Sunday, November 24, 2013

Baptism Meditation - Why Infant Baptism?

1 Peter 2:4–5 (NKJV)
4 Coming to Him as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious, 5 you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

Peter reminds us that the Church which God is building throughout human history is not essentially a physical structure but an organic community. The foundation of this Church is not concrete but the Apostles and Prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone. As members of that Church, those who confess Christ are living stones, living members of the living Temple of God. So it is fitting as we dedicate this physical building to the glory and service of God that we have the privilege of baptizing a stone and bringing him to new life in the Church of God. When John the Baptist preached his baptism of repentance, he declared that God was able to raise up from stones children of Abraham – and so today we have the privilege of baptizing ---------, by nature a stone, so that he might become a living stone, united by faith in the working of God to the Church.

By why baptize a baby? Because, as Peter goes on to remind us, we, the Church of Christ, we are the Israel of God, a holy nation, God’s special people, the inheritors of all the promises that God has made throughout His Word. And these promises include not only believers but also our children. Nations include children; peoples include infants. And so God always establishes his covenants with generations. He covenants with Noah and his descendants; with Abraham and his descendants; with the Israelites who stood at the foot of Mt. Sinai and with all their descendants after them; with David and his descendants. And the New Covenant into which we are incorporated is no different. God welcomes believers and their children into this organic community, this Church which He is building, and calls all to love Him, to trust Him, and to serve Him with joy and reverent fear. So we baptize ------ because God extends His promise to this child even as He extends His promise to us.

So what is this promise? It is a promise that God will be our God and we His people through faith in Christ. God promises in the waters of baptism that though we have rebelled against Him, though we are by nature stones, He will forgive us through the sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross and will make us living stones by pouring out His Spirit on us. The waters of baptism promise these very things – even as water cleanses the body, so the blood of Jesus sprinkled upon us cleanses us from our sin – hence, sometimes baptism is by sprinkling; even as water is the source of life, so the Holy Spirit poured out upon us grants us new life in service of God – hence, sometimes, as today, baptism is by pouring.

Forgiveness and new life are the promises God holds out this day – so as you witness this baptism and renew your own baptismal covenant, let me urge you to believe these promises.

Unless the Lord Builds the House

Psalm 127:1–2 (NKJV)
1 Unless the LORD builds the house, They labor in vain who build it; Unless the LORD guards the city, The watchman stays awake in vain. 2 It is vain for you to rise up early, To sit up late, To eat the bread of sorrows; For so He gives His beloved sleep.

This morning we wish to join our voices together in thanks and praise to God for His goodness to us – especially in bringing us into this new facility. We welcome those of you who are visiting with us this morning. There are many hands, many hearts, many minds, and many backs that joined together to make this purchase and move a possibility. But were it not for God’s favor and kindness, none of this labor would have borne any fruit. Unless the LORD builds the house, They labor in vain who build it. So it is fitting that we join in giving thanks and praise to God and that we dedicate this building to His service and glory.

Millennia ago, when Solomon dedicated the Temple in Jerusalem, he prayed that God would listen and give heed to His people as they prayed towards the Temple in Jerusalem. His words have shaped our service of dedication today. Yet we live at a different time than Solomon. In the new covenant, we no longer pray to a central sanctuary in Jerusalem; we pray to the Living Temple of God, Jesus Christ. It is in Jesus’ Name that we seek God’s favor and forgiveness. So as we come into God’s presence today, we adapt the words of Solomon to the New Covenant era when God has raised up Jesus as Lord over all. And even as Solomon knelt in prayer at the dedication of the Temple, I would invite you to kneel as we seek the Lord’s mercy in the Name of Jesus.

Kneeling, let us beseech the Lord’s forgiveness: (Based on 1 Kings 8:22–53)
Minister: LORD God of Israel, there is no God in heaven above or on earth below like You, who keep Your covenant and mercy with Your servants who walk before You with all their hearts.
People: Let us praise the Lord forever, and give thanks to the God of gods.

M: LORD God of Israel, you have kept what You promised Your servant David, saying, ‘You shall not fail to have a man sit before Me on the throne of Israel.’
P: You have raised up Jesus, Son of David and Son of God, to be Ruler over all the Kings of the earth.

M: But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain You.
P: Yet you took on human flesh in Jesus, God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, the Word of God who tabernacled among us.

M: So regard the prayer of Your servants and our supplication, O LORD our God, and listen to the cry and the prayer which we are praying before You today: that Your eyes may be open toward us night and day, 
P: For here in this building we would worship Jesus, the One who bears Your Name, and in whose Name we come into Your presence.

M: Hear in heaven Your dwelling place; 
P: and when You hear, forgive. 

M: When there is famine in the land, pestilence or blight or mildew, locusts or grasshoppers; when our enemy besieges us in the land of our cities; whatever plague or whatever sickness there is; whatever prayer, whatever supplication is made by anyone, or by all Your Church, when each one knows the plague of his own heart, and spreads out his hands toward Your Christ:
P: Then hear in heaven Your dwelling place, and forgive, and act, and give to everyone according to all his ways, whose heart You know (for You alone know the hearts of all the sons of men), that we may fear You all the days of our lives. 
M: Moreover, concerning an unbeliever, who is not of Your Church, but who comes to this place for Your name’s sake (for they will hear of Your great name and Your strong hand and Your outstretched arm), when he comes and prays toward Your Christ;
P: Then hear in heaven Your dwelling place, and do according to all for which the unbeliever calls to You, that all peoples of the earth may know Your name and fear You, as does Your Church, and that they may know that Jesus is Your Chosen King.

M: When we sin against You (for there is no one who does not sin), and You become angry with us and deliver us to our enemy, yet when we come to ourselves, and repent, and make supplication to You in the Name of Jesus, saying, 
P: ‘We have sinned and done wrong, we have committed wickedness,’

M: And when we return to You with all our heart and with all our soul, and pray to You through Your Son Jesus;
P: Then hear in heaven Your dwelling place our prayer and our supplication, and maintain our cause, and forgive Your people who have sinned against You; and grant us compassion before those who have conquered us, that they may have compassion on us (for we are Your people and Your inheritance, whom You delivered through the death and resurrection of Jesus). Amen.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

It Seemed Like a Good Idea

Isaiah 42:4 (NKJV)
4 He will not fail nor be discouraged, Till He has established justice in the earth; And the coastlands shall wait for His law.”

When we are tempted to grow discouraged with the state of the world and the current condition of Christianity in Western Society, it is helpful to remember the Servant Songs of Isaiah. Here in these songs, God revealed millennia ago the calling of our Lord Jesus Christ – a calling which Jesus self-consciously fulfilled in his earthly ministry. Having fulfilled the calling of the songs to suffer, Jesus is now, as the Ascended and Exalted Messiah, fulfilling their call to rule and reign.

So what shall be the nature of His reign? As Jesus spreads His influence throughout the world, what will be the result? The result will be, according to our text, the spread of true justice and liberating law. Jesus as the Word of God made flesh will cause His Word to prevail in the earth and for justice founded on His law to triumph.

So what are we to think when we witness times of setback? What are we to think when the cause of justice, so strenuously established over hundreds of years, is in the course of just a few decades undermined and in many cases destroyed? Is this cause for despair? Should we perhaps rethink whether our Lord and Savior Jesus means to establish justice in the earth?

Here the Servant Songs come again to our aid. Notice the promise in our text: He will not fail nor grow discouraged until he has established justice in the earth and the coastlands shall wait for His law. Jesus is not discouraged. God is not looking down at the world and declaring, Well it sure seemed like a good idea at the time. God is in control; He has seated Jesus at His right hand where He rules and reigns over the earth. No one can thwart Him or say to Him, “What have you done?” For he does according to His will in the host of heaven and among the nations of the earth.

Isaiah’s promise reminds us of the lessons Jesus endeavored to teach during his lifetime. What is the nature of the kingdom of God? It is like a mustard seed which starts as the smallest of all seeds but when it is planted gradually grows until it becomes a great tree in which the birds of the air make their nests. To what shall we compare the kingdom of God? It is like leaven which a woman hid in a lump of dough until the entire lump was leavened.

The task of preaching and spreading the kingdom of God is not an easy task; throughout church history there have been times of great success and there have been times of abysmal failure. At the moment in Western society we are in the midst of a largescale apostasy. But Jesus is not discouraged; He knows precisely what He is doing and His calling to us is to be faithful to Him – to preach the Gospel, to teach the Word of God, and to worship the Living God.

So reminded that we are not to grow discouraged but instead to trust in the Sovereign pleasure of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, let us kneel and confess that we have often failed to look to Him in faith.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Give Thanks in Everything

1 Thessalonians 5:18 (NKJV)
18 In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

Paul summons us to be a thankful people, a people who readily acknowledge and praise God for His kindnesses to us. We are to give thanks, Paul declares, “in everything.” We are to give thanks when enduring trials and when experiencing blessings – in everything we are to give thanks.

So today as we enter into our new facility, a facility that we can properly call our own, it is a time for much thankfulness and gratitude. Since the planting of our congregation in March of 2006, we have rented various places in and around Coeur d’Alene. Many of us remember with smiles or with knots in our stomachs the various places God has led us over the years: the Silver Lake Motel, the Songbird Theatre, the Iva Lee Dance Hall, the Lake City Senior Center, the Seventh Day Adventist Church. Each of these facilities served us well and enabled us to gather weekly to worship the Lord together and praise Him for His kindness to us.

And here we are now in a facility that we can call our own. If we are to give thanks “in everything” then surely we are to give thanks when God sends manifest blessings upon us as He has done today. God is good and has been good to Trinity Church.

Paul’s command is directed not only to us corporately but also to each of us individually. In everything we are to give thanks, all the more so in times of deliverance and mercy. So this morning we join our voices in giving thanks for God’s mercy to the Dixons this week in their car accident. But we are to give thanks not only in deliverance but in everything. One of the lessons which our Heavenly Father wants to teach us is to give thanks not because what we are experiencing is necessarily pleasant but because we know that our Father has promised to use this thing, pleasant or unpleasant, for our good and for His glory. And so in everything we are to give thanks.

But often we don’t give thanks in everything. Sometimes we grumble and complain rather than give thanks; often we take our blessings for granted rather than thanking God for them. So reminded of this call, this call to give thanks in everything, let us confess our ingratitude to the Lord and ask him to forgive us and teach us to give thanks. As you are able, let us kneel together as we confess.