The presidential election is almost upon us. And regardless of what your political views may be, I think we are all looking forward to the end of the campaign. That way our social media feeds that are filled with links to articles and fierce debates over which candidate is better or worse can go back to what God intended Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter for in the first place: pet and recipe videos.
But regardless of your political views, my sense is that the most common reaction to our current election season is a profound sense of disappointment and frustration. In a country of nearly 300 million people surely these cannot be the best candidates, right? Beyond disappointment and frustration, I have seen a good number of people, including believers, express despair at the future of our country. Some have gone so far as to claim that if a certain candidate is or is not elected, it could mean the end of Christianity here in the United States.
So at a time like this, when it seems like the broader culture around us and the political sphere in particular is so broken, how should we as followers of Jesus Christ live?
I believe the book of Philippians can help us answer that question. It does so by reminding us as believers that we are called to live joyfully as citizens of God’s kingdom. We do so by understanding our calling, seeing our King, accepting our commission, and embracing our confidence.
Want to learn more? You can listen to the sermon audio here:
Sometimes things do not work out like we hope. Whether it is something we buy, an experience, or even a relationship, sometimes our hopes are disappointed. Here’s one we can probably all identify with: the movie you go to see is a total dud. Or maybe the new piece of technology you have had your heart set on doesn’t do what you wanted it to do. But those are small examples. Let’s think bigger.
Maybe it is a vacation you have been anticipating and saving for that ends up a flop. Or even more significantly, maybe it is a job that you thought would be a perfect fit that turned out very different than you were told. Or maybe it is a relationship that you expected to bring you joy and fulfillment but has instead resulted in frustration and disappointment. Part of living in this fallen world is dealing with disappointment when promises don’t deliver what we were expecting.
The Jews who returned to the Promised Land after 70 years of exile knew that all too well. Last week Pastor Larry explained how this remnant of 50,000 Jews had returned to the land and began rebuilding the temple. But opposition soon brought the building to a halt. About a decade later Haggai came onto the scene in the Fall of 520 BC, where for four months he called the Jews to resume working on the temple.
Zechariah’s ministry began during Haggai’s ministry, but then extended beyond it into at least the next year and probably beyond. Both leading up to and during the exile God had promised that one day his people would return to the land and live under a king from David’s line. The temple would be rebuilt even more glorious than before, and the people would be empowered to obey. But their reality fell way short of those promises. So through Zechariah, God lifts the eyes of the people to the promised king and his kingdom.
As part of our One Book series at Christ’s Covenant Church, I had the privilege of preaching an overview sermon on Isaiah. Sometimes called the “fifth gospel” by some in the early church, Isaiah gives a breathtaking view of God’s plan for human history, centered on the promise of a Spirit-anointed Davidic king and Suffering Servant who obeys where Israel failed, suffers for his people’s sin, rises from the dead, inaugurates a new covenant, creates a servant people, and transforms creation itself.
If you want to see a beautiful and compelling picture of Jesus Christ, I encourage you to listen to the audio.
P.S. I also preached Judges earlier in this series; you can find that post and sermon audio here.
Typology is one of the ways that God reveals the unity of the Bible. Although sometimes abused, when understood properly typology shows us the beauty of Christ and the gospel.
Let’s begin with a quick overview of Judges. The opening section describes Israel’s military and religious failures (1:1-3:6), introducing us to the cycle of rebellion, retribution, repentance, redemption, and rest. The heart of the book then shows this cycle working itself out in the lives of the various judges (3:7-16:31), Over time the judges become less and less successful, culminating in Samson’s failure to deliver Israel. The final section give a series of incidents that exemplify Israel’s failure (17:1-21:25), with a key refrain repeated: “In those days there was no king in Israel” (17:6; 18:1; 19:1; 21:25).
When read in light of the whole canon, Samson emerges as a type of Christ. Both in the good that Samson does and his failures we can see Christ foreshadowed: Read through the story of Samson (Judges 13:1-16:31), and then consider the following:
We have a king who wasn’t merely born from a barren woman, but one was born of a virgin.
We have a king who wasn’t merely born to rescue Israel from the Philistines, he was born to save his people from their sins.
We have a king who wasn’t merely dedicated by his parents as Nazirite, but live an entire life of perfect purity.
We have a king who wasn’t merely empowered by the Spirit on occasion, but was empowered by the Spirit for the entirety of his life and ministry.
We have a king who wasn’t merely empowered to kill wild animals and defeat armies, but a king who was empowered to defeat Satan, cast out demons, heal the sick, feed the hungry, still the storm, and raise people from the dead.
We have a king who didn’t merely speak in riddles to annoy his enemies, but a king who spoke in parables to reveal the mysteries of the kingdom of God.
We have a king who didn’t merely bring moments of relief to the Israelites, but a king who brings eternal salvation to all his people, Jew and Gentile alike.
We have a king who didn’t merely defeat his enemies through his self-sacrificial death, but a king who offered himself as a sacrifice for our sins and rose triumphantly from the dead three days later.
As if that is not enough there’s more! That king that we so desperately needed ascended into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God the Father. Then he poured out the same Spirit who empowered him to live a life of perfect obedience to live inside of his people to empower us to obey.
As believers we have a Spirit-empowered king who has defeated our greatest enemies of sin, death, and the devil.
We have a king who not only rules over us in righteousness, who also lives in us to empower us to walk in obedience just as he did. And his name is Jesus Christ.
Interested in hearing more? You can listen to the sermon below:
When you think back on your spiritual journey, who were the people God used to encourage you in the faith? Your parents? Maybe a teacher or a pastor? A grandparent? A close friend? Most believers can think of at least one or two people who were instrumental in their Christian growth.
In Philippians 2:19-24, Paul introduces Timothy, his spiritual “son in the faith,” whom he planned to send to the church in Philippi as an encouragement. Paul trusted that Timothy would show genuine concern for the people there and would serve as a positive role model of Christ-like living.
What can we learn from Timothy’s example? And what does his life teach us about Jesus?
That is the question I tried to answer this past Sunday when I preached this passage at Christ’s Covenant Church. You can listen to the audio here.
And of course, if you want to read more about this passage, you can check out my commentary here.
One thing you realize very quickly when you travel internationally is the value and importance of a passport. As you enter and leave a country you need to be able to show that passport, or you aren’t going anywhere. That passport is tangible proof of your citizenship, the place you call home. Indeed, in the past it was even common to refer to the country you were from as your homeland.
When we talk about citizenship, we are at some level also talking about our identity. Our citizenship plays a role in shaping who we are, what we value, what is important to us, and how we live. Since as believers we are citizens of God’s kingdom, that reality should shape the way that we we live as sojourners and exiles in this world.
What does it mean to live as a citizen of God’s kingdom? What is it that governs our lives as citizens of God’s kingdom?
This past Sunday I had the privilege of answering these questions as I preached on Philippians 1:27-30. You can find the audio here, and read even more about it in my Philippians commentary.
One of the defining characteristics of our culture is a fear of commitment. We love to keep our options open, not get ourselves locked into something that is difficult to get ourselves out of. According to a study released in 2013, by the age of 30 years old, 75% of women in the U.S. have lived with a partner without being married. About 40% of those relationship ended up in marriage within three years, while nearly a third were still together living together without being married.
This lack of commitment has infected the church as well. Some churches have done away with the notion of membership altogether. Other churches still have it, but do almost nothing with it. As a result, it is common for churches to have a large number of regular attenders who are not members.
Despite its growing unpopularity, I still believe that church membership is a biblical idea. In essence, it is a formal expression of our love and commitment to Christ and his church. So what then are the responsibilities of being a member of a local church?
This past Sunday I had the privilege of preaching at my home church, Christ’s Covenant Church. We are beginning a series on the church, and the elders asked me to kick things off by doing a biblical theology of the church. The goal was to help our congregation understand our story as a people – the people of God.
Before you listen, though, let me provide two caveats. First, I only had about 38 minutes, so I had to be extremely selective in how I traced this theme through the biblical story. Second, I did not have the time to discuss the well-known issue of the relationship between Israel and the church.
The main thrust I tried to communicate is that God’s purpose from the beginning was to create a people who would reflect his glory by living joyfully and obediently under his sovereign rule. But all throughout the OT the people of God fail repeatedly. God promises to raise up a Serpent-crusher who will defeat the serpent, deal with the sins of his people, and institute a new covenant to create an obedient people. That promise is fulfilled in Jesus Christ, who obeys where God’s people have failed, dies for their sins, and crushes the serpent by rising from the dead. He inaugurates the new covenant and pours out his Spirit to create the new covenant people of God.
Want to hear more? You can either listen online or download the audio here.
This past Sunday we began a new series at Christ’s Covenant Church on the Psalms. We have entitled the series “Worthy” to capture two key truths: (1) God is worthy of our love, our devotion, our worship; and in light of this (2) we are called to live in a way that is worthy of him. So throughout this series we will focus on these two aspects of the term “worthy” as we look at various psalms to feed our souls and fuel our devotion to Christ no matter what life circumstances we encounter.
The Psalms connect with us on so many levels. They express the entire spectrum of human experience and display the full range of God’s character and his dealings with humanity. When we read the Psalms we scale the heights of joyful worship of our exalted God and plumb the depths of despair that come from living in a fallen world. In between we find the daily challenges of living a life of worship. The great Reformer Martin Luther referred to the Psalms as “the Bible in miniature.” In fact, one Luther scholar observes that:
Romans gave Luther his theology, but it was the Psalms that gave him his thunder. The Psalms gave Luther a towering view of God, so much so that in preaching the gospel, he was ready to fight the devil himself.
The 150 psalms that are in the book come from a variety of authors and time periods, some as early as Moses. The primary person associated with the Psalms is King David. He not only wrote many of them, but one of the major themes in Psalms is the promise that God made to him in 2 Samuel 7 about one of his descendants ruling over God’s people and ultimately the world. The book of Psalms is broken up into five “books,” which likely mirrors the first five books of the Old Testament. Sometime after the Jewish people returned from their exile in Babylon these psalms were collected for use in worship. So there is a sense in which Psalms is like a hymnal. But the arrangement and ordering of the Psalms is not accidental. In many cases psalms have clearly been grouped together to make a point that goes beyond the individual psalms.
That is the case with the Psalms 1–2, as we will see when working our way through them this morning. These two psalms were placed together at the beginning of the Psalms to introduce the book as a whole. When understood together they not only set the trajectory for the entire collection, but introduce key themes that are developed along the way. In addition to that, Psalms 1–2 beautifully capture the dual focus of our series—the worthiness of God and the call to live a life that is worthy of Him. Psalm 1 will lay out for us a worthy life, and Psalm 2 will show us a worthy king. But as we go through Psalms 1–2, the question I want you to keep in mind is the relationship between the two. In other words, what is the relationship between a life that is worthy and the king who is worthy of worship?
Interested in hearing more? You can find the audio of the sermon here.