Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Mark: John, baptism, temptation

Mark 1:1-13 establishes John the Baptist's ministry, Christ's baptism, and Christ's temptation.

All four Gospels talk about John and his ministry.  Only Matthew and Luke talk about Christ's birth.  Apparently, when God inspired Scripture, he felt it more important to talk about John the Baptist's launching of Jesus, so to speak, than about Jesus's own birth as important as that is.  Mark starts his Gospel with John.

In John's era, if a non-Jew, aka a Gentile, wanted to take part in the Jewish faith, he had to get baptized and circumcised, and then the could take part in all the benefits of the Jewish church of the time.  When John came, he called both Gentiles and Jews to be baptized for the repentance of their sins.  This shocked and offended the Jews because they thought that being descendants of Abraham already made them perfect.  They did not think they needed repentance.  But John's baptism shows us all that everyone has sins.  Some maybe obvious such as murder or sexual immorality.  Some are like mine: I'm an introvert and do all my sinning on the inside.  I have angry thoughts, I'm judgmental, I have pride, and I often doubt God because I always want more than I currently have.  All of us need to repent of our sins and be baptized if we have not done so already.

Then Jesus comes and is even more shocking.  Jesus is the only man who never sinned.  He disproves the cliche, "To err is human."  Jesus was fully human and never sinned.  Although everyone else does sin, we cannot use the excuse, "I'm only human."  And here Jesus comes to get baptized!  Jesus has never sinned.  John, his cousin, knows that he has never sinned.  In fact, he says, "I need you to baptize me."

But here is where Christology comes in.  Jesus did not merely die for our sins.  He lived for us so that his perfect life could be imputed to us.  To do that, Jesus perfectly followed every law.  Jesus came to get baptized to obey the law.  And although Jesus did not need to repent, I do every day.  Jesus repented for me and took on the punishment for my sins.  He performed a perfect repentance that I never could.

After that he goes into the desert to be tempted by Satan, and Mark only uses two verses to talk about that unlike Matthew and Luke.  From there, Jesus continued to perfectly obey the law even when it would be easier to not do so.

How do I boil all this theological goodness down to a 25 minute music session.  I will probably pick songs about baptism.  "The River" by Jordan Feliz is one the kids like.  Also, "River of Life" (gush,gush,gush, gush) is easy for the kindergartners.  There are songs about obedience to God even when life is hard such as "Blessed be the Name" by Matt Redman, "Desert Song," by Brooke Fraser.  Also, although kids laugh at me saying "do", I love the song "Do Lord."  It's easy.  Then, I generally want to sing about God's love without singing about Christ's death quite yet, though it is mentioned.  "Oh the Deep, Deep Love of Jesus" is wordy but rocks.  "O How I need You," by All Sons and Daughters is brand spanking new, and I simply want to sing it.  I feel like it is really easy.

As for more fun songs.  I think I want to teach the younger kids the alphabet.  All ages, even 5th grade like "Apples and Bananas".  Hooked on Phonics had some songs on YouTube that are now pulled due to copyright reasons which is sad for me but smart for them.  I have the "A" Song.  Then, I have some good ole dance songs like "If You're a Kid" or "She'll be Coming Round the Mountain."

That is my plan for next week.  Hope I can keep this up!


Here is my attempt to start and finish another series that will likely take me all year and I won't always feel like updating.

But just the same, another year is starting up where I do music for CCS's after school.  In the past year, I have let a theme guide my song choices, but I never talked about it for fear I would not keep it up.  But I did, so I shall attempt to talk about it.

Tabletalk  magazine has been following the Gospel of Mark in its devotionals this year.  I have been wanting to teach straight through a Bible book but have not been able to do so.  I think after school music can be my one chance to do that, and I think I will base my Christian music selections on each week of devotions from the magazine.  I will also do fun stuff that hopefully teach the kids.

Anyway, going through a Gospel goes well with Ligonier presenting their Christological statement this year.  It has sparked no mere controversy as we can see in the debate over whether Christ has always submitted to the Father or if he did so just so that he could save people from their sins when he came to earth as a man.  I can see both sides of the debate and will not mention it today and really have no desire to do so later.

But knowing Christ is so important.  We will never do so fully or most properly here before Christ returns, but we must attempt to do so as long as we can and God has given us all we need in the Bible and in Church to help us.  I think the main thing to get right regarding Christ and all the trinity is to make sure we protect the both the Trinity's oneness and its threeness.

On the one hand, we must always acknowledge that Christ is God, equal with God the Father and the Spirit and equally to be worshiped.  Mormons do not hold Christ as equal to God and neither to Jehovah's Witnesses.  I cannot consider them true Christians.  They are actually polytheists.  While they are good people who I love, I cannot consider them Christians and will not listen to their music on Pandora.

On the other hand, we must acknowledge that Christ is also fully a man and is a separate person than the Father and the Spirit.  While we do not believe in three gods, and while Christ is completely God, he is still neither the Father, nor the Spirit.  God the Father did not die for my sins.  God the Spirit did not become a man with skin and bones.  Christ became a man and took on all the limitations that humans had.  Do deny Christ's separateness from the other two members of the trinity makes him less than a person and more of a puppet on God's hand.  But no, he is a full man and fully separate from the Father and Spirit but still completely God and not a separate god.  People who officially deny this are Unitarians and will be found in the United Church of Christ and the Oneness Pentecostal group.  I also cannot call people of these groups Christian though I cannot judge their hearts either.  I will also not go and see them speak if they should come to my church, but I have sung their songs.  Phillips, Craig, and Dean have some good songs.

I want to actually go into my first week re-reading through the devos in Tabletalk, but I feel like this blog is getting long.  Next post, I will talk about Mark 1:1-13 and conclusions I've drawn from it at least songwise.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Petition 6: temptation and evil

Q. 106. What do we pray for in the sixth petition?
A. In the sixth petition, which is, And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil, we pray that God would either keep us from being tempted to sin, or support and deliver us when we are tempted.

This one is big.  I know I often want to avoid sin throughout the day but then an angry thought will go past my mind or I will say something without thinking and I've sinned.  How do I prevent this?

I must pray to God to keep me from sin and to deliver me from me when I'm faced with a decision to sin.  Most of the sins we commit are unintentional, but they are still sins and they are still worth of God's judgment.  These are mentioned in Leviticus 5:17 and under the Old Covenant community of Israel there was a whole protection and sacrificial system for it.

Jeremy Pierre wrote about "Involuntary Sins" in last month's Tabletalk magazine.  He talked about trained instincts and fighter pilots.  They are trained to make quick automatic decisions that come from a long time of mental preparation and practice.  "The countless little decisions they make in the cockpit are automatic, but that doesn't mean they're involuntary."

In the same way the sins that we "accidentally" do are also voluntary no matter how automatic.  Since Jesus has died for the sins of every believer, in the New Covenant Church, we retrain our brains through praying that the Lord keeps us from sin and also to read from his Bible every day.  We must remember 2 Timothy 3:16 about Scripture rebuking us, training us, and renewing us.  You will know what he wants and how to ask for it if you do not neglect this vital practice of exploring the Scriptures every day.  Without this, your soul will suffer and perhaps even die.  This is how you put your trained instincts under a new regimen.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Petition 5: debts and debtors

Q. 105. What do we pray for in the fifth petition?
A. In the fifth petition, which is, And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors, we pray that God, for Christ’s sake, would freely pardon all our sins; which we are the rather encouraged to ask, because by his grace we are enabled from the heart to forgive others.

What a mercy that the first thing in a proper prayer that the Lord Jesus taught us is not to confess our sins right out.  We get to start by praising our God, praying for his name to be honored, for his kingdom to come and that we bring about his will, and we even get to ask God to provide for our needs that he already knows we have.  And then, we must remember that we are sinners and deserve nothing from the Father who we have wronged so grievously.  We don't even deserve for him to give us an audience.

But he allows us to confess our sins and to ask them to be forgiven.  He has provided his only Son whom he loves more than anything to die for our sins and take on our just punishment and to give us his life.  He is glad to forgive our sins because he knows that Jesus has brought them to justice.  

At the same time, we need to forgive those who have sinned against us.  It is good to mention this in the prayer because often times we cannot in our own strength forgive people who have harmed us.  But we must and so we must rely on the Holy Spirit's power to carry us along through completing our Lord's command to forgive.

What a joy to a recovering sinner that God will not only forgive our sins but help us to forgive people we have wronged or even have gone to far in trying to help.  He will help us forgive ourselves.  How dare we not take advantage of this grace!  In fact, if we don't, then we will suffer for eternity.  Take this offer, please!  There is no other.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Petition Four: Daily Bread + more reflections on the first petition

WSC Q. 104. What do we pray for in the fourth petition?
A. In the fourth petition, which is, Give us this day our daily bread, we pray that of God’s free gift we may receive a competent portion of the good things of this life, and enjoy his blessing with them.

I said this in the first week that I started the petitions of the Lord's Prayer: When I pray, I normally dive right into the things I want for myself and for people that I love.  I certainly start with praise and thanksgiving, but that is quite brief compared to what Jesus teaches.

When we pray, he wants us to put our wants and needs in fourth place.  This is just behind our prayers to God to help us do his will on earth which is ahead of asking for his Kingdom to come on earth whether immediately or in progressive increments.  All of this is less important than our desiring that we keep God's name holy and that others do the same.

But in all of this, God does want us to come to him for things that we want and need.  We don't have to be completely selfless when we pray.  I am just so floored at God's generosity to us in granting this privilege. We can ask for things for ourselves and for those that we love.

I'm going to mention something about the first petition that just now dawned on me.  You know how Christians like myself offend people by commenting that things they post on facebook are offensive?  What if it's a dirty joke with crude words?  What if it's that overplayed "if you don't like x then don't do x" meme?  What if it's some liberal dribble about loving people and not judging (which I believe in, btw, but not in a way that excuses their sins or acts like everyone will go to heaven)?  What if I want people to stop posting such stuff not because I'm some prudish flat-earther who thinks all people should think like me, but because I'm genuinely concerned that they are dishonoring God's name?  You know that if Johnny constantly dishonors God's name by his words and actions that he is calling curses upon himself.  What more loving thing could I do than to simply ask that he examine himself and his beliefs to see if he is truly following God or if he is just trying to impress his friends as more important than God?  God could be using me to answer my own prayer that his name be hallowed.  God could be using me to save him from hell.

Please, people, always keep in mind Ephesians 4 which exhorts us to live worthy of our calling and professions as believers in Jesus and to not live as the nonbelievers do.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Petition Three: Will Be Done

"Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven." "we pray that God, by his grace, would make us able and willing to know, obey, and submit to his will in all things, as the angels do in heaven."  Thus says WSC Q103.  
To me, this is a continuation of the second petition: to pray that God's kingdom will come.  We bring about God's kingdom by knowing, obeying, and submitting to his will.

We certainly don't do it perfectly and cannot do it without the Holy Spirit's guidance, which is why we must pray every day for God to help us to obey him, to love our Lord by obeying him.

This is such an encouragement when you are seeking to be healed from sin and codependency.  While you want to help fix things, you know that you can't and have to rest on what Christ has done and what he will continue to do as he guides you with his Spirit.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Petition Two: Your Kingdom Come

Q. 102. What do we pray for in the second petition?
A. In the second petition, which is, Thy kingdom come, we pray that Satan’s kingdom may be destroyed; and that the kingdom of grace may be advanced, ourselves and others brought into it, and kept in it; and that the kingdom of glory may be hastened.

When we pray for God's kingdom to come, it gives us hope that the ugly death and hatred going on all around us is not how it will always be.  Jesus will come back and establish his Kingdom on earth for all eternity.  Evil will be no more, and there will be no more dying or disobeying God.

At the same time, as we pray for God to send his Kingdom and send it soon, we also should be working to make it as much possible now before he returns.  We should fight abortion, prevent the government from destroying innocent lives, encourage young people to not follow their hearts but to follow the Lord when it come to sexuality, and comfort people who grieve and are questioning God.  And we must make disciples of the Lord who follow his commands.  Help save people from damnation by warning them of their errors while at the same time knowing God ultimately saves and not me.

Also, we simply must not despair as another major shooting happened and evil seems to be triumphing.  In the end, it will not win, and indeed, it has already been lost.  Along with the first petition of the Lord's prayer, we must seek to hallow God's name and bring about his Kingdom and Glory.