KING’S CROSS CHURCH exists to glorify God and enlarge His Kingdom by gathering regularly to proclaim and celebrate the Gospel of Jesus Christ, yielding to the authority of God’s Word as illuminated by the Holy Spirit and summarized in the historic Christian Creeds and Reformed Confessions, partaking together of Christ’s presence in the Sacraments, providing opportunities to love and serve one another in Community, equipping the saints for Ministry to those who are lost and hurting, both locally and globally, and preparing them to cultivate Shalom (peace and well-being) wherever God calls them to serve.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

October 23, 2016 sermon Reflection

Sermon Reflection 10/23/2016

In the beginning pages of Scripture we read a tragic story of man’s fall into sin as a result of disobedience. Pastor Gene reminded us this past Sunday that what took place was more than simply Adam not obeying God’s directions, like a son disobeys a father. Adam broke a solemn oath, sovereignly administered with attending blessings and curses, a bond rooted in love and graciously administered to Adam by God. It was a covenant Adam transgressed, a covenant which set the limits and bounds of, among many other things, Gender, Marriage, Work, and Worship. Interestingly, the Westminster Standards, in speaking of this covenant in Shorter Catechism question 12, refers to it as a Covenant of Life. It was through this covenant God meant to administer his kingdom and govern life in it. Our lives were meant to be lived out in that covenant relationship. We were created in our beings to run with the grain of that Creation Covenant. Adam broke this covenant in sin and now the whole creation groans under the curses of this covenant (Rom. 8:20-22). We cannot deny the implications of that covenant breaking today; life in our world is marked by knots and worm-holes that disrupted the grain and beauty of God’s original creation. Not only do we see its effects in the brokeness of the world, we feel its effects as we experience difficulties in our marriages, dissatisfaction and futility in our work, and emptiness in our worship. We are ourselves covenant breakers and, with the creation, groan under not only the implications of Adam’s sin but also our own. 

It is true grace was not absent from the administration of this Creation Covenant. God was not obligated to enter covenant with Adam at all, that he did so was gracious in itself. Also, God could have required perfect and personal obedience of Adam with no promise of life and blessing. That God extends that promise is also gracious. But, after Adam broke that original covenant, God had made plans to put His amazing grace on display in ways that should cause us to lift our hands in praise and our voices in thanks to Him for His incredible mercy. The Covenant of Grace is so identified for a reason; it displays God’s gracious character even towards a rebellious world. I look forward to that proclamation of grace every Lord’s day, but I will especially look forward to understanding it more fully in the weeks to come as we continue the series on God’s Covenants of Promise. 


Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Lectionary Thoughts: 2 Kings 16

The altar in Solomon’s Temple was simple in appearance, perhaps even austere, but it was so according to the commandment of God. By God’s design, the daily sacrifices (which pointed to Jesus) would be the focus of Israel’s worship, not the means by which the sacrifices were offered to Yahweh.

King Ahaz traveled to Damascus (v10) to congratulate the king of Assyria on his recent victories. While there, Ahaz was enamored by the detailed workmanship of a pagan altar and immediately commissioned Urijah the priest to make a copy for worship in Yahweh’s Temple. And thus began Judah’s horrible slide into apostasy.

At first, the two altars were positioned side by side (v12). Shortly thereafter, the original altar was moved to a back corner and replaced by the Damascan altar (v14-15). And finally, the water basin that stood before the original brazen altar was cut up for repurposing, and the brazen altar itself was turned into a private oracle for Ahaz; a means for him to “inquire [of the LORD] by” (v15).

So then, perhaps not surprisingly, we read this of God’s people in 2 Kings 17:15: “They despised his statutes and his covenant that he made with their fathers and the warnings that he gave them. They went after false idols and became false, and they followed the nations that were around them, concerning whom the Lord had commanded them that they should not do like them.”
Note then, the pattern of Ahaz and Judah’s slide into wholesale idolatry:
-          Enamored by the sensual practices of pagan worship.
-          Imported the practices of pagan worship into the true worship of Yahweh.
-          Allowed the pagan practices to supplant the God-given practices.
-          Began to worship the false gods associated with the pagan practices.
-          Became “false” just like the gods they worshipped, and just like the nations that God had commanded them not to imitate.

As Pastor Alistair Begg (and others) have noted, “We must worship the right God in the right way.” We must worship God in the way that He has prescribed while avoiding the means employed by those who worship false gods, e.g. concerts, TED-talks and talk-shows. Why? Because those who today worship the right God using the world’s means, tomorrow will worship the world’s gods. Which provokes the question: What has God prescribed for true worship?

The following would be a good start in answering that important question:
-          Corporate gatherings (Psa. 122:1; Acts 2:42; Heb. 10:25)
-          On the first day of the week (1 Cor. 16:2)
-          The preaching of the Word and apostolic doctrine (2 Tim. 42-3; Acts 2:42)
-          Christ-centered fellowship (Acts 2:42)
-          Communion (Acts 2:42)
-          Prayer – literally, the liturgy, which the people who were listening to Peter would have understood to include prayers of confession, thanksgiving and petition (Acts 2:42)
-          Singing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs (Psa. 98:5; Eph. 5:19; James 5:13) And while we’re on the topic: Why is the singing of psalms considered optional today?
-          Congregational singing that is joyful (Psa. 98:4), skillful/loud (Psa. 33:3; 47:1), and glorious (Psa. 66:2)
-          Characterized by “reverence and awe” (Heb. 12:28)
-          Confessing the faith (1 Tim. 6:12)
-          Presentation of tithes/offerings (Deu. 16:10; 1 Cor. 16:2; Philip. 4:8)
-          Bodily (Psa. 63:4; Psa. 138:2; 1 Tim. 2:8)
-          Multi-generational (Exo. 12:3; Deu. 29:10-15; Acts 2:39)

Of course, relevance, in a narrow sense, is good and necessary. And certainly every expression of the Church needs to take its own cultural context into account when crafting its liturgy. But the idea is to make the world more like the Church, not the other way around. And as Ahaz’s story reminds us, adopting the world’s means and modes of worship to serve the living and true God is most often the quickest way to become just like the nations that we are commissioned to disciple (2 Kings 17:15; Matt. 28:19-20).

All this is to say, when considering how to “worship the right God in the right way” it would be good to bear in mind the maxim: When a glove falls in the mud, the mud doesn’t get glovey. The glove gets muddy.


Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Sermon Reflection 10/9/16

What comes to mind when you hear the terms “Covenant Theology”? Maybe you have studied up on it. Maybe you have heard of it but only enough to generate more questions. Or maybe you have no clue what it’s all about. It seems to me Pastor Gene’s comment is right; the concept of covenant is mostly something Christians attach a question mark to. I know in my case covenant and covenant theology always seemed to pop up as I was a budding Christian, but like pulling a trout from the stream it proved difficult to get a firm grip. Part of this is possibly due to the fact that the idea of covenant itself can be a bit technical and intellectual. Often times conversations and books about covenant theology can tend to camp out in that intellectual realm and not make it back down to ground level where most of us operate. The topic of God’s love however seems to be something Christians are much more comfortable with and tend to camp out on. 

One of the things I really appreciated about Pastor Gene’s sermon introducing covenant theology was that he took the time to bring the concept of covenant back down to ground level and rightly connected it to the love of God. We cannot say we prefer talking about God’s love to talking about God’s covenants anymore. If we are to feel the force of the heighth, depth, and breadth of the Father’s love for us we must take seriously God’s revelation of himself in the Covenant of Redemption, what was lost in breaking the Covenant of Works, and what it cost for Christ to bring the Covenant of Grace to fullness. I think it is no accident that in the recovery of the Gospel that came from the Protestant Reformation there also came a renewed vigor and study of God’s revelation of himself in his Covenants. The relationship between the grace rich and Gospel centered theology of the reformers and their progeny and the development of the Covenant Theology of the Scriptures was so linked that one current theologian answers the question of what reformed theology is saying, “Reformed Theology is Covenant Theology.” I pray this series in Covenant Theology puts on display the love of God and rightly brings his own glory front and center as it did for our fathers in the faith.


Saturday, October 8, 2016

No Compromise

The current state of our nation continually brings to mind an album jacket and song that the Lord used greatly in my life at WSU forty-or-so years ago.

“Make my life a prayer to You. I want to do what You want me to. No empty words and no white lies. No token prayers, no compromise.” (Keith Green)

New Sermon Series

“…remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.” (Ephesians 2:12)

Paul described salvation as being brought into “the covenants of promise.” The author of Hebrews called Jesus the “mediator of a new covenant.” And Jesus referred to Communion wine as “my blood of the new covenant.” Hmmm…

Given the importance and centrality of this little word (covenant) it’s a little puzzling how few evangelicals could offer a working definition of “covenant” or give an account of the succession of covenants blossoming into the New Covenant.

This week at King’s Cross Church we will begin a new sermon series called “The Covenants of Promise” in which we will explore the riches of God’s love revealed in His unfolding plan of redemption.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

October 2, 2016 Sermon Reflection

Sermon Reflection 10/2/16

Pastor Gene’s sermon this past Sunday got me thinking again about the topic of worship. A cursory study of church history would reveal that the issue of worship has been central and significant for the Christian church since the beginning. This seems to go without saying if we accept Pastor Gene’s point that we are fundamentally lovers who express our desires and affections through worship. The question is not if you’ll worship but what you’ll worship and how. The illustration of the room that would give you what you truly desire was especially poignant (and convicting). When I think of what might appear if I were to step into that room I am humbled by the fact that God still has much work to do in shaping and directing my loves. This drives me once again back to the truths of the Gospel which were so powerfully stated by Martin Luther in his great formula “Simul justes et peccator”: at the same time just and sinner. Luther knew that the Gospel was meant for sinners and that the Gospel promise of being declared righteous by God was true of people like you and me while we yet still have a ways to go in being made righteous in our sanctification through the power of the Spirit.  

But, you know we don’t really need a room like that to come to know what we truly desire. What we worship (and how we worship) is a natural refection of what we truly desire. Today it is clear that we are, as a people, no less interested in worship. But our interest in worship, when compared to church history, may have taken a different direction. One of the true desires that can be gleaned from reflecting on our contemporary interest in worship is a love of “absolute novelty”*, and a general disdain for anything with a whiff of age or tradition. Not everything new is inherently bad and not everything old is to be commended. Discernment and wisdom shaped by Scripture is key, but, to solicit the wisdom of the German poet Goethe, “He who cannot draw on 3000 years is living from hand to mouth.” 

One last thing that stuck me from the preaching was the realization that just as much as what and how we worship is a reflection of what we truly desire, what and how we worship can shape what we come to truly desire. As Pastor Gene went through our liturgy, explaining the intention and scriptural sanction behind each element, I was truly appreciative to be able to participate in the worship of God in this way. And “participate” is a choice word. We are not just a passive audience and we are not performers on stage. We are participants responding to God’s call to worship. With this in mind, reflect on this from Hughes Oliphant Old: 

“If there is one doctrine which is at the heart of Reformed worship it is the doctrine of the Holy Spirit. It is the belief that the Holy Spirit brings the Church into being, that the Holy Spirit dwells in the Church and sanctifies the Church. Worship is the manifestation of the creative and sanctifying presence of the Holy Spirit. If we are to understand the worship of the early Reformed Church we must recognize that they went to worship not to do something for God, nor even so much to get something from God, but far more to be something with God” (The Patristic Roots of Reformed Worship).


*More on this from C.S. Lewis in Screwtape Letter 25 

Monday, October 3, 2016

Lectionary Thoughts: 2 Kings 2:23-25

It is wearisome how often non-believers bring up the last few verses of 2 Kings 2. You know, the verses that “prove” how cruelly wicked the God of the Bible must be if he would send “bears out of the woods” to mercilessly shred the forty-two helpless little boys who had imprudently mocked one of His prophets.

When confronted with these sorts of “gotcha!” interpretations of scripture, we should always be careful to avoid the trap being laid for us, and firmly remind the unbeliever that the standard for truth/goodness is God Himself, and that it is a denial of “the god-ness of God” to attempt to judge Him by any sort of standard outside of Himself. As Abraham neatly put it, “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” Yes, and amen. The LORD can do no other.

But that said, let’s take a closer look at 2 Kings 2. First of all consider the setting: Bethel was home to Jeroboam I’s golden calf shrine and attended by idolatrous priests. Secondly, the Hebrew word for “boys” (ESV) can also be translated “subordinates.” Thirdly, recall the near context for this event: Elisha had just lost his “head” (Elijah) who had been taken “up” in the fiery chariot.

With these things in mind, the following might be a better interpretation of the passage: Given the proximity to the idolatrous temple in Bethel, “boys” could easily be understood as the “subordinate” priests of that temple; their mocking words (“go up, bald head”) could be an indication that they believed that Elisha was unprotected and vulnerable without Elijah (his spiritual “head”), and “go up” could be a taunt for Elisha to follow Elijah “up” and out of planet earth. So, rather than reading Elijah’s imprecation* as an unseemly prophetic hissy-fit, a better read might be Elisha, filled with a double portion of the spirit of Elijah, continuing Elijah’s battle against the false prophets and priests troubling Israel. Elisha’s curse then is an act of warfare, a Joshua-like attack on a center of idolatry and proof that he too is invested with the Spirit of Yahweh, and therefore able to call down “fire from heaven” (2 Kings 1) or even lions from the forest (1 Kings 13:20-25) as he fights the good fight.

Take heart, Christian. While it is true that false prophets and priests abound in our day. It is equally true that Jesus has given us a double portion of his Spirit. And empowered and directed by his Holy Spirit we are, as Paul put it, “more than conquerors” (Romans 8:37) and more than able to pull down the strongholds of unbelief (2 Cor. 10:4). So what are we waiting for?

(*imprecation: noun. the act of calling down a curse)

HT: Peter Leithart