Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Tyrannical Disaster

Devotion: 1 Kings 16:29-34

The emergence of the prophet Elijah was preceded by the rise of King Ahab. Ahab, the son of Omri who had defeated Tibni in the power vacuum left after Zimri's failed coup attempt, was about as bad as bad could be. The author of the account goes out of his way to contrast just how much worse Ahab was than any of his predecessors--none of whom, we should note, were described positively.
Ahab sits at the bottom of a downward spiral, exemplifying everything that was wrong with the northern kingship. Just the read the description of his ascent to the throne:
"In the thirty-eighth year of Asa king of Judah, Ahab the son of Omri began to reign over Israel, and Ahab the son of Omri reigned over Israel in Samaria twenty-two years. And Ahab the son of Omri did evil in the sight of the LORD, more than all who were before him. And as if it had been a light thing for him to walk in the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, he took for his wife Jezebel the daughter of Ethbaal king of the Sidonians, and went and served Baal and worshiped him. He erected an altar for Baal in the house of Baal, which he built in Samaria. And Ahab made an Asherah. Ahab did more to provoke the LORD, the God of Israel, to anger than all the kings of Israel who were before him. In his days Hiel of Bethel built Jericho. He laid its foundation at the cost of Abiram his firstborn, and set up its gates at the cost of his youngest son Segub, according to the word of the LORD, which he spoke by Joshua the son of Nun. " -1 Kings 16:29-34 ESV
Ahab not only encouraged the use of the golden calf shrines (like Jeroboam), he also married a foreign bride and brought her religion, Baalism, into the mainstream in Israel. Ahab built a temple to Baal right in the capital city of Samaria and put alongside it a shrine to Baal's consort, Asherah. Further, Ahab allowed and enabled the rebuilding of Jericho, sacrificing two of his own children, Abiram and Segub, to accomplish the task. In short, Ahab was as bad as bad could be.
So what do we do with a tyrant in the biblical narrative? I think we need to learn from him and recognize his ilk in the world today. Ahab, at base, was unconcerned with truth and goodness. He was chiefly concerned with his own power, desires and whims (as will be clearly demonstrated throughout his reign). Ahab was not afraid to sacrifice children to accomplish his aims. In short, he saw his own will as absolute and absolutely perfect.
The inability to be self-critical is dangerous. Fanaticism emerges when we believe our views are not the only best, but the only good and true views anyone should have. The fanatic becomes a tyrant regarding opposing views with regularity. Since the fanatic is, by self-reference, correct, then everyone else is wrong. Attempting to sway or persuade the fanatic becomes an exercise in wasting breath. Ahab is a fanatic of his own power. It will take God working through the ministry of the prophet Elijah to knock Ahab on his heels and reveal that this tyrant is not as powerful as he imagines himself to be.
We all need to be knocked on our heels and face disaster when we approach tyranny and/or fanaticism. God's Word still has that power to do just that, pointing out our faults and failures and calling us to repentance ever and again through faith in Christ Jesus. Beware of someone who cannot see his own faults--especially if that someone is you. There is good news, God still speaks the prophetic word in our lives to call us to be radically honest about our faults and find perfection in Christ alone.



News for You:

  • CPC's annual Trunk-or-Treat event is Tuesday, October 31st from 4-7 p.m. We are looking for volunteers to bring/decorate vehicles, donate candy, or bring/cook hotdogs. There is a sign-up sheet at the Welcome Center at CPC.
  • We still have some available spots for Small Groups that launch next week.
  • We will not have Sunday School Remix October 2 or Sunday School October 7 due to the pastor being away.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Disarray

Devotion: 1 Kings 16:21-28

Life can feel chaotic at times. To be sure that feeling of chaos is relative to our experience and circumstance. Since my kids have gone back to school my wife and I have been juggling schedules and playing the three-kid-shuffle between soccer practice, Awana and family time. This has led to a growing sense of chaos crouching at the door and it is only our ability to communicate and coordinate (with the Lord's guidance!) that has maintained order. That feeling of chaos can be overwhelming, but it is nothing compared with many in the world today.
We live in peace and order. While we may disagree about the extent or the forward duration of that peace and order, an honest assessment sees people in our nation with the liberty to live life, pursue goals, gain skills and form families. I believe many people in Syria today would be envious of our liberty, peace and order as they continue in the chaos of civil war and totalitarianism.
Order is God's work in the world. The creation accounts depict God as establishing order in the midst of the dark depths of chaos. Our God made a covenant with Abraham and his descendants, including the Mosaic Law and culminating in the coming of Jesus Christ to save sinners, to establish His order in a world lost in the chaos of sinful rebellion. In my personal readings of Scripture over the last several months I have been struck by the way God continues to order the chaos and the way human sin continues to usher in more chaos.
Our passage this week is a story of chaos and disarray. Peace and order are nowhere to be found. In the course of a week the Kingdom of Israel saw a violent coup led by Zimri kill the king while a war was being fought against Philistines. Zimri then barricaded himself in the royal palace in Tirzah while General Omri laid seige. Zimri, facing defeat, decided to commit suicide by burning down the king's palace with him inside. In the course of a week, the king was dead and his would-be usurper was also dead. This created a power/leadership vacuum and two parties seek to fill the same space:
"Then the people of Israel were divided into two parts. Half of the people followed Tibni the son of Ginath, to make him king, and half followed Omri. But the people who followed Omri overcame the people who followed Tibni the son of Ginath. So Tibni died, and Omri became king. In the thirty-first year of Asa king of Judah, Omri began to reign over Israel, and he reigned for twelve years; six years he reigned in Tirzah. He bought the hill of Samaria from Shemer for two talents of silver, and he fortified the hill and called the name of the city that he built Samaria, after the name of Shemer, the owner of the hill. " -1 Kings 16:21-24 ESV
We live in a two-party system, but we have enjoyed peaceful transfers of power for well over a century (the American Civil War in the mid-19th century being the only exception). In Israel, the death of a king led to a war. The biblical account nonchalantly describes these events and that should give us pause before using hyperbolic language to describe our lives as chaotic. The outbreak of civil war between the forces of General Omri and Tibni receives a very terse account as if such a thing was not only normal, but expected. The disarray and chaos of the situation is depicted as normal. Again, our thoughts on our lives being chaotic is usually relative. Given the tumult of Israel's history up to that point, kings dying and people fighting for power was just another day. Contrast this with the long reign of King Asa of Judah, who, while imperfect in his devotion to the Lord, was much more faithful than the kings of Israel during his 41-year reign.
The end result of this fight was Omri's victory and ascendance. Omri moves the political capitol to Samaria, which he purchased honestly from Shemer (this will be contrasted with his son Ahab and Naboth's vineyard later). Omri's reign was 12 years and it was marked with the same problems as those who went before him:
"Omri did what was evil in the sight of the LORD, and did more evil than all who were before him. For he walked in all the way of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, and in the sins that he made Israel to sin, provoking the LORD, the God of Israel, to anger by their idols. Now the rest of the acts of Omri that he did, and the might that he showed, are they not written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Israel? And Omri slept with his fathers and was buried in Samaria, and Ahab his son reigned in his place. " -1 Kings 16:25-28 ESV
Omri failed at restoring order because he continued in the sin of idolatry. That legacy would be passed to his son Ahab. We will speak more about Ahab in the coming weeks.
We need to be cautious in two ways as people of faith. First, we need to be cautious in seeing and describing our lives in overly-dramatic ways, asserting more chaos than is really present. Second, we need to be cautious about allowing the chaos of idolatry to invade our lives. We are called to true worship of the one true God. To give worship to false idols is to invite real chaos and, as we have seen, that does not end well for anyone.



The song this week is "What the Morning Shows" by The Dust of Men.

News for You:

  • We are still on the hunt for Small Group Leaders for our Fall series in Romans. If you are interested, e-mail Pastor Bill.
  • Sunday School will kick off our next series in the Westminster Confession of Faith beginning September 16 at 9 a.m. Sunday School Remix will resume September 18 at 1 p.m. in the library at CPC.

Friday, September 7, 2018

What Comes Around...

Devotion: 1 Kings 16:15-20

Seven days is not a terribly long time. I currently have multiple condiments in my fridge that are much older than seven days. Seven days is the reign of Zimri after his rebellion and assassination of Elah, son of Baasha. Zimri is a textbook illustration of reaping what one sows (see Galatians 6:6-10).
"In the twenty-seventh year of Asa king of Judah, Zimri reigned seven days in Tirzah. Now the troops were encamped against Gibbethon, which belonged to the Philistines, and the troops who were encamped heard it said, “Zimri has conspired, and he has killed the king.” Therefore all Israel made Omri, the commander of the army, king over Israel that day in the camp. So Omri went up from Gibbethon, and all Israel with him, and they besieged Tirzah. And when Zimri saw that the city was taken, he went into the citadel of the king's house and burned the king's house over him with fire and died, because of his sins that he committed, doing evil in the sight of the Lord, walking in the way of Jeroboam, and for his sin which he committed, making Israel to sin. Now the rest of the acts of Zimri, and the conspiracy that he made, are they not written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Israel?" -1 Kings 16:15-20 ESV
Following Zimri's rebellion, the troops fighting against the Philistines (the cover for Zimri's coup) hear about his treachery and decide, under the leadership of General Omri to strike back against the rebel. Omri, taking charge, is not only to lead the counter-insurgency, but if successful, is to become king of Israel.
Omri leads the troops to Tirzah and takes the city. Zimri, knowing his goose is cooked, commits suicide by burning down the king's palace with him inside. In seven short days he goes from king to dead, yet even in that short span he continued idolatry and perpetuated injustice. Zimri met a bitter end following his plot.
Zimri can teach us a few brief lessons.
  1. Violence begets violence. Jesus himself said to Peter when struck the servant of the high priest in defense of Jesus, "Put your sword back in its place. For all who take the sword will perish by the sword." (Matthew 26:52). Zimri's treachery and rebellion was doomed because of the violent way he perpetrated his offense.
  2. While Elah was a wicked king, Zimri acted without authorization, direction and leave from the Lord. Zimri acted out of naked ambition for his own benefit, seizing an opportunity as it presented itself. God's will was never considered.
  3. Zimri did not have a clear strategy. While he struck down Elah and took the throne, he had no strategy for holding the throne. This is short-term thinking at its worst. Doing something in the moment without thought to the long-term consequence and/or strategy is sure method of increasing misery, pain and trouble.
King Zimri reigned seven days because he acted without the Lord's will. His means were violent and he met a violent, dishonorable end. While Zimri fulfilled the prophecy of Jehu the Prophet, he did so unconsciously and without deference to the Lord. We need to be much more thoughtful, strategic and humble in our actions, seeking the glory of God and the execution of His will lest our short-term strategy meet with disaster.

The song this week is "Farther Along" by Josh Garrels.


News for You:

  • Visit our booth at the Okanogan County Fair!
  • We are still on the hunt for Small Group Leaders for our Fall series in Romans. If you are interested, e-mail Pastor Bill.
  • Sunday School will kick off our next series in the Westminster Confession of Faith beginning September 16 at 9 a.m. Sunday School Remix will resume September 18 at 1 p.m. in the library at CPC.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Sin and Judgment

Devotion: 1 Kings 15:33-16:14

Sin is open rebellion against the will of God. While other biblical images of sin emerge over time, including the often cited example of 'missing the mark,' it is rebellion that really carries the freight. God's will for His creation is the only criteria for life that matters. God's will gives meaning, purpose, point, goal, aim and end to any and all who listen to His will and carry it out to glorify Him.
Now, the question that 1 Kings addresses here in the midst of rapid dynastic change is if someone who does not worship YHWH (i.e. a pagan) or one who worships YHWH improperly by either creating a false image of YHWH, worshiping in a way YHWH did not expressly command (or even strictly forbids), or mixing the worship of YHWH with the worship of idols--can such a person still glorify the Lord by doing His will without repentance and faith? In other words, can you do God's will, and thus glorify Him, and still be responsible for sin? Last week we saw how the Lord can use sin to accomplish His purpose(s) without being the root or creator of sin. This week we need to wonder what happens to the sinner who accomplished God's will, but still sinned. Enter King Baasha:
"In the third year of Asa king of Judah, Baasha the son of Ahijah began to reign over all Israel at Tirzah, and he reigned twenty-four years. He did what was evil in the sight of the LORD and walked in the way of Jeroboam and in his sin which he made Israel to sin. " -1 Kings 15:33-34 ESV
Baasha had rebelled and destroyed the House of Jeroboam, ending his dynasty with the death of Jeroboam's son, King Nadab. Baasha was, in essence, the tool the Lord used to fulfill His prophetic word to Jeroboam. This does not, however, mean that Baasha was a dutiful servant of YHWH anymore than Jeroboam was. These men did the will of YHWH, but that is not to be construed as these men being righteous or that these men were somehow not responsible for the sin they did. Baasha reigned from Tirzah, a city east of Samaria, perhaps because the people of Samaria were fond of Nadab.
Despite Baasha being the agent employed by the Lord to carry out His will, Baasha leads the people into the same sins of idolatry that had entangled Jeroboam. Baasha ended the previous dynasty and then reconstituted the very practices he had been used to stop. So the Lord sent a prophet to pronounce his judgment:
"And the word of the LORD came to Jehu the son of Hanani against Baasha, saying, “Since I exalted you out of the dust and made you leader over my people Israel, and you have walked in the way of Jeroboam and have made my people Israel to sin, provoking me to anger with their sins, behold, I will utterly sweep away Baasha and his house, and I will make your house like the house of Jeroboam the son of Nebat. Anyone belonging to Baasha who dies in the city the dogs shall eat, and anyone of his who dies in the field the birds of the heavens shall eat.” " -1 Kings 16:1-4 ESV
Baasha had made the mistake of assuming that his will was in a one-to-one correspondence with the will of God. This happens when we begin to see our views, opinions and desires as holy, right and good since we have a relationship with the Lord. The king had forgotten, or perhaps not learned, that the king serves at the leave of the Lord. Baasha, having disposed of the dynasty of Jeroboam, must have believed he was somehow anointed and could do not wrong to fall into the same trap as his predecessors.
The result of this mistaken view is the judgment of God. Baasha, however he was of use to God previously, has sinned and was, therefore liable to God's wrath. What's more, the House of Baasha would meet the same end as the House of Jeroboam. Who you are does not matter when it comes to sin. There are no special passes, no special privileges, and no special persons vis-a-vis sin. Baasha had sinned and so his House would fall as the judgment of God.
"Now the rest of the acts of Baasha and what he did, and his might, are they not written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Israel? And Baasha slept with his fathers and was buried at Tirzah, and Elah his son reigned in his place. Moreover, the word of the LORD came by the prophet Jehu the son of Hanani against Baasha and his house, both because of all the evil that he did in the sight of the LORD, provoking him to anger with the work of his hands, in being like the house of Jeroboam, and also because he destroyed it. " -1 Kings 16:5-7 ESV
The final words of verse 7, "and also because he destroyed it," lets us know that Baasha's treatment of the House of Jeroboam (namely, utterly destroying it), while accomplishing the will of God, was sin and he was liable for it. God's sovereignty means that all things work together for good, but it does not alleviate human responsibility for sin. God can use sinful actions by human beings to accomplish His good ends, but that does not excuse, justify or anoint the sinful action. Sin is still contrary to God's will and those who sin are liable to judgment for it. Baasha ended the dynasty of Jeroboam (God's expressed will) by killing all the members of his House (sin). God's will was done, but Baasha was still guilty of sin.
Baasha would be followed by his son Elah. Elah would meet a quick end (reigning only two years) at the hands Zimri, the grandfather of Ahab. So why did Elah fall?
"In the twenty-sixth year of Asa king of Judah, Elah the son of Baasha began to reign over Israel in Tirzah, and he reigned two years. But his servant Zimri, commander of half his chariots, conspired against him. When he was at Tirzah, drinking himself drunk in the house of Arza, who was over the household in Tirzah, Zimri came in and struck him down and killed him, in the twenty-seventh year of Asa king of Judah, and reigned in his place. When he began to reign, as soon as he had seated himself on his throne, he struck down all the house of Baasha. He did not leave him a single male of his relatives or his friends. Thus Zimri destroyed all the house of Baasha, according to the word of the LORD, which he spoke against Baasha by Jehu the prophet, for all the sins of Baasha and the sins of Elah his son, which they sinned and which they made Israel to sin, provoking the LORD God of Israel to anger with their idols. Now the rest of the acts of Elah and all that he did, are they not written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Israel?" -1 Kings 16:8-14 ESV
Elah was not an innocent sufferer. In his short two-year reign he continued the idolatrous practices of his father. So the Lord fulfilled His Word through the prophet Jehu and ended the reign of Elah. God's chosen agent this time was Zimri, who had been a commander of chariots in Elah's army. Zimri caught Elah while he was drunk and put an end to his life. Zimri then ascended the throne and proceeded to destory the House of Baasha, killing all of its members to cement his own rule. If this sounds familiar, it ought to.
Jeroboam, Baasha and Zimri (more on him next week) all were used by God, but were sinners none-the-less. We cannot assume that just because we are accomplishing the will of God that we are not sinning at the same time. Removing the previous regime does not automatically make the next regime righteous, especially when the next regime, once in power, returns to the same sinful policies that ended the previous regime. Tearing down sinners does not make us righteous ourselves.
If Jesus is your king, you can be assured that he will lead you only to true worship and in the way of righteousness. If we continue to sin as we did under the old regime, we are responsible for that sin and thanks be to God that Jesus has taken that responsibility to himself on the cross that we may be forgiven and receive mercy and not what our sin deserves.

The song this week is "Feel the Night" by Strahan.
 

News for You:

  • Due to the uncertainty of smoke the church picnic has been postponed. Look for more details coming soon in the bulletin.
  • The Service Team is looking for volunteers to staff our outreach booth at the Okanogan County Fair. Sign-ups can be found at the Welcome Center at CPC.
  • We are still on the hunt for Small Group Leaders for our Fall series in Romans. If you are interested, e-mail Pastor Bill.
  • Sunday School will kick off our next series in the Westminster Confession of Faith beginning September 16 at 9 a.m. Sunday School Remix will resume September 18 at 1 p.m. in the library at CPC.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Dynasty Fail

Devotion: 1 Kings 15:25-30

As we continue to set the stage for the coming of the Prophet Elijah's ministry (he bursts on the scene in 1 Kings 17:1), we will trace the lineage of Jeroboam, King of Israel. Jereboam's reign included the death of his son Abijah as a message of judgment for the dynasty that the Lord had promised to Jeroboam if he would be faithful. Jeroboam chose political expediency over faithful obedience to the Lord, setting up golden calves in violation of the second commandment and high places for the worship of Baal and Asherah in violation of the first commandment. Despite a prophet's effort to course correct Jeroboam (see 1 Kings 13:1-10 and the prophet's demise in 1 Kings 13:11-32), Jeroboam persisted in promoting idolatry and thus the Scripture tells us, "And this thing became sin to the house of Jeroboam, so as to cut it off and to destroy it from the face of the earth" (1 Kings 13:34). The destruction of the house of Jeroboam would come a short while later.
Jeroboam died after reigning 22 years in Israel. His reign set a precedent and course for the kings who would follow. That precedent included idolatry and disobedience to the clear commands of the Lord. We pick up the story now when his son, Nadab, ascended to the throne.
"Nadab the son of Jeroboam began to reign over Israel in the second year of Asa king of Judah, and he reigned over Israel two years. He did what was evil in the sight of the LORD and walked in the way of his father, and in his sin which he made Israel to sin." - 1 Kings 15:25-26 ESV
The Scripture is clear that Nadab was just like his father. The sin of Jeroboam was not only participating in idolatry, but encouraging others to do the same. The Apostle Paul calls this out as a particularly heinous sin in his list of the sins of a depraved mind in Romans 1:32, "Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them." Nadab is not punished for the sins of his father, but rather receives judgment for his own sin and fulfills the Word of the Lord spoken through the prophets concerning the dynasty of Jeroboam. It was simply time for the house of Jeroboam to be removed. We can balk at such treatment by the Lord, but we must remember that the Lord had told Jeroboam that there would be great rewards for his faithful obedience. Jeroboam went a different direction and that led to the downfall of his dynasty. Here's how it happened:
"Baasha the son of Ahijah, of the house of Issachar, conspired against him. And Baasha struck him down at Gibbethon, which belonged to the Philistines, for Nadab and all Israel were laying siege to Gibbethon. So Baasha killed him in the third year of Asa king of Judah and reigned in his place. And as soon as he was king, he killed all the house of Jeroboam. He left to the house of Jeroboam not one that breathed, until he had destroyed it, according to the word of the LORD that he spoke by his servant Ahijah the Shilonite. It was for the sins of Jeroboam that he sinned and that he made Israel to sin, and because of the anger to which he provoked the LORD, the God of Israel." -1 Kings 15:27-30 ESV
The death of King Nadab and the end of Jeroboam's dynasty comes about during a siege. Nadab, busy with the battle is, in essence, stabbed in the back by Baasha. Baasha for his part is acting out of self-interest with no mention of his call or duty to the Lord. Indeed, Baasha continues the idolatry of the House of Jeroboam after he had viciously destroyed every member of Jeroboam's family. And I believe this tells us that God can use even wicked and evil men bent on their own ambition and self-interest to accomplish His will. This does not mean that Baasha is off the hook for his attack, morally speaking, let alone that the Lord will excuse the idolatry of Baasha while bringing judgment on Jeroboam. It simply means that for a time Baasha's wicked ambition to seize power was useful to carry out the will of God. This use of evil by God does not mean that the Lord generated Baasha's sin or wicked intention, but rather that the Lord was able to use even sin and evil to accomplish His good end (see Romans 8:28).
The destruction of the House of Jeroboam reminds us that sin is not to be trifled with in our own lives. Indeed the Apostle Paul is quite clear in Colossians 3:5, "Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry." What is the Christian do with sin? In short, kill it! We may think we can harness sin to accomplish our goal or aim, but it will always turn on us and threaten to destroy us. Sin is an enemy defeated by Christ Jesus on the cross (see 1 Corinthians 15:56-57). Jesus wins the victory on our behalf and leads us in this victory into obedience through faith to the revealed will of God. We should not presume that in Christ's victory sin is now a tool we can use. We are not God, the Divine Creator of all that is. God can use human sin to accomplish His aim, but that does not excuse sin. Sin's end is death--either our death (as with Nadab) or the death of Christ. The only difference between the two is the surrender of faith to Jesus.



The song today is from The Young Escape, "neverfade."

News for You:

  • Due to the uncertainty of smoke the church picnic has been postponed. Look for more details coming soon in the bulletin.
  • The Service Team is looking for volunteers to staff our outreach booth at the Okanogan County Fair. Sign-ups can be found at the Welcome Center at CPC.
  • We are still on the hunt for Small Group Leaders for our Fall series in Romans. If you are interested, e-mail Pastor Bill.
  • Sunday School will kick off our next series in the Westminster Confession of Faith beginning September 16 at 9 a.m. Sunday School Remix will resume September 18 at 1 p.m. in the library at CPC.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

The Sin of Jeroboam

Devotion: 1 Kings 12:25-33

As I mentioned in our last newsletter the blog will be following the ministry of the Prophet Elijah for a while.The prophet emerges on the scene of Israel during a turbulent time and remained a popular figure in the history of Israel right up to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
To understand the prophet and his ministry we need to look at the historical context that led up to the reign of King Ahab of Israel. That context really begins with the naivete of King Rehoboam, the son of King Solomon and grandson of King David. When Solomon died, Rehoboam was to ascend to the throne, yet his coronation was not without controversy. The 10 northern tribes were not happy with the forced labor they endured under Solomon and wanted assurances that Rehoboam would not continue his father's policies. Rehoboam took counsel from his father's advisers who instructed him to capitulate to the people's demands and thus be loved and respected. Not satisfied, Rehoboam (who was around 18 at the time) took counsel from his friends (also about 18) and they instructed him to deal even more harshly with the people, postulating that fear and reprisal would keep the people in line. Faced with two conflicting pieces of advice, Rehoboam went with his friends and the people revolted and rejected his claim to reign over them.
"And when all Israel saw that the king did not listen to them, the people answered the king, “What portion do we have in David? We have no inheritance in the son of Jesse. To your tents, O Israel! Look now to your own house, David.” So Israel went to their tents." -1 Kings 12:16 ESV
Waiting in the wings was Jeroboam. Jeroboam had been a capable official (ironically over Solomon's forced labor program). After receiving a message from the Lord through Ahijah the prophet, Jeroboam led an unsuccessful rebellion against Solomon (see 1 Kings 11:26-40). This led to Jeroboam's flight to Egypt. Yet, when Solomon died, as Rehoboam was preparing for his coronation, Jeroboam emerges on the scene again, providing a ready alternative to the ill-advised Rehoboam when the 10 northern tribes entered into rebellion against the heir of David. It took the Lord Himself to intervene through the prophet Shemaiah to prevent open civil war (see 1 Kings 12:16-24).
The end result was a splitting of the United Kingdom of Israel into a northern (Israel) kingdom and southern (Judah) kingdom. The southern kingdom continued the Davidic dynasty and certainly outlasted the northern kingdom (they fell to the Assyrians in 722 BC, while Judah fell to the Babylonians in 586 BC). The northern kingdom followed Jeroboam's line (until they were usurped, but more on that much later). It is Jeroboam's acts as the first King of Israel where we pick up the story.
"Then Jeroboam built Shechem in the hill country of Ephraim and lived there. And he went out from there and built Penuel. And Jeroboam said in his heart, 'Now the kingdom will turn back to the house of David. If this people go up to offer sacrifices in the temple of the LORD at Jerusalem, then the heart of this people will turn again to their lord, to Rehoboam king of Judah, and they will kill me and return to Rehoboam king of Judah.' " -1 Kings 12:25-27 ESV
Civil War was narrowly avoided between Judah and Israel, yet the specter of open conflict was haunting Jeroboam.Since his was a bloodless coup-d'etat the northern tribes had no real investment in his reign. What united the north under Jeroboam was not his leadership, charisma or policies, but rather a general disdain for Rehoboam. The political question that Jeroboam needed to answer was how long could that disdain sustain his reign (try saying that 5 times fast). He knew that the more interaction the northern tribes had with the south, the more likely reconciliation would take place. What's more, the religion of Israel, YHWHism, meant a central place of worship, namely the Temple in Jerusalem, that was also the seat of the southern monarchy. That religion was one of both mercy and justice, but the mercy tended to outweigh the justice in the long term.
So what was the king to do? Jeroboam could have listened to the prophet Ahijah and remained faithful to the Lord and let the events transpire as he had been promised. In that scenario, according to the prophet, it would be the line of Jeroboam and not the line of David from whom the redeemer would come and it would be Jeroboam's name and not David's name that would be held in reverence.
So the king decided to go a different direction (and leave behind the Word of the Lord).
"So the king took counsel and made two calves of gold. And he said to the people, 'You have gone up to Jerusalem long enough. Behold your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt.' And he set one in Bethel, and the other he put in Dan." -1 Kings 12:28-29 ESV
Jeroboam's solution is to create two shrines each with a golden calf idol to represent the gods (or God) who delivered Israel out of Egypt. Such a program did not end well the last time it was attempted by Israel under the leadership of Aaron (see Exodus 32). And, as anyone familiar with sin could guess, the sin of idolatry did not end there.
"Then this thing became a sin, for the people went as far as Dan to be before one. He also made temples on high places and appointed priests from among all the people, who were not of the Levites. And Jeroboam appointed a feast on the fifteenth day of the eighth month like the feast that was in Judah, and he offered sacrifices on the altar. So he did in Bethel, sacrificing to the calves that he made. And he placed in Bethel the priests of the high places that he had made. He went up to the altar that he had made in Bethel on the fifteenth day in the eighth month, in the month that he had devised from his own heart. And he instituted a feast for the people of Israel and went up to the altar to make offerings." 1 Kings 12:30-33 ESV
Jeroboam proceeds to make temples in the high places, most likely to Baal and his consort Asherah and appoint priests to oversee these shrines who are not Levites (the tribe of priests chosen by God-see Numbers 18:1-7). One sin leads to another and soon the prophecy over Jeroboam is discarded for what is politically expedient. Isn't that the way it usually goes?
King Jeroboam's legacy was one of rebellion against God. He sets up idol worship to replace true worship in an attempt to secure his reign and dynasty. In turning from the Lord he puts in motion his dynasty's demise.
What can we take from this? I believe it tells us that sin makes promises it cannot keep. It promises life, fulfillment and happiness, and ends in death, emptiness and misery. Sin begets more sin and it is better to stop it before it starts. To do that, we need true repentance that comes through faith in Jesus Christ, who conquered sin on the cross for us and for our salvation.

The song today is "On & On" by Christ Church Manchester Music.

News for You:

  • CPC's Youth Group for 6th-12th grades is meeting Sundays from 7-8:30 p.m.
  • The annual Church picnic will take place Saturday, August 25 at 4 p.m. Sign-up at the Welcome Center at CPC!
  • Small Group Leaders are needed for our Fall groups. If you are interested, Pastor Bill is hosting a meeting in the Memorial Parlor following worship on Sunday, 8/19.
  • Sunday School and Sunday School Remix will resume in September (9/16 and 9/18 respectively). The next series will cover the history and theology of our confession, the Westminster Confession of Faith

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Grace and Disappointment

Devotion: Jonah 4:8-11

The story of Jonah ends poorly by modern, Western story-telling standards. Jonah does not learn a life-lesson, Jonah does not make a course-correction, Jonah is neither victorious nor defeated. The story simply ends with a statement of God's character:
"When the sun rose, God appointed a scorching east wind, and the sun beat down on the head of Jonah so that he was faint. And he asked that he might die and said, 'It is better for me to die than to live.' But God said to Jonah, 'Do you do well to be angry for the plant?' And he said, 'Yes, I do well to be angry, angry enough to die.' And the LORD said, 'You pity the plant, for which you did not labor, nor did you make it grow, which came into being in a night and perished in a night. And should not I pity Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also much cattle?' " -Jonah 4:8-11 ESV
Jonah had been hanging out under a plant that God caused to grow miraculously. Jonah's purpose was to see the destruction of the repented city of Nineveh. The prophet simply could not take God's grace as an answer. He wanted blood, death and destruction. Instead, God showed character by grace, mercy and forgiveness. The prophet has assumed he had a permanent privileged position with God. The position left the prophet vulnerable to the sin of pride. Jonah knew best and put himself over and above the Sovereign Creator in choosing the proper course of action.
All of Jonah's worldview falls apart as the plant collapses under the worm that God sent. Jonah is left with disappointment even depression. His worldview has collapsed and instead of seeking the Lord and being reshaped and refashioned by his Creator, Jonah asks for death. The prophet believes it is preferable to cease to live than to live in a world he cannot control.
Yet the final belongs to the Lord, and it ought to be our final word here as well. The Lord is far more gracious, loving and forgiving than any of us deserve or imagine. No one is beyond the redemptive power of the love of God. God formed all things and everyone and His care and concern for his creation is what leads to the coming of Jesus, the Savior of the World. To assume we have the corner on God's love is to invite disappointment when God does not play by our rules. Surrender to God's will and recognizing His desire to save is the heart of our Christian faith.
The book of Jonah just ends with open questions. May your life be filled with the answer of God's grace that Jonah never seemed to grasp.

The song this week is "Take Me Home" from Angel!na.

News for You:

  • For those praying for Andrew Brunson, you may already know that he was returned to prison with a future trial date set for October 12. You can read more here, here and here
  • Our Youth Group is meeting Sunday from 7-8:30 p.m. We are studying Titus and all youth entering 6th-12th grade are invited for faith, fun and friendship.
  • The Annual Church Picnic is set for August 25 at 4 p.m. More detail will be coming in the weekly bulletin and from your deacons.
  • Big thanks to everyone who helped with the ManFisher Picnic!

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Plan and Part

Devotion: Jonah 4:5-7

I am glad to be back in the blog saddle this week, but just a reminder that our blog updates will be spotty over the summer months. At any rate, let's continue in our study of Jonah.

We last left Jonah angry with God over his grace for the great city of Nineveh. Jonah preached destruction because he hoped that destruction would befall that city. When the city repented and the Lord was gracious, Jonah was mad. The prophet had a plan and a part for God to play, but the Lord had a different plan.
Frustration is the result of Jonah's plan not aligning with the plan of God. And so this week we find Jonah pitching a tent (i.e. booth) with a good vantage point of the city:
"Jonah went out of the city and sat to the east of the city and made a booth for himself there. He sat under it in the shade, till he should see what would become of the city. Now the LORD God appointed a plant and made it come up over Jonah, that it might be a shade over his head, to save him from his discomfort. So Jonah was exceedingly glad because of the plant. But when dawn came up the next day, God appointed a worm that attacked the plant, so that it withered." -Jonah 4:5-7 ESV
Jonah cannot take God's grace and deliverance of Nineveh for an answer. The prophet is so convinced that Nineveh ought to be destroyed that he camps out and waits. Jonah cannot accept that he was wrong and that God will not play a part in his plan.
To teach Jonah this lesson, God causes a plant to grow and give shade to Jonah. Jonah, camping out to see Nineveh destroyed, is really happy to have some shade. Then, the next morning, the Lord sends a worm to destroy the plant and take away the shade. We will see next week that this upsets Jonah. So what is the point of it all?
The point is this--it is the Lord's plan that matters. We can have days of joy and comfort and days of pain and discomfort. In the end, the Lord is sovereign and it is His plan that matters. God will not play a part in our plans, but, by His grace, we may play a part in His plan. Jonah had attempted to put his will over the will of God and the result was that Jonah grew frustrated, even angry, that the Lord would not capitulate to his desire.
I think we all can learn a lesson from this. Often our frustration, even anger, with God is because the Lord will not do what we want when we want it how we want it. God will not play the role we assign to him and so we get mad at God. Yet, in the midst of it all, God is telling us simply, "You are not in charge." What we do with that lesson will depend on our relationship with God in faith.

The song this week is "Concrete Heart" by Tina Boonstra.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

No Thanks

Devotion: Jonah 4:1-4

The Lord was pleased to save Nineveh from destruction through the preaching of destruction by Jonah and the repentance of the powerful city, from the least to the greatest. Jonah's preaching ministry, from the modern Christian perspective, was massively successful. People and even animals were in sackcloth, fasting was the rule of the day, and even the king sought the Lord's mercy. So why is it the story now takes such a twisted and dark turn?
"But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was angry. And he prayed to the LORD and said, 'O LORD, is not this what I said when I was yet in my country? That is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster. Therefore now, O LORD, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live.' And the LORD said, 'Do you do well to be angry?' " -Jonah 4:1-4 ESV
Jonah was angry that Nineveh repented and was saved. To see things from Jonah's perspective we need to understand that Assyria, the superpower of the day, had sorely pressed and oppressed Israel. It is not too far a stretch to see that Jonah had a revenge-fantasy concerning Assyria. Jonah's desired outcome from the brutal and cruel Assyrian empire, represented here by their chief city of Nineveh, was utter, complete and total destruction. To put it bluntly, Jonah wants to see them dead.
We can characterize Jonah's desire as justice, but that is not how the Lord sees it. Sin is the problem and the solution for sin is death. Yet, Jonah correctly observes that the Lord is gracious, merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. Sin will lead to death, but the death in this case is not the one Jonah desires. He desires physical destruction and perhaps even eternal damnation.
The death the Lord has in mind, however, in this case is the death to the old self that we call repentance. As Christians we see our repentance in Christ Jesus' death on the cross. Jesus took our deserved death and gave us His unconquerable life in its place. This is all accomplished and applied to us by the Holy Spirit in grace. To be blunt, this is not what Jonah wanted. If this is the way of the Lord, Jonah says, "No thanks!"
Indeed, Jonah states that the reason he denied the call of the Lord at the start was that he knew this was the likely outcome. Jonah so hated Nineveh that their salvation actually led him to suicidal thoughts. His desire for vengeance was so great that when that desire went unmet he actually wanted his life to end. Of course, the Lord intervenes asking Jonah if he is doing the right thing in his anger? The positive question here expects the negative response. The Lord is also telling Jonah, "No thanks," to his crummy attitude.
And this leads us to our understanding of call and service. Unfortunately we too can be caught up in hatred, vengeance and rage toward others. We may even be so angry that we fantasize about destruction, even damnation for our enemies and those who wrong us. But think for a moment if this was the Lord's posture toward his enemies. Recall that all sinners are enemies of God. And then remember, "but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." (Romans 5:8). To say, "no thanks," to mercy is to deny that the Lord has been merciful to you in salvation. We are called to serve the Lord and never refuse the Good News of Jesus Christ to anyone for any reason.


The song is "I Will Serve" by Called Out Music.

News for You:

  • Camp is just around the corner and there's no better way to stay in the know than to become a member of the Camp Chelan 2018 Facebook Group! https://www.facebook.com/groups/375523286275330/
  • The Ladies' Walk and Talk Group will mee every Saturday at 8 AM, at Eastside Park through the summer. Fellowship & exercise together. Invite a friend!

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Humble Leadership

Devotion: Jonah 3:6-10

Jonah marched through Nineveh pronouncing God's judgment and imminent destruction. The people heard the prophet of YHWH, believed God and repented. As we will see next week this was not to Jonah's liking. Yet, this week we see what happens when leadership is humbled before God.
"The word reached the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne, removed his robe, covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in ashes. And he issued a proclamation and published through Nineveh, 'By the decree of the king and his nobles: Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste anything. Let them not feed or drink water, but let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and let them call out mightily to God. Let everyone turn from his evil way and from the violence that is in his hands. Who knows? God may turn and relent and turn from his fierce anger, so that we may not perish.' When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil way, God relented of the disaster that he had said he would do to them, and he did not do it." -Jonah 3:6-10 ESV
The king of Nineveh humbled himself before the Lord. He did not need statistics, proofs or arguments. He heard the word! We cannot underestimate the power of the Word of God. That very Word took a mighty king and put him in sackcloth and ashes, traditional symbols of repentance throughout the ancient near east. What's more, the king used his power to call the people and their livestock to a fast. The fast was to commemorate the repentance that was breaking out in the kingdom, but the king adds weight, calling everyone, "to turn from his evil way and from the violence that is in his hands." Repentance must be the rule of the day.
Some will be quick to see fee-for-service thinking behind the king's actions. The final statement about the relenting of the Lord from his fierce anger seems to point to a self-preservation motive. The king could be calling the people to repentance in an effort to assuage YHWH and then return to business as usual. There is no way to prove that this was not the case, but the king's action was first to take sackcloth and ashes to himself and this likely means a true change of heart. At any rate, God does relent from the disaster. 

The relenting of God is sometimes lifted up as evidence that God can/will change. That idea is nonsense, as Scripture firmly proclaims, "For I the LORD do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed" (Malachi 3:6). So, if God firmly proclaims He does not change, what can we make of Him relenting here (or the relenting of Exodus 32:7-14 among others)? Perhaps it is worth our time to consider means and ends. Means are those things/actions that lead to an outcome, or end. Too often we ascribe God sovereignty over ends, but fail to see that He is equally sovereign over means as well. Hence, the Apostle Paul can say, "And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose" (Romans 8:28). The Lord can use all things (i.e. means) to bring about good in the lives of those who love God and are called according to his purpose (i.e. the end). God can do this because He not only has the end (good) in mind, but also the means (all things). In the case of Nineveh, God has used the means of Jonah's preaching of destruction to bring about the end of Nineveh's repentance, from the least to the greatest. Yet, should Nineveh have rejected Jonah's preaching, destruction would have come. A good explanation of this is found in our Westminster Confession of Faith in Chapter 5: Providence.
"God  is  the  first  cause,  and  in  relationship  to  him  everything  happens  unchangeably and infallibly.  However,  by  this  same  providence,  he  orders  things  to  happen  from  secondary causes. As a result of these secondary causes, some things must inevitably happen; others may or  may  not  happen  depending  on  the  voluntary  intentions  of  the  agents  involved;  and  some  things do not have to happen but may, depending on other conditions." -WCF 5.2

The end result, as God ordained, is that Nineveh repented and He relented from the disaster. This ought to lead us to take repentance and humility seriously in not just ourselves, but also our leaders. That is true inside and outside of the Church. We need to pray for humble leaders who will repent when the Word of the Lord comes to them. Barring that kind of humble leader, we need to pray that our proud leaders are humbled by God by any and all means necessary.


Music this week is from Indelible Grace, "God Moves in a Mysterious Way."

News for You:

  • Look for small group sign-ups soon. We are still in need of some leaders.
  • Camp Chelan is getting ready to launch registration. If you have youth in your life sign them up!
  • The Women's Walk and Talk group will be meeting at Eastside Park this Saturday at 8. All women are invited to spend time in fellowship and getting some exercise.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Woe and Repentance

Devotion: Jonah 3:3b-5

One of the largest misconceptions about Jonah is his ministry in Nineveh. Nineveh was a massive city, capital of the fearsome Assyrian Empire. We are told that if you started on one side of the city, it would take you three days to walk to the other end. That walk could be that length for sheer size or just the twists and turns you would need to navigate an ancient city. At any rate, the city is big and important.
When Jonah arrives in Nineveh he begins to preach a sermon of woe. In essence, that the destruction of the Lord will fall on Nineveh.
"Now Nineveh was an exceedingly great city, three days’ journey in breadth. Jonah began to go into the city, going a day’s journey. And he called out, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” And the people of Nineveh believed God. They called for a fast and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them to the least of them." -Jonah 3:3b-5 ESV
Never once does Jonah call the people to repent. Jonah simply announces the coming wrath of God and the impending destruction and overthrow of the great city. He is announcing that the people of Nineveh are hopeless. Of course, this is not God's message to Nineveh or to us, but it is what Jonah wants to preach.
Jonah is right to pronounce that the city of Nineveh would be overthrown. As we will see later in the text Jonah is actually quite angry about the way that overthrow takes place. Jonah wants brimstone, or perhaps, fire to be called down from the sky (see Luke 9:51-55). Yet, God is not really interested in destroying people. The destruction of wickedness is God's choice because He will not abide sin. That destruction takes place with either the wicked being destroyed completely or the wicked no longer being wicked.
What happens in Nineveh as Jonah pronounces woe and impending destruction is the people repent. They see the sin in their lives and their need for God. They take up ancient symbols of repentance and remorse, namely, fasting and wearing sackcloth. We will see the exact extent of this repentance next week. At any rate, the people feel the righteousness of God and His judgment over wickedness and they move to the second option of no longer being wicked and thus worthy recipients of destruction.
Today in the Church we have much the same duty as Jonah. We pronounce judgment of evil, sin and wickedness. We trouble those who are complacent in their disobedience and rebellion before God. Unlike Jonah, however, we preach grace. We do not merely inform people of the wrath to come, but we offer Jesus Christ, the friend and savior of sinners like us, and the only hope we have. Jesus Christ in his salvation removes sin from us and gives us righteousness in its place. In this way we are no longer wicked, but filled with Christ. Again, the choice is stark, face God's wrath and destruction as a sinner, or be made new in Christ Jesus.

Music this week is from Indelible Grace, "From the Depths of Woe."

News for You:

  • We want to give members the opportunity to pay their Per Asking fees of $43 per person. Please mark your checks or envelopes Per Asking.  
  • CPC is looking for a part-time nursery worker to fill in for Terri Cunningham. If you, or anyone you know is interested, please contact church staff.
  • Pick A Party:  CPC Youth Camp Fund Raiser: Volunteer your time and resources to host a party during May and June.  If you don’t want to host a party, sign up to attend one.  Watch the fellowship hall for sign ups!  All donations received will be used to offer an incredible camp experience to our youth! Sign up for a Pick-a-Party event in the fellowship hall. Thanks for all your support to help with fund raising for the Youth Camp!  Parties run from May 13 through June 8.  Cost:  $15 for adults, $5 for children, $35 max for a family.
  • Walk & Talk: For the next 4 weeks, join a group of ladies to "walk and talk", every Saturday at 8 AM, at Eastside Park. Starts May 12th. Fellowship & exercise together. Invite a friend!
  • Small Groups: We are on the lookout for a few more small group leaders to lead our next Bible study on Titus. If you would like to facilitate a 5-week small group covering Titus, let Pastor Bill or Elder Dave Lamb know!

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Obedience

Devotion: Jonah 3:1-3a

Since the fall of Adam God has been reconciling His creation to Himself. While within His right to wipe away creation completely (see Genesis 6:5-8), God continually redeems and offers second chances. Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord and this led God to deliver him personally and give all of creation a new start. Jonah also has found favor in the eyes of the Lord and so God gives him a new start.
"Then the word of the LORD came to Jonah the second time, saying, 'Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it the message that I tell you.' So Jonah arose and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the LORD." -Jonah 3:1-3a ESV
The message Jonah is given is similar to his original call from the Lord. In Jonah 1:2 the Lord calls to the prophet, saying, "Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it, for their evil has come up before me." The first call contains a reason for Jonah to go to Nineveh, namely that the wickedness of the city had come into the presence of God, polluting His holy habitation in heaven (see Hebrews 9:23-24), a problem that will only be ultimately solved in the death of Christ Jesus and his ascension to the right hand of the Father. At any rate, the parallels between Jonah 1:2 and Genesis 6:5 should help us to see the biblical pattern present here. Sin/evil/wickedness have come before God and He makes moves to stop the invasion of the fallen pollutant from spreading. In Noah's case, the Lord calls him to build a gigantic box to preserve the creation through a purification and scouring of the fallen world. In Nineveh's case, the Lord calls the prophet Jonah to go and call out against it.
The call of Jonah is usually described as a call to go and preach repentance. Such a call is actually absent from the text. Repentance, for the most part, depends upon an existing faith relationship with the Lord. Faith precedes repentance in the Reformed understanding of Scripture (see Acts 11:1-18) and is true repentance necessary prerequisite. At any rate, Jonah is called to go to Nineveh and he does not.
The second call of Jonah after the big fish incident subtly changes the call of the Lord. Jonah has been disobedient to the clear call of God. Jonah is worthy of condemnation and destruction by the Lord. Yet, the Lord's electing grace restores Jonah and calls him back to obedience. The call loses its focus on Nineveh's sin and instead focuses on Jonah's sin. Jonah has been flippant about the Word of the Lord and so now the Lord is more pointed that Jonah will say what the Lord gives him to say. Jonah has not done what the Lord called him to do, now the Lord wants to be sure that Jonah gets the message that obedience to the call of God is his only real option. If the big fish incident was not enough to convince Jonah of the Lord's power, then this call to obedience should cut through his own sin and impress upon him the seriousness of the Lord.
The amazing thing, then, is that Jonah obeys the call of God this second time without saying a word. The suffering of Jonah has brought him to the point that he sees the futility of resisting God's call. Jonah goes to Nineveh at last. I think, perhaps, that we can see our own faith and God's call in all this as well. Resisting the Lord's call will end in the Lord's will being done. Perhaps it is better to submit in obedience to His call now.
This week's music is from Paul Zach courtesy of the Good Christian Music Blog.

News for You:

  • Spring Small Group sign ups for our study in Titus are coming soon!
  • The Chelan Camp fundraiser, "Pick-a-Party" will have sign-ups following worship this Sunday, May 6. The cost is $15/adult/party or $5/child/party with a maximum family cost of $35. All funds go to support our youth camp this summer.
  • The Okanogan Community Homeless Shelters Board of Directors are seeking two new board members to help lead and manage the homeless shelter ministry. If you are interested, contact Pastor Bill.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Resilient Hope

Devotion: Jonah 2:8-10

Human beings are remarkably resilient. A few months back I became somewhat obsessed with reading the horrific first-hand accounts of living in ISIS-occupied Mosul by the Mosul Eye. A particular entry from June 2016 talked about the high cost of living and the low wages. As I read through the entry I kept expecting the journalist to report that people were simply giving up, yet the final lines speak of people working longer hours to survive. In the midst of atrocities, violence and horror, in the midst of starvation, destruction and war, in the midst of persecution, oppression and injustice, people were simply trying to find a way to live. The good news is life is returning to Mosul--and the Christian witness there is back. I believe this resiliency is born of our innate sense of hope.
There is something in human nature that holds out hope. Whether we are in financial straits, in the midst of war or, perhaps, in the belly of a monstrous fish, we hold out hope that things will improve. Spiritually-speaking, our hope derives from a sense of alienation from God. Something in the sin of Adam creates a longing for what was lost, namely, an intimate, personal relationship with God. The Good News of the Gospel is that God desires to restore that relationship with us in Jesus Christ. While our petty hopes in our current circumstances may vary, the true hope of the Gospel is firm. Our hope and resiliency aims and prepares us for the Good News. This is exactly Jonah's point at the end of his prayer:
"Those who pay regard to vain idols forsake their hope of steadfast love. But I with the voice of thanksgiving will sacrifice to you; what I have vowed I will pay. Salvation belongs to the LORD!” And the LORD spoke to the fish, and it vomited Jonah out upon the dry land." -Jonah 2:8-10 ESV
Jonah knows there is only one true God, YHWH, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob who delivered Israel out of Egypt. We know that this same God, the Triune God (Father, Son, Spirit) is the very one who raised Jesus from the dead on the third day. To worship any other god, giving devotion and allegiance to that which is not YHWH, is to actually forfeit and abandon the real hope of God's steadfast, faithful, covenant-fulfilling love.
While we may not bow down to carved, graven or other physical objects as the manifestation of a deity, we still bow down to ideas and concepts. Instead of trusting the Lord, we hope against hope that we will pull ourselves up by spiritual bootstraps and fly right. Instead of surrendering to the saving grace of Jesus Christ, we try really hard to be good moral agents who can get it right if we just put in enough effort. Instead of connecting with God in His Word as He ordains we attempt to find God in nature or thought and pretend that it makes no difference. God is sovereign (hence Jonah is cooling his heals in the belly of a fish) and He ordains His own revelation and worship. Jonah understands this and so he vows in prayer to worship God in the way God ordained (prayers of thanksgiving, sacrificial animals marking the fulfillment of his vow). As Christians, we understand that the old covenant system of worship came to a final and dramatic conclusion with the death of Jesus (see Hebrews 9:11-12), ushering in a new era of worship the relies upon the faithful self-sacrifice of Jesus upon the cross. Regardless, we too are to worship God as He commands and find our relationship with Him is restored and strengthened in that worship.
At any rate, Jonah finally concludes and understands that if he is to live, it will be by the Lord's own salvation. No one else can help him. Jonah knows enough of God's character (this will come up again in chapter 4) to understand that God does not desire the destruction of His creatures, but their salvation. Jonah knows first-hand that God is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. His prayer concludes with the declaration that salvation belongs to YHWH, implying that outside of Him there is no real and lasting hope. Jonah's faith is well-founded as the Lord causes Jonah to be deposited on dry land. On a humorous note, I cannot imagine how bad Jonah stank and how long it took him to wash that stink out of his hair.
We are created for a intimate, personal relationship with God. When we all fell in Adam, we lost that relationship. God has moved in history, culminating in the ministry of Jesus Christ, to re-establish that relationship. Our hope, misplaced or well-placed, is an artifact of that desire for God that ultimately and only is fulfilled through salvation in Christ Jesus alone.


Our song this week is "Your Love" by Chris Howland featuring Sajan Nauriyal. Admittedly, it is a little different than what many are used to hearing, but the lyrical content is spot on.

News for You:

  • The new youth director position is ready for applicants. If you know of anyone who is qualified for the position, please contact the church.
  • For the month of April, we will be doing a diaper drive for Care Net. Please bring in size three diapers if possible, thank you!
  • All men are welcome to join the Men’s Bible Study on Mondays at noon, they will be reading from Judges!
  • Are you interested in hosting a small group? We are gearing up to launch our next small group session and could use your help. Please contact Pastor Bill if you are interested.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Jonah's Exile

Devotion: Jonah 2:4-7

Jonah's experience in the fish is cast in the same light as exile. Exile is being forcefully removed from one's home and being sent to live in a place not of one's choosing. This idea seems far from most Western readers who are used to at least some autonomy of movement and settlement. Outside of the Western world, however, displacement and exile are still quite common. Refugees and others displaced by violence, war and famine are akin to exiles and perhaps this prayer of Jonah helps to empathize with their plight.
"Then I said, ‘I am driven away from your sight; yet I shall again look upon your holy temple.’ The waters closed in over me to take my life; the deep surrounded me; weeds were wrapped about my head at the roots of the mountains. I went down to the land whose bars closed upon me forever; yet you brought up my life from the pit, O LORD my God. When my life was fainting away, I remembered the LORD, and my prayer came to you, into your holy temple. " -Jonah 2:4-7 ESV
The journey in the fish is an exile for Jonah. The prophet stands removed from all that he knows and from all familiar environments. He is utterly cast out and cast down. He has no frame of reference for his experience. In short, Jonah is lost.
When lost, I was always taught the best thing to do is to stop moving. Jonah has stopped moving by force. He is stuck inside the fish, facing what must seem to him as certain death. Yet, Jonah still prays in hope to the Lord for deliverance. The modern and ancient exile can resonate with that idea. I had neighbors in seminary who were exiles of a sort from Iran. The family had to flee Iran or face the death of the husband because of his conversion to Christianity. What always surprised me was that in spite of that death sentence looming over him, the family still longed to return to their home. Jonah must believe, at least in part, that his life is at an end, yet he still longs for home.
The longing of Jonah is specifically to see the temple again. The temple was the heart of the religion of Israel so long as it stood. The prophet not only desires to be free of the fish, but to return to the place where God's glory dwells (1 Kings 5:10-11). Jonah knows he is in exile, but his longing is not merely for freedom, but for the Lord, the very one that caused his plight in the first place. His vivid description of his descent poetically retells his drowning experience or perhaps his journey in the fish. At any rate, that experience brings him into the realm of death. Jonah ought to be dead, and he knows it. It is only by the hand of the Lord that Jonah can pray at all from the fish.
Each of us still faces the final enemy of mankind, namely, death. While death is defeated at the cross of Jesus and triumphed over in his resurrection, we still face it in our earthly lives. For Christians, death has lost its sting (1 Corinthians 15:54-56), but it is still thrashing about and making a nuisance of itself. Jonah recognizes that his journey in the fish is his death. Jesus will pick up on this idea in his references to the sign of Jonah (e.g. Matthew 12:39-40). Death is like exile for us all, yet it is not devoid of hope. Death removes us from our familiar life and thrusts us into an unknown place.
Jonah looks to the Lord in his plight for deliverance from death. He recognizes that his miraculous survival can only be the doing of the Lord himself. Jonah has no where else to turn, so he turns to the Lord for help--the very same Lord that had caused him to be tossed into the sea in the first place. Once more, the theme of suffering and redemption are both attributed to the Lord. It may have been the Lord that caused Jonah's exile, but it will also only be the Lord who can save him from that same exile. Jonah's remembrance of the Lord and his heartfelt prayer remind him that the Lord is the deliverer of His people and the personal savior of those who turn to Him.
For the Christian we need to see a few things in this portion of Jonah's prayer:
  1. We need to be compassionate and empathetic toward those in exile. Displaced peoples are to receive our prayers and support. We long for a day when no one will be forced from their homes for any reason and I believe we can start to see that ultimate goal in our world today in God's grace and providence.
  2. Everyone is alienated from God and death is the final exile for those who do not trust in Him. Jonah turns to the Lord in his plight, but his experience is seemingly rare these days. Too often, angry fists are shaken at heaven, if one even thinks to consider God at all. We look for practical, earthly solutions attempting to politic our way out of trouble. Yet, for Jonah it is the supernatural and the spiritual that are the way forward. The Lord supernaturally preserves his life despite his circumstance and Jonah prays for further deliverance. Our lives are providentially preserved by God and I believe this should lead us to seek the Lord in spirit and in truth for help.
  3. Jonah finds his hope in the deliverance of the Lord he had so far experienced and this gives him reason to hope in the further salvation of God. We need to give witness and testimony in our own lives to the deliverance the Lord has already wrought in our lives over sin, death and Satan and point to further salvation when Christ returns to judge the quick and the dead. We can speak of God's salvation in broad terms, but our witness and evangelism must be punctuated with personal examples as the Lord is not merely the deliverer of His people, but our personal savior as well.
While the Lord may have caused Jonah's exile, the Lord is Jonah's only hope for deliverance. We cannot fix our own exile, but we can turn in faith to the Lord who is more than able and, in Christ, is more than willing to deliver and save us.


Music from Tina Boonstra, "I Think I See You Now"

News for You:

  • The new youth director position is ready for applicants. If you know of anyone who is qualified for the position, please contact the church.
  • For the month of April, we will be doing a diaper drive for Care Net. Please bring in size three diapers if possible, thank you!
  • CPC is looking for a part-time nursery attendant while Emily Gonzalez is on maternity leave. If you, or anyone you know is interested, please contact church staff.
  • All men are welcome to join the Men’s Bible Study on Mondays at noon, they will be reading from Judges!
  • Would you like to serve on the CPC Service Team? We meet every other month to discuss ways to share Christ’s love for us in our community. Please contact Dolores for more information.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Course Correction on Suffering

Devotion: Jonah 2:1-3

There is a current in the church that goes something like this: "If I am suffering, it is because I am not loved by God, maybe because of something I did or maybe because God is not loving." As a pastor I rarely hear this idea expressed quite so starkly, but I do hear it in the tone and desires of those I talk with in discipleship and shepherding. On the surface the idea is initially attractive because it gives the sufferer either control or excuse. To explore this, let's take some examples from the Book of Job.
On the one hand, the sufferer could claim that the pain is brought on by his actions, words, attitudes or thoughts. To end suffering means changing behavior under this false idea. The sufferer corrects the wayward actions, word, thought or attitude, bringing himself back into line with God through faith and the suffering ends as he is restored to the love of God. Further, this bankrupt thought has a built-in defense mechanism, namely, if suffering does not end it must mean that further alignment still needs to take place. The sufferer is given false-control over his circumstances and can fall back on blaming himself when suffering does not end. What's worse, the love of God becomes a fee-for-service, meaning it is earned by right behavior and not a gracious gift. This idea is found in Scripture being taught by Job's companions (see Job 11 for example)--and it is damned as heresy by God (Job 42:7-9). Job, for his part, rejects false-control and even proclaims, "Though he slay me, I will hope in him; yet I will argue my ways to his face" (Job 13:15).
On the other hand, the sufferer could claim that God is unjust and/or unloving. There is no way to end suffering in this false way of thinking, but it does give the sufferer an excuse. In essence, the sufferer can say to himself, "I am good person and do not deserve what is happening to me. Since God is in control, I am a victim of His capricious actions. Woe is me." Here the sufferer does not so much seek to be restored to the love/justice of God (like Job), but rather rejects that God is loving and/or just at all. This is the attitude of Job's wife when she tells him, "Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die" (Job 2:9). Job, for his part, will not give in to his wife's bleak outlook on the Almighty. Though the Lord is responsible for his suffering, Job will not acquiesce to his wife's despair. Instead, Job asserts, "For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another. My heart faints within me!" (Job 19:25-27). Job will not give up on God's love and justice, but believes that even if it should mean his death, he will be resurrected at the coming of a Redeemer and will know the love and justice of God anew.
And this brings us to our passage in Jonah. Jonah has fled God's call, been captured by God in his storm, thrown overboard and consumed by the giant fish. Chapter 2 is set in the belly of the fish and there we read:
"Then Jonah prayed to the Lord his God from the belly of the fish, saying, “I called out to the Lord, out of my distress, and he answered me; out of the belly of Sheol I cried, and you heard my voice. For you cast me into the deep, into the heart of the seas, and the flood surrounded me; all your waves and your billows passed over me." -Jonah 2:1-3 ESV
Jonah views his life as forfeit. In the belly of the fish, being kept alive by supernatural means, Jonah thinks it must be like being dead. So Jonah does the only sensible thing a man in his position can do--he cries out to the God who put him there in the first place. This is where the modern thinker on suffering goes astray so often. In either trying to cease control or make excuse, the sufferer fails to turn to the God who brought on the suffering. Gone from the modern thinker is the notion that suffering can (though not always) be productive.
Jonah's suffering is just (he fled God's call) and loving (God is bringing him back to his call). The suffering of Jonah in the belly of the fish is a course correction, to bring him back to God's will. While I cannot say that all suffering is meant for that purpose, I think as Christians we would do much better to consider that possibility first than resorting to the inadequate explanations/solutions discussed out above. Jonah recognizes that his suffering comes from the love and justice of God and serves God's purpose. We would do well to consider the same.

This is Wendell Kimbrough's rendition of Psalm 69.

News for You:

  • The new youth director position is ready for applicants. If you know of anyone who is qualified for the position, please contact the church.
  • For the month of April, we will be doing a diaper drive for Care Net. Please bring in size three diapers if possible, thank you!
  • CPC is looking for a part-time nursery attendant while Emily Gonzalez is on maternity leave. If you, or anyone you know is interested, please contact church staff.
  • All men are welcome to join the Men’s Bible Study on Mondays at noon, they will be reading from Judges!

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Consumed

Devotion: Jonah 1:17

The story of Jonah and the big fish is often taught to Sunday School students. Similar to the story of Noah's Ark, the story is usually cleaned up and sanitized for children. The grit, fear and gore are cleaned out of the text and these stories are presented as adventures with animals for children. If, for a moment, however, we set aside the cleaned-up 'children's Bible' version, we see these accounts for what they are--a massive display of God's power and might and humanity's frailty and dependence. In Jonah's case, he is consumed by the call of God and must rely upon God's faithfulness to survive. Let's take a look at the very brief account of Jonah being consumed by the great fish:
"And the LORD appointed a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights." -Jonah 1:17 ESV
Jonah had fled the call of God. God sent a great storm to force Jonah back to his call. The result of the storm was a mass conversion of the sailors and Jonah being tossed overboard to appease YHWH. In the end, YHWH sends a great fish to swallow Jonah and carry him back toward Israel, and beyond it, Nineveh. While we do not have every detail of the great fish, it is not idle speculation to think it must have been something like leviathan, described in Job 3:8, 41:1-11, Psalm 74:13-14, 104:24-26 and Isaiah 27:1-though admittedly Isaiah describes leviathan as more of a serpent than a fish. At any rate, the great fish is large enough to swallow Jonah whole.
Jonah is then said to spend three days and three nights in the belly of the fish, no doubt as the fish travels back toward Israel to deposit Jonah on the shore to make his way inland to Nineveh. As we will see next week Jonah lifts up a prayer from the belly of the fish and so his life must be preserved there, no doubt supernaturally by the Lord. Yet, Jonah's consumption by the great fish is a death of sorts and a resurrection when he is spewed out on dry land. How do we know? Jesus tells us so in two disputes with religious leaders of his day:
"Then some of the scribes and Pharisees answered him, saying, 'Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you.' But he answered them, 'An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. The men of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, something greater than Jonah is here.' " -Matthew 12:38-41 ESV
"And the Pharisees and Sadducees came, and to test him they asked him to show them a sign from heaven. He answered them, 'When it is evening, you say, "It will be fair weather, for the sky is red." And in the morning, "It will be stormy today, for the sky is red and threatening." You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times. An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah.' So he left them and departed." -Matthew 16:1-4 ESV
Jesus takes the time Jonah spends in the belly of the great fish as a prefiguring of the time he will spend in 'the heart of the earth' following his crucifixion and leading to his resurrection on the third day. Much and more ink has been spent working out the math of three days and three nights for Jesus in the tomb, but suffice to say, the point is not precision in math, but that Jonah's time in the belly of the great fish was a type pointing forward to the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. Like the sailors with Jonah, the religious leaders are to accept the sign that is given to them and not seek for one on their own terms.
Like many things in life, we often want more surety and certainty than we are given. In finance, most want a guarantee that a particular investment will make a profit, hence Bernie Madoff was able to dupe many out millions because he seemingly (though fraudulently) could guarantee a good return on investment. I imagine the religious leaders of Jesus' day wanted a guarantee that Jesus was the Messiah before they put their support behind him, but perhaps they simply wanted a confirmation that he was not so they could dismiss him as a fraud. Jonah, on the contrary, had no guarantee apart from the faithfulness of YHWH when he hit the water and was consumed by the great fish that he would survive. He merely had his call and trust that the faithful God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, YHWH, would preserve his life until he fulfilled his mission.
Surety and certainty that come in the form of portends and signs are not only unnecessary for our faith, they are a hindrance to it. Such signs make God perform tricks to woo us to His call and cause. In the end, these demands place us in a superior position to God and simply continue the sin of Adam in our lives. This is why Jesus rejects the call for a sign in both instances from the Gospel of Matthew. Yet, Jesus does say they will have one particular sign, namely, the resurrection.
As we participate in God's call on our lives to proclaim Jesus Christ we have few guarantees apart from the resurrection of Jesus. Our entire faith hangs on the veracity of that event (see 1 Corinthians 15:12-20). So, like Jonah, we must be consumed by God's call on our lives and trust only in His faithfulness to deliver us from death.

Music this week is "Levithan" by Josh Garrels.

News for You:

  • Shout Out: A big thank you to all who helped with the sound upgrade in the sanctuary this last week. Butch, Pete, Jim, Joe, Kurt, Nick and Elizabeth put in the hard work to help us all hear the Word more clearly.
  • Maundy Thursday, March 29th, at 7pm will be a service of scripture, prayer, and the Lord’s Supper.
  • Community Good Friday Service will be on March 30th at 7pm at CPC!
  • SonRise Service will be at the Omak Memorial Cemetery on April 1st at 6:30am.
  • The new youth director position is ready for applicants. If you know of anyone who is qualified for the position, please contact the church.
  • We are getting the Blue Angel up and running again! If you are needing a ride to church on Sunday, contact Dave at 826-1290.
  • For the month of April, we will be doing a diaper drive for Care Net. Please bring in size three diapers if possible, thank you!