From the Pastor

Following Jesus Together - December 15

Dear Friends,

Christmas Eve fast approaches! I love the imagery of the Advent season. Many churches use the Latin phrase, Post Tenebrae Lux, to describe this season. After darkness, light! What does that mean?

Right now we remember the darkness before Christ’s coming, leaning into all the jaw-dropping, heart-melting, hope-inducing promises of the Old Testament! Here are two:

Isaiah 9 - There will be no gloom for those who were in anguish…the people who have walked in darkness have seen a great light…for to us a child is born, to us a son is given.

Micah 5 - From you, Bethlehem, will come a ruler from of old, from ancient of days. And he shall stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the LORD, in the majesty of the name of the LORD his God. And they shall dwell secure, for now he shall be great to the ends of the earth. And he shall be their peace. 

So as we keep hearing of a coming dark winter, we will gather on Christmas eve to the bright shining glory and comfort Jesus’ shines in the darkness. Just as John told us in his Gospel: All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. 4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. After darkness, light!

Even after the darkness of Christ’s crucifixion, came the bright light of His resurrection on the third day. 

As mentioned in our service, every Christmas Eve, Hope Church takes up an offering for the PCA’s Ministerial Relief Fund. The money given goes to support pastors and their wives who’ve gone through a season of darkness. It could be a tragic injury. It could be a pastor’s wife who is now a widow, after pouring out their lives in service of the church. Here are two links to see and read of how our denomination provides and cares:

              Story of an Injured Pastor
              Watch the Video of a Grateful Pastor's Wife

You can give to this by sending in a check with “PCA ministerial relief fund” in the memo. Thanks!

Office Email – We are currently having some technical difficulties getting out group emails. That is why no Zoom information came through last week. So please be patient as we work on these details. 

Sunday – Daniel 7 – It’s an Apocalyptic Christmas!
If you’ve never read Daniel 7, brace yourself to be bombarded by lots of images of beasts coming out of the sea, a heavenly courtroom and a panicked Daniel. I’ve got a few thoughts to help us not get lost in the wild jungles of this passage. 

1 – Apocalyptic - Remember the 1999 film, Sixth Sense? 21 year spoiler alert! It is a story about a young boy who claims to see dead people. The film follows the many conversations between an award winning psychologist, played by Bruce Willis, and this disturbed 9 year old. It’s a mystery as to whether the boy is delusional or beyond help as he gets more frantic. The mystery is not revealed until the end. That’s when we discover that Bruce Willis’ character has been dead the whole time! Armed with that key, that one piece of knowledge, you see the whole story differently. 

That’s what apocalyptic literature in the Bible does for us – we are shown by God what He is up to. That mystery revealed helps us better understand ourselves, our God and what is happening in the world. 

In Daniel 7 – God reveals. As Sinclair Ferguson helpfully describes:  “Here is a true apocalyptic. Our depravity is unveiled, and the curtain that hides the glory of God is momentarily drawn back. We are given a brief look into the throne room of the universe and the sovereignty of God.” (Sinclair Ferguson) 

2 -  A Road Map through Daniel 7 

              Daniel 7 – vs. 1-8 – The beastly nature of humanity. The depths of human selfishness and the heights of human arrogance are revealed.

                           Vs. 9-14 – The Heavenly Courtroom - God’s justice prevails. Notice the central figure of the Son of Man – a human, coming to sit on the throne and rule over all peoples, nations and languages.

                            Vs. 15-28 – the interpretation of Daniel’s visions.

Consider that Jesus is described with the phrase ‘son of man’ 81 times in the New Testament. That’s a lot! Behind all the misery, the darkness, the chaos of the world, who does Daniel see? He’s shown a shadowy figure that we now know to be Jesus!

3 – Genesis and Daniel

One more thing that’s hard to include in a sermon and easier to write about. The doctrine of the image of God, from the story of creation, is everywhere in Daniel 1-7. The descriptions of the pagan kings having dominion (Genesis 1:28), ruling over the beasts of the field and the birds of the air, come straight from Genesis 1. And the story of creation and the Fall can be taught like this: 

God chose humans to rule over creation (beasts and birds, all of it). But Adam and Eve chose to submit to the word of a beast (the serpent), and now as a result, act like beasts. We live, controlled by our appetites, what we want most. But God. Don’t miss the first gospel promise in Genesis 3:15 - 

“I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”

The hope of Genesis 3 is that a son of Adam, a son of man, would be born of a woman, here on earth in order to rule over the beasts. Only this Savior, now has to overcome sin’s beastly nature. And this son of man must be mortally wounded by the serpent (bruise his heel), even as evil is crushed under his feet. (see the cross foreshadowed here?)

Now go back and re-read Daniel 7, armed with the mystery revealed: Jesus is the Son of Man, ruling over the beastly nature, subduing our selfishness.  

This mystery revealed gives us much hope when the world goes not well. God’s kingdom is coming. It’s given to all who are God’s saints, who belong to the Son of Man, Jesus Christ. 

See you Sunday!
Nate Thompson

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Following Jesus Together - December 8

Dear Friends,

I’ll start with a reminder of who you are as a Jesus’ follower from the Sermon on the Mount. 

“You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet. “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”

From the Session – 

As we look forward to next year together, just a friendly reminder that our annual meeting is being planned for late January, as is our custom. More information will be sent out as we get closer. We are planning for the inevitable complication of COVID forcing many of you to participate online. 



Sunday – Daniel 6 – “Into the Lion’s Den” – The Apocalyptic Christmas Continues…

I am looking forward to studying what may be the most famous story from Daniel – the Lion’s den. The familiarity of the story can be an obstacle, actually. So here’s a couple ways to help read this story with fresh eyes:   

1 – In chapter 7, in Daniel’s dream, we get an apocalyptic vision of what is happening in Babylon and in human history. It begins with a vision of horrific beasts rising up out of the sea. Daniel sees a lion with eagles wings transformed into a human, a ravenous bear munching on some ribs, a leopard with wings and then some kind of disturbing super-beast. 

If you’ve never read this kind of literature, it is super weird. And disorienting. And be honest. It’s odd for long-time Bible readers as well. However, the message is extremely hopeful. 

To us the word apocalypse sounds like doom and gloom to our modern ears. But in the Scriptures these stories bring resounding joy and hope and optimism to the suffering. Why? “Because the end is the end of human corruption and the end of the oppression of God’s people by God’s direct intervention. These apocalyptic dreams celebrate God’s victory over all our enemies (beastly cruelty, death and evil).” (Tremper Longman, Daniel) 

Rejoice, because no matter how bad your life looks, and no matter how big evil seems to be, God IS in control! 

2 – This vision helps give us perspective on life here on earth. The first lion-eagle mutational beast sounds a lot like Nebuchadnezzar. Doesn’t it? His hair became like the eagle, his mind is healed and becomes fully human, praising the living God (Daniel 4)

See, Daniel and his friends, living in Babylon, in a metaphorical lion’s den this whole time.  They are seeking to be ambassadors of God and His peace, as faithful and loved lambs, surrounded by ravenous lions…A.K.A. Babylonians. What kind of people keep massive furnaces and lion’s dens around to enforce justice or petty vengeance? Beasts. 

It’s not a new idea in the Bible – it’s all over the Psalms. Listen to David in Psalm 57, complaining about those who want to do him harm:

My soul is in the midst of lions; I lie down amid fiery beasts— the children of man, whose teeth are spears and arrows, whose tongues are sharp swords.”

3 – If you have these categories, it makes the Daniel story better than just be brave and faithful and pray and God will deliver you. There are Jesus moments all over this story. Look for the patterns! 

See them? 1 - A faithful follower of God – whose enemies plot their demise through lies AND plotting deceit (Daniel and Jesus). 2 - When faced with an unjust sentence of death – to be arrested and killed, both Daniel and Jesus pray, entrusting themselves to their Father in Heaven to save them from the beasts and their weapons of death.              

3 –This is the beauty of the gospel! Where does God send his rescuing angel? “INTO the lion’s den”. Daniel is saved. Because God’s angel was sent INTO the lion’s den to be with Daniel.

What about Jesus, our Savior? But God so loved the world that He sent His only Son, Jesus, into the lion’s den in in Jerusalem, into this world. Only God let the stone be rolled over Jesus’ tomb. Jesus was buried. It was the 3rd day, when Jesus was delivered from death in the lion’s den and the stone rolled away. For sinners. For the weak. For the cowards. For those who know they can’t measure up to Daniel’s bravery.  

Why? So that we would know that God is with us, even in death, in the lion’s den that is this world. Jesus sends us out into the lion’s den now, armed with the assurance of God’s love and the certainty that death is defeated!

It turns out we have something better than Daniel – an empty tomb – Jesus is with us, who equips us to deal with the lions of this world. As C.S. Lewis helpfully reminds us: We “will never tame the lions in our life, unless we let God be the untamed lion in our life.” (C.S. Lewis) Trust Him! God is good. All the time. Even in the lion’s den.

Grace and peace,

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