The link to Debbie's message from our recent SweetMercies meeting is up! If you weren't able to come on Sunday, please take a listen!
Some of you have asked if I would post my notes from what I shared about God’s “reckless love” during worship at SweetMercies on Sunday night, so here they are. I recognize that my opinion is just one among many. And boy, are there many! :)
The first time I heard this song it brought to my mind that old poem “The Hound of Heaven” by Francis Thompson which begins:
I fled Him, down the nights and down the days;I fled Him, down the arches of the years;I fled Him, down the labyrinthine waysOf my own mind; and in the mist of tearsI hid from Him, and under running laughter.Up vistaed hopes I sped;And shot, precipitated,Adown Titanic glooms of chasmèd fears,From those strong Feet that followed, followed after.But with unhurrying chase,And unperturbèd pace,Deliberate speed, majestic instancy,They beat—and a Voice beatMore instant than the Feet—‘All things betray thee, who betrayest Me.’
(For an interesting read, see John Stott’s testimony about the Hound of Heaven in the first chapter of his book, Why I Am a Christian.)
Regardless of how you may feel about the title of this song, or even the song itself, I pray that it stirs in you a profound awe for the love of God that pursued you, and profound gratefulness for the loving Father who sent his own Son to die for you while you were still a sinner, an enemy of God. Oh, how He loves us!! And when you contemplate that love, don’t make it about YOU. Make it about HIM!!!! --💗 Heather
Reckless Love/ Cory Asbury
This song has enjoyed immense popularity since its debut. I think it resonates with believers because of how it magnifies God’s overwhelming love for us. But it does so using a word that has stirred the pot in some Christian circles, and that is the word “Reckless.” This is an uncomfortable adjective to use to describe God’s love, especially if you come at it armed with your dictionary and thesaurus:
Reckless: “without thinking or caring about the consequences of an action”
“rash, careless, heedless, audacious, thoughtless, hasty, impulsive, fool-hardy, unwise”
Are these really words we should use to define the omniscient, omnipotent, holy, righteous God? Well, not in a theology class! But I’m going to tell you why I think it’s okay for us to sing about God’s “reckless love”:
The composer of this song defended his use of the word saying this, “What I mean is this: He is utterly unconcerned with the consequences of His actions with regards to His own safety, comfort, and well-being…His love doesn’t consider Himself first. His love isn’t selfish or self-serving.”
Sam Storms has defended the song with a similar definition:
“I take the word ‘reckless’ to mean that God’s love defies all human categories of how love ought to operate and express itself. God loves sinners in the most unconventional and seemingly unsophisticated manner possible. His love is contrary to how we typically love one another.. It is reckless in the sense that he loves those who have done nothing to warrant or justify his affection. He loves those who ‘can’t earn it’ and certainly ‘don’t deserve it.’…God’s love for us doesn’t square up with our expectations or what we think is fitting and proper and wise. He shatters the mold! He breaks all the (human) rules for how love ought to act and on whom it ought to be showered.”
Look at the words and actions of Jesus. By the world’s standards, from a human perspective, this is a reckless love — associating with prostitutes and tax collectors and sinners, right under the noses of the Pharisees? Touching unclean lepers? Inviting the very man who would betray him into his inner circle of disciples?
Look at his words: leaving 99 sheep to go after 1? That seems so careless — just let him go, he deserves what he gets.
Jesus, this parable about the seeds — you’re telling us to just throw them indiscriminately, without a care to where they land, and you’ll cause them to grow? That seems so foolish…
We’ve heard it said, “Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.” But Jesus, you’re saying to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us? Is that wise?
And what’s with this parable of the prodigal son? Jesus, are you saying we should mimic that father who sets aside his personal dignity and risks his reputation by running to and embracing and welcoming that wayward son?
That’s why I think we can sing about his reckless love. If you’re uncomfortable singing the word reckless, sing wondrous, sing relentless…
But whatever you sing, allow yourself to be shocked by God’s unfathomable expression of love for you. His love should take your breath away. It should shock you out of your reckless pursuit and acceptance of sin and leave you on your knees.
Interested in a Summer Book Club this year? We have four great groups for you to consider! Click on the links for more information or to sign up:
Choosing Gratitude: Your Journey to Joy by Nancy Leigh DeMoss; led by Bonnie Bobrich
God’s Grace in Your Suffering by David Powlison; led by Jennifer Napier
Humble Roots: How Humility Grounds and Nourishes Your Soul by Hannah Anderson; led by Christina Kamrath
The Explicit Gospel by Matt Chandler; led by Laura Cagle
And he said, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”
“For thus says the Lord GOD: Behold, I, I myself will search for my sheep and will seek them out. As a shepherd seeks out his flock when he is among his sheep that have been scattered, so will I seek out my sheep, and I will rescue them from all places where they have been scattered on a day of clouds and thick darkness. And I will bring them out from the peoples and gather them from the countries, and will bring them into their own land. And I will feed them on the mountains of Israel, by the ravines, and in all the inhabited places of the country. I will feed them with good pasture, and on the mountain heights of Israel shall be their grazing land. There they shall lie down in good grazing land, and on rich pasture they shall feed on the mountains of Israel. I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I myself will make them lie down, declares the Lord GOD. I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak, and the fat and the strong I will destroy. I will feed them in justice.” Ezekiel 34:11-16
"When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. And he began to teach them many things." Mark 6:34
“In short, the ‘sheep-shepherd’ image shows us we are more spiritually stupid than we ever dared think (we are sheep!) but we are more valued and loved by God than we ever dared hope (he is a shepherd!).
‘See the Sovereign Lord comes with power, and his arm rules for him. See his reward is with him, and his recompense accompanies him. He tends his flock like a shepherd. He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.’ Isaiah 40:10-11
God has arms of power, but in those arms of power he carries the lambs he loves. They are his reward! His most prized possession. Jesus draws on this amazing imagery to tell us who he is and how his heart works.” — Tim Keller
Faith untried may be true faith, but it is sure to be little faith, and it is likely to remain dwarfish so long as it is without trials. Faith never prospers so well as when all things are against her: tempests are her trainers, and lightnings are her illuminators. When a calm reigns on the sea, spread the sails as you will, the ship moves not to its harbor; for on a slumbering ocean the keel sleeps too. Let the winds rush howling forth, and let the waters lift up themselves, then, though the vessel may rock, and her deck may be washed with waves, and her mast may creak under the pressure of the full and swelling sail, it is then that she makes headway towards her desired haven. No flowers wear so lovely a blue as those which grow at the foot of the frozen glacier; no stars gleam so brightly as those which glisten in the polar sky; no water tastes so sweet as that which springs amid the desert sand; and no faith is so precious as that which lives and triumphs in adversity. Tried faith brings experience. You could not have believed your own weakness had you not been compelled to pass through the rivers; and you would never have known God's strength had you not been supported amid the water-floods. Faith increases in solidity, assurance, and intensity, the more it is exercised with tribulation. Faith is precious, and its trial is precious too.
"The trial of your faith." 1 Peter 1:7 -- Spurgeon, Morning & Evening
“On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, ‘Let us go across to the other side.’ And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him. And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion.
And they woke him and said to him, ‘Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?’ And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, ‘Peace! Be still!’ And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.
He said to them, ‘Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?’ And they were filled with great fear and said to one another,
‘Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?’” Mark 4:35-41
“They were not in this predicament because they had been bad. They were not in this predicament because they had made foolish choices…It was a result of their obedience that they found themselves in the eye of the storm. It was obedience to the word of Jesus that found them in the place that buffeted them and challenged them. And God is a God who for his own purposes leads his people into storms, leads his people into difficulty, leads his people into experiences that makes them wonder whether they have any faith at all.
Notice what they ask. This is the worst of all questions: ‘Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?’
We know this kind of question. In the midst of the extremities of life, when the waves break over the bow of our vessel, when we feel ourselves in danger of being swamped, we’re not always immediately going for verses from the psalms simply to remind ourselves of truths we’ve learned long since. We may find ourselves, like the disciples, inquiring, ‘don’t you care if we drown?’
The storm, which was the immediacy of their circumstances, so filled their minds that it came between them and the assurance of Jesus’ care for them. The storm…the chilling reality of it, the undeniable challenge of it…came between them and their assurance of Jesus’ care. And it caused them to lose sight or lose sound of Jesus’ word, because Jesus’ word had been straightforward in verse 35: ‘Let us go over to the other side.’
Jesus stilled the natural storm on the lake and he caused a spiritual storm in the hearts and minds of the disciples. He calmed the sea and he stirred them up, because they find themselves saying, ‘who is this that even the winds and waves obey him?’
In every storm and in every trial of our lives, there is an opportunity for us to wonder again with the disciples concerning the identity and authority and majesty of Jesus.
The early readers of Mark’s gospel, buffeted by the oppression of Rome…they didn’t need a Sunday school lesson that said, ‘Jesus fixed that and he’ll fix you, too.’ They needed the lesson you and I need: He is majestic, He is king, He is ruler of all nature, and whether by His intervention our cancer is cured or whether it takes us prematurely, from our perspective, whether the breakup in relationships is resolved in the way in which we would desire —the very storm itself is an opportunity for us to make this discovery: Jesus Christ is Lord of All, the ruler of all nature, and the majestic king."
Alistair Begg, “Jesus Calms the Storm”
Jesus’ Encounter with the Demoniac / from IF:Equip Advent Devotional
This is "Advent W1D3 - A Demon-Possessed Man’s Encounter with Jesus" by IF : Equip on Vimeo, the home for high quality videos and the people who…
Jesus’ Encounter with a Bleeding Woman /from IF:Equip Advent Devotional
This is "Advent W1D4 - A Bleeding Woman’s Encounter with Jesus" by IF : Equip on Vimeo, the home for high quality videos and the people who…
“The gospel will not be relegated to insignificance. If it were only a human work, it could perhaps be dispensed with. But it is something more than a human work. It is the seed of God’s creative, redeeming, and restoring presence. Its beginnings, to be sure, are inauspicious, but slowly and inescapably it grows and intrudes in our lives. Like a bush or tree, it becomes something we can no longer ignore, despite the many other things in life that at first seem more important. The transformative power of the gospel produces the qualities of love and joy, peace and patience, goodness and kindness, that we most long for, but that most elude us.”
— James Edwards
“An allegory can be understood from the ‘outside,’
but parables can be understood only from within,
by allowing oneself to be taken into the story and hearing
who God is
and what humans may become.
Parables are like stained glass windows in a cathedral,
dull and lifeless from the outside
but brilliant and radiant from within.”
— James Edwards
“My experience is that people think that just opening the Bible and putting themselves in front of it means that the Holy Spirit will just drop understanding on them to reward them for having given time to it. And what Jesus is actually setting up here is an understanding of how we ENCOUNTER TRUTH through words. It’s not always immediately evident; that understanding grows over time. You have to know, the disciples remembered these parables later, and understood them at a different level than they did in the moment. So we should expect that when we come to the Bible, we should not put it in a category of discipleship tools that will be intuitive or easy. We should understand that like all areas of following Christ, this, too, will require effort, and patience, and careful thought.” — Jen Wilkin, "What You Talking About, Jesus?"/podcast on parables
What are parables and how should we read them? Listen to this podcast featuring Jen Wilkin at the Village Church. Thanks for the tip, Jenny Dowling Smith!
“The questions posed by the image of the wedding feast and the two [short] parables is not whether disciples will, like sewing a new patch on an old garment or refilling an old container, make room for Jesus in their already full agendas and lives. The question is whether they will forsake business as usual and join the wedding celebration, whether they will become entirely new receptacles for the expanding fermentation of Jesus and the gospel in their lives.” — James Edwards
“The best commentary on these verses is actually the parable of the prodigal son in Luke 15. There Jesus tells about a young man who takes his entire half of the family inheritance and wastes it and himself in sin, but is accepted back into the family by his loving father. But the prodigal can only come back in and receive clothes, food, and capital out of the elder brother’s wealth, at his expense. In the story, the older brother hates it. But this is Jesus’ way to point out that he is the true elder brother. He willingly brings us into God’s family at his expense. He died for us. He was plundered for us. We sit at the Father’s table dressed in Jesus’ clothes, with His ring on our finger. All through him. We must celebrate and live out the fact that we are members of a kingdom family, and it is all at the expense of our big brother, Jesus Christ.” — Tim Keller
“Our Lord’s answer is simple, brilliant and devastating. Had the Pharisees grasped its significance and followed it through, their lives would have been completely revolutionized. Doctors do not visit those who are well, but those who are sick. Jesus was teaching these men important lessons:
He was rebuking their misdirected zeal. They were concerned for the glory of God and for moral purity, which was commendable. But God’s concern for His glory and for purity among men had led Him down through history to visit His sin-diseased people to heal them. If the Pharisees were really anxious to see men and women become holy, then their separation to God should have led them to a loving commitment to the people, to show them God’s way.
He was exposing their false holiness. If their so-called ‘holiness’ expressed itself only in criticism of sinners and not in caring for them, it was not the kind which God wanted, nor the type that Jesus exhibited.
Think of the modern-day surgeon. He ‘scrubs up’ before his operation. Why is he so careful to be clean? In order to help those who are diseased. True holiness is like that, replied Jesus. My holiness is like that. It is not contaminated by my eating with these sinners. Rather, it seeks to make them whole and holy too.” Sinclair Ferguson, Let’s Study Mark
I am so grateful for Jesus, our Great Physician. I’m grateful that He is willing to take his clean, holy hands and dive right in to our gangrenous, sin-diseased flesh. He’s up to his elbows in our mess — cutting away, cleaning out, sewing up.
Like the leper who falls prostrate before him, imploring him, “If you will, you can make me clean,” we kneel before him. And He is moved to pity, filled with gut-wrenching compassion, and he reaches out his hand and he touches us — he touches us in all of our messy, sin-stained state — and He says, “I will, be clean.” What a Savior!
“When we decide to be our own center, our own king, everything falls apart; physically, socially, spiritually, and psychologically. We have left the dance. But we all long to be brought back in. This longing is embedded in the legends of many cultures, and though the stories are all different they all have a similar theme: A true king will come back, slay the dragon, kiss us and wake us out of our sleep of death, rescue us from imprisonment in the tower, lead us back into the dance. A true king will come back to put everything right and renew the entire world. The good news of the kingdom of God is this: Jesus is that true King.” (Tim Keller from “Jesus The King” pg. 17-18).
Bible study starts this week! We are so excited to have 58 women signed up!
We know many of you just picked up your books today, so you may not have time to complete this week's study (in order to finish in 8 weeks, we're combining a few lessons -- this week, it's lesson 1 & 2). If you were at our SweetMercies meeting last Sunday, then the first two lessons will hopefully be somewhat familiar to you, as Kathryn spoke on Mark 1.
Answer what you are able, but even if you can't do anything but read the passages we're going to study, please still come! You'll glean so much from the women's thoughts and comments.
We look forward to seeing you this week!
The Spring Bible Study is right around the corner! This study will run for 8 weeks and cover chapters 1-8 of Mark. We have two sessions to choose from:
January 29-March 19, 7:30pm-9:00pm at Kathryn Noon’s home
January 29-March 19, 7:30pm-9:00pm at Kathryn Noon’s home
February 2-March 23, 9:30am-11:00am at church (Childcare provided)
February 2-March 23, 9:30am-11:00am at church (Childcare provided)
There is a $12 registration fee that gets you your study book and also helps to cover childcare for Friday morning. You can sign up right now from your phone or computer, and you'll be able to pick up your study book in the Redeemer bookstore on Sunday.
Or, visit the bookstore on Sunday morning and sign up in person.
We'd love for you to join us!
Quick. What are the Gospels? Time is up. Did you answer: “The Gospels are the biographies of Jesus Christ?” When we read the Gospels as biographies only, we basically look at them like trees apart from the proverbial forest. There is a better way to read and hear them. The Gospels are biography, but they are theological interpretations of the life of Jesus Christ with
the purpose of proclaiming the coming of the king of Israel and the inauguration of His kingdom over all the earth.
When read this way, we are enabled to read the gospel in the Gospels as the announcement of the fulfillment of the prophets’ promises. Among their promises were that a king would come to Israel, as the Lord promised to Abram (Gen. 17:6), to Judah (Gen. 49:10), to David (2 Sam. 7:12–13), and to the people of God through Solomon’s song (Ps. 72) and Zechariah’s prophecy (Zech. 9:9). When this king would come, He would usher in a kingdom of peace for all nations (Isa. 2:2–4, 9:1–7). We see this coming king and His kingdom in living color in the Gospel narratives.
The entrance of the king and His kingdom is expressed in the birth narrative of our Lord. In the genealogy of Jesus He is described as the “son of David” (Matt. 1:1). The fourteen generations from Abraham to David moved towards the great king and kingdom of Israel (1:2–6), while the fourteen generations from David to Babylon moved away from that glorious king’s kingdom (1:7–11). With the coming of Jesus the fourteen generations from Babylon to Christ are a restoration of the Davidic kingship and kingdom (1:12–16). The true identity of this baby boy is shown by the travels of the “wise men from the east” (2:1) who traveled to find “he who has been born king of the Jews” in order “to worship him” (2:2).
John heralded this king’s coming, preaching, “The kingdom of heaven is at hand” (3:2), while our Lord’s own preaching in the synagogue was characterized by an announcement of His kingdom (4:17). Throughout His ministry Jesus preached the “gospel of the kingdom” (4:23, 9:35; Luke 16:16), a phrase that means that the kingdom is the subject of the gospel. Our Lord preached His parables to communicate to His disciples “the secrets of the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 13:11 see also vv. 19, 24, 31, 33, 38, 41–45, 47, 52). Jesus used His identity as king to confound the Pharisees, asking them: “‘What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he?’ They said to Him, ‘The son of David’” (22:42). Jesus then pointed out that in Psalm 110, David, “in the Spirit, calls him [the Christ] Lord, saying, ‘The Lord said to my Lord’” (Matt. 22:43–44a). Jesus’ conclusion was masterful, leaving the Pharisees speechless: “If then David calls him Lord, how is he his son?” (22:45).
Even the passion narrative is all about the king and His kingdom, not the sad ending of a biography. When the high priest Caiaphas interrogated Jesus, he said, “Tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God” (26:63). Jesus answered, “You have said so. But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven” (26:64). Yet this king would first suffer mocking: “Hail, King of the Jews,” having a scarlet robe placed on His back, a crown of thorns placed on His head, and a reed placed in His hand (27:28–29). Even above His head was placed a placard: “This is Jesus, the King of the Jews” (27:37). Yet as John’s gospel makes clear, through humiliation our Lord experienced exaltation: “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself” (John 12:32).
Of course, our Lord’s resurrection is the most powerful proof of His kingship and kingdom gospel: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” (Matt. 28:18). The reason for this, as James said at the Jerusalem Council, was that the resurrection was the raising up of the fallen tent of David (Acts 15:13–18; see Amos 9:11–12). The king has come and has established His kingdom as the prophets foretold.
What should this way of reading the Gospels do to us? First, it ought to cause us to read the Gospels with more urgency, for the king has come and His kingdom is at hand. Mark’s characteristic word, immediately, shows us the force of reading and coming to grips with its message (1:12, 18, 21, 23, 29, 42). Second, since the Gospels are not mere biographies, they are not to be read from afar, as if they were only stories of what happened “long ago, far, far away.” We are to participate in these narratives by faith: “Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (John 20:30–31). Third, preachers need to preach the Gospels not as historic artifacts, as principles for victorious Christian living, nor as window dressing in Holy Week services, but as urgent accounts of the inauguration of an everlasting kingdom that our king has established in this world. Ministers must preach the gospel from the Gospels and not turn them into new laws.
(Daniel Hyde, The Gospel of the Gospels, https://www.ligonier.org/learn/articles/gospel-gospels/)
The word itself comes from a Greek word euangelion, which literally means “good news.” In the New Testament, it refers to the announcement that Jesus has brought the reign of God to our world through his life, death, and resurrection from the dead.
“'The time has come,'” Jesus said. 'The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!'” – Mark 1:14-15
"The good news… Regarding God’s Son, who descended from David in his physical lineage, and who was appointed by the Holy Spirit to be the Son of God in power through his resurrection from the dead: Jesus, the Messiah, our Lord." – Romans 1:2-4
Interestingly, both Jesus and Paul derived this important word from the prophetic poetry of Isaiah where the future arrival of God’s kingdom through the Messiah is called “good news” (see Isa 52:7-10). The Gospels are not merely historical chronicles but are also narrative announcements that make the significant claim that Jesus is the Messiah of Israel and the true Lord of the world. The Gospel stories claim to both recount history and aim to persuade the reader to acknowledge Jesus as Lord and become his disciple.
The Gospels share four features that make them unique amongst other biblical stories or contemporary biographical narratives. First, they expertly weave in Old Testament stories into the story of Jesus. Second, the stories are designed to make claims about the identity of Jesus. Third, they all present the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus as the climax of the entire biblical narrative. Last, the chronology of events has been rearranged to better reveal unique aspects of Jesus’ character.
The Bible Project, “What is a Gospel?”
“Mark…also inaugurates a new literary genre in applying the term ‘gospel’ to the life and ministry of Jesus Christ….In Mark’s understanding, therefore, the gospel is more than a set of truths, or even a set of beliefs. It is a person, ‘the gospel fo Jesus Christ.’
W.R. Marxsen correctly notes that Jesus Christ can be substituted for ‘gospel,’ and, moreover, that ‘gospel,’ as employed by Mark, is a title or description for the entire narrative of Jesus from baptism through death and resurrection.”
James R. Edwards, The Gospel According to Mark