Building a Community of Faith

CoF

[A slightly abridged version of this article will appear in the April 2018 edition of the Mount Carmel Cumberland Presbyterian Church newsletter.]

“My people, hear my teaching; listen to the words of my mouth. I will open my mouth with a parable; I will utter hidden things, things from of old— things we have heard and known, things our ancestors have told us. We will not hide them from their descendants; we will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord, his power, and the wonders he has done.” – Psalm 78:1-4, NIV

Psalm 78 is one of the longer psalms in the Bible taking up 72 verses.

Douglas Wilson has provided this summary for it:

“Consider the preamble of this history to be the first eight verses (v. 1-8). The time of Israel in the wilderness is then recounted (v. 9-41). The movement then goes historically backward as the psalmist recalls how God delivered Israel from Egypt in the first place (v. 42-52). The history of Israel is then resumed, and continues down to the time when Judah takes over from Ephraim as the dominant tribe (v. 53-66). That transfer is then celebrated (v. 67-72)”

We know from the psalm that it is a brief history of God’s people in the wilderness, and there’s something for us to learn here.

The primary way to build a community of faith is not with our hands, but with our stories. Revelation 12 tells us that we are made overcomers by the blood of the lamb and the word of our testimony. If that’s true, then remembering what God has done for us (our testimony) is essential to seeing the victory that God has won for us in Christ (by His blood.)

Unfortunately, Psalm 78 has this refrain over and over again in some way: “but they forgot…”

Psalm 78:10 says, “they refused to keep God’s covenant and live by His law.” But why did they forget? They forget because, at some point, the people abandoned the practice of rightly teaching their children who God is and what He was doing for them.

The only way we are going to keep our community from being defined by lawlessness is to tell our children about the works of God, and live out the Gospel in our homes.

Tell your children and grandchildren about Jesus dying on the cross and raising from the dead to declare victory over sin, death, and hell. Teach how to live a godly life in the midst of a sinful world. Show them the importance of living in community with other believers and being active members of the local body of Christ. Remind them of what God has said about them in baptism.

Any kind of community can be built by the work of our hands, but only a community of faith can be built by the word of the Gospel being proclaimed consistently in the home.

Sabbath Rest and Common Grace From the Front Porch

From where I’m sitting, on the front porch of my Grandparent’s house in Dover, Arkansas, the earth moves slower. The sun rises and sets slower here than anywhere else. It is here on this front porch in this rural community where I see God’s common grace the most. If there was ever a place exemplified sabbath rest, it’s here. It is an atmosphere of peace, solitude, and rest that seems to melt away the cares of this veil. It is a healthy and wholesome thing for every person to have a place like this to think, to pray, to focus, to gather, and to regroup. So, my question to you is this: where is your place like this? Where is your place to sit and solve the world’s problems? Where is your place to rest and get away for awhile? Did you know that the Bible actually commands rest?

 

“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.” – [Exodus 20:8-11 ESV]

 

And he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” – [Mark 2:27 ESV]

 

I believe that rest in and of itself is a form of common grace. Why? Because everyone enjoys rest at some point. It’s a universal concept enjoyed by converted and the unconverted alike. Even workaholics have to sleep sometime and whether they want to admit it or not, they enjoy the feeling of their head hitting the cool side of the pillow. Why do we need a sabbath rest? Because we’re only human. The sin nature that we inherited from our father Adam causes work to be toilsome and as a result, our bodies ache and become sore. If we overwork our bodies, they get hurt, bones break, muscles get torn, and so forth. Because we are sinful, we have one of two equally sinful extremes that we revert to in response to work. We either avoid work altogether and become lazy, or we go overboard and work ourselves to death without ever resting. Albert Barnes’ gives a picture of what it looks like to rest biblically without being lazy.

 

For his rest from toil, his rest from the cares and anxieties of the world, to give him an opportunity to call off his attention from earthly concerns and to direct it to the affairs of eternity. It was a kind provision for man that he might refresh his body by relaxing his labors; that he might have undisturbed time to seek the consolations of religion to cheer him in the anxieties and sorrows of a troubled world; and that he might render to God that homage which is most justly due to him as the Creator, Preserver, Benefactor, and Redeemer of the world.”
– Albert Barnes’ Notes on the New Testament (On Mark 2:27)

 

There’s a quote from Perry Noble that I think is very applicable here. “Refusing to work is lazy, refusing to rest is disobedient.” We commit sin when we take it upon ourselves to work beyond the physical limitations that God has set for our bodies. Sometimes we need to rest and in our resting, give glory to God who gave us the ability to work and rest.

 

Everything

“Mary therefore took a pound of expensive ointment made from pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.” – John 12:3 (ESV) 

I made a Facebook status about this thought the other day, but I just really felt led to expound upon it some more. 

Everyone knew what was happening. They could smell it. It was thick in the air. It was more than the familiar scent of oil. It was the smell of someone pouring out everything they had ever worked for on the feet of this man that had spent the last three and a half years starting a revolution. To Mary, Jesus was more than a mere man, He was the son of God, He was the lover of her soul.

This sacrificial act of kindness began with her evaluating within her heart what Jesus was worth to her. Then finally, she made the decision. She poured it out. Everything. She poured everything out for her Everything. At this point, she had heard Jesus mention at least three times that he would die and be raised on the third day. She knew that to give everything to Him now.

What does Jesus mean to us? What is Jesus worth to us? Are we willing to give up everything we’ve worked for for Him? Is He everything to us?