Saturday, May 30, 2009

Shop at Your Local Mom and Pop

Jeremy Beer over at the Front Porch has posted an excellent idea for supporting local economies. There is a much better and easier way to build your local economy, as well as provide help to those in need, than by having politicians erode your freedom by increasing your taxes. To put it simply--spend your money at local businesses. Read below for the basics of the 3/50 Project, and then go to their website for more information.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Ridderbos and the Kingdom of God

As I continue to study and prepare for my sermons in the gospel of Mark, I have been reviewing Ridderbos on the Kingdom of God. Here are some great quotes from his chapter "The Kingdom of God according to the Witness of the Synoptic Gospels," in When the Time Had Fully Come: Studies in New Testament Theology.
"This, before anything else, that the eschatological Kingdom of God is coming as a seed, seemingly the weakest and most defenseless thing there is. . . . He who brings the Kingdom is a Sower, seemingly the most dependent of men. 'A Sower went forth to sow' and 'He who sows the good seed is the Son of Man' - that is the great mystery of the Kingdom of God."

"[The power of the eschatological harvest] lies hidden in the person of Jesus Himself. The humble and unobtrusive figure of the Sower cover the hidden greatness of Christ's Messiahship. That is the real mystery of the Kingdom. This hidden greatness of Jesus Christ is, strictly speaking, the subject of the Gospels, and it is this greatness which determines the nature of the Kingdom."

"For the character and the purport of the Kingdom is determined by the person and by the way of Jesus. He is the auto-basileia."
With the arrival of the Christ, comes the arrival of the eschatological Kingdom of God. And yet, even at its arrival, it does not break forth in visible glory, strength and military conquest. Instead, the Kingdom manifests the character of the King--a life of suffering and humiliation that leads to glory and exaltation. And yet, this present reality of the Kingdom is not devoid of its future power and glory--it just manifests it in a mysterious way. In Christ, the Sower becomes the seed that is sown in death that in his resurrection gives forth a harvest a hundred fold. And with his resurrection and exaltation, Christ no longer belongs to the earthly world of humiliation, he now belongs to that heavenly world as the first-fruits of the great future.
"In the Synoptic Gospels the present and the future significance of the Kingdom largely coincide. . . . But the resurrection opens up a new perspective. It teaches us to distinguish between what has come, and what is to come. It is the starting point of a new dispensation in the future of the Kingdom."
This means that the Kingdom of God does not end history, but it invades it, it intrudes into it, it enters into history so that the beginning of the new age begins while the old age is still present. We live right now in the time of the in between--the time in which the future is present while at the same time still future, "But this presence of the Kingdom is, so to speak, surrounded by the future. And the presence of the Kingdom is felt only in so far as it is carried and governed by the future."

The eschatological Kingdom of God broke forth into history with the in-breaking of the eschatological King into history. It is this coming of the King and the Kingdom that defines the followers of Christ now. In the church we find the presence of the future, and as such the church is to manifest that future in the present. The Church derives her existence and the mode of her existence from the fact that she is participating in the eschatological Kingdom of God, already. And as the Kingdom derives its character from the King--so the church too comes to derive her character from the King. As such, the Church bears the marks of this mystery - the existence of the church is one of suffering that leads to glory, and yet, as she is already participating in that glory, she is able to endure the suffering.

In this we find a most practical benefit for living the Christian life--the reality of our present participation in the future determines is our present reality, no matter what things look like around us. And it is the presence of the future that molds, then, how we pursue our Christian calling in serving Christ, serving one another, and living in a world that is not our home.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

"The Heavenly Vision and Our Earthly Agony" - Micah 4

The life of the cross is not just found in the New Testament, but even in the Old, one finds the anticipation of a life of suffering that leads to glory. Micah 4 truly anticipates the life of the new covenant pilgrim that has heaven put before him as that reminder and means for his earthly pilgrimage.

You can read it here.

You can listen to it here. (Be kind, I had the flu)

"The Communion Feast of Peace" - Leviticus 7.11-38 & 1 Cor 10.16-18

I enjoy preaching from the Old Testament, especially from texts like Leviticus that don't seem to get much attention. Here is a recent sermon I preached for a church that was observing the Lord's Supper, so I chose to preach from Leviticus 7.11-38 and 1 Corinthians 10.16-18, "The Communion Feast of Peace." Everyone was extremely encouraging and mentioned that they enjoyed hearing a sermon from Leviticus, let alone seeing how it taught them about Christ and the Lord's Supper. I am waiting to receive an audio copy of the sermon and when I have it I will post. For now, you can read the sermon if you're interested.

The Truth about Angels & Demons

Following the great success of Dan Brown's novel turned movie The DaVinci Code, another of Brown's novels, Angels & Demons, has also been adapted into a movie and is set to be released in theaters tomorrow. Although the movie is a sequel, the novel is actually a prequel whose events take place prior to those in The DaVinci Code. Although fiction, Brown finds ways to take shots at the Christian faith, and in this one the issues concern the relationship of science and religion. Given Brown's ability to play around with history and science to make them say what he wants, it can be difficult for the average person to know how to respond to Brown's proposals.

Well, Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia has created the website The Truth about Angels & Demons as a resource to help persons navigate the assertions of the movie. They look at particular issues that are essential to the movie's plot, such as, bioethics, antimatter, the illuminati, Vatican hidden archives, the God particle, etc. The site also deals with questions the movie raises. The Five main questions they answer are:
  1. Does religion fear science?
  2. What is the future of religion?
  3. Can science answer ultimate questions?
  4. Is there evidence that God created earth?
  5. Is the Bible True?
If you are going to watch the movie, check out the site and go prepared. Its a lot more fun to watch a movie when you can actively engage it and not have to passively receive what it proposes.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Calvin's Summary of the Gospel

I am running behind on my Calvin reading, so I just started Book III Chapter II of the Institutes this morning. What a great way to start the morning! Calvin begins with a simple, three pronged summary of the gospel:
First, God lays down for us through the law what we should do; if we then fail in any part of it, that dreadful sentence of eternal death which it pronounces will rest upon us.

Secondly, it is not only hard, but above our strength and beyond all our abilities, to fulfill the law to the letter; thus, if we look to ourselves only, and ponder what condition we deserve, no trace of good hope will remain; but cast away by God, we shall lie under eternal death.

Thirdly, it has been explained that there is but one means of liberation that can rescue us from such miserable calamity: the appearance of Christ the Redeemer, through whose hand the Heavenly Father, pitying us out of his infinite goodness and mercy, will to help us; if, indeed, with firm faith we embrace this mercy and rest n it with steadfast hope.
Jesus Christ the Redeemer has appeared and he is the the one means of liberation. Are you resting in this Christ and his liberation today?