March Meditations

 "I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live." John 11:25b   

"I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live." John 11:25b

 

March 30

Deuteronomy 15

By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.  But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?  Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth (1 John 3:16-18). 

[Jesus] said also to the man who had invited him, “When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return and you be repaid.  But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.”  (Luke 14:12-14). 

The laws concerning money in the Old Testament are often not what we might expect.  For instance, the tithe of Deuteronomy 14 was not a gift to the Temple, but rather money set aside so that the people could rejoice and celebrate, particularly alongside the Levite and the poor among the people, people who had no resources of their own.  In other words, the tithe was for a big party, so that the people—all the people—might rejoice in the goodness of God.  A potluck, if you will, where those who are able bring food, and all share in it.  

Or consider the laws of release, where every seven years debts are released, and those who have sold themselves into service to pay off debts are also released.  The laws in Deuteronomy 15 don’t require the people to give, per se, but to lend whatever is needed, with the understanding that it may never be returned to them.  “You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in your land” is a very practical way in which the Lord commanded Israel to love one another. 

These specific laws may not seem directly applicable today (although they might in certain cases).  Yet, even if not, specific laws can have the effect of enlarging our vision of what it might mean to live wisely and generously with others.  We don’t hear the language of slaves much today, but the proverb remains as true today as it did when it was written 3000 years ago: “The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower is the slave of the lender” (Prov. 22:7).  Debt still enslaves.  And, according to Deuteronomy 15, that is a concern not just for the one in debt, but for the whole people of God.  Or what of the tithe?  The tithe (at least this tithe—there were several different tithes in the OT), was meant for a celebration that includes all, a foretaste of the kingdom of heaven. 

 

March 29

Proverbs 12:4

A virtuous woman is a crown to her husband: but she that maketh ashamed is as rottenness to his bones (Proverbs 12:4).

Below the comment of Charles Bridges (Proverbs, Carlise PA: Banner of Truth, 133-34), on the verse above, written in 1846:

Faithful (Chap. xxxi. 11, 12), chaste (Tit. ii. 5. 1 Pet. iii. 2), reverentially obedient (Eph. v. 22, 23. 1 Pet. iii. 1, 4-6), "immovable in affection (Tit. ii. 4), delighting to see her husband honoured, respected, and loved; covering, as far as may be, his failings; prudent in the management of her family (Chap. xiv. 1), conscientious in the discharge of her domestic duties (Chap. xxxi. 27,28); kind and considerate to all around her (Ib. verses 20, 26); and as the root of all--"fearing the Lord" (Ib. verse 30)--such is the virtuous woman; "the weaker vessel" indeed, but a woman of strength, with all her graces in godly energy. She is not the ring on her husband's finger, or the chain of gold around his neck. That were far too low. She is his crown; his brightest ornament; drawing the eyes of all upon him, as eminently honoured and blessed. (Chap. xxxi. 23.) Truly affecting is the contrast of a contentious (Chap. xix. 13; xxi. 9, 19), imperious, extravagant, perhaps unfaithful, wife; in the levity of her conduct forgetting her proper place and subjection: seeking the admiration of others, instead of being satisfied with her husband's regard. This is indeed a living disease-rottenness in his bones; marring his usefulness; undermining his happiness; perhaps driving him into temptation…  Let a young woman, in contemplating this holy union, ponder well and in deep prayer its weighty responsibility. Will she be a crown to her husband, or one that maketh ashamed? Will she be what God made the woman--"an help meet" (Gen. ii. 18); or--what Satan made her--a tempter--to her husband? (Ib. iii. 6. 1 Kings, xxi. 25. Job, ii. 9.) If she be not a crown to him, she will be a shame to herself. If she be rottenness to his bones, she will be a plague to her own. For what is the woman's happiness, but to be the helper of her husband's joy? Oh! let their mutual comfort be sought, where alone it can be solidly found, in "dwelling together as heirs of the grace of life." (1 Pet. iii. 7.) Better never to have seen each other, than to live together forgetful of this great end of improving their union as an indulgent gift of God, and an important talent for his service, and their own eternal happiness.

 

March 28

Luke 8:4-15

My son, if you receive my words and treasure up my commandments with you, making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding; yes, if you call out for insight and raise your voice for understanding, if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures, then you will understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God (Proverbs 2:1-5). 

The Parable of the Sower is a curious parable.  Told to the crowds, it doesn’t seem to be for the crowds.  Imagine hearing Jesus tell the parable (8:4-8) without the benefit the disciples had of hearing the explanation (8:9-15).  Yet this elusiveness appears to be the point, for Jesus spoke in parables to hide the secrets of the kingdom (8:10), even as he explained them to the disciples when they asked.  Furthermore, the parable suggests a kind inevitability when it comes to responding to the word of God.  The seed falls where it falls.  The idea that a person would seek to become the good soil seems to run against the plain sense of the parable.  Yet, if that is the case, what is the point of telling the parable?  Perhaps the parable is meant to let the disciples, as future sowers, know why certain people respond in certain ways to the Word of God.  Although told to the crowds, perhaps the parable is for the disciples.    

One of the reasons Jesus tells in parables is that so we will keep digging, asking, praying. 

While I grapple with the purpose of the parable, there does seem to be several solid things we can take from Jesus’ explanation.  First, the devil will seek to keep the church from attending to the word of God.  He will seek to snatch it away; it matters not whether by confiscation of Bibles by oppressive regimes or by eloquent and sophisticated arguments (often made in the name of Biblical scholarship) that undermine confidence in the Bible as God’s word (for Satan is happy for us to have our Bibles if we don’t trust them).  Secondly, we will only know whether the Word has taken root if we persevere in times of testing.  This word falls hard on our “prosperity gospel” doctrine that finds suffering to be somehow outside God’s intentions for his people.  The Scriptures are as clear that times of testing will come as they are about anything.  Thirdly, cares of this world, even legitimate ones like family and provision, riches, and pleasure are as great a danger to faithfulness as suffering and the fear of persecution.  Here is a question for our time: are we more concerned with affluence or ISIS?  According to Jesus’ words here, both can render the Word unfruitful in our lives.  Finally, those who bear fruit are the ones who hold the word fast—who cling to it and refuse to let it go.  And those who do so will bear abundant fruit. 

In the end, our response to the Word of God will be explained in the ways that Jesus mentions above.  But in the meantime, and despite outstanding questions the parable may raise, there is much here to warn us, lest the word prove unfruitful.  If we have ears to hear. 

Good Friday and Easter Message

What does Christ's death on the cross mean for us? Watch this special Easter message from Dr. Ross Blackburn and please join us for our Good Friday service, 12pm at the Blackburn home, and our Easter service, 10am Sunday at the La Quinta Inn in Boone. Have a blessed Easter.

Posted by Christ the King Anglican Fellowship on Friday, March 25, 2016
Maundy Thursday

A special video message from Dr. Ross Blackburn concerning Maundy Thursday. Christ the King will be holding a Maundy Thursday service tonight at Charlie & Carolyn Clement's home in Valle Crucis. Message us for directions or call Carolyn at (828) 963-4992.

Posted by Christ the King Anglican Fellowship on Thursday, March 24, 2016

 

March 17
 

If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him (John 14:23).

In honor of St. Patrick’s Day, and at the suggestion of Michael and Lynette Stewart, today we are posting the prayer known as St. Patrick’s Breastplate, which Michael read on Sunday.  It is a very helpful prayer, even proclamation, concerning what it means to be in Christ, and He in us.  

I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through belief in the Threeness,
Through confession of the Oneness
of the Creator of creation.
I arise today
Through the strength of Christ's birth with His baptism,
Through the strength of His crucifixion with His burial,
Through the strength of His resurrection with His ascension,
Through the strength of His descent for the judgment of doom.
I arise today
Through the strength of the love of cherubim,
In the obedience of angels,
In the service of archangels,
In the hope of resurrection to meet with reward,
In the prayers of patriarchs,
In the predictions of prophets,
In the preaching of apostles,
In the faith of confessors,
In the innocence of holy virgins,
In the deeds of righteous men.
I arise today, through
The strength of heaven,
The light of the sun,
The radiance of the moon,
The splendor of fire,
The speed of lightning,
The swiftness of wind,
The depth of the sea,
The stability of the earth,
The firmness of rock.
I arise today, through
God's strength to pilot me,
God's might to uphold me,
God's wisdom to guide me,
God's eye to look before me,
God's ear to hear me,
God's word to speak for me,
God's hand to guard me,
God's shield to protect me,
God's host to save me
From snares of devils,
From temptation of vices,
From everyone who shall wish me ill,
afar and near.
I summon today
All these powers between me and those evils,
Against every cruel and merciless power
that may oppose my body and soul,
Against incantations of false prophets,
Against black laws of pagandom,
Against false laws of heretics,
Against craft of idolatry,
Against spells of witches and smiths and wizards,
Against every knowledge that corrupts man's body and soul;
Christ to shield me today
Against poison, against burning,
Against drowning, against wounding,
So that there may come to me an abundance of reward.
Christ with me,
Christ before me,
Christ behind me,
Christ in me,
Christ beneath me,
Christ above me,
Christ on my right,
Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down,
Christ when I sit down,
Christ when I arise,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.
I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through belief in the Threeness,
Through confession of the Oneness
of the Creator of creation.

March 16

John 13:1-20

The link below is to a song written by Michael Card about Jesus’ washing the disciples’ feet in John 13.  Although his voice is clear enough, I have posted the lyrics below.  They are wise, and edifying, and I suspect he’ll show you new things here, as he has for me.  

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OsSlLiatlTQ

Michael Card, “The Basin and the Towel”

In an upstairs room, a parable
Is just about to come alive
And while they bicker about who's best

With a painful glance, He'll silently rise

Their Savior Servant must show them how
Through the will of the water

And the tenderness of the towel

And the call is to community
The impoverished power that sets the soul free
In humility, to take the vow

That day after day we must take up the basin and the towel

In any ordinary place
On any ordinary day
The parable can live again

When one will kneel and one will yield

Our Saviour Servant must show us how
Through the will of the water

And the tenderness of the towel

The space between ourselves sometimes
Is more than the distance between the stars
By the fragile bridge of the Servant's bow

We take up the basin and the towel

And the call is to community
The impoverished power that sets the soul free
In humility, to take the vow

That day after day we must take up the basin

And the call is to community
The impoverished power that sets the soul free
In humility, to take the vow
That day after day we must take up the basin
That day after day we must take up the basin
That day after day we must take up the basin and the towel

from Poiema, The Sparrow Corp:1994.

March 15

John 13:1-20

Peter said to him, “You shall never wash my feet.”  Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash your feet, you have no share with me.”

Over this Lent, both in these meditations and on Sunday mornings, we have spent much time in John 13, Jesus’ washing of the disciples’ feet.  Below is a short teaching by Dr. Kenneth Bailey, an Anglican clergyman and very helpful New Testament scholar, who lived in the Middle East for most of his life and is therefore able to see things in this passage that most of us miss.  The two links are parts of the same teaching, total length around 17 minutes. 

Tomorrow I will send out another reflection on the same section.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bXzhm1UINtI

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rLx3DTFpdio

 

March 3

John 13:34-35

A new commandment I give unto you, that you love one another; just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.  By this all people will know you are my disciples, if you love one another (John 13:34-35).

Yesterday we looked at Judas’ (not Judas Iscariot) question “Lord, how is it that you will you manifest yourself to us, and not to the world?”  The question reflects Judas’ impression of Jesus’ words, not Jesus’ actual words, for even though he does not appear to object to the premise of Judas’ question, Jesus doesn’t directly say that he won’t manifest himself to the world.  He will.  Just not directly. 

Jesus’ answer to Judas is that Jesus and the Father would dwell in those that love God and keep Jesus’ word, particularly the word to love one another as Jesus loved them.  And in that the world will know something of Jesus.  It will not be signs and wonders, it will not be well constructed arguments or apologetics, but it will be the love that the church has for one another that will make it plain that they are Jesus’ disciples, and that the Father sent Jesus into the world.  That is not to say that there is no place for signs and wonders, or apologetics and thoughtful reasoning, but that in the end the bright witness of the gospel will come from the church that loves one another as Christ loved the church.  In the world we live in, the love of Christ manifested practically toward one another is more unusual and more powerful than any sign or any argument. 

Jesus will manifest himself to the world, through a people that loves one another.  Herein lies the mission of the church.  

 

March 2

John 14:22

Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, “Lord, how is it that you will you manifest yourself to us, and not to the world?” 

Judas’ question is an important one.  How is it that followers of Jesus know him and are convinced that he is who he has said and demonstrated himself to be, and yet the world understands nothing?  There is a divide, as stark as night and day, between the follower of Jesus and the follower of the world.  So to Judas’ question: “How will you manifest yourself to us, and not to the world?” 

Notice what Jesus does not say.  He does not say that he will give signs to manifest himself to his disciples, even though he has certainly given many signs to them, and to the world, that point to who he is, even as he encourages the disciples to believe based upon the works that he has done.  He also does not say that he will convince the world through arguments or wisdom.  Jesus manifests himself to his own in a different way.  Not by signs and wonders, not by argumentation, but quietly and personally to those who love him and keep his word.  And what is that word?  “Love one another, just as I have loved you.”

If you have ever felt that you want to know Jesus in a nearer way, that he would manifest himself where he seems absent, hear Jesus’ word here.  Keep his word to love one another, practically, and he will manifest himself to you, as he and the Father and the Spirit come to dwell in you.