Sunday Recap Vol. 2.2

FROM THE DESK OF WILL SPOKES, SENIOR PASTOR

 

Welcome to the Red Mountain Sunday Recap! 

The Sunday Recap includes an assortment of items to help keep the Gospel in front of you throughout the week. Most are from the previous Sunday while a couple look ahead to next Sunday. As you read consider these questions. Did anything land with you during worship? What did it make you think? How did it make you feel? What did you find especially sweet or challenging from God's word? What did we sing, read, or pray that left an impression on you?

Food For Thought:

How should we “negotiate” Christian identity and difference in the midst of cultural change? Christian identity is established not primarily by denying and combating what is outside but by embracing and highlighting the center of what is inside—Jesus Christ as the Word who took on flesh and became the Lamb of God bearing the sin of the world…. Difference matters because and to the extent that identity matters. Put slightly differently, properly understood Christian identity is not reactive but positive; the center defines the difference, not fear of others, either of their uncomfortable proximity or their dangerous aggressiveness. – Miroslav Volf

For next Sunday:

Sermon Text: Jonah 1:1-3

Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing - Adoration
Jesus, Cast a Look on Me - Confession
The Gospel is Good News Indeed - Grace
O Love that Will Not Let Me Go - Response
Come, Holy Ghost - Communion

Suggested Resources:
What is the state of the church in America? In a 3-part series Ed Stetzer, a pastor, researcher and Christian Missiologist, explains the basic data that gives texture to the current state of the church in America. I think these kinds of data points and perspectives are particularly helpful as we think about our "Place" here in Birmingham. Part 1Part 2, and Part 3

Singing To God (Psalm 95:1-5)

All Hail The Power of Jesus' Name
Ye chosen seed of Israel's race, 
Ye ransomed from the fall, 
Hail Him Who saves you by His grace, 
And crown Him Lord of all. 
Hail Him Who saves you by His grace, 
And crown Him Lord of all.

Let every kindred, every tribe
On this terrestrial ball
To Him all majesty ascribe, 
And crown Him Lord of all. 
To Him all majesty ascribe, 
And crown Him Lord of all.

Bowing Before God (Psalm 95:6-7b)

Prayer of Confession
Father in heaven, we need to be forgiven. We have tried to work off our guilt and shame; to pile up good deeds that outweigh our sins. We have tried to change through our own efforts. When this doesn’t work, we turn to denial and distraction, leaving some of us arrogant and the rest of us anxious and depressed. Forgive us for thinking we could save ourselves rather than resting in the merits of Jesus Christ. Forgive us for our pride. Forgive us and heal us, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.
 
Words of Grace
For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.
 
1 Peter 2:21-24

Hearing From God (Psalm 95:7c-11)

Sunday's Sermon: "Identity & Difference"

Sermon Text: 1 Peter 2:9-12
9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
 
11 Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. 12 Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.

Sermon Outline

  1. Who we are: Gospel Identity (v. 9-10)
  2. What we are called to do: Gospel Engagement (v. 11-12)
  3. Where we find the help to do it: Gospel Resources (Heb. 2:17; 4:15; 1 Peter 2:4-5)

Sermon Summary
This week we concluded our vision renewal series by looking at the idea of "Place." The importance of "place" has characterized Red Mountain Church from its earliest days. And yet a lot has happened at RMC in its first 15 years leading one to wonder, how flexible or malleable is the idea of "Place"? As important as such a question is, I want to focus on what has not changed in order to provide us with what we need to love and serve the "place" God has planted us. In short, I want to focus on the gospel to rediscover who we are, what we are called to do and where we find the resources to do it.

So first, who are we? In 1 Peter 2:9-10, Peter gives a rich picture of Christian identity drawn exclusively from the ways God identified his people in the Old Testament. Remarkably, Peter picks up this same language to define our identity in Christ. Just to mention a couple points, Peter says we are a royal priesthood. Priests were mediators between God and his people. On the one hand they experienced the closest, most intimate relationship with God. On the other hand, they were deeply involved in the lives of the people as they came to offer worship and sacrifices to God. In other words, Peter is telling us the church in Christ is the primary means by which people outside the church will discover God and the beauty of his grace. We are called to be mediators as it were, a kingdom of priests, connecting the glorious riches of God's grace in Christ to the realities of peoples lives. So we (corporately) are a royal priesthood. But Peter says we are also a holy nation. Holy in the bible means set apart or distinct. The church belongs to God as his treasured possession. As a holy nation, the church is called to hold fast to its distinctive identity while being deeply involved in the world. In other words, Peter is saying we are called to be in the world, different from the world and yet for the world! We are called to proclaim the excellencies of God's grace: the gift of new life (out of darkness into light); the gift of new community (once you were not a people but now you are God's people); and the gift of bottomless mercy (sin's penalty and power has been conquered in Christ) (v.10).

If that is our identity, how are we to be engaged in the world? Peter refers to the church as sojourners and exiles (1 Peter 1:1). Such language harkens back to the journey of God's people from Egypt to the promised land and the status of God's people while in Exile in Babylon. Taken together they describe the church as a "contrast community." God's people are not yet home, but are to treat their current place as home. To be a contrast community doesn't mean a community "against" our place. Rather a contrast community derives its identity from the Gospel and how the gospel shapes our love for and service in this place. Peter gives us two basic directions. Our gospel engagement must be self-critiquing (v. 11) and outwardly compelling (v. 12). In other words, the gospel calls us to "relational integrity" towards those outside the church. We need to be like, unlike and engaged. We need to be people who participate fully in the life of our neighbors. We need to look like them, dress like them, eat like them, participate in social and civic affairs like them. To do so gives unbelievers and skeptics a live example of what they might look like if they were to become a Christian. But at the same time we are to be unlike our unbelieving and skeptical neighbors. The church (as a body and as individuals) should be known for its integrity, generosity, hospitality, sympathy, and willingness to forgive. It should be known for it's commitment to God's word in how we approach sex, power, adversity, justice and mercy. It's not enough to be "like" but not "different" or to be "different" but not "like." We must be both with a willingness to be visible and engaged in our "place."

Now if you are anything like me, what God teaches us here, sounds overwhelming and exhausting. Which is why we must know where to find the resources to do what the scriptures call us to as the church. In the book of Hebrews we find the answer. Jesus became like us in every way (2:17) and yet was without sin (4:15). Jesus came into the world to be like us in all the ways we needed him to be (fully human). He also came into the world to be unlike us in all the ways we needed him to be (sinless). You see the pattern and power for our common life together toward our "place" is found in Jesus Christ who came into the world, was different from the world, and yet was for the world even to the point of dying on the cross. That's how engaged Jesus was. That is gospel engagement. The good news is he makes his grace and power available to us through faith as "we come to him and are built up into a spiritual house" (2:4-5) for God's glory and the good of this place.

Reflection Questions

  1. What was new or compelling to you? What stood out to you from this passage?
  2. What questions does this passage raise for you?
  3. Was there anything that bothered you?
  4. Based on our Gospel identity, we are called to be in the world, different from the world and yet for the world. Which part of our calling as a "royal priesthood" and "holy nation" (like, unlike, and engaged) do you struggle with the most and why?
  5. According to Peter what does relational integrity look like? (re: vs. 11 "abstain from the passions of your flesh, which war against your soul"; vs. 12 "keep your conduct among the gentiles honorable," beautiful, attractive)
  6. What is the difference between a "contrast community" and a "community against" the world?
  7. Why do we need Jesus and his gospel if we are to be a community for our "place"?

Q&A: Westminster Shorter Catechism c. 1646
Q. 85. What does God require of us, that we may escape his wrath and curse due to us for sin?
 
A. To escape the wrath and curse of God due to us for sin, God requires of us faith in Jesus Christ, repentance unto life, with the diligent use of all the outward means whereby Christ communicates to us the benefits of redemption.

Acts 4:11-12
This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”

Sunday Recap Vol. 2.1

FROM THE DESK OF WILL SPOKES, SENIOR PASTOR

Welcome to the Red Mountain Sunday Recap! 

The Sunday Recap includes an assortment of items to help keep the Gospel in front of you throughout the week. Most are from the previous Sunday while a couple look ahead to next Sunday. As you read consider these questions. Did anything land with you during worship? What did it make you think? How did it make you feel? What did you find especially sweet or challenging from God's word? What did we sing, read, or pray that left an impression on you?

Food For Thought:

Christian [community] is not an ideal which we must realize; it is rather a reality created by God in Christ in which we may participate. The more clearly we learn to recognize that the ground and strength and promise of all our fellowship is in Jesus Christ alone, the more serenely shall we think of our fellowship and pray and hope for it. – Dietrich Bonhoeffer

For next Sunday:

Sermon Text: 1 Peter 2:9-12

The Heavens Declare Thy Glory - Adoration
All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name - Adoration
There’s a Wideness in God’s Mercy - Grace
Jesus, Thou Joy of Loving Hearts - Response
Build Me Solid - Communion

Suggested Resources:
I subscribe to a weekly email list with the NY Times that sends out a handful of articles from other publications. This one caught my attention as it speaks to the differences between the privileged and the poor and the plight of the working poor. It's a provocative piece. You may not agree with everything or the way it is said (e.g. a few "F" bombs). However, it will make you think and that's a good thing! 

Singing To God (Psalm 95:1-5)

Savior Like A Shepherd Lead Us
Savior, like a shepherd lead us,
Much we need Thy tender care;
In Thy pleasant pastures feed us,
For our use Thy folds prepare:
Blessed Jesus, blessed Jesus,
Thou hast bought us, Thine we are;
Blessed Jesus, blessed Jesus,
Thou hast bought us, Thine we are.

We are Thine, do Thou befriend us,
Be the guardian of our way;
Keep Thy flock, from sin defend us,
Seek us when we go astray:
Blessed Jesus, blessed Jesus,
Hear, O hear us when we pray;
Blessed Jesus, blessed Jesus,
Hear, O hear us when we pray.

Bowing Before God (Psalm 95:6-7b)

Prayer of Confession
God of mercy, we humbly confess our need of your pardoning grace. We shelter arrogance and pride in our hearts and believe that our efforts are good enough to secure what only you can give us. We are quick to judge and grumble when our plans, pleasures, and preferences are threatened. We are slow to offer mercy, both inwardly and outwardly, towards those people you have placed in our lives and called us to love. Forgive our self-righteousness and our self-absorption. Fix our eyes on our savior, Jesus Christ, that we may become enraptured with Him, for it’s in his name we pray. Amen.
 
Words of Grace
[B]ut God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.
 
Romans 5:8-11

Hearing From God (Psalm 95:7c-11)

Sunday's Sermon: "Growing Up"

Sermon Text: Ephesians 4:1-16
1 I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3 eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. 7 But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift. 8 Therefore it says, “When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men.” 9 (In saying, “He ascended,” what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower regions, the earth? 10 He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he mightfill all things.) 11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. 15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.

Sermon Outline

  1. The means of growth: the ministry of the word (v. 11-12)
  2. The goal of growth: maturity (v. 13-14)
  3. The pursuit of growth: love (v. 15-16)

Sermon Summary
This week we continued our vision renewal series by looking at the third of our 4-words: Community. To do so we looked at Ephesians 4:1-16 and especially verses 11-16. Ephesians 4 marks a turning point in Paul's letter in which he transitions from expounding the good news of the gospel to laying out the new life it creates. So Paul begins in verses 1-3, "I...urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace." Even just a quick read reveals how difficult this calling is. So the obvious question arises. How can we live in a manner worthy of the grace we've received in the Gospel? Answer: Through the ministry of the word. Verse 11 lists gifts (not exhaustively; see 1 Pet. 4:10-11) Jesus has given to the church to equip the saints. For Paul the preaching, teaching and receiving of the scriptures is how the church matures and builds itself up in love. The word "equip" in verse 12 helps characterize the kind of community the scriptures create. It's a word that was used in the medical world of restoring broken limbs. As Sinclair Ferguson wrote, "A church in which the word of God is explained and applied becomes a hospital for the sick and a gymnasium to build up spiritual strength and stamina. Here the word of God does its own healing, cleansing, transforming work on our sinful and broken lives.”

If the word of God preached, taught, discussed and applied is how we grow up into Jesus Christ then what will that look like? Paul gives us two goals to describe what maturity looks like. The first goal is deep unity in the faith among fellow believers with Jesus at the center. Paul says, "until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God." Paul's point is that unity, true unity, must come from outside of ourselves, from Jesus and what he taught and did. "For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility" (Eph. 2:14). The second goal is to become more like Jesus, that is, "to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ." How do we become full of Jesus? Letting the word of Christ dwell in you richly (Col. 3:16). What's your reaction to these goals?

Thankfully Paul gives us his reaction too. Without the ministry of the word we will continue like children tossed about in a boat among the waves of popular opinion and other "gospels" (v. 14). In other words, we will be immature and unstable. But with the Word we will grow to become stable and mature and by grace able to walk in a manner worthy of the gospel through the fiercest storms.

So how should we pursue growth individually and as a community? In one word, love! Bearing with one another in love (v. 2), speaking the truth in love (v. 15), and building each other up in love (v. 16). Why all this emphasis on love for growing in grace? Listen to Paul's reflections on the absolute necessity and priority of love in the Christian life. "And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing" (1 Cor. 13:2-3). Wow...what do you do with that? How do you get that kind of love? From Jesus who is the head of the body (v. 15) and the husband we all need. "Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish" (Eph. 5:25-27). Therefore, the pursuit of growth first begins with knowing yourself loved by Jesus. For it is our common fellowship with him that makes the whole body in all its parts work properly and build itself up in love.
 

Reflection Questions

  1. What was new or compelling to you? What stood out to you from this passage?
  2. What questions does this passage raise for you?
  3. Was there anything that bothered you?
  4. What is your reaction to the priority Paul gives to the ministry of the word in the life of the church?
  5. How does this passage deconstruct the notion of maturity as independence and competence?
  6. Thought exercise: Discuss in your group what it would look like and feel like to be in a community like the one Paul describes in vs. 11-16?
  7. Why is the gospel necessary to experience true community?

Q&A: Westminster Shorter Catechism c. 1646
Q. 83. Are all transgressions of the law equally heinous?
A. Some sins in themselves, and by reason of several aggravations, are more heinous in the sight of God than others.
 
Q. 84. What does every sin deserve?
A. Every sin deserves God’s wrath and curse, both in this life, and that which is to come.

Galatians 3:10; 2:19-20

3:10 [F]or it is written,  “Cursed be everyone who does notabide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.”

2:19-20 For through the law I died to the law, so that I mightlive to God. I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

Sunday Recap Vol. 1.52

FROM THE DESK OF WILL SPOKES, SENIOR PASTOR

Welcome to the Red Mountain Sunday Recap! 

The Sunday Recap includes an assortment of items to help keep the Gospel in front of you throughout the week. Most are from the previous Sunday while a couple look ahead to next Sunday. As you read consider these questions. Did anything land with you during worship? What did it make you think? How did it make you feel? What did you find especially sweet or challenging from God's word? What did we sing, read, or pray that left an impression on you?

Food For Thought:

A proud man is always looking down on things and people; and, of course, as long as you are looking down, you cannot see something that is above you. - C.S. Lewis
 
It's all very confusing. I think I'm very honest and candid, but I'm also proud of how honest and candid I am -- so where does that put me? - David Foster Wallace
 
What is grace? In the New Testament grace means God’s love in action towards [people] who merited the opposite of love. Grace means God moving heaven and earth to save sinners who could not lift a finger to save themselves. Grace means God sending His only Son to descend into hell on the cross so that we guilty ones might be reconciled to God and received into heaven. ‘(God) hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him’" (2 Cor. 5:21). - J.I. Packer

For next Sunday:

Sermon Text: Ephesians 4:1-16

Holy, Holy, Holy - Adoration
For All The Saints - Adoration
The Church’s One Foundation - Grace
We Will Feast in the House of Zion - Response
Savior, Like a Shepherd Lead Us - Communion

Suggested Resources:
Just a quick drive through downtown Birmingham reveals a lot is going on. New construction and historic renovations are almost on every block. Not far from us on the corner of Richard Arrington and 7th Ave S is another urban dwelling construction project similar to the one adjacent to the Avon. While Birmingham is a very different city than a San Francisco or New York it will be interesting to see what good and bad effects our renewed interest in the downtown area reveals. This recent article reflects on the potential impact of new and expensive living options in city centers. 

Singing To God (Psalm 95:1-5)

O For A Thousand Tongues To Sing
Jesus! The Name that charms our fears, 
That bids our sorrows cease; 
’Tis music in the sinner’s ears, 
’Tis life, and health, and peace.

He speaks, and, listening to His voice, 
New life the dead receive, 
The mournful, broken hearts rejoice, 
The humble poor believe.

Bowing Before God (Psalm 95:6-7b)

Prayer of Confession
Merciful Father, forgive us the sins of our tongues—for deception and untruthfulness in our dealings with others; for resentment, coldness, impatience, and ill temper. Forgive us for the sins of our eyes—for impurity in our glances and imagination; for pining after more beauty, comfort, status, and wealth than you have given us. Forgive us the sins of our hearts—for hard-heartedness toward you and our neighbors; for pride, self-absorption, self-pity; and above all for rebelling against you and doubting your love. Father, remove our fear, envy and pride and melt our hearts with the good news of the Gospel. Transform us by your grace to live wholly for your glory. Take away our mourning and replace it with songs of joy, for it is in Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
 
Words of Grace
My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.
 
1 John 2:1-2

Hearing From God (Psalm 95:7c-11)

Sunday's Sermon: "Free Grace"

Sermon Text: 2 Kings 5:1-19
1 Naaman, commander of the army of the king of Syria, was a great man with his master and in high favor, because by him the LORD had given victory to Syria. He was a mighty man of valor, but he was a leper. 2 Now the Syrians on one of their raids had carried off a little girl from the land of Israel, and she worked in the service of Naaman’s wife. 3 She said to her mistress, “Would that my lord were with the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy.” 4 So Naaman went in and told his lord, “Thus and so spoke the girl from the land of Israel.” 5 And the king of Syria said, “Go now, and I will send a letter to the king of Israel.”
 
So he went, taking with him ten talents of silver, six thousand shekels of gold, and ten changes of clothing. 6 And he brought the letter to the king of Israel, which read, “When this letter reaches you, know that I have sent to you Naaman my servant, that you may cure him of his leprosy.” 7 And when the king of Israel read the letter, he tore his clothes and said, “Am I God, to kill and to make alive, that this man sends word to me to cure a man of his leprosy? Only consider, and see how he is seeking a quarrel with me.”
 
8 But when Elisha the man of God heard that the king of Israel had torn his clothes, he sent to the king, saying, “Why have you torn your clothes? Let him come now to me, that he may know that there is a prophet in Israel.” 9 So Naaman came with his horses and chariots and stood at the door of Elisha’s house. 10 And Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, “Go and wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored, and you shall be clean.”11 But Naaman was angry and went away, saying, “Behold, I thought that he would surely come out to me and stand and call upon the name of the LORD his God, and wave his hand over the place and cure the leper. 12 Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them and be clean?” So he turned and went away in a rage. 13 But his servants came near and said to him, “My father, it is a great word the prophet has spoken to you; will you not do it? Has he actually said to you, ‘Wash, and be clean’?” 14 So he went down and dipped himself seven times in the Jordan, according to the word of the man of God, and his flesh was restored like the flesh of a little child, and he was clean.
 
15 Then he returned to the man of God, he and all his company, and he came and stood before him. And he said, “Behold, I know that there is no God in all the earth but in Israel; so accept now a present from your servant.” 16 But he said, “As the LORD lives, before whom I stand, I will receive none.” And he urged him to take it, but he refused. 17 Then Naaman said, “If not, please let there be given to your servant two mule loads of earth, for from now on your servant will not offer burnt offering or sacrifice to any god but the LORD. 18 In this matter may the LORD pardon your servant: when my master goes into the house of Rimmon to worship there, leaning on my arm, and I bow myself in the house of Rimmon, when I bow myself in the house of Rimmon, the LORD pardon your servant in this matter.” 19 He said to him, “Go in peace.”

Sermon Outline

  1. The reach of grace...who it's for (v. 1-2, 14-15)
  2. The offense of grace...why we need it (v. 9-12)
  3. The power of grace...how it works (v. 14-19)

Sermon Summary
This week we continued our vision renewal series by looking at the second of our 4-words: Grace. To do so we looked at the story of Naaman, the leper, from 2 Kings 5. It's a story that teaches us at least three things about God's grace and the new life it brings ultimately in Jesus Christ. In this passage we see the reach of God's grace, the offense of God's grace, and the power of God's grace.

We see first the reach of God's grace in recognizing who Naaman was. Naaman was not an Israelite. He was a Syrian, an accomplished, heralded warrior who had overseen numerous raids against God's people. He was also a leper. In other words, Naaman was an enemy of God's people who was also cut off from God because of his skin disease (Lev. 14). And yet by the end of the story Naaman confesses his love and loyalty to the God of Israel (v. 15). The point: God's grace is freely given to anyone whom he chooses to give it (Eph. 2:8-9). It was this truth that most outraged Jesus' contemporaries when he mentioned the story of Naaman (Lk. 4:27-28). The story of Naaman teaches us that God's grace reaches even to his enemies. In fact the story of Naaman is a retelling of the entire biblical story beginning with Abraham all the way through to the earliest days of the church. God called Abraham and promised to make him into a great nation not to tyrannize but to bless the nations of the whole world (Gen. 12:3). On the day of Pentecost while preaching, Peter says, "the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself" (Acts 2:39).

In fact it is the reach of God's grace that is most offensive to us. On the one hand it offends our pride because it says we aren't good enough on our own merits. On the other hand it offends our pride because it levels the playing field for everyone...all have sinned and fall short (Rom. 3:23). Grace takes away any reason we might conjure for looking down on other people as unworthy of God's grace...even our hated enemies. For Naaman he took offense at that fact that Elisha didn't heal him in a way he thought was befitting to his stature and wealth (v. 8-10). As a result, Naaman went away angry (v. 11-12). Why was Naaman so angry? Because he was stuck. Elisha's response to Naaman brought to the surface what Naaman didn't want to admit...and we don't either...the very best about you can't clean up the very worst about you. When you relate to God based on your best it necessarily becomes your worst. Not only that, when we come to God with our best we will miss the new life he promises and we need. The one thing Naaman needed was nothing and it wasn't until his servants pointed him back to Elisha's words did his anger relent and the path to new life begin (v. 13-14).

The offense of God's grace is a necessary part of experiencing the power of God's grace in our lives. It means you are probably paying attention and beginning to see how radical and free God's unmerited favor really is. We see God's grace do several things in this story. It brings Naaman new spiritual life. He is remade physically and spiritually. He isn't just healed of leprosy. His skin is restored like that of a little child. Remember what Jesus said? "Truly, I say to you, whoever does notreceive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it." (Mk. 10:15) Naaman through his "baptism" was reborn, made like a little child (Jn. 3:3). God's grace in Naaman's life also transformed his heart, the motivational center of his life. Grace taught him who was the one true God and to whom he must give his life no matter where he was or what he was doing (v. 15-19). However, the most profound truth about grace in this story is how grace came to Naaman. It came through the servant girl from Israel (v. 2). In other words, it came through costly love and forgiveness. The little girl had lost her home, her family, her freedom. All that she knew and held dear had been taken from her. She had been carried off to a land she didn't know, to live among people she didn't know, and to serve in the very home of the man most responsible for the pain and sorrow in her life. YET, she wants to see Naaman healed (v. 3). This is a picture of the gospel. However, Jesus wasn't taken from his home. He freely left his home out of love for his enemies. He wasn't taken from his family and friends. He was rejected by his family and friends, even his Heavenly Father for his enemies. "But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved byhis life" (Rom. 5:8,10). Do you see the power and resources available to us through the free grace of God for practicing service, generosity and peace-making? At the very heart of Christianity is a man who died for his enemies, praying for their forgiveness. Reflecting on this grace can only lead to a radically different way of relating to people very different than us, even our enemies.

This is the good news about grace: it's reach, it's offense, and it's power! Do you know this grace today?

Reflection Questions

  1. What was new or compelling to you? What stood out to you from this passage?
  2. What questions does this passage raise for you?
  3. Was there anything that bothered you?
  4. If you had to define what Grace is what would you say?
  5. What do you find most offensive about Grace? What do think non-Christians might find most offensive about Grace?
  6. What do you need to look for in your life to see the power of Grace at work?

Q&A: Westminster Shorter Catechism c. 1646
Q. 82. Is any man able perfectly to keep the commandments of God?
A. No mere man since the fall is able in this life perfectly to keep the commandments of God, but does daily break them in thought, word, and deed.

Romans 8:3-4 

For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh andfor sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

Sunday Recap Vol. 1.51

FROM THE DESK OF WILL SPOKES, SENIOR PASTOR

Welcome to the Red Mountain Sunday Recap! 

The Sunday Recap includes an assortment of items to help keep the Gospel in front of you throughout the week. Most are from the previous Sunday while a couple look ahead to next Sunday. As you read consider these questions. Did anything land with you during worship? What did it make you think? How did it make you feel? What did you find especially sweet or challenging from God's word? What did we sing, read, or pray that left an impression on you?

Food For Thought:

Every call to worship is a call into the Real World.... I encounter such constant and widespread lying about reality each day and meet with such skilled and systematic distortion of the truth that I'm always in danger of losing my grip on reality. The reality, of course, is that God is sovereign and Christ is savior. The reality is that prayer is my mother tongue and the eucharist my basic food. The reality is that baptism, not Myers-Briggs, defines who I am. – Eugene Peterson

For next Sunday:

Sermon Text: 2 Kings 5:1-14

O for a Thousand Tongues to Sing - Adoration
King of Saints - Adoration
Rock of Ages, Cleft for Me - Grace
Streams of Living Water Flow - Response
Fountain of Grace - Communion
 

Suggested Resources:
I have two articles to share with you this week. The first you may have seen already but is worth a look if you haven't. This article details the 50 most segregating school borders in America and where Birmingham fits into that overall picture.

The second article is a blog post about parenting...especially when faced with how others may view your child and you as a parent. It asks some penetrating questions all with a view to helping you turn again to Jesus in faith for help and grace.

Sunday Recap Vol. 1.50

FROM THE DESK OF WILL SPOKES, SENIOR PASTOR

Welcome to the Red Mountain Sunday Recap! 

The Sunday Recap includes an assortment of items to help keep the Gospel in front of you throughout the week. Most are from the previous Sunday while a couple look ahead to next Sunday. As you read consider these questions. Did anything land with you during worship? What did it make you think? How did it make you feel? What did you find especially sweet or challenging from God's word? What did we sing, read, or pray that left an impression on you?

Rev. Alton Hardy, Pastor Urban Hope Community Church in Fairfield, AL 

This past Sunday our friend Alton Hardy preached on Galatians 2:1-10 especially verse 10: "Only, they asked us to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do." In addition to preaching the gospel of free grace as the only true motivator for loving the poor, Alton told us a little bit about the church he is planting in Fairfield. Urban Hope is a PCA church plant of Evangel Presbytery of which we are a member congregation. Some really beautiful things are happening in Fairfield through Urban Hope. If you would like to learn more visit their website. RMC has committed to financially support Urban Hope as part of our missions budget. But if you would like to give directly to Urban Hope you may do so here. Please pray that God would build a lasting relationship between Urban Hope and RMC for his glory and the good of our city.

Food For Thought:

My experience as a pastor has been that those who are middle-class in spirit tend to be indifferent to the poor, but people who come to grasp the gospel of grace and become spiritually poor find their hearts gravitating toward the materially poor. To the degree that the gospel shapes your self-image, you will identify with those in need…. In other words, when Christians who understand the gospel see a poor person, they realize they are looking into a mirror. Their hearts must go out to him or her without an ounce of superiority or indifference. – Tim Keller

Songs for this week:
Praise to the Lord - Adoration
Come, Christians Join to Sing - Adoration
Let Us Love and Sing and Wonder - Grace
My Jesus Has Done All Things Well - Response
Thy Mercy, My God - Communion

Sermon passage for this week: Psalm 95

Suggested Resources:
Bassey Etim writes a first person account of his experience growing up in Milwaukee, WI and the racial divide that characterizes the daily life and culture of that city. In light of Alton's comments Sunday evening, this seemed to me to be a very poignant piece. In a related article, the authors tackle the issue that segregation in American cities can't be explained by income alone. "Affluent black families, freed from the restrictions of low income, often end up living in poor and segregated communities anyway. It is a national phenomenon challenging the popular assumption that segregation is more about class than about race, that when black families earn more money, some ideal of post-racial integration will inevitably be reached....The [reality]: Nationally, black and white families of similar incomes still live in separate worlds."

Confession of Sin:

Prayer of Confession
Loving and gracious Father, the more we delve into the depths of our sin, the uglier and more heinous it becomes. If we promise to do better, we lie. If we try to clean ourselves up, we are frauds. If we give because we feel guilty, we are schemers. If we serve to feel good about ourselves, we are self-righteous. If we pray only to get what we want, we are self-serving. If we read your Word so you will be pleased with us, we are manipulators. The selfish motivations of even our best actions condemn us. They are un-holy, un-pleasing, and un-like the One in whose image we are created. Please forgive us and help us to look only to the life-saving, life-changing, life-giving power of your grace and mercy through Your Son Jesus Christ, in whose name we pray. Amen.
 
Words of Grace
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace.
 
Ephesians 1:3-7

Confession of Faith: The Children’s Catechism Questions 105-108

Q. 105. What is the tenth commandment?
A. The tenth commandment is “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor’s.”
 
Q. 106. What does the tenth commandment teach you?
A. To be content with whatever God chooses to give me.
 
Q. 107. Can you keep the Ten Commandments perfectly?
A. No. Since the fall of Adam, the only One who has been able to do this is Jesus.
 
Q. 108. Of what use are the Ten Commandments to you?
A. They teach me what is pleasing to God, and how much I need a savior.

Listen To This Week's Sermon: "Remember The Poor"

Sermon Text: Galatians 2:1-10
1 Then after fourteen years I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, taking Titus along with me. 2 I went up because of a revelation and set before them (though privately before those who seemed influential) the gospel that I proclaim among the Gentiles, in order to make sure I was not running or had not run in vain. 3 But even Titus, who was with me, was not forced to be circumcised, though he was a Greek. 4 Yet because of false brothers secretly brought in—who slipped in to spy out our freedom that we have in Christ Jesus, so that they might bring us into slavery— 5 to them we did not yield in submission even for a moment, so thatthe truth of the gospel might be preserved for you. 6 And from those who seemed to be influential (what they were makes no difference to me; God shows no partiality)—those, I say, who seemed influential added nothing to me. 7 On the contrary, when they saw that I had beenentrusted with the gospel to the uncircumcised, just as Peter had been entrusted with the gospel to the circumcised 8 (for he who worked through Peter for his apostolic ministry to the circumcised worked also through me for mine to the Gentiles), 9 and when James and Cephas and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given to me, they gave the right hand of fellowship to Barnabas and me, that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised. 10 Only, they asked us to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do.

Sermon Outline

  1. Setting the stage
  2. The one thing to remember (v. 10)
  3. The only motivation for loving the poor (2 Cor. 8:9)

Reflection Questions

  1. What was new or compelling to you? What stood out to you from this passage?
  2. What questions does this passage raise for you?
  3. Was there anything that bothered you?
  4. Given the context of Gal. 2:1-10 how significant or central is the request of the Apostles in v. 10?
  5. How does v. 10 make you feel?
  6. What did Paul understand about the gospel you need help to understand and believe? (2 Cor. 8:9)

Sunday Recap Vol. 1.49

FROM THE DESK OF WILL SPOKES, SENIOR PASTOR

Welcome to the Red Mountain Sunday Recap! 

The Sunday Recap is a brief fly-by of what we did during Sunday worship. Did anything land with you from worship on Sunday? What did it make you think? How did it make you feel? What did you find especially sweet or challenging from God's word? What did we sing, read, or pray that left an impression on you?

Food For Thought:

And can it be that I should gain
An interest in the Savior's blood?
Died He for me who caused His pain!
For me who Him to death pursued?
Amazing love! How can it be That
Thou, my God, should die for me?
 
No condemnation now I dread;
Jesus, and all in Him, is mine;
Alive in Him, my living Head,
And clothed in righteousness divine,
Bold I approach the eternal throne,
And claim the crown, through Christ my own.
 
And Can It Be, verses 1 & 4

Confession of Sin:

Prayer of Confession
Heavenly Father, we confess that our glory has been our own comfort, rather than your Son's cross; that we have craved the fellowship of those already like us, rather than the fellowship of Christ's sufferings; that we have worked to save our own lives, rather than lose our lives for Christ’s sake and the gospel. Have mercy on us, Father, and grant us the gift of gospel repentance. Cleanse us by the finished work of your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, and restore to us the joy of your salvation. Amen.
 
Words of Grace
If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.
 
My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.
 
1 John 1:8-2:2

Confession of Faith: The Children’s Catechism Questions 101-104

Q. 101. What is the eighth commandment?
A. The eighth commandment is “You shall not steal.”
 
Q. 102. What does the eighth commandment teach you?
A. Not to take anything that belongs to someone else.
 
Q. 103. What is the ninth commandment?
A. The ninth commandment is “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.”
 
Q. 104. What does the ninth commandment teach you?
A. Never to lie, but to tell the truth at all times.

Listen To This Week's Sermon: "The Empty Tomb"

Sermon Text: Mark 15:40-16:8
15:40 There were also women looking on from a distance, among whom were Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joses, and Salome. 41 When he was in Galilee, they followed him and ministered to him, and there were also many other women who came up with him to Jerusalem.
 
42 And when evening had come, since it was the day of Preparation, that is, the day before the Sabbath, 43 Joseph of Arimathea, a respected member of the council, who was also himself looking for the kingdom of God, took courage and went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. 44 Pilate was surprised to hear that he should have already died. And summoning the centurion, he asked him whether he was already dead. 45 And when he learned from the centurion that he was dead, he granted the corpse to Joseph. 46 And Joseph bought a linen shroud, and taking him down, wrapped him in the linen shroud and laid him in a tomb that had been cut out of the rock. And he rolled a stone against the entrance of the tomb. 47 Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses saw where he was laid.
 
16:1 When the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. 2 And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. 3 And they were saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb?” 4 And looking up, they saw that the stone had been rolled back— it was very large. 5 And entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, dressed in a white robe, and they were alarmed. 6 And he said to them, “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here. See the place where they laid him. 7 But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.” 8 And they went out and fled from the tomb, for trembling and astonishment had seized them, and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.

Sermon Outline

  1. An authentic witness (15:40-41, 47; 16:1)
  2. The courage to stand with Jesus (15:42-46)
  3. The meaning of the resurrection (15:6-7)

Sermon Summary

Compared to the other gospels, Mark's gospel ends abruptly with the fearful response of the women after witnessing the empty tomb. Why does Mark end his gospel this way? When we look at the book as a whole a clear answer emerges. Throughout the gospel story when men and women are faced with the power of God they don't know how to react (e.g. 4:41; 5:15, 33, 36; 6:50; 9:32). For example, take Peter in Mark 9 when Jesus was transfigured before him and suggests building three tents: one for Jesus, one for Moses, and one for Elijah. "For he did not know what to say, for they were terrified (9:6)."

For many people doubt and disbelief in Christianity is thought to be a modern problem. A problem that educated, scientific people have but not more primitive, ancient cultures like the people you read about in the bible. While it is no doubt true that many modern people have trouble believing what the bible says, so too do the people we read about in scripture. Mark ends his gospel the way he does to show us that no one expected Jesus to rise again from the dead. In other words, the resurrection was as hard to believe for Jesus' followers as it is for many today.

So then what does Mark give us in this closing section that can move us from fear and doubt to faith and joy in Jesus Christ?

The first thing Mark gives us is evidence for an authentic witness, a reliable account of what happened. Notice three times (15:40-41, 47; 16:1) Mark mentions three women who witnessed Jesus' death, burial and empty tomb. Also notice all Jesus' male disciples have fled. They are nowhere to be found. The mention of three of these women by name means they were known by Mark's readers. They could go and ask these women what happened and what they saw. It's a way for Mark to cite a source for his information, like a footnote. However, there is a problem. In ancient cultures a woman's testimony wasn't allowed in court. Women were marginalized and not seen as reliable witnesses. So then why does Mark include them as the witnesses to the most significant events of Jesus' life? If you were trying to write an account to convince people of its veracity this isn't how you would do it. The only plausible explanation is that Mark isn't making this story up. He didn't feel at liberty to change what happened even if it would make it more "plausible" to his contemporaries. No, what we have here is an authentic account of what really happened and in a way consistent with the way God works: God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. (1 Cor. 1:28-29)

However, to begin to believe the story of the gospel means you will never be the same again. The story of Joseph of Arimathea illustrates for us the change that takes place when faith lays hold of Jesus. Joseph was a prominent member of the Sanhedrin, the most powerful religious body in Judaism, which condemned Jesus to death for blasphemy. However, we learn from John 19:38 that Joseph was a follower of Jesus, though secretly out of fear. But the time had come in Joseph's life when his love for Jesus displaced his power and prestige and even his political safety. He "took courage and went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus" (15:43). Think about it. Jesus was dead. He had been condemned for blasphemy by the religious leaders. He had been condemned for treason by the political leaders. Joseph had nothing to gain and everything to lose by identifying with Jesus and his cause by asking for his body. But that's precisely what the gospel does. It replaces what you most love, even really good things with a courageous, bold, fearless love for Jesus. You may have power and money and prestige but they are no longer who you are, the proof you matter. Joseph comes as a challenge to each one of us as Mark's gospel comes to a close. Where do you stand with Jesus? Who do you say that he is? Are you fearful and timid because you are building your life on something other than Jesus and you don't want to lose it. Or are you experiencing the freedom and courage that comes with throwing your whole life in with Jesus?

What's your reaction to Joseph? What did he understand that we need to understand if we are to move from fear and doubt to faith and joy? We need to understand the meaning of the resurrection. Jesus' resurrection means a new beginning, the old has passed away and the new has come. Death and sin have been vanquished in and through the death and resurrection of Jesus. Mark takes great pains to show Jesus really did die bodily and that he rose again bodily (15:44-45; 16:6). In other words, the resurrection is the beginning of the end. It is our assurance, that one day God will make all things new, even our very bodies (Rom. 8:18-25). The resurrection also means grace for failures. Jesus had promised that after he was raised up he would go before his disciples into Galilee (14:28). Here in verse 7, the young man in the tomb reiterates the same and specifically mentions Peter, who denied Jesus three times. Despite the fact that Jesus' disciples didn't keep there word (14:26-31), he kept his. He has come to forgive and restore! This reminds us again you are not saved by what you do. You are saved by what Jesus has done! Last the resurrection means there is hope for better things yet to come. Perhaps you feel like a failure, a traitor and you wonder if God could ever accept you. Notice what hope verse 7 holds out. You will see him again! This is the good news and the promise Jesus holds out to all who trust in him. Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. (1 John 3:2)

Reflection Questions

  1. What was new or compelling to you? What stood out to you from this passage?
  2. What questions does this passage raise for you?
  3. Was there anything that bothered you?
  4. What stands out to you most about the ending of Mark's gospel and the role of the women?
  5. What is your reaction to Joseph and his courage?
  6. What do you most need to hear and believe from vs. 6-7 and why?

Suggested Resources:
This is the 52nd Sunday Recap. Hard to believe I've been sending these for a whole year. In light of that fact, I would love to hear your thoughts on theSunday Recap. Here are some questions. Feel free to write back with any thoughts.

1. What have you liked about the recap?
2. How could I make it better or more useful to you?
3. How do you use the recap in your daily life?
4. Should I continue sending these out each week? (I don't want to add one more thing to your inbox.)

Songs for this week:
How Firm a Foundation
Psalm 130 (From the Depths of Woe)
O the Deep, Deep Love of Jesus
Come, Ye Souls by Sin Afflicted
Jesus, Lover of My Soul

Sermon passage for this week: Galatians 2:1-10

Until next time,

Will

Sunday Recap Vol. 1.48

FROM THE DESK OF WILL SPOKES, SENIOR PASTOR

Abide With Me

Verse 1

Abide with me; falls the eventide; 
The darkness deepens; Lord with me abide. 
When other helpers, fail and comforts flee, 
Help of the helpless, abide with me.

Welcome to the Red Mountain Sunday Recap! 

The Sunday Recap is a brief fly-by of what we did during Sunday worship. Did anything land with you from worship on Sunday? What did it make you think? How did it make you feel? What did you find especially sweet or challenging from God's word? What did we sing, read, or pray that left an impression on you?

Food For Thought:

Most of Scripture speaks to us; the Psalms speak for us. – Athanasius
 
After any sleep, there is cause for gratitude and trust; the moments of unconsciousness have ended and life resumes, only because God is the perpetual Sustainer. – Peter Craigie

Confession of Sin:

Prayer of Confession
Gracious God, we confess that we daily sin against you and our neighbors in our thoughts, in our words, and in our actions. Our sins are too heavy to carry, too real to hide, and too deep to undo. Forgive what our lips tremble to name, what our hearts can no longer bear, and what has become for us a consuming fire of judgment.  Set us free from a past that we cannot change; open to us a future in which we can be changed; and grant us grace to grow more and more into the likeness of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, in whose name we pray. Amen.
 
Words of Grace
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.
 
Romans 8:1-4

Confession of Faith: The Children’s Catechism Question 90-94

Q. 90. What is the fourth commandment?
A. The fourth commandment is “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.”
 
Q. 91. What does the fourth commandment teach you?
A. To work six days and keep the Sabbath day holy.
 
Q. 92. What day of the week is the Christian Sabbath?
A. The first day of the week, called the Lord’s day.
 
Q. 93. Why is it called the Lord’s Day?
A. Because on that day the Lord Jesus Christ rose from the dead.
 
Q. 94. How should you keep the Lord’s Day?
A. I should rest from my daily work and faithfully worship God.

Guest Preacher: Dave Driskill

This week we had Dave Driskill. Dave is an Assistant Pastor at Covenant Presbyterian Church in Homewood. Below you will find a link to his sermon and the passage from which he preached.

Listen To This Week's Sermon: "A Shield About Me"

Sermon Text: Psalm 3
A PSALM OF DAVID, WHEN HE FLED FROM ABSALOM HIS SON.
 
1           O LORD, how many are my foes!
                        Many are rising against me;
2           many are saying of my soul,
                         there is no salvation for him in God. Selah
 
3           But you, O LORD, are a shield about me,
                        my glory, and the lifter of my head.
4           I cried aloud to the LORD,
                        and he answered me from his holy hill. Selah
 
5           I lay down and slept;
                        I woke again, for the LORD sustained me.
6           I will not be afraid of many thousands of people
                        who have set themselves against me all around.
 
7           Arise, O LORD!
                        Save me, O my God!
             For you strike all my enemies on the cheek;
                        you break the teeth of the wicked.
 
8           Salvation belongs to the LORD;
                        your blessing be on your people! Selah

Reflection Questions

  1. What was new or compelling to you? What stood out to you from this passage?
  2. What questions does this passage raise for you?
  3. Was there anything that bothered you?
  4. How does this Psalm help you battle fear?
  5. How does the Gospel deepen our understanding of what it means to have the Lord as "a shield about me?"

Songs for this week:
Alleluia! Sing to Jesus!
Jesus, I Come
Jesus! What a Friend for Sinners
Nothing but the Blood
There’s a Wideness in God’s Mercy

Sermon passage for this week: 1 John 1:5-10

Until next time,

Will

Abide With Me

Verse 5

Hold Thou Thy cross, before my closing eyes; 
Shine through the gloom, and point me to the skies. 
Heaven's morning breaks, and earth's vain shadows flee; 
In life, in death, Lord, abide with me.

Sunday Recap Vol. 1.47

FROM THE DESK OF WILL SPOKES, SENIOR PASTOR

Hallelujah! What A Savior!

Verse 1

Man of Sorrows! What a name
For the Son of God, Who came
Ruined sinners to reclaim. 
Hallelujah! What a Savior! 
Hallelujah! What a Savior!

Welcome to the Red Mountain Sunday Recap! 

The Sunday Recap is a brief fly-by of what we did during Sunday worship. Did anything land with you from worship on Sunday? What did it make you think? How did it make you feel? What did you find especially sweet or challenging from God's word? What did we sing, read, or pray that left an impression on you?

Food For Thought:

I have known numerous persons who have been ‘looking for themselves’ for a lifetime without success…. In reflecting on my own life, I observed that those times when I have seemed most in touch with myself, when my self-identity has been most secure, have been those times when I was known by another—not by myself—and was accepted by that other. I then recalled someone [saying], ‘those who give their lives in search of happiness will find many things, but never happiness.’ Could it be that the issue of self-discovery is analogous? I believe it is. My assumption now is that one’s search for self ultimately is fruitless because it seeks to find that which can only be given by another. In short, we may seek self-identity and hope to find ourselves, but the hoped for result never occurs through our own efforts. We seek ourselves, but are finally found! One’s identity is the gift of another’s love. (Eugene Lowry)

Confession of Sin:

Prayer of Confession
We confess, our Father, that we do not live up to the family name. We are more ready to resent than to forgive, more ready to manipulate than to serve, more ready to fear than to love, more ready to keep our distance than to welcome, more ready to compete than to help. At the root of this behavior is mistrust and self-love. We do not love one another as we should, because we do not believe that you love us as you do. Forgive us our cold unbelief. And make more vivid to us the gift and power of your love at the cross. Show us what it cost you to give up your Son that we might become your sons and daughters. We ask this in the name of Jesus, our only righteousness.  Amen.
 
Words of Grace
Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.
 
1 John 3:2-3

Confession of Faith: The Children’s Catechism Question 88-89

Q. 88. What is the third commandment?
A. The third commandment is “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain.
 
Q. 89. What does the third commandment teach you?
A. To treat God’s name, word and works with reverence.

Listen To This Week's Sermon: "The Rejected King"

Sermon Text: Mark 14:43-15:15
43 And immediately, while he was still speaking, Judas came, one of the twelve, and with him a crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests and the scribes and the elders. 44 Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, “The one I will kiss is the man. Seize him and lead him away under guard.” 45And when he came, he went up to him at once and said, “Rabbi!” And he kissed him. 46 And they laid hands on him and seized him. 47 But one of those who stood by drew his sword and struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his ear. 48 And Jesus said to them, “Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs to capture me? 49 Day after day I was with you in the temple teaching, and you did not seize me. But let the Scriptures be fulfilled.” 50 And they all left him and fled.
 
51 And a young man followed him, with nothing but a linen cloth about his body. And they seized him, 52 but he left the linen cloth and ran away naked.
 
53 And they led Jesus to the high priest. And all the chief priests and the elders and the scribes came together. 54 And Peter had followed him at a distance, right into the courtyard of the high priest. And he was sitting with the guards and warming himself at the fire. 55 Now the chief priests and the whole council were seeking testimony against Jesus to put him to death, but they found none. 56For many bore false witness against him, but their testimony did not agree. 57And some stood up and bore false witness against him, saying, 58 “We heard him say, ‘I will destroy this temple that is made with hands, and in three days I will build another, not made with hands.’” 59 Yet even about this their testimony did not agree.  60 And the high priest stood up in the midst and asked Jesus, “Have you no answer to make? What is it that these men testify against you?”61 But he remained silent and made no answer. Again the high priest asked him, “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?” 62 And Jesus said, “I am, and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.” 63 And the high priest tore his garments and said, “What further witnesses do we need? 64 You have heard his blasphemy. What is your decision?” And they all condemned him as deserving death. 65 And some began to spit on him and to cover his face and to strike him, saying to him, “Prophesy!” And the guards received him with blows.
 
66 And as Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the servant girls of the high priest came, 67 and seeing Peter warming himself, she looked at him and said, “You also were with the Nazarene, Jesus.” 68 But he denied it, saying, “I neither know nor understand what you mean.” And he went out into the gateway and the rooster crowed. 69 And the servant girl saw him and began again to say to the bystanders, “This man is one of them.” 70 But again he denied it. And after a little while the bystanders again said to Peter, “Certainly you are one of them, for you are a Galilean.” 71 But he began to invoke a curse on himself and to swear, “I do not know this man of whom you speak.”  72 And immediately the rooster crowed a second time. And Peter remembered how Jesus had said to him, “Before the rooster crows twice, you will deny me three times.” And he broke down and wept.
 
15:1 And as soon as it was morning, the chief priests held a consultation with the elders and scribes and the whole council. And they bound Jesus and led him away and delivered him over to Pilate. 2 And Pilate asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” And he answered him, “You have said so.” 3 And the chief priests accused him of many things. 4 And Pilate again asked him, “Have you no answer to make? See how many charges they bring against you.” 5 But Jesus made no further answer, so that Pilate was amazed.
 
6 Now at the feast he used to release for them one prisoner for whom they asked. 7 And among the rebels in prison, who had committed murder in the insurrection, there was a man called Barabbas. 8 And the crowd came up and began to ask Pilate to do as he usually did for them. 9 And he answered them, saying, “Do you want me to release for you the King of the Jews?” 10 For he perceived that it was out of envy that the chief priests had delivered him up. 11But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have him release for them Barabbas instead. 12 And Pilate again said to them, “Then what shall I do with the man you call the King of the Jews?” 13 And they cried out again, “Crucify him.” 14 And Pilate said to them, “Why, what evil has he done?” But they shouted all the more, “Crucify him.” 15 So Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released for them Barabbas, and having scourged Jesus, he delivered him to be crucified.

Sermon Outline

  1. The ugliness of sin (14:11; 14:55 & 15:10; 14:72; 15:11,13; 15:15)
  2. The faithfulness of Jesus (14:49, 61-64; 15:5)
  3. The gift of grace (14:72; 15:6-13; Eph. 2:8)

Sermon Summary

Jesus had predicted his suffering and death three times earlier in Mark's gospel (8:31; 9:31; 10:33-34). Now we come to the actual events that culminate in his crucifixion: the betrayal and arrest of Jesus. Everyone in this passage, in one way or another, rejects Jesus. Judas rejects Jesus out of greed. The religious leaders reject Jesus out of envy. Peter rejects Jesus out of cowardice. The crowd rejects Jesus out of love for human opinion. Pilate rejects Jesus out ofambition. While not exhaustive, this passage paints a comprehensive picture of the ugliness of the human heart and the sin resident therein. But it also reveals precisely what Jesus came to do. Jesus willingly absorbs our sin so that, through faith in him, we might become the righteousness of God.

In order for us to apply this passage to our lives it's important to let scripture define and deepen our understanding of sin. While we see many flavors or facets of sin in this passage there is a common thread that runs throughout in the word translated to betray, or to handover. Judas handed over Jesus to the priests (14:11); the priests handed over Jesus to Pilate (15:1); and Pilate handed over Jesus to the soldiers to be crucified (15:15). Therefore, the essence of sin, in whatever form, is to hand Jesus over, to betray Jesus, to sacrifice Jesus for something we love and treasure more than him. It is a culpable and personal affront to a personal God.

However, as ugly and devastating as sin is it stands it stark contrast to the faithfulness of Jesus. Anyone looking in on these events would no doubt conclude the wheels are coming off. Everything Jesus said and did was all for naught. But that's not how Jesus sees it. The betrayal, the kangaroo court, and the political maneuvering are for Jesus how the scriptures will be fulfilled (14:49). Jesus yielded to his Father's will by seeking to fulfill the great story of redemption through his suffering. He remains faithful in two key ways. He makes a true confession despite the efforts of religious leaders to falsely accuse and kill him (14:61-64). Second he does not defend himself but instead continued to entrust himself to him who judges justly (14:61; 15:5; 1 Pet. 2:23). In other words, Jesus came to do for us what we can't and wouldn't do. He obeys his Father's word no matter the cost. He owns his true identity and mission no matter the cost. He does not seek revenge but faithfully endures suffering for the joy set before him (Heb. 12:2).

In other words, the faithfulness of Jesus becomes to us the gift of grace for all who trust in him. How do you know if the gift of Jesus' faithfulness has broken into your life? It begins with true spiritual conviction for sin. Consider Peter (14:72). Peter thought he had what it took to remain faithful even if he would have to die with Jesus (14:29-31). But alas, he was sorely mistaken. He did not see how spiritually needy and self-absorbed he really was. Have you ever been cut to the heart by the gospel of grace? Have you come to see your absolute spiritual poverty? However, as necessary as a true conviction for sin is to saving faith in Jesus, it is not based on that. The gift of grace is based on an exchange. Here in story form we see the very heart of the gospel. Jesus trades places with a murderer and insurrectionist. Jesus takes the place of the condemned and the condemned and guilty goes free. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God (2 Cor. 5:21). What should you do in light of the ugliness of sin in your own heart and Jesus' willingness to trade places with you? Receive the gift of grace by faith. To have faith in Jesus means, the quality of your life is no longer the measure of your worth. Now the measure of your worth is the quality and beauty of Jesus' life received by faith. This marks the end of the toilsome, endless need to prove yourself or to get others to approve of you. Faith means letting go of all your attempts to justify yourself, to establish your worthiness. Faith means accepting the righteousness of God, Jesus the beloved Son in whom the Father delights. Faith means accepting the gift of another's love, despite the fact you don't deserve it. Have you been found out by this gift? Do you know the comfort and assurance and hope found in Jesus willingly absorbing your sin, so that through faith in him, you might become the righteousness of God?

Reflection Questions

  1. What was new or compelling to you? What stood out to you from this passage?
  2. What questions does this passage raise for you?
  3. Was there anything that bothered you?
  4. What impresses you most about Jesus in this passage?
  5. Which aspect of sin, of "handing Jesus over," pierces you the most?
  6. How does the exchange of Barabas for Jesus reveal the gift of grace you must receive by faith? 

Suggested Resources:
For those of you wrestling with the question, "how do I live a life of faith in Christ as an active participant in the culture in which I live?" Or to put the question in more personal terms. "How do I live a life of faith and integrity as a neighbor to anyone regardless of their beliefs or practices?" I don't think there is a silver bullet for these kinds of questions. They take wisdom, humility and confidence that only the gospel of free grace can bring. At the same time one way we grow in these things (wisdom, humility and confidence) is trying to make sense of the opportunities and complexities before us. If you are looking for a clear and helpful book to orient you to the relationship between the gospel and culture let me suggest to you this book by D.A. Carson.

Songs for this week:
Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing
For All the Saints
Amazing Grace
Abide With Me
Jesus is Our Great Salvation

Sermon passage for this week: Psalm 3

Until next time,

Will

Hallelujah! What A Savior!

Verse 2
Bearing shame and scoffing rude, 
In my place condemned He stood; 
Sealed my pardon with His blood. 
Hallelujah! What a Savior! 
Hallelujah! What a Savior!

Sunday Recap Vol. 1.46

FROM THE DESK OF WILL SPOKES, SENIOR PASTOR

The King of Love My Shepherd Is

Verse 1

The King of Love my Shepherd is, 
Whose goodness faileth never; 
I nothing lack if I am His
And He is mine forever.

Welcome to the Red Mountain Sunday Recap! 

The Sunday Recap is a brief fly-by of what we did during Sunday worship. Did anything land with you from worship on Sunday? What did it make you think? How did it make you feel? What did you find especially sweet or challenging from God's word? What did we sing, read, or pray that left an impression on you?

Food For Thought:

Jesus was about to be exposed to the one thing in life he really feared…the indescribable experience of feeling himself to be God-forsaken. He felt he could not live—indeed, that life was not worth living—without the consciousness of his Father’s love for him. Yet the fact that he entered that darkness and experienced such grief is the source of all our comfort. It assures us that he understands our darkest hours. But more, it means that he has drawn the sting from our darkest hour for he has entered our God-forsaken condition so that we might share his God-accepted relationship to the Father! – Sinclair Ferguson

Confession of Sin:

Prayer of Confession
Father in heaven, we need to be forgiven. We have tried to work off our guilt and shame; to pile up good deeds that outweigh our sins. We have tried to change through our own efforts. When this doesn’t work, we turn to denial and distraction, leaving some of us arrogant and the rest of us anxious and depressed. Forgive us for thinking we could save ourselves rather than resting in the merits of Jesus Christ. Forgive us for our pride. Forgive us and heal us, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.
 
Words of Grace
For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.
 
1 Peter 2:21-24

Confession of Faith: The Children’s Catechism Question 84-87

Q. 84. What is the first commandment?
A. The first commandment is “You shall have no other gods before me.”
 
Q. 85. What does the first commandment teach you?
A. To worship the true God, and him only.
 
Q. 86. What is the second commandment?
A. The second commandment is “You shall not make for yourself a carved image—any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.
 
Q. 87. What does the second commandment teach you?
A. To worship God only as he commands, and not to worship God by using statues or pictures.

Listen To This Week's Sermon: "Not My Will, But Your Will"

Sermon Text: Mark 14:12-42
12 And on the first day of Unleavened Bread, when they sacrificed the Passover lamb, his disciples said to him, “Where will you have us go and prepare for you to eat the Passover?” 13 And he sent two of his disciples and said to them, “Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him, 14 and wherever he enters, say to the master of the house, ‘The Teacher says, Where is my guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ 15 And he will show you a large upper room furnished and ready; there prepare for us.” 16 And the disciples set out and went to the city and found it just as he had told them, and they prepared the Passover.
 
17 And when it was evening, he came with the twelve. 18 And as they were reclining at table and eating, Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me, one who is eating with me.” 19 They began to be sorrowful and to say to him one after another, “Is it I?” 20 He said to them, “It is one of the twelve, one who is dipping bread into the dish with me. 21 For the Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born.”
 
22 And as they were eating, he took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to them, and said, “Take; this is my body.” 23 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, and they all drank of it. 24 And he said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many. 25 Truly, I say to you, I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.”
 
26 And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. 27And Jesus said to them, “You will all fall away, for it is written, ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.’ 28 But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee.” 29 Peter said to him, “Even though they all fall away, I will not.” 30 And Jesus said to him, “Truly, I tell you, this very night, before the rooster crows twice, you will deny me three times.” 31 But he said emphatically, “If I must die with you, I will not deny you.” And they all said the same.
 
32 And they went to a place called Gethsemane. And he said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” 33 And he took with him Peter and James and John, and began to be greatly distressed and troubled. 34 And he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death. Remain here and watch.” 35 And going a little farther, he fell on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. 36 And he said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” 37 And he came and found them sleeping, and he said to Peter, “Simon, are you asleep? Could you not watch one hour? 38 Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” 39 And again he went away and prayed, saying the same words. 40 And again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were very heavy, and they did not know what to answer him. 41 And he came the third time and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? It is enough; the hour has come. The Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. 42 Rise, let us be going; see, my betrayer is at hand.”

Sermon Outline

  1. The context of prayer (v. 12, 22-25, 18, 27)
  2. The practice of prayer (v. 35-36)
  3. The hope of prayer (v. 28, 25)

Sermon Summary

The back drop for this entire passage is the great work of God's salvation celebrated in the Passover meal (Ex. 12). However, this great celebration of God's saving work takes on a whole new meaning in the presence of Jesus. It no longer celebrates something in the past but something new; not the sacrifice of a passover lamb, but the substitutionary sacrifice of the Son of God, symbolized in the bread and the wine of the last supper (v. 22-24). Jesus, with the bread and the wine, is saying to us, "this is it, the sacrifice you need, the salvation you can't live without, and the destiny you long for."

However, this pivotal meal takes place in the midst of betrayal (v. 17-21), abandonment (v. 26-31), failure (v. 37-38) not by strangers but by the twelve, those closest to Jesus. As awful as that was and as awful as his suffering and death would be, what most affects Jesus is the prospect of being abandoned, forsaken by his Father on the cross. For some this is a very hard part of the Christian message to accept. How could God do that? Because only the perfect Son of God could pay the penalty for sin and secure the Father's acceptance at the same time. Theologian John Murray writes, "God loved the objects of His wrath so much that He gave His own Son to the end that He by His blood should make provision for the removal of His wrath. It was Christ's so to deal with the wrath that the loved would no longer be the objects of wrath, and love would achieve its aim of making the children of wrath the children of God's good pleasure."

Here we get an upfront and personal window into the feelings of Jesus in his darkest hours. Mark tells us he was greatly distressed and troubled, very sorrowful, even to death (v. 33-34). At the very same time we see where Jesus goes with his distress, fears, and longings...to his Father (v. 36). It is in reflecting on this moment in Jesus' life that Peter later writes, "For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps." (1 Pet. 2:21) Clearly what Jesus does here is unique and unrepeatable. And at the same time, Jesus shows us how to handle our darkest most terrifying seasons of life. He teaches us how to pray. He shows us the beginning of prayer, the confidence of prayer, the need of prayer, and the obedience of prayer. Prayer begins with a relationship; knowing God to be your Father through faith in Jesus Christ. J.I. Packer in answer to the question, “What is a Christian?” writes, “the question can be answered in many ways, but the richest answer I know is that a Christian is one who has God for his Father.” Because God is his Father, he also prays with confidence because "all things are possible for him" according to his will. Prayer trusts in God's power, wisdom and goodness at work for the good of his children. At the same time, prayer is honest and vulnerable, freely making known the desires of our hearts..."remove this cup from me." Jesus is asking, "Isn't there another way?" Have you ever asked that question? Jesus understood what the "cup" was. It was the symbol of God's judgment against sin and to drink it meant shame before others and alienation from God. Jesus shows us it's perfectly ok to ask God to take away our suffering and anguish. And finally prayer yields to God's will at the cost of our will. "Yet not what I will, but what you will" (v. 36). Perhaps the most sobering and yet life-giving aspect of Jesus' prayer is he honestly pours out his request to his Father and the Father says, "no"...for us. Everything in Jesus longed to escape from this terrible experience. Have you ever felt that away? You are not alone. And at the very same time, everything in Jesus longed to obey his Father. Do you need help to do that? Do you even want to do that? Look to Jesus! "Never in the Gospel does the humanity of Jesus shine through more clearly; never in the gospels does his holiness appear more forcibly." (Ferguson) Jesus on the night he was betrayed in this brief prayer opens up to us the essence of what it looks like to know God as your Father and entrust yourself fully to him. Perhaps you are thinking, "I can't do that." Well...of course you can't...that's why Jesus had to for you.


 

Reflection Questions

  1. What was new or compelling to you? What stood out to you from this passage?
  2. What questions does this passage raise for you?
  3. Was there anything that bothered you?
  4. What do you learn about prayer and following Jesus from his prayer in v. 36?
  5. Where do you find hope in this passage through looking to Jesus (v. 28, 25)? Try to unpack the hope you find. How does it cultivate patience in the present and longing for what will be?

Suggested Resources:
Tomorrow night we will be hosting our first Gospel & Life Series meeting. These meetings are an opportunity for teaching and discussion about the Gospel and ministry covering a wide range of topics that have a bearing on our understanding of the gospel and its implications for ministry to the place God has called RMC. Tomorrow night we will spend time discussing the question, "How to build a missional community?" If you are interested in a good exposure to this topic part 6 of this book is an excellent place to start.

Songs for this week:
All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name
Dearly We’re Bought
Hallelujah! What a Savior! (Man of Sorrows)
Be Thou My Vision
How Great Thou Art

Sermon passage for this week: Mark 14:43-15:15

Until next time,

Will

The King of Love My Shepherd Is

Verse 2
Where streams of living water flow
My ransomed soul He leadeth, 
And, where the verdant pastures grow, 
With food celestial feedeth.

Sunday Recap Vol. 1.45

FROM THE DESK OF WILL SPOKES, SENIOR PASTOR

How Sweet the Name of Jesus Sounds

Verse 1

How sweet the Name of Jesus sounds
In a believer's ear!
It soothes his sorrow, heals his wounds,
And drives away his fear.

Welcome to the Red Mountain Sunday Recap! 

The Sunday Recap is a brief fly-by of what we did during Sunday worship. Did anything land with you from worship on Sunday? What did it make you think? How did it make you feel? What did you find especially sweet or challenging from God's word? What did we sing, read, or pray that left an impression on you?

Food For Thought:

Faith and discipleship are not ideal realms, what we might like to be and do; they are absolute realities, who we are and what we are able to give. In Jesus' sight an act has value according to its motive and intent, and that--not its material value--is what makes it serviceable in the Kingdom of God. When one acts thus, no gift, not even a mere two lepta (Mark 12:41-44), is meaningless; and no gift, even a year's salary, is wasted. - James Edwards commenting on Mark 14:1-11

Confession of Sin:

Prayer of Confession
God of mercy, we humbly confess our need of your pardoning grace. We shelter arrogance and pride in our hearts and believe that our efforts are good enough to secure what only you can give us. We are quick to judge and grumble when our plans, pleasures, and preferences are threatened. We are slow to offer mercy, both inwardly and outwardly, towards those people you have placed in our lives and called us to love. Forgive our self-righteousness and our self-absorption. Fix our eyes on our savior, Jesus Christ, that we may become enraptured with Him, for it’s in his name we pray. Amen.
 
Words of Grace
[B]ut God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.
 
Romans 5:8-11

Confession of Faith: The Children’s Catechism Question 76-83

Q. 76. How many commandments did God give on Mount Sinai?
A. Ten Commandments.
 
Q. 77. Why should we obey the Ten Commandments?
A. Because God is our Creator, Savior and King.
 
Q. 78. What do the first four commandments teach?
A. What it means to love and serve God.
 
Q. 79. What do the last six commandments teach?
A. What it means to love and serve my neighbor.
 
Q. 80. What do the Ten Commandments teach?
A. To love God with all my heart, and my neighbor as myself.
 
Q. 81. Who is your neighbor?
A. Everybody is my neighbor.
 
Q. 82. Is God pleased with those who love and obey him?
A. Yes. God says, “I love those who love me.” (Prov. 8:17)
 
Q. 83. Is God displeased with those who do not love and obey him?
A. Yes. “God is angry with the wicked every day.” (Ps. 7:11)

Listen To This Week's Sermon: "The Sacrifice of Faith"

Sermon Text: Mark 14:1-11
1 It was now two days before the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread. And the chief priests and the scribes were seeking how to arrest him by stealth and kill him, 2 for they said, “Not during the feast, lest there be an uproar from the people.”
 
3 And while he was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he was reclining at table, a woman came with an alabaster flask of ointment of pure nard, very costly, and she broke the flask and poured it over his head. 4 There were some who said to themselves indignantly, “Why was the ointment wasted like that? 5 For this ointment could have been sold for more than three hundred denarii and given to the poor.” And they scolded her. 6 But Jesus said, “Leave her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. 7 For you always have the poor with you, and whenever you want, you can do good for them. But you will not always have me. 8 She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for burial. 9 And truly, I say to you, wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her.”
 
10 Then Judas Iscariot, who was one of the twelve, went to the chief priests in order to betray him to them. 11 And when they heard it, they were glad and promised to give him money. And he sought an opportunity to betray him.

Sermon Outline

  1. The definition of faith (v. 3)
  2. The significance of faith (v. 4-8)
  3. The eyes of faith (v. 6-9)

Sermon Summary

Chapter 14 marks a new section and the final section in Mark's gospel. After a series of debates with the Religious Leaders in the Temple in Jerusalem, the story of Jesus now takes a more sinister turn. The chapter opens with the intention of the Religious Leaders to kill Jesus (v. 1-2) coupled with Judas Iscariot's willingness to betray Jesus to them (v. 10-11).

However, sandwiched in between, is a remarkable story of faith in and love for Jesus not by a Religious Leader or even one of Jesus' disciples but by an unnamed woman who receives Jesus' highest commendation (v. 9). We see three things from this story about faith in Jesus.

First we learn what faith is - pouring out on Jesus all that matters most to us because he is that precious to us. While reclining at table, the woman pours out her precious ointment all over Jesus. Mark tells us the ointment was very costly and those looking on valued it at a year's worth of wages. This was no ordinary flask of perfumed ointment. This was most likely a family heirloom that was passed down from generation to generation, like an inheritance. It told a story about where she was from and promised a measure of security for the future. Flasks such as these were single use items because they were sealed up to preserve the precious ingredients inside and were only ever used on the most special of occasions. In the eyes of this woman Jesus was THE special occasion! The woman's anointing of Jesus with her most precious possession serves as an acted parable of faith. One writer comments, "She had poured out her future and her security on Jesus." (Ferguson) Do you see what kind of faith the Gospel creates? It creates a total transfer of all our trust and confidence from ourselves, our possessions, and even other people to Jesus and him alone!

Second we learn the significance of faith from the responses we see in the passage. Those looking on berate this woman for, in their estimation, wasting something so valuable when it could have been put to better use (v. 4-5). However, Jesus comes to her defense and says she did a beautiful thing to him. The others - including the twelve disciples - viewed this woman as a fanatic. She was taking her religion too seriously. But Jesus doesn't see it that way. He says, "she did all she could (v. 8)." When contrasted, the woman and the other dinner guests highlight the all important question. How valuable is Jesus to you? Is he your greatest treasure and therefore worthy of all your treasure? Gospel faith always looks strange from the outside. It even looks fanatical. But to Jesus it is beautiful and he always nurtures it...in whatever form it comes.

Third faith sees what others don't. The central charge against this woman was at best neglect of the poor and at worst injustice toward the poor. It is difficult not to see a thread of irony when the concern for the poor in verse 5 is compared to Judas' willingness to betray Jesus for money in verse 11. However, what does the woman see through the eyes of faith that no-one else sees? Jesus points the way to the answer in verse 7. "For you always have the poor with you...but you will not always have me." The woman recognized in Jesus the one who has and would give up all for her (Mk. 10:45; Phil. 2:8). In other words, the woman did give to the poor. She understood the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich (2 Cor. 8:9; Psalm 41:9). This is the reason why Jesus commends her and promises that wherever the gospel is preached, her story will be told in memory of her. Is Jesus saying that somehow she earned her salvation through her gift and that's why he honors her? Absolutely not! Rather, the point is that her response to Jesus tells the story of free grace through the response of faith, of unmerited favor. Or to put it another way, her life points to the cross of Jesus Christ and the good news it brings to undeserving sinners.

Does your life do that? If not, why not? What do you think you either don't yet understand or all too often forget that prevents you from seeing the beauty and the poverty of Jesus for you? What would it take for you to be able to daily pour out your future and your security on him? How would your life be different if you did?

Reflection Questions

  1. What was new or compelling to you? What stood out to you from this passage?
  2. What questions does this passage raise for you?
  3. Was there anything that bothered you?
  4. How would you define religion based on the response of those looking on?
  5. How would you define faith based on the gift of the woman?
  6. Why do you think Mark sandwiches this story of the woman anointing Jesus in between the plot to kill and betray Jesus?

Suggested Resources:
How precious is Jesus to you? Are there specific things he said or did or promised that lead you to delight in him? Have you ever had an experience of faith like the woman we read about in Mark 14:1-11? How does that happen? Or to ask the question slightly differently, how does one grow in love for Jesus? There is really only one answer: to meditate on and delight in the person, words, and work of Jesus Christ. Perhaps you are asking, "How do I do that?" Well the simplest way is to read the scriptures and ask God to show you the glory of Jesus. What if you need help to do that? Let me suggest to you this very readable and yet substantial little book on deepening your love for Jesus.

Songs for this week:
Arise, My Soul, Arise
God of My Life, to Thee I Call
The King of Love My Shepherd Is
Jesus, Thou Joy of Loving Hearts
Thy Will Be Done

Sermon passage for this week: Mark 14:12-42

Until next time,

Will

How Sweet the Name of Jesus Sounds

Verse 2
It makes the wounded spirit whole,
And calms the troubled breast;
'Tis manna to the hungry soul,
And to the weary, rest.

Sunday Recap Vol. 1.44

FROM THE DESK OF WILL SPOKES, SENIOR PASTOR

He Leadeth Me

Verse 1

He leadeth me, O blessed thought!
O words with heav’nly comfort fraught!
Whate’er I do, where’er I be
Still ’tis God’s hand that leadeth me.

Verse 3
Lord, I would place my hand in Thine,
Nor ever murmur nor repine;
Content, whatever lot I see,
Since ’tis my God that leadeth me.

 

Welcome to the Red Mountain Sunday Recap! 

The Sunday Recap is a brief fly-by of what we did during Sunday worship. Did anything land with you from worship on Sunday? What did it make you think? How did it make you feel? What did you find especially sweet or challenging from God's word? What did we sing, read, or pray that left an impression on you?

Food For Thought:

[Jesus] can make the dry parched ground of my soul to become a pool and my thirsty barren heart as springs of water. Yes he can make this habitation of dragons, this heart, which is so full of abominable lusts and fiery temptations, to be a place of bounty and fruitfulness unto Himself….
 
The more I see of the glory of Christ, the more the painted beauties of this world will wither in my eyes and I will be more and more crucified to this world. It will become to me like something dead and putrid, impossible for me to enjoy. – John Owen

Confession of Sin:

Prayer of Confession
Merciful Father, forgive us the sins of our tongues—for deception and untruthfulness in our dealings with others; for resentment, coldness, impatience, and ill temper. Forgive us for the sins of our eyes—for impurity in our glances and imagination; for pining after more beauty, comfort, status, and wealth than you have given us. Forgive us the sins of our hearts—for hard-heartedness toward you and our neighbors; for pride, self-absorption, self-pity; and above all for rebelling against you and doubting your love. Father, remove our fear, envy and pride and melt our hearts with the good news of the Gospel. Transform us by your grace to live wholly for your glory. Take away our mourning and replace it with songs of joy, for it is in Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
 
Words of Grace
My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.
 
1 John 2:1-2

Confession of Faith: The Children’s Catechism Question 73-75

Q. 73. Why do you need Christ as your prophet?
A. Because I am ignorant by nature.
 
Q. 74. Why do you need Christ as your priest?
A. Because I am guilty of breaking God’s law.
 
Q. 75. Why do you need Christ as your king?
A. Because I am weak and helpless.

Listen To This Week's Sermon: "The Savior of the World"

Guest Preacher: Tom Franklin, RUF at Birmingham Southern
This week we had our friend Tom Franklin preaching. You can listen to his sermon by clicking above and reflect on the text he preached from with the reflection questions below.

Sermon Text: John 4:1-42
1 Now when Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus was making andbaptizing more disciples than John 2 (although Jesus himself did not baptize, but only his disciples), 3 he left Judea and departed again for Galilee. 4 And he had to pass through Samaria. 5 So he came to a town of Samaria called Sychar, near the field that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. 6Jacob’s well was there; so Jesus, wearied as he was from his journey, was sitting beside the well. It was about the sixth hour.
 
7 A woman from Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” 8 (For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.) 9 The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?” (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.) 10Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” 11 The woman said to him, “Sir, you have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? 12  Are you greater than our father Jacob? He gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did his sons and his livestock.” 13 Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” 15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.”
 
16 Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.” 17 The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; 18 for you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband. What you have said is true.” 19 The woman said to him, “Sir, I perceive thatyou are a prophet. 20 Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say thatin Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.” 21 Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. 22 You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” 25 The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.” 26 Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.”
 
27 Just then his disciples came back. They marveled that he was talking with a woman, but no one said, “What do you seek?” or, “Why are you talking with her?” 28 So the woman left her water jar and went away into town and said to the people, 29 “Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?” 30 They went out of the town and were coming to him.
 
31 Meanwhile the disciples were urging him, saying, “Rabbi, eat.” 32 But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you do not know about.” 33 So the disciples said to one another, “Has anyone brought him something to eat?” 34Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work. 35 Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, then comes the harvest’? Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest. 36 Already the one who reaps is receiving wages and gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together. 37For here the saying holds true, ‘One sows and another reaps.’ 38 I sent you to reapthat for which you did not labor. Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.”
 
39 Many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me all that I ever did.” 40 So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them, and he stayed there two days. 41 And many more believed because of his word. 42 They said to the woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world.”

Reflection Questions

  1. What was new or compelling to you? What stood out to you from this passage?
  2. What questions does this passage raise for you?
  3. Was there anything that bothered you?
  4. Put yourself in the Samaritan woman's shoes. What do you imagine it would be like for you to encounter Jesus like this?
  5. What do you find most astounding or impressive or comforting about Jesus? How many claims does he make (explicitly or implicitly)?
  6. What do we learn about "giving a reason for the hope that you have" (1 Peter 3:15) from this story?

Suggested Resources:
This past week I and Ruling Elder, Miles Gresham were at the General Assembly (GA) of the Presbyterian Church in America. Each year this national meeting is hosted in a different city and this year it was hosted in Mobile, AL. There are a lot of moving parts to GA and the part Miles and I played was to serve on what is called the Overtures* Committee. The committee had 63 overtures to consider and a little over 40 of them spoke to the issue of racism, racial diversity, confession and repentance. After many hours of debate and amendment the Overtures Committee and subsequently the entire GA approved overture 43: Pursuing Racial Reconciliation and the Advancement of the Gospel. Subsequent to GA a fellow African American PCA Minister wrote ahelpful article reflecting on this significant moment in the history of the PCA. You will also see in this article links to the original overture and to the final approved overture.

*An “overture” requests action from the General Assembly on a specific matter. Overtures normally come from presbyteries (regional bodies of church elders) and are submitted to the General Assembly for deliberation during the annual meeting. Depending on the topic, the overture goes to the Committee on Overtures during the General Assembly. The committee then makes a recommendation to the broader assembly which votes in the affirmative, the negative, or sends it back to the Committee.

Songs for this week:
Holy, Holy, Holy
Depth of Mercy
The Gospel is Good News Indeed
How Sweet the Name of Jesus Sounds
Fairest Lord Jesus

Sermon passage for this week: Mark 14:1-11

Until next time,

Will

He Leadeth Me

Verse 4
And when my task on earth is done,
When by Thy grace the vict’ry’s won,
E’en death’s cold wave I will not flee,
Since God through Jordan leadeth me.

He leadeth me, He leadeth me,
By His own hand He leadeth me;
His faithful foll’wer I would be,
For by His hand He leadeth me.

Sunday Recap Vol. 1.43

FROM THE DESK OF WILL SPOKES, SENIOR PASTOR

All Things New

Verse 1

Come, Lord, and tarry not;
bring the long looked for day;
O why these years of waiting here,
these ages of delay?
Come, for Thy saints still wait;
daily ascends their sigh;
The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come”;
does Thou not hear the cry?

O come and make all things new. Come and make all things new
O come and make all things new. Build up this ruined Earth,
Come and make all things new.

Welcome to the Red Mountain Sunday Recap! 

The Sunday Recap is a brief fly-by of what we did during Sunday worship. Did anything land with you from worship on Sunday? What did it make you think? How did it make you feel? What did you find especially sweet or challenging from God's word? What did we sing, read, or pray that left an impression on you?

Food For Thought:

The life of faith is not an exemption from adversity but a reliance on the promise of God to bear witness to the gospel in adversity, and to be saved for eternal life through it. – James Edwards

Confession of Sin:

Prayer of Confession
Father, Son and Holy Spirit, not one day of my life has passed that has not proved me guilty in your sight. Prayers have been uttered from a prayerless heart; my best efforts to love you and others are but filthy rags. All things in me call for my rejection but all things in Christ plead for my acceptance. I appeal from the throne of perfect justice to your throne of boundless grace. Grant me to hear your voice assuring me of the gospel of your Son: that by his stripes I am healed, that he was bruised for my iniquities, that he was made sin for me that I might be declared righteous before you, that my grievous sins, my many sins, are all forgiven. I am guilty, but pardoned, lost, but saved, wandering, but found, sinning, but cleansed. Give me perpetual broken-heartedness, keep me always clinging to the cross of our Lord and Savior in whose name we pray. Amen.
 
Words of Grace
He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.
 
1 Peter 2:22-25

Confession of Faith: The Children’s Catechism Question 68-72

Q. 68: How many offices does Christ fulfill as the promised Messiah?
A. Christ fulfills three offices.
 
Q. 69: What are they?
A. The offices of a prophet, of a priest, and of a king.
 
Q. 70: How is Christ your prophet?
A. Christ teaches me the will of God.
 
Q. 71: How is Christ your priest?
A. Christ died for my sins, and continues to pray for me.
 
Q. 72: How is Christ your king?
A. Christ rules over me, the world and Satan, and he defends me.

Listen To This Week's Sermon: "Stay Awake"

Sermon Text: Mark 13:1-37
1 And as he came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher, what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings!” 2 And Jesus said to him, “Do you see these great buildings? There will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.”
 
3 And as he sat on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter and James and John and Andrew asked him privately, 4 “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign when all these things are about to be accomplished?”5 And Jesus began to say to them, “See that no one leads you astray. 6 Many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he!’ and they will lead many astray. 7 And when you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed. This must take place, but the end is not yet. 8 For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines. These are but the beginning of the birth pains.
 
9 “But be on your guard. For they will deliver you over to councils, and you will be beaten in synagogues, and you will stand before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them. 10 And the gospel must first be proclaimed to all nations. 11 And when they bring you to trial and deliver you over, do not be anxious beforehand what you are to say, but say whatever is given you in that hour, for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit. 12 And brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death. 13 And you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.
 
14 “But when you see the abomination of desolation standing where he ought not to be (let the reader understand), then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. 15 Let the one who is on the housetop not go down, nor enter his house, to take anything out, 16 and let the one who is in the field not turn back to take his cloak. 17 And alas for women who are pregnant and for those who are nursing infants in those days! 18 Pray that it may not happen in winter. 19For in those days there will be such tribulation as has not been from the beginning of the creation that God created until now, and never will be. 20 And if the Lord had not cut short the days, no human being would be saved. But for the sake of the elect, whom he chose, he shortened the days. 21 And then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘Look, there he is!’ do not believe it. 22 For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform signs and wonders, to lead astray, if possible, the elect. 23 But be on guard; I have told you all things beforehand.
 
24 “But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, 25 and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. 26 And then they will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. 27 And then he will send out the angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.
 
28 “From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts out its leaves, you know that summer is near. 29 So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that he is near, at the very gates. 30Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place. 31 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.
 
32 “But concerning that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 33 Be on guard, keep awake. For you do not know when the time will come. 34 It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his servants in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to stay awake. 35 Therefore stay awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or atmidnight, or when the rooster crows, or in the morning— 36 lest he come suddenly and find you asleep. 37 And what I say to you I say to all: Stay awake.”

Sermon Outline
1. The paradigm of the Temple (v. 1-4)
2. Two keys for understanding: a framework and a clue (v. 4, 30; v. 32; v. 17, 19, 24)
3. The coming of the Son of Man (v. 24-27, 32-37)

Sermon Summary
Mark 13 is a riveting passage with glorious things to behold and to take to heart as we wait for that great day when Jesus returns to make all things new. Therefore, in this passage, Jesus gives us all we need to face the future with confident hope no matter what comes through faith in him.

The context for this passage comes from a question asked by the disciples about the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem, which took place in A.D. 70. (v. 1-4) The Temple in Jerusalem was the largest and grandest Temple in the ancient world. Therefore, its destruction was a cataclysmic event for those to whom Jesus' is speaking. As such it also becomes a paradigm for reflecting on and understanding various trials and tribulations for God's people between Jesus' first and second coming.

In order to understand this passage Jesus gives us a framework and a clue. We need to notice three key phrases. The first is the phrase "these things" found in verses 4 and 30, which refer to the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem. The second is the phrase "that day or hour" in verse 32, which refers to the return of Jesus at the end of history, what the Old Testament prophets call "the Day of the Lord." The third is the phrase "those days" in verse 17, 19 and 24, which refer to the period of history between the "these things" in vs. 4 and 30 and "that day or hour" in vs. 32. In addition, Jesus gives us a clue to understand this framework in verse 8 and the metaphor of "birth pains." As one writer put it,  "labor pains certainly indicate that a birth is about to take place. But who knows how long a woman’s birth labor may be? The birth pains indicate that childbirth has begun, they do not serve as a prophecy of the exact moment of delivery. This ‘beginning of birth pains’ does not tell us whether the end will be tomorrow or next century." (Ferguson) The metaphor of birth pains also gives meaning to the variety and intensity of experiences we can expect to face as followers of Jesus this side of heaven. (v. 7-23)

However, as important as the framework and clue are for understanding this passage, it's not enough. Jesus repeatedly commands us to be on guard, to stay awake. And so we need to know for whom we are waiting. Verses 24-27 are vivid verses with the furthest possible ramifications! But the beauty of these verses is the coming of the Son of man, the only chosen King, who came to suffer and die and rise again and ascend to the right hand of God to one day come back and gather his people while making all things new.

This is a passage that confronts us with the need to trust God with what we don't know. We all struggle with that. But we also must see what Jesus says about himself. "But concerning that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Be on guard, keep awake. For you do not know when the time will come." (v. 32-33) Do you see what Jesus said? He doesn't know the day or hour. In other words, he is in the same place you and I are. In fact, that is what he came to do; to identify with us, to stand where we stand in our humanity in order to save us through his perfect life, death and resurrection! In other words, if we need help to be on guard and to stay awake we need only look to Jesus for grace and help to do so! Jesus trusted his Father with what he did not know even to the point of dying on the cross (Mk. 14:36). This is the good news we need as we wait and as we live for God and his glory looking to Jesus' return to make all things new.

Reflection Questions

  1. What was new or compelling to you? What stood out to you from this passage?
  2. What questions does this passage raise for you?
  3. Was there anything that bothered you?
  4. In verse 23 Jesus says, "be on guard, I have told you all things beforehand." What do you wish Jesus would tell you that he has not?
  5. What reasons do we see in this passage for Jesus' command to be on guard, to stay awake and what help and hope does he give?
  6. What difference does belief in the return of Jesus make for living your life today?

Suggested Resources:
This week I, along with Ruling Elder, Miles Gresham, am in Mobile, AL to participate in a denominational wide church meeting called the General Assembly. Therefore, I thought it might be helpful to point you to a basic article on church government for any of you interested in learning more about the church of Jesus Christ and the way in which he set it up.

Songs for this week:
Lift Up Your Heads, Ye Mighty Gates
How Firm a Foundation
He Leadeth Me
Rock of Ages, Cleft for Me
Come Ye Souls by Sin Afflicted

Sermon passage for this week: John 4:1-42

Until next time,

Will

All Things New

Verse 2

Come, for creation groans,
impatient of Thy stay,
Worn out with these long years of ill,
these ages of delay.
Come, for love waxes cold,
its steps are faint and slow;
Faith now is lost in unbelief,
hope’s lamp burns dim and low.

O come and make all things new. Come and make all things new
O come and make all things new. Build up this ruined Earth,
Come and make all things new.

Sermon Recap Vol. 1.42

FROM THE DESK OF WILL SPOKES, SENIOR PASTOR

Take My Life, and Let It Be

Verse 1

Take my life and let it be
consecrated, Lord, to thee.
Take my moments and my days;
let them flow in endless praise,
let them flow in endless praise.

Verse 4

Take my silver and my gold;
not a mite would I withhold.
Take my intellect and use
every power as thou shalt choose,
every power as thou shalt choose.

 

Welcome to the Red Mountain Sunday Recap! 

The Sunday Recap is a brief fly-by of what we did during Sunday worship. Did anything land with you from worship on Sunday? What did it make you think? How did it make you feel? What did you find especially sweet or challenging from God's word? What did we sing, read, or pray that left an impression on you?

Food For Thought:

Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. – Matthew 6:19-21
 
For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich. – 2 Corinthians 8:9
 
Gaze upon Christ long enough, and you’ll become more of a giver. Give long enough, and you’ll become more like Christ. – Randy Alcorn

Confession of Sin:

Prayer of Confession
Loving and gracious Father, the more we delve into the depths of our sin, the uglier and more heinous it becomes. If we promise to do better, we lie. If we try to clean ourselves up, we are frauds. If we give because we feel guilty, we are schemers. If we serve to feel good about ourselves, we are self-righteous. If we pray only to get what we want, we are self-serving. If we read your Word so you will be pleased with us, we are manipulators. The selfish motivations of even our best actions condemn us. They are un-holy, un-pleasing, and un-like the One in whose image we are created. Please forgive us and help us to look only to the life-saving, life-changing, life-giving power of your grace and mercy through Your Son Jesus Christ, in whose name we pray. Amen.
 
Words of Grace
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace.
 
Ephesians 1:3-7

Confession of Faith: The Children’s Catechism Question 64-67

Q. 64: How long ago did Christ die?
About two thousand years ago.
 
Q. 65: How were sinners saved before Christ came?
By believing in the promised Messiah.
 
Q. 66: Before Christ came, how did believers show their faith?
By offering the sacrifices God required.
 
Q. 67: What did these sacrifices represent?
Christ, the Lamb of God, who would come to die for sinners.

Listen To This Week's Sermon: "Son of David?"

Sermon Text: Mark 12:35-44
35 And as Jesus taught in the temple, he said, “How can the scribes say that the Christ is the son of David? 36 David himself, in the Holy Spirit, declared,
          “‘The Lord said to my Lord,
          “Sit at my right hand,
                   until I put your enemies under your feet.”’
 
37 David himself calls him Lord. So how is he his son?” And the great throng heard him gladly.
 
38 And in his teaching he said, “Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes and like greetings in the marketplaces 39 and have the best seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at feasts, 40 who devour widows’ houses and for a pretense make long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.”
 
41 And he sat down opposite the treasury and watched the people putting money into the offering box. Many rich people put in large sums. 42 And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which make a penny. 43 And he called his disciples to him and said to them, “Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box. 44 For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.”

Sermon Outline
1. The question Jesus asks (v. 35-37)
2. The warning Jesus gives (v. 38-40)
3. The faith Jesus sees (v. 41-44)

Sermon Summary
Conflict with the religious leaders of his day is something Jesus has encountered throughout his public ministry and it has only intensified since his arrival in Jerusalem in chapter 11. Throughout chapter 12 Jesus countered the Religious Leaders and their onslaught of questions so successfully that no one dared to ask him anymore questions. (12:34) This last section before the events leading to Jesus' death detail his opposition to the religious leaders and their failure to trust in him.

The passage begins with Jesus asking the question of questions. "How can the scribes say that the Christ is the Son of David?" (v. 35) Jesus challenges the scribes (experts in the law) understanding of the Messiah, that is, God's only chosen king who would save his people and set the world to rights. It's fundamentally a question about identity...Jesus' identity as the Son of God (1:10-11). To do so Jesus quotes from Psalm 110 in order to confront current views of the Messiah with what the Scriptures teach. So he says, "David himself, in the Holy Spirit, says...." Jesus quotes the Bible to show that even David understood the Messiah was greater than he was and therefore to say that the Messiah was the Son of David must mean something much more wonderful and profound.

The challenge to the scribes comes to us as well. Do you know Jesus as he is revealed in scripture? Will you sit at his feet and discover his glory and grace? (Acts 2:29-36; Romans 1:1-4) Why is this important? Why does Jesus lead with this question? Because without an accurate understanding of who Jesus is as the Messiah we will always make life about us rather than God and his grace. Or to put it differently, we will never be free from our self-absorbed hearts that lead to the guilt, pain, and suffering in our own lives and the world at large.

This is precisely the problem Jesus confronts head on in his warning against the Scribes. (v. 38-40) Those called to lead and care for God's people were using God's people to serve their own selfish ends. To put it succinctly, without a true understanding of who Jesus is the ministry of God's people falls apart. (re: Ezekiel 34; 1 Peter 5:1-4) We've already seen one example of this with the disciples when they were arguing about who was the greatest. Jesus responded, "[W]hoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." (10:44-45) The point for us to lay hold of is this: the key to a vibrant, faithful, and fruitful church is to behold Jesus in all his glory! How can we do that? It begins by admitting we aren't all that different than the Scribes when you get right down to it, and yet it's not always easy to see, let alone admit. Therefore we need the scriptures to not only reveal to us who Jesus really is but who we really are. "For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account." (Heb. 4:12-13)

The last story in this passage is intended to help us discern the thoughts and intentions of our hearts. You might be thinking why does Jesus draw attention to this poor widow? Why does Mark include it in his gospel at this point? When we stop and think for a moment the answer is clear. She stands in stark contrast to the pride and ambition of the Scribes as the model of a true disciple of Jesus. In the same way Blind Bartimaeus stood in stark contrast to the Disciples (10:46-52) so too the poor widow to the Scribes. Among the most striking features of this story is Jesus comment in verse 43. "Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box." He says this after watching many rich people put in large sums. Why does he say this? Because they all gave out of their abundance, but she gave out of her poverty...all she had to live on. (v. 44) Here we have an illustration of what Jesus taught in 8:35, "Whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever would lose his life for my sake and the gospel's will save it."

What is your reaction to this story? One reaction might be guilt and shame, "It scares me to see Jesus affirm and honor this poor widow because I don't think I could ever think about my life and my resources like that." But another reaction is possible when we reflect on what moves a person like this poor widow to live with such trust, such hope, such freedom. She has discovered that nothing in this life whether a lot of it or a little of it can truly satisfy her soul, can restore her soul. Only God can do that and so she gives all she had to live on. In other words, only the gospel can bring such trust and freedom into our lives so that we no longer need the things of this world to be safe and secure. Why? Because of free grace! "For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich." (2 Cor. 8:9)

Are you challenged or convicted by this passage? If so make your aim this week to meditate on Jesus and his grace toward you. Ask him to help you to see and behold his love and grace as more precious to you than all the gifts he gives.

Reflection Questions

  1. What was new or compelling to you? What stood out to you from this passage?
  2. What questions does this passage raise for you?
  3. Was there anything that bothered you?
  4. Why is it so important to accept who Jesus is according to scripture?
  5. What is your reaction to the story about the poor widow?
  6. Where does this passage pinpoint in your life, your need to believe the gospel?

Suggested Resources:
Last week I mentioned a little piece on prayer written by Martin Luther to his barber. I thought I would follow it up this week with two resources that Meg and I have found helpful for praying with and for our children. The first is calledJesus Teaches Us How To Pray and the second is called Praying the Scriptures for Your Children. Even if you don't have children, don't be fooled. There is much to learn about prayer from these two little gems even for adults.

Songs for this week:
Hail to the Lord's Anointed
Jesus, I My Cross Have Taken
When I Survey the Wondrous Cross
All Things New
Come, O Come Thou Quickening Spirit

Sermon passage for this week: Mark 13:1-37

Until next time,

Will

Take My Life, and Let It Be

Verse 5

Take my will and make it thine;
it shall be no longer mine.
Take my heart it is thine own;
it shall be thy royal throne,
it shall be thy royal throne.

 

Verse 6

Take my love; my Lord, I pour
at thy feet its treasure store.
Take myself, and I will be
ever, only, all for thee,
ever, only, all for thee.

Sermon Recap Vol. 1.41

FROM THE DESK OF WILL SPOKES, SENIOR PASTOR

Praise to the Lord, the Almighty

Verse 3

Praise to the Lord, 
Who doth prosper thy work and defend thee; 
Surely His goodness
And mercy here daily attend thee. 
Ponder anew
What the Almighty can do, 
If with His love He befriend thee.

Welcome to the Red Mountain Sunday Recap! 

The Sunday Recap is a brief fly-by of what we did during Sunday worship. Did anything land with you from worship on Sunday? What did it make you think? How did it make you feel? What did you find especially sweet or challenging from God's word? What did we sing, read, or pray that left an impression on you?

Food For Thought:

For therein is constant virtue, for those who are illuminated in their minds, and meditate on the divine Scriptures day and night, like the man to whom a blessing is given, as is written in the sacred Psalms; 'Blessed is the man who has not walked in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stood in the way of sinners, nor sat in the seat of corrupters. But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law doth he meditate day and night.' For it is not the sun, or the moon, or the host of those other stars which illuminate him, but he glitters with the high effulgence of God over all. – Athanasius, 333 A.D.

Confession of Sin:

Prayer of Confession
Heavenly Father, we confess that our glory has been our own comfort, rather than your Son's cross; that we have craved the fellowship of those already like us, rather than the fellowship of Christ's sufferings; that we have worked to save our own lives, rather than lose our lives for Christ’s sake and the gospel. Have mercy on us, Father, and grant us the gift of gospel repentance. Cleanse us by the finished work of your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, and restore to us the joy of your salvation. Amen.
 
Words of Grace
If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.
 
My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.
 
1 John 1:8-2:2

Confession of Faith: The Children’s Catechism Question 58-63

Q. 58: What must you do to be saved?
A. I must repent of my sin and believe in Christ as my Savior
 
Q. 59: How do you repent of your sin?
A. I must be sorry for my sin and hate and forsake it.
 
Q. 60: Why must you hate and forsake your sin?
A. Because sin displeases God.
 
Q. 61: What does it mean to believe in Christ?
A. To trust in Christ alone for my salvation. 
 
Q. 62: Can you repent and believe in Christ by your own power?
A. No. I cannot repent and believe unless the Holy Spirit changes my heart.
 
Q. 63: How can you get the help of the Holy Spirit?
A. God has told us to pray for the Holy Spirit’s Help.

Guest Preacher: Bill Boyd

This week we had Bill Boyd preaching. Bill is the Senior Pastor at Covenant Presbyterian Church in Homewood. Below you will find a link to his sermon and the passage from which he preached.

Listen To This Week's Sermon: "The Way of Blessing"

Sermon Text: Psalm 1
1       Blessed is the man
                   who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
         nor stands in the way of sinners,
                   nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
2       but his delight is in the law of the LORD,
                   and on his law he meditates day and night.
 
3       He is like a tree
                   planted by streams of water
         that yields its fruit in its season,
                   and its leaf does not wither.
         In all that he does, he prospers.
4       The wicked are not so,
                   but are like chaff that the wind drives away.
 
5       Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
                   nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;
6       for the LORD knows the way of the righteous,
                        but the way of the wicked will perish.

Reflection Questions

  1. What was new or compelling to you? What stood out to you from this passage?
  2. What questions does this passage raise for you?
  3. Was there anything that bothered you?
  4. Compare and contrast the way of the wicked and the way of the righteous?
  5. How is the way of the righteous different than self-righteousness?
  6. How does the gospel of free grace deepen our understanding of the way of blessing?

Suggested Resources:
There are countless books on prayer, which is as much as anything an indication of how difficult it can be to do and do regularly. Believe it or not Martin Luther's barber struggled to pray too. So one day he asked Martin for help and advice on how to pray. So Martin wrote him a letter, which is invaluable even to this day for simple basic instruction on how to meditate on scripture and profit from doing so through prayer.

Songs for this week:
O for a Thousand Tongues
Jesus, Cast a Look on Me
O Love that Will Not Let Me Go
Thine Everlasting Throne
Take My Life and Let it Be

Sermon passage for this week: Mark 12:35-44

Until next time,

Will

Praise to the Lord, the Almighty

Verse 4

Praise to the Lord, 
O let all that is in me adore Him! 
All that hath life and breath, 
Come now with praises before Him. 
Let the Amen
Sound from His people again, 
Gladly for aye we adore Him.

Sermon Recap Vol. 1.40

FROM THE DESK OF WILL SPOKES, SENIOR PASTOR

The King of Love My Shepherd Is

Verse 1

The King of Love my Shepherd is, 
Whose goodness faileth never; 
I nothing lack if I am His
And He is mine forever.

Welcome to the Red Mountain Sunday Recap! 

The Sunday Recap is a brief fly-by of what we did during Sunday worship. Did anything land with you from worship on Sunday? What did it make you think? How did it make you feel? What did you find especially sweet or challenging from God's word? What did we sing, read, or pray that left an impression on you?

Food For Thought:

One way to define spiritual life is getting so tired and fed up with yourself you go on to something better, which is following Jesus.
 
The only opportunity you will ever have to live by faith is in the circumstances you are provided this very day: this house you live in, this family you find yourself in, this job you have been given, the weather conditions that prevail at the...moment. – Eugene Peterson

Confession of Sin:

Prayer of Confession
Our Father in heaven, you know our hearts: how weak, hard and selfish we are. You have shown us great mercy because we have sinned greatly. You patiently endure our many offenses against you. In your Son and only in Him we are saved from the wrath we deserve, for each day we give in to foolish desires and forget the holiness of Your name. We have sinned against you in thought, word and deed. We have neglected to do what is right; to love what you love. We cry out for mercy and rest in the hope of the cross of Jesus Christ, in whose strong name we pray. Amen.
 
Words of Grace
6 For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— 8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. 11 More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.
 
Romans 5:6-11

Confession of Faith: Apostles Creed
 
I believe in God, the Father Almighty,
            maker of heaven and earth.
 
I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son our Lord,
            who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
            born of the Virgin Mary,
            suffered under Pontius Pilate,
            was crucified, dead, and buried:
            he descended into hell.
            The third day he rose again from the dead.
            He ascended into heaven
            and sits at the right hand of God the Father almighty.
            From there he will come to judge the living and the dead.
 
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
            the holy catholic church,
            the communion of saints,
            the forgiveness of sins,
            the resurrection of the body,
            and the life everlasting. Amen.

Guest Preacher: Tom Franklin

This week we had Tom Franklin preaching. Tom is the RUF Campus Minister at Birmingham Southern. Below you will find a link to his sermon and the passage from which he preached.

Listen To This Week's Sermon: "The Bread of Life"

Sermon Text: John 6:25-44
25 When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?” 26 Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. 27 Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.” 28 Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” 29 Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” 30 So they said to him, “Then what sign do you do, that we may see and believe you? What work do you perform?31 Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’” 32 Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” 34 They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.”
 
35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. 36 But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. 37 All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. 38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me.39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. 40 For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”
 
41 So the Jews grumbled about him, because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” 42 They said, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does he now say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?” 43 Jesus answered them, “Do not grumble among yourselves.44 No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.

Reflection Questions

  1. What was new or compelling to you? What stood out to you from this passage?
  2. What questions does this passage raise for you?
  3. Was there anything that bothered you?
  4. What does Jesus say it means to do God's work?
  5. Make a list of all the promises Jesus makes? Which connect with you most deeply and why?

Suggested Resources:
Do you need help taking the truths of Scripture and the sweetness of the Gospel and working it into your heart and life? A classic in this regard is a little book by John Flavel intended to lead in how to cultivate and maintain a deep love for God.

Songs for this week:
Praise to the Lord, the Almighty
Psalm 46 (Be Still and Know)
Christ the Solid Rock
Streams of Living Water Flow
Pass Me Not, O Gentle Savior

Sermon passage for this week: Psalm 1

Until next time,

Will

The King of Love My Shepherd Is

Verse 6

And so through all the length of days, 
Thy goodness faileth never; 
Good Shepherd, may I sing Thy praise
Within Thy house forever.

Sermon Recap Vol. 1.39

FROM THE DESK OF WILL SPOKES, SENIOR PASTOR

Praise, My Soul the King of Heaven

Verse 1

Praise, my soul, the King of heaven; 
To His feet thy tribute bring. 
Ransomed, healed, restored, forgiven, 
Who like me His praise should sing? 
Praise Him, praise Him, 
praise Him, praise Him, 
Praise the everlasting King.

Welcome to the Red Mountain Sunday Recap! 

The Sunday Recap is a brief fly-by of what we did during Sunday worship. Did anything land with you from worship on Sunday? What did it make you think? How did it make you feel? What did you find especially sweet or challenging from God's word? What did we sing, read, or pray that left an impression on you?

Food For Thought:

It is by beholding the glory of Christ by faith that we are spiritually edified and built up in this world, for as we behold His glory, the life and power of faith grow stronger and stronger. It is by faith that we grow to love Christ. So if we desire strong faith and powerful love, which give us rest, peace and satisfaction, we must seek them by diligently beholding the glory of Christ by faith. In this duty I desire to live and to die. On Christ’s glory I would fix all my thoughts and desires, and the more I see of the glory of Christ, the more the painted beauties of this world will wither in my eyes and I will be more and more crucified to this world. It will become to me like something dead and putrid, impossible for me to enjoy. – John Owen

Confession of Sin:

Prayer of Confession
Heavenly Father, your love brings life to dead souls, light to darkened minds, and strength to weak wills.  Depending on our own strength we stumble; proclaiming our own goodness we sin; glorying in our own righteousness we corrupt everything we touch; indulging in self-pity we blind ourselves to the needs of those around us. Help us to believe and trust that no wrong we have done, and no good we have failed to do, is too great for you to forgive through the merits of Jesus Christ your Son. Amen.
 
Words of Grace
But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.
 
Romans 3:21-24

Confession of Faith: Westminster Shorter Catechism (1646)

Q. 38. What benefits do believers receive from Christ at the resurrection?
 
A. At the resurrection, believers being raised up in glory, shall be openly acknowledged and acquitted in the day of judgment, and made perfectly blessed in the full enjoying of God to all eternity.

Guest Preacher: Mark Gignilliat

This week we had Mark Gignilliat preaching. Mark is an Associate Professor of Divinity at Beeson Divinity School. Below you will find a link to his sermon and the passage from which he preached.

Listen To This Week's Sermon: "Weddings, Wine, and the Savior of the World"

Sermon Text: John 2:1-12
1 On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. 2 Jesus also was invited to the wedding with his disciples. 3When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” 4And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.” 5 His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”
 
6 Now there were six stone water jars there for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. 7 Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. 8 And he said to them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the feast.” So they took it. 9 When the master of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom 10 and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now.” 11 This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him.
 
12 After this he went down to Capernaum, with his mother and his brothers and his disciples, and they stayed there for a few days.

Reflection Questions

  1. What was new or compelling to you? What stood out to you from this passage?
  2. What questions does this passage raise for you?
  3. Was there anything that bothered you?
  4. How would you describe the glory of Jesus from this passage?
  5. What's one thing you could ask Jesus to do in your life that you see him do in this passage?

Suggested Resources:
Why does the Gospel fall flat with me? Why do I continue to struggle with insecurity and feelings of inadequacy? Why do I never seem to change? Why do I live with a prevailing sense of guilt and shame? Have you ever asked any of those questions? What would be a question you might add to that list? Without minimizing the complexity of those questions, the Bible's answer to all of those questions and countless more begins with the central truth we find in 1 John 4:9-10.

In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to bethe propitiation for our sins.

Do you live through him? How do you do that? It all begins with the cross of Christ. His self-substitutionary sacrifice. Do you know this love? Does it saturate your daily experience? If not where might you begin to turn that ship. Let me suggest to you a slow, thoughtful read of this book.

Songs for this week:
Alleluia! Sing to Jesus
Come, Holy Ghost 
There’s a Wideness in God’s Mercy
The King of Love My Shepherd Is 
Jesus, Lead Us with Thy Power 

Sermon passage for this week: John 6:25-44

Until next time,

Will

Praise, My Soul the King of Heaven

Verse 4

Fatherlike He tends and spares us; 
Well our feeble frame He Knows. 
In His hands He gently bears us, 
Rescues us from all our foes. 
Praise Him, praise Him, 
praise Him, praise Him, 
Widely as His mercy goes.

Sermon Recap Vol. 1.38

FROM THE DESK OF WILL SPOKES, SENIOR PASTOR

Jesus Lover Of My Soul

Verse 2

Other refuge have I none, 
I helpless, hang on Thee; 
Leave, oh leave me not alone, 
Support and comfort me. 
All my trust on Thee is stayed, 
All help from Thee I bring; 
Cover my defenseless head
In the shadow of Thy wing.

Welcome to the Red Mountain Sunday Recap! 

The Sunday Recap is a brief fly-by of what we did during Sunday worship. Did anything land with you from worship on Sunday? What did it make you think? How did it make you feel? What did you find especially sweet or challenging from God's word? What did we sing, read, or pray that left an impression on you?

Food For Thought:

Grace is a New Testament technical term meaning love to the unlovely and seemingly unlovable, love that is primarily not a passion evoked by something in the loved one, but a purpose of making the loved one great and glad: love that to this end gives, never mind the cost, and rescues those in need, never mind their unworthiness. – J.I. Packer

Confession of Sin:

Prayer of Confession
We confess, our Father, that we do not live up to the family name. We are more ready to resent than to forgive, more ready to manipulate than to serve, more ready to fear than to love, more ready to keep our distance than to welcome, more ready to compete than to help. At the root of this behavior is mistrust and self-love. We do not love one another as we should, because we do not believe that you love us as you do. Forgive us our cold unbelief. And make more vivid to us the gift and power of your love at the cross. Show us what it cost you to give up your Son that we might become your sons and daughters. We ask this in the name of Jesus, our only righteousness.  Amen.
 
Words of Grace
Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.
 
1 John 3:2-3

Confession of Faith: Westminster Shorter Catechism (1646)

Q. 36. What are the benefits which in this life do accompany or flow from justification, adoption, and sanctification?
 
A. The benefits which in this life do accompany or flow from justification, adoption, and sanctification, are assurance of God’s love, peace of conscience, joy in the Holy Spirit, increase of grace, and perseverance therein to the end.

Listen To This Week's Sermon: "The God of the Living"

Sermon Text: Mark 12:28-34
18 And Sadducees came to him, who say that there is no resurrection. And they asked him a question, saying, 19 “Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies and leaves a wife, but leaves no child, the man must take the widow and raise up offspring for his brother. 20 There were seven brothers; the first took a wife, and when he died left no offspring. 21 And the second took her, and died, leaving no offspring. And the third likewise. 22 And the seven left no offspring. Last of all the woman also died. 23 In the resurrection, when they rise again, whose wife will she be? For the seven had her as wife.”
 
24 Jesus said to them, “Is this not the reason you are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God? 25 For when they rise from the dead, they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. 26 And as for the dead being raised, have you not read in the book of Moses, in the passage about the bush, how God spoke to him, saying, ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? 27 He is not God of the dead, but of the living. You are quite wrong.”

Sermon Outline
1. The question the Sadducees ask (v. 18-23)
2. The rebuke Jesus gives (v. 24)
3. The assurance of the resurrection (v. 25-27)

Sermon Summary
Jesus is getting hammered by questions in this section of Mark. Passage after passage Jesus is engaged in serious debate with the religious and political leaders of his day.

In this passage the Sadducees come to Jesus asking about the resurrection. However, they do so by appealing to the law of levirate marriage found in Deuteronomy 25. The 1st Century, Jewish historian, Josephus explained the law of levirate marriage like this: "When a woman is left childless on her husband’s death, the husbands brother shall marry her, and shall call the child that shall be born by the name of the deceased and rear him as heir to the estate; for this will at once be profitable to the public welfare, houses not dying out and property remaining with the relatives, and it will moreover bring the women an alleviation of their misfortune to live with the nearest kinsman of their former husband."

There a couple things you need to know about the Sadducees. They only accepted the first five books of the Old Testament as God's word and they didn't believe in an afterlife. So their appeal to the law of levirate marriage was intended to make Jesus look stupid by means of a hypothetical riddle.

However, Jesus responds with a stinging rebuke. "You know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God." That's quite a thing to say to religious experts. It would be like saying Wall Street knows nothing about finance. However, their very question demonstrates Jesus' point. The law of levirate marriage wasn't about the resurrection. It was about God's tangible mercy to people in a desperate and vulnerable situation. "Levirate marriage was an ancient solution to the [hardship and vulnerability] of the widowed and childless woman…. A childless widow had no secure place in ancient society." Not only that Jesus' rebuke implicitly claimed that what the Sadducees thought they knew best, they in fact knew the least. They were misusing scripture and in doing so missing the God of the scriptures. They were vulnerable not at their weak spots but at their strong points.

How might this apply to us? The very things in our lives we are the best at, the proudest of, or care most deeply about may in fact be the greatest hindrances to understanding and enjoying the grace and mercy of God. Why is that? Because all of those things by default become our righteousness, self-salvation strategies. In our culture, they describe the things from which we derive our value and worth and security in the world. So what can be done about this problem? What would the Sadducees need to do to begin to see themselves and God the way Jesus does? They would need to see their need to repent not only for the bad things they've done but for the the reasons why they ever did anything good. In other words, they need to repent of their righteousness. Consider the Pharisee in Luke 18. Pharisees repent of their sins and yet are still self-righteous and look down on other people. However, a Christian is someone who not only repents of his/her sin but of his/her righteousness because only the righteousness of Jesus can save a sinner. Have you grasped this? Are you learning to repent of your righteousness?

But let's be honest. When you begin to see that your righteousness isn't perhaps as righteous as you once thought...it can be very disruptive and even scary. It can feel like you are losing control, even losing your very identity. If that's you, you are far closer to grasping the free grace of God in Jesus than you might realize. Therefore, Jesus gives us assurance in this passage that what God promised to do will lead to and end in resurrection life! Jesus quotes from Exodus 3 when God appears to Moses in the burning bush and specifically one of God's names..."I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob." This is covenantal language. Language that describes God's character as the God who makes promises to people who don't deserve them and he keeps them. For Jesus the resurrection is the logical outworking of God's covenant promises throughout scripture. Not even death can thwart God's love, grace, and commitment to his people. What matters most isn't or legacy or the name we leave behind but God's covenant promises!

However, death is real as we all know and so did Martha in John 11 when her brother Lazarus died. Jesus responding to Martha in her grief said, "I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?" You see Jesus doesn't just argue for the resurrection, he is the resurrection! He is the fulfillment of all God's covenant promises because his resurrection also presupposes his suffering and death which guarantees our forgiveness and reconciliation and welcome into God's family.

It is for this reason that Jesus declares in verse 25 that resurrection life will be very different than life this side of his return. Jesus' point isn't that we will turn into angels. His point is we will be like the angels in that we will experience the intimacy, love and joy of perfect communion with Jesus around his wedding supper (Rev. 19). Therefore, Jesus is teaching that marriage isn't an end in itself but a clue or a glimpse of the perfect spousal love of Jesus for us (Eph. 5:25-27).

Practically this means if you are married don't expect to be the perfect spouse and don't expect your spouse to be the perfect spouse. Instead think of your marriage as a gift from Jesus to discover in tangible concrete ways his spousal love for you: the cost of forgiveness and the freeness of grace. If you're not married, as wonderful as marriage can be, it is derivative of Jesus' love for you on the cross. In view of the gospel marriage is not the end all be all of life this side of heaven. Therefore, you can still long to be married without feeling like your life is on hold without it. Ultimately Jesus' teaching here on marriage and the resurrection is intended to fix our eyes on him and the gospel!

Reflection Questions

  1. What was new or compelling to you? What stood out to you from this passage?
  2. What questions does this passage raise for you?
  3. Was there anything that bothered you?
  4. How would you explain what it means "to repent of your righteousness?"
  5. Why is the resurrection important for dealing with the challenge of marriage or longing for marriage now?
  6. What promises from God do you see in this passage you most need to cling to this week?

Suggested Resources:
The longer I live the more rich and meaningful the Psalms become! No one has helped me discover and enjoy God's gift of the Psalms more than Eugene Peterson. One of my favorite books of his on the Psalms is called Answering God. However, I recently came across a video interview between Bono (U2) and Eugene Peterson talking about the Psalms. I thought you might enjoy listening to their conversation. Fascinating! Here is a little teaser...Bono sings Psalm 23 a cappella. 

Songs for this week:
Come, Christians Join To Sing
We Love Thy Holy Name
O The Deep, Deep Love Of Jesus
My Jesus, I Love Thee
Lift Up Your Head Ye Mighty Gates

Sermon passage for this week: Mark 12:28-34

Until next time,

Will

Jesus Lover Of My Soul

Verse 4

Plenteous grace with Thee is found, 
Grace to cover all my sin; 
Let the healing streams abound; 
Make and keep me pure within. 
Thou of life the fountain art, 
Let me take of Thee; 
Spring Thou up within my heart; 
For all eternity.

Sermon Recap Vol. 1.37

FROM THE DESK OF WILL SPOKES, SENIOR PASTOR

For All The Saints

Verse 1

For all the saints, 
who from their labors rest, 
Who Thee by faith
before the world confessed, 
Thy Name, O Jesus, 
be forever blessed. 
Alleluia, Allelu...

Verse 2

Thou wast their rock, 
their fortress and their might; 
Thou, Lord, their captain
in the well fought fight; 
Thou, in the darkness
drear, their one true Light. 
Alleluia, Allelu...

 

Welcome to the Red Mountain Sunday Recap! 

The Sunday Recap is a brief fly-by of what we did during Sunday worship. Did anything land with you from worship on Sunday? What did it make you think? How did it make you feel? What did you find especially sweet or challenging from God's word? What did we sing, read, or pray that left an impression on you?

Food For Thought:

To live the life of daily faith in the Son of God, and to be daily drawing out of His fullness the promised grace and strength which He has laid up for His people – this is the grand secret of progressive sanctification. - J.C. Ryle
 
In order to combat this sense of helplessness before the binding power of indwelling sin, believers should first be assured that sanctification, like justification, is grounded in union with Christ. The power of sin to rule their lives has been destroyed in the cross of Christ; we have died with Christ, and have been raised together with him in newness of life. Therefore, we are not to set the estimates of our power to conquer sin according to past experiences of our will power, but are to fix our attention on Christ and the power of his risen life in which we participate: for we have died, and our life is hidden with Christ in God. - Richard Lovelace

Confession of Sin:

Prayer of Confession
Father in heaven, we need to be forgiven. We have tried to heal ourselves. Instead of trusting in the death of Jesus Christ, we have tried to work off our guilt. We have tried so hard to pile up good deeds that outweigh our sins. When this doesn’t work, we quickly turn to denial and distraction. Instead of trusting in the resurrection of Jesus Christ, we have tried to change through our own efforts. We have tried to change our hearts through sheer willpower. This has left some of us arrogant. This has left most of us anxious and depressed. Forgive us for trying to heal ourselves. Forgive us for neglecting your grace. Forgive us and heal us, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.
 
Words of Grace
For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.
 
1 Peter 2:21-24

Confession of Faith: Westminster Shorter Catechism (1646)

Q. 35. What is Sanctification?
 
A. Sanctification is the work of God’s free grace, whereby we are renewed in the whole man after the image of God, and are enabled more and more to die unto sin, and live unto righteousness.

Romans 6:10-13
For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, butpresent yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness.
 

Listen To This Week's Sermon: "Change is Possible (and it's the Christian Hope)"

Sermon Text: Colossians 1:1-8
1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother,
 
2 To the saints and faithful brothers in Christ at Colossae: Grace to you and peace from God our Father.
 
3 We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, 4 since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, 5 because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. Of this you have heard before in the word of the truth, the gospel, 6 which has come to you, as indeed in the whole world it is bearing fruit and increasing—as it also does among you, since the day you heard it and understood the grace of God in truth, 7 just as you learned it fromEpaphras our belovedfellow servant. He is a faithful minister of Christ on your behalf 8 and has made known to us your love in the Spirit.

Sermon Outline
1. Change in us is God's work
2. Change is seen in our faith in Jesus and love for God's people
3. God uses our fixed hope of heaven to produce the fruit of faith

Sermon Summary
This past Sunday Rev. Joe Dentici, RUF Campus Minister at Penn State preached to us from Colossians 1:1-8. The central theme of his sermon was Gospel Change. Perhaps one of the most challenging aspects of the life of faith in Christ is the process of change, especially when it doesn't seem to us like anything is happening. It often raises questions in our hearts about whether or not God is at work. There are a number of ways to work out that struggle. However, the best way is to go back to the gospel, to the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. One would be hard pressed to look at Jesus and say his life OBVIOUSLY looked like God was up to something wonderful...and yet look what God did through what looked like and no doubt was a total disaster.

Now tohim who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen. (Eph. 3:20-21)

Reflection Questions

  1. What was new or compelling to you? What stood out to you from this passage?
  2. What questions does this passage raise for you?
  3. Was there anything that bothered you?
  4. Who is the main actor in this passage and what does he do?
  5. If you don't think you are changing or growing, why not?
  6. What is the dynamic for change in this passage? Do you see it in your life? Why or why not?

Suggested Resources:
I have two resources to point you toward this week. What are the vital things you need and need to know to understand the Gospel and thrive as a follower of Jesus? If someone asked you that question, what would you say? In his recent book entitled, Taking God Seriously: Vital Things We Need To Know, J.I. Packer walks us through the basic ingredients necessary to answer that question for ourselves and others.

What about helping our kids understand the Christian faith and develop an understanding of the scriptures and the gospel that will serve them well in years to come (i.e. building on godly play)? I'll say more about this resource this summer, but if you would like a straight forward guide to talk through the basics of the Christian faith take a look at Understanding the Faith. I think you might find it useful especially for 3rd/4th grade and above. I've started working through it with one of my boys and it has been helpful so far. Nothing glamorous. Just basic stuff that gets kids in the bible.  

Songs for this week:
All Hail the Power of Jesus' Name
God of My Life to Thee I Call
Jesus, Lover of My Soul
The Church's One Foundation
Jesus Thou Joy of Loving Hearts

Sermon passage for this week: Mark 12:18-27

Until next time,

Will

For All The Saints

Verse 4

The golden evening
brightens in the west; 
Soon, soon to faithful
warriors comes their rest; 
Sweet is the calm
of paradise the blessed. 
Alleluia, Allelu...

Verse 5

But lo! There breaks
a yet more glorious day; 
The saints triumphant
rise in bright array; 
The King of glory
passes on his way, 
Alleluia, Allelu...

Sermon Recap Vol. 1.36

FROM THE DESK OF WILL SPOKES, SENIOR PASTOR

O Love That Will Not Let Me Go

Verse 1

O Love that will not let me go, 
I rest my weary soul in thee; 
I give thee back the life I owe, 
That in thine ocean depths its flow
May richer, fuller be.

Welcome to the Red Mountain Sunday Recap! 

The Sunday Recap is a brief fly-by of what we did during Sunday worship. Did anything land with you from worship on Sunday? What did it make you think? How did it make you feel? What did you find especially sweet or challenging from God's word? What did we sing, read, or pray that left an impression on you?

Food For Thought!

A few of you asked me about the letter I read during worship describing the lives of Christians in the 2nd Century. We don't know exactly who wrote it or to whom but it goes by the name of The Letter to Diognetus. So here it is in full...

Chapter 5. The manners of the Christians
For the Christians are distinguished from other men neither by country, nor language, nor the customs which they observe. For they neither inhabit cities of their own, nor employ a peculiar form of speech, nor lead a life which is marked out by any singularity. The course of conduct which they follow has not been devised by any speculation or deliberation of inquisitive men; nor do they, like some, proclaim themselves the advocates of any merely human doctrines. But, inhabiting Greek as well as barbarian cities, according as the lot of each of them has determined, and following the customs of the natives in respect to clothing, food, and the rest of their ordinary conduct, they display to us their wonderful and confessedly striking method of life. They dwell in their own countries, but simply as sojourners. As citizens, they share in all things with others, and yet endure all things as if foreigners. Every foreign land is to them as their native country, and every land of their birth as a land of strangers. They marry, as do all [others]; they beget children; but they do not destroy their offspring. They have a common table, but not a common bed. They are in the flesh, but they do not live after the flesh. They pass their days on earth, but they are citizens of heaven. They obey the prescribed laws, and at the same time surpass the laws by their lives. They love all men, and are persecuted by all. They are unknown and condemned; they are put to death, and restored to life. They are poor, yet make many rich; they are in lack of all things, and yet abound in all; they are dishonoured, and yet in their very dishonour are glorified. They are evil spoken of, and yet are justified; they are reviled, and bless; they are insulted, and repay the insult with honour; they do good, yet are punished as evil-doers. When punished, they rejoice as if quickened into life; they are assailed by the Jews as foreigners, and are persecuted by the Greeks; yet those who hate them are unable to assign any reason for their hatred.

Confession of Sin:

Prayer of Confession
God of mercy, we humbly confess our need of your pardoning grace. We shelter arrogance and pride in our hearts and believe that our efforts are good enough to secure what only you can give us. We are quick to judge and grumble when our plans, pleasures, and preferences are threatened. We are slow to offer mercy, both inwardly and outwardly, towards those people you have placed in our lives and called us to love. Forgive our self-righteousness and our self-absorption. Fix our eyes on our savior, Jesus Christ, that we may become enraptured with Him, for it’s in his name we pray. Amen.
 
Words of Grace
[B]ut God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.
 
Romans 5:8-11

Confession of Faith: The Apostles Creed

I believe in God, the Father Almighty,
            maker of heaven and earth.
 
I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son our Lord,
            who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
            born of the Virgin Mary,
            suffered under Pontius Pilate,
            was crucified, dead, and buried:
            he descended into hell.
            The third day he rose again from the dead.
            He ascended into heaven
            and sits at the right hand of God the Father almighty.
            From there he will come to judge the living and the dead.
 
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
            the holy catholic church,
            the communion of saints,
            the forgiveness of sins,
            the resurrection of the body,
            and the life everlasting. Amen.

Listen To This Week's Sermon: "The Image"

Sermon Text: Mark 12:13-17
13 And they sent to him some of the Pharisees and some of the Herodians, to trap him in his talk. 14 And they came and said to him, “Teacher, we know that you are true and do not care about anyone’s opinion. For you are not swayed by appearances, but truly teach the way of God. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not? Should we pay them, or should we not?” 15 But, knowing their hypocrisy, he said to them, “Why put me to the test? Bring me a denarius and let me look at it.” 16 And they brought one. And he said to them, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” They said to him, “Caesar’s.” 17 Jesus said to them, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” And they marveled at him.

Sermon Outline
1. The logic of Jesus' politics (12:13-17)
2. The call of Jesus' politics (12:17)
3. The power of Jesus' politics (12:16-17)

Sermon Summary
As much as any other passage, this passage teaches us Jesus' approach to politics. The issue surfaces as a result of the Pharisees and Herodians asking Jesus a question in order to trap him. They asked him, "Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not? Should we pay them, or should we not?" (v. 14) Who were these people and why did they ask him this question? The Pharisees were one of three main groups that made up the Sanhedrin, the most powerful Jewish religious and political body of the 1st Century. They were known for their legal rigor and adherence to the "traditions of the elders" especially with respect to "purity laws." (7:1-13) The Herodians were the influential aristocrats who supported Herod and thereby Roman rule over Judea. In other words, the Pharisees are like the "religious fundamentalists" and the Herodians are like the "progressive secularists." The irony is they had nothing in common and wouldn't agree about anything except one thing...destroying Jesus (3:6). So why did they join forces to ask Jesus this question in the hopes of trapping him? The tax in view was a head tax or poll tax, instituted in AD 6 after Judea had become a Roman province. It was a tax that represented Jewish submission to a pagan emperor and implied support of his regime. But why ask Jesus about it? Shortly after the head tax was instituted Judas of Galilee (Acts 5:37) lead a revolt against Rome in an effort to liberate the Jews from Roman rule. However, Judas was killed and the revolt squashed. Fast forward 25 years or so. Jesus came preaching the Kingdom of God, he arrived to Jerusalem to the shouts of the crowd hailing him as the coming King, and he claimed authority over the Temple. The question in the minds of the Pharisees and the Herodians was, "is Jesus another revolutionary come to free God's people?" Therefore the question about the head tax was a deliberate trap to put Jesus on the horns of a dilemma. Answer, "yes" and lose the support of the people for being pro-Roman. Answer, "no" and invite the Roman authorities to squash another would be revolutionary.

So how does Jesus respond? What is the logic of Jesus' answer? He asks to see a Denarius (the amount of the head tax) and then asks whose image and inscription is on the coin. The Pharisees and Herodians reply, "Caesar's." To which he gives his reply that leaves everyone marveling: "Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's." (v. 17) What does this mean? Jesus is saying whatever bears Caesar's image and name you should give back to him. And in the same way, whatever bears God's image and name you should give back to him. That's the logic of his answer. Politics and faith are not mutually exclusive but they do have a proper order. Ever so subtly Jesus asserts God is the supreme authority despite Caesar's claims and yet he upholds Caesar's authority. Jesus' use of the image on the coin as the central ingredient of his reply brings into view our most basic identity and our most important relationship. Genesis 1:26 teaches that God made humans in his image to glorify and enjoy him. Therefore, to give back to God what is his, is to give back to him your very life which he gave to you in the first place. (Rom. 12:1-2)

But how does that apply to politics? In other words, what is the call of Jesus' politics? Here we need to look to Romans 13: 1 Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. 2 Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. 3 For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, 4 for he is God’s servant for your good…. 6 For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. 7 Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed. One of the most important keys to understanding what Jesus and Paul teach about politics is to remember the historical context. Both Jesus and Paul speak about politics under Roman rule and occupation. In other words, this teaching was given in the midst of Roman hostility to Christianity. So then what does it look like to cultivate a public faith in the midst of a polarized culture that is increasingly hostile to Christianity. I think a helpful place to go for getting a picture of what this looks like is The Letter to Diognetusthat I included under "Food For Thought" above.

It is truly amazing that Jesus gives this answer and shows such honor for the authorities knowing who would put him to death in a few short days. (10:33-34) Where then do we find the power to follow after Jesus even in a polarized and at times politically hostile environment? Remember we've seen two "images" in this passage. Caesar's image and God's image. But there is a third image we must not miss. The Lord Jesus himself. He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. (Col. 1:15,19-20) Therefore, politics, for the Christian begins not with giving back what belongs to Caesar or even to God but with what God has first given to us! At infinite cost to himself God gave...! The only way we can give back our lives to God and give back to those in authority over us regardless of their beliefs or practices is if we go back again and again to the Gospel and the humility and confidence we find there.

Reflection Questions

  1. What was new or compelling to you? What stood out to you from this passage?
  2. What questions does this passage raise for you?
  3. Was there anything that bothered you?
  4. How would you describe your attitude toward politics?
  5. What does Jesus teach about the relationship between politics and faith?
  6. What are the three images in this passage and why do we need all three to cultivate public faith in line with Jesus' teaching? 

Suggested Resources:
I have a slightly different resource for you this week. I want to share with you a way to cultivate and deepen wisdom and prayer in your life: read through the Psalms and/or Proverbs once a month. How can you do that? First, the Psalms. Begin with Psalm 1 then add 30. Do that five times a day. Do that for 30 days and you will read through the whole Psalter in a month. So for example:

Day 1: Read Psalm 1, 31, 61, 91, 121
Day 2: Read Psalm 2, 32, 62, 92, 122
Day 3: Read Psalm 3, 33, 63, 93, 123...and so on for 30 days

Second, the book of Proverbs. Proverbs is 31 chapters, so if you read a chapter a day you'll read the whole book in a month. Obviously months with only 30 days will mean you need to read two chapters on the last day of the month.

Here is what I do. I read three Psalms and one chapter from Proverbs each morning. I read two Psalms at night before I go to bed. I try to look for something that stands out to me and then spend a few minutes meditating on it and using it to guide prayer throughout the day.

Try it for a couple months and see what God does!

Songs for this week:
Immortal, Invisible
For All The Saints
Amazing Grace
Jesus is Our Great Salvation
The Christian's Hope Can Never Fail

Sermon passage for this week: Colossians 1:1-8

Until next time,

Will

O Love That Will Not Let Me Go

Verse 4

 O Cross that liftest up my head, 
I dare not ask to fly from thee; 
I lay in dust life’s glory dead, 
And from the ground there blossoms red
Life that shall endless be.

Sunday Recap Vol. 1.35

FROM THE DESK OF WILL SPOKES, SENIOR PASTOR

Jesus, I My Cross Have Taken

Verse 1

Jesus, I my cross have taken, 
All to leave and follow Thee. 
Destitute, despised, forsaken, 
Thou from hence my all shall be. 
Perish every fond ambition, 
All I’'ve sought or hoped or known. 
Yet how rich is my condition! 
God and heaven are still my own.

Welcome to the Red Mountain Sunday Recap! 

The Sunday Recap is a brief fly-by of what we did during Sunday worship. Did anything land with you from worship on Sunday? What did it make you think? How did it make you feel? What did you find especially sweet or challenging from God's word? What did we sing, read, or pray that left an impression on you?

Food For Thought!

What is grace? In the New Testament grace means God’s love in action towards [people] who merited the opposite of love. Grace means God moving heaven and earth to save sinners who could not lift a finger to save themselves. Grace means God sending His only Son to descend into hell on the cross so that we guilty ones might be reconciled to God and received into heaven. ‘(God) hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him’ (2 Corinthians 5:21).
 
What is a Christian? The question can be answered in many ways, but the richest answer I know is that a Christian is one who has God for his Father.
 
J.I. Packer

Confession of Sin:

Prayer of Confession
Merciful Father, forgive us the sins of our tongues—for deception and untruthfulness in our dealings with others; for resentment, coldness, impatience, and ill temper. Forgive us for the sins of our eyes—for impurity in our glances and imagination; for pining after more beauty, comfort, status, and wealth than you have given us. Forgive us the sins of our hearts—for hard-heartedness toward you and our neighbors; for pride, self-absorption, self-pity; and above all for rebelling against you and doubting your love. Father, remove our fear, envy and pride and melt our hearts with the good news of the Gospel. Transform us by your grace to live wholly for your glory. Take away our mourning and replace it with songs of joy, for it is in Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
 
Words of Grace
My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.
 
1 John 2:1-2

Confession of Faith: Westminster Shorter Catechism (1646)

Q. 34. What is adoption?

A. Adoption is an act of God’s free grace, whereby we are received into the number, and have a right to all the privileges of the sons of God.

Romans 8:14-17
14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. 15 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.
 

Listen To This Week's Sermon: "The Vineyard"

Sermon Text: Mark 11:27-12:12
11:27 And they came again to Jerusalem. And as he was walking in the temple, the chief priests and the scribes and the elders came to him, 28 and they said to him, “By what authority are you doing these things, or who gave you this authority to do them?” 29 Jesus said to them, “I will ask you one question; answer me, and I will tell you by what authority I do these things. 30 Was the baptism of John from heaven or from man? Answer me.” 31 And they discussed it with one another, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will say, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’ 32 But shall we say, ‘From man’?”— they were afraid of the people, for they all held that John really was a prophet.  33So they answered Jesus, “We do not know.” And Jesus said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.”
 
12:1 And he began to speak to them in parables. “A man planted a vineyard and put a fence around it and dug a pit for the winepress and built a tower, and leased it to tenants and went into another country. 2 When the season came, he sent a servant to the tenants to get from them some of the fruit of the vineyard.3 And they took him and beat him and sent him away empty-handed. 4 Again he sent to them another servant, and they struck him on the head and treated him shamefully. 5 And he sent another, and him they killed. And so with many others: some they beat, and some they killed. 6 He had still one other, a beloved son. Finally he sent him to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ 7But those tenants said to one another, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.’ 8 And they took him and killed him and threw him out of the vineyard. 9 What will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and destroy the tenants and give the vineyard to others. 10 Have you not read this Scripture:
           “‘The stone that the builders rejected
                   has become the cornerstone;
11              this was the Lord’s doing,
                   and it is marvelous in our eyes’?”
 
12 And they were seeking to arrest him but feared the people, for they perceived that he had told the parable against them. So they left him and went away.

Sermon Outline
1. A Claim of ultimate authority (11:27-33; 12:1-8)
2. A threat to our independence (11:32; 12:12; 12:10)
3. A promise of grace (12:11; 12:6-10a)

Sermon Summary
Jesus has come to Jerusalem and the Religious Leaders have taken notice (v. 27). And not just any Religious Leaders but the chief priests and the scribes and the elders, that is, the Sanhedrin, the most powerful religious and political body in Judaism at the time, especially with respect to the Temple. Nothing happened in the Temple without their permission and endorsement. But something had happened. "And they said to him, 'By what authority are you doing these things, or who gave you this authority to do them?'" (v. 28) What are they talking about? What had Jesus done? Earlier in chapter 11, on his second day in Jerusalem, Jesus walked into the Temple "and began to drive out those who sold and those who bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. And he would not allow anyone to carry anything through the temple. And he was teaching them and saying to them, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’? But you have made it a den of robbers.” And the chief priests and the scribes heard it and were seeking a way to destroy him, for they feared him, because all the crowd was astonished at his teaching." (v. 15-18) He was claiming authority over the affairs of God's house and God's mission to the nations. But as you might expect the Religious Leaders didn't like that very much so they came to Jesus and asked him in effect, "Who do you think you are?"

In response Jesus does two things. First he asks the Religious Leaders a question about John's baptism (1:9-11). Was it from God or from man? The Religious Leaders hem and haw and eventually say they don't know more out of fear and pride than ignorance. But why does Jesus ask about John's baptism? Because the sole purpose of John's ministry was to prepare the way for the one to come (1:7-8), which culminated in his baptism of Jesus. Jesus' baptism was the declaration of his identity as the beloved Son of God come to do his Father's will. Second Jesus tells a parable in 12:1-9 to help explain what he meant by recalling John's baptism. It's a parable that draws from passages like Isaiah 5 in which God describes his people like a vineyard that he tends and cares for. Therefore, Jesus is saying, God is my Father, I am his son, and the Vineyard belongs to me. In other words, Jesus is saying these people belong to me, this temple belongs to me, this city belongs to me, this land belongs to me, all of creation belongs to me. It is an ultimate claim of authority to proclaim good news to the poor...to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. (Luke 4:18-19)

But second, it's a claim that threatens our independence. Jesus' authority was a direct threat to the popularity and status and power of the Religious Leaders. They were afraid of the people (11:32; 12:12). Like the tenants in the parable of the vineyard, they were plotting and scheming to use God's gifts for their own purposes rather than for God's glory and the good of others. They were living like owners rather than stewards. What about us? Are we living more like owners or stewards of God's grace and gifts? Jesus' authority roots out pride and fear; the desire to live independently from him.

What does this independence look like? Jesus gives us a metaphor drawn from Psalm 118...the cornerstone. A cornerstone is the focal point of a building, the stone on which it depends for structural integrity. It serves as a metaphor for the center of your life; your efforts to build your life on something other than God. Therefore, Jesus is saying unless I am the cornerstone of your life it will collapse no matter how great it may be. How can you identify the cornerstones in your life? Look for pride...the things you look to to give you a sense of worth and value. Look for fear...the things you want and can't get; the things you have and are afraid to lose. This is the problem of the human heart. So how do we get out of this mess?

Third Jesus gives us a promise of grace. The owner of the vineyard sends several servants to recoup the fruit of his vineyard but they are all beaten or killed. Thinking the tenants will respect his son, he sends his beloved son who also is killed and cast out of the vineyard. At first this owner seems either callous or stupid. But Jesus says something marvelous is going on here (12:11), that God is up to something glorious, it's the radical, costly message of grace. Throughout the OT God had sent his servants the prophets to his people and they were rejected and sometimes killed...John the Baptist being a case in point (6:14-29). Jesus is the beloved son sent by a holy and loving God to rebellious sinners in order that we might be rescued. So now instead of the judgment of 12:9 falling on us...What will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and destroy the tenants and give the vineyard to others...it has fallen on Jesus. The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone, this is the Lord's doing and it is marvelous in our eyes! 

For it stands in Scripture:
“Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone,
a cornerstone chosen and precious,
and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.”
1 Peter 2:6

Reflection Questions

  1. What was new or compelling to you? What stood out to you from this passage?
  2. What questions does this passage raise for you?
  3. Was there anything that bothered you?
  4. What "cornerstones" do pride and fear point to in your life?
  5. What is marvelous to you about this passage? 

Suggested Resources:
"Place" is a big deal at RMC. What does it mean to be a church for the city...a church that prays for the city and seeks its welfare and prosperity? One of the things it means is becoming a good student of the city: its trends and changes in order to adapt and serve wisely and sustainably. I recently came across a good example of paying attention to trends and changes in a city. In this articleThe Coffee Curse: Why Coffee Shops Have Always Signaled Urban Changethe writer looks back over 350 years of history at the role coffee shops have played in the city of London both past and present. I couldn't help but think of our city and coffee shops like Saturn or Urban Standard or Red Cat. Hope you enjoy it.

Songs for this week:
Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing
Psalm 111
O Love That Will Not Let Me Go
Come All Ye Pining Hungry Poor
Jesus, I Come

Sermon passage for this week: Mark 12:13-17

Until next time,

Will

Jesus, I My Cross Have Taken

Verse 5

 Soul, then know thy full salvation
Rise o’'er sin and fear and care
Joy to find in every station, 
Something still to do or bear. 
Think what Spirit dwells within thee, 
Think what Father’s smiles are thine, 
Think that Jesus died to win thee, 
Child of heaven, canst thou repine.