From the Pastor

Following Jesus Together - July 15

Dear Friends,

For this week’s gospel meditation – I want to dive deeper into the Noah story as Jesus retells it in Matthew 24:

For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 38 For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, 39 and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.

Here’s the same idea again in Luke 17:

28 Likewise, just as it was in the days of Lot—they were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building, 29 but on the day when Lot went out from Sodom, fire and sulfur rained from heaven and destroyed them all— 30 so will it be on the day when the Son of Man is revealed.

There’s two common themes – the promised, coming reality of God’s righteous judgement AND the multi-faceted unbelief of Noah and Lot’s neighbors. Their unbelief looks like apathy and ignorance. At best, they don’t care, living busy lives ignoring the God who gave them every good gift. At worst, they are openly hostile to those who believed God’s promises (Genesis 19). So here’s a spectrum of unbelief:

Atheism – there is no god
Agnosticism – God isn’t knowable.
Apatheism – a lack of motivation to engage the conversation

Why don’t our neighbor’s care? Here’s a suggestion from Rauch again:

September 11th convinced us that the problem with religion is that people care too much about it. So if everyone would just calm down and mind their own business and not invest in religion as much, the world will be a better place. Rauch, not a Christian, argues that religion is the most divisive and volatile of social forces.”

There’s been a conscious effort to catechize our culture into not caring about religion. 

I hear him saying something like, “We are afraid of the power of religion.” What would you say?

Perhaps he needs to see people shaped by the gospel – where we care so much about the faith of others that we are willing to suffer to love our neighbors. In other words, the reality we care most about is Jesus dying for us while we were yet enemies. And the resurrected Jesus sends us out in the world and bids us love the same. (John 13; Matthew 5:43; 1 Peter 2:11-4:11)

Two questions to meditate on:

1 – How has our culture’s apathy or lack of care shaped our faith? In other words, do we believe that the Son of Man, Jesus is coming to the extent that we rearrange our lives to reflect that reality? Is the core of your Christian witness concerned with your goodness? Or are you obsessed like the angels with Jesus’ willingness to suffer and die for self-centered rebels like us?

2 – How do we pique the curiosity of our neighbors? That’s the question I want to keep meditating on with you after I’m back from vacation in August. If you have ideas, we are in this together as a community.

Interesting Article regarding Sodom and Gomorrah:
Scientists believe a meteor may have destroyed the city, which fits well with the Biblical story of God causing this event. New Science Suggests Biblical City Of Sodom Was Smote By An Exploding Meteor (forbes.com)

Sunday – 10:00am – 1 Peter 4:1-11 – Come and see how we are to live, armed with the mind of Christ. We do that for each other in the church community and out in the world.

Thompson’s Moving Plans: It looks like we are closing on our house Wednesday, July 21st. And we are hoping to move in on Saturday the 24th. Many have asked how they can help. So please keep an eye out for details in the coming week. 

Pastor Jim will be in the pulpit July 25th and August 1st while my family is away on vacation. 

May the gospel of grace continue to overcome our stubborn unbelief – Jesus is praying for you (Romans 8:31). 

Grace and peace,
Nate

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Following Jesus Together - July 6

Dear Friends,

For the next several weeks throughout the summer I want to meditate on this idea that we live in a community that is spiritually apathetic.  How do we live as intentional representatives of Jesus in our neighborhoods, able to give an understandable defense of our faith? 

Before talking about apatheism, or apathetic spirituality, let’s start with the Bible’s description of unbelief. Go read Psalm 14. The first thing we see is that there have always been people who are not interested in the God of the Bible. It’s true of every generation. 

Psalm 14:1 - The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds; there is none who does good.

A fool in the Bible is a nuanced picture of what is wrong with people. Foolishness, it turns out, is a universal human trait. It’s helpful to remember that not everyone is as arrogant as the confident materialist of vs. 1. But the picture painted of humans together is not pretty. Go ahead and list the characteristics of a fool as you read through the text, before reading my list:

              -Our insides are rotten. “If you could lick my heart, it would poison you.” That’s the terrifying confession of a WWII war hero, Itzhak Zuckerman, unable to overcome his sinful self.

              -There’s a lack of knowledge. Everyone assumes they know better than God. 
              -There’s no discrimination between God’s people and other people (vs. 4). They really don’t think about seeing the image of God in their neighbor. 
              -There’s no thinking about the future judgment. The only judge is me and my standards. Fools keep themselves accountable, caring more what they think than what God thinks.

*Do you see yourself in the description of a fool? It’s a person who doesn’t think about God and is consumed with right now and how it benefits me. Welcome to the world of unbelief. See the darkness lurking in every human heart.

Verse two, seems to be replaying the Noah story for every generation. The Lord looks down from heaven and sees if there are any wise. Are there any seeking God? Check out Genesis 6:5-6 as well.

Why start on such a negative note? There’s hope for every fool in the gospel of Jesus! Salvation has come out of Zion, a.k.a Jerusalem, through Christ’s death on a cross for fools. We have to see ourselves in the community of the corrupt and abominable in order grow in our gratitude for grace and ability to see the familiar terrain of unbelief in our neighbors. I’m reminded of Flannery O’Connor’s famous line in A Good Man is Hard to Find, accurately stated by the violent Misfit. She illustrates Psalm 14 in shocking ways. 

“Jesus . . . thrown everything off balance. If He did what He said, then it’s nothing for you to do but throw away everything and follow Him, and if He didn’t, then it’s nothing for you to do but enjoy the few minutes you got left the best way you can . . . No pleasure but meanness.”

Jesus has thrown everything off balance. There is an unshakeable hope for fools like me. For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God and are justified by His grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus…to be received by faith.

Next week, we will dive into the world of apatheism. 

Sermon Follow-up 
First, I wanted to follow up on a brief Bible point that I flew through on Sunday. It’s helpful to see how Peter thinks about the Old Testament and Jesus. To tell Christians that we must honor Christ the Lord as holy, is telling us to see the risen Jesus as Yahweh, the God of the Old Testament, who lived, died and rose from the dead. Christ the Lord is the same person as the Lord of hosts in Isaiah 8:12! Check out the chart below. I highlighted the similarities between Peter and Isaiah 8:12-13.

Isaiah 8:12-15

1 Peter 3:15

1 Peter 2:7-8

But the Lord of hosts, him you shall honor as holy. Let him be your fear, and let him be your dread. 14 And he will become a sanctuary and a stone of offense and a rock of stumbling to both houses of Israel, a trap and a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem. 15 And many shall stumble on it. They shall fall and be broken; they shall be snared and taken.”

Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, 15 but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect

So the honor is for you who believe, but for those who do not believe, 

        “The stone that the builders rejected 

has become the cornerstone,” 

and 

        “A stone of stumbling, 

and a rock of offense.”

 

They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do.

 It is fascinating to see how Peter processes the unbelief of our neighbors, in light of Isaiah 8. In chapter 2, Peter sounds almost fatalistic about those who stumble over Jesus, the rock of offense. We shouldn’t be surprised when our neighbors are scandalized by Jesus. God said it would happen. But in chapter 3, we are told to give gentle and respectful answers for the reason for the hope we have in us. Who do we tell? Anyone who asks, those same people offended by the gospel of Jesus. Because, according to Isaiah 8 and Peter, Jesus will become a gracious refuge for some and continue to offend others. So we work to let Jesus be the offense and not our own need to win an argument.

The ordinary way someone is persuaded to consider faith in Jesus is through our gentle defense of the gospel. So be encouraged! Peter doesn’t give up on those who seem stubbornly opposed to the ways of Jesus. nor should we.

A Faith Worth Sharing by Jack Miller – As promised, here’s a book recommendation for evangelism. Church Planter and pastor Jack Miller shares a helpful collection of personal stories as to how he talked about Jesus with his neighbors. It’s challenging, inspiring and easy to read. May you be gripped by God’s grace as you read it! (Library)

Sunday – 1 Peter 3:13-22 – This is one of the strangest passages in the New Testament, describing Jesus’ death and humiliation and resurrection. What does it mean for Jesus to proclaim the gospel to the spirits in prison? And how does this passage help us suffer for doing good? Come and see!

Grace and peace,
Nate Thompson

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