God (certainly) created the heavens and the earth (Genesis 1)

Let us begin where the materialists begin. How do we make sense of all that we see? How come those mountains? Why that mouse and that bird? Whence cometh that monkey and that cow? And wine and clouds and similarly shaped skulls and frogs that look so convincingly similar while being so utterly different? How do we explain the world we live in? How do we explain where it all came from? And particularly where did all this life come from? 

Now, beginning with these questions, let us add a qualifier - a rule to the answers we provide: Make no reference to God. Appeals to the Divine are forbidden. Answer the questions but do so without doing what every other human being has done in the history of the world: Explain the world assuming you can see and sense everything that there is. Leave God to the side or abandon him on the scrapheap of silly myths. We do not need him. Explain everything without giving him any credit from the outset. 

And so, what did they come up with? What sort of answers were proposed? Unbounded libertarianism + time + chance. In other words evolution over billions of years gets us to where we find ourselves now. Billions of years + matter and you can do pretty much anything says our test-takers. A pool of chemicals can turn into a pool of single-celled swimmers. Give it enough time and they can have babies with legs and lungs and eyes. Let your children become whatever they want to be and they’ll soon be flying…. Give us time, give us a bunch of elements, throw some energy into the mix and you can grow a universe just like ours. 

 But after all this time the bio-chemists and the physicists respond with, “Actually, errr, you can’t…” The Quantum physicists come along and start in with a short explanation of why the world simply doesn’t work the way we can see it does - actually almost nothing works the way we have assumed it does, not time, not matter, not light, not movement, not really anything. Social psychologists start talking about how your brother’s anxiety problem can give you cancer. We can’t get a single protein to spontaneously transform. And suddenly we find ourselves with an absolute cultural consensus around evolution and time and the origins of the universe that is increasingly indefensible - but don’t question it in public. The theory of evolution was already full of enormous holes. Now it appears to be dissolving into sand - like so many un-relatable facts crammed together but nothing to bind them and an increasing amount of space between them. In other words there’s no way to get from one small lizard-like thing to one bird-like thing - ad infinitum.

Enter the theologians. 

We Christians have been trying our best over the past few hundred years to look respectable. No one wants to look the fool. And no one wants secular smart people to think the Bible is stupid. And as Dr. Hugh Ross thoughtfully observed of the belief in a young earth created over six days: “I cannot imagine a notion more offensive to this group…” Dr. Henri Blocher speaks of anyone who questions the received dogma of naturalistic and ancient origins as being functional kamikaze pilots - crashing into the intellectual world and offering nothing but an unjustified stumbling block to, well, the smart people. And so theologians bend over backwards to make Genesis 1 & 2 clearly not teach what Genesis 1 & 2 appear to clearly teach. Does a 6-day creation story sound stupid to you? Have no fear - that’s not what Genesis 1 says. We twist the text into convoluted knots separating the meaning of the words from the objects of those same words. Day can’t mean day. Night cannot mean night. Light cannot mean light and so on and so forth. And so in the name of scientific respect for the indefensible consensus, we rip the text to shreds doing with it what we would never do to other texts in the Bible. And this is the evangelicals. 

We say nonsensical things like, “We don’t really know what Genesis 1 and 2 is all about. Its not about how God created the universe, but rather that He created the universe.” We do this with a straight face. Ignoring the hard reality that there are real words on the page that mean things. Words like “And God Said…” Words that indicate real actions over real time “…and there was evening and there was morning the third day.” Liberal protestants are more honest than we are. But a small question in the face of these exegetical contortions: Why let the materialists set the baseline? Presupposing the non-existence of God seems a bit like preloading the answer. And why would we want to make room for any explanation that begins there? Especially when its not a very good explanation…

So, a new proposal - Same question: Explain all of this. Someone needs to. There are mountains and trees and kangaroos and rhinos. Someone said that Hippos are one of the most dangerous animals on the planet? Explain. How did everything get here? But this time, no qualifiers on what is a permissible answer and what isn’t. Make as many references to God as you like. No avoiding the Divine this time. 

Genesis 1 and following: Now here is an answer with real meat on its bones. Here is a bountifully happy God speaking and commanding and existence obeying. Here is a God speaking everything into being and I do mean everything. Not just stars and water and protein molecules. I mean speaking into existence time. I mean matter. Speaking them into existence and then ordering them and then subjecting other things to them. Creating time, ordering it into days and nights and then subjecting the earth and the sun and the moon to it. I mean a God who speaks water into existence and then moves it by commanding it by his word - and it obeys. I mean a God who takes six days  (that he just created and ordered) and speaks into existence a universe that he spreads out like a tent (stop and picture that one for a moment… and then let that answer whatever odd questions people ask about light years and light and the age of the universe). Here is every atom explained. Here is every species’ origin. Here is a world whose foundation is a God who speaks and creatures (like rocks and stars and bears and humans) who obey. Here is why disobedience isn’t simply moral, it has ontological and biological consequences. God created the heavens and the earth. How? He spoke it. He spoke for 6 days (like real days, not metaphorical ones) and then rested. And it was all very, very good. It was all very, very good, because all of it - every single atom and photon and lepton - obeyed all that God had said. 

For some highly recommended reading on these subjects, might I suggest:

Creation and Change by Douglas Kelly.

Notes from the Tilt-a-Whirl by N.D. Wilson

Undeniable by Douglas Axe

Sex, Desire, and How the Commandments Work...

The 7th commandment forbids adultery. Jesus famously expanded the meaning of adultery to include forbidden desire spurred on by the eyes. This expansion has become a bit of difficulty in a world that has learned that the more closely a sneaker corporation can link their product to the image of a woman wearing said sneakers without clothes on, the higher their sales numbers will be. Desire begets desire - even without rational connections. But there it is. We live in a world that has gone to war with anything likened to norms or ordered loves and so we have sexual chaos, and more specifically,  chaotic and disordered desire.

I keep finding the commandments (which we’ve been preaching through at Trinity on Sundays) punching beyond where they seem to be aiming, and the 7th is no different. God simply understands these creatures He made called humans. His rules are well, true and wise and good. Such that when you reject that God made these creatures, and therefore treat his rules as the interesting or even well-meaning artifacts of bygone religious cultures you begin to find yourself behaving as a very serious fool. You will find your entire culture behaving as a very foolish culture. You will find that the hubris of such humans expands rather vigorously. So while we’ve been busy violating the 7th commandment for pretty much forever, we’ve now started calling said commandment stupid and even foolish. Sexually repressive. Nadia Bolz-Weber-Weber (formerly the pastor of House for All Saints and Sinners in Denver) recently refused to condemn the use of “responsibly sourced pornography.” It seems our wisdom has surpassed the wisdom of Jesus and the Ten Commandments. 

The result: The West now seems to be irretrievably confused about sex, but not just sex. It is deeply confused about desire. It is deeply confused about identity. It is deeply confused about genitalia- which is simply to say that it is deeply confused about the nature of reality. 

And much of the evangelical western church has been busy asking a vital question during this time, but we keep healing the wound lightly. The church has been busy asking with ever increasing empathy: How do we communicate God’s love in a world like ours? The more sophisticated among us change “world like ours” to “to a post Christian secular world” (because we read Charles Taylor’s immensely helpful tome The Secular Age, and picked up his language without picking up his sense.) But the Bible answer tends to be far more abrupt than our answer. The bible’s answer is the word “repent.” This means to joyfully, whilst practicing a robust and costly hospitality, tell people to stop living and thinking and philosophizing and voting and eating and sexing as if God didn’t make the world. And that they should do this because this God is merciful and kind and loves us very much and has dealt with our sins in the body and blood of Jesus. Instead of saying and embodying all of that we muddy the waters as much as possible by capitulating to much of what is simply high-handed rebellion. We often bend over backwards to create plausibility and understanding and to empathize with what amounts to attitudes and behaviors that are suicidal and blatantly sin. 

But repentance doesn’t create plausibility structures around rebellion. Love doesn’t create space for people to relish increasingly foolish and destructive confusion. Love calls people to be reconciled to God, and such reconciliation requires repentance. In other words, the way you communicate the love of God in a world like ours, is you tell people to repent. You tell them to stop believing blasphemous and suicidal lies about the universe, about sex, about what God is there or not there, and about what their lives and bodies are for. 

So the Law of God, contained in these Ten Commandments, isn’t simply an arbitrary list of religious and moral rules. They are strands that contain the whole world. Pull on one of them and the whole fabric of society starts to come unraveled.  Pull on one and families and relationships and politics and everything in your deeply personal as well as public life starts to unravel. These aren’t simply legalisms, they are the very wisdom of God. 

Authority and the House

Packed into all of the Ten Commandments is an entire worldview. Here is a whole understanding, not just for morality, but for how the entire cosmos and our own lives work. Understand this, and you won’t be able to read these commands the same way ever again. Fail to understand this and you’ll simply see a rather arbitrary-seeming list of ethical commands. 

We’ve been trained to think of the world as largely a blank canvas with biology and morality and religion and culture as simply socially and evolutionarily constructed paintings put upon that canvas.  The Bible presents a world and all of its integrative relationships as having an actual order to them. They were made a certain way, they were designed a certain way. We can submit to that order or kick against that order, but the fundamental way that the world is, well, that’s not really up for debate or transformation. Kicking against the way the world is designed is foolishness and sin. It’s sin because it rebels against God’s rule. It’s foolishness because we can’t fundamentally change the way that the world or its constitutive relationships work - they will always work that way. We can either run with the grain, living as obedient creatures and enjoying a world created, and thereby ordered by God or we can run against the grain, rebel against both what God has commanded and what God has designed and find ourselves running against the walls of His house over and over again. 

Consider that the world is a house built by God. It has walls and rooms and hallways and electrical outlets and some furniture. It isn’t a blank slate. It isn’t an empty lot. It's a house. It has walls that are already in place. God puts us in the house to live, to enjoy, and maybe to decorate the place. He tells us how to live in the house. Gives us a nice map of how things are laid out - where the walls are, where the sinks are. We do two different kinds of wrongs in this house. We disobey and we try and tear down the walls. God tells us to flush the toilet when we use it. We refuse to flush the toilet. On the other hand he puts a wall there. We don’t like that wall there. We want to move the wall. Problem is, we can’t move the wall. So we pretend it isn’t there and then proceed to run into the wall over and over and over again, blood running down our face, insisting that the wall isn’t really there. 

When people talk about tearing down the patriarchy, this is what is largely happening. There are all sorts of reasons for hating that wall, for wanting to get rid of it. There truly are really terrible men, really terrible fathers. They have authority and wield that authority in ways that are a direct insult to the God whose authority they represent. But instead of simply naming this rebellion and calling these particular fathers and husbands and senators and presidents to repentance, we say that the problem is the wall - the structure - when the real problem is the particularly bad men. On the other hand, there is such a thing as a deep hatred of God - particularly a God who is the Father. That wall is a regular reminder of the God we hate and so we meaninglessly bring sledgehammers and crow bars to beat against the wall (Why do the nations rage… He who sits in the heavens laughs… Psalm 2)

When we come to the 5th Commandment we are confronted with a command that calls us to honor a particular design feature of creation. It instructs us to live in line with the grain of the universe. And it assumes that fundamental to the structure of the world is the concept of authority. Parents, good or bad, represent that structure to us. They are the clearest most in-your-face example of how God made the world. He commands us to honor that structure. In other words, don’t run your head against the wall. And the brilliance of God in giving us this command is that it works both ways. It calls us, all of us as children, to honor authority and how it works - all the way up to our Father in Heaven. And it calls mothers and fathers to the same sort of honor- all authority is designed to reflect authority all the way up - to our Father.  We live at the long end of a rebellion against authority in all of its expressions - because we think that authority is the problem rather than sin. Which is to say, we think the Father is the problem, not us. 

We’ve been trying to remodel the house since the beginning, but God made the house good, very good. The problem isn’t the house or the walls or the placement of the electrical outlets. The problem is sinful men, sinful women, and our relationship with the Home-Owner. 

Mothers and Fathers...

The promises and purposes of God, as set forth in the Scriptures are dizzying. They describe a whole creation flooded with goodness and truth and beauty - the very presence of God. They describe all the nations of the earth discipled and brought into glad submission to His good reign over everything. They describe peace, wholeness. The absolute end of death. To discover what God is doing in history and in the world is to see a world utterly transformed. To then discover that such a purpose is given to God’s people in the world, is to see the whole course of your life redefined - re-contextualized. You find yourself in a wholly different story than you previously thought. 

I remember being intoxicated by these things during my final semester of undergrad. I was taking a class at the time on the use of the Old Testament in the New and left that class every Tuesday and Thursday night riveted. It was like waking up to an entirely different understanding of what life was for. 22 years later and I am still stunned by these things. But there is a lesson in all of that which has taken far too long for me to learn. 

Here’s that lesson: all of this glorious purpose-all of that eschatology, its getting worked out in the most mundane corners of our lives. The fifth commandment follows on the heels of some rich and sweeping theological themes in the first 4. We’ve been commanded to worship God alone. We’ve been commanded not to toy with Him by redefining who he is. We’ve been commanded not to follow him or bear his name vainly. We’ve been commanded to receive his gospel rest. High falootin’ stuff. 

Then the 5th commandment tells us to honor our parents. 

There is much to consider in the 5th commandment. It addresses the nature of authority and how that frames all of reality (more on this later in the week). But I wanted to point out the simple observation that all of this “worship of God alone” first gets worked out in the most mundane, irritating, oft-times disappointing relationships on the planet. We are to honor these relationships. That’s where God goes first. 

What does all of this have to do with eschatology and the nations? What does it have to do with all this purpose our lives have been endowed with? How does this further transform the story we now find ourselves in? Well, this is your part. This is where all of this grand purpose gets worked out. This is the lesson it took me far too long to learn. All of that eschatological glory is getting worked out in the most personal relationships we have. God is changing the world, not through sweeping political reforms or even, primarily through church planting and world missions and all of that. He’s changing the world by reconciling fathers to sons, mothers to daughters. He is flooding the world with glory through friendships, through marriages, through parents and children. All of those frustrating, mundane, anxiety-ridden relationships - all of them, that’s where the glory’s at. 

Wild as it seems, all of that glorious purpose is tied up in the conversations happening around the dinner table between sons and fathers. God is renewing everything as neighbors share a meal and friendships are reconciled and a mother teaches her daughter how to make a marvelous loaf of sourdough. It is unfolding as a father goes for a walk with his daughter. We bear witness to the kingdom of God as we sit around a table, sing the doxology with friends and brothers and sisters and sons and daughters, break open that loaf of bread, and pass the bottle of wine. 

And the Kingdom of God is like a mustard seed, growing up, almost indiscernibly, into a tree where birds from all the nations make their home. 

Join us Mondays on October 29th, November 5th & 12th as we explore these relationship in a seminar on Marriage and Kids. 6:30pm at 2497 Fenton Street.

Sabbath out your fingertips...

We have, all of us, become rather adept at avoiding the terrible danger of taking God seriously when He commands us to do a thing or not to do a thing. We take concrete commands and engage in remarkable gymnastics to make those concrete commands evaporate into a glorious metaphor or a misunderstood prohibition or a cultural inflection. We must, at all costs, keep religion out of the public square, out of our wallets, out of our beds, and perhaps most importantly, out of our calendars. And then the 4th commandment comes along and tells us to do something with our schedules. To be clear, God intends to give us a rather remarkable gift with this command, but it is a gift that must be received and it can only be received if we order our lives to receive it. In other words, it is a command to be obeyed, to be experienced, and received in wonderfully tangible ways (like food and drink and sleep and laughter and a nice fall walk). 

The Sabbath creates all sorts of preachable resonances. It points to the rest that God has given us in the gospel. It anticipates the end of this age, when God’s great renovation project is complete. It hopes for the end of sin and death and all the ways they invade and corrupt our work. It calls us to hope in Jesus’ work rather than our own. It does all those things. Preachers point at these things when they talk about the Sabbath. But none of those things carry much weight - real, tangible, manifestly transformative weight - if we don’t receive the weekly gift of Sabbath rest. God has given us rest from dead works, and he wants us to taste that- to receive that, with weekly rest. God has given us a feast - a celebration, a life restored, and He wants us to experience something of that glory with a weekly feast, a weekly space given to see our bodies, our relationships, our lives restored. 

The sabbath is not meant to merely be an idea of food and rest and joy. It is meant to be an experience of these things. A gift that draws us into the ever-expansive feast, a renewal that draws us into the renewal of all things. But it doesn’t work right if its just in our heads. It doesn’t do its work if its just an idea or a theological metaphor. It must be received. It must be obeyed. 

And this is precisely how the 4th commandments moves us beyond the first 3. The worship of God alone, as He is, and with our whole lives (not vainly) must come out of our fingers. It has to be made real and tangible and will lead us into a profound and joyful obedience. And it is remarkable that God, after establishing the third commandment, begins such tangible obedience with a call to rest. He doesn’t start with painful works we’re to do, rather he begins with a call to feast, to rest, to celebrate His work. But such a command is to be obeyed. Such a gift is given that we might actually receive it. God has given us a kind of obedience that must be worked out, it has to be tangible. In other words, it has to be scheduled. 

Ten Words Dissecting the Human Heart

Here at Trinity we find ourselves quickly approaching the turning point of the Ten Commandments. They have been called the two tablets of God’s law. The first tablet focused on explaining the command: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind and strength. The second tablet focused on explaining the second great commandment: Love your neighbor as yourself. But I want to take a moment and consider the brilliance of how the Ten Commandments work by looking at the sort of life the first three commands prescribe. It describes a tightening circle that understands the particular nuances of human temptation and rebellion. 

First: Worship God alone. Don’t worship anything else besides the God who created everything and redeemed us from slavery. The human heart runs to all manner of different gods. We’ll make gods out of ourselves, our race, our wealth, our comforts, our petty achievements - almost anything. And so God commands us to come and find life and meaning and morality and goodness and beauty in Him above all else. He alone is worthy of our worship. 

But what happens when we are confronted with a God who is other and who doesn’t easily conform to our ideas of what a God should be? What do we do with a God who has such rough edges? What do we do with a God who doesn’t fit with the cultural norms that surrounds us - who isn’t very cool? We make images. Oh, we say we worship God. We sing songs about Jesus. We even open our bibles. But we subtly and sometimes not so subtly start to shave off the edges, give God a set of skinny jeans and hipster social ethics. We start remaining silent about all the ways the God of the Bible makes us or our neighbors uncomfortable. We change God’s image. We make a version of God who fits our own sensibilities. And so God next confronts us with the second commandment: Don’t make an image of God that conforms to what you want or can see surrounding you. 

Israel is confronted with a God who is terrifying in His power and glory. They are afraid. So they pool their theological resources. They raise some money. They make a golden calf - a far more manageable and less frightening vision of God. Romans and Jews see a God who dies on a cross, a God who deals with sin in the most scandalous way imaginable, and they find new images of God that are more palatable. We do the same. We detest holiness or exclusivity or patriarchy or authority or such a narrow understanding of sexuality and so we form new images, cutting out the parts of Him we find embarrassing. We make an image. God says not to do that

The church’s history is riddled with theologians going to great intellectual lengths to change God’s image, to spin God’s words, to avoid saying what God has said.

And then when confronted with a vision of God that is glorious and gracious and offensive and holy- that you can’t alter- what temptation comes next? We empty what it means to be the people of God of all real content - to take the name of God in vain. We become a people who have some sort of superficial association with Jesus, but it is empty. We confess Jesus is Lord, but do not do what He says. We talk about the grace and mercy of God, and do not repent of sin. Where the second commandment confronts the temptation to redefine what “God” means, the third commandment confronts the temptation to retain our desire to live however we want by simply ignoring God. We don’t pray. We don’t take what He says and commands seriously. Our identity as God’s people becomes a kind of empty label, retained to appease parents or a girlfriend or, even better, a girlfriend’s parents. But we’ve never taken seriously the call of Jesus and the real cost of discipleship. 

The Ten Commandments offer us a marvelous view of God’s remarkable understanding of the human heart. He knows us. He knows our particular temptations. He knows the subtle ways we chase after our own autonomy from His reign. He calls us to Himself, as He is and His law is given to lead us there. It is powerless to actually bring us home, but it is a nice map to understand why the way seems so hard. This week we turn our attention to the 4th commandment wherein God commands us to rest, to celebrate, and where He claims ownership over time. This worship and obedience of the one true God must move into the corners of our lives. Join us Sunday as we consider the God who is a fountain, who will not be reduced, who calls us out of vanity and makes uncomfortable claims on every moment of our lives.

Set Your Minds...

The Bible treats our mind as a muscle, as something that can be moved, as something that can be set on certain things and not set on others. Paul commands Roman Christians in Romans 12 to be transformed through the “renewing of their minds.” In 1 Chronicles 22 the Israelites are told to “set their minds and hearts to see the Lord your God.” In Colossians 3, Paul commands Christians to set their minds on things that are above. This isn’t often how we approach the task of thinking. We rarely consider thinking to be a task. It’s simply something we well, we “just do.” Which is another way of saying that our minds just kind of latch onto whatever slides in front of them. Our minds are bombarded from Social Media, what pops up on the radio while we’re driving, what comes across the computer screen or television screen. We check our email addressing a question or an advertisement. A notification pops up on our phones turning our attention to twitter or facebook where we find an infuriating article written by an obscure relative in New Hampshire, which was liked by an old friend of ours who has an incredibly cute squirrel living on his tree… We rarely approach the task of thinking intentionally. We rarely set our minds on something. We more likely, trip over our own thoughts all day, like water rushing down a pre-determined path. (Given the intentionality with which advertisers and other media groups approach their work, this path is intentionally shaped by forces that are ubiquitous in our world.) But the Scriptures call us to an entirely different approach to thinking.

This week I ran across this quotation in Psalm 19. Its a famous text, memorized by Sunday school children everywhere:

“Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sign, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.”

Here the Psalmist is making a request of God - a plea really, that the things he has set his mind on would be acceptable - pleasing to God. What sort of meditations - the setting of the mind on something please God? In Psalm 19 we see the Psalmist looking to two particular things.

First, creation itself, particularly as it reflects and declares the beauty of God. The description of the sun “running its course” day after day after day is particularly poignant. It reminds me of G.K. Chesterton’s description of a child’s exuberance in discovering each day’s sunrise with “Look! He did it again!” But consider the work necessary to see these things, to meditate on these things. We barely notice the sun rising or setting. Our joy in seeing and giving thanks for the glories that surround us are often fleeting, like our attention. Our minds are not used to resting on something, like a sunset, and then meditating on its beauty, its meaning, its glory.

Secondly, the psalmist has described the glories of God’s law - its goodness and usefulness and wisdom. We Colorado dwellers have some practice in considering the mountains or the sunset. But almost none of us have fixed our attention on the words of God, to meditate on them, to consider their beauty and usefulness and wisdom. But this is what the Psalmist demonstrates for us - minds set on something remarkably complex and nuanced, historic and marvelous.

The Bible describes the life of the mind as a life of deep intentionality, of meditation. We are to hold something in our minds and consider the question again and again, “What must God be like?” The Psalmist’s meditations call us into a life of intentional consideration and seeing and then drawing all this thinking up into a consideration of the grandeur and goodness of a God who made and sustains all things by the word of His mouth.

As we continue our examination of the Ten Commandments this Sunday our goal is not only to understand the sort of life God is calling all of us into, but also to consider the character of God Himself as revealed in His law…. What must God be like?

A War of Word, Witness and Wine

Peter Leithart has written a remarkable commentary on the book of Revelation. He describes the book of Revelation as being fundamentally about the victory of the Church’s witness in the midst of the world. In describing the war imagery of Revelation 19, he says this:

The logic of the narrative seems to be this: The horns attack the Lamb and his followers; God turns that attack into his victory over the harlot city; and then the Lamb goes on the offensive against the same enemies, the “nations” that he smites (19:15). If chapter 19 is a battle scene, it is not a military operation, or, better, it is the most intensely contested, the most important and decisive form of military operation—a spiritual war, carried on by Word, Witness, Wine. Whatever fulfillment we find, it will not look like the latest news bulletin from Syria or Afghanistan. It will look like a sermon delivered at a table spread with bread and wine. It will look like a humble Christian woman refusing to renounce Jesus even when threatened with beheading. It will be a battle of Har-Magedon, a battle of the mountain of festival assembly.

Leithart, P. J. (2018). Revelation. (M. Allen & S. R. Swain, Eds.) (Vol. 2, p. 287). London; Oxford; New York; New Delhi; Sydney: Bloomsbury; Bloomsbury T&T Clark: An Imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing Plc.

His point: There is a war being waged on the nations in chapter 19, but it is not a typical military operation. Rather, it is a battle fought and won as the word of Jesus is faithfully proclaimed, bread and wine are faithfully eaten, and as God’s people faithfully worship in the midst of the nations. This is the grand strategy of our Lord for the renewal of all things - including our city - a people joyfully committed to faithfully witnessing to the Word about Jesus in the midst of our city, in our homes around tables with wine and food, and gathered together in the midst of our liturgies. In these gloriously mundane things, Jesus rules the nations.

Considering Jesus

I remember my first trip to Colorado. I was 11. I had an old walkman and 1 cassette tape. I had listened to that tape countless times between the northern oil fields of Northwest Texas and the drive over Raton pass outside of Trinidad. And suddenly there were mountains. Real mountains. I don’t remember much about what we did during our two weeks visiting friends in Denver, but I do remember craning my neck to see the tops of the mountains. I remember standing on Mount Evans not being able to breathe. I remember marveling at the size - feeling my smallness and a sense of awe that I’d never felt before.

Perhaps the fundamental downside to raising a family in Colorado is how mundane the mountains can become to your kids. They’ve seen them almost every day of their self-conscious lives. When we drive up to Summit County or down to Ouray, I find myself trying to wrestle my kids’ attention from their books or games to stop and, well, just look! Feel Awe! Its a silly sense of urgency that we’re going to miss the grandeur, the glory, the majesty because we’re stuck on the page or the screen sitting in our laps.

Christianity is remarkably practical. It speaks to marriage, children, work, play and rest. It encompasses all of life and reorders every part of our loves and desires. It really does deal with the “page and the screen in our laps.” But at its absolute center is something that feels as impractical as it gets. We want help navigating the noise and business of life. We want practical steps. We want a life coach. The stuff of life feels so important, and then Christianity calls us to stop, to look elsewhere and to consider, to marvel at, Jesus.

Again and again, without rushing to practical application or how to’s, the Scriptures just seem to stop and invite us to see Him, to marvel at Him. It warns us not to miss the glory, the grandeur, the beauty. It commends us the glory of feeling small and inconsequential again when so much of our life feels disproportionately important.

I felt that invitation again this morning reading through Revelation 19 in preparation to preach this Sunday. Verses 11-16 are meant to communicate some marvelous and frightening truths to us concerning the church’s identity and mission, but I think first they are an invitation to, well, marvel.

To behold, and tremble and feel again how gloriously small we are and how terrifyingly strong and holy and good He is. So put your pages down, turn away from your screen (maybe this screen) and consider again the terror and wonder and beauty of who Jesus actually is:

Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name written that no one knows but himself. He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses. From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords.

Revelation 19:11-16

Church as Toddler. Church as Family...

One of the more fundamental confusions about the local church that plagues us these days is the unexamined belief that the church should function something like a good restaurant.  It exists primarily as the purveyor of religious goods and services and you choose one that has the stuff you like. Good service, nice French fries, delicious soufflé. This view, if unchecked, will keep any church from embodying the kind of beauty and goodness and truth that we long to see. To make matters harder, Trinity is a church plant - which means that we are a big ball of potential. Lots of raw material, everything still taking shape. We're like a little toddler, bumping into the walls, sticking our fingers in the electrical sockets, doing all the things toddlers do. So, if you come to Trinity in the way that many people come to church in the U.S., well, you'll be sorely disappointed much of the time. 

The church is described a number of different ways in the New Testament - but one of the bible's favorites is to describe the church as a family. What we do on Sunday is gather for a Sunday meal. We care for one another. We sing the praises of our good Father. He tells us, through the Bible and the liturgy what He's like, what He wants for us, and most of all, what He's done for us in Jesus. Now, admittedly, family meals can be a little awkward, and we want our friends and even strangers who don't know our Father to come and sit with us and eat with us. But this is precisely how God forms us increasingly into the image of Jesus - declaring us to be and then making us increasingly to look like sons and daughters. 

One of the implications of this biblical understanding of the church is that most of the things we long to see in our life together at Trinity require all of us to pursue together. We want family-like community with one another. That isn't something that can be programmed. There isn't a "switch" we can throw for that in a church plant. There are simply people committed to pursuing conversations and time and honesty with one another. New people who wander through our doors for our gathering won't feel welcomed by an institution. They need to actually be welcomed by people who are already gathered into this new community. 

As we approach the fall, we are trying to facilitate as many opportunities as we can for our church family to draw closer to one another and to invite neighbors and friends and well, even strangers to come and be with us - in worship on a Sunday, in homes during the week for dinner and laughter and prayer, at an event around town. But in the end, as we long to see the church grow up into greater and greater maturity, all of us have to recognize the church as a family - where everyone is at work - welcoming, inviting, singing, praying, approaching together.