalomaniac. Jesus claims that rejecting Him is the climactic act that leads to judgment. Jesus puts Himself at the center of Yahweh’s purposes in the way He quotes the Old Testament in the parable. In verse 42, He applies Psalm 118:22–23 to Himself: “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone” (see Isa. 28:16). In essence, Jesus is asserting, “The powerful may consider Me a valueless reject, but God will do marvels through Me and give Me a kingdom.” More soberly still, in Matthew 21:44, Jesus presents Himself as the dangerous stone (Isa. 8:14Dan. 2:34, 44). “Don’t brush Me aside!” He is saying.

This story strengthened early Christians’ faith against the shame and disgrace that Jesus was “thrown out and killed” (Matt. 21:39). Muslims reject the crucifixion of the prophet Jesus as inconceivable; indeed, His death is a scandal to all those who are looking for earthly displays of power and influence. Plus, how many people were converted by Jesus’ teaching here? Outward results are not a good measure of faithful preaching. Our passage helped early Jewish Christians make sense of the radical changes in the leadership and outward form of God’s people taking place in the first century (Acts 2:23–37; 3:14–15). And Jesus’ parable helps us all see the larger New Testament picture of an expanded Israel of God made up of both Jewish and Gentile believers under the new leadership of Christ’s Apostles (Rom. 11Gal. 6:16).

We who believe in Jesus must guard ourselves from the smugness and ingratitude He condemns here (see Rom. 11:21). The Master is coming, and we must render account. Let us be careful to produce the fruits of trust and just living that He expects. And let us keep in mind all of God’s abundant kindness to us suggested by this parable: the carefully prepared vineyard, the hyper-patient dealings of the landowner pleading for a response, and the Son who died. The brave man who spoke this parable was shortly on His way to “taste death for everyone” (Heb. 2:9). What a reason for us to respond in faith and gratitude today and every day.

Some Kindling for Your Embers

Article by John Piper; Founder & Teacher, desiringGod.org

Read:  Mark 11:1-25

We all feel small.

That’s because we are small. John Piper may seem like a big fish in the little evangelical pond. But in the ocean of the world, I am statistically a nobody.

But we are attached to the Creator of the world through his Son Jesus, and we are part of his global purpose for all nations that cannot be stopped.

Fire Up Your Hope

Take three minutes and let yourself feel the astonishing and invincible plans for all the nations of the world. When Paul had finished describing the mind-boggling, roundabout way God would save the nations, he said, “How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!” (Romans 11:33). The plan is amazing.

What Paul had just said was this: Because the nations disobeyed God, he chose Israel for himself. And because Israel disobeyed, he showed mercy on the nations. And because of the mercy shown to the nations, mercy would also come to Israel (verses 30–31). “For God has consigned all to disobedience, that he may have mercy on all” (Romans 11:32).

In everything God does, he is never doing just one thing. He is always doing thousands of things whenever he does anything. So it’s not surprising that to us all his deeds seem complex and roundabout.

But what is crystal clear is this: God is pursuing all the nations. And sooner or later he will have them.

Attach Your Life to Something Massive

Take just a moment and let God’s purpose to have the worship of the nations grab hold of you. Once it does, your little life will be attached to something massive.

Leave aside for the time being the New Testament commands to make disciples of all nations. Just look at a few of the Old Testament Exhortations and Promises and Prayers for the nations.

Exhortations

Clap your hands, all peoples! Shout to God with loud songs of joy! (Psalm 47:1).

Bless our God, O peoples, let the sound of his praise be heard (Psalm 66:8).

Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among all the peoples! (Psalm 96:3).

Ascribe to the LORD, O families of the peoples, ascribe to the LORD glory and strength! (Psalm 96:7).

Praise the LORD, all nations! Extol him, all peoples! (Psalm 117:1).

Promises

I will make the nations your heritage (Psalm 2:8; cf. 111:6).

Nations will praise you forever and ever (Psalm 45:17).

The princes of the peoples gather as the people of the God of Abraham. (Psalm 47:9).

All the nations you have made shall come and worship before you, O Lord; and shall glorify your name (Psalm 86:9).

On this mountain the LORD of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich foods (Isaiah 25:6).

All the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God (Isaiah 52:10).

My house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples (Isaiah 56:7).

The time is coming to gather all nations and tongues. And they shall come and shall see my glory (Isaiah 66:18).

Prayers

Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you! Let the nations be glad and sing for joy. . . . Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you! (Psalm 67:3–5).

May all kings fall down before him, all nations serve him! (Psalm 72:11).

May people be blessed in him, all nations call him blessed! (Psalm 72:17).

God’s purpose to have the worship of the nations cannot be stopped. “My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose” (Isaiah 46:10).

So never bemoan your smallness. As God’s child and God’s emissary, you are attached to the greatest cause in the world.

Should Christians Be On Social Media

While many Christians avoid Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, pastor and author Paul Tripp has confessed his love for social media. Social Media, he argues, can be used as a tool for the teaching the gospel, for encouragement, for building up, and teaching.

But we’ve all seen Social Media used hurtfully, and most of us have made mistakes in who we trust, what we view, what we say, and how we spend our time.

“Social media is just like a screwdriver — a screwdriver you can build beautiful things with … but you could also stab somebody in the face with. It it’s just a tool and social media is a tool that can be used for enormous good.”

Who should you listen to?

“Who are the authoritative voices in your life and how do you know those voices are trustworthy?”

“Be careful who are you listening to, who have become moral authorities in your life — authorities for parenting, authorities for marriage, authorities for building relationships, authorities about moral cultural issues. All of the sudden anybody can rise to a position of authority collect an audience and begin to have followers. Be careful.”

What do we let ourselves drift into online?

“There’s a huge temptation to start one place and to end up in a place that you would be embarrassed if others knew this is where you were spending your time.”

“This tool that is an enormously beneficial for good is also a powerful tool of sin and temptation —  and we need to be honest about that.”

“The church is being weakened by that by the fact that we are now comfortable with exposing ourselves to things that we should have we should never expose ourselves to.”

How will we talk online?

“The Bible says I should I should never speak unwholesome communication.  By the Bible definition, what follows is not a list of four-letter words that you should never speak. It says speak only what is needful for the moment that gives grace to the hearer.  In other words I should always speak in an other centered way. I want everything I say to result in benefit — let me say it this way: God’s definition of benefit — to the person who is listening.”

“I wish this horrible communication that is disrespectful, and negative, and harmful was only outside of the Christian community, but it’s not.  I’m amazed even in the Christian community the kind of communication that I don’t think we would do face-to-face. There’s something about the fact that you’re not standing in front of me that makes me able and willing to do things in communication I would never do if you were in the room. It’s wrong and it’s harming us.”

“How much have you allowed yourself to be part of the outrage culture that’s just looking for a reason to be angry — looking for something to rip?”

How will we spend our time?

“There are three areas that God has designed to be the major investments of your time: first is your relationship with him that — personal devotion devotional worshipful time with your Lord. The second is your love of the people in your life — your investment in those relationships.  . . .  Third is your life of labor: even before the entrance of sin in the world, God ordained human beings to work.”

“When something begins to eat up time, it’s got to eat into something else in my life [like my time with God, my time with my loved ones, or my time working].  So if something like social media with all of its attractiveness and all of the clickbait that keeps you coming back begins to eat up time, it’s got to eat up into priority things that God has called you to invest in. I think that’s happening.”

“It kills me when I’m in a restaurant and I look at a family and mom and dad are on their phones and the two children are huddled in front of an iPad; there’s a wonderful time for a family to be together for the schedule to stop and for them to actually relate to one another.”

“Should Christians Be On Social Media? Ask Paul Tripp”
https://youtu.be/s3BjE9nwfOE

Delivered to the Gentiles

First published in Tabletalk Magazine, an outreach of Ligonier. 

Read:  Mark 10:32-52

[The Dwell App has a variety of voices and background music selections to aid you in listening to the scriptures (we have a 60 day free trial for NWers)! Click HERE to sign up.]

“See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death and deliver him over to the Gentiles. And they will mock him and spit on him, and flog him and kill him. And after three days he will rise” (vv. 33–34).

– Mark 10:32–34

Christ’s teaching during His journey from Galilee to Jerusalem at the end of His earthly ministry, a journey Mark narrates for us in his gospel (9:9–10:52), is striking. Our Lord emphasizes that greatness comes through humility and dependence (9:33–37; 10:13–16), that we must take drastic measures to deal with sin (9:42–50), and that we must be willing to give up everything we own if that is what He calls us to do (10:17–25). Furthermore, Jesus also predicts His death twice during His travels to Jerusalem (Mark 9:30–32; 10:32–34). Today’s passage features the second of those predictions.

To understand why the prediction of Christ’s death would have been striking, even unbelievable, for our Lord’s first disciples, we have to put ourselves as best we can in the shoes of those men. The idea that the Messiah would suffer and die was almost completely unheard of for first-century Jews such as the Twelve. Most Jews expected a conquering king who would throw off Roman oppression, not the Suffering Servant of Isaiah 52:13–53:12.

The idea of a suffering Messiah was strange enough for the disciples, but the idea that this suffering would happen at the hands of the Gentiles was even harder to believe. Yet, that is what our Lord predicted in saying that He would be delivered “over to the Gentiles” (Mark 10:33–34). To be handed over to the Gentiles was the worst fate a first-century Jew could imagine. The Jews were handed over to the Gentiles in the exile, which was the worst of all the covenant curses because it meant being outside of the land of blessing (Deut. 32:64–68). To be delivered over to Gentile authorities, then, was to be under the judgment of God. Dr. R.C. Sproul writes in his commentary Mark, “To be placed into the hands of the Gentiles was to be sent outside the covenant community, outside the camp, outside the place where the presence of God was concentrated and focused.”

Consequently, Jesus’ prediction of death at the hands of Gentile authorities was a prediction not only of physical suffering but also of His death as the sin-bearer. It was a prediction of penal substitutionary atonement in which the Messiah, standing in the place of His people, receives the curse that His people deserve for their sin. At the time, the disciples did not fully grasp that fact. But they did know enough about the horror of what Jesus was predicting that they were absolutely terrified by it (Mark 10:32).

Coram Deo

Jesus, as well as the New Testament authors, tells us that Christ’s death was a propitiatory sacrifice. It was a death that satisfied the wrath of God because Christ bore the curse of God on our behalf. To bear the curse of God is a horrible thing to imagine, but it was motivated by the grace, love, and mercy of our Creator. Because Christ was delivered over to the Gentiles, we who trust in Him never need to fear that we will have to bear the curse ourselves.

All Things Are Possible With God

Read:  Mark 10:13-31

[The Dwell App has a variety of voices and background music selections to aid you in listening to the scriptures (we have a 60 day free trial for NWers)! Click HERE to sign up.]

In 2004, I was finishing up seminary and taking a class in preaching. One of our assignments was to write a manuscript and preach a text from one of the gospels. I chose the story of the rich young ruler from Mark 10. It had always troubled me. Perhaps because I identified with the rich young ruler. I saw myself in him. I did my best to keep the commandments, to love my neighbor and to love the Lord. Yet, what was most bothersome to me was Jesus’ directive to “Go sell everything you have and give it to the poor,” for he knew the young man had considerable wealth.

I also had considerable wealth. I had traveled the world to serve Christ in some of the most impoverished countries on earth. I was well aware of how privileged and blessed I was and Jesus words haunted me. Was He commanding me to go and sell all I had?

The answer to that question is…maybe. God cannot live in a secondary position. He is either God and receives the place of preeminence in our lives or He is nothing. Jesus would say you cannot serve God and money. So if you cannot hold loosely the things of this world, then perhaps Jesus’ words are for you.

BUT, ridding yourself of worldly anchors was not the point of Christ’s teaching in Mark 10. He was simply using the conflict in the soul of the rich young ruler to illustrate a greater truth. “How difficult it is for those who have wealth to enter the Kingdom of God. It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for those with wealth to enter the Kingdom of God.” The imagery is stunning, so stunning that the disciples were asking the logical question, “Who then can be saved?” And here is the point of Jesus’ teaching: “With man it is impossible, but not with God. All things are possible with God.”

We are all so messed up. All of our hearts are idol factories, producing one idol after another. As soon as we have loosened our grip on material things, gluttony is right around the corner. Once we’ve found self-control over our eating, lust surprises us. It is impossible for man to earn salvation. It would be more probable for a camel to fit through the eye of a needle. But not for God!

“This is Impossible” was written several years ago as we were meditating on Mark 10 and other teachings of Jesus. Read these lyrics and allow the hallelujah to rise up as we celebrate the salvation that is only possible with our God!

This is Impossible

He said unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees teaching in the synagogue, you will in no way enter the kingdom.
I cried this is impossible, this is impossible, there’s no way to God.
I cried this is impossible, this is impossible, there’s no way
He said you shall be holy as I am holy and unless you take up your cross and die daily and follow me, you will in no way be my disciple.
I cried this is impossible, this is impossible, there’s no way to God.
But God so loved the world, not that we loved Him but that He loved us.
That He sent His son to be the propitiation for our sins.
God so loved the world.
As I try to push this camel through the needle’s eye
I find the limits of the human design.
But God’s made it possible what was impossible.
And the dead they awake! The dead they awake!
And the dead they awake! The dead they are waking!
The dead they are rising, hearts are reviving, eyes they are opening.
The dead they are rising, hearts are reviving, mouths are now singing.
HALLELUJAH!

Podcast on The Gospel and Ethnic Unity

Here’s a helpful sermon on racism, ethnicity, and unity.

  • Does “race” and “racism” exist in the Bible?
  • Where do we see conflict and tension in the New Testament church?
  • What can we learn from the apostles when problems happened along lines of ethnicity?

The most helpful part for me was looking at the Jerusalem church in Acts 6 where ethnic tension occurred. These were people who had been present at Pentecost – and yet mistakes were allowed. But we see a great example of the response of the apostles to listen to the complaint and respond appropriately.

The Gospel Coalition
The Gospel and Ethnic Unity
Teacher: Shai Linne

https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/podcasts/tgc-podcast/ethnic-unity/