If you are tracking with the Same Page Summer Bible reading plan, or if you happened to read the Gospel of Mark this past week, the Parable of the Tenants may be more fresh in your mind.
In Mark 12 Jesus told a story about a man who planted a vineyard and built a fence to protect it, who then leased the land to tenants while he went to another country. At harvest the owner sent one of his servants to get some of the fruit, and the tenants assaulted the servant. The tenants attacked a second servant, killed a third servant, and then murdered the “beloved son.”
Jesus asked, “What will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and destroy the tenants and give the vineyard to others” (Mark 12:9).
The religious leaders who listened to the parable “perceived that he had told the parable against them” (verse 12), and He had. The good news is that while the parable was against them, it is for us. We are among the “others.”
In general the parable is against the hard-hearted Jews, the tenants in the story, who received a stewardship and then began acting like they were the owners. They indeed killed the Son of God’s love. The others in the story are the Gentiles, and here we are.
When it comes to eschatology, we believe that God still will cause a future generation of Jews to repent and receive the Messiah. And also, when it comes to eschatology, the owner of the vineyard has shared the riches of His glory in Christ among the Gentiles. We are built on the Cornerstone, it is the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous (Mark 12:10-11)!
The United States is a nation by God’s choice. The USA is not God’s chosen nation (for that choice see Deuteronomy 7:6-7), but we only exist according to the will of God. Paul told the Greeks that God “made from one man (Noah) every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place” (Acts 17:26). We have no reason to think God gave up this prerogative before 1776. The Lord is Lord of our history and our borders. He is Lord of our independence (from the British parliament).
After telling the men of Athens about God’s providence He told them about God’s purpose. The determining of time and place for every nation leads somewhere: “that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward Him and find Him” (verse 27). This doesn’t upend Calvinism to talk about seekers, any more than it undoes another letter from Paul saying “no one” seeks for God (Romans 3:11), because here any seeking movement, considered from the human perspective, started from His sovereignty.
I say all that to say that, on a day Independence Day, we have every reason to think about our nation under God. Our story–its start, its sins, its blessings, its fruit, its freedoms–are all from and through and to God, one way or another. The blessings we have, the blessings we’ve forsaken, the blessings we’ve been ungrateful for, the blessings we don’t even know about, ought to make us realize that there is a God, and the Founders and Constitution and President aren’t Him. Even the unbelieving Benjamin Franklin knew better:
“the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth—that God governs the affairs of men”.
Our celebrations make no sense apart from the God and Father of our Lord, Jesus Christ. And our celebrations fall short of their purpose if they do not remind us that “in Him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28).
This book was gifted to me by a friend, and I’m thankful for it (and him). It’s brief, but edifying, especially as it makes a biblical case against dualism, and especially a so-thought virtuous dualism under the more formal name of Two Kingdoms theology. Boot demonstrates that the material and temporal are not enemies to the Christian, nor must we try to escape (since God called His creation good). Sin is our enemy. Christ came to conquer sin, and as His people live in Him they live differently with their stuff and in time.
This communion meditation is a little late for posting, but I was out of town for a while. It will probably be okay.
Father’s Day is not a biblical feast day, but honoring our fathers is biblical, and an easy way to not be conformed to this world which has fallen to the level of calling mothers the “birthing persons” and fathers, tongue-in-cheek, the “lawn-mowing persons.” Our meditation around the Lord’s Table has benefit for all of us, whether or not our earthly father was a good one, whether or not you are currently being a good father.
Our heavenly Father gives to the needy and welcomes the unlovely. Our heavenly Father loves us into holiness, He works in us for our maturity. We do not know, remember, obey, give thanks, like we ought. How does He respond? Like a father.
I am convinced that one of the reasons so many homes have angry, stingy fathers is because fathers have been taught, liturgically, that God is angry and stingy at the family meal, the Lord’s Supper.
This is far from lowering the standard. He sent His Son to win us, to conquer our disobedience, by love that we might love (1 John 4:10, 19). He is the God and Father of all grace (1 Peter 5:10). Christian, this is your heavenly Father. Christian father, this is your earthly example for fatherhood (Ephesians 3:15).
Taste and see that the LORD is good. Blessed are all those who take refuge in Him. (Psalm 34:8)
I like to point out that the Bible’s imperative about the Bible is not just to read it but to crave it. Similarly, the Bible’s imperative about the end times and the day of the Lord is not just to know about it but to hasten it.
Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. (2 Peter 3:11-12, NIV)
The lexical form of the word for “speed” is speudo (σπεύδω), translated “hasten” in most translations (ESV, KJV, NASB). I did do a little digging to see if our English word “speed” is a derivative (since they sound similar), but that search was inconclusive. As for the Greek word itself, Homer, Herodotus, and Thucydides used it to describe “exercising special effort” to bring something about (BAGD). It could be translated “earnestly desiring” (HCSB), but that’s a little flat.
How do we “hasten” God’s timeline? On one hand, we can’t make the Almighty move faster. And also we don’t just sit around.
keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. (Jude 21)
waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our God and Savior Jesus Christ. (Titus 2:13)
Keep repenting and pursuing righteousness (2 Peter 3:9, 14). Meditate daily on the promises and look for them (2 Peter 3:13). Grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus (2 Peter 3:18). Salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed (Romans 13:11). Hasten up.
When we approach God to confess our sin by reminding Him, or just thinking to ourselves, that at least we’re not as angry as him or as gossipy as her, we’re still thinking about the wrong person. The standard of comparison is not horizontal. God is the standard, not someone else, and He is perfect in holiness. We are to approach Him in humility, which isn’t happening if we’re still doing mental ladder-climbing over others.
This doesn’t mean that my sin is invariably and categorically worse than, for example, Hitler’s sin. But I don’t have to deal with Hitler’s sin in my heart, I have to deal with mine. I can’t judge someone else before dealing with my own heart (Matthew 7:5), so that makes mine sequentially problematic, if not actually worse.
Paul exclaimed, “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (Romans 7:24), not “Wretched man that I am! But have you considered my cousin?” Paul declared that “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost” (1 Timothy 1:15), not “Christ came into the world to save sinners, and I sure hope you are paying attention.”
I need to confess my sin first, second to none. Imagine how well we’d all get along if we raced to be that sort of ruthlessly humble about our own sin. Try this at home, too; husband before wife (unless you’re the wife, then start with you), parents before children (while also helping the children learn the nature of their sin and their need to confess).
I don’t use the “already/not yet” terminology a lot, though I think it’s a valuable way to approach some parts of our faith. For example, we are already saved in some ways, but we are not yet saved in all the ways. There are certain promises that we taste today that will be fulfilled in someday.
It’s not just timing that gets juxtaposed, but types of fulfillment, this way or that way, this way and that way. For example, Jesus promised that God would dwell in us, and also that we would dwell in God. It’s both, and is profitably considered from both angles.
God reveals that He Himself will be the temple (Revelation 21:22), we will dwell in Him and with Him in our glorified state. He is our temple. It’s also true that right now we are His temple (Ephesians 2:19-22). And even this is true both corporately and individually. It didn’t bother Paul to make both claims.
1 Corinthians 3:16-17 talks about not messing with the temple, the church considered corporately, because it is God’s.
Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple. (1 Corinthians 3:16–17)
1 Corinthians 6:19 talks about not messing with the temple, as a Christian considered individually, because it is God’s.
Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body. (1 Corinthians 6:19–20)
Christ’s temple (His body) was destroyed (and raised again in John 2:18-22) that we might dwell with Him and He in us. The bread and wine remind us of His temple spent for our fellowship already and what will be.
I read the following story for our school’s end of year assembly. Good stories are supposed to stand on their own, but it might be helpful to read this 2021 Summer Challenge from Mrs. Bowers first.
The seeds walked out of the co-op after their last day of class. It had been a good school year, unprecedented even. But as good as school can be, the arrival of summer break, even for seeds, is always worth celebrating.
Oakly, Elmer, Bruce, Lerry, Tom, Iris, Rosie, Lily, Heather, and Willow were standing around in the parking lot after the barbecue and got to talking about a comment that their teacher had made in their final Almanac Class. He said that whoever wanted to have a fruitful summer should try to get buried as soon as possible.
Mr. Croft had said it matter of factly, like it was obvious, like it was what they were made to do. It’s not that they hadn’t ever heard a message like this before, but for whatever reason, hearing it this time caused more curiosity, and concern.
Most of the friends weren’t interested in getting so down to earth, nor did they believe that they were being told the truth. Milling around on the surface is way less scary than the dark and soggy soil. School was the time for work and summer was the season for play.
Oakly was the only seed with the faith to see that being buried might produce better things. So while everyone else made plans to binge on sun-fun, he committed to some things he didn’t really want to do.
Oakly woke up a little early every morning and did some seed yoga. You may be wondering what “seed yoga” is, and I understand. Probably the most frequent and foundational movement for seeds is called the downward-facing-dolphin. Like a dolphin flaps her flippers to push water backward, a seed must learn to angle his nose down and push the dirt upward.
After seed yoga he did cardio workouts on a furrowing machine. Some seeds grow just fine scattered in no particular pattern, others do better entrenched together. The furrowing machine let seeds get stronger at getting their groove on.
Oakly also picked up some extra chores at a neighbor’s field. His first project was to push the pebbles from the main part of the field to the perimeter. It was hard work, because rocks are hard, and because some of the rocks were larger than him and all of them were heavier. When he was done clearing a section of all the small stones he could find, he would practice digging hole-slots. Some seeds just aren’t strong enough to drill down into the dirt on their own, so other seeds can scoop out a little cozy niche where weaker seeds can jump in and get their start.
All these workouts and work still didn’t take up all his time so he thought he’d try his hand at growing some fruit. He had heard about a mysterious fruit called a seedless watermelon. As you might imagine, this was a difficult challenge because it still takes a seed to grow a seedless watermelon, but you have to know somebody. Oakly didn’t, he was just a little seed himself.
Maybe the most surprising choice Oakly made was checking out a few books at the local Farmer’s Library. The first books that Oakly chose were not the kind he would usually read. One of the books was about GTP, Getting Things Planted. Another book was about how to find the right field, and had an appendix on whether more sunlight or more shade would give certain seeds a better ROB, Return on Burial.
Then he found some really novel tales. He initially thought that a book called The Lord of the Rings would be about tree-rings, and was a little disappointed until he met Treebeard and the Ents whom Oakly realized were the real heroes of the battle. And he found all sorts of stories about Dryads, stories as old as the Odyssey, as new as Percy Jackson, and cried little seed-tears when he read about what Tirian and Jewel found happening to these living trees in The Last Battle.
In a far corner of the library he found a book about a holiday entirely devoted to tree drip. Not drip like tree sap, but drip like tree swag. And also, the holiday isn’t really about trees, but it includes trees, and how every December pines get decorated with bling, wrapped with necklaces of lights and garland.
Most interesting to Oakly was an ancient book that included a large family tree. He learned that distant cousins many generations ago had provided wood for a family for a boat that spared them and animals of all kinds during a great flood. He read about other relatives who were chosen by the wisest of Eastern kings to become beams and planks in a great temple. And then he came to the chapter where his great-great-great-great-great-great grandfather once became a crossbar that held the Master Gardener for a few hours one Friday.
This Master Gardener was also the Maker of seeds, and had once predicted not that He would climb a tree He had created, but that He would bear it and then be born by it. What was fascinating to Oakly is that this Gardener likened His work to that of a seed. He became like a seed, was crucified, died, and was buried.
Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.
He said this would be His glory, and that just as a seed which is buried brings forth much fruit, so would His death bring much life.
Most seeds want to bear fruit but they don’t want to be buried first. Even for seeds, it takes a kind of faith to see what happens. But the first seed under the ground doesn’t get bloody, he gets blessing.
On a hot June afternoon, years and years later, some human students were eating their hot dogs sitting under Oakly’s branches, enjoying his shade, giving thanks for how Oakly spent himself many summers ago.
Though we live in the “Information Age” it is hard to know what to believe. Much of the so-called information is more like inflammation, bait to hook our attention, not actually a benefit for our understanding. I’ve been picking away at a book called Trust Me, I’m Lying, and it exposes how efficiently lies spread through every level of media.
What a treasure we have in God’s Word. Paul told Timothy to “follow the pattern of the sound words” he had heard from Paul (2 Timothy 1:13), and we have our own copies to carry around with us to read so that the Word would richly dwell in us (Colossians 3:16).
At the beginning of another summer here is a reminder to meditate on God’s Word day and night. Let it be like a seed in your heart, that you might be like a tree planted by streams of water. Choose a reading plan, choose a time and place, and read and think and pray. Though we’re one week in to the #SamePageSummer plan, which many of you have joined, jump in now.
For the future, God’s Word is building us up so that we are ready for the promised inheritance (Acts 20:32).
And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified. (Acts 20:32)
For now, His Word reminds us that He is present. His Word is part of His presence. Hold it fast.
John Bunyan, author of The Pilgrim’s Progress, wrote many books, including The Saint’s Knowledge of Christ’s Love, or, The Unsearchable Riches of Christ. It has also been published recently under the title, All Loves Excelling. The entire book is a forrest fire of goodness sparked by Ephesians 3:18-19.
[May he grant you] strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
In Greek, one article (precedes and) welds all four dimensions together in verse 18. Paul wasn’t thinking about four things, but the immensity, the vastness, the incalculability of one thing. But what is that something? I believe the one thing is Christ’s love, explicitly named in verse 19..
Breadth refers to area. Christ’s love covers the widest span. Length refers to distance, how far things are apart. Christ’s love reaches the farthest intervals. Depth refers to the bottom. Christ’s love descends to the lowest levels. It is unfathomable. Height refers to the top. Christ’s love soars at the summit.
His love is too large to frame, and even if it were, there isn’t a wall large enough to hold the frame. Imagine the most oversized, mega-gargantuan container you have at home; now double-it; now multiply by the next number higher than you can conceive. You’ve just taken a mathematical baby step toward comprehending Christ’s incalculable love.
I love Bunyan’s question:
Couldst thou (sinner) if thou hadst been allowed, thyself express what thou wouldst have expressed, the greatness of the love thou wantest, with words that could have suited thee better?
—Bunyan, The Saint’s Knowledge of Christ’s Love, 37
In other words, if someone asked you to describe the kind of love you hoped for, could you have imagined it this good? His love fills us, and the bread and cup remind us of His body spent in loving sacrifice for us.