January 2nd, 2014
A Happy New Year to you all!
Notwithstanding all the ways they’ve been parodied and pilloried, tour guides provide an essential service for those unacquainted with what they’re about to see. The scholar of a space, the trained eye of an expert add to the enjoyment of a tour because the guide helps the guided see what they would otherwise miss, prepares them for what they’re about to behold. Those who follow the lead of the guide take more with them once they depart. Their time has been enriched.
At risk of being associated with the toothy and tiresome Alamo tour guide in Pee Wee’s Big Adventure, I’d nevertheless like to give you a tour of where we’re heading in Scripture this year.
During Advent we considered the Canticles, the songs elicited by the Incarnation. Beginningthis Sunday, and for the next couple months we’ll turn to another set of songs, the Psalms–the prayers sung by all Israel, and sung by Jesus Himself. We heard Mary’s and Zechariah’s song and considered their content. We want to approach the Psalms a bit differently in that we want them to provoke our own music. Like jazz musicians who look to a “lead sheet” for the basic chord progressions of a given piece and then let fly innumerable melodic variations, we want to let each Psalm first provide us the “key”–its theme–in hope that it will then inspire us to compose our own prayers back to God–a holy improvisation if you will. When asked by a young woman on the cusp of this new year what would wisdom call for in the coming year, one pastor replied that you could do worse than learn to pray the Psalms back to God. We’d like to take that challenge.
The Psalms will take us all the way to the beginning of Lent at which time we’ll take a page from our older brethren in the faith, the Orthodox. This most ancient expression of the Church, despite millennia of upheaval, persecution, schism, and conflict, has cultivated deep and rich reflection upon the life of faith. We would be remiss to let the pageantry and ceremony we typically associate with Orthodoxy to dissuade us from considering all its come to learn about following Jesus. Lent is known among the Orthodox as the season of “Bright Sadness,” the time when we consider Jesus’ recognition of the joy set before Him, but a joy on the other side of His cross. That it would identify with the Lord in the pilgrimage to His passion, the Orthodox church has prepared itself for Lent by entering into a concerted time of reflection upon repentance. For the five Sundays of Lent beginning March 9th, we’ll walk the path the Orthodox walk by looking at many of the same texts they do, each tied to one dimension of repentance.
Then on Palm Sunday and Resurrection Sunday we’ll turn to the furthest horizon to which the events of that tumultuous and glorious week ultimately point: the summing up of all, when everything “sad becomes untrue.” Two texts from John’s Revelation will set in fullest context both His (and our) sorrows and joys.
Shortly after Easter we’ll take heed of Jeremiah’s admonition to Israel: “Stand by the roads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls” (6:16). We all seek rest from what is wearisome. Jeremiah argues such rest is to be found in the following of wisdom–in the rule of what it means to walk by faith in God. We’ll look for that rest in some of God’s most ancient rules, the Ten Commandments He gave to Israel at Sinai. We’ll consider what these two handfuls of instruction mean and why they represent the very foundation of the life that rests in God, even as it labors for His pleasure.
Then shortly before Labor Day and for most of the Fall, we’ll sit patiently with a New Testament epistle that will, I pray, ensure we heard the teaching of the Decalogue in proper perspective. Paul’s letter to the church at Galatia is the apostle’s most succinct, and strident, exposition of the gospel. Galatians explains the Law Jesus came to fulfill and our estrangement from it which Jesus came to resolve. Paul’s most abiding concern, as we’ll see, is that we don’t fail to see what the Law is and is not for, what it can and cannot produce. So for thirteen weeks we’ll labor (and pray) to understand just what the gospel is, and to clear away all the counterfeit versions we may have come to unwittingly embrace. (In preparation for that series, I hope to take up the challenge Joe Carter put to us all with the coming of the new year: a different way of studying a given book of the Bible. Perhaps you might take the challenge, too.)
By the time we will have heard Paul’s last word to the Galatians it will be (can you believe it) Advent again. We heard from the songstress and songster this last Advent. Next Advent (Deo volente) we’ll hear from some other eyewitnesses to the birth: Herod, the enigmatic wise men, Simeon, and Anna.
There will be brief mini-series in between the larger series, and some of these plans may change in the coming year. But these are the sermonic works we’re committing to the Lord that He would establish our plans (Prov 16:3).
There’s your whirwind tour. Buckle up, and then pray for our times in the Text.
Much awaits us in the coming year, and much is imminently forthcoming.
As we’ve announced for some time now, our next Introduction to Membership class will be Friday and Saturday, January 10-11, at FBC. Nearly two dozen have already registered. Some might think coming into formal membership is just that: a mere formality, an inconsequential act of empty ceremony. But consider: we tend to mark consequential milestones with extraordinary expressions of recognition, whether in moments of achievement, or gratitude, or commissioning to a new season of life. And while there’s no public dimension to the budding of true friendships, are not they all in some sense “ratified” by some word or act that confirms the authenticity of the mutual identification? If memorable, notable acts solidify important identifications in every part of life, why would we not apply the same practice to our identification with the Church obtained through God’s own blood (Acts 20)? Registration for the Class ends this Sunday, so either email us or mark your interest on the clipboard during Q&A. There is no cost for the weekend. Class runs Friday from 7-9pm, Saturday from 8-noon.
Thursday, January 23rd, from 9-4p at Fellowship Bible Church Dallas, Redeemer Seminary is hosting a Winter Pastor’s Conference. Speakers will include Dr Sinclair Ferguson, Rev. Todd Hunter, Dr. Tim Keller, and Pastor Bruce Wesley. Tickets are $45. You can register by clicking here.
Finally, it’s not long before our evangelism seminar February 1st, from 8:30-noon. Prof Mike Rasmussen will lead us. Register by either clicking here, or signing up on the clipboard during Q&A. There is no cost to the seminar, save purchase of the book and the time it takes to read it. (In addition to reading Basic Christianity by John Stott, have a listen to an interview between Ira Glass who is an atheist and John Henderson who’s developed a way of thinking about evangelism. I’d love to hear your thoughts about Henderson’s approach.)
Finally, would you pray:
- for Helen Johnson and for the memorial service this Saturday, January 4th, 2pm at First Baptist Duncanville (323 W Wheatland). There will be a reception following the service at the Cowan Apartments at the SIL Center.
- for our newly constituted session which will take time out later this month for a concerted time of prayer and planning
- for our upcoming membership class and evangelism seminar
- for all the ways the Lord might help us to be faithfully present to Him, one another, and wherever we find ourselves
- for our gracious hosts at Fairmeadows Baptist Church
See you Sunday at 9:30,