Mission/Vision

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, January 17, 2018

Worship is Warfare


(2 Chronicles 20:21–22) And when he had taken counsel with the people, he appointed those who were to sing to the LORD and praise him in holy attire, as they went before the army, and say, “Give thanks to the LORD, for his steadfast love endures forever.” And when they began to sing and praise, the LORD set an ambush against the men of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir, who had come against Judah, so that they were routed.

It’s frightening to realize how increasingly our present society resembles the peoples judged by God in the Old Testament. Our manic preoccupations with wealth, military might, sexual immorality and our disdain for innocent life easily put us in the company of ancient Moab, Amon and Philistia. So, what are we to do?

According to the Bible we are changed every time we gather around Word and Sacrament to worship the LORD. God’s Word, read, sung and preached sanctifies us by convicting us, correcting us, training and rearranging us. Taking the bread and cup together heals us and strengthens our bond with Christ and with one another. Though ordinary, these are the humble means that God has appointed to complete the good work that He has begun in us.

But there is a very dangerous temptation to think that the effects or our worship are confined to the space within the four walls of the place wherein we meet; there is a very harmful temptation to not believe that God is subduing the forces of darkness up and down this valley (and beyond) as we fulfill our calling as New Covenant priests ministering in the house of God (1 Pet. 2:5,9).

As someone sagely noted: Worship is warfare. Ministry is picking up the spoils.

A few examples will suffice to demonstrate this:
Recall how Jericho fell to Joshua and his army. Not by military might or shrewd tactics. But with the faithful shouts of God’s people and the trumpet blasts of the priests on the seventh day (the seventh day being the day of worship for God’s people in the Old Covenant.)
Recall how King Jehoshaphat in 2 Chronicles 20, sent the Levitical choir out ahead of his army singing (of all things) praises to the LORD for the everlasting nature of His love and mercy. And skillfully singing the LORD’s praises that day, the LORD himself fought for His own, and secured a great victory over their enemies.
But perhaps more pertinent to our own time is the relationship between Abraham’s trek, and later Jacob’s trek, through the promised land, and Joshua’s conquering of the same territory hundreds of years later. This is the first and most revealing illustration of the way that God uses worship to conquer and subdue His enemies.
According to the Genesis account, as they moved around the land that God had promised to them and their descendants, Abraham (and Jacob, two generations later) repeatedly built altars; wherever they went, they constructed centers of worship. But here is something that you might have missed:

Over 500 years later, when Joshua lead the children of Israel into the promised land, conquering as he went, he did so following a route that closely resembled the previous expeditions of Abraham and Jacob.

In other words (as Peter Leithart and others have noted) the worship of Abraham and Jacob was in effect a "pre-conquest" of the land. Once the land was consecrated to the Lord by worship, it could eventually be conquered and purged of its idolatry and wickedness. It would take centuries, but the Lord would, and did indeed establish His house, His people, His throne and His worship in the land.

If God is kind, we see with our own eyes His work in our midst as He conforms us individually and corporately to the image and likeness of His Son, Jesus. But it is only with the eye of faith that we will be able to see the effects of our worship in this valley a hundred, two hundred, or maybe even a thousand years hence. So, royal priests of the God most high, roll up your sleeves, and ready yourself for battle.

GH



Sunday, December 31, 2017

Christmas Exhortation 2017: Once in a Stable


(Acts 17:27–28) that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us,  for “ ‘In him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your own poets have said, “ ‘For we are indeed his offspring.’ 

(1 Corinthians 8:6) yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist. 

(Hebrews 2:10) For it was fitting that he [Jesus], for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering. 

Regarding Mary’s baby; the little boy wrapped in swaddling and laid in the food-trough of farm animals, the authors of the New Testament make some absolutely astonishing assertions.
Paul, preaching on Mars Hill in Athens, and quoting a Greek poet, boldly declared that it is in God that “we live and move and have our being.”
Similarly, in his letter to the Corinthian church, Paul confidently asserted that it is through Jesus that all things exist.
And then the author of Hebrews expanded this truth a little bit when wrote that it is not only by Jesus, but also for Jesus all things exist.
Wow. Think about it: The little baby boy, alternately crying and cooing in the manger; alternately nursing at Mary’s breast and filling his first century diapers, was the being in whom and for whom all things exist. Again, just wow.

Near the end of CS Lewis’ “The Last Battle”, the children and their friends walk through the door of a rather smallish looking stable and find themselves in an entirely different world.

As they try to wrap their minds around this startling phenomenon, Lucy sagely reminds her comrades of a precedent for this sort of mind-bending situation; this kind of world-upending paradox (if you will.) Lewis wrote:
Tirian looked round again and could hardly believe his eyes. There was the blue sky overhead, and grassy country spreading as far as he could see in every direction, and his new friends all round him laughing.
 “It seems, then,” said Tirian, smiling himself, “that the stable seen from within and the stable seen from without are two different places.”
 “Yes,” said the Lord Digory. “Its inside is bigger than its outside.”
“Yes,” said Queen Lucy. “In our world too, a stable once had something inside it that was bigger than our whole world.”
Yes, indeed, Lucy. The tiny newborn bouncing on Mary and Joseph’s knees, was the one through whom, for whom and in whom all things exist. 

And this being true, the only sane thing to do is to follow the lead of the shepherds that holy night, and the example of the wise men who would follow some time later, and worship the babe through whom, for whom and in whom all things exist.

GH

Friday, December 1, 2017

Bonhoeffer on the "Waiting" of Advent


(Isaiah 40:29–31) He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer on the “waiting” in Advent:

“Celebrating Advent means learning how to wait. Waiting is an art which our impatient age has forgotten. We want to pluck the fruit before it has had time to ripen. Greedy eyes are soon disappointed when what they saw as luscious fruit is sour to the taste. In disappointment and disgust they throw it away. The fruit, full of promise rots on the ground. It is rejected without thanks by disappointed hands.

The blessedness of waiting is lost on those who cannot wait, and the fulfillment of promise is never theirs. They want quick answers to the deepest questions of life and miss the value of those times of anxious waiting, seeking with patient uncertainties until the answers come. They lose the moment when the answers are revealed in dazzling clarity.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Donkey's Delight


C. S. Lewis' "Donkey's Delight" has long been one of my favorite poems. And it provides an apt illustration of the way that the Lord loves to interrupt the flow of our sinful trajectories with His wonderful, "But God..."

The Gospel truly is the ultimate "non-sequitur"; or as Lewis puts it, "the excellent joke."

I've provided some "Cliffs Notes" for the poetically challenged. But if you love to read and reread poetry until it eventually overcomes its shyness and begins to open up to you, then just skip on ahead to the poem. Enjoy.

"Cliffs Notes"
- First stanza: He courts a girl for ten months with unswerving service, devotion and gifts. Then a happy sailor steals her away with one glance of his eyes.

- Second stanza: He pours himself into writing; pouring his heart into every line. Then a singing boy flits in and steals away the favor of the crowd.

- Third stanza: He puts himself under a spiritual master who has him fast, keep late night prayer vigils, vows of silence and scratchy clothing in order to curry God’s favor. Then a careless, dirty drunkard comes waltzing in at the last minute and receives the divine favor that he had sought.

- Fourth stanza: Contemplating the resurrection of Jesus, he stops his striving and simply receives as a gift that which he had tried so hard to obtain by merit. He enters into the “excellent joke” the ultimate non-sequitur, and joins Balaam’s ass, creaking out his “glory to God” as he romps in the sunshine of God’s love.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

The Testimony of Baptism

(Mark 1:11) And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”
(Matthew 3:17) and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”
Most Christians believe that there is a testimony in baptism. But not all agree on the source and the meaning of that testimony.

There is actually only one recorded testimony in the Bible associated with a baptism. We have two slightly different accounts of that one testimony given at Jesus’ baptism. And the Who, What and When of that testimony is jam-packed with glorious meaning and import.
Who: At Jesus’ baptism, it was not Jesus, but rather the Father who bore testimony as Jesus was baptized by John in the Jordan River.
What: In Mark’s account, the Father affirmed his love for, and relation to, Jesus. In Matthew’s account, the Father addressed those witnessing Jesus’ baptism and declared to them his love for, and relation to Jesus.
When: The Father’s testimony regarding his love for Jesus, and Jesus’ sonship, was given to Jesus, not after Jesus successfully completed his testing in the wilderness, but rather before he had done anything to prove himself, to merit the Father’s love, or earn the Father’s favor. As in all of Scripture, identity preceded duty; grace went before performance, and love ran before obligation.
And so, once again, as we put the water on little Blake and Faith this morning, God will thunder His glorious, “I love you, and you belong to me.”

And like Jesus, the forerunner of their salvation, the water and the testimony will be given to them before they have proved or deserved anything. And just like every other recipient of baptism, they will be responsible to believe and receive what God has declared to them: that He loves them and is pleased to receive them as His own. And then, resting on this declaration by faith, they are to make that glorious testimony, given to them in baptism and declared to them from God’s Word, the foundation and motivation for everything that they think, say and do in the temptations of their wildernesses and the trials that invariably accompany those who live in a fallen world.

C-C-Courage

(1 Corinthians 16:13) Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong.

This pointed exhortation of Paul comes at the end of his first letter to the saints in Corinth, and his target audience would have included men and women, young and old. And this being true, why did he exhort them all to “act like men”?

The Corinthian church existed in a cesspool of idolatry, sexual immorality, political corruption and violence (sound familiar?) In his letter, Paul had already called the saints in Corinth repeatedly to live lives characterized by holiness, purity, justice, righteousness and above all love. But given how counter-cultural these virtues were, Paul knew without the virtue of courage, they would fail miserably in their attempts to follow Jesus in holiness. So, at the end of his letter, Paul called them to “act like men”; in other words he called them to exercise the virtue of courage. Indeed.

"It is curious—curious that physical courage should be so common in the world, and moral courage so rare." (Mark Twain)
"Courage is reckoned the greatest of all virtues; because, unless a man has that virtue, he has no security for preserving any other. (Samuel Johnson)
 "Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgement that something else is more important than fear." (Ambrose Redmoon)
"Courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point, which means at the point of highest reality. A chastity or honesty or mercy which yields to danger will be chaste or honest or merciful only on conditions. Pilate was merciful till it became risky." (C. S. Lewis)

But, as we all know, courage is not something that we can simply choose to exercise. It is rather the result, or by-product of trusting in the power and goodness of our God, and the conviction that what we are endangering ourselves for is more important than our own personal safety and well-being.

And that is one reason that we assemble to worship week after week. We worship God to be convinced afresh and anew that our He is powerful, able to provide; able to save, and delights to exercise His might on behalf of those who rest on Him by faith. And we assemble to be re-convinced that His awesome plan to “unite all things together in His Son Jesus Christ” is worth risking personal comforts and safety for. And we do this trusting that the courage requisite for the exercise of all other virtues will be the result.

GH


Recovered Glory


O, the power of a prefix; the change that two or three small letters can effect on a word. For example, consider the word “cover” and the chasm of meaning that exists between the word “discover” and the word “recover.” Same root word, different prefixes, and a universe of meaning between them.

The proto-reformers like Wycliffe and Hus and reformers like Luther and Calvin all considered themselves to be “re-coverers” not “dis-coverers” of God’s truth. They were all alike convinced that they had simply recovered truths that God, in His Word, had taught all along.

The Reformers knew that very often the best way forward is the way back, and therefore gave themselves to the study of Scripture in order to determine where, when and how the Church had departed from what God had clearly revealed. And once those errors were discerned and a faithful way forward identified, the Reformers called upon God’s people to, as Jeremiah might have put it:

"Stand in the way and search out the ancient paths, and to walk in them, for in them, you will find rest for your souls."
Indeed…As you meditate upon the Five Solas of the Reformation, do not, I repeat do not, receive them as some sort of dry, academic, scholarly, Bible-nerd exercise. Savor them the way your brothers and sisters in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries would have surely savored them: As glorious descriptions of the freeness and fullness of God’s grace; as truths that bring rest to troubled and weary souls.

Or, as we say here at King’s Cross Church: Old Paths…New Life.