This Sunday we will begin a five-week sermon series through the Book of Isaiah, titled, A Vision of Two Cities. In Isaiah’s vision he sees Jerusalem as it is, in ruins. And he sees, come the end of the book, a new Jerusalem. The question is: how does Jerusalem get that way? Across 66 chapters a portrait of the Messiah emerges.
Come on Sundays with expectation for how God will use his Word among us this July. This book is quoted more than all of the other prophets combined. In getting to know Isaiah’s prophecy we will get to know our Bibles better, and in getting to know our Bibles better we’ll get to know Christ better.
Here’s the series outline so you can read ahead each week:
- July 5: “The God of Unapproachable Holiness” (1-12)
- July 12: “The God of The World and History” (13-27)
- July 19: “The God of Absolute Strength” (28-39)
- July 26: “The God of Redemption through Suffering” (40-55)
- August 2: “The God of A New World and a New Name” (56-66)
What happened to our series through Mark? Each Summer Ryan takes a sabbatical from preaching for a number of weeks, so we’re hitting pause on Mark for now. When Ryan returns on August 9 he pick up where we left off.
Then, once we wrap up Mark, in mid-September we will continue our series through 1 and 2 Samuel, In Search of a King.
On Thursday of this past week the Supreme Court of the United States handed down a ruling that requires the legal recognition of same-sex marriage in all fifty states.
As Christians, we are not of this world, but we are in it and we care about and are concerned for what happens here. And so on Sunday we prayed in reflection on the Supreme Court’s decision for our nation, for the church, and for everything in-between. Here’s how we prayed together:
Father, increasingly, our nation is calling evil good and good evil, and we have a mixture of emotions about this.
On the one hand, we know who rules the world, who set the stars in their place, and who orders history. You do. The nations are as a drop in the bucket to you, and our leaders, in all of their righteous and unrighteous decisions, are ultimately working out your plan for history. And so we are calm and we are confident because history is yours, and we belong to you.
And yet, though trusting you fully, we are troubled in so many ways. We look to you, yet we lament.
- We’re troubled for a nation that has set its way against the Creator. Marriage is something it can and should recognize and regulate, but marriage is not the state’s to change, for the state did not design human beings. It governs them. Lord, we trust you with calm, serious, and happy reverence for the institution you made, even if we look crazy for it.
- We’re troubled for those who experience same-sex attraction, that the affirmation of their desires as good might put them farther from the life-saving truth about sin and salvation in the gospel. Lord, we trust you to perform the miracle that is always your to perform in conversion—to open blind eyes and save sinners.
- We’re troubled for those in our lives whom we love, people made in your image, who believe and even celebrate a lie that leads to death. This is so very sad. Lord, may we trust you and your Word when it seems like so few do.
- We’re troubled for children yet unborn who will inherit a world with a more confused vision of marriage than we’ve known ourselves, children who will have a lesser chance of growing up with the mother and father who made them. Trends in other lands confirm what we would expect: that laws teach norms and norms matter. Lord, may we trust you to be the Father of the fatherless.
- We’re troubled for what it will mean to be wrongly identified by culture and law as bigoted—for what this will mean for our influence in the schools, as teachers, as parents on PTO boards; for what it will mean for our workplace relationships when we can’t congratulate a friend on their engagement or attend their wedding; when we are ruled out for a promotion or position of influence; when certain vocations, in time, are simply out of bounds for people who believe what we do. Lord, may we trust you more as exiles in this world, as strangers and as aliens.
- We’re troubled for how this will effect the freedom of people of all revealed faiths—Muslims, Jews, Christians, and others—who hold to a traditional understanding of marriage, and for the temptation they will face to deny what they know and so sin against their conscience. Lord, may we trust you with hard work for the just freedom of all persons to believe without coercion and exercise their religion in the normal course of their lives.
- We’re troubled for how this may over time effect our work together for the common good in Christian day-cares, schools for children, Christian colleges and universities, campus ministries, military chaplain programs, adoption agencies, and even perhaps Christians who desire to foster and adopt little ones. Lord, may we trust you with persevering and painstaking work for the good of our communities.
- We’re troubled for the pressure our elected officials will feel to be on the so-called “right side of history” on future erosions of marriage that seem inevitable when marriage is untethered from the twoness of the sexes. May we trust you with patient, persevering, and prudent self-government.
- We’re troubled for the temptation Christians and churches will face to abandon a faithful witness by either denying the sinfulness of sin and so losing the gospel, or by affirming the truth about marriage in a way that denies its beauty and repels sinners. Neither response will ensure that we are a refuge for sinners who need refuge when sin’s empty promises leave them hurt, guilty, and alone. Lord, may we trust you—we need you—to keep us from timidity and from pride. May we make sin known and be known for our Savior from sin.
- Lord, we are troubled about many things. We are even troubled by how much others are or aren’t troubled by these things we have lamented. Give us unity around the main things and wisdom together to know when those things are at stake. Give us patience in our listening and wisdom and winsomeness in our speech.
Thankfully, while there many reasons to lament, there are still many more to trust, and in trusting, to sing and to rejoice.
- And so we rejoice in Christ, risen from the dead and seated. Our world changes, but he isn’t going anywhere. We fear nothing for nothing can separate us from him.
- We rejoice in Christ, who was a stranger in this world. Every difficulty for his sake confirms that we are his.
- And we rejoice in Christ, who is building his church. Maybe now, Father, you will be pleased to receive more glory in us as we give you more glory in our marriages against the backdrop of a place that is trading it in.
Glorify your Son—the King of Glory, the Highest Judge, our Risen Lamb—in whose name we pray.
Helpful responses to the Supreme Court ruling:
- “Here We Stand: An Evangelical Declaration on Marriage,” Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (click here for more articles from the ERLCon the SCOTUS decision)
- “CBMW’s Official Response to the SCOTUS Ruling,” Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood
- “Why the Church Should Neither Cave nor Panic about the Decision on Gay Marriage,” Russell Moore
- “What Does the Bible Say?,” Kevin DeYoung
- “Top 10 Quotes from the Dissenting Justices on Same-Sex Marriage,” Trevin Wax
- “How Will the U.S. Supreme Court’s Same-Sex Marriage Decision Affect Religious Liberty?,” The Atlantic
- “The Supreme Court and religious liberty: Reason for concern,” Andrew Walker
- “Gay Conservatism and Straight Liberation,” Ross Douthat
- “Everything Has Changed and Nothing Has Changed — The Supreme Court Legalizes Same-Sex Marriage,” Albert Mohler (Click here for Mohler’s Daily Podcast here)
- “Sam Allberry on Ministering to Same-Sex Attracted Friends,” Joe Carter (click here for the ERLC’s site, Equip, equipping the church regarding same-sex marriage and homosexuality)
- “Talking to your children about sex, marriage and same-sex marriage,” with oundtable contributors: Jani Ortlund, Stephanie Goeke, Krissie Inserra, Trillia Newbell and Jena Starke
- “Lessons for the Marriage Debate from the Pro-Life Movement,” Russell Moore
- “Opening Our Eyes to Obergefell and Its Effects: A Pastoral, Cultural, and Legal Round-Up,” David Schrock
Books to equip you for crucial conversations:
- Truth Overruled: The Future of Marriage and Religious Freedom, by Ryan Anderson.
- We Cannot Be Silent: Speaking Truth to a Culture Redefining Sex, Marriage, and the Very Meaning of Right and Wrong, by Al Mohler.
- What Does the Bible Really Teach about Homosexuality?, by Kevin DeYoung.
- Compassion without Compromise: How the Gospel Frees Us to Love Our Gay Friends Without Losing the Truth, by Adam Barr
- Is God Anti-Gay?, Sam Allberry (click here for Sam’s ministry, Living Out)
For a helpful tone-setting response to the decision, here’s a video from Russell Moore, President of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission.
Finally, in case you missed it, click here to watch or listen to a three part seminar hosted last year at Desert Springs Church, titled, Homosexual Marriage: Seeking Clarity, Conviction, and Compassion.
Recently, Justin Taylor, published a blog, titled, “Jonathan Edwards Would Like to Ask You a Few Questions.” Edwards, a philosopher, theologian, and preacher, was first a pastor. And as a pastor he had spiritual perception into the souls of the people he led.
From a sermon titled, “The Excellency of Christ,” here are some of the questions he addressed to “the poor, burdened, distressed soul”:
- What are you afraid of, that you dare not venture your soul upon Christ?
- Are you afraid that he can’t save you, that he is not strong enough to conquer the enemies of your soul? But how can you desire one stronger than “the mighty God”? as Christ is called (Isaiah 9:6).
- Is there need of greater than infinite strength?
- Are you afraid that he won’t be willing to stoop so low, as to take any gracious notice of you? But then, look on him, as he stood in the ring of soldiers, exposing his blessed face to be buffeted and spit upon, by them!
- Behold him bound, with his back uncovered to those that smote him! And behold him hanging on the cross! Do you think that he that had condescension enough to stoop to these things, and that for his crucifiers, will be unwilling to accept of you if you come to him?
- Or, are you afraid that if he does accept of you, that God the Father won’t accept of him for you?
- But consider, will God reject his own Son, in whom his infinite delight is, and has been, from all eternity, and that is so united to him, that if he should reject him he would reject himself? . . .
- What is there that you can desire should be in a Savior, that is not in Christ?
- Or, where in should you desire a Savior should be otherwise than Christ is?
- What excellency is there wanting?
- What is there that is great or good?
- What is there that is venerable or winning?
- What is there that is adorable or endearing?
- Or, what can you think of that would be encouraging, that is not to be found in the person of Christ?
- Would you have your Savior to be great and honorable, because you are not willing to be beholden to a mean person?
- And, is not Christ a person honorable enough to be worthy that you should be dependent on him?
- Is he not a person high enough to be worthy to be appointed to so honorable a work as your salvation?
- Would you not only have a Savior of high degree, but would you have him notwithstanding his exaltation and dignity, to be made also of low degree, that he might have experience of afflictions and trials, that he might learn by the things that he has suffered, to pity them that suffer and are tempted?
- And has not Christ been made low enough for you?
- And has he not suffered enough?
- Would you not only have him have experience of the afflictions you now suffer, but also of that amazing wrath that you fear hereafter, that he may know how to pity those that are in danger of it, and afraid of it? This Christ has had experience of, which experience gave him a greater sense of it, a thousand times, than you have, or any man living has.
- Would you have your Savior to be one that is near to God, that so his mediation might be prevalent with him?
- And can you desire him to be nearer to God than Christ is, who is his only begotten Son, of the same essence with the Father?
- And would you not have him near to God, but also near to you, that you may have free access to him?
- And would you have him nearer to you than to be in the same nature, and not only so, but united to you by a spiritual union, so close as to be fitly represented by the union of the wife to the husband, of the branch to the vine, of the member to the head, yea, so as to be looked upon as one, and called one spirit? For so he will be united to you, if you accept of him.
- Would you have a Savior that has given some great and extraordinary testimony of mercy and love to sinners, by something that he has done, as well as by what he says?
- And can you think, or conceive of greater things than Christ has done?
- Was it not a great thing for him, who was God, to take upon him human nature, to be not only God, but man thenceforward to all eternity?
- But would you look upon suffering for sinners to be a yet greater testimony of love to sinners, than merely doing, though it be never so extraordinary a thing that he has done?
- And would you desire that a Savior should suffer more than Christ has suffered for sinners?
- What is there wanting, or what would you add if you could, to make him more fit to be your Savior?
For a good entry into the life and preaching of Jonathan Edwards, consider reading, Edwards on the Christian Life: Alive to the Beauty of God, by Dane Ortlund.
On Saturday, May 16, we hosted a Saturday Seminar for men, titled, Building Lives with Sexual Integrity.
Buildings need structural integrity to stand and to withstand the pressures that weigh on them. Cultures, communities, churches, and families need sexual integrity to thrive. When a building has structural integrity all kinds of wonderful things can happen inside that building down generations. When a building fails structurally devastation follows. The consequences are even greater when it comes to sexuality. Sex makes and also destroys lives. We need God’s Word to enjoy and yield it well.
Sexual integrity is not a topic relevant only for men, of course, but men bear a particular responsibility as men in this area and we wanted to place a target for this material squarely on them.
If you missed it or if you’d like to listen in as a lady, the audio and video for each talk is available below. Click here for the student notes.
In Ryan’s sermon from Sunday, June 7, “He’s Coming Again,” we heard God’s Word from Mark 13:24-27 and Mark 13:32-37, concerning the return of Jesus Christ. In the course of this sermon, we also heard a list verses about his return from around the New Testament. An important part of the Christian life, as we found out, can be summed up in the word, “waiting.”
To help you wait more faithfully, here’s a list of verses on Christ’s return that expands on what Ryan read for us during that sermon.
Acts 1:11 “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”
Acts 3:19-21 “Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus, whom heaven must receive until the time for restoring all the things about which God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets long ago.”
Acts 17:31 “. . . because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.”
1 Corinthians 1:7 . . . so that you are not lacking in any gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ . . .
1 Corinthians 4:5 Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God.
1 Corinthians 11:26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.
1 Corinthians 15:23-24 But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power.
Philippians 1:10 . . . so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ . . .
Philippians 3:20 But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ . . .
Colossians 3:4 When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
1 Thessalonians 1:9-10 For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.
1 Thessalonians 2:19 For what is our hope or joy or crown of boasting before our Lord Jesus at his coming? Is it not you? 20 For you are our glory and joy.
1 Thessalonians 3:13 . . . so that he may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.
1 Thessalonians 4:15-18 For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words.
1 Thessalonians 5:1-4 Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers, you have no need to have anything written to you. For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, “There is peace and security,” then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. But you are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief.
1 Thessalonians 5:23 Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
2 Thessalonians 1:6-7 . . . since indeed God considers it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and to grant relief to you who are afflicted as well as to us, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels
2 Thessalonians 2:1-2 Now concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him, we ask you, brothers, not to be quickly shaken in mind or alarmed, either by a spirit or a spoken word, or a letter seeming to be from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come.
2 Thessalonians 2:8 And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will kill with the breath of his mouth and bring to nothing by the appearance of his coming.
1 Timothy 6:13-16 I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who in his testimony before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, to keep the commandment unstained and free from reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, which he will display at the proper time—he who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see. To him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen.
2 Timothy 4:1-2 I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.
2 Timothy 4:8 Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.
Titus 2:12-14 . . . training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.
Hebrews 9:28 . . . so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.
Hebrews 10:25 . . . not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
Hebrews 10:37 For, “Yet a little while, and the coming one will come and will not delay;
James 5:7-9 Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains. You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door.
1 Peter 1:3-5 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
1 Peter 4:13 But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.
1 Peter 5:4 And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.
2 Peter 3:3 . . . knowing this first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires.
2 Peter 3:8-10 But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.
1 John 2:28 And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming.
Jude 14-15 It was also about these that Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied, saying, “Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of his holy ones, to execute judgment on all and to convict all the ungodly of all their deeds of ungodliness that they have committed in such an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things that ungodly sinners have spoken against him.”
Jude 21 . . . keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life.
Revelation 1:4 John to the seven churches that are in Asia: Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne . . .
Revelation 1:7-8 Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him. Even so. Amen. “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.”
Revelation 3:11 I am coming soon. Hold fast what you have, so that no one may seize your crown.
Revelation 16:15 “Behold, I am coming like a thief! Blessed is the one who stays awake, keeping his garments on, that he may not go about naked and be seen exposed!”
Revelation 22:12-13 “Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay each one for what he has done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.”
Revelation 22:20 He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!
And, of course, if you were with us on Sunday morning, you witnessed the takedown of a volunteer in this year’s VBS volunteer recruiting video. If you missed it, watch it. If you saw it, watch it again. Then, click here to volunteer. If you have a child, click here to register them for VBS.
[RSS and email readers, click here to view this video]
Many of us will have children in VBS, and many of us will serve them as volunteers. Let’s all pray for the conversion of children and the growth of Christ’s church through this week of concentrated engagement with the gospel and God’s people.
- We serve dinner to all of our volunteers and their families each night of VBS. You can help by signing up for one or more items on the meals donation list.
- The set design team is in need of lumber and paint. If you have either of those items lying around the house, we’ll put them to good use.
- We are in need of adult VBS volunteers to serve in the following areas: Meals (prepping and serving dinner each night to our volunteers), Crafts, Nursery (caring for our youngest VBS trekkers, the children 3 and under of our volunteers), and Clean Up (serving in a vital, behind the scenes role).
We’ve been singing a new song lately, titled, “We Will Feast in The House of Zion.” Actually, we’ve called it, “We Will Feast,” for short. Sandra McCracken authored this song as part of her reflective new album, Psalms (Amazon, iTunes, Bandcamp).
In his article at The Gospel Coalition, “Sandra McCracken on Life, Loss, and Longing in the Psalms,” Ivan Mesa introduces the album this way:
Delight. Fear. Anger. Joy. Grief. Gladness. Loneliness. Love. Loss.
This is a small sampling of the range of emotions in life, ones that the Psalms fully describe. While the Psalms allow us to express our emotions they seek to shape them into righteous ones. With the Psalms we can approach God with brutal honesty, seeking to be rooted in truth and ready to submit to him.
Sandra McCracken’s newest album, Psalms, seeks to recast some of these ancient psalms and hymn texts for our day. … As McCracken writes,
These are sacred, borrowed words, with new melodies to help draw the longing and joy up out of our hearts and onto our lips, as we watch and wait to see his story come in it’s fullness.
Much like the Psalms, she helps us enter into both the pain of living in a broken world and the joyful hope we have as children of a sovereign God. In this interview we learn how the Psalms give us words when we have none, how lament should be part of our worship, and much more.
Click here for the whole article, which includes an extended interview with Sandra and an explanation of several songs.
Circling back to the song we’ve been singing together, here are the lyrics to, “We Will Feast”:
We Will Feast in The House of Zion
We will feast in the house of Zion
We will sing with our hearts restored
He has done great things, we will say together
We will feast and weep no more
We will not be burned by the fire
He is the LORD our God
We are not consumed, by the flood
Upheld, protected, gathered up (Chorus)
In the dark of night, before the dawn
My soul, be not afraid
For the promised morning, oh how long?
Oh God of Jacob, be my strength (Chorus)
Every vow we’ve broken and betrayed
You are the Faithful one
And from the garden to the grave
Bind us together, bring shalom. (Chorus)