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Thursday, December 31, 2020

Books I Read in 2020

Matt’s Books Completed* in 2020:

1. A Big Gospel in Small Places by Stephen Witmer [Most Affirming of 2020]
2. Recursion by Blake Crouch
3. Willful Behavior by Donna Leon
4. Plum Pie by P.G. Wodehouse
5. Sex, Dating, and Relationships by Gerald Hiestand and Jay Thomas
6. How Much Is a Girl Worth? by Rachael Denhollander [Most Haunting of 2020]
7. Confronting Christianity by Rebecca McLaughlin [Completed a second time with my small group from church. So good I wrote a Small Group Discussion Guide and posted it online.]
8. Not Saying Goodbye by Boris Akunin
9. Doctored Evidence by Donna Leon
10. The Memory of Old Jack by Wendell Berry
11. Single, Dating, Engaged, Married by Ben Stuart
12. Respect the Image by Timothy Shorey [A new friend! Interview here.]
13. Light from Distant Stars by Shawn Smucker
14. The Fool and the Heretic by Todd Charles Wood and Darrel R. Falk
15. Created to Draw Near by Edward Welch [Most Intriguing of 2020]
16. “He Descended to the Dead” by Matthew Emerson
17. Blood from a Stone by Donna Leon
18. Why Does God Care Who I Sleep With? by Sam Allberry [Most Accessible of 2020]
19. Remember Death by Matthew J. McCullough [Most Sobering of 2020]
20. Born Again This Way by Rachel Gilson [Most Counter-Cultural of 2020]
21. Younique by Will Mancini, Dave Rhodes, and Cory Hartman 
22. Relationslips by Jason Drapeau
23. Earthly Remains by Donna Leon
24. Where Is God in a Coronavirus World? by John Lennox
25. Coronavirus and Christ by John Piper
26. The Final Days of Jesus by Andreas Kostenberger & Justin Taylor
27. Matthew (IVPNTC) by Craig Keener
28. Matthew (EBC) by D.A. Carson
29. Matthew: All Authority in Heaven and Earth (PWC) by Douglas O’Donnell
30. Matthew (ZECNT) by Grant Osborne
31. Raven Black by Ann Cleeves
32. The Possibility of Prayer by John Starke
33. Beartown by Fredrik Backman
34. Theological Retrieval for Evangelicals by Gavin Ortlund [Read twice! Most Constructive of 2020]
35. Death to the Landlords by Ellis Peters
36. Master and Commander by Patrick O’Brian
37. The Rock, the Road, and the Rabbi by Kathie Lee Gifford and Jason Sobel
38. Gentle and Lowly by Dane Ortlund [Most Heart-Strengthening of 2020]
39. Post Captain by Patrick O’Brian
40. Loving Your Community by Stephen Viars
41. Suffer the Little Children by Donna Leon
42. Can Science Explain Everything? by John Lennox
43. Am I Just My Brain? by Sharon Dircx
44. H.M.S. Surprise by Patrick O’Brian
45. The Mauritius Command by Patrick O’Brian
46. Us Against You by Fredrik Backman
47. Unto Us a Son is Given by Donna Leon
48. A Small Book for the Anxious Heart by Edward Welch
49. City of Gold and Shadows by Ellis Peters
50. The Temptation of Forgiveness by Donna Leon
51. God In Himself by Steven Duby [Most Mind-Stretching of 2020]
52. Desolation Island by Patrick O’Brian
53. Philippians (BECNT, 2nd Edition) by Moises Silva
54. The Fortune of War by Patrick O’Brian
55. Basics for Believers by D.A. Carson
56. Retrieving Eternal Generation edited by Fred Sanders & Scott Swain
57. Why Is My Teenager Feeling Like This? by David Murray
58. The Surgeon’s Mate by Patrick O’Brian
59. Compassion & Conviction by Justin Giboney, Michael Wear, and Chris Butler [Most Hopeful of 2020]
60. The Ionian Mission by Patrick O’Brian
61. The Girl of His Dreams by Donna Leon
62. Free at Last? by Carl Ellis, Jr.
63. Jack by Marilynne Robinson
64. Treason’s Harbour by Patrick O’Brian
65. Before You Vote by David Platt
66. About Face by Donna Leon
67. The Great Brain by John D. Fitzgerald
68. No Day Wasted: The Adam Settle Story by Susan Stallings
69. The Far Side of the World by Patrick O’Brian
70. The Reverse of the Medal by Patrick O’Brian
71. The Letter of Marque by Patrick O’Brian
72. The House of Silk by Anthony Horowitz
73. Reading While Black by Esau McCaulley
74. The Ascension of Christ by Patrick Schreiner
75. Is Jesus History? by John Dickson
76. The Gospel by Raymond C. Ortlund, Jr.
77. For the Love of God, Vol. 1 by D.A. Carson
78. Christian Standard Bible, Mc’Cheyene Bible Reading Plan


***

* As in previous years, these are books I finished reading (or had read to me in Audible) in 2020, not the ones I started or the ones I didn't get done. That list would be a LOT longer! I read a bunch of them for escapist fun, a few for/with my family, and a lot of them just to learn and grow. They aren't listed (perfectly) in the order I read them. Some of them I am reading for a second or third time (or more!).

As I say each and every year--I'm not endorsing these books just because they are listed here. Some of them are really good and some are really bad. Most are somewhere in between. Read with discernment.

Here's the article where I explain why I post these.


Lists from previous years:

My Top Books of 2020

Reading whole books, like most things in 2020, was a real struggle for me. For many weeks, especially from March to August, I had bad brainfog with “too many tabs open in the browser of my mind.” Concentration was at a premium and the pure pleasure of reading was a casualty.

But the bright side of reading in 2020 was that I had wonderful books to struggle with! My pile was simply brimming with scintillating reads. And, in fact, disciplining myself to read–even if just for a few pages or even a few paragraphs–is one of the key practices that helped me get through the brainfog that threatened to take over the last nine months. (And I also learned, in the process, that I need low-powered reading glasses which also helped to mitigate my concentration problems.)

My "Top" Books

Last year, I didn’t have a chance to do a “Top Books of 2019" post. I was too wrapped up in leading the search for the next Allegheny District Superintendent to produce one. But I had been doing them the six previous years [2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018]. As I’ve said before, this list is not necessarily the best books that were published that particular year or the most enjoyable either. I intend it to be a list of the fairly new Christian nonfiction books I read:

- that had the most personal impact on me, my thinking, my heart.
- that I was the most consistently enthusiastic about.
- that I kept coming back to again and again.
- that I couldn't help recommending to others (and recommend without reservations and significant caveats).

This year, when I was telling Heather about it, she asked if I had a favourite (yes, with the British “u”), and I said that I did have favorites (yes, with the American spelling) in various categories. In fact, as I reflected on it further, I realized I had 10 favorites that were the best or “the most” in some way. So here they are, then, in no particular order.

"The Most" Books of 2020

Most Affirming:


Witmer’s book was the most affirming of God’s call upon my own life for pastoral ministry in a what he terms a “small place.” I've been pastoring Lanse Free Church, a rural church parked along the interstate, now for going on 23 years. I'm in it for the long haul, and it's because of the bigness of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Witmer does a stellar job of developing a clear-eyed theological vision of ministry in small places. In my opinion, A Big Gospel in Small Places should be required reading for seminarians in their last year before the pastorate and for those 10 years into a small place ministry (with booster shots every 10 years afterwards). 



Most Intriguing:

Created to Draw Near
by Edward Welch 

Ed has a unique knack for seeing intriguing things that have always been there and nobody else has noticed. He is also singularly gifted at boiling ideas down to their simple essence and then deploying them right back into everyday life.

You and I, if we belong to Christ, are royal priests. I knew that biblical truth, and I have had about 5 thoughts about what that means for my life. Ed has 200 pages of simple (but not simplistic) thoughts about what that means for our lives.

Bonus: I also read Ed's tiny-page-sized devotional, A Small Book for the Anxious Heart at just the right moment--April 2020. I heartily recommend it, not so much for intriguing ideas but for short, fresh, fear-defeating insights for your heart.


Most Sobering:

Remember Death
by Matthew J. McCullough 

I had planned to read McCullough's reflections on mortality long before COVID-19 showed up on the scene, but in God's providence I was opening it just as the novel coronavirus started to spread across our country. 

McCullough's thesis is that honest death-awareness allows a believer to live the life they have to the fullest. 

It turns out that taxes are not inevitable, but death is. The sooner we embrace that truth, the sooner we can actually live the life we are called to.


Most Counter-Cultural:

Born Again This Way 
by Rachel Gilson

As I read Gilson's instructive memoir, I found a quotable quote for sharing on my social media feed on every other page! 

Gilson combines the power of personal story and counter-cultural biblical truth. Her unexpected discoveries in life tell a very different narrative than the world's which she details in cheerful, perceptive, readable prose. 

I expect to hand out Born Again This Way to many, and I'm looking forward to reading her contribution the upcoming book, Before You Lose Your Faith.


Most Accessible:

Why Does God Care Who I Sleep With?
 by Sam Allberry

Ok. I'm cheating here on this one. It might be just as counter-cultural as Gilson's book (and Allberry wrote the foreword for hers). It has the same message but less from a personal testimony approach andmore from an accessible introductory teaching treatment of the topic.

Ok. That last paragraph was a lot of words to say, "I would hand this book to anyone who wants to understand the basic Christian sexual ethic. Get it. Read it. Give it."

Ok. I want everyone to read, not only this accessible book, but all of the books in this new Questioning Faith series from the Good Book Company. This is how apologetics should be done.


Most Constructive:

In the last few years, I've been doing a lot of reading and thinking about theological method. It seems to me that how you go about solving a problem will often shape if not determine what kind of an answer you will get.

"Retrieval" is historical theology tool in the theologian's toolbox that is increasingly being discussed. Gavin Ortlund's book is an introduction to this idea, an argument for its use by theological evangelicals, and an very instructive exemplar of its practice. I was already sold on the basic idea of retrieval, but the four case studies were so helpful, I actually read the entire book a second time already this year!

In this same vein, I also read and highly recommend:

Retrieving Eternal Generation edited by Fred Sanders & Scott Swain
The Ascension of Christ by Patrick Schreiner


Most Mind-Stretching:

God In Himself
by Steven Duby

Duby's book is actually a little bit above my paygrade, but I'm glad I read it. 

The basic idea (if I understand even that) is that we can know God truly if not comprehensively, and that our analogical language (creaturely comparisons) does provide that true knowledge.

I think I actually understand it better than I can explain, but being able to explain something is the true mark of understanding it. This work challenged my brain and even kept my brain alive during a really difficult time.

For Christmas, Heather bought me Duby's book on the doctrine of simplicity (which is surprisingly complex!) so I expect to have my mind-stretched again in 2021.


Most Heart-Strengthening:

Gentle and Lowly
by Dane Ortlund 

There’s a reason this one is on everybody’s list this year:

It’s just that good.

Because Jesus is just that good.

And Dane Ortlund has found some carefully chosen words to capture and give that goodness to readers. This book is golden.


Most Haunting:

What Is a Girl Worth? by Rachael Denhollander

I wish I didn't have to read this story, but I wish even more that Mrs. Denhollander did not have to live it. 

I'm also thankful that she broke her silence and has had the courage to tell her story, over and over again.

I listened to What Is a Girl Worth as an audiobook which made it even more vivid. I pray that I learn lessons in courage and truth-telling from her example.


Most Hopeful:

Compassion & Conviction
by Justin Giboney, Michael Wear, and Chris Butler

You might not have noticed, but 2020 was an election year. In fact, it was a particularly brutal election season that tempted me to a kind of despair. One of the hardest things right now is develop a public theology--how Christian faith intersects with politics and public policy. I admit to being stymied and confused about how to think through these issues well. I have much to learn.

One bright spot for me was reading Compassion & Conviction by the leaders of the AND Campaign. It's just an introduction, but the idea is that we don't have to choose either compassion or conviction in our approach to public life--in fact, we better not! 

By the way, I was also greatly helped in this area by listening to Russell Moore's Signposts podcast this year and by reading Before You Vote by David Platt which I would recommend every American Christian absorb. Platt doesn't tell you how to vote, but helps you think about how to decide.

I know that I'm blessed to have a book budget and the ability to read--even when my brain is foggy. I'm looking forward to turning back the covers of a new set of books in 2021. Tolle Reading Glasses and Tolle Lege!

Sunday, December 27, 2020

"What the Angel Said" by Joel Michaels [LEFC Sermon Notes]

"What the Angel Said"
Joel Michaels
Luke 2:8-20

A simple message with big meaning!

Read with me Luke 2:8-20.

We just read, what I hope, is a very familiar story.  It was a portion of Luke's gospel telling us about the birth of Christ.  The Christmas story.  I want to focus on just a small portion dealing with the shepherds and the angel, what that discussion was and what it means.  We have two participants, the shepherds and an angel of the Lord.  We know what a shepherd is, but what about an angel.  The word angel simply means “messenger” in this case it's just not a messenger but a messenger from the Lord. An angelic being with something to say.

I want to focus on verses 8-11 especially verses 10 and 11 and the massive implications of what the angel is saying.

“But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all people.  Today in the town  of David a Savior has been born to you:  he is Christ the Lord.”  (NIV)


Lets start with verse 10.

The shepherds are scared but the angel has some good news.  Not just good news but good news of great joy.  It's 2020 sometimes good news is hard to come by.  You know what, I bet these shepherds needed some good news too.  They are people and people have problems and stress and anxiety.  They needed this good news of great joy.  But, what I want us to notice is who exactly it was for.  Who was it for? “all people”.  Who are all people?  Shepherds in a field outside Bethlehem? Jerusalem maybe? Yes, but for all people.  Israel, Chad, New Guinea, Mexico, United States, State College, Lanse.  People in every corner of the earth.  Also, for all time.  It is for shepherds 2,000 years ago and  for you and your great, great grand kids and their kids.  The good news of great joy is eternal for all people, it doesn't diminish or fade.  Past, present, or future.

I guess we better find out what this great news is and what this angel of the Lord had to say.

Let's read verse 11 again.

“Today in the town of David” a baby has been born. A town called Bethlehem “the house of bread” is what that means if you want the origin,  also known as Ephrathah, the town where David was born.  This part should sound familiar.  Pastor Matt taught about this a couple of weeks ago in Psalm 132.  If you missed it go check it out on the church website.  It will help you start putting this Christmas story and this good news together.

Anyway, the angel says a baby has been born.  Not just a baby, but what? A Savior.

Let me stop.  This is what I want us to get, these next three things mentioned in verse 11.  This is what the angel was saying, the point of this great and wonderful message sent to the shepherds and to us.

So first thing a Savior. “ A Savior has been born”.

What is a savior? If you want to define the word you could say a deliverer, a healer, and a rescuer.  Somebody who saves you.

If you are in Luke 2 look over in Luke 1: 68-75.  This is Zechariah's song.  John the Baptist's dad had something to say about this Savior.  You see words like redeemed, salvation, mercy and rescue.  Those are things a savior does.  Zechariah is talking about this same person the angel is.  Jesus.  A  rescuer from enemies.  A deliverer, not only does he rescue us from our enemies, he delivers us from ourselves our own sins.  We see the redemption and mercy.  And we see the promise to Abraham to do these things.  Look at verse 74 this savior will enable us to serve him without fear in holiness and righteousness.

Who is this Savior for?  All people.  That's what the angel said. The opportunity of being rescued, redeemed and delivered is for all people.    How does this baby in Bethlehem do this?  Look at the end of this Gospel of Luke you find the cross, resurrection and ascension of Jesus.  Look at the end of your Bible.  What do you find? Revelation.  The Revelation of Jesus Christ.  Don't miss the point of Revelation, it is about Jesus.  It is part of this same proclamation, Jesus' saving work continues for his people.  

A Savior is something these shepherds needed and so do we.  Our family needs it, our friends need it,  the total stranger needs this Savior.

The second thing we want to look at is, the angel reports is he is the Christ (Christos) in the Greek or Messiah in the Hebrew.

What does Christ mean?  In a general sense it means an anointed one, or a consecrated one,  somebody who has been declared sacred.  Along with that it gives you a sense of a job, a purpose.  The person anointed  has something to do.  This Child announced to the shepherds has an anointing and a  purpose.

Let's back up a little for some context and precedent.  

There were 3 main groups anointed or consecrated with oil in the Old Testament. Prophets, kings and priests.  If you want a few examples try 1 Kings 19:16 and Exodus 40:12-14.  Each had a God given job and a purpose.  

Now we have the angel proclaiming this child is Christ.  Capital C.  The Christ.  It is a simple word, Christ, but it has meaning.  This is what the the Old Testament was trying to tell us.  This is the promise made to those Old Testament guys, remember David.  Psalm 2 from last week with Pastor Matt.

Lets think about this a minute.

Jesus is the anointed prophet.  Prophets proclaim the Word of God.  Prophets and their words have to be true if they are not true then you are not a prophet.  Jesus' words are true and he backs it up with his life.  Jesus himself proclaims “ I am the way, the truth, and the life.” in John 14:6.  I said a prophet proclaims the Word of God.  Jesus takes this a step further.  Look at John 1:14.  This is John's Christmas story.  Maybe you didn't know the Gospel of John had a Christmas story but here it is.  “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.”  There it is, John's Christmas story.  What does it say?  Jesus is not only proclaiming the Word of God, he is the Word of God and he has come. Jesus is a prophet on a level the world has never seen.

Jesus is the anointed priest.  If you want to find out about Jesus as the great high priest, Hebrews is the place to go.  Hebrews 4:14 says Jesus is the great high priest.  Hebrews 4:16 says “ Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”  In the Old Testament the priests were the only ones who did sacrifices and entered the holy places.  Now through Christ (Jesus) we have access to God.  We can have confidence, to receive mercy and grace because of the Anointed One. It's almost unbelievable that we can approach God but we can and he wants us too.

 Jesus is the anointed king.  Just like the Old Testament kings, Jesus is anointed king.  The one on the throne who rules.  Sorry to disappoint but there are no election cycles, voting or politics when Jesus rules.  He has the say and final decision.  He is a king.  Look at Rev. 19:11-16 “KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS”.  No questioning those words, that is a statement that has power that is unimaginable.  Jesus is everything earthly kings aren't because of their falleness and sin.  He is righteous, true, good, kind, loving.  Don't miss the righteous part.  Like a good king he does not tolerate evil.

What was the angel telling the shepherds to go see?  Christ.  The Prophet, The Priest, The King not anointed by man with oil, but by the Holy Spirit (check out Acts10:34-38).   It was Jesus the baby in Bethlehem 2000 years ago.  If you are reading or watching this today it is the same Christ, the same Jesus.

One more for you.

The angel says he is the Lord.  He is the one who is supreme, who is overall, total authority, the creator.  This little baby the shepherds are to go see, the good news of great joy the angel is proclaiming is the Lord.  These shepherds will see the Creator who created them.  They get to look at the one who knitted them together.  The Alpha and Omega.  Pastor Matt has been leading us through the Psalms, and I want to give you a portion of my favorite Psalm.  Psalm 139:13-16. Jesus was there when we were put together.  This child is God, John 1:1 “The Word was God.”  KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.  “ In the beginning GOD” That was the message the angel was bringing.

That is a lot in the few words the angel spoke.  “Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.”  Remember those words were for all people.

2020 by most accounts was not a great year and we have no idea about 2021 or 22 or beyond
but...

We have a Savior.

We have the Christ.

We have the Lord.

That sounds like hope to me and a bright future.  Listen to what the angel said.

We have Jesus.

Merry Christmas and a hope filled New Year!

Thursday, December 24, 2020

Christ Candle: Let Earth Receive Her King!

 


“Let Earth Receive Her King!”
Christ Candle Lighting :: Christmas Eve
December 24, 2020 :: Psalm 98

“Advent” means “coming.” Christmas is coming–tomorrow! Jesus has come and is coming again.

During this unique Advent season, our Advent readings have explored Psalm 98, the biblical inspiration for Isaac Watts’ beloved Christmas carol, “Joy to the World.”

You probably know already that “Joy to the World” is my all time favorite Christmas carol. When I was little boy, I loved the echo part on the chorus:

“And heav’n and nature sing!
And heav’n and nature sing!

Repeat the sounding joy!
Repeat the sounding joy!

Far as the curse is found!
Far as the curse is found!

And wonders, and wonders, and wonders of His love!”

Well, when Isaac Watts was writing those glorious words 300 years ago, he was deliberately riffing on Psalm 98 which is an Old Testament victory song that joyfully celebrates the marvelous things that the Lord has done in the past and will do in the future when Christ comes again.

[LIGHT FIRST CANDLE AGAIN.]

While I’d rather we were all together, it’s been fun to visit the homes of some of our church families on these Advent Videos.

On the first Sunday of Advent, our newest married couple, Matt and Amy, lit our first candle and told us that it was a candle of preparation.

Listen to the first three verses of Psalm 98.

[READ PSALM 98:1-3]

Psalm 98 looks back on the Lord's triumphs in Israel's history and also looks forward to the Lord's salvation which is coming to the whole world. This song prophesied the coming of the Messiah, the right hand and holy arm of the Lord, Jesus Christ. Jesus was born in Bethlehem, worked our salvation on the Cross, rose from the dead, and will soon return bringing the blessings of salvation to the ends of the earth.

Psalm 98 invites us to receive the Lord with great rejoicing. And it also raises the question, “Are we ready for Him?”

Just as we are all preparing for the coming of Christmas tomorrow, we should be preparing our hearts for the coming of Christ.

Are you ready for the return of Jesus Christ?

We don’t know when it’s going to be so, we need to get ready now.

Turn from your sins and receive the Lord Jesus Christ, trusting in what He did for you on the Cross. Don’t let this Christmas go by without knowing Jesus as your Savior and Lord.

As Isaac Watts wrote: “Let ev’ry heart prepare Him room.”

Including your own heart.

[LIGHT SECOND CANDLE AGAIN.]

On the second Sunday of Advent, Rob and Bev (playing “Joy the World” in the background in their living room!) lit the second candle and told us that it was a candle of celebration.

Listen to the Psalm 98, verses 4 through 8.

[READ PSALM 98:4-8]

Do you hear the joy words in there?

“Shout for joy.”
“Sing for joy.”
“Sing before the LORD.”

And it’s not just people who should rejoice. It’s the whole wide world.

The sea roars, the rivers clap their hands, the mountains sing for joy. All of creation participates in the festivity.

The carol says, “Fields and floods, rocks, hills, and plains repeat the sounding joy!”

As Christians expecting the blessed return of our rescuing King, we have every reason to rejoice.

I know that 2020 has been filled with a lot of depressing stuff. We all know how hard 2020 has been.

But we who know Jesus and know that He’s come and know that He’s coming again can celebrate every single day because we know how good it’s going to be when He returns.

Which leads us right up to candle number three.

[LIGHT THIRD CANDLE AGAIN.]

Which the delightful and boisterous Crumrine family lit for us and explained that it was a candle of anticipation.

When you read Psalm 98, you get a little taste of how glorious the world will be when it is no longer marred by the ravages of sin.

The psalmist sings a new song because he has just watched the LORD do marvelous things for Israel, and his song prefigures the marvelous things that Jesus will do when He arrives.

At His first Advent, Jesus won our salvation on the Cross and at the Empty Tomb. Then at His second Advent, we will watch as Jesus applies that salvation to every inch of the new creation, undoing everything that is spoiled, broken, and wrong.

The carol says, “He comes to make his blessings flow far as the curse is found.”

That’s pretty far right now. Think of everything that is not right in our world right now: COVID, Cancer, Racism, Human Trafficking, Wars.

Jesus is going to make His blessings flow as far as the curse is found.

He is going to make all things new. Just think about that!

[LIGHT FOURTH CANDLE AGAIN.]

Which leads us right into our fourth candle, a candle of reflection.

Joe and Molly and their sweet and rambunctious boys lit candle our fourth candle, and they told us that Psalm 98 invites us to reflect on the perfections of the Lord.

Think about the God described in Psalm 98. This God is absolutely righteousness and perfectly faithful in steadfast love.

The psalm says in verse 3, “He has remembered his love and his faithfulness to the house of Israel; all the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God.”

And the psalm ends, “He will judge the world in righteousness and the peoples with equity.”

Or as Isaac Watts said it: “He rules the world with truth and grace, and makes the nations prove the glories of his righteousness and the wonders of his love.”

“The wonders of His love.” Just sit with that tonight.

Imagine a world where everything is perfect because of a Perfect King. The Kingdom of Christ.

[LIGHT THE CHRIST CANDLE.]

That’s the Kingdom that was introduced at the first Christmas.

The King had come and was wrapped in cloths and placed in a manger.

The King had come. But the Kingdom had only come in part. But we are still waiting for the King to come again and to bring the fullness and culmination of His kingdom.

One of the reasons why “Joy to the World” is my favorite Christmas carol is that it isn’t just about Jesus’ first coming, but it’s also and even more about His second coming. His second “Advent.”

So this Christmas Eve, let’s sing of Christ and repeat the sounding joy while wait for Earth to receive her King.

Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 20, 2020

Advent Candle #4: Wonder at His Love


LEFC Family Advent Readings: Let Earth Receive Her King!
Psalm 98 :: December 20, 2020
Week #4: Wonder at His Love

“Advent” means “coming.” Christmas is coming. Jesus has come and is coming again.

Our Advent readings this year have explored Psalm 98, the scriptural inspiration for Isaac Watts’ beloved Christmas carol, “Joy to the World.” 

Psalm 98 is a victory song that joyfully celebrates the marvelous things that the Lord has done in the past and will do in the future when Christ comes again.

Our first candle was a candle of preparation.

[LIGHT FIRST CANDLE AGAIN.]

Just as we are all preparing for the coming of Christmas, we should be preparing room in our hearts for the coming of Christ. Psalm 98 invites us to ready ourselves for His return.
                
[LIGHT SECOND CANDLE AGAIN.]

Our second candle was a candle of celebration. The coming of the Messiah is worthy of the resounding exultation of the whole creation. Heaven and nature will sing!

[LIGHT THIRD CANDLE AGAIN.]

Our third candle was a candle of anticipation. Psalm 98 thrills our hearts with a glorious picture of an entire globe no longer marred by the ravages of sin and sorrow. Our Lord’s blessings will flow as far as the curse is found.

[LIGHT FOURTH CANDLE.]

Our fourth candle is a candle of reflection. Psalm 98 sings a song of salvation that stems from the Lord’s perfect love and faithfulness. Psalm 98 also sings a song of expectation of the Lord’s righteous judgment of the world. These diverse aspects of the Lord’s character exist in perfect harmony within His heart and are seen in all of His works forever.

[READ PSALM 98:2-3 and PSALM 98:9.]

Psalm 98 invites us to reflect on the perfections of the Lord. We should marvel at His absolute righteousness and His faithful, merciful, steadfast love.

“He rules the world with truth and grace,
And makes the nations prove
The glories of his righteousness,
And wonders of his love!”

"My Son" - Psalm 2 [Matt's Messages]

“My Son”
Lanse Evangelical Free Church
December 20, 2020 :: Psalm 2

Psalm 2 is one of the most important psalms in the whole Psalter and one of the most important texts in the whole Bible.

Psalm 2 is one of those texts that I call “hypertexts,” because if you click on Psalm 2 (so to speak), it takes you all kinds of other places in your Bible, especially in the New Testament.

It’s right at the front of the book of Psalms for a reason, because it orients the reader and gives you a sense of where you are at on the map. Psalm 2 gives you a sense of the Big Story of “What’s Really Going on in the World.”

And while it was originally probably a royal coronation song written by David for the installations of his sons as Israel’s kings, it is so obviously a song about the ultimate King of Kings, the Lord Jesus Christ. Great David’s Greatest Son.

We don’t often hear Psalm 2 read at Christmastime, but I don’t know why.

This song is all about Who Jesus truly is.

In 1865, William Dix wrote the searching question of Hymn #137 in our hymnals, “What Child Is This?”

“What Child is this, who, laid to rest, On Mary’s lap is sleeping?
Whom angels greet with anthems sweet, While shepherd’s watch are keeping?”

“What Child Is This?”

In Psalm 2 the LORD Himself answers that question by calling Him, “My Son.”

Not just Mary’s son, but God’s. own. Son.


Psalm 2 begins with a conspiracy.

A conspiracy to commit mutiny.

A foolish conspiracy to commit mutiny against the LORD and against His Messiah.

If you have your Bibles open, look with me at Psalm 2, verse 1.

“Why do the nations conspire and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together against the LORD and against his Anointed One. ‘Let us break their chains,’ they say, ‘and throw off their fetters.’”

What a provocative start to this song! Have you ever a heard a song that started with a mutiny?

David says that the nations and the people and the kings of the earth and the rulers  are all getting their heads together and planning and plotting to rebel against God, against Yahweh.

And David just shakes his head. “Why?” “Why would they do that? How could they get it into their thick heads that they might succeed at this foolish plot? Their collusion is futile. They plot in vain.”

Now, we know the reason why. It’s because the world hates Him. They don’t want to be ruled by the LORD. That’s been obvious since day one, since Genesis chapter 3.

Humanity sees itself as unjustly, grossly, enslaved by God, and so there is a worldwide rebellion.

But it won’t work.

And don’t feel bad for them, but do try to see yourself in them. You and I may not be world leaders, but we have all rebelled against the LORD. We have all acted like He’s an terrible tyrant, and what we need is our freedom from Him.

(Ironically, freedom is what He actually offers us. Not freedom from Him but freedom from the world, the flesh, and the devil.)

But these rulers (and in David’s time, they were probably the neighboring vassal states that he had conquered, these rulers) wanted to throw off the rule of the LORD and (v.2) “his Anointed One.”

Who is that? Well, that’s the king. Remember when Samuel anointed David with oil? David was being marked as “The Anointed One,” the king of the people.

And we learned last week that the Hebrew for “Anointed One” is...“Messiah” and in Greek that is “Christos,” or we say, “Christ.”

The nations want to be freed from Yahweh and the Messiah, from the LORD and His Christ.

And the prospect of their rebellion totally frightens the LORD.

Just kidding!!!!

It doesn’t faze Him one bit. Verse 4.

“The One enthroned in heaven laughs; the Lord scoffs at them.”

“Ha! You’ve got to be kidding me! You guys are a joke.”

Yes, this is what the Bible says. I hope you have room in your theology to think of God like this. Unfazed, even amused, and what is more, ridiculing the rebellion of the world leaders. “The Lord scoffs at them.”

“Oh, yeah? You think you guys are going to take me down? You think you can escape? You think you can destroy my Messiah or stop my promises from being fulfilled? You and what army?”

Then he lowers the boom. Verse 5.

“Then he rebukes them in his anger and terrifies them in his wrath, saying, ‘I have installed my King on Zion, my holy hill.’”

This is God’s answer to their mutiny.

He Himself has installed His man to be King on Mt. Zion, in Jerusalem the capitol, His earthly headquarters. And nothing on Earth can stop him.
Notice that His wrathful rebuke is simply, “Oh ho no. You aren’t getting away with anything. I have placed my King in Zion!”

Now in verse 7, the King himself speaks about himself. But he doesn’t say what he thinks of himself. He says what God says about himself. And God says that he is not just the king, he is the Son of God. Verse 7.

“I [the King] will proclaim the decree of the LORD [YHWH]: He [YHWH] said to me [THE KING], ‘You are my Son; today I have become your Father.”

Now, one level that’s just a metaphor. It was common in the Ancient Near East for the kings to refer to themselves as sons of the deity. And in 2 Samuel 7, the LORD had promised David that He would treat David’s sons as His sons. 2 Samuel 7:14 “I will be his father, and he will be my son.” They would have a special adoptive relationship. 

And the “today” in verse 7 would naturally be the day of the king’s anointing.

So the nations need to watch out because David and his sons are on the job being God’s earthly representative rulers.

But those words also seem like too big of shoes for David and his sons to fill, don’t they?

Remember David? He didn’t live up to that level very often. And his sons sure didn’t either.

But one day, one of his sons would be born and live up to this divine decree to perfection.

And this week, we celebrate His birth.

“You are my Son; today I have become your Father.”

Psalm 2, verse 7 is obviously fulfilled in Jesus! Follow the links, and you’ll see how the New Testament authors could see it clearly. Matthew, Mark, Luke, Acts, Romans, Revelation. They all connect Psalm 2 to Jesus.

For example, in Acts chapter 4, the early church says that the crucifixion fulfilled Psalm 2. The people at the prayer meeting in Acts 4 pray, “[Sovereign Lord,] You spoke by the Holy Spirit through the mouth of your servant, our father David: 'Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together against the Lord and against his Anointed One.' Indeed Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the Gentiles and the people of Israel in this city to conspire against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed” (vv.24-26).

The crucifixion was the plot to overthrow the Messiah.

And they almost won.

In fact, it sure looked like they did! Because He died.

But He did not stay dead.

On the third day, He rose again.

That’s why Paul says this in Romans chapter 1 about the gospel of God. He says it’s the gospel, “regarding [God’s] Son, who as to his human nature was a descendant of David,  and who through the Spirit of holiness was declared with power to be the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord” (vv.3-4).

“You are my Son; today I have become your Father.”

This raises the question, “When is ‘today’ for Jesus in fulfilling Psalm 2, verse 7?”  [Here I follow the excellent short argument in this article by Charles Lee Irons, "The Only Begotten God" in Credo Magazine.]

We all believe that Jesus is God’s Son.

What is the “today” when it comes to Him?

We could guess from Romans 1 that it was when He was resurrected and “declared with power to be the son of God.”

But if He was anointed before that (and He obviously was because of what we saw in Acts 4), then it has to be before that. His resurrection was another time when it was declared, but not the first.

The New Testament makes it increasingly clear that Jesus was already the Son of God before anybody else knew it.

Think about what happened at His baptism and on the Mount of Transfiguration.

Remember what God said then? “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”

The writer to the Hebrews indicates that He was always and eternally the Son.

He says, “[I]n these last days [God] has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven. So he became as much superior to the angels as the name he has inherited is superior to theirs. For to which of the angels did God ever say, [Psalm 2:7] ‘You are my Son; today I have become your Father?” (Hebrews 1:2-5a).

For Jesus, it’s an eternal today.

The Son of God is God the Son, eternally begotten of the Father.

Which is a mind-blowing idea, and what else should we expect when we’re talking about God?!!

“You are my Son; today [for Jesus, eternally] I have become your Father.”

And now, the Father invites the Son to pray for the world. Verse 8.

“Ask of me, and I will make the nations your inheritance, the ends of the earth your possession.”

If He but asks, the Son will receive the whole world from the Father.

I don’t even know what that would have meant for David and his sons. I guess the whole known world at the time. Great success against Israel’s enemies.

But the language is so big, isn’t it?

"The nations, your inheritance.
The ends of the earth, your possession."

All you have to do is ask.

And, beloved, Jesus is asking!

Jesus has asked and is asking the Father for the nations, for the world.

Those nations that have been rebellion will not rebel forever.
The world that is under the curse will not be cursed forever.

This is why we are involved in missions, to take the gospel to the nations, to tell the whole world that Jesus is the Messiah who was and is and is to come.

This is what’s actually going on in the world. It might not be in the headlines on the nightly news, but that’s because the world is in rebellion.

The real headline is, “The Father has promised the world to His Son.”

And He shall reign forever and ever. Verse 9.

“You will rule them with an iron scepter; you will dash them to pieces like pottery.’”

The mutiny will be put down, the conspiracy will be ended once and for all.

Verse 9 is quoted three times in the book of Revelation once in that wild vision of the birth of Christ in chapter 12, where the sun-clothed woman “gave birth to a son, a male child, who will rule all the nations with an iron scepter” (v.15).

Or as Isaac Watts said it:

“He rules the world with truth and grace,
And makes the nations prove
The glories of his righteousness,
And wonders of his love.”

This is going to happen!

There will be total victory for the LORD’s Messiah.

All rebellion will be put down and the whole Earth will be His inheritance and unchallenged possession.

So, how do we apply this song to our lives today?

David tells us in the last three verses of his song. I’ll try to summarize it in three points.

#1. WISE UP. V.10

“Therefore, you kings, be wise; be warned, you rulers of the earth. Serve the LORD with fear and rejoice with trembling.”

This song has a message for the conspirators: “Stop while you can. Get out while the getting is good.”

In other words, repent.

You schemes and machinations will not succeed. They are vain and futile and destined for failure.

Give up now. Repent while you can.

And that is part of the message of Christmas.

When Jesus came the first time, He came as a little baby and He offered salvation.

But when He returns the second time, he will bring salvation to all who have turned from their sin and trusted in what He did for them on the Cross, but He will also bring condemnation to all who have not.

“Therefore, you kings, be wise; be warned, you rulers of the earth. Serve the LORD with fear and rejoice with trembling.”

#2. BOW DOWN.

“Serve the LORD with fear and rejoice with trembling. [V.12] Kiss the Son, lest he be angry and you be destroyed in your way, for his wrath can flare up in a moment.”

To “kiss the Son” means to pay homage to Him. It means to submit to Him.

To bow before Him in worship and obedience and proclaim your commitment to Him.

I think here of the Magi who came from the East and wanted to worship the Christ child.

Matthew chapter 2 tells us, “they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh”(v.11). And they were overjoyed (v.10).

The wise men were fulfilling Psalm 2 verse 11.

They were rejoicing with trembling. They were worshiping the Messiah.

They were kissing the Son.

Have you bowed down before Jesus Christ? Is He your Lord?

A lot of people want to claim Jesus as their teacher and many want to claim Him as their Savior.

But not as many want to live as if He is their King.

Christmas should awaken fear and awe and reverence in us.

If Christmas just gives us warm fuzzy feelings, we’re doing it wrong.

“Serve the LORD with fear and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry and you be destroyed in your way, for his wrath can flare up in a moment.”

Not because He’s touchy, but because He’s holy.

And His longsuffering patience will eventually reach it’s end.

Don’t presume upon it. Repent and submit before the iron scepter comes down.

Wise Up.
Bow Down.
And Come In.

#3. COME IN.

I love how this song ends. If it sounded at all scary, that’s good because it is, but it ends with nothing but sweetness. Verse 12.

“Blessed are all who take refuge in him.”

That’s a beatitude, isn’t it?!

There is nothing but blessing if you are inside of Christ.

You’re safe.
You’re saved.
You’re loved.
You’re cared for.
You’re accepted.
You’re beloved.
You’re blessed.

Outside of Him, there is nothing but danger.

But inside of Him, there is nothing but blessing.

It shouldn’t be a hard choice to make.

Come in.

Come in to the Messiah.
Come in to the Kingdom.
Come in to the One that God the Father calls, “My Son.”

What child is this?

“This, this is Christ the King,
Whom shepherds guard and angels sing:
Haste, haste to bring Him laud [worship],
the Babe, the Son of Mary.”

And the Son of God.

“Blessed are all who take refuge in Him.”


***


Fortifying Truth - Fall 2020

01. Majestic and Mindful - Psalm 8
02. All Our Days - Psalm 90
03. "The LORD on High Is Mighty!" - Psalm 93
04. "The LORD Is My Shepherd" - Psalm 23
05. "Praise the LORD, O My Soul!" - Psalm 103
06. "The Blessing of Aaron's Oily Beard" - Psalm 133
07. "A Dying Thirst for the Living God" - Psalm 42
08. "Our Fortress" - Psalm 46
09. Unrestless - Psalm 131
10. "Sun and Shield" - Psalm 84
11. "With Songs of Joy" - Psalm 126
12. "His Love Endures Forever" - Psalm 136
13. "How Many Are Your Works, O LORD!" - Psalm 104
14. "My Soul Waits for the Lord" - Psalm 130
15. "Remember David" - Psalm 132

Sunday, December 13, 2020

Advent Candle #3: Watch the Blessings Flow!

 


LEFC Family Advent Readings: Let Earth Receive Her King!
Psalm 98 :: December 13, 2020
Week #3: Watch the Blessings Flow

“Advent” means “coming.” Christmas is coming. Jesus has come and is coming again.

For this year’s unique Advent season, we are focusing on Psalm 98, the biblical inspiration for Isaac Watts’ beloved Christmas carol, “Joy to the World.”

Psalm 98 is a victory song of the once and future king of the entire Earth. The psalm is a joyfully celebrates the marvelous things the Lord has done in history and will do when Christ comes again.

Our first candle was a candle of preparation.

[LIGHT FIRST CANDLE AGAIN.]

Just as we are preparing for the coming of Christmas, we should be preparing our hearts for the coming of Christ. Psalm 98 invites us to ready our hearts for His return.
                
[LIGHT SECOND CANDLE AGAIN.]

Our second candle was a candle of celebration. The coming of the Messiah is worthy of the resounding exultation of the whole creation. Heaven and nature will sing!

[LIGHT THIRD CANDLE.]

Our third candle is a candle of anticipation. Psalm 98 thrills our hearts with a glorious picture of an entire globe no longer marred by the ravages of sin.

[READ PSALM 98:1-3]

The psalmist sings a fresh and rapturous song because he has just watched the LORD do marvelous things for Israel, and his song prefigures the marvelous things that Jesus would do when He arrived.

At His first Advent, Jesus won our salvation on the Cross and at the Empty Tomb. At His second Advent, we will watch as Jesus applies that salvation to every inch of the new creation, undoing everything that is spoiled, broken, and wrong.

Let this candle’s light lead us to anticipate that glorious day when Jesus makes all things new.

“No more let sin and sorrow grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make his blessings flow
Far as the curse is found!”

“Remember David” [Matt's Messages]

“Remember David”
Lanse Evangelical Free Church
December 13, 2020 :: Psalm 132

It is not wrong to remind the Lord to keep His promises.

I’m going to say that stronger. It is right to remind the Lord to keep His promises.

And I’m going to kick it up a notch: You and I should, in prayer, regularly remind the Lord to keep His promises.

Not because there is any danger of Him forgetting them! But because we often do and because He loves to hear us repeat them back to Him.

He likes it! The Lord likes it when we rehearse His promises to Him.

And, mysteriously, He uses those reminders to fulfill His promises in our lives.

The title of today’s message comes right out of the first verse of Psalm 132, “Remember David.”

But that’s not something the psalm is asking us to do. This isn’t a Bible trivia game for you and me. “Remember David? Kids, don’t forget King David!” And it’s not talking to David. “Remember, David. Remember how good the Lord is, Dave.” No. And it’s not something we are supposed to say to ourselves, “Remember David, O my soul.”

No. Verse 1 is a prayer to the LORD Himself. If you have your Bible open, look at it with me. Psalm 132, verse 1.

“A song of ascents. O LORD, [O Yahweh] remember David and all the hardships he endured.”


“Remember David.”

That’s a prayer!

Psalm 132 is another one of the “psalms of ascent,” those popular worship songs that the Jews loved to sing as they traveled up to Jerusalem for the high holy days of Israel. And we’ll see why this one would be so popular for singing while making that journey in just a second.

It’s both a royal psalm and psalm of Zion. And it is a prayer. It’s a prayer that God would remember David.

Now, of course, God has not forgotten who David is. That shepherd boy who was anointed king. Who slayed the giant and was chased around the countryside by the old king. Who wrote so many of these psalms that we’ve been studying.

We have not forgotten who David is, and the Lord certainly has not forgotten who David is. But the psalmist still reminds Him.

“To remember” is not just to not forget. It means to call to mind. It means to do something on behalf of the thing being remembered, in this case a person. To do something on behalf of someone else. One translation renders it, “O LORD, remember FOR David.” For David’s sake. Because of David.

“Make good on what you have promised to him, to David.”

By the time this psalm was written, David was actually gone, but his sons were still around, and one or more of them (I think we can see from verse 10) was in a mess of trouble and needed help.

So the psalmist asks God to help that royal son (or sons) of David, and he invokes the name and record of the original King David as he does.

“O LORD, remember David and all the hardships he endured.”

Interestingly, this psalm begins not with the promises that God made to David but with the promises David made to God. 

That’s what it means when it say “all of the hardships he endured.” That’s all of the difficult self-denying things that David did to keep his promises to the Yahweh. Verse 2.

“He swore an oath to the LORD and made a vow to the Mighty One of Jacob: ‘I will not enter my house or go to my bed–I will allow no sleep to my eyes, no slumber to my eyelids, till I find a place for the LORD, a dwelling for the Mighty One of Jacob.’”

David was committed to the glory of God.

David had a heart for the heart of God, and he wanted God to be worshipped rightly.

This part of the psalm is recounting David’s determination to bring the ark of the covenant to Jerusalem and build a temple around it, a house for God. Knowing, of course, that God is much bigger than the Ark of the Covenant. But it symbolized in a very real way the living presence of the LORD.

Do you remember this story? David made a promise. A serious promise. And then, eventually after a few mistakes, he kept that promise.

Verses 6 through 8 poetically tell the story. V.6

“We heard it in Ephrathah, we came upon it in the fields of Jaar: [I think the “it” is the Ark here, though it could be the call to worship,] ‘Let us go to his dwelling place; let us worship at his footstool–arise, O LORD, and come to your resting place, you and the ark of your might.”

Where is Ephrathah? Where have we heard that name before?

Ephrathah the region where the little town of Bethlehem is located.

David’s birthplace. And Somebody else’s birthplace, right?

The search begins there. And then they find the Ark in the fields of Jaar which is Kiriath-Jearim where the Ark has been living in somewhat obscurity for 20 years.

But now David is moving it to the center of the kingdom, the center of God’s chosen people and to the tabernacle at what will soon be the location of the temple.

And they sing (v.8), “Arise, O LORD, and come to your resting place, you and the ark of your might.”


And David is moving it into Jerusalem.

Remember how he danced? How happy he must have been to have finally fulfilled his promise! Verse 9.

“May your priests be clothed with righteousness; may your saints sing for joy.”

May the leaders be godly and everybody be happy because the Ark is where it is supposed to be.

That’s what this song is saying.

You can see now why this would have been a popular worship song for ascending to Jerusalem on pilgrimage! 

“Let us go to his dwelling place; let us worship at his footstool.”

The Ark was the throne room footstool of the Almighty!

And the songwriter builds off of David’s success story with a request for David’s successor. V.10

“For the sake of David your servant, do not reject your anointed one.”

Remember David.

“LORD, remember David and what he did for You.

So now when David’s royal son is in trouble, do not reject him. Help him out!”

If you read in 2 Chronicles chapter 6, you’ll find that Solomon either wrote those words or quoted those words when he dedicated the temple. He actually said, “O LORD God, do not reject your anointed one. Remember the great love promised to David your servant” (6:42).

This psalm divides neatly into two parts, basically two halves, verses 1 through 10 and then verses 11 through 18. I have a point of application that I want to make for both halves. Here’s the first one:

#1. REMIND THE LORD TO KEEP HIS PROMISES.

It’s not wrong to bring them up.

In fact, it’s wrong to NOT bring them up in prayer!

We should be invoking the promises of God all of the time when we pray.

“Remember David!”

“Remember what He did. And, even more importantly, remember what You said You would do for him!”

We don’t know what kind of problems the current king had gotten into. It could have been all kinds of things. In fact, this was probably prayed for a lot of Davidic kings over the years for a lot of different problems. We don’t know.

But we do know on what basis the psalmist expected God to help the king out.

It was on David’s account.

“For the sake of David your servant, do not reject your anointed one.”

Can you see yourself praying that way? Can you see yourself reminding God of somebody else’s name when you are praying?

You know, that’s actually what we are doing when we pray in Jesus’ name. Because all of God’s promises are YES in Jesus. So when we pray in Jesus’ name, we are invoking all of those promises and invoking Jesus’ name in expectation of their fulfillment. “Remember, Jesus, Lord! Remember, Jesus!”

And the Lord loves to hear it. He loves to hear us recount and rehearse and remind Him of what He has promised to do.

Of course, to do that, you have to know what God has promised. Do you know what God has promised you? Maybe this afternoon, you should make a list of promises that God has made to you and pray them back to the Lord in the name of Jesus.

Because that’s the flipside of this point and the point of the second half of this psalm.

#2. TRUST THE LORD TO KEEP HIS PROMISES.

We don’t remind Him because He’s forgetful. And we don’t remind Him or He won’t come through. We remind Him and then we expect Him to come through.

Because God is a lot more trustworthy than David ever was!

In the second half of this psalm, the psalmist sings his assurance that God will keep all of His promises to David. In fact, the second half echoes the first over and over again but then cranks it to 11.

Because the LORD is the greater promise-maker and the greatest promise-keeper. 

Here’s what He promised to David (and it affects us, too). V.11

“The LORD swore an oath to David, a sure oath that he will not revoke: ‘One of your own descendants I will place on your throne–if your sons keep my covenant and the statutes I teach them, then their sons will sit on your throne for ever and ever.’”

That’s a bigger promise than, “I won’t sleep until I find a place for you,” isn’t it?

This song is about 2 Samuel 7 where the LORD made a covenant with David.

David told the LORD he wanted to build Him a house, but the LORD said, “Actually, I’m going to build you a ‘house.’ A royal dynasty that will never end.” Do you hear the forever words in there? Verse 11, “he will not revoke.” Verse 12, “sons will sit on your throne for ever and ever.”

The LORD has made big promises to David, and He intends to keep them. Verse 13.

“For the LORD has chosen Zion, he has desired it for his dwelling: ‘This is my resting place for ever and ever; here I will sit enthroned, for I have desired it–”

It wasn’t just David that chose Jerusalem. The LORD did, too. And He calls it “Zion” which reminds us that it’s not just that spot of physical real estate in Israel. That was simply the symbolic earthly headquarters that prefigures and foreshadows the heavenly headquarters, the heavenly Zion, the heavenly throne room, and perhaps one day will again serve as the location for the Davidic throne when Jesus reigns on Earth in the millennium.

The point is that the LORD is going to keep His promises to David.

And it’s going to be glorious. Verse 15.

“I will bless her with abundant provisions; her poor will I satisfy with food. I will clothe her priests with salvation, and her saints will ever sing for joy.”

Do you hear how verses 15 and 16 fulfill the requests of verses 8 and 9?

Zion will be safe and satisfied and well-stocked and saved and sing for joy!

“Her saints will ever sing for joy!”

So far, these promises have only been partially fulfilled.

If you read the books of 1 and 2 Kings and 1 and 2 Chronicles, you can read the story of how God has answered these kind of Psalm 132 prayers with partial fulfilments of all of his promises to David.

Part of that is because of verse 12. David sons did not always (often?) keep up their end of the deal. “If your son keep my covenant and the statutes I teach them, then their sons will sit on your throne for ever and ever.”


It got so bad, they were all sent into exile! The temple torn down and Zion desolated. No son of David on the throne. No Son of David in sight.

But even their disobedience will not stop the Lord from fully keeping His promises in His own time.

The LORD had a plan that would be fulfilled starting in Ephrathah once again.

A little baby would be born in Bethlehem and be the Son of David.

“Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ [Messiah] the Lord" (Luke 2:11).

Once in Royal David’s City, the Messiah would be born.

Do you know what the Hebrew is for the words “anointed one” in verse 10 and in verse 17?

It’s “Messiah.” Look at verse 17.

“Here I will make a horn grow for David and set up a lamp for my anointed one. I will clothe his enemies with shame, but the crown on his head will be resplendent.”

God has promised a horn, a lamp, and a crown.

A ox’s horn was a symbol of growing strength and might. Nobody would be stronger than this Messiah.

A lamp is a symbol of a perpetually shining life. Nothing will snuff out this Messiah.

And while his enemies, the world, the flesh, and the devil, will be clothed with shame, this Messiah will be clothed with a crown. A victorious, glorious, radiant, resplendent crown.


Hallelujah!

You can see why the pilgrims loved to sing this song as they marched upwards to Zion.

Because they knew they were singing about the Messiah.

The Lord has promised this Messiah.

A Royal Son of David whose Zion will provide safety and satisfaction and salvation and songs of joy!

We ain’t seen nothing yet!

Trust the LORD to keep His promises. “The LORD has sworn an oath to David, a sure oath that he will not revoke." So don’t be afraid to remind Him of it. He’ll love it if you do!

And trust Him to make good on it. Because He definitely will in His time and in His way. But perfectly and forever. “Here I will make a horn grow for David and set up a lamp for my anointed one. I will clothe his enemies with shame, but the crown on his head will be resplendent.”

Remember David.

And remember Jesus!


***

Fortifying Truth - Fall 2020

01. Majestic and Mindful - Psalm 8
02. All Our Days - Psalm 90
03. "The LORD on High Is Mighty!" - Psalm 93
04. "The LORD Is My Shepherd" - Psalm 23
05. "Praise the LORD, O My Soul!" - Psalm 103
06. "The Blessing of Aaron's Oily Beard" - Psalm 133
07. "A Dying Thirst for the Living God" - Psalm 42
08. "Our Fortress" - Psalm 46
09. Unrestless - Psalm 131
10. "Sun and Shield" - Psalm 84
11. "With Songs of Joy" - Psalm 126
12. "His Love Endures Forever" - Psalm 136
13. "How Many Are Your Works, O LORD!" - Psalm 104
14. "My Soul Waits for the Lord" - Psalm 130

Saturday, December 12, 2020

The Struggle Is Real!


Source: XKCD.

Friday, December 11, 2020

No On-Campus Church Events Until After January 4th


Dear Church Family,

The Church Elders Team has made the prayerful and painful decision to cancel all in-person, on-campus church events from now until after January 4th, 2021.

So that means no on-campus worship gatherings for the next four Sundays (December 13, 20, 27, or January 3) and no on-campus prayer meetings on Wednesday nights until January 6th. It also means that we are canceling the Candles and Carols outdoor worship gathering that we were in the process of planning for Christmas Eve.

This was not an easy decision to make because we all want to continue to gather in fellowship and worship of the Lord Jesus Christ, especially at Christmastime. But the Elders met twice this week to pray and plan together, and this is how the Lord led us.

Because COVID-19 cases are at an all time high, the Governor of Pennsylvania has put temporary mitigation measures into effect from December 12th to January 4th including limiting indoor gatherings to 10 people and outdoor gatherings to no more than 50. While the Governor has specifically indicated that churches are exempt from these limitations, he has also strongly recommended that churches follow them as well because “in person gatherings pose a significant risk to participants at this time.” It seemed wise to us to follow this guidance and continue to do our part in stopping the spread of COVID-19.

Obviously, the virus is now here among us in our area. Many in our own church family have been affected either by infection or exposure. We’re hoping that this temporary pause in gathering will  help us to keep each other safe, especially the most vulnerable among us.

This does not mean, of course, that our mission is on hold. We continue to exist to glorify God by bringing people into a life-changing relationship with Jesus Christ through worship, instruction, fellowship, evangelism, and service. The main thing is still to keep the main thing the main thing, which is the gospel of Jesus Christ.

We will continue to send out the Worship at Home resources we’ve been making, including a Guide to Worship at Home and recorded video messages. And we’re still online every Sunday evening at 6:30 for a Church Family Fellowship Meeting on Zoom. Right now, we’re focusing on interviewing and praying for the medical professionals in our church family who are working in health care during this difficult time.

We’re also going to continue to post videos of families in the church lighting the Advent Candles. Christmas is not canceled. It’s just different this year.

Here’s an idea the Elders had for Christmas Eve: Instead of all of our families all gathering together in one place, maybe a few families coordinate and go caroling at the homes of some of our older folks in the church? Pull out your directory and drive over to someone’s front yard, ring the doorbell and sing “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” and “Joy to the World.” That would be very safe and might mean the world to someone who needs the encouragement. That church directory is our friend for ministry to one another during this hardest point in the pandemic. Let’s continue to stay connected.

By the way, thank you for your continued giving during this time. The deaconesses have begun helping families who have lost income due to quarantines using the relief funds that you have donated these last several months. And the church is still doing well financially. Thank you for your faithfulness and generosity!

If you have any questions or needs, please do not hesitate to contact me, Marilynn in the church office, or any of the Elders. We are here for you.

We are all sad that this is where we are at today and we are praying for an end to COVID-19 and full resumption of in-person ministry. I’m sure we’re going to get through this as the Lord is leading us every step of the way.

I will miss being with you for the next four Sunday mornings, but I am looking forward to gathering the six of us in our family in our living room and worshiping together there. I encourage you to do the same with your household because Jesus Christ is worthy.

“The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD turn his face toward you and give you peace” (Numbers 6:23-26, NIV84).

In His Grip,
-Pastor Matt

Sunday, December 06, 2020

Advent Candle #2: Repeat the Sounding Joy

 


LEFC Family Advent Readings: Let Earth Receive Her King!
Psalm 98 :: December 6, 2020
Week #2: Repeat the Sounding Joy

Advent” means “coming.” Christmas is coming. Jesus has come and is coming again.

During this year’s unusual Advent season, we are centering our attention on Psalm 98, which the hymnwriter Isaac Watts used as the basis for the Christmas carol, “Joy to the World.”

Psalm 98 is a victory song that joyfully celebrating the marvelous things the Lord has done in history and will do when Christ comes again.

Our first candle was a candle of preparation.

[LIGHT FIRST CANDLE AGAIN.]

Just as we are all preparing for the coming of Christmas, we should be preparing our hearts for the coming of Christ. Psalm 98 invites us to ready our hearts for His return.
                
[LIGHT SECOND CANDLE.]

Our second candle is a candle of celebration. Psalm 98 is filled with calls to rejoice in  song.

[READ PSALM 98:4-8]
                    
The coming of the Messiah is worthy of our frequently repeated joyful exultation. 

The psalmist personifies all of nature joining in the great celebration–with the sea roaring, rivers clapping their hands, and mountains singing for joy. All of creation participates in the festivity.

As Christians expecting the blessed return of our rescuing King, we have every reason to rejoice.

“Joy to the earth! the Savior reigns;
Let all their songs employ,
While fields and floods, rocks, hills, and plains
Repeat the sounding joy!”