Sunday Recap Vol. 2.15

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:

The most valuable thing the Psalms do for me is to express that same delight in God which made David dance…I am comparing it with the merely dutiful ‘church-going’ and laborious ‘saying our prayers’ to which most of us are, thank God not always, but often, reduced. Against that it stands out as something astonishingly robust, virile, and spontaneous; something we may regard with an innocent envy and may hope to be infected by as we read.
 – C.S. Lewis, Reflections on the Psalms

For next Sunday:

Sermon Text: Galatians 1:1-5

For All The Saints - Adoration
Jesus, I Come - Confession
Amazing Grace - Grace
The Church’s One Foundation - Response
Christ Whose Glory Fills the Sky - Communion

Suggested Resources:
Earlier this year Nikole Hannah-Jones, a writer for the New York Times Magazine, wrote a thought provoking and challenging piece about segregation in NYC schools and the ongoing realities we still face. The issues are complex and raise questions and challenges around advantage, power and resources not available to all who have a vested interest in high quality public education. While Bham is not NYC it seems we face analogous challenges in our own city.

Singing To God (Psalm 95:1-5)

Praise My Soul The King Of Heaven
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.

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

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

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

Sunday's Sermon: "Doctor My Eyes"

Sermon Text: Psalm 103
1    Bless the Lord, O my soul,
           and all that is within me,
           bless his holy name!
2    Bless the Lord, O my soul,
           and forget not all his benefits,
3         who forgives all your iniquity,
            who heals all your diseases,
4          who redeems your life from the pit,
            who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,
5          who satisfies you with good
            so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's.

6    The Lord works righteousness
            and justice for all who are oppressed.
7    He made known his ways to Moses,
            his acts to the people of Israel.
8    The Lord is merciful and gracious,
            slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
9    He will not always chide,
            nor will he keep his anger forever.
10  He does not deal with us according to our sins,
            nor repay us according to our iniquities.
11   For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
            so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;
12        as far as the east is from the west,
            so far does he remove our transgressions from us.
13   As a father shows compassion to his children,
            so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him.
14   For he knows our frame;
            he remembers that we are dust.

15   As for man, his days are like grass;
            he flourishes like a flower of the field;
16        for the wind passes over it, and it is gone,
            and its place knows it no more.
17  But the steadfast love of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting
           on those who fear him,
           and his righteousness to children's children,
18       to those who keep his covenant
           and remember to do his commandments.
19   The Lord has established his throne in the heavens,
           and his kingdom rules over all.

20   Bless the Lord, O you his angels,
           you mighty ones who do his word,
           obeying the voice of his word!
21   Bless the Lord, all his hosts,
           his ministers, who do his will!
22   Bless the Lord, all his works,
           in all places of his dominion.
       Bless the Lord, O my soul!

Sermon Outline
God's love reinterprets our experiences of
1. Discipline (vv. 6-14)
2. Disappointment (vv. 15-19)
3. Devotion (vv. 1-5, 20-22)

Sermon Summary
Anyone who has ever had a bad experience at something knows that its power extends far beyond the time when it happened. I once got the flu twice in a row after eating at Taco Bell, and was hesitant to eat there for a long time afterward. Even though I knew that I was just as likely to get the flu anywhere else, I found myself going to other restaurants when opportunities arose. My experience shaped how I viewed the world. The truth became distorted, as I subconsciously had greater reverence for my experience than I did for reason. This is often how we approach God’s character as revealed in His Word. Especially when we have had very painful experiences in our lives, we revere that pain most of all, and view God through it. The result is that we often respond to God not according to who He is, but according to our distorted image of Him. We may even lament with Jackson Browne in his song, “Doctor My Eyes,” that we have seen so many bad experiences that we are now powerless to see properly anymore. Psalm 103, however, challenges our views of who God is. It shows that His love is behind all of our experiences. His love reinterprets our experiences, and challenges us to revere God more than them.
 
There are three themes in this Psalm that God’s love reinterprets for us:disciplinedisappointment, and devotion. First, discipline comes from vv.6-14, where the psalmist describes how God dealt with Israel on their wilderness journey. V.9 says, “He will not always chide.” “Chide” means to stand against, or oppose in a legal sense. Many of us often feel that God stands against us. When we are conscious of our sin we feel that He is frustrated with us, and when our lives are not going how we want we feel that He must not be on our side. Israel likely felt both of these things in their desert wanderings. They experienced God’s opposition when they worshipped a golden calf (Ex.34), and when He did not let them return to Egypt when they wanted (Ex.16). When we sense God’s opposition to us, we often conclude that He must not like us. This, however, would be to view God according to how we have experienced humans. But what is God really like?
 
Vv.6-14 reinterprets our human experience of discipline by displaying God’s love. We see a God who does not deal with us according to our sins (v.10), a God who knows our breaking points (v.14), and a God whose love is like a father to his children (v.13). This means, that God is not like us. The decisions He makes toward us are not based on what our sins deserve. Then what are they based on? Like Israel, God is not content to leave us where we are, but is taking us somewhere much better. This often means He has to oppose us when we wander off. However, it does not mean He doesn’t love us. I had a difficult day disciplining my son on his birthday recently. We ended the afternoon at the Lego store where he spent his birthday money on a new set. As we walked home, he was beaming with excitement. I could not have been more proud to see him so happy. Though I may not always understand God’s discipline, this gave me a picture of the posture He holds toward me. If God loves me more than I love my son, His opposition starts to look very different. His love reinterprets my experience, and gives me reason to revere Him most. We know this even more because he sent Christ to show us how much He loves us. Christ gives us confidence that God does not deal with us according to our sins. He deals with us out of love. Let’s let that love challenge how we view God, and allow it to reinterpret what we experience.
 
At times we are conscious of our sin and experience God’s discipline. However, sometimes we experience struggle that has nothing to do with our sin. This often leaves us wondering whether God is there at all. Vv.15-19 speaks to this situation, and shows how God’s love reinterprets our experiences ofdisappointment. Disappointment is one of the most common human experiences. We say things like, “a pessimist is merely an optimist with more experience.” We also live in a culture of skepticism, where doubt is seen as a higher virtue than belief. This largely has to do with the fact that life is full of disappointments. Relationships rise and fall, leaving a wake of destruction behind. Bodies are strong in their youth, and fail as they age. Mentors inspire us, and then disappoint us. We often have spiritual highs, only to be met by spiritual lows. According to human experience, this could only mean that things are random, and that God is distant. But what is God really like?
 
V.17 shows that it is not the things of life that last, but God’s love. This means that all of creation may fade away, but the objects of God’s love never will. Those He loves ultimately will not go down, but will go where He goes. The human experience may look the same as if God were absent, but the promise of His love gives us new meaning through which to view Him. It reinterprets what we experience, and gives us reason to believe that we are headed in a very different direction than toward disappointment. I once lived in a house that got torn down shortly after I moved out. I remember passing by it one day and seeing the pile of rubble and sparse boards standing in a row. I then passed by again at a later time when they were rebuilding it, and it still looked like a pile of rubble with sparse boards standing in a row. However, the two images where heading in very different directions. Ultimately, it is God’s love through Christ by which we have confidence that our lives as Christians are not headed toward disappointment as it may appear. Christ left many disappointed for three days. However, His disappointment was not the end of Him, but only the beginning. This is the same hope for all who belong to His love by faith. What a reason to give Him more reverence than our experiences.
 
Finally, we may want to ask how we partake of God’s love. This psalm uses words like, “those who fear him,” and “those who keep his commandments,” to describe the recipients of God’s love. What about those of us who struggle to obey Him? From human experience, this sounds like those who obey God earn the right to be recipients of His love. However, the third theme we see here is how God’s love reinterprets out devotion.
 
In the first place, when the Old Testament refers to those who fear and obey God, it is referring to those who participate in the life of God’s covenant. God’s covenant people sinned frequently, but took their sins to God as God commanded them. They confessed, ritually washed, sacrificed, and enjoyed being in God’s presence. They did not earn His favor in any way. They merely responded to His grace through the covenant means. A Christian today who struggles to obey God, acknowledges their sin, and looks to God in hope of cleansing through Christ, would be considered someone who fears and obeys God.
 
However, this psalm does more than describe the love of God that He has toward those who belong to Him. It also shows how His people are to devote themselves to Him. It begins and ends with shouts of jubilation toward God. From a human standpoint, this type of devotion may sound like labor. However, if we know the extent of God’s love for us, it changes our devotion completely. Any sports fan knows what it is like to be watching a big game in a room full of people. When the team makes a big play, everyone shouts in unison with excitement. This is not labor, but love. This is the type of worship being portrayed in this psalm. What is so exciting? The fact that God sets free those who were in bondage, and makes them into new creatures (vv.3-5). Those who know God’s love through His great redemption have great reason to shout. True devotion is merely responding to such love in thankfulness, and longing for the whole earth to sing such songs. The redemption of God through Christ Jesus should prompt us to take notice of what God is truly like. This year, let us reflect on the reality of Christ’s redemption, and ask ourselves two questions. “What is God really like,” and “How does His love reinterpret what we experience?”

Reflection Questions

  1. What was new or compelling to you? What stood out to you from these verses?
  2. What questions do they raise for you?
  3. Was there anything that bothered you?
  4. Where are you most tempted to view God according to how you have experienced people?
  5. Does God's love through Christ change how you see your situation, or does your situation change how you see God's love?

Confession of FaithWestminster Shorter Catechism Q. 97
 
Q. 97. What is required for the worthy receiving of the Lord’s Supper?
 
A. It is required of them that would worthily partake of the Lord’s Supper, that they examine themselves of their knowledge to discern the Lord’s body, of their faith to feed upon him, of their repentance, love, and new obedience; lest, coming unworthily, they eat and drink judgment to themselves.

1 Corinthians 11:26-29
26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes.

27 Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. 28 Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. 29 For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself.

Sunday Recap Vol. 2.11

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:

The legacy of God’s word to [Abraham] lived on – not only in Israel’s [identity] but also in the haunting bottom line – ‘through you all nations will find blessing.’ Somehow, sometime, there would be universal effects from these [words]. For YHWH, the God of Israel, is also the God of all creation, to whom belong the whole earth and all its nations. – Christopher J. H. Wright

The gospel is Jesus Christ given to us with all the blessings of God contained in him. – Ian Murray

For next Sunday:

Sermon Text: 2 Samuel 11
Note: During Advent and Christmas we are going to look at the 5 women of Christmas from Matthew's genealogy of Jesus in Matthew chapter 1. Who were these women? Tamar (Genesis 38), Rahab (Joshua 2), Ruth (Ruth 1-4), Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11), and Mary (Matthew 1). Why does Matthew include these women in Jesus' genealogy? That's the question we will be trying to answer as we listen in on the story Matthew is telling us about Jesus who came to save his people from their sins (Mt. 1:21).

Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus - Advent
Holy, Holy, Holy - Adoration
Jesus, Lover of My Soul - Grace
All Things New - Response
Angels We Have Heard of High - Communion

Suggested Resources:
Our steering committee for Hope For Birmingham met for the first time last week. We had a really good meeting. We are planning to meet monthly as a committee, an aspect of which will be to plan four congregational wide gatherings over the next year. Depending on a number of factors we may even try to pull together a Friday-Saturday Hope For Birmingham Conference with opportunities for learning and dialogue around issues of mercy and justice to our city. In the mean time I want to keep putting resources in front of you that will deepen your understanding of the scriptures and the issues that face us. Here are five books and one video.

1. Generous Justice by Tim Keller
2. When Helping Hurts by Brian Fikkert and Steve Corbett
3. Video: Helping Without Hurting - Part 1: Reconsidering the Meaning of Poverty
4. A Public Faith: How Followers of Christ Should Serve the Common Good by Miraslov Volf
5. Public Faith In Action: How to Think Carefully, Engage Wisely, and Vote With Integrity by Miraslov Volf
6. Divided By Faith: Evangelical Religion and the Problem of Race in Americaby Christian Smith and Michael O. Emerson

It's always important to mention that recommending a resource doesn't mean agreement at every point along the way. I put these resources in front of you as good places to begin wrestling with the implications of the Gospel for loving our neighbors and seeking the common good of our city.

Singing To God (Psalm 95:1-5)

Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus

Come Thou long-expected Jesus
Born to set Thy people free; 
From our fears and sins release us, 
Let us find our rest in Thee. 
Israel's strength and consolation, 
Hope of all the saints Thou art; 
Dear desire of every nation, 
Joy of every longing heart.

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

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 on 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

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

Sunday's Sermon: "Rahab"

Sermon Text: Joshua 2
2 And Joshua the son of Nun sent two men secretly from Shittim as spies, saying, “Go, view the land, especially Jericho.” And they went and came into the house of a prostitute whose name was Rahab and lodged there. 2 And it was told to the king of Jericho, “Behold, men of Israel have come here tonight to search out the land.” 3 Then the king of Jericho sent to Rahab, saying, “Bring out the men who have come to you, who entered your house, for they have come to search out all the land.” 4 But the woman had taken the two men and hidden them. And she said, “True, the men came to me, but I did not know where they were from. 5 And when the gate was about to be closed at dark, the men went out. I do not know where the men went. Pursue them quickly, for you will overtake them.” 6 But she had brought them up to the roof and hid them with the stalks of flax that she had laid in order on the roof. 7 So the men pursued after them on the way to the Jordan as far as the fords. And the gate was shut as soon as the pursuers had gone out.

8 Before the men lay down, she came up to them on the roof 9 and said to the men, “I know that the Lord has given you the land, and that the fear of you has fallen upon us, and that all the inhabitants of the land melt away before you. 10 For we have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea before you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to the two kings of the Amorites who were beyond the Jordan, to Sihon and Og, whom you devoted to destruction. 11 And as soon as we heard it, our hearts melted, and there was no spirit left in any man because of you, for the Lord your God, he is God in the heavens above and on the earth beneath. 12 Now then, please swear to me by the Lord that, as I have dealt kindly with you, you also will deal kindly with my father's house, and give me a sure sign13 that you will save alive my father and mother, my brothers and sisters, and all who belong to them, and deliver our lives from death.” 14 And the men said to her, “Our life for yours even to death! If you do not tell this business of ours, then when the Lord gives us the land we will deal kindly and faithfully with you.”

15 Then she let them down by a rope through the window, for her house was built into the city wall, so that she lived in the wall. 16 And she said to them, “Go into the hills, or the pursuers will encounter you, and hide there three days until the pursuers have returned. Then afterward you may go your way.” 17 The men said to her, “We will be guiltless with respect to this oath of yours that you have made us swear. 18 Behold, when we come into the land, you shall tie this scarlet cord in the window through which you let us down, and you shall gather into your house your father and mother, your brothers, and all your father's household. 19 Then if anyone goes out of the doors of your house into the street, his blood shall be on his own head, and we shall be guiltless. But if a hand is laid on anyone who is with you in the house, his blood shall be on our head. 20 But if you tell this business of ours, then we shall be guiltless with respect to your oath that you have made us swear.” 21 And she said, “According to your words, so be it.” Then she sent them away, and they departed. And she tied the scarlet cord in the window.

22 They departed and went into the hills and remained there three days until the pursuers returned, and the pursuers searched all along the way and found nothing. 23 Then the two men returned. They came down from the hills and passed over and came to Joshua the son of Nun, and they told him all that had happened to them. 24 And they said to Joshua, “Truly the Lord has given all the land into our hands. And also, all the inhabitants of the land melt away because of us.”

Sermon Outline
God is Committed to His People
     1. Those Inside His Community
     2. Those Outside His Community

Sermon Summary
We humans have a hard time getting our commitments in balance. On the one hand, we can be too lax where we should be committed. On the other hand, we can cling so hard to our commitments that we forget their original purpose. In my family, we started reading The Hobbit to our kids because we felt that we were too lax in spending quality time together. However, we got so committed to reading the book that we forced our kids to listen even when they didn’t want to. We were so committed to our task that we forgot its purpose. This is s similar situation to Israel in Joshua 2. They are on the cusp of crossing the Jordan River into the Promised Land. On the one hand, there is a risk that they would be too lax in their commitment to God’s law, thereby forfeiting their place in the land. On the other hand, there is a risk that they will be so committed to God’s law for their own sakes, that they will forget their original purpose for being there. The inclusion of Rahab, the Canaanite prostitute, provides a reminder that Israel’s whole purpose in the Promised Land is to extend God’s blessing and grace to all peoples and nations.
 
In the wonderful way that the Old Testament does, the Rahab story aligns our commitments by illustrating how God is committed to His people. It does this in two ways. First, it shows God’s commitment to those inside His community. There is an awful lot at stake with Israel, both as a corporate nation and as a moral people. Will they be able to defeat much more powerful armies in their conquest of the Land? Will they again fall into disobedience as they had so often done in the journey to the Land? As these questions provide a great deal of tension at this point in Israel’s narrative, the plot reveals some extraordinary findings. First, the spies learn on their journey that God is already at work ahead of them. The people in the Land are deathly afraid of Israel and their God. Second, a Canaanite prostitute somehow knows God’s true character and covenant name. Not only that, this prostitute, who was a great risk to the spies’ fidelity to God in this moment, actually shows them what commitment to God really looks like. She puts her own life at risk for the sake of God’s mission. The only explanation is that God is already at work, and is committed to His people.
 
God’s commitment in Joshua’s day means a great deal to us in ours. We often fear that the church is becoming more irrelevant in our culture, that it is ineffective in people’s lives, and that God is not preserving its existence. However, this story shows that God is greatly committed to the success of His people as a whole. Christians today inherit stories like this, and belong to the same people. Therefore, we can have great confidence in God’s commitment to us. In an even more meaningful way, however, the inclusion of Rahab in Jesus’ genealogy is a further fulfillment and demonstration of God’s commitment. Through the many ups and downs of Israel’s story, He did not give up on them. He rather, sent Jesus into the story, to ultimately become the heir of all things. Jesus brought not the Promised Land, but a creation wide kingdom that He would rule over in prosperity. No longer would God’s people be under threat of losing such an inheritance because of their lack of commitment. The gift of Jesus answered the hope of those inside God’s community, in Rahab’s day, and in ours as well.  
 
Second, the Rahab story shows God’s commitment to those outside the community as well. Rahab has everything against her in her day. She is a national outsider as a Canaanite, she is a moral outsider as a prostitute, and she is a social outsider as a poor woman. However, her covenant with the spies, and her inclusion into God’s people, demonstrates God’s commitment even to such outsiders. Rahab’s covenant is an interesting plot feature, as Ex.34:11-16, and Deut.7:1 forbid Israel from making any covenant with the people of the land, lest they be drawn into Idolatry. The difference with Rahab, however, is in her confession in Josh.2:11. She throws away all loyalty to anything but God, and serves His mission. This demonstration of faith changes her status from being a dangerous outsider, to a committed insider. Rahab is an important character in this story because she provides a glimmer of God’s original purpose for Israel. God’s call to Abraham in Gen.12 says that Israel would be blessed, so that they would be a blessing to all people and all nations.
 
This glimmer of God’s larger purpose is a reminder that God is not just committed to those who are of the right nationality, right family, right skin color, right gender, or right character. God is committed to extend His grace and blessing to those outside His community. He is committed to bless all people groups, and great sinners as well. To those who are outside of God’s community, this provides an invitation to come in as Rahab did, and taste the blessing that God provides. To those inside God’s community, this provides a call align our commitments with God’s. We belong to God’s people not only for our own sakes, but to extend God’s grace those outside as well. That is what the community is all about.
 
This is all especially true because of the gift of Jesus. God sent Jesus into the story, to make atonement for sins, so that no one would be denied entrance into His people because of their nationality or moral record. Jesus is the ultimate demonstration of God’s commitment to outsiders. He is also the ultimate invitation to faith and repentance like Rahab: by throwing off all other loyalties, and throwing all commitment and safety into the hands of God’s grace. Many of us often feel that our lives are too messed up to ever think of ourselves as insiders. It is ultimately the work of Jesus that reminds us that His timely gift allowed even a Canaanite prostitute to stand righteous before God. However, it is also the gift of Jesus that reminds insiders that they stand side by side in righteousness with a Canaanite prostitute. The only righteousness that matters is that which is given in Jesus. Jesus invites all of us this Christmas to celebrate Him as the commitment of God to both insider and outsiders. There is no better place to cast our commitments than on the God who is committed to the prosperity of His people, and the God who gives a home to idolatrous prostitutes.

Reflection Questions

  1. What was new or compelling to you? What stood out to you from these verses?
  2. What questions do they raise for you?
  3. Was there anything that bothered you?
  4. Where is it hardest for you to believe that God is committed to His church today?
  5. What outsiders in your own life (people groups, demographics, sinners, etc.) has God committed to bless?

Confession of Faith: Westminster Shorter Catechism

Q. 94. What is baptism?
 
A. Baptism is a sacrament, wherein the washing with water in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, does signify and seal our ingrafting into Christ, and partaking of the benefits of the covenant of grace, and our engagement to be the Lord’s.

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