Revelation

September 3, 2019

This book marks the end of the Whole Story sermon series. You will find below a link to the 69th sermon, in a series that has lasted 20 months. And the end of the story brings us to one of its most intriguing—and famously confusing—chapters.

The Revelation of Jesus, which he gave to arguably his closest friend and disciple, the apostle John.

Most, if not all of you, are familiar with this book. And most, if not all of you, find it challenging to even read through it—particularly that large middle section from chapters 6 to 20 with its difficult to understand characters, made up of dragons, angels, beasts, locusts with human faces; the four horsemen of War, Conquest, Famine, and Death; its Exodus-like plagues of hail, blood, poison water, darkness, and demon locusts; its terrifying and horrific and divine judgments of seven seals, seven trumpets with seven signs, and seven bowls; its otherworldly scenes set in heaven (wherever that is) and its images beyond our imagining, and signs of the beast, and 666, and Babylon and Armageddon and Final Battles and, and, and.…

And that is just the story itself. Add to this the questions of how to approach this book:

What kind of literature is it?
Apocalyptic? Prophecy? A Letter?

What should be our interpretative approach?
Preterist? Futurist? Historicist? Idealist? Mixed View?

Where do we stand on the millennium?
Premillennial? Postmillennial? Amillennial?

Maybe all this is why the famous and brilliant pastor, theologian, and scholar, John Calvin, wrote a commentary on every book of the Bible—except this one! And why it has been called “the graveyard of many [preachers].”

Can you sympathize with me and see why, in 15 years of ministry, I haven’t preached or taught much from this book? Frankly, the book has frightened me a bit. There is so much that I have found confusing and very difficult to understand. I find it quite easy to get lost as I make my way through it and attempt to make sense of it. I have found that so much in this revelation from Jesus is debatable. So I have been very reluctant to proclaim large swaths of it.

But here we are. At the end of the Whole Story. And I don’t think I get to pull a Calvin, and just skip it. And as I’ve spent time in and on this revelation this week, I have found that there is much here we can understand, which is actually where I think the apostle wants us to focus. And it is why he himself said,

Rev 1:3, NLT 
God blesses the one who reads the words of this prophecy to the church,
and he blesses all who listen to its message and obey what it says,
for the time is near.

It seems to me that God wants us to have that blessing, just as he wanted his children of John’s day to have that blessing. I do not think we are excluded from it.
___________________

I invite you now to listen to our sermon on Revelation. And if you’d like some additional resources on this book, head on over to the Bible Project page for this part of the Whole Story.

May God use his Word to inspire you to help just one other person move one step closer to Jesus.

Warmly,

Pastor Matthew
matthew@calvarystcloud.org
matthewmolesky.com

Jude

August 27, 2019

In the very beginning of this letter, we see that Jude has had to adjust his plans. Maybe you know what this is like…

You’ve set up a meeting with some really close friends, and you have this whole plan for how it will go. It’s going to be a time of encouragement, you’ve got things to talk about, catch up on, celebrate together. Things you share in common, things you are excited to discuss.

But then you arrive. And you realize things are not as you thought. And you quickly come to the conclusion that wether you like it or not, you need to have a whole other conversation now. You know it’s the right thing, and in that sense you want to, but you don’t want to. It’s a bit of a discouragement.

That is exactly what has happened to Jude. Listen to how excited he is:

Jude 3, ESV  
Beloved…I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation…”

This feeling, this eagerness, is so easy for me, as a pastor, preacher, and just plain follower of Jesus to relate to. I love talking about what God the Father has accomplished in God the Son on behalf of lost sinners like us. What we have in common as disciples of Jesus, what we share in, is this powerful God who has saved us, who has rescued us, who has and is keeping us safe in the care of Jesus Christ.

I love talking about this. It is the conversation I always want to have. To plumb the depths and work out the implications of this most fundamental truth of the cross:

In Jesus we are safe.

And while I am sure Jude would agree that is always, in some way, part of our conversation, he is aware of a crisis that is preventing him from focusing his thoughts there, and rather, demands that he move a different direction. A difficult direction. A sobering direction. And he must do so because the togetherness of the people of the kingdom is at risk, this shared salvation may no longer be shared. And that will eternally devastating consequences.

What Happened? Just what derailed Jude’s initial plan?

I invite you now to listen to our sermon on Jude. And if you’d like some additional resources on this book, head on over to the Bible Project page for this part of the Whole Story.

May God use his Word to inspire you to help just one other person move one step closer to Jesus.

Warmly,

Pastor Matthew
matthew@calvarystcloud.org

matthewmolesky.com

The Letters of John

August 20, 2019

Maybe some of you will recognize this sentiment from a world-renown British band:

There’s nothing you can make that can’t be made
No one you can save that can’t be saved
Nothing you can do, but you can learn how to be you in time
It’s easy

There’s nothing you can know that isn’t known
Nothing you can see that isn’t shown
There’s nowhere you can be that isn’t where you’re meant to be
It’s easy

All you need is love
All you need is love
All you need is love, love
Love is all you need

Were you humming along with the tune in your head?
It will probably stick there the rest of the day.
You’re welcome.

This song was the anthem of a generation in the midst of a time of upheaval and war in the 60s, and while the song may be less well known to the masses today, the core sentiment remains.

All you need is love…to heal the ills of a society deeply fractured.
All you need is love
…to cure a culture riddled with conflict.
All you need is love
…and even within the walls of the church, in the middle of its theological discussions and strategies for global impact, in the now infamous words of Rob Bell, Love Wins.

It’s easy….

Is it easy? Is it working? Is love all we need?

The Bible actually has a great deal to say about the necessity of love, while at the same time pointing out that love is not, in fact, all we need. Would you like to know more? I invite you now to listen to our sermon on The Letters of John. And if you’d like some additional resources on this book, head on over to the Bible Project page for this part of the Whole Story.

May God use his Word to inspire you to help just one other person move one step closer to Jesus.

Warmly,

Pastor Matthew
matthew@calvarystcloud.org
matthewmolesky.com

2 Peter

August 13, 2019

In a recent post at The Gospel Coalition website, Canadien author Jen Pollock Michel, reflected:

“Are we following God?”
My husband put this question to me as we walked through our neighborhood. The dog tugged at her leash. On the one hand, it was a startling question, one that seemed to beg an obvious answer. Both of us practice the daily disciplines of prayer and Bible reading. Around the dinner table, our family’s conversation turns to Scripture’s wisdom. We attend church regularly, serving and financially giving to its mission; we speak freely of Christ to our irreligious neighbors and friends. I write Christian books, for goodness’ sake.
Still, I shared my husband’s doubts.
Are we following God?
We’d married at 22, dreaming of the places we’d go in response to the call of God. Many years later, in 2011, we moved to Toronto, North America’s fourth-largest city and one of the most multicultural cities in the world. As I write, it’s a city draped in rainbow flags, proud testament to the modern ethic of individual freedom, a city often openly hostile to the perceived bigotry of Christianity.
My husband’s question surfaced our fear that despite our commitment to seeing our city transformed by the gospel, Toronto is having its subtle way with us, conforming us to its desires (cf. 1 John 2:16). As we continued to talk, we were both sensing a need for…renewal…

It is remarkable (and encouraging!) that this modern challenge is nothing new. In fact, in an ancient letter in the first century to followers of Jesus scattered across what is now modern-day Turkey, the Apostle Peter addresses just such concerns. I invite you now to listen to our sermon on 2 Peter. And if you’d like some additional resources on this book, head on over to the Bible Project page for this part of the Whole Story.

May God use his Word to inspire you to help just one other person move one step closer to Jesus.

Warmly,

Pastor Matthew
matthew@calvarystcloud.org

matthewmolesky.com

1 Peter

August 6, 2019

One of the greatest preachers of recent history is Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892). No stranger to severe suffering himself, he had this to say about trial and affliction in one his sermons:

“Perhaps at this very moment, down in some cabin, or amidst the noise and tumult, and the raging of the ocean, when many are alarmed, there are Christians with calm faces, patiently waiting their Father’s will, whether it shall be to reach the port of heaven, or to be spared to come again to land, into the midst of life’s trials and struggles once more. They feel that they are well-cared for, they know that the storm has a bit in its mouth, and that God holds it in, and nothing can hurt them; nothing can happen to them but what God permits.”  
(“Safe Shelter,” MTP 15, Sermon 902, p. 650).

Such a meditation bears striking resemblance to something the Apostle Peter had to say when he was faced with the opportunity to write to the suffering saints who had been scattered across five Roman provinces in the first century:

“Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ,

“To those who are elect exiles of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood…”

(1 Peter 1:1-2a, ESV)

We see that both men believed that God the Father is up to something in our sufferings. That he is in control, and has a purpose and intention in even the painful aspects of our lives.

This is what we explored in our time of study in Peter’s first letter to these dear brothers and sisters who were undergoing harassment and hostility. I invite you now to listen to the sermon on 1 Peter. And if you’d like some additional resources on this book, head on over to the Bible Project page for this part of the Whole Story.

May God use his Word to inspire you to help just one other person move one step closer to Jesus.

Warmly,

Pastor Matthew
matthew@calvarystcloud.org

matthewmolesky.com

NICARAGUA UPDATE

July 29, 2019

In case you missed it, the missions team has arrived safely in Nicaragua. They have been busy evangelizing in the community and participating in singing, sharing testimonies, and preaching during the local church service. These last few days, the VBS program has grown from 100 kids to almost 200! The team is unified, full of energy, and adjusting well to the heat. Please continue to keep them in your prayers!

For more pictures and the latest updates, stay tuned on Facebook and Instagram!

James

July 10, 2019

In the book of James, we meet a follower of Jesus who is going to sit us down for a little chat. And fair warning here: James isn’t really too concerned about your feelings, or how comfortable you are with someone you don’t know nor have ever met getting pretty personal with you. Because he’s not concerned so much with what you think about him, but about your soul.

James is writing to Jewish Christians spread out over a tremendous amount of geography. And inspired by the Holy Spirit, and with a confident understanding of the human experience and human heart, he writes in a way that will reach them all. He writes in a way that assumes their knowledge of the story in the OT (as good Jews) and their knowledge of the teachings of Jesus (as good Christians).

But they’re in danger of losing their way. They're in danger of thinking that wisdom is only intellectual, and has nothing to do with how you live. They’re in danger of thinking that Bible-believing doesn’t actually mean living according to the Bible, but merely that you believe the Bible is the Bible, and you can then go and live your life in that knowledge alone.

So James writes to set some things straight, because their lives—and ours—depend upon it. Here’s how he starts the main part of his argument….

Be Doers of the Word

James 1:19, 21, 22-25, NLT
Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen,…and humbly accept the word…But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves.
For if you listen to the word and don’t obey, it is like glancing at your face in a mirror. You see yourself, walk away, and forget what you look like.
But if you look carefully into the perfect law that sets you free,
and if you do what it says and don’t forget what you heard,
then God will bless you for doing it.

I think this is the heart and soul of what James has to tell us, and it is why we desperately need the Word of God.

You see, James understands this massive problem for human beings in this world in which we live. It is a problem called sin, a desire within us ever since the Fall. And sin, when allowed to grow, causes a kind of fracturing of the human soul (of who we are), which leads to death (James 1:13-15).

But James also knows that when God created us, he created us in a state of wholeness (as opposed to fractured), that when we were originally brought forth, it was in perfect shalom, perfect peace. And all human beings have within them that echo of wholeness and integrity, and what James wants to do is help us become “perfect and complete, [whole,] needing nothing” (James 1:4). This idea of wholeness is a theme he comes back to 7 times in this letter.

And so he gives us this metaphor for how to see both of those realities—the metaphor of a mirror…

~~~~~

I invite you now to watch or listen to my sermon from James’ letter, where I’ll show you how helpful this metaphor of the Bible as a mirror is for our everyday living.

And if you’d like some additional resources on this book, head on over to the Bible Project page for this part of the Whole Story.

May God use his Word to inspire you to help just one other person move one step closer to Jesus.

Warmly,

Pastor Matthew|
matthew@calvarystcloud.org

matthewmolesky.com


Sunday's Comin' (July 7, 2019)

July 3, 2019

dictionary.com defines wisdom this way:

The knowledge of what is true or right coupled with just judgment as to action; sagacity, discernment, or insight.

I think all of us want to be wise. The question is, how do we get there? And what is the “true” and the “right”? And how do I hone my ability to operate with just judgment as to action? In a world looking for people to make just judgments, good decisions, and to act in the common good with discernment and insight, as Christians we have the opportunity to stand firm and lead the way.

But first we need to be lead. We need training in wisdom.

Around 2,000 years ago there was a man leading one of the very first churches established to preach the good news of Jesus. This man was the brother of Jesus, and his name was James. The church he lead was located in Jerusalem, and for twenty years under his care operated in an environment of persecution and difficulty, within a culture that was wise in its own eyes.

But James taught a different way. With the writings of Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Job, and the Song of Songs as a foundation, James pointed to what was true, and right. And with the teachings of his brother, Jesus, he pointed to who was true, and right.

And by God’s grace, we have what James taught, found in the book of the Bible that bears his name. As Christians seeking wisdom, and the way to a wise life, we need this little handbook today as much as they did then. So this Sunday, we will take a look at how we may stand firm and lead the way to the true, right, good and wise life.

To prepare for the service this Sunday, take around 16 minutes and read the book of James. And, it’s also the first Sunday of the month, which means we will celebrate the meal Jesus gave us, sharing in the Lord’s Supper. One final thing about the service—please be in prayer for all who will be in attendance—believers and unbelievers—that our Father would use our time together to open our eyes, by the power of the Holy Spirit, so that we can help at least one other person move one step closer to Jesus.

For,

God has united you with Christ Jesus. For our benefit God made him to be wisdom itself. Christ made us right with God; he made us pure and holy, and he freed us from sin. Therefore, as the Scriptures say, “If you want to boast, boast only about the Lord.”
(1 Corinthians 1:30-31, NLT)

It’s going to be a great time gathering together in the name of our Wise King.

With eager expectation,

Pastor Matthew
matthew@calvarystcloud.org
matthewmolesky.com

Hebrews

July 2, 2019

"I can't stand my job! I've been working there too long to be treated like this!" she said.

Author Jeff Vandersteldt tells the story of how they had just started eating dinner at their weekly [community group] when one of their members started unloading her frustrations about work. “I should have received a raise a long time ago and I am still in the same position that I started in two years ago,” she went on to say. “My boss keeps telling me I will eventually get a promotion, but it seems as if I keep getting overlooked. I’m really tired of this! I’m ready to quit.”

She continued sharing her frustrations about the working conditions and the poor benefits, and how her coworkers didn’t help the situation, because most of them had bad attitudes and poor work ethics.

Isn’t this pretty normal when people get together? In a community group, or in a coffeeshop, or around the proverbial water cooler, or at a restaurant, or a backyard BBQ with friends?

We struggle in our work, and we want a place to vent. We experience pain and frustration in our relationships. Roommates get on our nerves. Finances aren’t abundant or predictable. The computer, the car, the A/C break down. Parents wound us or let us down. So do our kids. We have plenty to talk about, and much to complain about.

So what is the typical response in a gathering of people to a vent-session like this?

“I know what you mean! My job stinks too!”
“You deserve better! Your boss doesn’t know what he has in you. Maybe one day he will wake up and realize how awesome you are!”
“Yeah, well, it might be too late when he does. If I were you, I would quit!”

But can’t Christians do better than that when one of us finds themselves in the midst of some trial, affliction, or suffering? Shouldn’t we respond a little differently than everybody else? We have good news to bring to bear on the difficulties of life. So yes, we enter in with empathy for a sister like this when she shares the job is hard. But we also bring good news to give. What would it look like for a Christian to help her move just one step closer to Jesus in this specific situation? What would you say to her?

~~~~~

I invite you now to watch or listen to my sermon based on the sermon we find in Hebrews. And if you’d like some additional resources on this book, head on over to the Bible Project page for this part of the Whole Story.

May God use his Word to inspire you to help just one other person move one step closer to Jesus.

Warmly,

Pastor Matthew
matthew@calvarystcloud.org
matthewmolesky.com

Sunday's Comin' (June 30, 2019)

June 27, 2019

This past Sunday, we completed the last of Paul’s writings that we will study together. I have to admit—I’m really going to miss Paul! We began studying his letters back on February 17 as part of our Whole Story series, and it has been a remarkable few months learning from this amazing disciple of Jesus, who had such a passion for the Good News, the church, and the lost.

However, if anything could help me feel a little better about saying goodbye (for now) to Paul, it would be entering into the world of the writer to the Hebrews. This is probably the most important book in terms of understanding the Whole Story of the Bible. For in its pages, we find the interpretative key to understanding the rest of the story. And what is that key, for the rest of the story?

Jesus Is The Better....

Jesus is the better messenger.
Jesus is the better Word.
Jesus is the better prophet.
Jesus is the better priest.
Jesus is the better sacrifice.
Jesus brings a better covenant.

Everything in the story has been leading to this. Everything has been leading to Jesus.

Which is pretty exciting, when you think about how this helps you understand how the Bible is a unified story which leads and points us to Jesus. However, unless this means something for our lives today, while it may be exciting, is it really all that helpful?

Here’s the good news. “Jesus Is The Better…” does mean something for us today. Everything, in fact. And I look forward to showing you how on Sunday morning.

To get ready for that, please take some time and read this letter (it’s actually a sermon, see Hebrews 13:22) before you come on Sunday. It will take you about 45 minutes to read in one sitting, and will prepare you for our time together.

Also, here’s a few other things about the service on Sunday:

  • You will hear an update from Pastor Jon about how Calvary’s Vacation Bible School went this week (spoiler: it’s been an amazing week!);
  • and that will happen right after you hear from a VBS “choir” singing a couple of the songs they learned this week;
  • and you will want to check out a new song which Pastor Matt and the team will introduce, called “Tremble,” which you can do here on YouTube.

Finally, please be in prayer for all who will be in attendance—believers and unbelievers—that our Father would use our time together to open our eyes, by the power of the Holy Spirit, so that we can help at least one other person move one step closer to Jesus.

It’s going to be a great time gathering together in the name of our King.

With eager expectation,

Pastor Matthew
matthew@calvarystcloud.org

matthewmolesky.com

Community Group FAQs

June 24, 2019

We asked Pastor Jon to answer some Community Group FAQs... here is what he had to say!

If you wish to learn more or join a group, visit: https://www.calvarystcloud.org/community-groups

Philemon

June 24, 2019

In Paul’s letter to his church-planting partner and friend, Philemon, he spends the opening lines commending this loving church leader, in very specific ways, with subtle and powerful theological undertones. And then comes one little word in verse 8 — “Accordingly…”

It could also be translated “for this reason,” “therefore,” and “this is why.” Or, as The Message puts it, “In line with all this, I have a favor to ask of you.”

What Paul is about to say is what will be most difficult for Philemon to hear. You see, Paul has reminded him of what the good news has fundamentally done to Philemon and his people there in the church at Colossae. And he has done that in order to connect the dots to the fact that it has done this to another of Philemon’s people.

Or, better, what used to be one of his people.

The runaway slave, Onesimus.

We’re not sure exactly why Onesimus ran off, to which you may say, “Well, he was a slave, you dunderhead, maybe that should be your first clue.” But slavery then and there—while not good, and I’m not defending it—was not the same as the slavery that stains our country’s history. It wasn’t ethnically centered, and was more a form of indentured servitude that was a fundamental part of the culture. And to flee was to enter into danger, and likely death. It was to lose the protection of your house and family.

And for whatever reason, Onesimus flees. And in so doing, he wrongs Philemon. It may be that the wrong was merely the fleeing, and it may be that he stole from him as he left. And this isn’t some private matter. Philemon’s household would have been close—everyone would know Onesimus, including the church family, with their weekly attendance at the church meeting in Philemon’s home, as well as other frequent visits for fellowship. And those who in Colossian society would have known of this: Philemon likely would have reported his fleeing to the authorities.

The point is—the departure of Onesimus was very public.

And we don’t know how he gets to Rome, or why; or how he gets to Paul, or why. But he does. And because Paul is Paul, he tells Onesimus about Jesus. And Onesimus becomes a follower of Jesus. Onesimus becomes connected to Jesus. Onesimus enters into the mutual participation, the fellowship, of believers.

Which is beautiful, and glorious, and reason for rejoicing.

And which puts Paul in a tricky spot.

Isn’t that always what conflict does—puts people in tricky spots? When one person wrongs another person, and reconciliation is needed? When forgiveness has a part to play for both parties—one who desperately needs to receive it, and one who desperately needs to offer it? For there is no reconciliation without forgiveness, friend, and everybody involved needs it.

And so a spiritual father considers his two sons.
One who needs forgiveness.
One who needs to offer it.
How does he get them to reconcile? How does he settle the matter?

The first step is to send the prodigal home. It will not do to have Onesimus enter into the rest of his life as a follower of Jesus with unresolved conflict. He must go back. He must settle the matter.

And the second step? What of Philemon, in a sense, the older brother, having come to Jesus first? Should he command forgiveness, as a father? Should he require Philemon to reconcile? There is still a more excellent way. This father will appeal to love.

These are the words echoing in Philemon’s ears as he reads Paul letter, trying to find a way forward….

~~~~~

I invite you now to watch or listen to my sermon from Paul’s letter to his friend Philemon, and to the church at Colossae, and to you and me. And if you’d like some additional resources on this book, head on over to the Bible Project page for this part of the Whole Story.

May God use his Word to inspire you to help just one other person move one step closer to Jesus.

Warmly,

Pastor Matthew
matthew@calvarystcloud.org

matthewmolesky.com


Sunday's Comin'

June 19, 2019

Greetings!

Just a brief reminder that a great way to prepare for the service this coming Sunday is to read the text we will be studying together. This week, it’s Paul’s very short—it will take you only about 3 1/2 minutes to read—letter to his church-planting friend Philemon. And while brief, it is packed with powerful words of reconciliation and hope in the midst of a painful separation and conflict. As always, Paul is ever vigilant to show us the power of the Good News to bring people together in harmony.

We will also have a brief missionary update from long-time Calvary missionaries Jim and Judy Olson that you won’t want to miss. In addition, our worship team will be introducing a new song called The Glory Is Yours, which you can listen to here, so you are ready to sing it out together.

As I encouraged you last week, I’d like to do so again: I hope you’ll join me in praying for our gathering. Please pray over the worship team and the preacher, and the greeters, and ushers, and coffee makers, and all our volunteers, as they prepare to serve us this week. And pray for all who will be in attendance, that our Father would use our time together to open our eyes, so that we can help at least one other person move one step closer to Jesus.

I love you,

Pastor Matthew
matthew@calvarystcloud.org

matthewmolesky.com

Titus

June 17, 2019

There is an island in the Mediterranean Sea off the southern coast of Greece named Crete. In the mid-60s A.D., it was a place widely regarded in the ancient world as extremely disorderly, unruly, out of control, and rife with dishonesty and treachery and greed. Its culture was infamous for the depth, breadth, and sheer volume of its sinfulness—think Las Vegas as the size of an island.

Most of the men on the island had served as mercenaries to the highest bidder, and most of its major cities were considered unsafe, filled with violence and sexual corruption.

It was so bad, that even one of their own thinkers and prophetic voices—we’re pretty sure it was Epimenides of Crete—had this to say about his own countrymen:

“The people of Crete are all liars, cruel animals, and lazy gluttons from the time they exit the womb.”

To which Paul says—

“Epimenides certainly spoke the truth!” (Titus 1:12-13)

However, there were also many strategic harbors on the northern side of the island, that serviced many of the major cities all over the Mediterranean sea, and therefore extended their reach into most of the known world at the time. So from a missionary’s point of view—a missionary like Paul—this would be the perfect place to have a network of churches that could impact a culture with very bleak characteristics.

You see Paul believed that Christianity could provide a civilizing function to any society, even Cretan society—he was confident of this, of Christianity’s power. And if Cretan culture could be infused with Christianity’s truths and realities, rather than exporting treachery, violence, corruption, and greed through its strategic harbors, it could export Christ.

So Paul devises a plan—he will take one of his best missionary partners, a young man named Titus, and send him into Crete to strengthen the churches there by establishing a beachhead for the civilizing force of Jesus in the culture. And this letter serves as the guiding strategic and tactical plan for this missions enterprise, then (and now) in this bleak culture and age in which we live. A mission that works in this culture, and every culture across the globe.

And there’s this remarkable thing about Paul’s guiding document. It begins almost humorously—I mean, we aren’t used to extended self-introductions like this. How would you feel if I came up to you and said,

I, Matthew, husband of Susan, father of Colton, Isabella, Ezra, and Nehemiah; son of Dennis, son of Georgene, of the house of Molesky; pastor of Calvary, whose mission is to make more and maturing disciples of Jesus Christ, as a resident of St. Cloud; on the estate of 1900 at the Drive of Shannon, greet you…..Bob.

You’d probably think I was pretty weird!

So I wonder if our unfamiliarity with such introductions causes us to mistakenly pass by them in these letters too quickly. For it is in his far-better-than-mine-self-introduction that Paul gives away the whole structure of our mission strategy, and tactics. He sets up everything else he is going to say, giving us the summary up front so we’ll know how to follow, and what he’s on about.

And here it is:

Titus 1:1-4, ESV
Paul, a slave of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ for the faith of the chosen of God and the knowledge of the truth that is according to godliness, in the hope of eternal life which God, who does not lie, promised before eternal ages, but at the proper time has disclosed his message in the proclamation with which I was entrusted according to the command of God our Savior, to Titus, my true child according to a common faith. Grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Savior.

And now I’d like to summarize Paul even further, to guide our study together:

We have a mission mandate made up of compelling components,
a transforming truth,
and a motivating, consoling, blessed hope.

~~~~~

I invite you now to watch or listen to my sermon from Paul’s letter to his mission partner, Titus. And if you’d like some additional resources on this book, head on over to the Bible Project page for this part of the Whole Story.

May God use his Word to inspire you to help just one other person move one step closer to Jesus.

Warmly,

Pastor Matthew
matthew@calvarystcloud.org

matthewmolesky.com

Preparing for Sunday, June 16, 2019

June 13, 2019

Greetings Calvary family.

I am excited to gather together again this coming Sunday. You know, I just love being a part of our mornings together:

  • the buzz of conversations as people catch up with each other in the lobby,
  • making our way into the sanctuary (preferably before 10:30am) and continuing to talk and say ‘howdy’ to those you haven’t seen in awhile,
  • preparing my heart with a brief prayer before the service begins,
  • singing songs,
  • greeting each other,
  • praying,
  • giving our money to finance the kingdom,
  • sharing in the preaching of the Word,
  • receiving the weekly blessing,
  • being sent back into the world to help move at least one other person just one step closer to Jesus.

I love Sundays!

This Sunday, we will have the added bonus of child dedications—perfectly timed on Father’s Day!—and our Monthly Ministry Update (this month, from Pastor Matt). And to prepare for the preaching, you’ll find it helpful to read Paul’s letter to Titus.

I hope you’ll join me in praying for our gathering. Please pray over the worship team and the preacher, and the greeters, and ushers, and coffee makers, and all our volunteers, as they prepare to serve us this week. And pray for all who will be in attendance, that our Father would use our time together to open our eyes, so that we can help at least one other person move one step closer to Jesus.

I love you,

Pastor Matthew
matthew@calvarystcloud.org

matthewmolesky.com

Pastor Steve and Lori Eckert Recognition

June 12, 2019

We honored Pastor Steve and Lori Eckert in our service last weekend - showing appreciation for their years of ministry at Calvary. They will be greatly missed. Please continue to keep the Eckert’s in your prayers as they seek what God has for them next.

2 Timothy (part two)

June 11, 2019

As I spent time in my study this past Wednesday pondering the service, a story came to mind. It was the story of a husband and wife, who were experiencing a number of fairly intense and difficult circumstances: within their community, within their church family, and within their own family. And it was all coming to a head. It was at that moment that the wife suggested that there was one thing that they must do if they were going to survive. If they had any hope of making it through.

In order to make the point that they must do this one thing in order to survive, she gave her husband this illustration, “I want you to think about this one thing like this. Say you went to the doctor, and she told you that you had a disease that is going to kill you. That’s the really bad news. But then the doctor tells you that there is a pill you can take, that will keep you alive. That’s the really good news. However, you have to take this pill once per day, in order to stay alive.  My question for you, husband, is this: would you take the pill?”

Answer: of course you would. Would you forget? Would you not get around to it some days? Of course not! You would never forget, you would never miss.

In our first look at the story of Paul and Timothy (found in 2 Timothy) we learned that in this life we will have trouble, and affliction, and suffering. We learned that as followers of Jesus, we must, “share in suffering as…good soldier[s] of Jesus Christ” (2 Tim. 2:3), because the point of our lives is to endure this soldier-suffering “for the sake of the [lost], that they may also obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory” (2 Tim. 2:10).

Finally, we asked the question: “How? How can we possibly fulfill what seems like an incredibly difficult mission. I mean, Paul is very clear about how hard this is, and will continue to be. How will we do this?” And we heard from Paul this deeply comforting testimony: the way this will be possible is through the present and future promise of the empowering presence of Jesus (see 2 Timothy 2:1; 4:17-18).

But there is still one thing that we must do in order to survive (and thrive) as good soldiers of Jesus. One thing that actually opens up the way to the present and future promise of the empowering presence of Jesus. And without this one thing, every day, just like that wife said to her husband, we won’t make it. We won’t survive.

This is the one, vital thing that Paul passes on to Timothy, so that he might be a good soldier of Jesus, putting a dent in the kingdom of darkness, and rescuing and transforming lost people into followers of Christ.

~~~~~

I invite you now to watch or listen to my second sermon from Paul’s second letter to his spiritual son, Timothy. And if you’d like some additional resources on this book, head on over to the Bible Project page for this part of the Whole Story.

May God use his Word to inspire you to help just one other person move one step closer to Jesus.

Warmly,

Pastor Matthew
matthew@calvarystcloud.org

matthewmolesky.com


Preparing for June 9, 2019

June 6, 2019

Greetings Calvary family.

In just a few days, we will make our way again to our building at 1200 Roosevelt Road to gather together with the aim of expressing our praise, adoration, and thanksgiving to God, and the aim of quieting ourselves for a short time to hear from God.

As I spent time in my study this afternoon pondering the service, a story came to mind. It was the story of a husband and wife, who were experiencing a number of fairly intense and difficult circumstances: within their community, within their church family, and within their own family. And it was all coming to a head. It was at that moment that the wife suggested that there was one thing that they must do if they were going to survive. If they had any hope of making it through.

In order to make the point that they must do this one thing in order to survive, she gave her husband this illustration, “I want you to think about this one thing like this. Say you went to the doctor, and she told you that you had a disease that is going to kill you. That’s the really bad news. But then the doctor tells you that there is a pill you can take, that will keep you alive. That’s the really good news. However, you have to take this pill once per day, in order to stay alive.  My question for you, husband, is this: would you take the pill?”

Answer: of course you would.

This last Sunday, in the story of Paul and Timothy, we learned that in this life we will have trouble, and affliction, and suffering. We learned that as followers of Jesus, we must, “share in suffering as a good soldier of Jesus Christ” (2 Tim. 2:3), because the point of our lives is to endure this soldier-suffering “for the sake of the [lost], that they may also obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory” (2 Tim. 2:10). Finally, we received Paul’s comfort that the way this would be possible is through the present and future promise of the empowering presence of Jesus (2 Tim. 2:1; 4:17-18).

But there is still one thing that we must do in order to survive (and thrive) as a good soldier of Jesus. One thing that actually opens up the way to the present and future promise of the empowering presence of Jesus. One thing we need, every day, in order to make it in perilous times. One thing that Paul passes on to Timothy, and to us.

Join me, and the Apostle Paul, this coming Sunday, as we spend just one more week in 2 Timothy, to (re)discover this one thing. And may he use our time together to open our eyes, so that we can help at least one other person move one step closer to Jesus.


I love you,

Pastor Matthew
matthew@calvarystcloud.org

matthewmolesky.com

2019 High School Graduates

June 5, 2019

2 Timothy

June 5, 2019

Sometimes we come to these places in the Bible that defy our ability to lay out the text in a logical progression of concepts and propositions, and instead, what is given is the layering of one life upon another, of one story upon another, the sharing of experiences in the hope that growth and encouragement will take place.

The letter under our consideration this past Sunday is just such an example of this.

It is a tale of two cities, Rome and Ephesus.
It is a tale of a father, and his spiritual son.

It is a tale of

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God according to the promise of the life that is in Christ Jesus…
(2 Timothy 1:1, ESV)

Friend, Paul is near the end of his life. Many scholars believe that this letter is probably the last thing he he wrote before his death, before he was beheaded because he proclaimed Jesus unapologetically and fearlessly. So as he writes, he does so in the shadow of the executioner. He does so with the knowledge that his time is likely coming to an end.

And he is “suffering acutely from the boredom and the cold of prison life, in a dismal underground dungeon with a hole in the ceiling for light and air, suffering acutely from loneliness (John Stott).”

It blows me away and breaks my heart that a man who had given so much to so many finds himself with no one to stand by him, and no one to comfort him. Think of the stories of his exploits that we have heard in our study of the Whole Story, all the way back to the book of Acts, through all the letters we’ve already read and considered these past months.

And despite that, at his first defense, no one came to stand by him, but all deserted him—the totality of Asian believers have (almost unbelievably) turned away from Paul.

Over and over in this letter we can hear the pain in his voice as he recounts so many who have turned away, so many he had invested in, so many who have abandoned the faith, pursued the world, and left him.

And he’s cold, for he had left his outer, heavier cloak with his friend Carpus, in Troas. And winter is coming—it is only going to get colder. And he has no books, and above all, he has none of his parchments of Scripture to comfort him. And he is likely tired, and hungry, and because of all this, he is discouraged. I can hear it in his voice when he shares how badly he wants to be visited, how badly he longs for the company of those closest to him, who still are pursuing the cause of the good news of his King, Jesus. That someone would come soon.

Someone like Timothy, his beloved child (1:2), his spiritual son.

Timothy is the reason he writes this letter. Timothy is the one who appears constantly in Paul’s mind, night and day, as he goes to the Father in prayer. Timothy, who is so often ill, and needs a little wine to help aid his frequent stomach problems. Timothy, who while gifted, is still so young in the faith and in ministry. Timothy, who is feeling the weight of pastoral leadership in a difficult city, and difficult church, with strong personalities coming against him. Timothy, whose flame of faith is flickering, in danger of going out.

And if that happens, what of Ephesus? What of the countless souls languishing in darkness? If Paul dies, and if Timothy turns away and does not hold fast, what of the kingdom? If Timothy does not entrust to other men the good deposit that has been entrusted to him, the flame of the good news may go out in his city, and people will perish, apart from Jesus. They will suffer an eternity of torment because Timothy was unwilling to endure a life of suffering.

So Paul writes. He writes with hands and fingers shaking from the cold, a body aching from laying on a stone slab, but with a heart on fire for Jesus and filled with love for Timothy, and the hope of the good news for the next generation, and the generation after that, and the generation after that.

In this letter, the tales of two cities converge.
Two lives converge.
The stories of a father and his son converge,
as the apostle pours out his heart to enflame his son for Jesus, and those Jesus means to save.

With those two men, in those two cities, living those two stories, imagine what it would be like for Timothy to have someone rush into the house, “Timothy! I’ve a letter from Paul!”

Imagine the countless thoughts that must have rushed through his mind, how his heart rate must have doubled, as he unfurled a parchment, wondering what his spiritual father may have to say. Would he challenge? Would he rebuke? Would he encourage? Would there be some bit of advice, a breakthrough for ministry?

As we open our Bibles to 2 Timothy, that is what we hold in our hands, contained for us in the larger story found in this book. An urgent communique just as much for us, as it was for young Timothy, over 2,000 years ago. Just as precious, just as necessary, just as life-giving.

~~~~~~~~

I invite you now to watch or listen to my sermon from Paul’s second letter to his spiritual son, Timothy. And if you’d like some additional resources on this book, head on over to the Bible Project page for this part of the Whole Story.

May God use his Word to inspire you to help just one other person move one step closer to Jesus.

Warmly,

Pastor Matthew
matthew@calvarystcloud.org

matthewmolesky.com

Her Acts In God's Story

June 4, 2019

Sweet Sister,

Don’t you just love how the New Testament is full of miracles, healings, jailbreaks, and salvation stories! All these are compiled for us to read and to be inspired by. God is so gracious to provide acts in people’s lives for the glory of His story, and then have it written down to encourage us! Wouldn’t it be great if all those things are still happening now?  

Well, I believe they are! We just need to tell of our acts in God’s story. The same God who was living and active in the Bible is the same God living and active today. The same Holy Spirit is working in, and through, many around us.

For the second year, the Women’s Ministry of Calvary Community Church has hosted “Her Acts in God's Story”. Real women from Calvary sharing real stories of how God is working, and then pointing us back to what it really is all about - God’s Big Story!

I invite you to grab a cup of coffee, notepad, and pen and listen in on how God has worked in Jenny and Wanda’s lives. Who knows! It may inspire you to share your acts in God’s story. If so, I would love to hear it.

In Him,

Susan

Questions from Jenny

1.) What songs have God used to remind you of His goodness and grace at times when you needed it the most?

2.) In what areas of your life are you recognizing your dependence on Him, or where do you need to slow down to acknowledge how He holds it all together for you?

Questions from Wanda

1.) Whose faith stories would you like to hear?

2.) Who are the people in your life with whom you’d like to share your faith stories?

3.) What are your ideas for sharing your faith stories with people you love?

Preparing for June 2, 2019

May 30, 2019

Good morning Calvary family!

This coming Sunday, we will study another letter by the Apostle Paul to his spiritual son, Timothy. And as I have been preparing, one of the things I am continually grateful to God for is how he keeps granting fresh readings of his Word, for I have seen things here I’ve never seen before.

You see, Paul is near death. He is in prison. He exists in the shadow of the executioner. He is tired, he is cold, he is alone, and he is feeling the bite of loneliness and desertion of all those close to him. It is likely this is the last letter of his life. Among other reasons, these realities make this one of the most emotional and moving portions in all of Scripture.

As you read and prepare for the service this Sunday, keep that picture of Paul in your mind. Put yourself in the place of Timothy, hearing the words of an older father, pouring out his heart to you and calling you to the great mission of the Good News of Jesus. For Paul is a dying man pleading with dying men to grasp Christ.

I am praying for you, dear friends, and for us. May God grant us the grace to see marvelous things in his Word as we gather this coming Sunday. And may he use our time together to equip us, so that we can help at least one other person move one step closer to Jesus.


I love you,

Pastor Matthew
matthew@calvarystcloud.org

matthewmolesky.com

1 Timothy

May 30, 2019

In Paul’s letter known as 1 Timothy, we find the story of a father and a son. They are not related by biological birth, but by spiritual upbringing. Timothy is a young man, whose mother and grandmother were instrumental to his coming to Jesus, and being born again by the Holy Spirit. But it was through the laying on of the hands of the Apostle Paul, and his personal investment in this young man, that Timothy has fanned into flame his belief in Jesus, and ministry for Jesus. Thus, Paul is his spiritual father.

As such, Paul has decided to launch him into ministry in the city of Ephesus, and within the church Paul had planted there. You remember Ephesus from our time together in Acts? It is the place where Paul had proclaimed Jesus so powerfully, and the Spirit had moved so decidedly, that the local trade in idol sales for the goddess, Diana of Artemis, had suffered. This did not make idol makers and salesmen happy. Not at all. People are never pleased with you when you attack their idols, when you tear down what they worship. And the Ephesians thus felt that not only their economy, but their cultural beliefs, were in danger—which they were! Such is the power of Jesus.

So in an attempt to fight back (for Satan always fights back), they started a riot and dragged the leaders they could get their hands on into the city’s theatre, where thousands upon thousands cried out with one voice of confession, “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!!” for about two hours. The leaders of the church put Paul in hiding, and after things settled down, he left town. (you can read the whole story in Acts 19)

And Paul hasn’t been there since.

So—we find in this story a church under great external pressure from idol-worshipping citizens who feel threatened by this new religion. And not only that, but the church is under internal attack by teachers who misunderstand the Scriptures, and are undercutting the teaching of the apostles, and Jesus, and the content of the good news.

Friends, this is what Paul is sending his spiritual son into. This is what Timothy is parachuting into, as a young pastor. That church, in that city and cultural context. And Paul is no dummy, he understands the challenges. And he certainly wants to be there to help. But until he can, he now writes this letter, and I think his goal in doing so can be summed up in just two words: Conduct and Confession.


~~~~~


I invite you now to watch or listen to my sermon from Paul’s first letter to his spiritual son, Timothy. And if you’d like some additional resources on this book, head on over to the Bible Project page for this part of the Whole Story.

May God use his Word to inspire you to help just one other person move one step closer to Jesus.

Warmly,
Pastor Matthew
matthew@calvarystcloud.org

matthewmolesky.com


Preparing For May 26, 2019

May 22, 2019

Do you know why the church exists?
Do you know who formed the church, and how it was formed?
Do you know who is supposed to lead the church, and the list of their required qualifications?
Do you know who makes up the church, and how they are supposed to live?

I’d like you to imagine a young man, who has parachuted into a city that he is unfamiliar with, which is bringing incredible cultural and societal pressures on those who are trying to follow Jesus. And he is on his own. And his spiritual father is not able to be with him. And he needs answers to questions like those I have asked you above.

You see, the questions haven’t changed. And we still need those answers, in order to be what our city needs us to be. And so, for his spiritual son, and for us, the Apostle Paul sits down and addresses them—

Timothy,
I am writing these things to you now, even though I hope to be with you soon, so that if I am delayed, you will know how people must conduct themselves in the household of God. This is the church of the living God, which is the pillar and buttress of the truth.
Without question, this is the great mystery of our faith:
Christ was revealed in a human body
and vindicated by the Spirit.
He was seen by angels
and announced to the nations.
He was believed in throughout the world
and taken to heaven in glory.
Your father,
Paul
(found in 1 Timothy 3:14-16, New Living Translation)

I encourage you to spend some time reading 1 Timothy before you come to our service this Sunday, with the questions I’ve posed above in mind. Prayerfully prepare, and come ready to hear from God about the joy and power of the church to change the world.

May he use our time together to equip us, so that we can help at least one other person move one step closer to Jesus.


Warmly,

Pastor Matthew
matthew@calvarystcloud.org
matthewmolesky.com

2 Thessalonians

May 21, 2019

This last Sunday, we made our way into Paul’s second letter to some very dear friends who made up the church he and Silas had planted in Thessalonica, a city in Greece. Prominent in our study was his discussion on Judgment Day, and how that doctrine was to function in their daily life, providing the perhaps unexpected experience of grace and peace for those suffering persecution and affliction.

The reality of a coming, final Judgment Day is quite important in our time as well. One of my favored writers posted on his site recently:

We don’t want the last judgment to stop every mouth. We don’t want the realities of the last judgment to stop our mouths. We are modern men [and women] and want the doctrine of the last judgment to give us an opportunity to run our mouths.
(Douglas Wilson, on
Blog and Mablog: Theology That Bites Back)

Amen.

So, in a time when our culture doesn’t like the idea of anyone judging what they do, and the decisions they make on how to live their lives, comes this timely letter from Paul, in which he runs his mouth a bit on the last judgment.

I invite you now to watch or listen to my sermon from 2 Thessalonians. And if you’d like some additional resources on this book, head on over to the Bible Project page for this part of the Whole Story.

May God use his Word to inspire you to help just one other person move one step closer to Jesus.

Warmly,

Pastor Matthew
matthew@calvarystcloud.org

matthewmolesky.com

Baptism - May 19, 2019

May 19, 2019

We joyfully celebrated baptism last weekend. It's always encouraging to see how God is at work in the lives of others. If you missed it, you can watch it here!

App users, click here: https://vimeo.com/337800032

Preparing For Sunday 19 May 2019

May 15, 2019

What do you think of when you see these two words together?—

Judgment Day 

Was the first thing that leapt to your mind Arnold Schwarzenegger and his many Terminator movies? Or was it a bit more biblical, and maybe visions from the apostle John’s Revelation began playing in the theatre of your imagination: flaming fire, and brimstone, and attacking angels, and a lake of fire, and eternal torment.

I wonder if in all of those reflections of Judgment Day…I wonder if you think of it as good news.

This coming Sunday, we will study Paul’s second letter to his friends in the Greek city of Thessalonica. And our focus will be on chapter one, and Paul’s teaching there on Judgment Day. And I’d like to show you how this teaching is part of the good news of Jesus. So please take the 7 minutes you’ll need to read that letter before coming on Sunday. You could even set aside a half hour and read it a couple of times, and pray over it, and particularly study the first chapter; as well as take advantage of the resources for study at the Bible Project.

Another exciting part of our service this Sunday will be our Covenant Affirmation ceremony. It is a joy-filled moment as people enter into covenant membership as part of our church family, sealing their commitment to the purpose of our church, and the advancement of Christ’s Kingdom through us. We will have 18 people making this covenant, which means over 30 brothers and sisters have joined our church in the first few months of 2019. Praise God!

I’m looking forward to being with y’all this Sunday, as our Father speaks to us through his Word, magnifying his Son, through the illuminating power of the Holy Spirit.

Warmly,

Pastor Matthew
matthew@calvarystcloud.org
matthewmolesky.com

Compassion International: Calvary's Partnership

May 13, 2019

On Sundays April 28 and May 5, we recognized Compassion International at Calvary by drawing awareness to the incredible impact the ministry is having in the lives of children all around the world.

More than just statistics (of which there is plenty to share), it’s the Compassion stories that move us the most. On May 5, we had the opportunity to hear from Julene Mayer as she shared her Compassion story – a beautiful story of the difference sponsorship has made in the life of Karen from El Salvador. If you were here on May 5, there is no doubt that you were moved as Julene shared.

Over the years, Calvary has risen up and responded to the needs of children around the world, sponsoring a total of 179 children from 24 countries. When you stop to think about it, this is incredible. That’s 179 children who have a chance of being released from poverty. 179 children who have an opportunity to hear about Jesus’ love for them.

Calvary family, thank you for your partnership with Compassion!

If you missed Julene’s story on May 5, you can find it below. Let it be an encouragement to all of us in the impact one can have in the life of a child.

-------------------------------------

I am Julene Mayer, a Compassion sponsor.  My husband Greg and I began sponsoring Karen from El Salvador when she was 5 years old. In 2007 her project worker wrote that Karen was seriously undernourished when she came to the project. Thanks to the Compassion nutrition program she recovered.

In 2016, Karen wrote:

”I greet you with much love, and I want to thank you for sponsoring me…My best friend is Jesus because he died for me on the cross.  I ask you to pray for me so I can achieve my goals.  I want to tell you that my latest check-up was on the 16th of April…and the doctor told me that I was very healthy. He congratulated me for having a good weight and height... I thank God for the help that I have at the project. They have motivated me to study and to follow my dream of becoming a professional and to be a support to my family and society. One of my greatest desires is to go to High School.”

June 2018 we received this final letter from Karen:

“I greet you very affectionately, hoping in God that you are receiving great things in your life. The reason for this letter is to thank you for all this time you have been sponsoring. It has been a blessing for me and my family since I will soon reach the age of completion of the project. I feel very grateful to you for having sponsored me all this time…..I feel very blessed that you have chosen me as your sponsored child.  You changed my life. I thank God, Compassion and the project, and you for being part of my life.  I hope you can continue sponsoring someone else. I say goodbye with great joy for this time with you. I will always take you in my prayers. I hope God blesses you so much for helping me so much. I say goodbye to you.”

How do I sum up 11 years of sponsorship with Karen? My heart is full from how Karen has enriched my life. I thank God for her, for Compassion International, and for the opportunity and privilege God has given me to make a difference in a child’s life.

There are many children waiting to be “freed from poverty, in Jesus name.” If you take part in sponsorship, you will be blessed.

1 John 3:17-18 says “If someone has enough money to live well and sees a brother or sister in need but shows no compassion, how can God’s love be in that person? ….Let’s not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions.”

A child’s life can change when someone like you cares for one of “the least of these.”

If you are interested in sponsoring a child, we encourage you to contact the church office or Compassion International for more information.

1 Thessalonians (part two)

May 12, 2019

Over the last two Sundays, I have been preaching from 1 Thessalonians, making my way through Paul’s letter by making my way through this summary sentence:

The power of the good news creates communities, 
of holy people, 
who flourish in the midst of loving relationships, 
as they prayerfully, eagerly, and expectantly await the coming of their Master
and Messiah — Jesus.

This last Sunday, I focused in on that last section—“…as they prayerfully, eagerly, and expectantly await the coming of their Master and Messiah, Jesus.” And who are ‘they’ in that sentence?

‘They’ are a small-ish community in the Greek city of Thessalonica, experiencing the power of the good news, which is transforming them more and more into the image of God, which is creating deep bonds of family, friendship, fidelity and loyalty rooted in the love they have for one another because of Christ. They are dealing with adversity, they are overcoming threats to their love for one another. But then comes the greatest threat of all to the possibility of a life of flourishing. And what could be the greatest threat to life, but death?

This congregation of Christians needs help from their founding pastor because they are afraid of what this threat means for those they have so deeply cherished and loved, for those who once were a part of their community, but now, through death, have been separated from them. Worse, that their death may mean they are and always will be separated from Christ himself. Specifically, they need to know what will happen in the future. And they need to know that, so that it can radically impact their present.

~~~~~

I invite you now to watch or listen to my sermon from Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians (part two of two sermons). And if you’d like some additional resources on this book, head on over to the Bible Project page for this part of the Whole Story.

May God use his Word to inspire you to help just one other person move one step closer to Jesus.

Warmly,

Pastor Matthew
matthew@calvarystcloud.org
matthewmolesky.com

Preparing For Sunday May 12, 1 & 2 Thessalonians

May 8, 2019

This last Sunday, I preached the first of two sermons on Paul’s letters to the Thessalonians. Here was the sentence I began unpacking, which is my summary of both letters:

The power of the good news creates communities,
of holy people,
who flourish in the midst of loving relationships,
as they prayerfully, eagerly, and expectantly await the coming of their Master
and Messiah — Jesus.

We covered the first three lines of that sentence in the sermon yesterday, and it was 1 Thessalonians 1:1-4:12 that provided the material for our study.

This coming Sunday, we will explore what it looks like to “prayerfully, eagerly, and expectantly await the coming of our Master and Messiah—Jesus.” And to get the most from the sermon time, you should read 1 Thessalonians 4:13 to 2 Thessalonians 3:18. As we are now adding 2 Thessalonians to our study, it will help you to check out the resources that the Bible Project has produced on that little letter.

As I sit here on a Monday morning, pondering how best for us to prepare for another Sunday, it strikes me that sometimes all the days in-between our Sundays sometimes conspire to deplete us, distract us, and disquiet our hearts to the extent that we don’t even want to show up for the gathering, or, if we do, we don’t come in expecting the service will likely do anything to turn it around for us.

I was reading something from a friend about this, and he addresses the reality of our workaday world head-on:

Our Father is glad when the family gathers. He is eager to work, ready to pour out his favor and give fresh fillings of his Spirit, when his people assemble to worship his Son.
No matter what kind of week you’ve had — no matter how depleted your tank, how distracted your mind, or how disquieted your heart — God may be pleased to turn it all around on any given Sunday.
Corporate worship may be the single most important means of God’s grace in the Christian life because it brings together all three essential principles of his ongoing kindness: hearing his voice (in his word), having his ear (in prayer), and belonging to his body (in the fellowship of the church).
When God’s people gather to worship Jesus together — with the Scriptures open and songs of praise, confession, and thanksgiving in our mouths — the Holy Spirit hovers over our assembly, standing ready to rejuvenate dull hearts and restore languishing souls.
The great invitation of Isaiah 55, crafted some seven centuries before Christ, is a fitting call to the banquet of corporate worship in the new covenant:
Come, everyone who thirsts,
come to the waters;
and he who has no money,
come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
without money and without price.
Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread,
and your labor for that which does not satisfy?
Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good,
and delight yourselves in rich food.
Incline your ear, and come to me;
hear, that your soul may live. (Isaiah 55:1–3)

He goes on in his article to expound on how God does this, and how we can ready ourselves for his work in our lives at the Sunday morning gathering. Namely, we should Come Thirsty, we should Come Empty-Handed, we should Come Ready, and we should Come As We Are. I highly recommend reading the whole article sometime before this coming Sunday.

I’m looking forward to being with y’all this Sunday, as our Father performs his rejuvenating and restoring work in us, in the name of his Son, coming to us by the power of his Holy Spirit.

Warmly,

Pastor Matthew
matthew@calvarystcloud.org
matthewmolesky.com

1 Thessalonians

May 5, 2019

A Modern Day Problem

David Brooks is a 57 year old, American conservative political and cultural commentator who writes for The New York Times, as well as a New York Times list best-selling author, with books such as The Social Animal and The Road to Character to his credit.

He is also a sufferer. In 2013, he began a journey of great difficulty: his marriage ended, his kids left home and he became an empty nester, he left the political movement he had been a part of his whole life, and, in his words, he became “lonely and disconnected from people, imprisoned in individualism, facing a spiritual emptiness and void in myself.”

All this lead to some deep soul-searching and a rethinking his foundational beliefs, which birthed his newest book, The Second-Mountain: the Quest for a Moral Life.

I listened to an interview with him recently where he provided some insight to the quest he speaks of in that book title:

“I no longer believe the social and cultural structures of our society are fine, and all we have to do is fix ourselves individually. Over the past few years, as the result of personal, national, and global events, I have become radicalized. I now think that the rampant individualism of our current climate is a catastrophe. The emphasis on self, the individual’s success, self-fulfillment, individual freedom, and self-actualization is a catastrophe…we must escape the mentality that the best life is the freest life.”

And a bit later in the interview,

“I realized it was not just me feeling this way. There is a rise in loneliness in our nation, a rise in suicide rates, it is happening all around us, [even in our wealth and prosperity].”

And finally,

“I came to the realization that political freedom is good, economic freedom is good, but social freedom is NO GOOD…when you are in the valley, freedom and individualism stinks. If you are unattached, you are unremembered and uncommitted to anything, and I have learned from that lesson.”

A Modern Day Problem

Brooks writes of his terrible discovery that rampant individualism and social freedom and unattachment is an unequivocal catastrophe in our nation and culture.

But what’s the answer? Where does a culture look for an alternative, to bring hope to the lonely, the unattached, and to some so desperate they see death as the only escape?

I’d like to turn to another writer with his own story—a story that holds the answers. His name is Paul, and like Brooks, he too is a sufferer, who finds himself in a valley; and like Brooks, he is writing into a culture of sufferers, a people in the city of Thessalonica (a city still thriving in modern-day Greece). But unlike Brooks, Paul is inspired by the Holy Spirit, Paul’s story is backed by and filled with instruction and answers from God himself. It is a beautiful story of human flourishing that is in the Bible because it can be our story, in our time, too.

And what does this story reveal?

I can sum up 1 and 2 Thessalonians in one sentence (my wife thinks it’s a paragraph, but if it only has one ‘period,’ in my book, that’s still a sentence). Here it is, and it will guide the rest of our study together:

The power of the good news creates communities,
of holy people,
who flourish in the midst of loving relationships,
as they prayerfully, eagerly, and expectantly await the coming of their Master
and Messiah — Jesus.

~~~~~~~~

I invite you now to watch or listen to my sermon from Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians. And if you’d like some additional resources on this book, head on over to the Bible Project page for this part of the Whole Story.

May God use his Word to inspire you to help just one other person move one step closer to Jesus.

Warmly,

Pastor Matthew
matthew@calvarystcloud.org
matthewmolesky.com

Preparing for Sunday May 5: 1 Thessalonians

May 1, 2019

Over the past few months, I've shared this blog post to remind you what book of the Bible to read for the coming Sunday, as part of our Whole Story sermon series. However, in the coming weeks, I’m going to expand the scope of this post. It will range from letting you know of other things that will be happening in the service, to tips and ideas for preparing for the service. I hope this will be helpful for all of us as we gather together to praise, and hear from, God.

So, let’s get this going….

To get the most from the sermon time this Sunday, you should read Paul’s first letter to his dear friends, the Thessalonians. This is a deeply relational letter from the Apostle, and proves to be his most autobiographical.  It will only take you about 12 minutes to read in one sitting. To aid you in your study, check out the resource page on 1 Thessalonians that The Bible Project has produced.

Maybe you like to listen to music while you read. Did you know that Calvary has a Spotify playlist of music we have sung at our Sunday gatherings? It is called “The Songs We Sing,” and you can check it out here. While it will go along nicely with your study at home, it will have the added benefit of helping you belt it out on Sunday as we praise God together.

This Sunday we will also share in the sacrament Jesus gave us—communion. The first Sunday of the month is always special, as I get to serve the bread and the cup to you, and as a family we proclaim the Master’s death until he comes (1 Cor. 11:26).

Finally, as you prepare to come this Sunday, remember this challenge from the great British preacher, D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones (1899-1981):

There is nothing vital in the religion and in the worship of such people [who expect nothing from God on Sunday]. They expect nothing, and they get nothing, and nothing happens to them. They go to God’s house, not with the idea of meeting with God, not with the idea of waiting upon him; it never crosses their minds or enters into their hearts that something may happen in the service.

‘No, we always do this on Sunday morning. It is our custom. It is our habit. It is a right thing to do’, they say.

But the idea that God may suddenly visit his people and descend upon them, the whole thrill of being in the presence of God, and sensing his nearness, and his power, never even enters their imaginations…

Do we go to God’s house expecting something to happen? Or do we go just to listen to a sermon, and sing our hymns, and to meet with one another? How often does this vital idea come into our minds that we are in the presence of the living God, that the Holy Spirit is in the church, that we may feel the touch of his power? How much do we think in terms of coming together to meet with God, and to worship him, and to stand before him, and to listen to him? Is there not this appalling danger that we are content just because we have correct beliefs? And we have lost the vital thing, the power, the thing that really makes worship worship, which is in Spirit and in truth.

I’ll be coming Sunday, expecting something to happen, expecting the Holy Spirit’s presence, expecting to feel the touch of his power. I hope to see you there.

Warmly,

Pastor Matthew
matthew@calvarystcloud.org

matthewmolesky.com



Colossians

April 30, 2019

A Serious Threat

When I was a kid, there was this thing that people did, where they would get connected to someone far away, maybe even across the world, and they would send letters to each other, sometimes along with pictures or other things, and it would be a way to make a long-distance friend. They were called pen pals.

It was because they used these things called a pen and paper, with this thing called an envelope, and this little teeny square called a stamp, and they’d put it in a box, and this place called the post office would deliver it. Of course, today you’d just go to the app store and download the app, “Pen Pals.” (yup, there’s an app for that)

Anyway, this idea is pretty ancient. People were sending letters to other people they didn’t even know, who were far away, over 2,000 years ago. The letter we are about to study in our Bibles right now is an example of that. It is being sent from Paul, to a group of people in a city called Collosae (in today’s world: southwest Turkey), and it is being delivered by a dude named Epaphras. Let’s take a look at part of the introduction (and the introduction goes from 1:1 to 2:5, about 1/3 of the letter).

Colossians 1:1-8, ESV

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, 2 To the saints and faithful brothers [and sisters] in Christ at Colossae: Grace to you and peace from God our Father.

3 We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, 4 since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, 5 because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. Of this you have heard before in the word of the truth, the [good news], 6 which has come to you, as indeed in the whole world it is bearing fruit and increasing—as it also does among you, since the day you heard it and understood the grace of God in truth, 7 just as you learned it from Epaphras our beloved fellow servant. He is a faithful minister of Christ on your behalf 8 and has made known to us your love in the Spirit.

So here’s what we know.

Epaphras had learned the good news of the kingdom of God in the person and work of Jesus from Paul. He had become a follower of Jesus as a result, and had ministered with Paul. And then Epaphras had headed back to his hometown of Colossae. And of course, being a good disciple of Jesus, he had shared what he had learned from Paul with people in his hometown. He was helping other people take a step to the right, getting one step closer to Jesus. And people were getting saved, and following Jesus, and a church had formed.

And as is always the case, that was not the end of the story. Because Satan doesn’t like when people get transferred out of his domain, the domain of darkness, into the kingdom of the Son (1:13). He doesn’t like when people experience redemption, the forgiveness of their sins. He doesn’t like it one little bit. So he brings all his power, and the world, and people in the world, against—especially, but not only—new, baby followers of Jesus.

You see, Satan and the domain of darkness is an ever-present, serious threat. And one of the key things he likes to do is deceive people. He likes to take Jesus followers captive through other systems of belief that are opposed to the good news, or even better, seem really close to the good news, but are not quite the good news.

And that is what is happening in Colossae. We don’t know exactly what it was, but we know that Paul was warning them about a serious threat, which would lead to two other things he wanted to address. So I’d like to suggest we look at Colossians in this way:

A Serious Threat
The Great Struggle
and The Path To Victory

~~~~~

I invite you now to watch or listen to my sermon from Paul’s letter to the Colossians. And if you’d like some additional resources on this book, head on over to the Bible Project page for this part of the Whole Story.

May God use his Word to inspire you to help just one other person move one step closer to Jesus.

Warmly,

Pastor Matthew
matthew@calvarystcloud.org

matthewmolesky.com

Colossians

April 23, 2019

Colossians provides a wonderful followup to Holy Week as we return to our sermon series, The Whole Story. In this letter, Paul spends a fair bit of time talking about the resurrection life. As Tim Mackie writes,

“We are invited to live in the present as if the New Creation [actually] arrived when Jesus rose from the dead. No part of human existence remains untouched by the loving and liberating rule of Jesus.”

This powerful letter from the Apostle Paul will only take you about 13 minutes to read in one sitting. To aid you in your study, check out the resource page on this letter that The Bible Project has produced.

See you Sunday!

Warmly,
Pastor Matthew
matthew@calvarystcloud.org

matthewmolesky.com

Good Friday

April 23, 2019

On Palm Sunday of Holy Week, we studied a letter that Paul had written to some friends of his in a place called Philippi (which today would be found in northeastern Greece). He wrote the letter a couple of thousands of years ago, but that doesn’t mean it isn't irrelevant. The things he spoke of with his friends are things we still need to hear, which is why we are carrying our study of what he said right on through Good Friday and Easter Sunday. I’d like to look at a portion of it right now, 3:7-11 and 4:1:

3:7 But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as [excrement], in order that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— 10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.
4:1 Therefore, my brothers [and sisters], whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved.

There are four things I’d like us to observe from what Paul had to say to his friends:

A Problem we must face.
A Prize we should seek.
A Pathway to achieve it.
And a Purpose to live for.

A Problem We Must Face

According to surveys performed by the Gallup organization, 88% of Americans say that they have never doubted the existence of God; and 81% believe in a day of judgment where they will “be called before God to answer for their sins;” and 71% believe in life after death (curious that—some believe in judgment, but do not necessarily believe in life after that judgment and their death).

While Mr. Gallup, Jr. did not ask the question, I would venture to say that 100% of the respondents would say what we know to be true; namely, that 100% of Americans will die. The evidence is overwhelming. Everyone will lose in the end. Death is coming for every single one of us. Death is coming for you. This is part of the gift of Good Friday—it is a day about death, it is here to force us, though we might otherwise not consider it, to think of and remember where all this is headed.

Paul clearly understood the Problem we all face. He names it right there in 3:11—death. And his whole life had been geared toward addressing that problem. Like most of you reading this (if you are representative of the survey results): Paul never doubted that God exists, he believed in a day of judgment, and he believed in an afterlife. And because of that, what was clear to Paul next was the Prize he should seek.


~~~~~


I invite you now to watch or listen to my sermon on Philippians to hear the remaining three observations from Paul’s letter. If you’d like some additional resources on his letter to the Philippians, head on over to the Bible Project page for this part of the Whole Story.

May God use his Word to inspire you to help just one other person move one step closer to Jesus.

Warmly,

Pastor Matthew
matthew@calvarystcloud.org

matthewmolesky.com

_______________________

1 Survey results cited in Philippians, by Ralph P. Martin, p. 189.

Easter Sunday

April 23, 2019

7 But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— 10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.
Therefore, my brothers [and sisters], whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved.  (Php. 3:1-11; 4:1, ESV)

This is the Word of God.

That was a portion of a letter that the Apostle Paul wrote to some friends in Philippi (which, today, is northeastern Greece) around 2,000 years ago. We’ve been studying it in our services as we’ve gathered this Holy Week: first on Palm Sunday; then on Good Friday; and then, once again, on Easter Sunday morning.

As we’ve done so, I have been so encouraged by Paul’s absolute confidence and belief in the person and work of Jesus, the Messiah. And listen, it’s not that Paul never faltered, or wavered, or had times of discouragement, despair, and doubt: he did. Just read his letters to Corinth. It’s just that in this letter we see Paul at his happiest, his boldest, his most confident. In the ‘ups’ and ‘downs’ of life, this one is definitely an ‘up’. Which is quite ironic, right, since he is imprisoned as he writes.

For our focus on Easter Sunday, as we did on Friday evening, we are going to hone in on verses ten and eleven:

…that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.

On Good Friday, we saw how Paul’s life—all his striving and pressing on and energies, everything— was that he might “attain the resurrection from the dead” (3:11). Paul wants to beat death. And we looked at how knowing Jesus, and sharing in his sufferings, and becoming like him in his death, was the pathway to achieve the resurrection from the dead.

For our Easter study, we’ll look at the other aspect of the pathway, “the power of his resurrection.” And in so doing, what I want you to see, and what I want you to know at the end our our study together is what this sentence means:

The Resurrection of Jesus is
a fact to believe,
and a power to live.


~~~~~


I invite you now to watch or listen to my Easter Sunday sermon from Paul’s letter to the Philippians. And if you’d like some additional resources on this book, head on over to the Bible Project page for this part of the Whole Story.

May God use his Word to inspire you to help just one other person move one step closer to Jesus.

Warmly,

Pastor Matthew
matthew@calvarystcloud.org

matthewmolesky.com

Philippians

April 16, 2019

Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things to you is no trouble to me and is safe for you.
Look out for the dogs, look out for the evildoers, look out for those who mutilate the flesh. For we are the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh— though I myself have reason for confidence in the flesh also. If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless.
But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—
that I may know him
and the power of his resurrection,
and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death,
that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.
(Philippians 3:1-11, ESV)

We are currently in month 16 of what will be a roughly 21 month journey through The Whole Story of the Bible. This sermon (see link below) will bring us around Paul’s letter to his friends, who are part of the church he planted in Phillipi. We don’t have time to review that story (you can read it for yourself in Acts 16), but here’s something you do need to know to understand this letter, and why Paul sent it: both the Philippians and Paul find themselves in a pretty tough spot, and each is aware of the other’s suffering.

You see, the church in Philippi at this point is largely Gentile, was born in the midst of suffering and persecution for both pastor Paul and the people, and in the midst of that they lost their founding pastor (Paul). And in this letter, we discover that the state of suffering and persecution—for both pastor Paul and his people, though separated—has remained:

For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake, engaged in the same conflict that you saw I had and now hear that I still have. (Php 1:29-30)

So the people are suffering. And so is their pastor—once again Paul has been imprisoned for his faith and his ministry. A jail cell of sorts is the location for his writing of this letter (see 1:13).

So the people of the church are suffering, and their pastor is suffering. And this is the way of the world, is it not? It still continues to this day. In thousands of churches this morning, people and pastors who are both in the midst of various kinds of suffering will gather. And honestly, part of the reason that people have gotten in their cars, and driven to church buildings early in the morning, is because they believe that something they will hear there will have something to do with the lives they are living. Lives filled with moments of beauty and joy, but also of grief and sorrow.

Maybe that’s why you got in your car this morning and drove down. You are looking for answers to some bit of trouble, some grief, some pain. You’d like some guidance for your life. And you thought that maybe you’d find it here. Or maybe it was just habit: you don’t have much hope, but here you are anyway.

I’m glad you’re here.
I’m glad you’re all here.
I’m here for the same reasons: Guidance. Answers. Transformation.

If you are familiar at all with Paul’s letter to the Philippians, you know there are some pretty majestic and famous portions of scripture in here. You know that Paul had a number of reasons for why he was writing.

He wanted to thank them for how they have taken care of him. It is in part, a thank you letter. (cf. 2:25ff; 4:10ff)

He wanted to give some guidance on what a life of humility looks like, by penning a soaring hymn on the humility found in the example of our King, the Son of God, Jesus. (cf. 2:5ff)

He wanted to urge them towards certain paths of living, which we find in the oft-quoted and very familiar-to-many chapter four:

“do not be anxious about anything”
“in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God”
“I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content”
“I can do all things through him who…..”
“My God will supply every need of yours…”

But in this sermon (see link below), for suffering people and suffering pastors, we won’t get to any of all those really good things in this letter. Here’s what I’d like to do. I’d like to hone in on just three things, because I think they are actually the core idea of the letter. And I think it's what pained people and hurting pastors need.

Here they are:

A Feeling Paul Wants (Commands!) You To Experience
A Person Paul Wants You To Know
A Step Paul Wants You To Take

--------

I invite you now to watch or listen to my sermon on Philippians. If you’d like some additional resources on this book, head on over to the Bible Project page for this part of the Whole Story.

May God use his Word to inspire you to help just one other person move one step closer to Jesus.

Warmly,

Pastor Matthew
matthew@calvarystcloud.org
matthewmolesky.com

Preparation For Holy Week

April 15, 2019

If you were here on Sunday, then you know that we will not be leaving Paul’s letter to the Philippians as the text for our Good Friday and Easter Sunday services. Rather, we will hone in on Philippians 3:10-11 for the sermon portions of those gatherings. Here it is in context:
Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things to you is no trouble to me and is safe for you.
Look out for the dogs, look out for the evildoers, look out for those who mutilate the flesh. For we are the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh— though I myself have reason for confidence in the flesh also. If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless.
But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—
that I may know him
and the power of his resurrection,
and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death,
that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.  

(Philippians 3:1-11, ESV)


I encourage you to prayerfully meditate on this passage of Scripture in preparation for our services. In addition, invite someone to attend with you—especially someone who doesn’t currently know Jesus. Our Good Friday service is at 7pm, and our Easter Sunday service is at 10:30am.

May God use this Holy Week to move many just one step closer to Jesus.

Warmly,
Pastor Matthew

Philippians

April 10, 2019

This coming Sunday is remarkable for a few reasons.

First, it is Palm Sunday. Which means it is the beginning of a week of remembering the most important events in the history of the world: the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem, his last meal with his disciples, his death at the hands of sinful men as the result of a sham sentence in a kangaroo court, his burial by those who loved him, and his resurrection from the dead just three days later. All of it for the salvation and rescue of the world.

Second, it is a Baptism Sunday. This last Sunday we shared in the communion table, reminding us of that last meal which Jesus shared with his disciples. This coming Sunday, we celebrate baptism, which displays most of the rest of what happened during Holy Week. “Or have you forgotten that when we were joined with Christ Jesus in baptism, we joined him in his death? For we died and were buried with Christ by baptism. And just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glorious power of the Father, now we also may live new lives. Since we have been united with him in his death, we will also be raised to life as he was.” (Romans 6:3-5, NLT) So come and be a part of a few people walking through the waters, and the story of Jesus.

Finally, it is another Sunday in the Whole Story sermon series. And this week we will study what is likely Paul’s happiest letter of the thirteen that we have contained within our Bibles. And why is he so happy? Well, you’ll have to read and study it to find out. This very personal and warm letter will only take you about fourteen minutes to read in one sitting. To aid you in your study, check out the resource page on this letter that The Bible Project has produced.

It is going to be another wonderful Sunday at Calvary.

I hope to see you there.

Warmly,

Pastor Matthew

matthew@calvarystcloud.org
matthewmolesky.com

Ephesians - Part Two: The Church

April 2, 2019

For this reason I, Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus on behalf of you Gentiles— 2 assuming that you have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace that was given to me for you, 3 how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I have written briefly. 4 When you read this, you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ, 5 which was not made known to the sons of men in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit. 6 This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.
7 Of this gospel I was made a minister according to the gift of God’s grace, which was given me by the working of his power. 8 To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, 9 and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God, who created all things, 10 so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. 11 This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord, 12 in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him. 13 So I ask you not to lose heart over what I am suffering for you, which is your glory.—

Last week, we began a two-part sermon series in the book of Ephesians by looking at the text above.  We observed that it is actually a digression from a prayer he began (in verse one) for the church at Ephesus, and which he picks up again in verse fourteen. But we we are discovering is that this digression in 3:2-13 isn’t actually a digression at all. It is really just a further explanation, maybe we could say a clarification of all that Paul had already written. He wants to be sure that we are honed in on these two important things—the unsearchable riches of Jesus, and the church.

But why did he feel the need to do that? What had popped up in his thinking to move him to pause in the middle of the praying, and clarify?

Let me show you...

For this reason I, Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus on behalf of you Gentiles—
(Ephesians 3:1)

He calls himself a prisoner.

I didn’t catch the significance of that last week. Truth be told: I actually didn’t see it this week either. Tim Keller had to point it out to me. What is it in that word that causes him to pause, and explain further, and clarify? To understand, we have to look at what he says just a few sentences later…

So I ask you not to lose heart over what I am suffering for you, which is your glory. (3:13)

So, let me restate what I think Paul is getting at. Here’s what he is sharing with these friends,

“I am a prisoner on your behalf, the whole reason I am jailed is because I wanted to announce to you the glories of Jesus. That is what has gotten me into such a mess. It is why I am suffering. I am doing this for you.
But I don’t want you to be discouraged about this. I know that this could really be getting you down, that it feels like your heart has been taken right out of you because I am in chains. But I don’t want you to get bitter. I don’t want you to get numb. I don’t want you to feel defeated, or to think in any way that all of this—this work we are a part of, this expansion of the kingdom, this growing of the church and body of Christ—that it is somehow in vain or at risk because of my chains.”

What is he doing?

Paul is recognizing that life is hard. He is recognizing that it is hard not just for bad people, but good people. He is realistic that following Jesus doesn’t always mean this life is going to be easy or get better. Sometimes it will get harder precisely because you follow Jesus (and note well: he does not say he is a prisoner of Rome, or of man, but of Christ Jesus).

Do you see? Good people will suffer huge disappointments and tragedies. Paul, and the Bible, is very realistic about the inevitability of suffering and hardness of life. And there is a recognition of our humanity, in that, of course that would cause us, at times, to lose heart. And to want to give up.

And that is why he now moves into this digression from his original thought to pray, but does not move away at all from what the content of his prayer was going to be. All that he has already written is why they can be confident despite the hardness of life and the feeling that maybe the kingdom is losing ground.

Do you remember what I said last week about anchor points? I gave you this illustration about Alex Honnold, and the movie about his solo climb of El Capitan in Yosemite National Park. And we talked about how anchors are absolutely essential to the survival of rock climbers making arduous and hard and almost impossible climbs. Anchors are what hold the ropes onto the cliff face, so that the ropes hold the climbers from a fall to their death.

And I told you that Paul—while in prison, while suffering, while feeling the hardness of life himself, is also giddy over the glorious grace of God in his life that he has these two anchor points.

First was the grace that he, “the least qualified of any of the available Christians,” was given the supreme joy of knowing the “unsearchable riches of Christ” (3:8). This is the first anchor point. And if you want more on that, study chapter one in particular, and watch last week’s sermon.

But that wasn’t the only thing Paul was giddy about. For the grace of God had also given him a second anchor point to make it through the hardness of life himself, and for all followers of Jesus. Something without which we will not make it through the oftentimes arduous journey of living. Something that actually exists as one of those riches from Jesus. Something that holds within it a miracle of God’s gracious design for the world. Something that Paul still believed in, even as a prisoner—the very reality of which might cause discouragement and loss of heart.

That something is the church of Jesus Christ.

........

I invite you now to watch or listen to my sermon on Ephesians to hear more about the church as an anchor point for making our way through the sometimes arduous journey we call life. If you’d like some additional resources on this book, head on over to the Bible Project page for this part of the Whole Story.

May God use his Word to inspire you to help just one other person move one step closer to Jesus.

Warmly,

Pastor Matthew
matthew@calvarystcloud.org
matthewmolesky.com

Ephesians-Part One: Jesus

March 26, 2019

For this reason I, Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus on behalf of you Gentiles— 2 assuming that you have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace that was given to me for you, 3 how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I have written briefly. 4 When you read this, you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ, 5 which was not made known to the sons of men in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit. 6 This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.
7 Of this gospel I was made a minister according to the gift of God’s grace, which was given me by the working of his power. 8 To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, 9 and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God, who created all things, 10 so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. 11 This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord, 12 in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him. 13 So I ask you not to lose heart over what I am suffering for you, which is your glory.—
(Ephesians 3:1-13, ESV)

........

This past Tuesday morning, I was sitting in Jules Bistro, downtown on West St. Germain Street, right there next to the Paramount Theatre. They’ve got this storefront with floor to ceiling windows, with tables right there at the front, which gives you this view of the sidewalk and city street, and of 10th Avenue South as it winds its way underneath Division Street, and you can see Lake George and Eastman Park beyond, and imagine students as they begin streaming into Tech High School as classes begin.

I sat myself down at a table, right there by the windows, with the sun streaming in. I ordered a Cubano, scrambled eggs, and toast from Lauren (I later found out she is a Cru student who has visited Calvary a few times), as she made her way busily through the cafe, serving the few of us who had made our way in that morning.

And I laid out my bible, opening it to Ephesians, along with a blank notepad and a pencil. And I began to read Paul’s letter, looking out at cars streaming by as people made their way to jobs and appointments, imagined them carting their kids to school or daycare, watching a stream of humanity bustling along the sidewalk, observing as people pulled into parking slots, and plugged meters, and made their way into the cafe —  singles, three girlfriends, a married couple, two professional women — who sat at tables and placed their orders, and began chatting about the things you would imagine them chatting about, the things you chat about. Family. Business. The normal, day in and day out rhythms of life, as well as the things that grab the attention of those around the globe.

A conversation about a man walking into multiple mosques, with hate in his heart and violence gripping his mind, as his vision of white supremacy and nationalism—racism in its most ugly and virulent form—drives him to unleash hell as a twisted and demented executioner, ending the lives of men and women, boys and girls.

A conversation of a daily news story, such as that of elected officials—the rulers of our day, placed in power by the people, to protect and serve people, who cannot see their way clear to recognize that a human life inside the womb of a woman, a life proven so by medical technology that registers a heartbeat, along with pictures where one can see hands moving and thumbs being placed in mouths to be sucked—these rulers, these judges, are moving to block a fetal heartbeat bill that will protect that which is clearly life, clearly human, calling it unconstitutional.

Conversations about the rising tide of conflict and division in our culture, people in wars of words, and ideals, and not just out there in society, but in our closest relationships, in our living rooms, between those we love, relationships that are strained to the breaking point, with so many people yelling, and so few people actually listening.

I sat in a cafe, surrounded by these nitty gritty conversations, between very real and ordinary people, along with snippets of conversation over global issues, pushing my mind to ruminate on these large sweeping issues, and the everyday, ordinary ins and outs of our lives.

All with an open Bible in front of me, with Paul speaking of things that have cosmological and universe-impacting (literally) significance, using soaring language and communicating truly majestic and towering theological concepts, and I wondered: What do these two things have to do with each other? What relevance does this ancient text have for all these people, with all their routine, ordinary, daily challenges and burdens, and all the massive cultural problems we feel overwhelmed by, what difference does Ephesians make, if any?

........

I felt really challenged by this question. Truly, I did. I’m not making this up to give you an interesting story.

You know, just because I am a pastor, and a preacher, dear friends, doesn’t mean I don’t struggle in the same way I think you do to see how the text I read in Ephesians is readily applicable to the swirl of humanity, with all its burdens, that surrounded me in that cafe Tuesday morning.

And then this thought occurred to me, brought about by the sun getting high enough over the buildings so that it started to stream into the cafe window onto the pages of my Bible. It was something that C.S. Lewis had written about Christianity, and his belief in its relevance. He said this,

“I believe in Christianity as I believe in the sun has risen,
not only because I see it,
but because by it, I see everything else.”

That’s what we want, isn’t? To clearly see and understand in the face of the challenges we face, small and large, individually and societally.

Maybe I can put it as a question:
What sun of revelation, if you will, will rise on the landscape of our realities to make things clear and reveal the way forward?

Who will lead us?
Who will be the messengers,
revealing the unknown,
clarifying the obscure,
solving the puzzles,
taking what is hidden, and displaying it clearly?
Who will, by their message, at least in some measure, demystify these things that challenge us so?

........

I invite you now to watch or listen to my sermon on Ephesians. If you’d like some additional resources on this book, head on over to the Bible Project page for this part of the Whole Story.

May God use his Word to inspire you to help just one other person move one step closer to Jesus.

Warmly,

Pastor Matthew
matthew@calvarystcloud.org

matthewmolesky.com

The Whole Story: Ephesians-Week Two

March 25, 2019

I attempted to show in the sermon this past Sunday that Paul offers us two anchor points for our lives, and upon which our lives depend. Namely, the unsearchable riches of Christ and the church of Jesus Christ. Here is where I found those in a key part of Paul’s letter to the churches in the region of Ephesus —

7 Of this gospel I was made a minister according to the gift of God’s grace, which was given me by the working of his power. 8 To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, 9 and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God, who created all things,
10 so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. 11 This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord, 12 in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him. 13 So I ask you not to lose heart over what I am suffering for you, which is your glory.  
(Ephesians 3:7-13, English Standard Version)

It turned out that we would only have time yesterday to begin an exploration of those “unsearchable riches of Christ,” and could not make it to the miracle of what is found in the church of Christ. So this coming Sunday, we will take up as our study that second anchor point for our lives, the church, and explore the miracle there that God has given to the world.

I invite you to continue in your reading and careful studying of Ephesians this week. And I suggest paying particular attention to chapters 1-3, in order to discover what exactly Paul means when he says that “through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places” (Eph. 3:10). To aid you in your study, check out the resource page on this letter that The Bible Project has produced.

See you Sunday!


Pastor Matthew

matthew@calvarystcloud.org

matthewmolesky.com

Galatians

March 19, 2019

I had a class on preaching once, many years ago, from a pastor and a professor. And here is what he argued was the key question the preacher must ask of every text of Scripture:

“What is the specific dimension of the human condition which God is seeking to redemptively address through his Word?”

Often, that is harder to answer than it appears. And not only to answer it myself, but then to help a gathered congregation see that specific dimension of their condition, and then come alongside the Holy Spirit and do surgery on their heart, and mind, and life—to change and transform bit by bit into the image of Christ.

I was talking about this very thing with one of our church members, John Skanse, one afternoon this week. He also pointed this out, that it is really hard to get people to do this kind of heart work. We don’t want to, precisely because it is so difficult.

And there is another reason finding that specific dimension of the human condition is so difficult: because each one of us has such different experiences and life stories and powerfully shaping influences.

And yet, there is something God is addressing through Paul in his letter to the people of Galatia, something common to the human condition, common to all humanity, despite all our differences. Something that was true for the people of Galatia thousands of years ago—in all their massive differences brought about by being Jew and Gentile—and true for all of us, in all our differences in the year 2019.

Namely, Paul writes that all humanity is part of an “evil age” (1:4).

And this is where we must always start with the good news: before you are really ready to hear how good it is, you have to open your mind to understand how bad our situation is, and why we need rescue in the first place.

Christians understand that the world is falling apart. That everything is falling apart, because the world is under the burden of sin. And so are we: all of us born into this present evil age are slaves to evil, we are evil ourselves—“there is none righteous, no, not one” (Romans 3:10)—and thus under condemnation.

As Americans, we don’t want to believe this, for we believe that we are born into freedom, not slavery. But Paul’s message, the message of the Bible, the message of God, is that we are not born free. We are evil people born into an evil age, and it is evil because there are elemental spirits and forces within this world that have enslaved us. You see, when you do not know God, when you have not been transformed by the Father through faith in his Son Jesus, born again by the regenerating work of the Spirit, then “…you [are] enslaved to those that by nature are not gods.” (cf. Galatians 4:1f).

And the issue is: how do we get truly free? How do we get free from the enslavement of sin which leads to death? How do we step into the light of acceptance and grace and love and forgiveness and peace and confidence? How do we feel truly good about ourselves? What are we supposed to believe about how that happens? What do we trust in?

Some system?

Are we going to visit the self-help section of our local bookstore to discover some set of rules and guidelines—a kind of self-constructed law, one created by another enslaved person—to try and break free from all the harmful behaviors we seem destined to keep repeating? Are you going to trust in yourself? In your ability? Your power to make a new life, a better life, a better version of you come about?

I ask you, if you are here this morning, and have been attempting that—how has that been working out?

Friends, what Paul is on about in this letter is that he came to Galatia with news. With an announcement of what and who to believe in. A power, not of humanity, but a divine power that can set—and keep—people free from their enslavements. A power that sets loose new living, new life, new creation. This is not an adjustment, not a tweaking; this is a re-making. A transformation.

And what is most fundamental to this news is that there isn’t any part of it that can be done by you, for you don’t have any power to free yourself as an enslaved person. It has to be done to you and for you. In other words, it is an act of grace, borne out of divine love. A love more deep and more vast than human minds can imagine or human tongues can possibly or adequately express.

Friends, this is what Paul is fiercely protecting, this news. And the purity and reality of this news, for real people, whom he is in anguish over. Because he knows that this news, in all its purity, and all its glory, is the only way to joy and the abundant life.

Friend—Paul wants to set you free to live by faith in the Son of God, who loves you, and gave himself for you.

.....

I invite you now to watch or listen to my sermon on Galatians. If you’d like some additional resources on this book, head on over to the Bible Project page for this part of the Whole Story.

May God use his Word to inspire you to help just one other person move one step closer to Jesus.

Warmly

Pastor Matthew
matthew@calvarystcloud.org

matthewmolesky.com

Ephesians

March 18, 2019

In the unsearchable counsel of God’s will for the world, he has so designed that salvation will come through the church, that body of people gathered by the power of his Holy Spirit. And Paul’s letter to the Ephesians is a beautiful and extended description of the nature of the church as part of God’s redemptive plan. Here is just a peek—

7 Of this gospel I was made a minister according to the gift of God’s grace, which was given me by the working of his power. 8 To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, 9 and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God, who created all things,
10 so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. 11 This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord, 12 in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him. 13 So I ask you not to lose heart over what I am suffering for you, which is your glory.   (Ephesians 3:7-13, English Standard Version)

Would you join me in preparing for this coming Sunday by reading and studying Paul’s letter to the church at Ephesus? It will only take you about 20 minutes to read or listen to in one sitting, leaving you plenty of time this week to prayerfully meditate upon it. And I highly recommend that you check out the resource page on this letter that The Bible Project has produced to aid you in further study.

Warmly,

Pastor Matthew
matthew@calvarystcloud.org

matthewmolesky.com

2 Corinthians and The Whole Story

March 12, 2019

The reason that we began the Whole Story sermon series in January of last year was for the simple reason that we wanted to inspire you to read the Bible. And the reason we wanted to do that is because the Bible is one unified story that leads to Jesus. We believe the Bible isn’t an end. Rather, it is a portal, a doorway, if you will, that once opened, brings you to Christ and opens up the world as you step into the fresh, pure air of the kingdom of God that is ever expanding and transforming this present age until its King returns.

I am deeply grateful when one of you shares that this series from and on the Whole Story in the Bible is having its intended effect, by God’s grace. Like a recent email from a dear, seasoned saint among us, who wrote how this series has done “such a terrific job of getting, keeping, and luring us into God’s word and deepening our understanding and appreciation of all he has done for us!” What a marvelous testimony of the presence and work of God’s Holy Spirit!

It is hard to express how powerful such notes of encouragement are for our pastoral team, and for me personally. Over the last 14 years of ministry, the better part of my life has been spent in the hopes that I can get, keep, and lure you into God’s word. That I might deepen your understanding and appreciation for all that he has done for us. It is sheer grace that my little efforts on Sunday mornings have been used by God as merely a channel of HIS transforming work of the Spirit. Grace that is not here merely in the preaching, but in every aspect of the morning service, and in every aspect of this ministry, and in every pastor and elder and deacon and leader and person engaged in trying to help at least one other person move one step closer to Jesus.

That’s who we are family. We are this diverse gathering of people who share this in common: we have been delivered from the domain of darkness, into the Kingdom of the Son. And this is how the Whole Story series and our “Move to the Right” visual complement each other. For we find ourselves in this section of the story, reading the letters that Paul has written to the kingdom. We can call this whole section of the story the “People of the Kingdom.” In other words, what does it look like to be these called out of darkness people, that have been placed in Kingdom communities which we call churches? What does it look like to help each other, now that we’ve been saved by Jesus, keep moving one step closer to him?

Well, the way that we’ll do that is through the proclamation of the Word of God. And not just by me on a Sunday morning, but by a husband to a wife on a Monday morning, by a single mom to her kids on a Thursday evening, by a community group leader to the group that has gathered in their home on a Sunday afternoon, by a single college student to her roommate on a Wednesday night, by a volunteer to a toddler in church time, and on and on and on. Every disciple establishing and equipping others with the Word.                                                                           

......

But there is a challenge in this, isn’t there? You see, at times, we come to this book and we feel that it is disconnected from the practicalities and grittiness of daily life. That our stories don’t really seem reflected here. The Bible doesn’t seem to translate, and you would confess that it’s not for lack of desire. You really want it to translate to your life, to your story.

And then there is this further complication: in your strong desire for the Bible’s story to apply to your story you are in danger of merely turning it into a manual for living. As if it is a reference book. So you come to it saying, “Here is my problem, and now I just need to turn to the index, find where my problem is listed, find the prescription, which is of course, in the form of a few verses that I can then take out and apply, and, ‘Voila!,’ I am fixed.”

But friend, you are a complex and complicated human being with a body, soul, mind, and spirit, and it doesn’t work like that. Problems present themselves in our lives forcing us to rethink our lives at a deep level, deep because of the complexity of who we are, and the circumstances around us, and we need something that will address that complexity. Wouldn’t it make sense that such a thing might itself be a bit more than a mere textbook on how to live your best life now?

N.T. Wright says it this way,

“Perhaps, indeed, that is what ‘holy scripture’ really is—not a calm, serene list of truths to be learned or commands to be obeyed, but a jagged book that forces you to grow up in you thinking as you grapple with it.”

You don’t need a textbook.

You need power.

You need something, and Someone, who addresses you in all your complexity, and the complexity of the world you operate in. You need examples and stories of people—not super-heroes, but real people—like you. Complex people. Vulnerable people. People who are flawed and sinful and emotional, operating in real, complex, difficult situations. People who sometimes, like you, want to give up, who have lost hope, who despair and struggle and have come to the place where they don’t know if the good news has any real power in the real world to transform anything. Who ask the scary questions that so many church people are afraid to ask, “Does my belief in Jesus matter at all, or is it all in vain?”

And hear me now. I am not even saying that you are sitting here this morning, and that is what you want. You actually probably don’t want that. You probably would prefer me to tell you that it is really simple, and pain-free, and the Bible is that textbook that is kind of, you know, plug and play. Pop in your problem, say a little prayer, botta-bing, botta-boom, out pops your answer and you are transformed!

But that’s not what you need.

Because as a kingdom people, you operate in the real world of the already-not-yet-kingdom. Sin, in this fallen world, along with the flesh and the devil and all his demons, are what make things so darn complicated.

And so what you need is to see stories of what it looks like to get to that question— “Does my belief in Jesus matter at all, or is it all in vain?”—and to see, in that very dark place, in the lowest depth of that valley of the shadow of death, that it does. Your belief in Jesus does matter. And there is a power for you there. There is a way through, even though that way itself may surprise you.

In my sermon this past Sunday, we looked at just such a story.

A person who is asking—“Does my belief in Jesus matter at all, or is it all in vain?”—in the midst of very real, very gritty, deep relational conflict and pain. Deep-woundedness.

And this person is no super-hero, though he is often made out to be one. He is not invulnerable. He is a flawed, complicated being, who feels deeply his insufficiency and inadequacy. He is a pastor, who loves a people.

And his name is Paul.

......

                                                                                   

I invite you now to watch or listen to my sermon on 2 Corinthians. If you’d like some additional resources on this book, head on over to the Bible Project page for this part of the Whole Story.

May God use his Word to inspire you to help just one other person move one step closer to Jesus.

Warmly,
Pastor Matthew
matthew@calvarystcloud.org
matthewmolesky.com

Galatians

March 11, 2019

Martin Luther warned that the people of the church are always in danger of their hearts straying from the truth of the good news of the kingdom of God found in the person and work of Jesus Christ. It was true in Luther’s day, and it is still true in our day. It was even true at the very beginning of the movement of Jesus followers, for a man like Peter, whose heart had strayed from loyalty to the teachings of Jesus, back into old loyalties.

So the Apostle Paul challenged Peter, and the Galatian Christians
“to stop allowing controversial Torah observances to divide their church's congregation. His letter to the church in Galatia reminds the Church to embrace and follow the gospel message of the crucified Messiah. The requirement for non-Jewish Christians to become Torah observers and be circumcised or eat kosher misses the point. Jesus alone fulfills the laws of Torah and justifies believers.” (The Bible Project)

Would you join me in preparing for this coming Sunday by reading and studying Paul’s letter to the Galatians? It will only take you about 20 minutes to read in one sitting, leaving you plenty of time this week to prayerfully meditate upon it. And I highly recommend that you check out the resource page on this letter that The Bible Project has produced to aid you in further study.

I’m looking forward to our Sunday gathering together,

Pastor Matthew
matthew@calvarystcloud.org
matthewmolesky.com

1 Corinthians (part two)

March 5, 2019

When Paul sits down to write a letter to his friends at the church in Corinth, a church he himself started, here is how he begins:

Paul, called by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus, and our brother Sosthenes, 

2 To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours: 

3 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ

4 I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus, 5 that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge— 6 even as the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you— 7 so that you are not lacking in any gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, 8 who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord
(1 Corinthians 1:1-9, ESV)

If you are wondering what the theme of his letter will be, his introduction leaves little doubt. In the words of author N.T. Wright,

“If we had any doubts about what Paul was excited about, what was at the centre of his thoughts and intentions, this first paragraph…would soon put us straight. One name keeps coming up over and over again…[and] it’s good to remind ourselves where Paul’s heart lay, because we can easily read this whole letter, [and all his letters], merely as an argumentative tract, almost bossy sometimes, setting the Corinthians [and us] right about this and that, as though his only concern is to lick them into shape.

It wasn’t. His central concern, here and throughout his life and work, was quite simply, Jesus. The name occurs nine times in nine verses. Paul couldn’t stop talking about Jesus, because without Jesus nothing else he said or did made any sense. And what he wants the Corinthians [and us] to get hold of most of all is what it means to have Jesus at the middle of your story, your life, your thoughts, your imagination…to have Jesus at the centre of their understanding of the world and of history…If they can do that, all the other issues that rush to and fro through the letter will sort themselves out.” (N.T. Wright, Paul for Everyone: 1 Corinthians, p. 2.)

And here’s the thing: the solution to all the issues that rush to and fro throughout our lives is the same solution Paul offered to the Corinthians. Namely, the person of Jesus, and the body of his teaching known as the Good News. It is all we need, and all we will ever need, for each and every situation we face, and every issue we address.

I invite you now to watch or listen to my second sermon on 1 Corinthians, where we will sit at the feet of Paul as he applies the reality of Jesus and the Good News to two significant issues in the lives of the Corinthian Christians. It will allow us the opportunity to watch and learn how we can do the same thing in our own lives, for we will never get beyond Jesus and the Good News as the very practical solution to how we may live a life of flourishing.

If you’d like some additional resources on this book, head on over to the Bible Project page for this part of the Whole Story.

May God use his Word to inspire you to help just one other person move one step closer to Jesus.

Warmly,

Pastor Matthew
matthew@calvarystcloud.org
matthewmolesky.com

2 Corinthians

March 4, 2019

One of the dangers of reading the stories of those followers of Jesus that we find in the Bible is we can treat them as if they are almost super-human. Unlike us. Insulated from the cares, concerns, despairs, and discouragements that befall us merely mortal disciples of Christ. But that just isn’t true.

Case in point: the Apostle Paul, writing another letter to his beloved friends at the church he helped start in the city of Corinth:

For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death….You also must help us by prayer…
(2 Corinthians 8:8-9, 11; ESV)

And it doesn’t stop there. Throughout this letter you can feel Paul’s pain, brought on by strained relationships and ministerial attack, wounds that go deeper precisely because he has so willingly opened up his heart and his life (2 Corinthians 6:11 and context) to the very people now hurting him.

How does one respond in such circumstances? What do the realities of Jesus and his Good News have to do with such things?

This week, we read and dive into and prayerfully meditate on Paul’s deeply vulnerable letter to the church at Corinth. I am praying God gives us great insights as we do, in preparation for our study this coming Sunday morning. For further study, check out the resource page on this letter that The Bible Project has produced.

Looking forward to Sunday together,

Pastor Matthew
matthew@calvarystcloud.org
matthewmolesky.com

1 Corinthians (part one)

February 26, 2019


As we began in the New Testament in our Whole Story sermon series, you will recall that we took the first few books in this order: Matthew, Mark, John; and then Luke and Acts. There were two reasons we did this.

First
, Luke was the common author of Luke and Acts. And he wrote those books as one, singular history of the work that Jesus began to do and teach, followed by all the Acts of Jesus and the Spirit that would then continue through the church, the gathering of his rescued and transformed disciples.

Second
, that two-part history provides the entire backdrop and timeline for the rest of the New Testament. Everything else we will encounter in the rest of The Whole Story has been
setup in that two-volume history from Luke. Which means that it is quite important that you have read it, so you understand the context and backstory of what you are continuing to read.

Which is why we must turn in our Bibles to Acts chapter 18…

                                                                                          ~~~~~

We are jumping into Paul’s story, and he has just spent time in Athens, Greece “proclaiming Jesus and the resurrection” (17:18), and doing it so well that it has landed him on trial before the Areopagus to present Christianity in the very heart of the public square. From there, he has made his way to Corinth.

18 After this Paul left Athens and went to Corinth. 2 And he found a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had commanded all the Jews to leave Rome. And he went to see them, 3 and because he was of the same trade he stayed with them and worked, for they were tentmakers by trade. 4 And he reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath, and tried to persuade Jews and Greeks.

5 When Silas and Timothy arrived from Macedonia, Paul was occupied with the word: testifying to the Jews that the [Messiah] was Jesus.

(Acts 18:1-5, ESV)

So I need you to understand something about Paul and his beliefs. And actually, this was true of everyone in Paul’s day. “In Paul’s day, “religion” consisted of god-related activities that, along with politics and community life, held a culture together and bound the members of that culture to its divinities and to one another. In the Modern Western world, “religion” tends to mean God-related individual beliefs and practices that are supposedly separable from culture, politics, and community life. For Paul [and his contemporaries], “religion” was woven in with all of life; for the modern Western world, it is separated from it.” (N.T. Wright, Paul: A Biography, p. 3.)

So for Paul, there is no separation between private and public life. He has one, singular way to look at the world, and to live within it. And the massive shift that had happened for him on the road to Damascus was to move from believing that Christianity was a heresy that was a threat to his identity as a Yahweh-follower who was awaiting the long promised Messiah who would bring in the fullness of God’s kingdom, to, in person, face-to-face with the risen Jesus, seeing Jesus as the Messiah and fulfillment of all he had so zealously believed and lived his whole life. And he was now seeking to persuade Jews and Greeks—he was announcing—that believing in this crucified and risen Jesus would open up for them a whole new reality. A whole new way of seeing absolutely every single part of their lives.

                                                                                             ~~~~~

I invite you now to watch or listen to part one of two sermons on 1 Corinthians, where we will sit at the feet of Paul as he applies the reality of Jesus and the Good News to four issues in the lives of Corinthian Christians. It will allow us the opportunity to watch and learn how we can do the same thing in our own lives, for we will never get beyond Jesus and the Good News as the very practical solution to how we may live a life of flourishing.

If you’d like some additional resources on this book, head on over to the Bible Project page for this part of the Whole Story.

May God use his Word to inspire you to help just one other person move one step closer to Jesus.

Warmly,

Pastor Matthew
matthew@calvarystcloud.org
matthewmolesky.com

1 Corinthians (part two)

February 26, 2019

Portraits of Jesus

This last Sunday in our Gathering, we studied the book of 1 Corinthians together. The week of preparation leading up to that moment in the pulpit was deeply encouraging, as I sat at the feet of Paul, and watched him apply the reality of Jesus and the fullness of the Good News to four main issues in the lives of Christians in the church at Corinth. I discovered that each issue was a case study in the application of the good news to the very practical matters of our lives.

I’m sure you’ve discovered if you’ve been a part of the church for any length of time, that things don’t always go as planned on a Sunday morning. That is certainly true of the preaching moment. For I came yesterday morning ready to preach through those four main issues of the letter, but only made it through two. The first, how Paul addressed the issue of Division with Jesus and the Good News; and the second, how he dealt with differences over Food.

My solution for getting to the other two issues—how Jesus and the Good News may be applied to Sex and The Gathering—was to offer in the service that I would write a couple of articles for you this week. However, after talking to a number of you over the last 24 hours, and pondering those conversations, I’ve decided to preach a second sermon on 1 Corinthians.

So that means you have another week to soak in this wonderful letter. As you do, pay particular attention to chapters 5-7, which address some issues surrounding Sex; and chapters 11-14, which address issues in The Gatheringof the church at Corinth. Make note of the way that Paul frames the problem, and the manner in which he applies particular aspects of who Jesus is, and the Good News, as the solution to the problem.

For further study, check out the resource page on this letter that The Bible Project has produced.

Looking forward to Sunday together,

Pastor Matthew
matthew@calvarystcloud.org
matthewmolesky.com

Romans

February 19, 2019

Every religion, every person, is geared towards addressing what they believe to be the biggest problem facing man.  

Islam says, “We face the problem of ignorance. We are ignorant of Allah’s will. If only people would read and follow the Koran, this ignorance would be removed.”

Buddhism would posit
that, “The big problem is attachment to this world. If only we can achieve detachment, then our sorrow will be removed and bliss achieved.”

Even the secular humanism would attempt to address man’s problem, for example the secularist might say, “Intolerance is the problem. If only we could affirm each other, then the problem would be removed.”

Much of Judaism in the first century argued that the problem was disobedience. What was needed was a radical commitment to the law of God, and that would make God favorable towards us.

If you were asked, “What is the biggest problem facing man?,” how would you respond?

What is the biggest problem facing our country? What is the biggest problem facing our state? What is the biggest problem facing our city? What is the biggest problem facing our neighborhoods? What is the biggest problem facing our families? What is the biggest problem facing us?

Paul makes very clear exactly what the biggest problem facing our country, our state, our city, our neighborhoods, and our families, us:

18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. (Romans 1:18-20, ESV)

Paul goes on to argue that in his day, all humanity had not honored God, rather, “claiming to be wise, they have become fools, and exchanged the immortal God for” all kinds of other idols. Is this not what we see today? All humanity pursuing so many things and ways other than God and his ways, and claiming that these pursuits—these empty pursuits, these idolatries—are wise?

And Paul then describes where such wise-in-our-own-eyes pursuits will lead,

5 But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.

6 He will render to each one according to his works: 7 to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; 8 but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury. 9 There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, 10 but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek. 11 For God shows no partiality. (Romans 2:5-11, ESV)

I invite you now to watch or listen to the sermon on Romans, where we will discover Paul’s heartfelt instruction on the only solution, for every human human being, to the problem of God’s wrath. And in addition, what are the glorious implications of that solution for those who would be disciples of Jesus, Messiah.

If you’d like some additional resources on this book, head on over to the Bible Project page for this part of the Whole Story.

May God use his Word to inspire you to help just one other person move one step closer to Jesus.

Warmly,

Pastor Matthew
matthew@calvarystcloud.org
matthewmolesky.com

Child Dedications

February 17, 2019

It was a joy to be a part of six families dedicating nine of their children to the Lord. Pledging, along with the Calvary family and with God's help, that they will build the word of God, the character of Christ and the joy of the Lord into their life. (8.26.18)

Acts

February 10, 2019

Most studies put the percentage of the American public in a church on Sunday morning at around 20%. Which means 80% of the population in our country—and likely it's the same in our community—are not in a gathering like this this morning.

Most studies that have talked to people to get at that statistic have also found that it is likely that those who are not in a gathering like this (and even some of those who are) are not followers of Jesus. They don’t believe in him, are not saved by him, and are living apart from him. It’s the reason they are not in a church.

Here’s something that you don’t need a study for: all people will one day die. Every single one of us.

Which means that all of those people who are not in a church, and therefore likely are not a follower of Jesus, and do not believe in him, and are not saved by him, and are living apart from him, will die without knowing him. And because they don’t know Jesus—based on the death rate, about 800 people in our wider community this year—it means the eternal life they will live after this short life will be marked by, in Jesus’ words, this kind of terror:

Just as the weeds are gathered and burned with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. 41 The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all law-breakers, 42 and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.  (Matthew 13:40-42, ESV)

This is why, historically, churches were always built surrounded by cemeteries. Every time that followers of Jesus gathered, they were reminded of the inevitability of the curse of sin, namely, death. They walked past gravestones on their way into the worship service, where they would hear of their only hope. They would be reminded of what all people need to wrestle with before they themselves would be put in the dirt, and the headstone would be placed.

Namely—do you know Christ? Have your sins been forgiven? Are you sealed in the Spirit? Do you have confidence that instead of entering into the fiery furnace for all of eternity, you will instead “enter into the joy of your Master” (Mt. 25:21, ESV)?

Friend, this is why Jesus came. It is what we learned in Luke’s first installment of his magisterial two-part story.

There he painted a vivid portrait of “the Son of Adam” (Lk. 3:38) as the Savior for all of humanity stained by sin and in such danger; of the One who is the very Son of God (Lk. 3:38); of the One who was anointed by the Spirit of God that he might minister in the power of God (Lk. 3:22); of the One who constantly entered into prayer—sometimes lasting all night long—in dependance upon his Father for all of life and ministry (Lk. 3:21; 5:16; 6:12; 9:18; 9:28, 29; 11:1; 22:32; 22:41, 44, 45); of the One who called other men and women into service with him as fellow workers for the fields of sinners that were white for harvest (Lk. 10:2), doing so because, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance…the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost” (Lk. 5:31; 19:10). And Jesus did this by proclaiming and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God (Lk. 8:1ff; 9:1ff), in the face of opposition, persecution, and rejection at almost every turn, but fiercely setting his sights on his mission because he knew what was, what is, at stake. People who are living, and dying, without him. And because of love, because of the “joy set before him” (Heb 12:2) of souls to be saved, he endured the cross, despising the shame, and laid down his life to give life.

That is where the first part of the story ended. The cross of Christ, the death of Jesus, and his glorious resurrection. A frightened, troubled, startled, dazed, confused, band of disciples in a room in Jerusalem trying to make sense of it all (Luke 24:36ff), as they listen to Jesus gently remind them,

“Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses (testifiers, proclaimers) of these things. And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.” (Luke 24:46-49, ESV)

What will happen next?

I invite you now to watch or listen to the sermon on Acts, where we will discover together the four common things that every disciple and follower of Jesus did in the book of Acts in obedience to Jesus, as part of the church, for the hope of the world.

If you’d like some additional resources on this book, head on over to the Bible Project page for this part of the Whole Story.

May God use his Word to inspire you to help just one other person move one step closer to Jesus.

Warmly,

Pastor Matthew
matthew@calvarystcloud.org
matthewmolesky.com

Luke

February 5, 2019

We are living in a day when Christians could have some cause for concern over the state of the church in our country. Specifically, its health and growth. As Thom Ranier recently noted in an article entitled “Why American churches are at a tipping point,”

If current trajectories continue, American churches will pass a tipping point. Our congregations will likely begin an unstoppable path toward decline that will rival many European churches of the past century. If there is not a significant movement of revitalization, there will be an accelerated rate of decline and death.


Or consider a warning from pastor Mike Woodruff to his fellow pastors of churches in his home state of Illinois, in an article entitled “Churches brace for Illinois exodus,”

“…most Illinois churches are unprepared for [the decline] that is going to happen…in these challenging times.”

How do we reconcile such realities with the Biblical vision of an expansive and growing kingdom of God? Further, with the teaching that the church is to be the means for that expansion? I  believe that Luke’s goal in writing, in part, is to provide both a picture and a confidence for how the kingdom will grow, no matter the opposition arrayed against it. And I invite you now to watch or listen to the sermon on Luke, where we learn that the whole book could be summed up this way—God’s Not Done Yet.

If you’d like some additional resources on Luke, head on over to the Bible Project page for this story. You’ll also be interested in a fascinating series of videos on both Luke and Acts, two books which are meant to be read together. You can find that here.

And finally, to prepare for this coming Sunday, be sure to read the book of Acts (it is 28 chapters and takes about 2.25 hours to read) and study it further through these resources.

I look forward to gathering with you on Sunday.

Warmly,

Pastor Matthew
matthew@calvarystcloud.org
matthewmolesky.com

The Great Secret

February 4, 2019

This past Sunday at Calvary, I preached a sermon from John’s story of Jesus, focusing on Jesus’ concern that we know and understand God as our Father, and all that follows from that cataclysmic reality.

I pointed out that I have probably learned more about the importance of our Divine Adoption as sons and daughters of God from the theologian and author, J.I. Packer, than anyone else. And one of the key places he has expounded on this doctrine is in his book Knowing God, in the chapter entitled “Sons of God.” As a way to continue to soak in this doctrine that we studied in Sunday’s sermon, I’d like to give you the conclusion of that chapter, which he gives the caption, “The Great Secret.”

May Packer provoke us all to a deeper experience of our adoption into God’s family.

It is a strange fact that the truth of adoption has been little regarded in Christian history. Apart from two nineteenth-century books, now scarcely known (R.S. Candlish, The Fatherhood of God; R.A. Webb, The Reformed Doctrine of Adoption), there is no evangelical writing on it, nor has there been at any time since the Reformation, any more than there was before. Luther’s grasp of adoption was as strong and clear as his grasp of justification, but his disciples held to the latter and made nothing of the former. The Puritan teaching on the Christian life, so strong in other ways, was notably deficient here, which is one reason why legalistic mis-understandings of it so easily arise. Perhaps the early Methodists, and later Methodist saints like Billy Bray, “the King’s Son,” with his unforgettable approach to prayer—”I must talk to Father about this”—came closest to the life of sonship as the New Testament depicts it. There is certainly more to make of adoption in Christian teaching today.

Meanwhile, the immediate message to our hearts of what we have studied in the present chapter is surely this: Do I, as a Christian, understand myself? Do I know my own real identity? My own real destiny? I am a child of God. God is my Father; heaven is my home; every day is one day nearer. My Savior is my brother; every Christian is my brother too. Say it over and over to yourself first thing in the morning, last thing at night, as you wait for the bus, any time when your mind is free, and ask that you may be enabled to live as one who knows it is all utterly and completely true. For this is the Christian’s secret of—a happy life?—yes, certainly, but we have something both higher and profounder to say. This is the Christian’s secret of a Christian life, and of a God-honoring life, and these are the aspects of the situation that really matter.

May this secret become fully yours, and fully mine.

To help us realize more adequately who and what, as children of God, we are and are called to be, here are some questions by which we do well to examine ourselves again and again.

  • Do I understand my adoption? Do I value it? Do I daily remind myself of my privilege as a child of God?
  • Have I sought full assurance of my adoption? Do I daily dwell on the love of God to me?
  • Do I treat God as my Father in heaven, loving, honoring and obeying him, seeking and welcoming his fellowship, and trying in everything to please him, as a human parent would want his child to do?
  • Do I think of Jesus Christ, my Savior and my Lord, as my brother too, bearing to me not only a divine authority but also a divine-human sympathy? Do I think daily how close he is to me, how completely he understands me, and how much, as my kinsman-redeemer, he cares for me?
  • Have I learned to hate the things that displease my Father? Am I sensitive to the evil things to which he is sensitive? Do I make a point of avoiding them, lest I grieve him?
  • Do I look forward daily to that great family occasion when the children of God will finally gather in heaven before the throne of God, their Father, and of the Lamb, their brother and their Lord? Have I felt the thrill of this hope?
  • Do I love my Christian brothers and sisters with whom I live day by day, in a way that I shall not be ashamed of when in heaven I think back over it?
  • Am I proud of my Father, and of his family, to which by his grace I belong?
  • Does the family likeness appear in me? If not, why not?

God humble us;
God instruct us;
God make us his own true children.

John

January 29, 2019

I had a wonderfully providential meeting with a member of our Calvary family this week. And in the midst of our conversation about our church, this person shared a really important moment in their life.

It was a number of years ago, and they were attending another church in the Midwest. And as I recall the story, the pastor of that church, I think on a fairly regular basis, would say to the congregation, “You matter to God.”

It was at a time in their life where they felt like they didn’t matter to anyone, much less God. And it was this really important moment, to realize, I matter. That simple and yet profound truth — I matter. I could see in this person’s eyes, hear in their voice, how profound—how powerful—those four words had been. That the effects and reverberations were still felt, still making a difference, still true, all these years later.

I wonder if there is someone here, feeling the same way. You woke up this morning, and wondered if you matter to anyone, much less God. You wonder if anyone notices you, or would even recognize if you were here or not on a Sunday morning.

Shoot, even if you don’t feel that way, I think everyone here would take great comfort and joy and hope, knowing that you matter to the God of the universe.

I am so grateful that I had the privilege to hear that story this week, because I think it perfectly communicates what John—and Jesus as the main character of John’s story, the main character of the Whole Story of the Bible (!)—it communicates what John wants us to know. He wants us to know that we matter to God. That there is a place where we fit in, no matter our history, no matter what we have done, no matter our story. A place that, if we weren’t there, we would be missed. A place where we belong.

And that place is in his family.

But before we go any further, let’s pray, in the way that the Son of God taught us,

Our Father…

                                                                                ~~~~~

I invite you now to watch or listen to the sermon on John, where we learn that the whole book could be summed up this way—You matter to God.

If you’d like some additional resources on John, head on over to the Bible Project page for this story. And finally, to prepare for this coming Sunday, be sure to read the book of Luke (it is 24 chapters and takes about 2.5 hours to read) and study it further through these resources.

I look forward to worshiping the Son of God with you on Sunday.

Warmly,

Pastor Matthew
matthew@calvarystcloud.org

matthewmolesky.com

Mark

January 22, 2019

As a nation, we are bound together by a set of commonly understood customs, arts, our social and governmental institutions, the way we act toward each other and interact with one another, how we speak and the words we say. It’s all the things that are bound up and represented in our culture.

Now, in a country as large as ours, it's not quite that simple. Because there are different aspects of culture based on if you live in the far north, or the deep south, or the west coast, midwest, or east coast.

And then there is the diversity of the ethnic groups within our borders: African-American culture, for example, and what the significance of tomorrow holds for them, versus what it means for others; or Hispanic-American culture; or Asian-American culture.

That said, there are still aspects of our culture that cross all those lines and draw us together. One of those things is pop culture. Take movies, for instance. It is amazing how the stories found in movies become firmly planted in our cultural experience. Even more, that a moment, a sentence, or a phrase, or a song from a movie, can be a shared cultural norm and understanding, pulling an entire storyline down into a shared interaction and relationship between two people. Let me show you what I mean. Let’s consider a few movie examples. Are you ready? Here we go—let’s see if you can complete the statements, and get the movie:

     “Go ahead, ______ ____ _____.”

     "Luke, I’m __________ __________.”

     “Every time I try to get out, _______ _____ ____ ____ ____!”

     “Houston, we ___ ____ _____.”

     “Frankly, my dear, I don’t ___ ____.”

     “If you build it, ____ _____ _____.”

     “Pedro for President”

     Two people, standing in the bow of an unsinkable ship, arms outstretched, wind blowing through their hair,      dress billowing….Movie?

Now, they didn’t have movies in the first century, but what they did have were stories. And I imagine that the way they told and shared stories, with such frequency as a verbally based culture, would have been engaging and movie-like. It is like that scene in “The Nativity Story” with the old, Jewish grandmother, surrounded by all the children of Nazareth, telling the story of God interacting with the prophet Elijah, the children sitting on the edge of their seats and finishing all of her sentences in the story.

You see, they had sentences, and words, and phrases, that were a shared cultural experience and understanding, so that merely saying a phrase, or speaking a title, pulled that story down into that moment and interaction between the people involved.

So why am I telling you all of this? Because of what Jesus consistently calls himself throughout the book of Mark. It is not what anyone else says of him, but it is what he always says of himself when referring to himself. Which makes me think it is important to him, that it wasn’t accidental, but purposeful and noteworthy.

But before we see it, we have to understand the story it is coming from. If we don’t brush up on this culture that is very different from ours, we won’t properly understand the story we are reading, and what it means for us. And to do that, we’ll need to look to a vision given to Daniel, in a story long before Mark’s story…..

                                                                                          ~~~~~

I invite you now to watch or listen to the sermon on Mark, where we learn that the only way to understand Mark’s story, his portrait of Jesus, is to understand the Whole Story of the Bible.

If you’d like some additional resources on Mark, head on over to the Bible Project page for this story. And finally, to prepare for this coming Sunday, be sure to read the book of John (it is 21 chapters and takes about 2 hours to read) and study it further through these resources.

I look forward to worshiping the Son of God with you on Sunday.

Warmly,

Pastor Matthew
matthew@calvarystcloud.org
matthewmolesky.com

Matthew

January 8, 2019

I love beginnings. They feel like fresh starts.

I love mornings, because it means that God has delivered a brand new day for me. New possibilities. New appointments. New opportunities. New mercies.

I love Monday mornings, because it means that now God has delivered a whole new week to me. I can forget the failures and shortcomings and difficulties of the past week, because a whole new week has just been delivered.

I love the first day of the month, for the same reason. It just means the scale has increased on the possibilities, appointments, opportunities. Oh..and when a new month begins on a Monday morning—it’s like all the stars of beginning have arrived!

We find ourselves now at the beginning of a new year. A fresh start. As good Americans programmed to follow calendars and the default mode of celebrating New Years—many of us even had the day off—we also tend to think of resolutions to be made. For how we want to begin the year, and hopefully maintain it throughout all those new days, and weeks, and months that will arrive, right on schedule.

                                                                                          ~~~~~

Let’s take a different approach. I’d like you to look into the future. To a day that will mark the end of all your new mornings, weeks, months and years. It’s not a beginning, it’s an end.

It is your end. Your death. Are you there? Can you picture it in your mind? Do you see a coffin at the front of a sanctuary with a group of people quietly gathered in the pews to reflect on your passing?

With that image firmly in mind, here is what I’d like you to think about: at the end of your life, what do you hope people will say has been the impact of your life? The impact of all the mornings, and days, and weeks, and months, and years that you spent on the earth. What would you want people to say of you? Of how you have spent the priceless commodity of life.

OK…Do you have it? Do you know what you would want them to say?

Now—what will it take to get there, in all the mornings, weeks, months, and years until that day?

                                                                                          ~~~~~

I invite you now to watch or listen to the sermon on Matthew, where I propose what I think we can learn from this portrait of Jesus about the purpose of your life, such that you can have a very clear idea what your life should be about, and how to get there.

If you’d like some additional resources on Matthew, head on over to the Bible Project page for this story. And finally, to prepare for this coming Sunday, be sure to read the book of Mark (it is 16 chapters and takes 1.5 hours to read) and study it further through these resources.

I look forward to worshiping the King with you on Sunday.

Warmly,

Pastor Matthew
matthew@calvarystcloud.org
matthewmolesky.com

Jesus Came For Sinners

December 11, 2018

On the afternoon of Monday, December 3, I went to Walmart. My objective was to conduct an un-scientific survey of what people thought about the man known as Jesus Immanuel Christ. I intended to stand outside the front doors (as long as I didn’t get kicked off the property) and approach people as they came in and out.

My strategy? Walk up and ask, “Do you have one minute for three questions?” After I did so, to give them a Calvary invite card for our Sunday service.

My questions?

Do you believe there was a guy named Jesus who came into the world?

Who do you think he was?

Why do you think he came?

As I pulled into the parking lot, I realized immediately I needed to adjust my strategy: the salvation army bell ringers had already staked out the entrances. However, I quickly noted that the parking lot was (to my surprise, but hey, I never go shopping because I have an amazing wife) really busy, and there were a lot of people leaving and returning to their cars. So I decided I would just approach people in the lot and ask my questions.

I learned quite a bit over the next hour.

It was easier than I thought it was going to be. I had it in my mind that people might just be a little crabby having someone interrupt their simple goal of getting in and out of Walmart. I thought my success of talking with folks might be pretty low. But over that next hour, only four people declined hearing my questions.

The other thing I learned is that there is a tremendous amount of opportunity surrounding us every single day. Only one person in that next hour answered my questions in such a way that I thought she was a disciple of Jesus. Most people, even though they said they believed there was a guy named Jesus who came into the world, said they had no idea who he was or why he came.

Think about that—no idea.

I found myself near the end of that time, standing in a parking lot, thinking of the words of Jesus, “The fields are white for harvest” (John 4:35). And I was given the grace to see a Walmart parking lot through his eyes. And while, in one sense, it made me sad so many people didn’t have an answer to my questions, it also gave me great hope that quite simply telling people who Jesus is and why he came—and that’s a simple exercise, family—will substantially help people take one step closer to the right in knowing Jesus, and coming out of darkness, and into light.

If you’d like to hear more about my time in the Walmart parking lot talking with folks in our community about Jesus, but more importantly, why he came, I encourage you to listen to the first sermon in our Jesus Came Christmas sermon series, “Jesus Came for Sinners.” You can find it here.

And please join us for the next two Sundays of the series, as well as on Monday, December 24th, at 4pm for our Christmas Eve Candlelight Service.

Merry Christmas,

Pastor Matthew
matthew@calvarystcloud.org

matthewmolesky.com

Something Wonderful Is Coming

December 3, 2018

I love everything about Christmas.

  • While I hate the cold, I actually love the beauty of a snow-laden landscape (I know, it’s a paradox).
  • I take in an inordinate amount of grande Peppermint Mocha’s from the siren (but with only 1/4 of the syrups and a quad-shot of espresso).
  • I love the fact that my bride decks our halls with boughs of evergreen and twinkling lights, so that late at night there is a warm glow of Christmas in our little nest.
  • I revel in the spirit of the season which seems to make most people happier and more joyful.
  • I delight in the sounds of the season, and those who bring it to us: Bing Crosby. Manheim Steamroller. Sufjan Stevens. The Annie Moses Band. Harry Connick. Sarah McLachlan and Wintersong. The Vince Guaraldi Trio, 1965, and A Charlie Brown Christmas. The Carpenters, 1978, A Christmas Portrait. Diana Krall. Relient K. Handel’s Messiah.
  • I am moved by the movies about the season: The Nativity. White Christmas. It’s A Wonderful Life. Elf. Home Alone. The Family Man. A Charlie Brown Christmas.

But more than anything, I love why Christmas, or what is traditionally known in the church as Advent, is on the calendar in the first place. Namely, it is a reminder that the Son of God took on flesh, became a man, God with us, in order that he might save his people, and all people, for all time, from their sin. It is a time to look back and reflect on the magnificence of that, and to look forward in great expectation for his promised return and completion of all he started in that first coming.

I like how Adam Ramsey recently reflected on this,

The Christmas season brings a heightened feeling that something wonderful is coming. Can you sense it?
Like a faint sound in the distance drawing nearer. Like the waiting at the airport to be reunited with loved ones as they emerge from the terminal. Like the moment right before the sun peeks out from below the horizon. Like a promise about to come true. Something wonderful is coming. Frederick Buechner writes:
For a second you catch a whiff in the air of some fragrance that reminds you of a place you’ve never been and a time you have no words for. You are aware of the beating of your heart. The extraordinary thing that is about to happen is matched only by the extraordinary moment just before it happens. Advent is the name of that moment.
Advent. It means something wonderful is coming.

In light of that, how might we best prepare, knowing that the calendar page brings December upon us tomorrow, and the official start of Advent will occur this Sunday? Well, I’d like to offer up what Adam Marsh when on to say about this in his article first published at The Gospel Coalition. I think you will be wonderfully encouraged as you read it, so I’ve attached it below for your convenience. Please do read on.

And as you warm yourself by a fire, with a peppermint mocha in your hand, and the knowledge of Christ’s salvation work on your heart, may you have a very Merry Christmas indeed!




TIME TO SLOW DOWN

This Sunday marks the beginning of Advent, a season in the liturgical calendar that starts every year on the fourth Sunday before Christmas. It’s a time for priming our hearts to treasure Christ. Yet amid all the frenetic end-of-year chaos, it’s so easy to squander these precious moments of waiting. Many of us know all too well what it’s like for December to blur by—what it’s like to arrive on the doorstep of Christmas as another exhausted casualty of our consumeristic age.

Reacting. Organizing. Shopping. Planning. Wrapping. Budgeting. Stressing. Eating. Stress-eating.

So I am writing to those who, like me, need to slow down and embrace the oft-missed words of the famous carol, “Let every heart prepare him room.”

SEASON OF REMEMBERING

As we remember God’s promises fulfilled at Christmas, we are reminded of just how intensely the incarnation of Christ shook the world. The meaning of Christmas goes miles deeper than family traditions, pretty lights, and a chance to refresh your depleted stockpile of socks.

For families, observing Advent together could be the perfect time to rekindle the fire of family devotions, or light them up for the first time.

Christmas means revolution. Christmas means miracle. Christmas means that God has come for us.

The King of heaven exchanged his throne for a cradle.

The Almighty swaddled himself with vulnerability.

The Creator entered into his own creation.

The Author put himself on the page.

The Infinite became an infant.

The Giver became the gift.

Jesus arrived as Immanuel—God with us. As Augustine said long ago, “He was created of a mother whom he created. He was carried by hands that he had formed.” Pondering how God has drawn near will deepen an appetite to pursue him.

SEASON OF ANTICIPATING

There’s something in observing Advent that awakens not only joyful remembrance over Christ’s first coming, but also deep eagerness for his second coming (Rev. 22:20). In many ways, the church in this age is in similar position to God’s people toward the end of the Old Testament—marginalized in exile, hoping in darkness, waiting in stillness for the Day when Christ returns to, in Tolkien’s words, make “every sad thing come untrue.”

We are living between the Hallelujah of Christ’s resurrection and the Maranatha of Christ’s return.

Like a child on Christmas Eve caught between joyful memories of the Christmas that was, while waiting with breathless anticipation for the Christmas about to be, so it is with God’s people. We are living between the Hallelujah of Christ’s resurrection and the Maranatha of Christ’s return. And here—in the waiting of Advent—God’s people discover a unique species of joy that can only be glimpsed through the lens of worshipful anticipation. Timothy Paul Jones puts it well:

In Advent, Christians embrace the groaning, recognizing it not as hopeless whimpering over the paucity of the present moment but as expectant yearning for the divine banquet Jesus is preparing for us. . . . Just as the ancient Israelites awaited the coming of the Messiah in flesh, we await the coming of the Messiah in glory. In Advent, believers confess that the infant who drew his first ragged breath between a virgin’s knees has yet to speak his final word.

Advent is a way of reminding us that we are pilgrims passing through; that the brokenness of this world isn’t how it’s always going to be; that the true King is indeed coming soon.

LET EVERY HEART PREPARE HIM ROOM

As with most things, knowing where to begin is usually the most difficult part. Below are some resources that will help readers slow down each day and cultivate worshipful anticipation through the Advent season. For families, observing Advent together could be the perfect time to rekindle the fire of family devotions, or light them up for the first time.

December will be busy. But it doesn’t have to be a blur. Let’s begin preparing room in our hearts this Advent for Immanuel—God with us.

ADVENT RESOURCES

[ Adam Ramsey leads Liberti Church on the Gold Coast and also serves as the network director for Acts 29 Australia/New Zealand. Adam really loves Jesus; making memories with his wife, Kristina, and their five kids; preaching the gospel; and equipping church planters. You can follow him on Twitter. ]


Chronicles

December 2, 2018

I’d like to transport you to a time in the far past, back to the very early 500’s B.C.

The long exile of the people of God from the land of promise has ended. The rebuilding efforts of Ezra and Nehemiah are in progress, Zerubbabel has been working on the completion of the temple, Haggai and Zechariah have been preaching on the centrality of Yahweh for his people, and wave upon wave of Jews are returning to the land of promise.

Imagine it. Some in the group would have been very old, and they are returning home. But many of them have never been a part of the land of promise, this place that God had chosen for his chosen people. And remember how important place was in the Ancient Middle East. Place determined your people, your culture, your worship, and your gods. And this people had long been in a foreign land. Imagine their return now, as they have made the long trek from 127 provinces of the empire of Persia, streaming back to the land.

They had nothing with them.

They were weary, and weighed down.

They had lost their sense of identity—ethnic, religious, and cultural—living in a foreign land, whose rulers’ goal was to assimilate them.

Any feelings of expectation and any certainty about the outcome of their lives—hope—had evaporated in the face of overwhelming doubts, leaving hopelessness in its place.

All they had were questions.

          Who are we?

          Where do we come from?

          What is our connection with the past?

          How are we supposed to act, what are we supposed to do…now?

                                                                                          ~~~~~

In the book of Chronicles we find the writing of a man on a mission. He wants to answer those questions. And the interesting thing is that many of us have the same questions still today, over 2,500 years later. And if we don’t, we are surrounded by people who do. And the answers this writer provides and points to in his chronicles are just as relevant today as they were then.

I invite you now to watch or listen to the sermon on Chronicles. And if you’d like to study the book further, I commend the Chronicles page over at the Bible Project.

Finally, this Sunday we will begin our a new sermon series for the Advent season entitled Jesus Came. We will focus on the incarnation of Jesus, and what it means for the world, over the next four services. I think you will be deeply encouraged by this study of the coming, life, and mission of Christ.

I hope to see you Sunday!

Warmly,


Pastor Matthew

matthew@calvarystcloud.org

matthewmolesky.com

Malachi

November 25, 2018

In Malachi chapter three, we find these words:

          Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me.

          And Yahweh whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant in           whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the Yahweh of angel armies.

          2 But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears?
          For
he is like a refiner’s fire
          and like fullers’ soap.

          3 He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the sons of Levi 
          and refine them like gold and silver, 
          and they will bring offerings in righteousness to Yahweh. 
         4 Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to Yahweh as in the days of old and as in                    former years. 

This is the Word of Yahweh.
                                                                                        ~~~~~

If you didn’t have a chance to read Malachi this last week in preparation for this morning, you may be wondering why Yahweh (remember, this is the personal and intimate name for God, ‘who I am is who I will be’) is speaking this way to his people. So let me provide some context.

We are in the time after the exile of Israel from successive kingdoms who had oppressed them; first, the Babylonians, and then, the Persians. We’re not sure exactly when Malachi (his name literally means, “my messenger”) was sent to God’s people, but it is likely around 100 years after the work and ministry of Ezra and Nehemiah, Haggai and Zechariah has occurred.

As we have observed as we made our way through those stories rooted in history, something deeply tragic and devastating had happened among this people of God known as the Israelites. Their desires had become wrongly ordered. How?

We need to understand something about the relationship between God and our desires. You see, God is supposed to be at the center of our affections and attention. That is how we were created to function in relationship to our Creator. In this way, he acts as a center of gravity. He holds all things within us, including our desires, together so they can function rightly. And when he is taken out of the center, things get out of whack. They start spinning out of control. They can’t be rightly ordered.

And that is what had happened to the Israelites. They had wrongly ordered desires. There were all these longings for joy, and happiness, and peace, and fulfillment, and pleasure that were placed inside of them—are placed inside of us—and when God was pushed from that central place, everything spun out of control. They went after wrong things, and even some right things in the wrong way, because of that. The desire gyroscope was off. And so they began to make all kinds of bad choices. And at the root of them all was they were no longer choosing God. They were clinging to themselves and trying to be God. They were setting up on their own, and trying to replace him.

How will Yahweh, the Creator, respond when his creatures live and worship this way?

                                                                                        ~~~~~

I invite you now to watch or listen to the sermon on Malachi, where we find a Divine Creator who loves us just as we are, and yet loves us too much to leave us the way we are. And if you’d like to study the book further, I commend the Malachi page over at the Bible Project.

Finally, this Sunday is going to be a bit of a special Sunday. For,

  • we will be studying the book of Chronicles;
  • which means we will complete our study of the entire Hebrew Scriptures;
  • and we will begin the season of Advent, a time of focusing our minds on the anticipation of the coming (again) of the Messiah;
  • and we will celebrate the sacrament of communion, the meal Jesus gave us to increase our expectation of his return.

I look forward to worshiping the King with you then.

See you Sunday.

Warmly,

Pastor Matthew
matthew@calvarystcloud.org
matthewmolesky.com

Zechariah

November 11, 2018

Samuel Johnson was born on September 18, 1709, and was an English writer who made lasting contributions to English literature as a poet, essayist, moralist, literary critic, biographer, editor and lexicographer. He was a devout Anglican and a generous philanthropist. The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography describes Johnson as "arguably the most distinguished man of letters (male scholar) in English history".


When he was a young boy, his father had a vegetable stand at a certain spot called Uttoxeter in Staffordshire. One Saturday he asked Samuel to go there and open it and just stand there and take the money. Samuel said, “Yes,” but he never got there. Because he never got there, they lost money; and they lost some of the vegetables.

Samuel Johnson never got over the guilt of that. Years later when his father was long dead, when he couldn’t deal with what he called his “secret discontent,” one day he walked to the spot, which for years and years had been abandoned, the same spot where his father used to have a vegetable stand, which hadn’t been there for years and years. He walked there one day in the pouring rain and stood there for two hours bareheaded, trying to deal with his guilt, trying to deal with his secret discontent. It didn’t work.

His story made me think of another writer, William Shakespeare, and his play, Macbeth, which I remember reading as part of English Literature when I was in high school. Lady Macbeth, the wife of the title character, has urged her husband to murder the King of Scotland.

One night, as the guilt is weighing heavily on her, she is sleepwalking. And she imagines that a spot of the King’s blood stains her hand—she can see it, but nobody else can. She is constantly rubbing her hands, wringing them, crying out, “Yet here is a spot…out damn spot! Out! I say.” And her guilt over the murder gradually drives her insane.

Our guilt not only has about it an indelibility, but even beyond that it has a vividness, a freshness. Why? Because our guilt is not just a memory. It is as if someone is continually telling us about it. It’s not just we remember it, but somebody is actually bringing it up again and again. That’s the reason why it’s not just indelible but it’s immediate. It is as if we can hear a voice in our heads, reminding us of the wrong we have done, feeling the weight of it, the dread of it.

And none of us can get away from this. For all have sinned. There is no one righteous, no, not one. There is no one free from the stain of sin and wrong. There is no one free from corruption. Yet another writer, the Apostle John was clear about this when he wrote, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us…If we say we have not sinned, we make God a liar, and his truth is not in us.” (1 John 1:8,10, ESV). He would write later of that vividness and freshness and immediacy of sin, even past sin, and an internal dialogue, describing it this way: “our heart condemns us” (1 John 3:20, ESV).

I believe it was Judith Shulevitz, upon rediscovering her Jewish faith, and its teaching on sin and guilt, who would speak of “the eternal inner murmur of self-reproach.” That voice inside that will never let us rest, always expressing disapproval and disappointment.

                                                                                                   ~~~~~

The children of Israel in the days of Haggai and Zechariah had an external voice of reproach. These two men were preacher prophets sent from God to his people who had recently come out of exile and returned to the land of promise. And as we learned last week, they had allowed God to slip from the center of their attention and affections. Other things had taken his place.

So that we find this man, Zechariah, stand among his people, and proclaim,

“Yahweh was very angry with your fathers. Therefore say to them, Thus declares Yahweh of Heaven’s Armies: Return to me….

                                                                                                    ~~~~~

I invite you now to watch or listen to the sermon on Zechariah, where we explore how this prophet of God helps the children of God deal with the weight, and seemingly indelible mark, of sin on their lives. And if you’d like to study the book further, I commend the Zechariah page over at the Bible Project.

Finally, I will be at the annual meeting this week of The Evangelical Theological Society. So, we won’t be in the Whole Story series until Sunday, November 25 at Calvary. We will study the book of Malachi that Sunday, and you have two weeks to read and meditate upon it. Be sure to attend the family gathering this coming Sunday, when Pastor Josh will be preaching on outreach and missions.

See you in two weeks!

Shalom,

Pastor Matthew
matthew@calvarystcloud.org
matthewmolesky.com

Haggai

November 4, 2018

The book of Haggai is the second shortest book in the Old Testament. It has 4 oracles (think: sermons), 2 chapters, and about 1,100 words. And as we move into those 1,100 words, I need to make something very clear: while these words are coming through the mouth of Haggai, they are not his words. They are the words of Yahweh of Heaven’s armies.

That was really important to the people of God, who had been oppressed for decades, living under the rule of kings who had come into power because of their military might. Haggai was stepping onto the scene and preaching the Words of Yahweh, who was the General of the vast hordes of supernatural soldiers that made up his heavenly hosts.

And 12 of those words are extremely important.

Actually, it’s more than that: because these 12 words are so important that, while not being said exactly the same way, the sense of them is repeated a total of 5 times, using up around 60 of those 1,100 words, and guiding them at the same time.

We see them first just at chapter 1:5,

          Now, Yahweh of Heaven’s Armies says this, “Think carefully about your ways.”

And again at 1:7,

          Now, Yahweh of Heaven’s Armies says this, “Think carefully about your ways.”

And again at 2:15 (cf. 2:11),

          This is what Yahweh of Heaven’s Armies says,… “Now from this day on, think carefully [about your ways].”

And again at 2:18 (2x),

          From this day on, think carefully [about your ways]think carefully [about your ways].

This is the central theme of Haggai, and I like how Eugene Peterson captures its essence in The Message

          the God-of-the-Angel-Armies spoke out again:

          “Take a good, hard look at your life.

                    Think it over.

It’s what this book is still demanding of God’s people today. It’s what he is demanding of you today. “Take a good, hard look at your life. Think it over.” Consider,

          dear friends, what would your life look like if you got what you really wanted?

Do what you need to right now in this moment—close your eyes, or look down at the floor, or keep riveted up here—whatever it takes to clear your mind so that you can think carefully right now.

What would your life look like if you got what you really wanted? Do you have a picture of that in your mind? Now ask yourself—is God there? Is he at the center of your desires, or is he repeatedly neglected by the true center of your heart’s desires? And if that seems too much to ask, consider what Paul says in the New Testament, “Let the message about Christ, in all its richness, fill your lives.”


                                                                                          ~~~~~

I invite you now to watch or listen to the sermon on Haggai, where we explore how this prophet of God helps the children of God repent and recenter their lives. And if you’d like to study the book further, I commend the Haggai page over at the Bible Project.

Finally, consider preparing for the next sermon in the Whole Story series this coming Sunday at Calvary, by reading the book of Zechariah.

For further reading: How Can We Pursue A Long Repentance In The Same Direction?

Shalom,

Pastor Matthew
matthew@calvarystcloud.org
matthewmolesky.com

How Can We Pursue A Long Repentance In The Same Direction?

November 4, 2018

This last Sunday, in Calvary’s morning gathering, we studied the book of Haggai together as part of God’s Whole Story. Together we heard God speak through his prophet to his people after the exile, challenging them to remain faithful and to rebuild the temple. Why would God have to issue such a challenge?

Because the people were not being faithful. They had pursued a vision of what they wanted life to be like, and God was not at the center. Their priorities were messed up. And God had responded with these simple words, repeated five times in various ways in the course of Haggai’s sermons,

the God-of-the-Angel-Armies spoke out again:
          “Take a good, hard look at your life.

          Think it over
.”

This was not a gentle message. Take a moment and read Haggai—God is clear and stern with his people. He accuses them in no uncertain terms of unfaithfulness, selfishness, and sin. He describes how their wearisome situation is a direct judgment by him on their disobedience. It’s hard to read and take in.

But thankfully, it doesn’t end there.

The wonderful news is that God’s people respond in repentance.

Then Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, the high priest Joshua son of Jehozadak, and the entire remnant of the people obeyed Yahweh their God and the words of the prophet Haggai, because Yahweh their God had sent him. So the people feared Yahweh.

Then Haggai, Yahweh’s messenger, delivered Yahweh’s message to the people: “I am with you—this is Yahweh’s declaration.”

Yahweh
roused the spirit of Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, the spirit of the high priest Joshua son of Jehozadak, and the spirit of all the remnant of the people. They began work on the house of Yahweh of Armies, their God, 15 on the twenty-fourth day of the sixth month, in the second year of King Darius.

(Haggai 1:12-15, CSB)

By God’s grace—his Spirit rousing the leadership and the people—all the people repent. For that’s what it means when the author tells us that they “obeyed Yahweh their God” and they “feared Yahweh.” It’s a good ending to a difficult story.

We spent the better part of the sermon Sunday (watch or listen here) exploring how this book is still demanding this of God’s people today. For God is still asking us to “take a good hard look at your life. Think it over.” Said another way, “What would your life look like if you got what you really wanted? Do you have a picture of that in your mind? Now ask yourself—is God there?

For many of us, we’d admit that God frequently slips from being the center of our lives. And actually, the Christian life really is a long repentance in the same direction. But what does that look like? How can we—like the people of Haggai’s day—pursue obeying God, and living in a healthy fear of Yahweh?

I was greatly helped by reading Mark Dever this past week on the book of Haggai. He asked a similar question in his study of these post-exile sermons of the prophet. Namely, “How can we cultivate lives of repentance?” His answer included four simple aids, which I want to share with you now. And I’ve included a fifth of my own.

Study the Word of God. The Bible is the central way God corrects us. This is how the people in Haggai’s day were corrected. God’s word came to them.

Consider God’s nature
, particularly in contrast with your own nature. I assure you this will prove significant and humbling. As you consider more of who he is, you will find yourself more ready to submit to him and to trust him obediently and confidently (“So the people feared Yahweh”, 1:12).

Pray for God to “rouse” your affections for him
. Pray also that he would make you disaffected toward your sin. May we Christians not be a people who are stoically obedient, but are roused up!

Seek out the wisdom and leadership of Godly individuals around you
. We must open our lives fully to at least one other person. You cannot grow without feedback. You cannot.

Practice urgency and patience in your repentance
. Remember, urgency doesn’t mean speed, it means you are treating something as important and with all seriousness. And, measured with that comes patience. Change doesn’t happen quickly. Behavior often takes time to come into alignment with new convictions. The people in Haggai’s day repented over the course of three weeks, and spent the next four years completing the temple, and the rest of their lives making God the center of their living. Remember what we said last week about Daniel—we want to be faithful, lifelong plodders as God increasingly shapes us into the image of his Son, Jesus, by the power of his Spirit “rousing” us.

May it be so.

For further reading on Haggai, see Pastor Matthew's blog post titled Haggai.

Daniel

October 28, 2018

In the book of Jeremiah we read of God’s intention for Daniel and all of those with him who have been exiled from the land of promise.

“Jeremiah wrote a letter from Jerusalem to the elders, priests, prophets, and all the people who had been exiled to Babylon by King Nebuchadnezzar. 2 This was after King Jehoiachin, the queen mother, the court officials, the other officials of Judah, and all the craftsmen and artisans had been deported from Jerusalem….This is what Jeremiah’s letter said:

          This is what Yahweh of Heaven’s Armies, the God of Israel, says to all the captives he has exiled to Babylon           from Jerusalem:

          5 “Build homes, and plan to stay. Plant gardens, and eat the food they produce. 6 Marry and have children.           Then find spouses for them so that you may have many grandchildren. Multiply! Do not dwindle away! 7           And work for the peace and prosperity of the city where I sent you into exile. Pray to Yahweh for it, for its           welfare will determine your welfare.”

          10 This is what Yahweh says:

          “You will be in Babylon for seventy years. But then I will come and do for you all the good things I have           promised, and I will bring you home again. 11 For I know the plans I have for you,” says Yahweh.           “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. 12 In those days           when you pray, I will listen. 13 If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me. 14 I will be found by           you,” says Yahweh. “I will end your captivity and restore your fortunes. I will gather you out of the nations           where I sent you and will bring you home again to your own land.”   (Jeremiah 29:1-3, 5-7, 10-14)

                                                                                          ~~~~~

This letter from Jeremiah to Daniel and all of those taken into exile into Babylon, arguably the best and the brightest of Judah and Jerusalem, helps us understand why the book of Daniel is part of this Whole Story, this unified story that leads us to Jesus.

For in the first half of Daniel, chapters 1-6, we are going to see stories about Daniel and his friends, stories that show us a people fulfilling exactly what Yahweh had commanded of these exiles through Jeremiah’s letter. Stories of a people planted in another land, and growing, and bearing fruit and being a part of the good of that place. Stories that are timeless in their application, for we can rightfully summarize this section this way:

          “The story of Daniel motivates faithfulness despite exile in Babylon.”

And in the second half of Daniel, chapters 7-12, we are going to see visions about the future, visions given to Daniel about that future, that affirm and display that Yahweh is the true King over all kings, and he is establishing his kingdom, and bringing about his purposes, even when it may not look or feel like it. For he “removes kings, and sets up kings” (2:21). We could summarize the story of Daniel receiving these visions, which are also very applicable to us today, this way:

          “Daniel’s visions offer hope that God will bring all nations under his rule.”

Another way to think about this book, here to display Jeremiah’s letter of guidance to the exiles being fulfilled, would be:

          In the first half, we see what it looks like to be faithful in Babylon;

          in the second half, what it looks like to get home from Babylon.

                                                                                          ~~~~~

I invite you now to watch or listen to the sermon on Daniel. And if you’d like to study the book further, I commend the Daniel page over at the Bible Project. In addition, they have a great companion resource page on the Biblical theme of Exile—check it out as well.

Finally, consider preparing for the next sermon in the Whole Story series this coming Sunday at Calvary, by reading the book of Haggai.

Shalom,

Pastor Matthew
matthew@calvarystcloud.org
matthewmolesky.com

Esther

October 23, 2018

We are in a sermon series called The Whole Story, so named because we started off with the assumption, and belief really, that the whole Bible is a unified story that leads to Jesus. Each and every book is a bit like a chapter that contributes to the overall story that God is telling.

And this means that every week, as we turn the page to another book/chapter in the whole story, we do so (I hope) with a childlike curiosity, wondering, anticipating….How will this book (or ‘chapter’, if you will) contribute to the overall story? How will it move it along, explain it, and make sense of it?

And we know the story isn’t over—we look around us and see that history keeps marching on, the future out in front of us—God is still speaking, still storytelling. And just like the characters we read about in the story in the Bible, we know that we are characters in his continuing drama. Which means there is a connection between us and between them, no matter how long it has been since they were on this same earth that we inhabit. And that their stories must mean something for our story, and the ones who will come after us, for God is connecting it and weaving it all together.

And so this past week—on a Monday morning, if you were like me—we turned the page, from Ezra-Nehemiah, and at the top there in bold, large letters we saw a name…

ESTHER

Many of us are familiar enough with this story to at least wonder…how will a “chapter” in the Whole Story that doesn’t even mention or allude to the name of God possibly move God’s story forward? What will Esther’s story mean for our story? And above all, we need to ask, “How in the world will this lead us to Jesus!?”

Those are big questions, important questions. Frankly, it won’t be easy to jump into a story that is very tightly told and incredibly complex and answer those questions and apply it to our lives, all in about a 35 sermon. Which makes me realize how much I, as the preacher/storyteller, and you as the listener, need God’s help. So let’s ask him for it. Would you pray with me right now, wherever you are reading this?

Father,
We’ve arrived at a book that many of us are familiar with. We’ve heard this story before, in countless Sunday School lessons, and vacation bible schools, and we’ve even seen movies interpreting and depicting it. But I wonder if we’ve understood it rightly. Please give us eyes to see things here that maybe we haven’t seen before. Make us open to the possibility of that. Show us through this story the way of Jesus. Awaken us to our identity in him, so that we may know how you want us to live in a world and culture that seems to have gone mad.

Yes, and very amen, in Jesus’ name.

~~~~~

I invite you now to watch or listen to the sermon on Esther. And if you’d like to study the book further, I commend the Esther page over at the Bible Project. In addition, they have a great companion resource page on the Biblical theme of Exile—check it out as well.

Finally, consider preparing for the next sermon in the Whole Story series this coming Sunday at Calvary, by reading the book of Daniel.

Shalom,
Pastor Matthew
matthew@calvarystcloud.org

matthewmolesky.com

We Are Calvary

October 2, 2018

To say that we live in times of rapid change may be the very height of understatement. Our culture, and its norms, is changing at an unprecedented rate, making it increasingly challenging for the church to remain relevant—and faithful—in proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God, in a way that will bring about the expansion of that kingdom.

It's something that the pastors and elders have been thinking and praying about in earnest over the last year. We have been meeting regularly, reviewing our core convictions, looking closely at the ministries of our church family, revisiting our priorities, discussing the changing state of our city and mission field, and praying for direction on how to steward all that God has placed within our care and responsibility.

These efforts have affirmed and strengthened our resolve to fulfill an unchanging purpose and mission: Calvary exists to make more and maturing disciples of Jesus Christ. Further, we will hold fast to our values of each Calvary family member wholly committed, in every area of life, to ‘living on mission,’ in the confident hope that we will help believers and not-yet-believers ‘move one step closer to the right’ toward Jesus and his kingdom.

Thus, we want to be clear: What we are about has not changed. Nor will it.

But— we do believe that how we fulfill our mission (and values) will change. For we have further resolved that God is calling us to do all we can to position Calvary in a way that she will be a growing and healthy outpost of the kingdom, for the glory of God and the joy of the people of our city, and beyond. In order for that to happen, how we do things must always be flexible in response to the culture around us. This has long been a foundational tenet in the field of missions, and applies to us, just as much as to someone serving in China, Morocco, or Indonesia.

So we invite you to a special service—“We Are Calvary”—on Sunday, 14 October, where our leadership team will share some initial changes coming to Calvary. And let’s be honest right here: we understand that while some people love change, change isn’t easy for most of us. Therefore, it will be helpful for some of you to understand this isn’t a massive overhaul of who we are, but steps toward better aligning our resources to our mission, values, and priorities to position us for growth and health.

I have a picture on my study wall of the first and second pastors of this church, who had a vision over 135 years ago, to reach St. Cloud and this area for Jesus. I keep it there to remind me that the reason we are here, is because they were there. And while so much has changed both inside and outside our church over 13 decades, I am confident that all who have been a part of this place could stand together and say, “We Are Calvary.”

Filled with hope for our future,

on behalf of all our pastors and elders,

Pastor Matthew

matthew@calvarystcloud.org

matthewmolesky.com

Ezra-Nehemiah

September 30, 2018

This past Sunday we (finally) made it out of the weighty, dark, somber, and serious writings of the Prophets of the Exile, and stepped into the Return from Exile of the people of God. Our first look into this aspect of the redemptive drama comes via three courageous servants of Yahweh—Zerrubabel, Ezra, and Nehemiah. There story is found in the book of Ezra-Nehemiah (although our English Bibles separate them, through the centuries the Jewish people have always treated them as one book; so we will too.)

~~~~~

Imagine that it is 538 B.C., and as an Israelite, you look around, and you wonder about the sovereignty and faithfulness of God. Is he able? Is he willing? Had God forsaken them forever? Were they still the chosen people? Were God’s promises still good? When will all of these things come true? How will they come true?

The book of Ezra-Nehemiah is the story of a sovereign and faithful God named Yahweh who fulfills his end of the covenant. Who keeps his promises. That is its place in the Whole Story—to show us the progression of what theologians call redemptive history (the history of God’s saving all of humanity) yes, but within that, to show us who God is. That he is sovereign and faithful, that he is able and willing.

Moreover, this book was written to both Encourage and Challenge—the people of Ezra-Nehemiah, and that is still its purpose today.

It was written to Encourage—-

that Yahweh was still their God, on their side;

that the covenant was still in effect;

and that promises and prophecies would be fulfilled.

It was written to Challenge

that people would repent of their sinfulness;

they would re-commit to their covenant responsibilities;

and they would faithfully obey and worship God.

This book is here, in the Whole Story, to Encourage and to Challenge.

~~~~~

If you’d like to be encouraged, and are up for a challenge, I invite you to watch or listen to the sermon on Ezra-Nehemiah. And if you’d like to study the book further, I commend the Ezra-Nehemiah page over at the Bible Project.

Finally, consider preparing for the next sermon in the Whole Story series this coming Sunday at Calvary, by reading the book of Esther.

Shalom,

Pastor Matthew

matthew@calvarystcloud.org

matthewmolesky.com

Especially When You Don't Feel Like It

September 28, 2018

Sunday is just about my favorite day of the week (“just about”…because my day off each week, our family’s Sabbath Saturday, is a tie or really close second). I love getting up that morning, making my smoothie, sitting in my favorite chair in our fireplace room, and pulling my Bible onto my lap. I relish the time spent listening to my Father speak, and I delight in those moments spent talking with him about the morning’s ministry, the people in our gathering that I hope he will transform, as well as the eleven other pastors (and their congregations) on whom I pray his blessing every Sunday.

I then get ready, and head out to our church campus. I enter my study, and lay out the sermon manuscript. I walk into our office conference room at 8:30am, where I pray with a few other saints who have showed up to our Sunday morning prayer gathering. This is a treasured time of communal discussion with our Father, listening and joining in with others who are pouring their hearts out for our service and our people, as well as other churches in the area who will gather, bathe in the Good News, and praise Jesus. I’m not the only one who considers it a treasure: another pastor who is there each Sunday almost always shares, “This is one of my favorite parts of the week.”

Now it's time to move back to the study, and prayerfully pour over the manuscript, editing it and listening to what the Spirit would have me both remove and add. Next—its off to the green room in our sanctuary, where all those involved in the service are gathered to step through the liturgy, and then spend more time in a communal discussion with our Father, asking his blessing on our ministry, our gathering, and all who will come into the service that day.

And now I’m ready for what all of this has been headed to—attending the gathering of this little part of God’s family, this little outpost of his kingdom, which we call Calvary. Standing with hundreds of other followers and seekers, joining in the call to worship, passing the peace to fellow saints around us, expressing praise and adoration to God through music and singing, confessing our sins through prayer, receiving assurance of pardon through the good news, bathing in the preaching of God’s Holy Word, responding in a song of joy, leaving encouraged reminded of our mission to make more and maturing disciples, with the blessing of God upon us and the joy of Christ within us and the anointing of the Spirit empowering us.


As good as all of that sounds, sometimes even I don’t want to go to the Sunday gathering of the sons and daughters, and not-yet family members, of God. And I’m the preacher! But that makes me no less prone than you to be affected by a host of circumstances that will result in not wanting to attend the weekly gathering of your church.

So what do you do when that warm, soft, cozy bed holds you and convinces you it would be a poor decision to leave its satisfying embrace? “Just stay here with me. You’ve had a long week. You’re tired. You’ve rarely missed going to the service. What’s one Sunday?”

You fight.

And you get up.

And you go, especially when you don’t feel like it.

That’s exactly what another pastor, David Gunderson from BridgePoint Bible Church in Houston, argues—the most important time to be at church is when you don’t feel like it. So I want to turn it over to him now, as he argues that the church gathering is about far more than a place, that it’s not about you, that it’s a vital means of grace, and how you should “ask for grace, then go.”

It is my prayer God will use this in your life when you don’t feel like going to church.

Which may be this Sunday.

And I hope to see you there anyway.


____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________


The most important time to be at church is when you don’t feel like it.

I’ve talked with three Christians about this recently—two struggling with depression, and a third who just went through a tough break-up—who’ve stopped gathering with God’s people during a difficult season. Whether for weeks or months, all three have decided to stop going to church.

One said it would be unsatisfying, that there just isn’t a sense of connection. Another said it would be awkward, because they don’t want to see their ex. The last said it would be unhelpful, because they have no desire to be there anymore.

I’m not here to minimize their burdens or condemn them for feeling the way they do. I’m not writing to them or about them. I’m just writing to every Christian who feels the way they’re feeling, who feels (as I have before) like gathering with God’s people will be unsatisfying, unhelpful, or just plain awkward.

I’m writing to say something I said to all three of my friends at some point in our conversations: The most important time to be at church is when you don’t feel like it.


Far More Than a Place

Yes, I know the church is a people, not a place. The church is a body, not a building. The church is something Christians are, not just somewhere Christians go. Yes, I also know the church is a family that should meet and study and eat and fellowship and pray and serve throughout the week, not just on Sunday. I know these things, and if you’ve walked with God for a while, you do too.

But I also know the church is marked, known, and enlivened by its regular, rhythmic, ordered gatherings (Heb. 10:24–25). A body that’s never together is more like a prosthetics warehouse, and a family that never has family dinners or outings or reunions won’t be a healthy family, if any family at all.

Sure, you could listen to some praise music and an online sermon, but there won’t be any personalized one-anothering, there won’t be any face-to-face fellowship, and there won’t be any bread and wine. Sure, you could read the Bible and pray on your own, but you won’t hear the studied voice of your own shepherd teaching and comforting and correcting you. Yes, you could just attend another church for a while because yours has grown unsatisfying, but that’s not treating your church like much of a covenant community.

Covenants are made for the hard times, not the good times. In the good times, we don’t need covenants, because we can get by and stick together on feelings alone. But covenant communities hold us up when we’re faltering and pick us up when we’ve fallen. They encourage us when we’re weary and wake us when we’re slumbering. They draw us out of ourselves and call us to our commitments and responsibilities. They invite us back to the garden of Christian community,  where we grow.


It’s Not About You

I get it. The worship team didn’t pull their song selections from your Spotify playlist; the pastor didn’t have the time and resources to craft a mesmerizing sermon with a team of presidential speechwriters; the membership may not have the perfect combination of older saints to mentor you, younger saints to energize you, mature saints to counsel you, hospitable saints to host you, and outgoing saints to pursue you.

But I know another thing: If your church believes the Bible and preaches the gospel and practices the ordinances and serves one another, then your church has saints, and those saints are your brothers and sisters, your fathers and mothers, your weary fellow pilgrims walking the same wilderness you are—away from Egypt, surrounded by pillars of cloud and fire, with eyes set on the promised land.

Which is to say, this isn’t really about you.

And those people you wish would pursue you and care for you and reach out to you need you to do the same (Gal. 6:9–10). That pastor you wish were a better preacher is probably praying this morning that you’d be a good listener (Mark 4:3–8, 14–20; James 1:22–25). Those people whose spiritual gifts you desperately need also desperately need your spiritual gifts (Eph. 4:15–16). Those people whose fellowship you find dissatisfying or unhelpful or just plain awkward don’t need your criticism but your gospel partnership (Phil. 4:2–3).

And you can’t do any of these things if you’re not present.


Vital Means of Grace

At all times and in all places, the gathering of the saints is a means of grace established by God for edifying his people. Christians gather to worship not because it might be helpful if all the stars align, or if our leaders plan the service just right, or if everyone smiles at us with the perfect degree of sincerity and handles the small talk seamlessly and engages us with just the right depth of conversation that’s neither too personal nor too shallow.

We gather because the God we’re worshiping has instituted our gathering as a main way he matures and strengthens and comforts us. It’s not just when the songs or prayers or sermons or Sunday school classes touch our souls right where we need to be touched. We meet because God builds up his people through our meeting every time, in every place, without fail, no matter how we feel. Like rain in the fields, it’s how our gatherings work.


Ask for Grace. Then Go.

So I know you may not feel like it on Sunday morning. You may not feel like it for a while. But I’m asking you to trust God, ask for grace, and go.

Go, because the church gathers every Sunday to remember the death of Jesus for our sins and the resurrection of Christ from the dead, and that’s precisely what we all need to remember and celebrate, regardless of what else is going on in our lives.

Go, because the stone trapping you in the cave of depression can be rolled away in a night, and once God does it, no Roman soldier or Jewish priest can stop him. Go, because you’re gathering to anticipate a greater marriage than the one you hoped would happen later this year. Go, not because your trials aren’t real, but because that tabled bread and wine represents the crucifixion of the worst sins you could ever commit and the worst realities you’ve ever experienced.

Go, and in your going, grow. Go, and in your going, serve. Go, and in your going, let God pick up the pieces of your heart and stitch together the kind of mosaic that only gets fully crafted when saints stay committed to God’s long-term building project, when they speak the truth to one another in love (Eph. 4:15–16).

The most important time to be at church is when you don’t feel like it. So please, brothers and sisters: Go.

Ezekiel

September 23, 2018

This past Sunday we completed our journey through the weighty, dark, somber, and serious writings of the Prophets of the Exile, focusing our study on Ezekiel. We discovered in Ezekiel a book filled with dark visions and confrontational language. And one of the visions (probably the central, controlling metaphor of the book) Ezekiel presents is Israel as a beautiful bride who turns against her bridegroom, God, and breaks all the stipulations of her covenant. And in the midst of our study, I asked some important questions:

What do the visions have to do with me? What does this story have to do with me? I am not a part of Israel, nor am I a part of the Old Covenant, with all its stipulations and requirements. I live in the age of Jesus. I live in the age of grace. I live under the New Covenant!

That’s true. Hallelujah, that’s true. But this is also true—while the covenant we live under is a new covenant, it is still a covenant. And while that covenant may be new, the metaphor of marriage has remained the same. The Apostle Paul used it when he described what it means to be a part of the New Covenant people of God, when he was teaching about marriage. He says in Ephesians that this great thing, marriage between a man and a wife is a great mystery, and “I am saying it refers to Christ and the church.”

Do you see? We are still a bride, and God is still a bridegroom. And being a disciple means we have made a covenant, and there are stipulations, and we have to keep them. Our great Bridegroom himself said that to keep his commandments was a sign of and how we would abide in his love (John 15). And his closest friend and disciple, John, would later write that to love God was to keep his commandments, and they they were not burdensome (1 John).

And just like those to whom Ezekiel spoke, there are consequences when we break the covenant, when we stray from our vows, and sin against our heavenly spouse. In other words, when we willingly enter our own “graves of exile” (Ezekiel 37:12) from which we need to be rescued and reanimated by the Spirit of Grace.

As God’s people through belief in Jesus, this identity as a bride unites us all as one. And yet, at any given moment, we find ourselves in varying places on the spectrum of obedience to our covenant vows, as disciples of our great Bridegroom. It may be that you are a Delighted Disciple, or a Dry Disciple, or a Denying Disciple, or a Deceptive Disciple, or a Despairing Disciple. And Ezekiel and his prophetic pronouncements hold out answers and hope to each and every one of those disciples.

Maybe you can identify with one (or a few) of those categories of disciple. If you’d like to know more about how Ezekiel functions as a source of hope for such disciples seeking to remain faithful to Jesus, I invite you to watch or listen to the sermon on Ezekiel. And if you’d like to study the book beyond merely the sermon, head on over to the Ezekiel page at the Bible Project, where they have videos, blog posts, and suggested resources to assist you in your quest.

This coming Sunday, we will enter into the world of the “Return from the Exile” as we continue in The Whole Story. A great way to prepare would be to read the books of Ezra and Nehemiah.

See you Sunday!


Shalom,

Pastor Matthew

matthew@calvarystcloud.org

matthewmolesky.com

Day Thirty-Two: A Mother's Wisdom (part two)

September 19, 2018

Yesterday, we heard from what was likely King Solomon’s mother imparting worthy words of wisdom in the area of leadership. For the sayings of wisdom we find here are those “which his mother taught him” (Proverbs 31:1). And she now turns her attention to the search for a woman of virtue and noble character, suitable to be a wife and mother.

When considering our culture, this makes a great deal of sense. It is the place of a mother to both exemplify and be clear in her counsel about the character qualities that a young man should be concerned about when seeking a bride. So this section of characteristics is a fresh reminder to all moms reading: please winsomely share with your sons—before he starts dating, or courting, or whatever he calls it—what he should be looking for in a young lady, as he gets to know a young lady, before he falls for a young lady.

An immediate objection may be: but how can you take a list such as found here, which seems to represent a mature woman, wife and mother, and use that in comparison to a young woman? Fair question. And an important one, actually, as we look at the teaching of this wise, Godly, Spirit-inspired matriarch.

Please understand. I am aware that many in the church have too often presented this portrait in such a way that as a woman you felt you were, and always would, fall short of this representation of womanly perfection. Or it has been used rather cheaply by men to brag that they have a ‘Proverbs 31 woman’ (me: guilty). Neither are what the King’s mother have in mind.

Rather, she is presenting a portrait. In other words, it may not be an actual woman at all, but a model woman. “This lady’s standard is not implied to be within reach of all, for it presupposes unusual gifts and material resources; nor is it much concerned with the personal relationships of marriage. Rather, it shows the fullest flowering of domesticity, which is revealed as no petty and restricted sphere, and its mistress is no cipher. Here is scope for formidable powers and great achievements—the latter in the realm of the housewife’s own nurture and produce (Proverbs 31:31); and partly in her unseen contribution to her husband’s good name (Proverbs 31:23). (D. Kidner, emphasis mine)”

Do you see? We find here traits laudable and exemplary, which, in a young woman may be found in seed-form, and in a mature woman are a portrait of those to which she may still aspire, and for which she should be praised by her husband, her children, and her community.

And the reason that this portrait is so important is that it is a biblical one. When we are trying to understand, when we are trying to pinpoint—in a culture awash in confusion over femininity, identity, and womanhood—what it means to be a woman, here we find standards established by the One who brought to life and formed every woman on the planet. Wouldn’t it make sense that the One who hard-wired wisdom into the world should be the One to turn to when trying to understand and steward that which he made?

So let’s do that. Let’s turn to Spirit-inspired wisdom from a King’s mother for a portrait of the ideal. When you are finished reading, we’ll take a moment for prayer.

10  Who can find a virtuous and capable wife?
She is more precious than rubies.
11 Her husband can trust her,
and she will greatly enrich his life.
12 She brings him good, not harm,
all the days of her life.
13 She finds wool and flax
and busily spins it.
14 She is like a merchant’s ship,
bringing her food from afar.
15 She gets up before dawn to prepare breakfast for her household
and plan the day’s work for her servant girls.
16 She goes to inspect a field and buys it;
with her earnings she plants a vineyard.
17 She is energetic and strong,
a hard worker.
18 She makes sure her dealings are profitable;
her lamp burns late into the night.
19 Her hands are busy spinning thread,
her fingers twisting fiber.
20 She extends a helping hand to the poor
and opens her arms to the needy.
21 She has no fear of winter for her household,
for everyone has warm clothes.
22 She makes her own bedspreads.
She dresses in fine linen and purple gowns.
23 Her husband is well known at the city gates,
where he sits with the other civic leaders.
24 She makes belted linen garments
and sashes to sell to the merchants.
25 She is clothed with strength and dignity,
and she laughs without fear of the future.
26 When she speaks, her words are wise,
and she gives instructions with kindness.
27 She carefully watches everything in her household
and suffers nothing from laziness.
28 Her children stand and bless her.
Her husband praises her:
29 “There are many virtuous and capable women in the world,
but you surpass them all!”
30 Charm is deceptive, and beauty does not last;
but a woman who fears Yahweh will be greatly praised.
31 Reward her for all she has done.
Let her deeds publicly declare her praise.
(Proverbs 31:10-31, New Living Translation)

Oh, I love that last and most important bit. Solomon begins (Proverbs 1:7) and ends (31:30) Proverbs with the most important step in pursuing a wise and good life; namely, the first one….

The fear of Yahweh is the beginning of knowledge [and wisdom].

Father,

Wow. You are such a good, good Father. You give us vivid and beautiful portraits for what a life well-lived, in joy, can look like. Please help all my sisters this morning who are disciples of Jesus to know that, in him, you see them as perfect and complete. You have applied his righteousness, in all areas of his life, to all areas of theirs. You made them perfect, so that now, you can make them good. Give them confidence, from that place of security, to step out in faith and the power of the Holy Spirit to be all that you have made them as a woman—and maybe a wife, and maybe a mother—to be. And Father, give us as men in the church, eyes to see. To mark where we see these qualities in our sisters—our wives, our daughters, our friends in the wider church family—and to praise them in the gates, to bless them in the gatherings, to encourage them in their walk of womanhood.

Yes, and very amen, in Jesus’ name.

Pursuing the wise and good life with you,

Pastor Matthew
matthew@calvarystcloud.org
matthewmolesky.com

P.S. If you’d like to study some of the wisdom literature further, I highly recommend the Wisdom Series from The Bible Project, and their resources on the book of Proverbs.

Proverbs Thirty-One Day Reading Plan
August 14: Proverbs ch. 1
Aug. 15: ch. 2
Aug. 16: ch. 3
Aug. 17: ch. 4
Aug. 18: ch. 5
Aug. 19: Grace Day

Aug. 20: ch. 6
Aug. 21: ch. 7
Aug. 22: ch. 8
Aug. 23: ch. 9
Aug. 24: ch. 10
Aug. 25: ch. 11
Aug. 26: Grace Day

Aug. 27: ch. 12
Aug. 28: ch. 13
Aug. 29: ch. 14
Aug. 30: ch. 15
Aug. 31: ch. 16
Sept. 1: ch. 17
Sept. 2: Grace Day

Sept. 3: ch. 18
Sept. 4: ch. 19
Sept. 5: ch. 20
Sept. 6: ch. 21
Sept. 7: ch. 22
Sept. 8: ch. 23
Sept. 9: Grace Day

Sept. 10: ch. 24
Sept. 11: ch. 25
Sept. 12: ch. 26
Sept. 13: ch. 27
Sept. 14: ch. 28
Sept. 15: ch. 29
Sept. 16: Grace Day

Sept. 17: ch. 30
Sept. 18: ch. 31

Day Thirty-One: A Mother’s Wisdom

September 18, 2018

The sayings of King Lemuel contain this message, which his mother taught him.

O my son, O son of my womb,
O son of my vows,
do not waste your strength on women,
on those who ruin kings.
It is not for kings, O Lemuel, to guzzle wine.
Rulers should not crave alcohol.
For if they drink, they may forget the law
and not give justice to the oppressed.
Alcohol is for the dying,
and wine for those in bitter distress.
Let them drink to forget their poverty
and remember their troubles no more.
Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves;
ensure justice for those being crushed.
Yes, speak up for the poor and helpless,
and see that they get justice.
(Proverbs 31:1-9, New Living Translation)

Even Kings need to listen to their mothers, and Solomon is no exception. It is probable that Lemuel, meaning for God or devoted to God, is merely another moniker for Solomon. It may even be that it was a nickname of sorts, one of endearment that his mother used to call him in his younger, growing up years, and it stuck. And now as Solomon completes his book of Proverbs, his mother comes to mind. He looks back with Holy Spirit-inspired memory to recall worthy words of wisdom his mother had taught him, and were invaluable in the pursuit of a wise and good life. In particular, how to be a wise and good leader.

He recalls how seriously she would talk with him at times, the way she would grab hold of his attention, “Oh, Oh, son of mine, what can you be thinking of! Child whom I bore! The son I dedicated to God! Listen to me now, you need to listen to me. Don’t dissipate your virility on fortune-hunting women, promiscuous women who shipwreck leaders (The Message).”

Godly mothers have this uncanny ability to see a bad woman coming as they look out for their boys. Further, she understands basic biology, and the effects of the fall to use hormones to fuel temptation to sin, so that a leader’s influence and legacy is destroyed. Now, more than ever, as we look around at the wreckage of leaders in our culture due to sexual immorality, a mother’s Spirit-empowered intuition should be trusted and listened to by sons.

He remembers her warnings and guidance on the use of alcohol. Unlike the black and white polarities of the tee-totaler or the lush, mom brought balance to the consumption of adult beverages. On the one hand, a leader shouldn’t guzzle wine and abuse alcohol. He needs to have a clear head to make good decisions and right judgments. On the other hand, it doesn’t mean that wine and strong drink is never allowed. You can enjoy a good beer, a glass of wine, a Manhattan. They are a cordial that complements good food, and allows the dying, the distressed, the sick (1 Timothy 5:23), and the poor to forget their troubles (but not by becoming drunk, Ephesians 5:18) as they celebrate life with those whom they love.

He reminisces on her encouragement to never forget that a leader is a leader because of their followers. You are in a place of authority and position that brings a certain level of notoriety, so you can speak for those not in the spotlight. And especially those in danger because their situation is not known—the poor, the helpless, the marginalized, the ones taken advantage of, the powerless, all those who are open to great injustice because of their place in society. With great power comes great responsibility.

It has been sung that “the hand that rocks the cradle is the hand that rules the world.” Mothers inhabit a place of great influence, and there is wisdom for moms to understand the multigenerational impact they have within their grasp. The words you speak to your sons, and your daughters, matter.

And sons, follow the example of a King. When mom speaks, you should listen. For a godly mother has words to impart that will lead to a wise and good life.

I think I need to go call my mom…

Father,

Thank you for creating family. And I am so grateful today, in light of this text, for the special bond between a mom and her son. Thank you for the shaping influence of the wisdom of a woman in the life of a boy, who will grow into a man, a husband, and a father. Thank you for your good news, which shapes such relationships into healthy places that perpetuate wisdom, and a good life. And we pray today for your grace and peace to fall upon those sons (and daughters) who had/have difficult relationships with their mothers. We pray today for those sons (and daughters) who maybe never knew their mothers, for one reason or another. Please bring healing, through the power of your Spirit, to conflicted relationships and aching hearts. And may our churches be places of robust, spiritual families, where these sons (and daughters) may benefit from the love of many mothers and fathers who welcome them with open arms into a good life of love, support, and encouragement.

Yes, and very amen, in Jesus’ name.

Pursuing the wise and good life with you,

Pastor Matthew

matthew@calvarystcloud.org

matthewmolesky.com

P.S. If you’d like to study some of the wisdom literature further, I highly recommend the Wisdom Series from The Bible Project, and their resources on the book of Proverbs.

Proverbs Thirty-One Day Reading Plan

August 14: Proverbs ch. 1

Aug. 15: ch. 2

Aug. 16: ch. 3

Aug. 17: ch. 4

Aug. 18: ch. 5

Aug. 19: Grace Day

Aug. 20: ch. 6

Aug. 21: ch. 7

Aug. 22: ch. 8

Aug. 23: ch. 9

Aug. 24: ch. 10

Aug. 25: ch. 11

Aug. 26: Grace Day

Aug. 27: ch. 12

Aug. 28: ch. 13

Aug. 29: ch. 14

Aug. 30: ch. 15

Aug. 31: ch. 16

Sept. 1: ch. 17

Sept. 2: Grace Day

Sept. 3: ch. 18

Sept. 4: ch. 19

Sept. 5: ch. 20

Sept. 6: ch. 21

Sept. 7: ch. 22

Sept. 8: ch. 23

Sept. 9: Grace Day

Sept. 10: ch. 24

Sept. 11: ch. 25

Sept. 12: ch. 26

Sept. 13: ch. 27

Sept. 14: ch. 28

Sept. 15: ch. 29

Sept. 16: Grace Day

Sept. 17: ch. 30

Sept. 18: ch. 31

Day Thirty: Vistas of Wisdom

September 17, 2018

I am weary, O God;
I am weary and worn out, O God.
I am too stupid to be human,
and I lack common sense.
I have not mastered human wisdom,
nor do I know the Holy One.
Who but God goes up to heaven and comes back down?
Who holds the wind in his fists?
Who wraps up the oceans in his cloak?
Who has created the whole wide world?
What is his name—and his son’s name?
Tell me if you know!
Every word of God proves true.
He is a shield to all who come to him for protection.
Do not add to his words,
or he may rebuke you and expose you as a liar.
(Proverbs 30:1-6, New Living Translation)

I am very near the end of this little writing experiment called “31 Proverbs.” While I’m unsure how helpful it has been to how ever many have read it, I know that the process of sitting down six days each week to read, ponder, and then ponder some more by plunking on a keyboard has helped me grow in my understanding of wisdom.

And yet…as I read these first lines of chapter thirty, the mere beginning of the “sayings of Agur,” I had to chuckle. How fitting this journey should near its end with a confession of “stupidity” and a lack of common sense! For while I have felt some growth in understanding wisdom, as I look at my life, I’m not sure if I’ve yet become any wiser. Yes, Agur, I must agree—I have not mastered wisdom, nor do I know the Holy One.


I am grateful for Agur’s example here. Ironically, there is wisdom in his confession that he lacks a mastery of human wisdom. For he realizes that for all his effort (he is ‘weary and worn out’, v. 1), he has just begun. He has made it to the top of what he thought was the summit, only to discover it was merely one peak in a vast mountain range of wisdom yet to be explored. And as he stands there, he rightly reflects on the One who holds all wisdom. “He acknowledges the limits of human understanding and humbly confesses that only God is truly wise [even as he challenges us all] to admit that no one has achieved direct understanding of the world and the truth behind the world” (Garrett). No one, that is, save the Holy One.

For it is God, and God alone, who has gone up to heaven and come down.
God holds the wind in his fists.
God wraps the oceans in his cloaks.
God has created the whole wide world.
Yahweh is his name, and Jesus, his Son.

I stand before this God, and his Son, with my hand over my mouth, and easily, freely admit that no words in this 31 day journey of simple articles are worth staking one’s life on. It is every word of God that proves true, not mine, nor any man’s. He is the One who is a shield to all who come to him. And part of that shielding is found in his revelation having been proven true in the real world of human experience. Proverbs has been tested, tried, and passed the test. There IS wisdom here.

So it is not mine nor Agur’s objective to add to God’s words. Rather, the hope has been to declare God’s words, and in the declaration, to give the sense of them so that people may understand and apply them (Nehemiah 8:8).

It is my prayer that the coming end of this series will not be the end of your exploration of wisdom, and thus the pursuit of a good life. I know it will not be for me. This has been merely the beginning. We stand with Agur at merely the first peak, with the glorious vista of a mountain range of wisdom yet to be discovered and lived!

Father,

Thank you for the adventure of living as your sons and daughters in your ever-expanding kingdom. There is so much to learn, explore, discover, and achieve. Sometimes, on the weary days, that looks more overwhelming than exciting. But help us to remember we have your Spirit as our helper and guide on the journey! With him, we shall renew our strength, mount up with wings as eagles, run and not be weary, walk and not faint (Isaiah 40:31). May we take up your great guidebook, your Holy Word, and set out with the Spirit’s help, to pursue a wise and good life. For your glory, and our joy.

Yes, and very amen, in Jesus’ name.

Pursuing the wise and good life with you,

Pastor Matthew

matthew@calvarystcloud.org

matthewmolesky.com

P.S. If you’d like to study some of the wisdom literature further, I highly recommend the Wisdom Series from The Bible Project, and their resources on the book of Proverbs.

Proverbs Thirty-One Day Reading Plan

August 14: Proverbs ch. 1

Aug. 15: ch. 2

Aug. 16: ch. 3

Aug. 17: ch. 4

Aug. 18: ch. 5

Aug. 19: Grace Day

Aug. 20: ch. 6

Aug. 21: ch. 7

Aug. 22: ch. 8

Aug. 23: ch. 9

Aug. 24: ch. 10

Aug. 25: ch. 11

Aug. 26: Grace Day

Aug. 27: ch. 12

Aug. 28: ch. 13

Aug. 29: ch. 14

Aug. 30: ch. 15

Aug. 31: ch. 16

Sept. 1: ch. 17

Sept. 2: Grace Day

Sept. 3: ch. 18

Sept. 4: ch. 19

Sept. 5: ch. 20

Sept. 6: ch. 21

Sept. 7: ch. 22

Sept. 8: ch. 23

Sept. 9: Grace Day

Sept. 10: ch. 24

Sept. 11: ch. 25

Sept. 12: ch. 26

Sept. 13: ch. 27

Sept. 14: ch. 28

Sept. 15: ch. 29

Sept. 16: Grace Day

Sept. 17: ch. 30

Sept. 18: ch. 31

31 Proverbs: Grace Day for Sunday 16 September

September 16, 2018

If you’ve been reading along in this little series, you’ve now read 29 of 31 chapters of Proverbs—well done friend!

Today is a “Grace Day.”

So take the day off. Read another portion of the Holy Scriptures, or look back and review Proverbs 1-29 for some of your favorite bits of wisdom that maybe you underlined or highlighted, or a note you wrote in the margins of your Bible.

We’ll begin again tomorrow.


Pursuing the wise and good life with you,

Pastor Matthew

matthew@calvarystcloud.org

matthewmolesky.com

P.S. If you’d like to study some of the wisdom literature further, I highly recommend the Wisdom Series from The Bible Project, and their resources on the book of Proverbs.


Proverbs Thirty-One Day Reading Plan

August 14: Proverbs ch. 1

Aug. 15: ch. 2

Aug. 16: ch. 3

Aug. 17: ch. 4

Aug. 18: ch. 5

Aug. 19: Grace Day


Aug. 20: ch. 6

Aug. 21: ch. 7

Aug. 22: ch. 8

Aug. 23: ch. 9

Aug. 24: ch. 10

Aug. 25: ch. 11

Aug. 26: Grace Day


Aug. 27: ch. 12

Aug. 28: ch. 13

Aug. 29: ch. 14

Aug. 30: ch. 15

Aug. 31: ch. 16

Sept. 1: ch. 17

Sept. 2: Grace Day


Sept. 3: ch. 18

Sept. 4: ch. 19

Sept. 5: ch. 20

Sept. 6: ch. 21

Sept. 7: ch. 22

Sept. 8: ch. 23

Sept. 9: Grace Day


Sept. 10: ch. 24

Sept. 11: ch. 25

Sept. 12: ch. 26

Sept. 13: ch. 27

Sept. 14: ch. 28

Sept. 15: ch. 29

Sept. 16: Grace Day


Sept. 17: ch. 30

Sept. 18: ch. 31

Lamentations

September 16, 2018

This past Sunday we continued on our journey through the weighty, dark, somber, and serious writings of the Prophets of the Exile, focusing our study on Jeremiah’s epilogue to his large book, an extended treatment of his grief over Jerusalem and Judah, the five poems of Lamentations.

~~~~~

In the past, when I’ve come to Lamentations, I’ve understood it as this extended explosion of grief and pain and sorrow from the prophet Jeremiah. It is the fullness of the mere taste we had seen multiple times in the book that bears his name.

But now I see I was wrong. It is not an explosion, as if a fire hydrant has been knocked off its moorings, spraying water everywhere. Rather, this is a controlled, ordered, structured cataloging of pain. He has taken his time. He has thought this through.

Of the five poems/prayers that are each of the chapters, the first four are Hebrew acrostics, meaning the word that begins each line begins with the successive letters of the Hebrew alphabet. That takes intention, planning, and time.

That kind of creativity and artistry tells us something about this book. “The lamentations are not simply cries from the heart…they are an attempt to reflect on the meaning of human suffering…these poems are a theodicy, and attempt to explain the ways of God to humanity. [Jeremiah] wants to do something more than vent his feelings. He also seeks to gain perspective on suffering, and to share that perspective with his fellow sufferers…these poems are [Jeremiah’s] attempt to interpret the meaning of the catastrophe (Ryken)” that had happened to God’s people.

To enter into the powerful theodicy and insightful, poetic interpretations of Jeremiah on suffering, grief, and pain, I invite you to watch or listen to the sermon on Lamentations. And if you’d like to study it further, I commend the Lamentations page over at the Bible Project.

And if you’d like to prepare for the next sermon in the Whole Story series this coming Sunday at Calvary, please read the book of Ezekiel.


Shalom,

Pastor Matthew

matthew@calvarystcloud.org

matthewmolesky.com

Day Twenty-Nine: Please—Quietly Hold Your Tongue

September 15, 2018

Anger. noun. “a strong feeling of annoyance, displeasure, or hostility.” (New Oxford American Dictionary)

As I entered day twenty-nine of Proverbs this morning, and came to 29:11, it struck me that this book has quite a bit to say about anger, strife, wrath, quarreling, fights, and rage. It is a theme that Solomon keeps coming back to, probably because he knows that it is a theme woven through humanity and history. Sometimes the best way to see a theme is to pull on that string so all the wisdom he has offered comes together for our observation. The accumulation helps us feel the weight of it.

“Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all offenses.” (Proverbs 10:12, ESV)

“The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life, but the mouth of the wicked conceals violence.” (Proverbs 10:11, ESV)

“The desire of the righteous ends only in good; the expectation of the wicked in wrath.” (Proverbs 11:23, ESV)

“By insolence comes nothing but strife, but with those who take advice is wisdom.” (Proverbs 13:10, ESV)

“A man of quick temper acts foolishly, and a man of evil devices is hated.” (Proverbs 14:17, ESV)

“Whoever is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who has a hasty temper exalts folly.” (Proverbs 14:29, ESV)

“A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” (Proverbs 15:1, ESV)

“A hot-tempered man stirs up strife, but he who is slow to anger quiets contention.” (Proverbs 15:18, ESV)

“A man of violence entices his neighbor and leads him in a way that is not good.” (Proverbs 16:29, ESV)

“Whoever is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city.” (Proverbs 16:32, ESV)

“Better is a dry morsel with quiet than a house full of feasting with strife.” (Proverbs 17:1, ESV)

“The beginning of strife is like letting out water, so quit before the quarrel breaks out.” (Proverbs 17:14, ESV)

“Whoever loves transgression loves strife; he who makes his door high seeks destruction.” (Proverbs 17:19, ESV)

“Whoever restrains his words has knowledge, and he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding.” (Proverbs 17:27, ESV)

“A brother offended is more unyielding than a strong city, and quarreling is like the bars of a castle.” (Proverbs 18:19, ESV)

“Better is a poor person who walks in his integrity than one who is crooked in speech and is a fool.” (Proverbs 19:1, ESV)

“A man of great wrath will pay the penalty, for if you deliver him, you will only have to do it again.” (Proverbs 19:19, ESV)

“It is an honor for a man to keep aloof from strife, but every fool will be quarreling.” (Proverbs 20:3, ESV)

“Make no friendship with a man given to anger, nor go with a wrathful man, lest you learn his ways and entangle yourself in a snare.” (Proverbs 22:24-25, ESV)

“A man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls.” (Proverbs 25:28, ESV)

“Whoever meddles in a quarrel not his own is like one who takes a passing dog by the ears.” (Proverbs 26:17, ESV)

“As charcoal to hot embers and wood to fire, so is a quarrelsome man for kindling strife.” (Proverbs 26:21, ESV)

“Wrath is cruel, anger is overwhelming, but who can stand before jealousy?” (Proverbs 27:4, ESV)

“Scoffers set a city aflame, but the wise turn away wrath.” (Proverbs 29:8, ESV)

“A man of wrath stirs up strife, and one given to anger causes much transgression.” (Proverbs 29:22, ESV)

“If you have been foolish, exalting yourself, or if you have been devising evil, put your hand on your mouth. For pressing milk produces curds, pressing the nose produces blood, and pressing anger produces strife.” (Proverbs 30:32-33, ESV)

And here was the bit of wisdom that started me pulling that thread this morning:

“A fool gives full vent to his spirit, but a wise man quietly holds it back.” (Proverbs 29:11, ESV)

That’s part of the trouble with anger and rage, isn’t it? It makes us give “full vent.” Today we call it “flying off the handle,” or losing self-control, which almost always means losing control of your mouth. And as we have read elsewhere in the Scriptures, the tongue is a weapon that can cause great harm, setting the world aflame, inflicting deep wounds, and even bringing death.

We live in an age where people act like the evil of flying off the handle is a good thing. Talk shows and news programs are filled with men and women seated around tables, bringing up a topic of concern, and then entering into a yelling match, giving full vent to their spirits, thinking this makes them look and be strong. We who look on are not much better. We allow ourselves to be drawn in, filling with rage, and then yelling at the screen or speaker right along with them. Or worse, repeating the scene when we enter into conversation with those around us.

At times it feels we are a nation of fools.

When what we need are more wise men and women. People able to quietly hold it back. Who softly ask our Father to set a door over their mouths, and keep watch over their lips (Psalm 141:3). We need to be the kind of people who turn to the wise who have come before us, whom I like to call Old Dead Guys (and Gals), who speak with a different perspective than the present age. Meditating on their meditation of the Scripture will very often prove fruitful.

One such man is Matthew Henry (1662-1714). Here is what he had to say about Proverbs 29:11, just two short paragraphs that are worth multiple readings and prayerful reflection:

Note, 1. It is a piece of weakness to be very open: He is a fool who utters all his mind,—who tells every thing he knows, and has in his mouth instantly whatever he has in his thoughts, and can keep no counsel,—who, whatever is started in discourse, quickly shoots his bolt,—who, when he is provoked, will say any thing that comes uppermost, whoever is reflected upon by it,—who, when he is to speak of any business, will say all he thinks, and yet never thinks he says enough, whether choice or refuse, corn or chaff, pertinent or impertinent, you shall have it all.
2. It is a piece of wisdom to be upon the reserve: A wise man will not utter all his mind at once, but will take time for a second thought, or reserve the present thought for a fitter time, when it will be more pertinent and likely to answer his intention; he will not deliver himself in a continued speech, or starched discourse, but with pauses, that he may hear what is to be objected and answer it. Non minus interdum oratorium est tacere quam dicere—True oratory requires an occasional pause. Plin. Ep. 7.6.


Father,

I am shaken by these texts from Solomon and Matthew Henry this morning. I am guilty. How many times have I lost control of my mouth? How many times have I given full vent to my spirit? Beyond number. Forgive me Father, I have been a fool. Please, by your Spirit inside me, set a door on my mouth and a guard on my lips. Help me to quietly hold back my words, wether good or evil, and cause me to take time for a second thought, a prayerful pause, and see I may not need to speak at all. O how I want to be a wise man! May the words of my mouth, and the meditations of my heart, be always and ever pleasing to you, my Rock and my Redeemer.

Yes, and very amen, in Jesus’ name.


Pursuing the wise and good life with you,

Pastor Matthew

matthew@calvarystcloud.org

matthewmolesky.com


P.S. If you’d like to study some of the wisdom literature further, I highly recommend the Wisdom Series from The Bible Project, and their resources on the book of Proverbs.


Proverbs Thirty-One Day Reading Plan

August 14: Proverbs ch. 1

Aug. 15: ch. 2

Aug. 16: ch. 3

Aug. 17: ch. 4

Aug. 18: ch. 5

Aug. 19: Grace Day


Aug. 20: ch. 6

Aug. 21: ch. 7

Aug. 22: ch. 8

Aug. 23: ch. 9

Aug. 24: ch. 10

Aug. 25: ch. 11

Aug. 26: Grace Day


Aug. 27: ch. 12

Aug. 28: ch. 13

Aug. 29: ch. 14

Aug. 30: ch. 15

Aug. 31: ch. 16

Sept. 1: ch. 17

Sept. 2: Grace Day


Sept. 3: ch. 18

Sept. 4: ch. 19

Sept. 5: ch. 20

Sept. 6: ch. 21

Sept. 7: ch. 22

Sept. 8: ch. 23

Sept. 9: Grace Day


Sept. 10: ch. 24

Sept. 11: ch. 25

Sept. 12: ch. 26

Sept. 13: ch. 27

Sept. 14: ch. 28

Sept. 15: ch. 29

Sept. 16: Grace Day


Sept. 17: ch. 30

Sept. 18: ch. 31

Day Twenty-Eight: Do You Feel Like God’s Not Listening To You?

September 14, 2018

Many a time has a husband sat across from me in my study describing a difficult patch on his walk with God. After I listen for awhile, one of my first questions is always, “How is your relationship with your wife?”

And most often that husband will say something like, “You know, it hasn’t been great lately. We’re really on each others nerves, I feel like she doesn’t listen to me…” and on, and on, and on. So, after I listen to that for a bit, I reply,

“Hmmm…please take this Bible, and turn to 1 Peter 3:7.”

“Got it.”

“Ok, read it to me please.”

In the same way, you husbands must give honor to your wives. Treat your wife with understanding as you live together. She may be weaker than you are, but she is your equal partner in God’s gift of new life. Treat her as you should so your prayers will not be hindered.

To which I follow up with something like this…..“You see, what God is saying, you knucklehead (I can call him that because I’m just one knucklehead speaking to another knucklehead), is that if you treat your wife poorly, if you do not give her honor, if you refuse to live with her in an understanding way, really aware of all the difficulties she may be facing, and burdens she is bearing— like cranky kids and grocery shopping and cleaning the house and walking the dog and getting the kids to school and going over homework and carting the children to their sports practices and making breakfast and lunch and dinner and doing laundry and putting up with a dolt of a husband—if you don’t look at her, and see her as your equal partner in God’s new gift of life, which means you see her not only as your wife but as your sister in Christ, who happens to be her big brother. See, if you don’t treat her as you should, then God is going to look at you, as you are trying to talk to him, and he is going to say, ‘Hey, knucklehead, when you start treating her like you should, I’ll be happy to pay close attention to your prayers.”

What God wants for us to understand is that there is a connection between our listening to him, and his listening to us. We are supposed to go to his Word, where he speaks, and find out what he says. We are to then take it into our hearts and minds, so that it effects our behavior and actions. He then finds it a joyful thing when we come to talk with him, to have a seat and listen for awhile, because we’ve been showing how much we listen to him when he speaks.

This is what I saw confirmed when I read Proverbs 28:9 this morning,

Anyone who turns his ear away from hearing my instruction—
even his prayer is detestable.

Did you catch that? Not only does he not want to listen, as in hear and respond, but the very sound of the prayer of an unlistening, disobedient child is detestable. It’s the same word God uses elsewhere when describing things he hates, that they are an abomination to him (Proverbs 6:16).

That is strong language. And I think he uses it because of the hypocrisy in asking a holy God to do something for us if we are flouting the things he tells us to do that will lead to a good life. To answer someone like that would be awfully counter-productive and a waste of mercy and grace.

So what is a sinful husband—or any sinner, since we are all sinners (Romans 3:10-11)—to do?

8 If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth. 9 But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.
My dear children, I am writing this to you so that you will not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate who pleads our case before the Father. He is Jesus Christ, the one who is truly righteous. 2 He himself is the sacrifice that atones for our sins—and not only our sins but the sins of all the world.
(1 John 1:8-9; 2:1-2; New Living Translation)
14 So then, since we have a great High Priest who has entered heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to what we believe. 15 This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin. 16 So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.
(Hebrews 4:14-16, New Living Translation)

God knows we’re all lawbreakers, so it’s not that he won’t listen, he just wants our contrition. All we need do is come in a state of humility to him, trusting in the sacrificial work and the powerful Name of his Son. We confess our sins, repent of our sins, and ask for forgiveness. And in this humbled, purified state, we now confidently make known our requests and spend time talking with our Father. And instead of being detestable, these prayers will rise like a sweet smelling fragrance to the One who loves us.

Father,

If we’re honest, sometimes your Word has an edge to it, and feels harsh. The idea of our prayers being detestable feels that way. But there is such mercy here. For had Solomon not written it, we wouldn’t know the connection between us listening to you, and you listening to us. This makes so much sense! Thank you for being clear about how to have and live a good life, where we hear your instruction, and you hear our prayers. Forgive us today, for the ways we have not listened to you, and have thus sinned against you. And fill us with your Spirit so that we may follow all you say.

Yes, and very amen, in Jesus’ name.

Pursuing the wise and good life with you,

Pastor Matthew

matthew@calvarystcloud.org

matthewmolesky.com

P.S. If you’d like to study some of the wisdom literature further, I highly recommend the Wisdom Series from The Bible Project, and their resources on the book of Proverbs.

Proverbs Thirty-One Day Reading Plan

August 14: Proverbs ch. 1

Aug. 15: ch. 2

Aug. 16: ch. 3

Aug. 17: ch. 4

Aug. 18: ch. 5

Aug. 19: Grace Day

Aug. 20: ch. 6

Aug. 21: ch. 7

Aug. 22: ch. 8

Aug. 23: ch. 9

Aug. 24: ch. 10

Aug. 25: ch. 11

Aug. 26: Grace Day

Aug. 27: ch. 12

Aug. 28: ch. 13

Aug. 29: ch. 14

Aug. 30: ch. 15

Aug. 31: ch. 16

Sept. 1: ch. 17

Sept. 2: Grace Day

Sept. 3: ch. 18

Sept. 4: ch. 19

Sept. 5: ch. 20

Sept. 6: ch. 21

Sept. 7: ch. 22

Sept. 8: ch. 23

Sept. 9: Grace Day

Sept. 10: ch. 24

Sept. 11: ch. 25

Sept. 12: ch. 26

Sept. 13: ch. 27

Sept. 14: ch. 28

Sept. 15: ch. 29

Sept. 16: Grace Day

Sept. 17: ch. 30

Sept. 18: ch. 31

Day Twenty-Seven: A Helpful Tip From Inigo Montoya

September 13, 2018

One of the all-time movie classics is The Princess Bride. In the story, the beautiful Princess Bride is abducted in a complex scheme and escape, lead by the dastardly Sicilian, Vizzini. Vizzini is assisted in the abduction by the dashing Spaniard, Inigo Montoya, and the gentle giant, Fezzik. But there is one snag in their plan—Westley, the Princess Bride’s sweetheart and now the Dread Pirate Roberts, is hot on their heels as they attempt to steal away with the Princess.

Over and over again, Vizzini and his cohorts fail in their attempts to get Westley off their trail, to which Vizzini keeps exclaiming, “Inconceivable!”

And one of my favorite scenes in the movie is where Inigo finally confronts the scheming and plotting Vizzini after another exclamation of “Inconceivable!”, and says, “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

Which is a great lesson for biblical interpretation. So often, we grow up in the church hearing a passage of Scripture along with its popularized, pithy application, without really having thought about it in context or in depth. And in some cases, I think the author would come along and say, “You keep using that passage. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

Enter this popular, Christian-coffee-cup Bible verse:

Iron sharpens iron,
and one person sharpens another.
(Proverbs 27:17, Christian Standard Bible)

In my experience, this one gets thrown around quite a bit by the male of the species, in some kind of chest bumping exercise of what masculine friendship looks like. In a mere moment, some bit of advice or wisdom is shared from one dude to another, to which he replies, extending his hand for a fist-bump, “As iron sharpens iron, man.”

“I do not think it means what you think it means.”

Don’t get me wrong. I’m grateful for little moments of encouragement that can happen between men, and women as well, for this passage applies to all genders. But I think this saying of wisdom is meant to be applied more robustly and extensively. It seems likely there is an assumed bond of community that is able to withstand the process of sharpening. For what does getting sharpened look like?

It’s likely not the quick, momentary sharing of a bit of advice. Rather, it is the process of one person looking closely at another person, finding the rough edges and notches and imperfections present—largely due to sin and fallenness—and then discovering what will be necessary to smooth them out and knock them off. And that will involve grinding, and placing that person against the whetstone of your sanctifying input, and withstanding the sparks that will fly as a result, so that the other person may be left “sharpened.”

Further, it means that the one receiving all of that must be open to the process. They will need to be vulnerable, and fight against defensiveness, and listen carefully to all that is bound up in the grinding and smoothing influence of another person getting into the details of their lives. It means admitting they are a sinner, that there exist notches and imperfections, and submitting themselves to the often painful process of sharpening.

In my experience, rarely does this involve high-fives and chest-bumping and knucks being exchanged. While it will end in the joy of a new level of maturity, the process is often difficult, and is always humbling. And a big part of that is because all of this involves knowing, and being truly known.

Deitrich Bonhoeffer reflected on this challenge in his book, Life Together:

He who is alone with his sin is utterly alone. It may be that Christians, notwithstanding corporate worship, common prayer, and all their fellowship in service, may still be left to their loneliness. The final break-through to fellowship does not occur, because, though they have fellowship with one another as believers and as devout people, they do not have fellowship as the undevout, as sinners. The pious fellowship permits no one to be a sinner. So everybody must conceal his sin from himself and from the fellowship. We dare not be sinners. Many Christians are unthinkably horrified when a real sinner is suddenly discovered among the righteous. So we remain alone with our sin, living in lies and hypocrisy. The fact is that we are sinners!
But it is the grace of the Gospel, which is so hard for the pious to understand, that it confronts us with the truth and says: You are a sinner, a great, desperate sinner; now come, as the sinner that you are, to God who loves you. He wants you as you are; He does not want anything from you, a sacrifice, a work; He wants you alone. “My son, give me thine heart” (Prov. 23.26). God has come to you to save the sinner. Be glad! This message is liberation through truth. You can hide nothing from God. The mask you wear before men will do you no good before Him. He wants to see you as you are, He wants to be gracious to you. You do not have to go on lying to yourself and your brothers, as if you were without sin; you can dare to be a sinner. Thank God for that; He loves the sinner but He hates sin . . .

As Jared Wilson has recently pointed out, when we try to hide our sin, our pain, our shame, our brokenness, and do our best to maintain the illusion that we have it all together, we are a bigger failure than we have even feared. And the reasons that we don’t live transparently with each other—opening ourselves up to sharpening—is because we are afraid, and we are embarrassed, and we don’t want to be judged.

And the reason other people in the church don’t do that with us is because they are afraid, and embarrassed, and they don’t want to be judged.

And we’ve all probably been burned at least once by someone we opened up to in a “sharpening” event, because all they did was judge, condemn, or use it against us.

To which Wilson responds,

And what all of this amounts to is a distrust in God himself. I know people are mean, I know people are judgmental, I know people act weird and get messy and cause problems and are really inefficient for the ways we normally like to do church—but if we believe in the gospel, we don’t have a choice any longer to live in the dark.
How about we stop being shocked to find sinners among the “pious” and start shocking the fearful with grace?

That is the wisdom of one person sharpening another.

It will take time.

It will take effort.

It will require grace.

It will demand faith and trust.

And it will be worth it.

Iron sharpens iron,

and one person sharpens another.

Father,

Thank you for the grace of community. By sending your Son to rescue us from sin, through him, you made us perfect; and by adopting us into a family, through them, you will make us good. So help us not to act shocked when we find sinners among us who need sharpening. And help us not to act shocked when we are told we are a sinner who needs sharpening! The only way this will happen is if it is all bathed in your Holy Spirit, so send him to do your purifying work in and through us.

Yes, and very amen, in Jesus’ name.


Pursuing the wise and good life with you,

Pastor Matthew

matthew@calvarystcloud.org

matthewmolesky.com


P.S. If you’d like to study some of the wisdom literature further, I highly recommend the Wisdom Series from The Bible Project, and their resources on the book of Proverbs.


Proverbs Thirty-One Day Reading Plan

August 14: Proverbs ch. 1

Aug. 15: ch. 2

Aug. 16: ch. 3

Aug. 17: ch. 4

Aug. 18: ch. 5

Aug. 19: Grace Day


Aug. 20: ch. 6

Aug. 21: ch. 7

Aug. 22: ch. 8

Aug. 23: ch. 9

Aug. 24: ch. 10

Aug. 25: ch. 11

Aug. 26: Grace Day


Aug. 27: ch. 12

Aug. 28: ch. 13

Aug. 29: ch. 14

Aug. 30: ch. 15

Aug. 31: ch. 16

Sept. 1: ch. 17

Sept. 2: Grace Day


Sept. 3: ch. 18

Sept. 4: ch. 19

Sept. 5: ch. 20

Sept. 6: ch. 21

Sept. 7: ch. 22

Sept. 8: ch. 23

Sept. 9: Grace Day


Sept. 10: ch. 24

Sept. 11: ch. 25

Sept. 12: ch. 26

Sept. 13: ch. 27

Sept. 14: ch. 28

Sept. 15: ch. 29

Sept. 16: Grace Day


Sept. 17: ch. 30

Sept. 18: ch. 31

Day Twenty-Six: A Morning Conversation With King Solomon

September 12, 2018

A conversation that happened this morning as I came upon a visitor in our fireplace room….

Me: Good morning, Solomon. How are you this morning?

Solomon: Fine, thank you.

Me: I’d just like to say that I’ve really appreciated your writings on wisdom that I have been reading over the past few weeks. I’ve been challenged and encouraged with how your insights into the way things work in the world have opened up the possibility of a good life for me, and my family, and my church family.

Solomon: I’m glad you’ve found them helpful. While I made many mistakes in my life, as I’m sure you’ve read about, I can say the one really good choice I made was to ask God for wisdom when he gave me the opportunity to ask for whatever I wanted (2 Chronicles 1:7). It was a joy to pass along that gift through thousands of proverbs to bless my people, and now it appears, you and yours.

Me: Absolutely! They have been a blessing. Although I must say, at times I’ve had to really work to understand and apply them to my living. Take, for example, this set of proverbs recorded here. Let me read them to you….

Don’t answer a fool according to his foolishness
or you’ll be like him yourself.
Answer a fool according to his foolishness
or he’ll become wise in his own eyes.
(Proverbs 26:4-5, Christian Standard Bible)

Can you guess where I’m confused? First, you say “Don’t answer a fool according to his foolishness,” and then you say, “Answer a fool according to his foolishness.” Which is it?

Solomon: (with a chuckle) I can see how you might be confused, Matthew. But think about wisdom for a moment. A large part of living a life of wisdom is understanding the circumstances we find ourselves in day-to-day. In one moment, you may respond to someone or a particular event in one way, but in another moment, with circumstances that appear almost exactly the same, but have ever-so-slight differences, you would respond in another way. That is what I am trying to get across in these two little sayings. I didn’t put them right next to each other to confuse you, but to instruct you.

Me: OK, I think I follow, but could you explain it a bit further for me?

Solomon: Sure! It’s probably first important to clarify what a fool is, because in this section of my writings I had a number of things to say about such folks. I was trying to create a ‘Portrait of a Fool’ if you will, in chapter 25:8 through 26:12 in your Bible there.

Me: Sounds good. So what is a fool?

Solomon: A fool, as you might imagine, is someone who lacks sound judgment. He is devoid of wisdom. She acts in a brutish way, often with an association with insolence, ungodliness, and shamelessness. So you can see how responding to such a person immediately brings challenges.

Me: That’s a great point. I’ve dealt with such people before, and what seems so hard in the moment is their inability to actually listen.

Solomon: Exactly! That’s part of what I am getting at with these paired proverbs. I want you to have two choices in your response toolkit. When dealing with a person like this, you must assess their potential response based on the interaction. There will be times when the proper response to a fool will be to ignore them completely—that’s the first proverb. For example, if someone is taking great delight in scoffing at Christianity with witty and yet profane attacks or with specious arguments against the word of God, it would be best to follow King Hezekiah’s words concerning Rabshakeh’s blasphemy and not answer him (2 Kings 18). Are you following me?

Me: Yes, I think I get the first proverb now.

Solomon: Good—you see how to respond in the first instance. But there will be other times, with different circumstances, where it may be our duty to answer a fool in his foolishness, but not according to his foolishness. In such a case, our silence may be taken for defeat, unanswered words may be deemed unanswerable. An answer may therefore be called for, which is what I am getting at in the second proverb. So then you must answer the fool—“not in his foolish manner, but in the manner that his foolishness requires” (Fuller). In this way, your answer would not be according to his folly, but according to your wisdom. Such words would, as I have said elsewhere, be as sharp as rods, and the fool’s back needs them.

Me: That is so helpful! It reminds me what I have so often said to questions of what one should do in a particular situation—“It depends.”

Solomon: Yes, you’ve got it. My proverbs are not meant to give the exhaustive truth on a given subject, rather, each one must be read in the context of all that I have written on wisdom. And you have a benefit that my contemporaries did not—you live in the age of the New Covenant, and of the Great King that came from my father’s line, The Messiah and Savior of all, Jesus. He set a far better example than I ever could have. He always knew the right thing to say at just the right time. His silence and his answers were equally instructive and so worthy of his glory and wisdom. So often, his silence could convey a dignified rebuke, and his answer straighten out the confusion of his contentious enemies. So I could give you no better wisdom than to prayerfully, meditatively study his example, in the knowledge that it would communicate to you a large measure of his divine wisdom.

Me: Wow. That’s powerful Solomon. This time together has been precious and thought-provoking. Thank you. Would you mind praying for me before you go?

Solomon: It would be my joy.

Father,

Without you, I wouldn’t have had a thing to say worth saying. Thank you for the gift of wisdom that you gave so freely, and continue to use to help my friend, and his family, and his church family. Through the presence and work of your Spirit, continue to help them grow in the grace and knowledge of our Master and Savior, Jesus Christ. May they increasingly be like him, knowing what to say, and when to say it, and to do so in truth, grace, and love, just as he always did.

Yes, and very amen, in Jesus’s name.

Solomon: Have a blessed day, Matthew.

Me: You too brother!

I hope you enjoyed and found helpful my morning conversation with Solomon. I was greatly helped by some old, dead commentators in this little article, and their thoughts and ideas are littered throughout.

If you’d like to continue reading through the 31 Proverbs along with me, you’ll find the plan below.

Grace and Peace to you,

Pastor Matthew

matthew@calvarystcloud.org

www.matthewmolesky.com

P.S. If you’d like to study some of the wisdom literature further, I highly recommend the Wisdom Series from The Bible Project, and their resources on the book of Proverbs.

Proverbs Thirty-One Day Reading Plan

August 14: Proverbs ch. 1

Aug. 15: ch. 2

Aug. 16: ch. 3

Aug. 17: ch. 4

Aug. 18: ch. 5

Aug. 19: Grace Day


Aug. 20: ch. 6

Aug. 21: ch. 7

Aug. 22: ch. 8

Aug. 23: ch. 9

Aug. 24: ch. 10

Aug. 25: ch. 11

Aug. 26: Grace Day


Aug. 27: ch. 12

Aug. 28: ch. 13

Aug. 29: ch. 14

Aug. 30: ch. 15

Aug. 31: ch. 16

Sept. 1: ch. 17

Sept. 2: Grace Day


Sept. 3: ch. 18

Sept. 4: ch. 19

Sept. 5: ch. 20

Sept. 6: ch. 21

Sept. 7: ch. 22

Sept. 8: ch. 23

Sept. 9: Grace Day


Sept. 10: ch. 24

Sept. 11: ch. 25

Sept. 12: ch. 26

Sept. 13: ch. 27

Sept. 14: ch. 28

Sept. 15: ch. 29

Sept. 16: Grace Day


Sept. 17: ch. 30

Sept. 18: ch. 31

Day Twenty-Five: Strange But True

September 11, 2018

If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat,
and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink,
for you will heap burning coals on his head,
and Yahweh will reward you.
(Proverbs 25:21-22, New Living Translation)

“If your enemy…”

The word Solomon chooses here, translated ‘enemy,’ is one that literally means ‘hater.’ It has behind it the force of someone filled and consumed with intense emotions of dislike toward another, and therefore, ones enemy. And Solomon wants to take up the way of wisdom for responding to a person like that when they begin to take actions against you expressing their hatred of you.

Namely, find out if they are hungry, and if so, set a meal before them;

ask if they are a bit parched, and if so, provide a refreshing glass of ice water, with a little wedge of lemon, if you please;

do all you can to meet their most basic needs and provide them comfort and aid.

Your enemy. Do this for your enemy.

Is that not one of the most counterintuitive things you’ve ever heard!? Everything in you says, “That’s not how I treat my enemies! That is how I treat my friends!”

So what is going on here? Why would Yahweh, via Solomon, instruct us in this way?

One of the best ways to interpret the Bible is to let the Bible interpret the Bible. Often, if we look at how a New Testament author uses and applies an Old Testament text, it illuminates the meaning of that text. So I looked in the New Testament to see if this proverb was quoted anywhere, and it is.

Paul is writing to the Romans, and he has spent a great deal of the letter arguing some pretty weighty theological principles and the workings of salvation. We are going to join in near the end of the letter, where he is now applying and working those principles out. Namely, he is describing what theology looks like in the life of a disciple of Jesus, and he is going to use our proverb under study as a foundational part of that description. We’ll pick it up in the twelfth chapter, verse nine…

9 Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. 10 Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other. 11 Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically. 12 Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying. 13 When God’s people are in need, be ready to help them. Always be eager to practice hospitality.
14 Bless those who persecute you. Don’t curse them; pray that God will bless them. 15 Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep. 16 Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all!
17 Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable. 18 Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone.
19 Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say,
“I will take revenge;
I will pay them back,”
says the Lord.
20 Instead,
“If your enemies are hungry, feed them.
If they are thirsty, give them something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap
burning coals of shame on their heads.”
21 Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good.
(Romans 12:9-21, New Living Translation)


Do you see?

We asked above why Yahweh, via Solomon, would instruct us the way he did in the proverb. Paul has helped us find the answer—because it is an expression of the counterintuitive love that marks a follower of Yahweh as different from the way our broken world works.

In Paul’s words in the way of wisdom…

Don’t just pretend to love, really love.

Love with genuine affection.

Serve Jesus this way, enthusiastically.

Bless those who persecute you; don’t curse them, pray that God will bless them.

Never pay back evil with more evil.

Do these things so everyone will see you are honorable.

Dear friends, never take revenge, when someone, an enemy, expresses their hatred and aversion toward you. Instead, leave that to the righteous anger of God. And do you know how he will heap the burning coals of his wrath and their shame upon their heads? Through an expression of your love for your enemy, by giving them a meal of good food and drink in the face of their expressions of hatred. That will cause the world, and maybe your enemy, to take notice. You may even win your enemy!

Jesus said it this way, maybe with Solomon’s words in his head,

43 “You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy.
44 But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! 45 In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike.
46 If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much. 47 If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even pagans do that.
(Matthew 5:43-47, New Living Translation)


Dear friend, Jesus has the right to expect such love because this is the very love he has shown for us—he loved us, even when we were enemies. He has given his body as the bread of life, and in partaking we are rescued and satisfied. He has given himself as living water, and in drinking, we will never be thirsty again. He has given his blood to cleanse us, and in confession we are forgiven and purified.

And now he wants us to follow his example and love others the way he loved us. For where would we be if he had only been kind to his friends, and those who loved him?


Father,


It is a stunning thing to consider that while we were yet your enemies, you made it possible to be reconciled with you, made sons and daughters, and given a future and a hope, all by the death of your Son. You have shown your love for us—we who were enemies, while we were enemies—by having Him die for us. O Jesus, thank you! Greater love has no man than this, that you would lay down your life for us. Such an expression of love, repeated through your people, down through the centuries has been a testimony to your saving power and work. So help us, Father. Fill us with your Spirit so that we might love our enemies well, that we might bring you glory, and may even win them for your sake, and their joy.

Yes, and very amen, in Jesus’ name.


Pursuing the wise and good life with you,


Pastor Matthew

matthew@calvarystcloud.org

matthewmolesky.com

P.S. If you’d like to study some of the wisdom literature further, I highly recommend the Wisdom Series from The Bible Project, and their resources on the book of Proverbs.


Proverbs Thirty-One Day Reading Plan

August 14: Proverbs ch. 1

Aug. 15: ch. 2

Aug. 16: ch. 3

Aug. 17: ch. 4

Aug. 18: ch. 5

Aug. 19: Grace Day


Aug. 20: ch. 6

Aug. 21: ch. 7

Aug. 22: ch. 8

Aug. 23: ch. 9

Aug. 24: ch. 10

Aug. 25: ch. 11

Aug. 26: Grace Day


Aug. 27: ch. 12

Aug. 28: ch. 13

Aug. 29: ch. 14

Aug. 30: ch. 15

Aug. 31: ch. 16

Sept. 1: ch. 17

Sept. 2: Grace Day


Sept. 3: ch. 18

Sept. 4: ch. 19

Sept. 5: ch. 20

Sept. 6: ch. 21

Sept. 7: ch. 22

Sept. 8: ch. 23

Sept. 9: Grace Day


Sept. 10: ch. 24

Sept. 11: ch. 25

Sept. 12: ch. 26

Sept. 13: ch. 27

Sept. 14: ch. 28

Sept. 15: ch. 29

Sept. 16: Grace Day


Sept. 17: ch. 30

Sept. 18: ch. 31

Day Twenty-Four: God Knows You Know

September 10, 2018

“First They Came….”
They came first for the Communists, and I did not speak up—
    Because I was not a Communist.
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak up—
    Because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak up—
    Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for the Catholics, and I did not speak up—
    Because I was a Protestant.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

This poetic statement is attributed to Pastor Martin Niemoeller, and has become a legendary expression of the lesson of the Holocaust. It reflects the tragedy of his (and large swaths of the German church along with him) all-too-late opposition to the Nazi regime. Niemoller eventually became a vocal opponent of the Nazis, and was sent to a concentration camp, which the poem reflects in its final line.

It is all too easy to say that we would act differently than the characters of history past were we given the opportunity. Had I been born and grown up in the time and place of Niemoeller, I certainly hope I would have spoken up at the very beginning, and stood with the persecuted. I certainly hope I would not have made excuses, like “I didn’t know,” as many in Niemoller’s time did (in an interview in 1946 he admitted, “We knew it, it was printed in the newspapers.”). I certainly hope I have learned some bit of wisdom from this shocking lesson of history.

But the lesson stretches even further back. It can be found in one of the thirty Sayings of the Wise (Proverbs 22:17-24:22) written by Solomon. Here is the twenty-fifth saying:

Rescue those who are unjustly sentenced to die;
save them as they stagger to their death.
Don’t excuse yourself by saying, “Look, we didn’t know.”
For God understands all hearts, and he sees you.
He who guards your soul knows you knew.
He will repay all people as their actions deserve.
(Proverbs 24:11-12, New Living Translation)

This is a sobering statement of wisdom from Solomon. He makes it impossible to miss God’s passion for justice that should mark those who say they are his children and followers. We are to rescue the perishing. But who are the ones we are charged to rescue?

It could be that this is a metaphor for the spiritual. Namely, we should rescue those around us who are spiritually blind, trapped in the kingdom of darkness. We must proclaim good news to them, so that they might be saved and transferred to the kingdom of the Son.

But I don’t think that’s what Solomon is after. It seems this wisdom saying should be understood from a plain reading of the text. Namely, when we find that someone has been unjustly condemned to die, we must take extraordinary measures to secure their release. It would have been good for Pastor Niemoller to have paid attention to this saying in the midst of the extermination of the Jews in his country.

And we must be careful here. It would be easy to condemn the actions of this German pastor in the 1940s. But as an American pastor in 2018, how are my actions holding up?

Every day in my country, an estimated 3,000 of the most vulnerable people in our society are unjustly condemned to die through the horrific act of physician-assisted abortion. This is justified by its supporters because these babies are inconvenient, and the timing isn’t right to bring them into the world. Or, they are deformed or sick, and would therefore be a burden on society, so it’s better they not continue to live.

And these actions by our collective culture have had a devastating effect on the valuation of life, and have lead to a culture of death. Eight jurisdictions in the United States now have legalized physician-assisted suicide, a practice which has largely impacted another class of the vulnerable in our society—the sick and the old. How long before what is allowed, is expected? How long before the state comes for me in my latter years, shows the burden I have become on society for my care as an older person, and expects me to prematurely end my life for the good of the state? Who will stand up for me?

The testimony of Niemoller should remind us that this potential picture of the future is no stretch of the imagination. They came for him eventually, and there was no one left to speak for him.

Friend, I understand that these are complicated and controversial issues, and I have merely brought them up for consideration, and not dealt extensively with them. I am unable to do that in a short meditation on this saying of Solomon. But we must prayerfully consider that,

God understands all hearts, and he sees us.
He who guards our souls, knows what we know.
And he will repay all people as their actions deserve.

So, ask God today, What will be your actions, in our time, to protect the Sanctity of Life?


Father,

I know you won’t call all of us to work at a Pregnancy Resource Center. You won’t move all of us to become legislators or lawyers who would be able to effect change in the policies, statutes, and laws of our land to protect the Sanctity of Life at the beginning, end, and every year in between. But it seems that this proverb you have given says we should—all of us—be involved in some way when we know what is happening around us. So help us, Father. Make it clear, through the leading of your Holy Spirit, and the input of trusted friends and counselors, what action we could take—and soon—to rescue those who need rescuing around us.

Yes, and very amen, in Jesus’ name.


Pursuing the wise and good life with you,


Pastor Matthew

matthew@calvarystcloud.org

matthewmolesky.com


P.S. If you’d like to study some of the wisdom literature further, I highly recommend the Wisdom Series from The Bible Project, and their resources on the book of Proverbs.


Proverbs Thirty-One Day Reading Plan

August 14: Proverbs ch. 1

Aug. 15: ch. 2

Aug. 16: ch. 3

Aug. 17: ch. 4

Aug. 18: ch. 5

Aug. 19: Grace Day


Aug. 20: ch. 6

Aug. 21: ch. 7

Aug. 22: ch. 8

Aug. 23: ch. 9

Aug. 24: ch. 10

Aug. 25: ch. 11

Aug. 26: Grace Day


Aug. 27: ch. 12

Aug. 28: ch. 13

Aug. 29: ch. 14

Aug. 30: ch. 15

Aug. 31: ch. 16

Sept. 1: ch. 17

Sept. 2: Grace Day


Sept. 3: ch. 18

Sept. 4: ch. 19

Sept. 5: ch. 20

Sept. 6: ch. 21

Sept. 7: ch. 22

Sept. 8: ch. 23

Sept. 9: Grace Day


Sept. 10: ch. 24

Sept. 11: ch. 25

Sept. 12: ch. 26

Sept. 13: ch. 27

Sept. 14: ch. 28

Sept. 15: ch. 29

Sept. 16: Grace Day


Sept. 17: ch. 30

Sept. 18: ch. 31

31 Proverbs: Grace Day for Sunday 09 September

September 9, 2018

If you’ve been reading along in this little series, you’ve now read 23 of 31 chapters of Proverbs—well done friend!

Today is a “Grace Day.”

So take the day off. Read another portion of the Holy Scriptures, or look back and review Proverbs 1-23 for some of your favorite bits of wisdom that maybe you underlined or highlighted, or a note you wrote in the margins of your Bible.

We’ll begin again tomorrow.

Pursuing the wise and good life with you,

Pastor Matthew
matthew@calvarystcloud.org

matthewmolesky.com

P.S. If you’d like to study some of the wisdom literature further, I highly recommend the Wisdom Series from The Bible Project, and their resources on the book of Proverbs.


Proverbs Thirty-One Day Reading Plan

August 14: Proverbs ch. 1

Aug. 15: ch. 2

Aug. 16: ch. 3

Aug. 17: ch. 4

Aug. 18: ch. 5

Aug. 19: Grace Day


Aug. 20: ch. 6

Aug. 21: ch. 7

Aug. 22: ch. 8

Aug. 23: ch. 9

Aug. 24: ch. 10

Aug. 25: ch. 11

Aug. 26: Grace Day


Aug. 27: ch. 12

Aug. 28: ch. 13

Aug. 29: ch. 14

Aug. 30: ch. 15

Aug. 31: ch. 16

Sept. 1: ch. 17

Sept. 2: Grace Day


Sept. 3: ch. 18

Sept. 4: ch. 19

Sept. 5: ch. 20

Sept. 6: ch. 21

Sept. 7: ch. 22

Sept. 8: ch. 23

Sept. 9: Grace Day


Sept. 10: ch. 24

Sept. 11: ch. 25

Sept. 12: ch. 26

Sept. 13: ch. 27

Sept. 14: ch. 28

Sept. 15: ch. 29

Sept. 16: Grace Day


Sept. 17: ch. 30

Sept. 18: ch. 31

Jeremiah

September 9, 2018

This past Sunday marked our entrance into the Prophets of the Exile: Jeremiah and Ezekiel. Given that the defeat of Israel and Judah by the empires of the Assyrians and Babylonians was a devastating, horrific, and tortuous series of events, you would rightly expect that these are weighty, dark, somber, and serious writings. And they are, which is just part of the challenge in understanding them and gleaning current implications for our lives from them.

But as is true of each and every book found in the Whole Story of the Bible, they are worth the investment of our time and effort. And so we begin with Jeremiah.

~~~~~

Jeremiah is the longest in the Bible. And I will admit it can seem daunting and overwhelming, partly because of its length, and I think partly because of its narrative form, which is filled with a great deal of poetic language. But once you get inside of it for a little while, you come to find it is a very compelling story. It reads like a novel, because it has vivid characters and a powerful, highly contrastive, fast-paced storyline.

So here’s what we need to do, we need to get inside this book. I want you to imagine the four main characters of our story — Yahweh,  Jerusalem-Judah (God’s people), Babylon (God’s hammer of justice), and Jeremiah (God’s messenger of judgment and grace)—as they move through the major scenes of this movie playing out in the theatre of your mind.

We will see Yahweh accusing, and warning, and judging both Israel, and then all nations, for the grave sins that they have committed. And friends, I mean grave. It will be hard to convey to you if you have not read this book, for the list of wickedness and darkness and ugliness and YUCK! is piled up, chapter after chapter, for over 30 chapters of material. And no one is getting out of this unscathed—priests, leaders, rulers, officials, prophets, parents, children, everyone—and it is a terrible and weighty and sobering scene set over decades.

Then, we will see Yahweh call a man, a priest, apparently the sole good man within all of Jerusalem-Judah, to be his messenger. To be his prophet, to proclaim to his own people, and to all people. We will see how this humbles him, tears at him, and in the end, exiles him.

And all of that will lead us to this climactic denouement and question—if people, even God’s people, can get this bad, can be this evil, if it be true that there is no one righteous, not even one, that every person like a wandering sheep has gone astray from the shepherd who loves them, if we are all still sinning sinners—what hope is there?

To find the answer to that question, and to explore the characters and scenes of this story, I invite you to watch or listen to my sermon on Jeremiah, which you can listen to here. And if you’d like to study it further, I commend the Jeremiah page over at the Bible Project.

And if you’d like to prepare for this coming Sunday at Calvary, please read the book of Lamentations, where we will explore how Jeremiah’s emotional response and plea in the midst of exile is a model for our own struggle in the midst of affliction and suffering.


Shalom,

Pastor Matthew

matthew@calvarystcloud.org

matthewmolesky.com

Day Twenty-Three: When You Feel Like Quitting, Remember Why You Started

September 8, 2018

Committing to any endeavor that takes time always carries with it the challenge of making it to the end. Refinishing that dresser. Repainting the downstairs. Reading all of War and Peace (or finishing any long-ish book for that matter). Completing the class you decided to take at the community college. Running a marathon. Taking up a new hobby. Learning a new sport. Trying to introduce a new habit into your life and routine. You often hit this pain-point, where you consider giving up. At such times, it can help to remind yourself why you started in the first place.

If you decided to join me about three weeks ago, we entered into 31 days working our way through Proverbs. Maybe it’s rare in your experience to spend 31 days at something. Maybe you’ve felt like quitting. Maybe you already have.

It seems to me that maybe Solomon planned for this when he sat down and put together Proverbs. I mean, hey, he was the wisest man who ever lived, so it stands to reason that he knew a thing or two about human nature. So he built in a little jolt to the senses to remind us why we are listening to him in the first place.

One of the helpful things in keeping a good thing going is to mix it up a bit. For example, I’m a runner. I generally enjoy my weekly running routine. But over the weeks, I can find myself not as motivated to keep at it. And one of my strategies to keep at it is to find a new running route.

Same habit—running.
But a fresh way of running.

So after hundreds of two-sentence, individual sayings of wisdom that have been hitting our eyes the last three weeks, lest they start to glaze over and we tap out, we get hit with this:

“LISTEN!”
(22:17)

Yeah, you there. Hey you! Lock in. Pay attention. Listen to what I’m saying. This is important. Don’t give up now, keep alert….

LISTEN to the words of the wise;
apply your heart to my instruction.
For it is good to keep these sayings in your heart
and always ready on your lips.
I am teaching you today—yes, you!
so you will trust in the Lord.
I have written thirty sayings for you,
filled with advice and knowledge.
In this way, you may know the truth…
(Proverbs 22:17-21, New Living Translation)

I love this.
Same habit—Proverbs.
But a fresh way of getting Proverbs.

Do you see it? It may just be Solomon knew we were thinking of tapping out on pursuing wisdom, by reading his complete works here. So he grabs our attention, and speaks very directly.


“Listen friend, here’s what I’ve done for you now, after all I’ve already told you. Let’s mix it up a bit. I’ve put together thirty sayings for you, and I’ve packed them full of advice and knowledge. And I’ve done this so that you may know the truth.

So listen.

Listen to the words of wisdom, and apply everything you are—your heart—to my instruction. Because it is going to be a really good thing for you to have these things branded on your heart and on the tip of your tongue, always ready for when you need them. That kind of readiness in life will lead to a good life.”


Huh. Helpful.

And it’s not just that he’s mixing up the delivery of wisdom. At the same time he gets our attention by shifting the writing, he also introduces this idea of why we started in the first place. Why we have committed to this exercise of reading through all these bits of instruction. You remember why, right?

There are a few options here for the answer to that question.

Because it is good to have these sayings on our heart (22:18).
Because who doesn’t want good advice and knowledge (22:20).
Because we want to live a wise and good life.
So that we may know the truth (22:21).

But are any of these really the reason we started 31 Proverbs? Is that really why we’ve been at this? It’s close, but that only counts in, well, you know.

No, Solomon gives us the reason not to quit on Proverbs. Here’s why we started—

“I am teaching you today—yes, you!
so you will trust in Yahweh.”
(Proverbs 17:19)


There it is. The reason why we are doing this and the foundation for all wisdom are one and the same thing—trust Yahweh. Trust in the One who hardwired wisdom into all the world, and made it the inner logic of everything (Proverbs 8). Our steadfast and faithful God is the headwater from which all the streams of wisdom flow, watering the garden of a good life.


So let’s keep pursuing wisdom together, friend. Let’s not quit on him.


Father,

Thank you for making wisdom the inner logic of everything. And what grace that you then gave us the code to understanding that, and how it all works, through the wisdom literature you placed in your Scriptures. Such a gift proves what Solomon reminds us—you are worth trusting. With our whole lives. With everything. So fill us with your Spirit today, Father, that we may gain a heart of wisdom that pulsates with an energy to endure and remain steadfast. We want to be like your Son, who had no quit in him when it came to pursuing and trusting you. Make it so.

Yes, and very amen, in Jesus’ name.

Pursuing the wise and good life with you,

Pastor Matthew

matthew@calvarystcloud.org

matthewmolesky.com

P.S. If you’d like to study some of the wisdom literature further, I highly recommend the Wisdom Series from The Bible Project, and their resources on the book of Proverbs.


Proverbs Thirty-One Day Reading Plan

August 14: Proverbs ch. 1

Aug. 15: ch. 2

Aug. 16: ch. 3

Aug. 17: ch. 4

Aug. 18: ch. 5

Aug. 19: Grace Day


Aug. 20: ch. 6

Aug. 21: ch. 7

Aug. 22: ch. 8

Aug. 23: ch. 9

Aug. 24: ch. 10

Aug. 25: ch. 11

Aug. 26: Grace Day


Aug. 27: ch. 12

Aug. 28: ch. 13

Aug. 29: ch. 14

Aug. 30: ch. 15

Aug. 31: ch. 16

Sept. 1: ch. 17

Sept. 2: Grace Day


Sept. 3: ch. 18

Sept. 4: ch. 19

Sept. 5: ch. 20

Sept. 6: ch. 21

Sept. 7: ch. 22

Sept. 8: ch. 23

Sept. 9: Grace Day


Sept. 10: ch. 24

Sept. 11: ch. 25

Sept. 12: ch. 26

Sept. 13: ch. 27

Sept. 14: ch. 28

Sept. 15: ch. 29

Sept. 16: Grace Day


Sept. 17: ch. 30

Sept. 18: ch. 31



Day Twenty-Two: Shepherding Our Child’s Heart

September 7, 2018

Every Thursday night is date night. For this reason, I really look forward to Thursday—it is a highlight in my week. I love date night, because I am in love with my bride, and, I really like her too.

Often, we spend our date nights with another couple with whom we are very close. Last night found us all together again, gathered around a table in a local restaurant, enjoying great food, good drink, and warm conversation. It was punctuated with a great deal of laughter, swirling in particular around shared stories of our children.

As I ponder our conversation this morning, I find it remarkable how each of our children — twelve of them between the two couples—have such unique and different qualities. So often, that makes the discipling of our progeny such a joy, with each soul showing us one aspect of God’s creativity, while actually bringing out something in us as parents we wouldn’t have discovered otherwise. And at other times, that uniqueness makes their discipling a challenge, for what works with one, does not work with another.

And that’s part of why parents go on dates and talk with others, isn’t it? To share the stories, and to share the strategies. “How did you handle when they did this?” “What did you say when they did that?” “You won’t believe what he said yesterday…” “I’m just not sure what to do here…” “Here’s how I handled it….”

It’s a good thing to share wisdom with one another. It’s an even better thing to share the wisdom of the One who made those little rascals, uh, I mean, darlings, in the first place.

A youngster’s heart is filled with foolishness,
but physical discipline will drive it far away.
(Proverbs 22:15, New Living Translation)

Hey, we love our children. But we can all say a hearty amen to that first line. Boy, howdy. And the wonder of this passage is the beautiful calling that God has given to every mom and every father. You are a shaper of the heart of your child. He has placed them in your hands, in the same way a potter is handed a lump of clay. And you take the spinning wheel of time, and the tough hand of discipline, and you are given the work of molding and forming them into wise adults that are then able to go and live a good life, one day, on their own.

And what God points out is that, as lovable as they most often are, the opposite of wisdom is bound up in those precious little hearts. The ESV renders this verse, “Folly is bound up in the heart of a child,” the CSB, “Foolishness is bound to the heart of a child,” the Message, “Young people are prone to foolishness and fads…”

Parents through the ages have often joked of their children, “I sure wish these things came with an instruction manual!” Proverbs steps in, as we have been learning, and says, “Here I am.” This is one place we may find guidance, skills we can apply to living, windows into the inner logic of how everything, including our children, works. The One who actually made your child should be trusted to tell you a thing or two on how to care for him or her.

And here God states a counter-cultural dictum—the rod of discipline will separate that foolishness from your young child. Physical discipline. And for those hesitating for a moment, note that the Creator of your child says elsewhere,

Those who spare the rod of discipline hate their children.
Those who love their children care enough to discipline them.
(Proverbs 13:24, New Living Translation)
A refusal to correct is a refusal to love;
love your children by disciplining them.
(Proverbs 13:24, The Message)

“A refusal to love”? “Hate”?

Isn’t that a little strong?

No, it’s not.

For what God is telling us is that early discipleship of our children is critical for how they will turn out as they grow and get older. If you don’t drive that folly, bound to their heart, out early, it will stay with them. And the folly of a two-year old is far less dangerous and damaging then the folly of an eighteen-year old. The Creator of our children says, “Direct your children onto the right path, and when they are older, they will not leave it (Proverbs 22:6).” I think the converse is probably true, if you leave them on the wrong path of folly, they will likely not leave that either.

My fellow parent, discipleship isn’t always easy. As a dad, I get that. Believe me, I do. But parental discipleship is one of the greatest callings in the world. As a friend of mine says, it is “changing the world one child at a time.” So let’s do this. Let’s love our children really well, by disciplining them so that they head out into that big, wide, dangerous, beautiful world prepared to live a wise life, a good life, in the Jesus way.


Father,

Thank you for the weighty and wondrous, the difficult and delightful, calling of discipling our children. Just like in every other area of our lives, you do not command what you do not promise. You have instructed us to raise up our children in discipline and instruction, and you tell us that those things will come from you (Ephesians 6:4). So help us today, Father, we pray. Help us love our children through discipline—loving, thoughtful, intentional, upbuilding, restorative, healing, maturing discipline. Fill us with your guiding and controlling Spirit, so we do this in his power, and not under the influence of our sinful flesh.

Yes, and very amen, in Jesus’ name.


Pursuing the wise and good life with you,

Pastor Matthew

matthew@calvarystcloud.org

matthewmolesky.com


P.S. If you’d like to study some of the wisdom literature further, I highly recommend the Wisdom Series from The Bible Project, and their resources on the book of Proverbs.


Proverbs Thirty-One Day Reading Plan

August 14: Proverbs ch. 1

Aug. 15: ch. 2

Aug. 16: ch. 3

Aug. 17: ch. 4

Aug. 18: ch. 5

Aug. 19: Grace Day


Aug. 20: ch. 6

Aug. 21: ch. 7

Aug. 22: ch. 8

Aug. 23: ch. 9

Aug. 24: ch. 10

Aug. 25: ch. 11

Aug. 26: Grace Day


Aug. 27: ch. 12

Aug. 28: ch. 13

Aug. 29: ch. 14

Aug. 30: ch. 15

Aug. 31: ch. 16

Sept. 1: ch. 17

Sept. 2: Grace Day


Sept. 3: ch. 18

Sept. 4: ch. 19

Sept. 5: ch. 20

Sept. 6: ch. 21

Sept. 7: ch. 22

Sept. 8: ch. 23

Sept. 9: Grace Day


Sept. 10: ch. 24

Sept. 11: ch. 25

Sept. 12: ch. 26

Sept. 13: ch. 27

Sept. 14: ch. 28

Sept. 15: ch. 29

Sept. 16: Grace Day


Sept. 17: ch. 30

Sept. 18: ch. 31

Day Twenty-One: A Secret Gift

September 6, 2018

It was my first trip out of the United States (well, I guess that’s not completely true, I had been to Canada, but does a trip to America’s hat really count?). I was headed to Cameroon with three other men to equip students at a small seminary in the northern part of the country.

As we stepped off the Air France jet I was slapped in the face by hot, dense air that was laden with scents foreign and challenging to my western sensibilities. Along with other weary travelers, we walked down the stairs that had been rolled up to the plane, proceeded across the tarmac, and made our way into a bustling airport to find where our luggage would be waiting. This last bit was really important, for our luggage contained not only all our personal supplies, but we also had around twenty rubbermaid containers filled with books and materials for our African students. We were eager to see if everything had made it safely with us.

As we approached the area where the unloading was occurring, we noticed a separate, small holding area where numerous pieces of cases and trunks—including our containers!—had been placed, surrounded by a few guards. It was then that we were told we may have to pay a “fee” to have our possessions released. As a virgin international traveler I asked, “A fee?” Yes, a fee. Well, really, a bribe.

Based on conversations with a number of my missionary friends, it seems that this is not all that uncommon in the developing world. In fact, some countries and regions have elaborate systems of bribes built into normal, everyday governmental processes by which cultures operate and function. It is built right into the economy.

In spite of that, my conscience and sense of justice reared up with indignation at the thought of taking part in a bribe. Because that’s wrong. It is not the right way to get what you want. Because I am a Christian, I live by a biblical set of standards, which guide me in the path of wisdom to pursue and live a good life. A righteous life.

A secret gift calms anger;
a bribe under the table
pacifies fury.
(Proverbs 21:14, New Living Translation)

Wait, what!?! Did the Bible just condone a “secret gift,” and a bribe given under the table?! A plain reading of the text makes it seem that way. But let’s pause here for a moment, because as I sat in my favorite Bible reading chair early this morning, and my eyes hit and stuck on this text, here is what struck me—this is what makes Bible reading fun!

For here in this proverb, I was faced with a challenge to my thinking. I read something that didn’t make sense to my understanding of the world. Because if you’re like me, you were probably brought up being taught that bribery is wrong. We have laws against it in our country. Depending on the level of offense, you can be heavily fined and serve jail time for bribery. And this is important, because Proverbs is the book of wisdom, and it seems this little saying is condoning a crime.

So what’s going on here? How do I understand what is being presented as wisdom?

Again, here is where the fun of Bible study happens. You read something. You don’t understand it. And now, prayerfully, thoughtfully, with the help of the Spirit who will give you understanding in everything (2 Timothy 2:7), you dig in to figure out what’s going on. Shall we?

The first thing I do when I’m trying to get my head around a text is look at some other translations (including the original languages). Maybe it was just the New Living Translation that rendered it this way. The Bible can’t be saying bribery is right.


English Standard Version—
A gift in secret averts anger,
and a concealed bribe, strong wrath.
New International Version—
A gift given in secret soothes anger,
and a bribe concealed in the cloak pacifies great wrath.
Christian Standard Bible—
A secret gift soothes anger,
and a covert bribe, fierce rage.

Ok, based on some other translations, the plain reading is holding. There appears to be a consensus among a number of gifted translation teams on how to render this Proverb into the English language. And it seems to be saying a bribe is OK. So, how can that be?

As we think on this passage further, we see how important it is not to merely do a word search of the Bible, and use the results to justify each and every potential action we may be considering. For example, if I had pulled up my Logos Bible Software in that airport in Cameroon and searched “bribe” to see what I should do, this verse would have popped up, and maybe I decide on a quick read, “Hey, it’s ok to give a bribe to this person to release our luggage.”

But does this verse apply to my airport circumstance?

Read closely, we find it may be the proverb refers to a disagreement between two parties. Imagine that one person has offended another person in some way, arguments have occurred, and language—and people—have become heated. In the words of the proverb, “angry” and “furious.” So now the one causing offense finds themselves as a defendant in a litigation. A court case. What are they to do?

This proverb is a kind of observational proverb, offering some wisdom for how to cool the situation down and get it resolved before it must come before a judge. Offer a gift to soothe the anger, extend a bribe—a gift of money or other inducement—to assuage fierce rage. In our day, in such a case, we would sometimes call it a ‘settlement,’ and might even seal the terms (“a secret gift”) so no one but the parties would know.

Huh. Read that way, choosing and understanding words in context carefully, we see wisdom here. A gift, and a bribe, are not always a bad or wrong thing, and can actually bring about good, and a good life.

Would this reading have made a bribe at that airport OK? I’m not sure. I’m glad it didn’t come to that, because they ended up giving us our luggage.

Would it make a bribe to someone we’re dealing with, who is furious with us, OK? Just ask that harried mom with a screaming toddler in the cart at the grocery store about to give the child a candy-bar to keep quiet, and see what she says.

Father,

I love your Word! It is truly a lamp for my feet, and a light for my path. What a joy it is to dig in and find treasures of simple and wonderfully practical, every-day wisdom for a good life. Thank you for your Spirit, who gives us understanding in everything, when we apply our minds to think hard about what you’ve said. And Father, please keep opening our eyes, to see wonders in the Bible.

Yes, and very amen, in Jesus’ name.


Pursuing the wise and good life with you,

Pastor Matthew

matthew@calvarystcloud.org

matthewmolesky.com


P.S. If you’d like to study some of the wisdom literature further, I highly recommend the Wisdom Series  from The Bible Project, and their resources on the book of Proverbs.


Proverbs Thirty-One Day Reading Plan

August 14: Proverbs ch. 1

Aug. 15: ch. 2

Aug. 16: ch. 3

Aug. 17: ch. 4

Aug. 18: ch. 5

Aug. 19: Grace Day


Aug. 20: ch. 6

Aug. 21: ch. 7

Aug. 22: ch. 8

Aug. 23: ch. 9

Aug. 24: ch. 10

Aug. 25: ch. 11

Aug. 26: Grace Day


Aug. 27: ch. 12

Aug. 28: ch. 13

Aug. 29: ch. 14

Aug. 30: ch. 15

Aug. 31: ch. 16

Sept. 1: ch. 17

Sept. 2: Grace Day


Sept. 3: ch. 18

Sept. 4: ch. 19

Sept. 5: ch. 20

Sept. 6: ch. 21

Sept. 7: ch. 22

Sept. 8: ch. 23

Sept. 9: Grace Day


Sept. 10: ch. 24

Sept. 11: ch. 25

Sept. 12: ch. 26

Sept. 13: ch. 27

Sept. 14: ch. 28

Sept. 15: ch. 29

Sept. 16: Grace Day


Sept. 17: ch. 30

Sept. 18: ch. 31

Day Twenty: Stop This Train

September 5, 2018

“Youth is the glory of nature, and the glory of young men is their strength. Old age is the majestic beauty of nature, and the gray hair is the majestic splendor that nature has given to old age.” (Jermin)

Second only to the worship wars that have at times plagued the church, are those battles fought between the generations. Sadly, all my life in the church—as a young boy, through my teen years, my early adulthood, and now pushing 50 and serving as a pastor—it is remarkable how many conflicts fell along generational lines. And regardless of the topic, how it usually felt was that each side was arguing they knew best for the church, which really meant their group was best for the church.

Once again, God, in the Bible, has a way of confronting us,

The glory of the young is their strength;
the gray hair of experience is the splendor of the old.
(Proverbs 20:29, New Living Translation)

Simply put, both young and old are needed in the church. Rather than despising or envying the other because of their place and strengths, they should appreciate the unique advantages that each brings to the family of God, not to mention the culture at large. What if the church were the place giving an example to the watching world of what it looks like for each and every generation to be prized and valued for the unique contributions they bring?

Here’s an example of an old dead guy, Matthew Henry (1662-1714), and how he described the young and old:

Let not old people despise the young, for they are strong and fit for action, able to go through business and break through difficulties, which the aged and weak cannot grapple with. The glory of young men is their strength, provided they use it well (in the service of God and their country, not of their lusts), and that they be not proud of it nor trust to it.
Let not young people despise the old, for they are grave, and fit for counsel, and, though they have not the strength that young men have, yet they have more wisdom and experience. Juniores ad labores, seniores ad honores—Labour is for the young, honour for the aged. God has put honour upon the old man; for his gray head is his beauty.

Dear friends—the church, our communities, and the world need them both. The “strength of youth for energy, and the maturity of the old for wisdom.” (C. Bridges)


Father,

Help us see with new eyes. Some of us need to repent of chronological snobbery and stop thinking that what is youthful and new is always best. Some of us need to repent of thinking that everyone a few decades below us is a whippersnapper with nothing to offer, being so wet behind the ears. We were all young once, and God willing, we will all one day be older. And Father, you have made us all, and for each other. It takes each one to make a family. So, help us to see we are of one Master, one faith, and one baptism; and that seeing, we might stand firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the good news of your kingdom (Ephesians 4:5; Philippians 1:27).

Yes, and very amen, in Jesus’ name.


Pursuing the wise and good life with you,

Pastor Matthew

matthew@calvarystcloud.org

matthewmolesky.com


P.S. If you’d like to study some of the wisdom literature further, I highly recommend the Wisdom Series from The Bible Project, and their resources on the book of Proverbs.


Proverbs Thirty-One Day Reading Plan

August 14: Proverbs ch. 1

Aug. 15: ch. 2

Aug. 16: ch. 3

Aug. 17: ch. 4

Aug. 18: ch. 5

Aug. 19: Grace Day


Aug. 20: ch. 6

Aug. 21: ch. 7

Aug. 22: ch. 8

Aug. 23: ch. 9

Aug. 24: ch. 10

Aug. 25: ch. 11

Aug. 26: Grace Day


Aug. 27: ch. 12

Aug. 28: ch. 13

Aug. 29: ch. 14

Aug. 30: ch. 15

Aug. 31: ch. 16

Sept. 1: ch. 17

Sept. 2: Grace Day


Sept. 3: ch. 18

Sept. 4: ch. 19

Sept. 5: ch. 20

Sept. 6: ch. 21

Sept. 7: ch. 22

Sept. 8: ch. 23

Sept. 9: Grace Day


Sept. 10: ch. 24

Sept. 11: ch. 25

Sept. 12: ch. 26

Sept. 13: ch. 27

Sept. 14: ch. 28

Sept. 15: ch. 29

Sept. 16: Grace Day


Sept. 17: ch. 30

Sept. 18: ch. 31

Day Nineteen: God Chose Her, Not You

September 4, 2018

So don’t be misled, my dear brothers and sisters. Whatever is good and perfect is a gift coming down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens. He never changes or casts a shifting shadow.
(James 1:16-17, New Living Translation)

Fathers can give their sons an inheritance of houses and wealth,
but only Yahweh can give an understanding wife.
(Proverbs 19:14, New Living Translation)

The doctrine of God’s rule and reign in and over all things comes crashing into the human conception of the self-made man. We are tempted to think we have so much to do with our happinesses. But the wisdom found from James speaks a wakefulness into the pondering of our circumstances—the good gifts we have come not from our own hands, but by the grace and providence of our heavenly Father. And the wisdom of Solomon makes clear—one of man’s greatest gifts is something only God can give, an understanding wife.

Every husband knows that “happiness is impossible without domestic tranquility, and the wife is the anchor of that tranquility” (Garrett). Husbands, can I get a witness? Well did the other wisdom writer say, “If momma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.”

I was eighteen years old when I met my bride, Susan. I’m sure if my eighteen year-old self were here to testify, he would speak as most men that age would. Namely, he would be fairly confident that he knew quite a bit, when, in fact, he knew very little, if anything at all (there just are not very many wise eighteen year-olds). But that wouldn’t have stopped him from sharing how smart he was to pursue, and win, one Susan Ann Reko.

My forty-nine year old self is able to look back, and see much more clearly. Only Yahweh can give an understanding, kind, selfless, patient, loving, supportive, encouraging bride like Susan to a knucklehead like me. The only reason for a good and complete gift like that to fall into this man’s lap (or any woman to any man) is because the gift came from God our Father (see above). I can testify that I have been given a good thing, and received great favor from Yahweh (Proverbs 18:22).

Listen men. I’m under no illusions that my bride, or your bride, is perfect. That’s not what these texts are about—her perfections or imperfections. They are simply stating plainly what is true, and should be true of you. That you should be thankful today for the bride that God has blessed you with. For if a man have a wife,

“…let him not ascribe it to the wisdom of his own choice or his own management (for the wisest have been deceived both in and by a woman), but let him ascribe it to the goodness of God, who made him a help meet for him, and perhaps by some hits and turns of providence that seemed casual brought her to him. Every creature is what he makes it. Happy marriages, we are sure, are made in heaven…

“It is a more valuable gift than house and riches, contributes more to the comfort and credit of a man’s life and the welfare of his family, is a greater token of God’s favour, and about which the divine providence is in a more especial manner conversant. A good estate may be the inheritance of fathers, which, by the common direction of Providence, comes in course to a man; but no man has a good wife by descent or entail.

Let God have the glory.” (Matthew Henry)

Father,

He who finds a wife, finds a good thing, and obtains your favor. Thank you for the favor of marriage, and the beauty of this most intimate human relationship. Thank you, Father, for ordaining that my wife and I should meet, should fall in love, and should share all these years of life together. While marriage has not always been easy—especially for her!—I can clearly see that it has always been for my/our good. Father, bless my bride today: fill her heart with joy in all you have made her and called her to be, anoint her with your Spirit and dress her with strength, make her arms strong and give her the fruit of her hands, and let her works praise her in the community.

Yes, and very amen, in Jesus’ name.

Pursuing the wise and good life with you,

Pastor Matthew

matthew@calvarystcloud.org

matthewmolesky.com

P.S. If you’d like to study some of the wisdom literature further, I highly recommend the Wisdom Series from The Bible Project, and their resources on the book of Proverbs.

Proverbs Thirty-One Day Reading Plan

August 14: Proverbs ch. 1

Aug. 15: ch. 2

Aug. 16: ch. 3

Aug. 17: ch. 4

Aug. 18: ch. 5

Aug. 19: Grace Day


Aug. 20: ch. 6

Aug. 21: ch. 7

Aug. 22: ch. 8

Aug. 23: ch. 9

Aug. 24: ch. 10

Aug. 25: ch. 11

Aug. 26: Grace Day


Aug. 27: ch. 12

Aug. 28: ch. 13

Aug. 29: ch. 14

Aug. 30: ch. 15

Aug. 31: ch. 16

Sept. 1: ch. 17

Sept. 2: Grace Day


Sept. 3: ch. 18

Sept. 4: ch. 19

Sept. 5: ch. 20

Sept. 6: ch. 21

Sept. 7: ch. 22

Sept. 8: ch. 23

Sept. 9: Grace Day


Sept. 10: ch. 24

Sept. 11: ch. 25

Sept. 12: ch. 26

Sept. 13: ch. 27

Sept. 14: ch. 28

Sept. 15: ch. 29

Sept. 16: Grace Day


Sept. 17: ch. 30

Sept. 18: ch. 31

Day Eighteen: Who Can Bear A Crushed Spirit?

September 3, 2018

The human spirit can endure a sick body,
but who can bear a crushed spirit?

A cheerful heart is good medicine,
but a broken spirit saps a person’s strength.
(Proverbs 18:14 and 17:22, New Living Translation)

Many of you reading this know that I have an ongoing struggle with depression and generalized anxiety disorder. I received those diagnoses years ago from a trusted and helpful Biblical counselor, confirming I’ve been struggling with them most of my life. I am grateful for a small circle of close and loving friends who support me, and help me press forward through the good and bad days.

The reason I share that with you is because a proverb like this strikes a very sensitive nerve, for I have lived and thought about its truth often over the past few years. You see, Solomon first describes the power and endurance of the human spirit. History is filled with inspiring stories of mankind’s natural courage and indomitable spirit that bears up under great evils, pain, need, poverty, and sickness. A person’s spirit can sustain him or her through countless trials. For this we can be thankful to God.

But what happens when it is not the body, but the spirit, that is crushed? I think it was Charles Spurgeon, who suffered from travails of the spirit (like depression and anxiety) who said something along the lines of—“A man’s body may be killed only once, but his spirit can endure a thousand deaths.”

Maybe you are reading this right now, and are experiencing in some degree a kind of crushing of the spirit. You wish someone knew, for unlike a physical malady which may be seen and quickly medically treated, no one sees this suffering, you feel isolated and alone. And at the same time, you don’t want anyone to know, because it is painful to talk about, and hard to explain, for the crushing seems unreasonable, it makes no sense, it is merely this pervasive sadness and grief that will not flee as your spirit endures a thousand deaths.

So what do we do when crushed in spirit, when griefs gain the victory and become intolerable?

I confess I have hesitated to address this verse, because the issues it raises are complicated, complex, and far beyond what one little post can do to alleviate them. But speaking from experience, I can at least tell you this: part of the solution is to never waver from turning to Christ. As I meditated on this passage, I read this from Charles Bridges (1794-1869),

This crushed spirit can be the Christian’s first seal of mercy….We ask now not, who can bear, but who can heal? Well did Luther say, and there is no better judge on such matters, “It is as easy to make a world as to ease a troubled conscience.” Both are creation-work, requiring the almightiness of God. To him…we must return for healing. His remedy is the sight of himself wounded for us. And that sight, so healing, so reviving—how it quickens the soul and animates faith, ending in a song of everlasting praise!
In these days of neglect of Christian teaching, when remedies other than the Gospel are applied to the crushed spirit, it is worth putting on record the way of healing in the British church back as far as the time of the Conquest, which, it will be seen, was not the baptism of tears, private confession, penance, or man’s deeds, but the simple view of the great sacrifice as the one object of faith.
In the form of a prayer for the Visitation of the Sick in the time of Anselm, Archbishop of Canterbury in 1080, the sick person was asked,
“Dost thou believe to come to glory, not by thine own merits, but by the virtue and merit of the passion of the Lord Jesus Christ? Dost thou believe that our Lord Jesus Christ did die for our salvation, and that none can be saved by his own merits, or by any other means than by the merits of his passion?”
The sick person answered,
“All this I believe.”
Then the sick person was given the following instruction and comfort, as by a true physician of souls:
“Give thou therefore as long as thy soul remaineth in this place, thy whole confidence in Christ’s death only. Have confidence in no other thing. Commit thyself wholly to this death, with this alone comfort thyself.
If he say, ‘Thou deservest hell,’
say, ‘I put the death of our Lord Jesus Christ betwixt me and this judgment, and no otherwise do I contend with thee.’
And if he say to thee, ‘Thou art a sinner,’
say, ‘Lord, I put the death of our Lord Jesus Christ between thee and my sins.’
If he say to thee, ‘Thou hast deserved damnation,’
say, ‘Lord, I set the death of our Lord Jesus Christ between thee and my bad merits; and I offer his merits instead of my merits.’
If he say, he is angry with thee,
say, ‘Lord, I interpose the death of our Lord Jesus Christ between me and thine anger.’ ”
This is indeed the sovereign treatment for a case aggravated by the application of any other remedy of man’s devising.


Do you see? Bridges is encouraging the crushed in spirit that all our healing begins with the good news of Jesus. This is the source of a power. This is the balm to our soul.

Yes, we—the crushed in spirit—must open up to our pastor, who may shepherd us;

yes, we must open to healthy, trusted, safe family members, who love us;

yes, we should share our burden with close friends who are walking life’s journey with us;

and yes, we must seek the help of trained, wise, and Godly Biblical counselors who are used by God to restore us to mental and spirit health.

But do not ignore the beginning place for the healing of crushed spirits. It is to Christ our King we must turn. “To him…we must return for healing. His remedy is the sight of himself wounded for us. And that sight, so healing, so reviving—how it quickens the soul and animates faith, ending in a song of everlasting praise!”


Father,

I come before you today on behalf of this dear reader who is struggling with some level of broken or crushed spirit. O dear Father, may they feel the strengthening presence of the Spirit of Christ, may they know that you will never leave them or forsake them, that even though they walk through the valley of the shadow of death, you are with them, your rod and your staff will comfort them, the time will come when the clouds will break and the darkness flee and the day will dawn with them finding themselves in sunlit pastures besides still waters where you have restored their spirits. May they know the truth that even now, even today, you are pursuing them with goodness and mercy. Save the crushed in spirit today.

Yes, and very amen, in Jesus’ name.


Pursuing the wise and good life with you,

Pastor Matthew

matthew@calvarystcloud.org

matthewmolesky.com


P.S. If you’d like to study some of the wisdom literature further, I highly recommend the Wisdom Series from The Bible Project, and their resources on the book of Proverbs.


Proverbs Thirty-One Day Reading Plan

August 14: Proverbs ch. 1

Aug. 15: ch. 2

Aug. 16: ch. 3

Aug. 17: ch. 4

Aug. 18: ch. 5

Aug. 19: Grace Day


Aug. 20: ch. 6

Aug. 21: ch. 7

Aug. 22: ch. 8

Aug. 23: ch. 9

Aug. 24: ch. 10

Aug. 25: ch. 11

Aug. 26: Grace Day


Aug. 27: ch. 12

Aug. 28: ch. 13

Aug. 29: ch. 14

Aug. 30: ch. 15

Aug. 31: ch. 16

Sept. 1: ch. 17

Sept. 2: Grace Day


Sept. 3: ch. 18

Sept. 4: ch. 19

Sept. 5: ch. 20

Sept. 6: ch. 21

Sept. 7: ch. 22

Sept. 8: ch. 23

Sept. 9: Grace Day


Sept. 10: ch. 24

Sept. 11: ch. 25

Sept. 12: ch. 26

Sept. 13: ch. 27

Sept. 14: ch. 28

Sept. 15: ch. 29

Sept. 16: Grace Day


Sept. 17: ch. 30

Sept. 18: ch. 31

31 Proverbs: Grace Day

September 2, 2018

If you’ve been reading along in this little series—congratulations! You’ve made it to the end of the third week. Today is a “Grace Day.”

So take the day off. Read another portion of the Holy Scriptures, or look back and review Proverbs 1-17. We’ll begin again tomorrow.

Pursuing the wise and good life with you,

Pastor Matthew

matthew@calvarystcloud.org

matthewmolesky.com

P.S. If you’d like to study some of the wisdom literature further, I highly recommend the Wisdom Series from The Bible Project, and their resources on the book of Proverbs.


Proverbs Thirty-One Day Reading Plan

August 14: Proverbs ch. 1

Aug. 15: ch. 2

Aug. 16: ch. 3

Aug. 17: ch. 4

Aug. 18: ch. 5

Aug. 19: Grace Day


Aug. 20: ch. 6

Aug. 21: ch. 7

Aug. 22: ch. 8

Aug. 23: ch. 9

Aug. 24: ch. 10

Aug. 25: ch. 11

Aug. 26: Grace Day


Aug. 27: ch. 12

Aug. 28: ch. 13

Aug. 29: ch. 14

Aug. 30: ch. 15

Aug. 31: ch. 16

Sept. 1: ch. 17

Sept. 2: Grace Day


Sept. 3: ch. 18

Sept. 4: ch. 19

Sept. 5: ch. 20

Sept. 6: ch. 21

Sept. 7: ch. 22

Sept. 8: ch. 23

Sept. 9: Grace Day


Sept. 10: ch. 24

Sept. 11: ch. 25

Sept. 12: ch. 26

Sept. 13: ch. 27

Sept. 14: ch. 28

Sept. 15: ch. 29

Sept. 16: Grace Day


Sept. 17: ch. 30

Sept. 18: ch. 31

Song of Songs

September 2, 2018

As we make our way through The Whole Story, we have now arrived at the final book in the Wisdom of Israel, the Song of Songs.

We have defined wisdom in these five books—Job, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Psalms, and now the Song of Songs—as applied skill and competence in our living. And this kind of wise living is only possible if we recognize that God has hardwired wisdom into the world, that there is an inner logic to the way everything works, and the only way we will discover how to live according to the inner logic and the way he has hardwired it is by listening to, obeying, and following the Creator and Designer of it all.

Furthermore, we have to do this in every single area of our living. We must find the path of wisdom, leaving no area of life untouched.

~~~~~

I was read this comment on our culture this past week:

“In the name of advertising and entertainment, human bodies become commodities and people become products. Ironically, true romance and intimacy vanish in an age when everything becomes sensual.”

True romance and intimacy vanish.

What I grieve for our culture, and my neighbors, and my family members, and our children, and the generations to follow is the loss of beauty that is bound up in true romance: desire-satisfying, soul-feeding, thirst-quenching, pleasure-producing, God-glorifying, self-sacrificing, other-focused—TRUE—physical and relational intimacy.  

That kind of romance is truly beautiful. And in a world engorged on sensuality, we have lost our ability to taste and see true beauty.

Which is why—now more than ever—we need the Song of Songs. For in the Song, the God of the Bible, in the Bible, confronts our culture and shows us where we have been wrong. He presents to us a picture of true beauty.

Friends, by God’s grace, he gave me the eyes to see and the ears to hear and the heart to feel—more than on any previous reading—the sheer beauty of the Song. Here we find two people enraptured with each other. Here we find two people satisfied by each other. We find joy, and delight, and pleasure, and laughter, and ecstasy, and celebration. We find vulnerability and safety, security and affirmation, gratitude and self-sacrifice, humility and leadership. Here we find the power and importance of the private and intimate, and the critical role of public displays and communal accountability and affirmation.

The Song holds up the beauty and meaning of a love relationship and a celebration of the marriage covenant that is spiritual, emotional, physical, vivid, highly charged, and erotic. And it is held up as a contrast to what our culture is holding out to us, and particularly our young people, in books, movies, and social media.

It is highly charged, without being tawdry.

It is frank and forthright, without being sophomoric.

It is erotic, without being graphic.

Friends, for a culture—outside and inside of the church—desperate, and longing for physical and relational intimacy, the Song of Songs is a major pathway of wisdom to living this aspect of a good life. It is so helpful that I have never been as tempted as I have this week to stop The Whole Story and stay in the Song for the next ten weeks. We need it that badly.

But, I kept it to one sermon, which you can listen to here. And if you’d like to study it further, I commend the Song of Songs page over at the Bible Project. I hope that you find the sermon thought-provoking, and that it creates conversations with not-yet-believers and other Jesus-followers, as we continue to make more and maturing disciples of Jesus Christ, together.

One final reminder—if you’d like to be ready for this coming Sunday at Calvary, please read the book of Jeremiah, as we dive back into the prophetic works of the Old Testament.


Seeking the Beautiful,

Pastor Matthew

matthew@calvarystcloud.org

matthewmolesky.com

Day Seventeen: The Great Gain Of Godly Contentment

September 1, 2018

Better a dry crust eaten in peace
than a house filled with feasting—and conflict.
(Proverbs 17:1, New Living Translation)

We live in a world where the temptation is constant to believe the amount of our wealth and possessions directly translates to our joy and happiness. The Bible, once again, confronts our culture and holds out another possibility. Namely, “better” does not imply “more,” “bigger,” or “expensive.” It suggests that the reason you still haven’t found what you are looking for is because you’ve been searching in all the wrong places. Wisdom opens our eyes and hearts to deeper wells of contentment.

A quiet home.

A simple meal.

A table, a few chairs, family and friends upon them.

A few moments of conversation and mutual encouragement.

“These words recommend family-love and peace, as conducing very much to the comfort of human life. Those that live in unity and quietness, not only free from jealousies and animosities, but vying in mutual endearments, and obliging to one another, live very comfortably, though they are low in the world, work hard and fare hard, though they have but each of them a morsel, and that a dry morsel. There may be peace and quietness where there are not three meals a day, provided there by a joint satisfaction in God’s providence and a mutual satisfaction in each other’s prudence. Holy love may be found in a cottage.”  
(Matthew Henry)

“Ponder every thought that may disturb contentment. If you have fewer comforts than you used to have, or fewer comforts than other people have, or fewer comforts than you desire, do you not still have more than you deserve? If you had more of them, would you not be tempted to forget God and to live in a worldly way? Does not the memory of the earthly lot that your Savior chose turn every thought about being discontented into adoration and gratitude? Do not forget that there is great gain in contentment.”
(Charles Bridges)

Yet true godliness with contentment is itself great wealth. After all, we brought nothing with us when we came into the world, and we can’t take anything with us when we leave it. So if we have enough food and clothing, let us be content. (The Apostle Paul, writing to his spiritual son, Timothy)

Father,

I am frequently tempted to rely on the things around me for my contentment, rather than who I know, the friends who love me, the One who saved me, and the Spirit inside me. Father, help me to see the riches of your kindness toward us in Christ, the riches of my glorious inheritance among the saints, the riches of your glory, the riches of a full understanding and knowledge of the mystery of Christ and the Good News, the riches of your grace, the riches of your peace, and the riches of a whole family that is mine because of my adoption made possible by Jesus. I am so wealthy!

Thank you, thank you, thank you.

And besides all this, there are high-quality clothes on my back, and more than a dry crust of bread in my belly—so let me be content.

Yes, and very amen, in Jesus’ name.

Pursuing the wise and good life with you,

Pastor Matthew

matthew@calvarystcloud.org

matthewmolesky.com

P.S. If you’d like to study some of the wisdom literature further, I highly recommend the Wisdom Series from The Bible Project, and their resources on the book of Proverbs.


Proverbs Thirty-One Day Reading Plan

August 14: Proverbs ch. 1

Aug. 15: ch. 2

Aug. 16: ch. 3

Aug. 17: ch. 4

Aug. 18: ch. 5

Aug. 19: Grace Day


Aug. 20: ch. 6

Aug. 21: ch. 7

Aug. 22: ch. 8

Aug. 23: ch. 9

Aug. 24: ch. 10

Aug. 25: ch. 11

Aug. 26: Grace Day


Aug. 27: ch. 12

Aug. 28: ch. 13

Aug. 29: ch. 14

Aug. 30: ch. 15

Aug. 31: ch. 16

Sept. 1: ch. 17

Sept. 2: Grace Day


Sept. 3: ch. 18

Sept. 4: ch. 19

Sept. 5: ch. 20

Sept. 6: ch. 21

Sept. 7: ch. 22

Sept. 8: ch. 23

Sept. 9: Grace Day


Sept. 10: ch. 24

Sept. 11: ch. 25

Sept. 12: ch. 26

Sept. 13: ch. 27

Sept. 14: ch. 28

Sept. 15: ch. 29

Sept. 16: Grace Day


Sept. 17: ch. 30

Sept. 18: ch. 31

Day Sixteen: O Captain, My Captain

August 31, 2018

The plans of the heart belong to man,
but the answer of the tongue is from Yahweh.

The heart of man plans his way,
but Yahweh establishes his steps.
(Proverbs 16:1, 9, English Standard Version)

It may be that one of the greatest illusions humans are under is that we often believe we ultimately control our lives and circumstances. The poet William Ernest Henley boldly declared this strongly held belief, on behalf of mankind, in his poem, Invictus, first published in 1888. Here’s a portion:

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.
It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

Ah, there it is.

I am master!
I am captain!

I rise this morning with a plan. With my modern day crystal ball (my iCal calendar) and tea leaves (my Todoist task app) I have peered into the future and declared what shall be, hour by hour, moment by moment. And isn’t it stunning how quickly my hubris is revealed when the slightest change to those plans occurs. The shock, the horror, the frustration! How dare this happen! I had a plan!

Yes, I did. And if you are as compulsive about planning as I am, you have one for the day as well.

But Solomon is providing wisdom for how to live a good, non-frustrated life. You will have your plans for today, and for tomorrow, and maybe even the day after that (you should see my iCal!). But even the next word that is going to fall off of your tongue has been pre-ordained by Yahweh before time began (Ephesians 1:1-14). Your heart will design the path you will follow, but even the next single, smallest step has been chosen and planted by Yahweh before you were even born (Ephesians 2:10)

The new testament version of Proverbs gently but firmly reminds us,

Look here, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we are going to a certain town and will stay there a year. We will do business there and make a profit.” How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog—it’s here a little while, then it’s gone. What you ought to say is, “If Yahweh wants us to, we will live and do this or that.”

Otherwise you are boasting about your own pretentious plans, and all such boasting is evil.

(James 4:13-16, English Standard Version)

In other words—
Man proposes,
God disposes.


Father,

It is hard, but I need to confess to you this morning how much I long for control of my circumstances and my life. I so often believe that I have the wisdom and knowledge required to be the master of my fate, and the captain of my soul. I think I know what the best plan is for me, and often, for those around me. But all such thinking is arrogance. I am decidedly not the master, nor the captain.

So thank you for your word today, which shatters the illusion that I can see and control the future. Only you can do that. You are GOD, and I am not. So today I humbly submit to and ask for the leading of your Holy Spirit. Give me the words to say, and show me the steps to take. I will trust you, my master. I will follow you, O captain, my captain.

Yes, and very amen, in Jesus’ name.

Pursuing the wise and good life with you,

Pastor Matthew
matthew@calvarystcloud.org
matthewmolesky.com

P.S. If you’d like to study some of the wisdom literature further, I highly recommend the Wisdom Series from The Bible Project, and their resources on the book of Proverbs.

Proverbs Thirty-One Day Reading Plan

August 14: Proverbs ch. 1
Aug. 15: ch. 2
Aug. 16: ch. 3
Aug. 17: ch. 4
Aug. 18: ch. 5
Aug. 19: Grace Day

Aug. 20: ch. 6
Aug. 21: ch. 7
Aug. 22: ch. 8
Aug. 23: ch. 9
Aug. 24: ch. 10
Aug. 25: ch. 11
Aug. 26: Grace Day

Aug. 27: ch. 12
Aug. 28: ch. 13
Aug. 29: ch. 14
Aug. 30: ch. 15
Aug. 31: ch. 16
Sept. 1: ch. 17
Sept. 2: Grace Day

Sept. 3: ch. 18
Sept. 4: ch. 19
Sept. 5: ch. 20
Sept. 6: ch. 21
Sept. 7: ch. 22
Sept. 8: ch. 23
Sept. 9: Grace Day

Sept. 10: ch. 24
Sept. 11: ch. 25
Sept. 12: ch. 26
Sept. 13: ch. 27
Sept. 14: ch. 28
Sept. 15: ch. 29
Sept. 16: Grace Day

Sept. 17: ch. 30
Sept. 18: ch. 31

Day Fifteen: I Always Feel Like Somebody’s Watching Me

August 30, 2018

I always feel like somebody's watching me.
And I have no privacy.
Woh, I always feel like somebody's watching me.
Tell me is it just a dream?

So sang Rockwell in the dawning of my high school years back in 1984. All the cool kids were singing it at the time, and its the tune that sprang to mind when I read this similar sentiment this morning:

Yahweh is watching everywhere,
keeping his eye on both the evil and the good.
(Proverbs 15:3, New Living Translation)

The sense of foreboding that came through in Rockwell’s performance is here validated by the wisdom writer. The God of the universe is always watching. He never sleeps or slumbers (Psalm 121:4), his eyes are always open, he sees all people and all things. For those taking part in evil, this is decidedly bad news—God knows, God cares, God judges. There is no rest found here for the wicked.

But for the disciple of Christ, there is no foreboding in this bit of wisdom. No hammer about to fall. It is meant to encourage us to good deeds, with the knowledge that God sees our every move of obedience, every display of compassion, every act of kindness, every expression of love…all good works.

And his seeing puts him for us, rather than pits him against us.

The eyes of Yahweh watch over those who do right, his ears are open to their cry for help. (Psalm 34:15, NLT)

The eyes of Yahweh search the whole earth in order to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him. (2 Chronicles 16:9a, NLT)

“But this is the one to whom I will look:
he who is humble and contrite in spirit
and trembles at my word, says Yahweh.”
Isaiah 66:2, ESV

Father,

The truth that you are watching our every move today should not bring fear or foreboding, but faithfulness and confidence. Your steady gaze is the forerunner of help and strengthening, delight and encouragement, and even gentle reproof and Spirit-led conviction. Father, keep our eyes on your word, our spirits humble, contrite and trembling, so that we delight in the knowledge you are looking our way.

Yes, and very amen, in Jesus’ name.

Pursuing the wise and good life with you,

Pastor Matthew

matthew@calvarystcloud.org

matthewmolesky.com


P.S. If you’d like to study some of the wisdom literature further, I highly recommend the Wisdom Series from The Bible Project, and their resources on the book of Proverbs.



Proverbs Thirty-One Day Reading Plan

August 14: Proverbs ch. 1

Aug. 15: ch. 2

Aug. 16: ch. 3

Aug. 17: ch. 4

Aug. 18: ch. 5

Aug. 19: Grace Day


Aug. 20: ch. 6

Aug. 21: ch. 7

Aug. 22: ch. 8

Aug. 23: ch. 9

Aug. 24: ch. 10

Aug. 25: ch. 11

Aug. 26: Grace Day


Aug. 27: ch. 12

Aug. 28: ch. 13

Aug. 29: ch. 14

Aug. 30: ch. 15

Aug. 31: ch. 16

Sept. 1: ch. 17

Sept. 2: Grace Day


Sept. 3: ch. 18

Sept. 4: ch. 19

Sept. 5: ch. 20

Sept. 6: ch. 21

Sept. 7: ch. 22

Sept. 8: ch. 23

Sept. 9: Grace Day


Sept. 10: ch. 24

Sept. 11: ch. 25

Sept. 12: ch. 26

Sept. 13: ch. 27

Sept. 14: ch. 28

Sept. 15: ch. 29

Sept. 16: Grace Day


Sept. 17: ch. 30

Sept. 18: ch. 31

Day Fourteen: Death By Living

August 29, 2018

The fear of Yahweh is a fountain of life,
turning people away from the snares of death.
(Proverbs 14:27, Christian Standard Bible)

For those of us desirous to live a good life, we’ve known since the very beginning of this book that it begins with a healthy awe, reverence, and trembling before the God of the universe whose name is Yahweh (Proverbs 1:7). And here we are again reminded that this humble posture before the Holy One is a fountain overflowing with life.

The second line of this individual saying enforces the first. The reason that trembling respect before Yahweh brings life is because it shapes our living. It’s the beginning of wisdom, which is applied skill and competence. And that kind of behavior, a turn towards Yahweh, bringing newfound skills and competence, by design turns us away from those things that bring death. We sidestep the snares laid down by the evil one. We struggle. We fight. We advance against the one who wages war against our souls.

Which means we evade the immediate effects that sin bring (a kind of dying), and more importantly, fearing Yahweh means we don’t have to fear the ultimate consequence of sin, our physical death. And that kind of perspective transforms Satan’s greatest potential weapon against us—death, our end—into something that actually works to our advantage.

Here’s how N.D. Wilson says speaks of death by living:

Cliches are true. Time flies. You can’t take it with you. You don’t know what you got till it’s gone. Dust to Dust.

In the ground, we all have empty hands.

Enjoy life now. And now. And now. Before the nows are gone. See the gifts. Savor the food, knowing that you will have to swallow…..

Time flies. Time, the ever-expiring resource. Time, the thief. Time, the motivator. Time, the finish.

Imagine being your flawed self without time. Stop shielding your inadequacies from observation, take a full beat, and dedicate a few of your precious seconds to giving the worst of your sinful impulses a two-eyed, unblinking stare. (I don’t encourage people to do this often.) Think about your temper. Your resentfulness. Your lust. Your lies. Your selfishness. Your despair. Think about all the trouble you have on the inside. [The giving in to all the snares of death Solomon warns of. (Proverbs 14:27)] Think about the weight of that burden. I hope that it’s a burden you fight, not a burden that has already conquered you. I hope it is a war, an advance, a struggle.

Now…….remove time.

There is no end to this race. There is no finish line. There is no final round to this brawl. There is no clock counting down. You must struggle with that temper always. Forever. You will be seven hundred years old, still a lusting lecher weeping with guilt. A thousand-year-old woman who can’t stop her poisonous tongue…..

Mortality is a consequence of sin. But it is also a gift. A mercy. A kindness. Death is grace.

A fallen and corrupt human race with no end? Dark burdens with no finish?

Because of death, we can run the good race. We can fight the good fight. Completion exists.

We made ourselves filthy and corrupt, and God “cursed” us with death like a mother cursing her mud-caked children with a scalding shower. His curse swallows up our own. Time marches us to Death, and together they strip our hands. But there is a Man there, beside the grave, collecting all our grime, stripping more than hands—stripping hearts (and minds and souls). He assembles a burden like no other. He ran His own race. And though He is the Son of God, He moved through time. For three decades He ran toward death. And when He reached it, He could say what all mortals needed said.

It is finished.

And he went, along with that burden, into a hole.

All of us die. Walk through the torn curtain and be scraped bone clean. Empty your hands and hearts. Die. Be made new.

Taste every one of time’s moments. Swallow. Taste the next. Drink the water. Drink the wine. It is not good left in the glass. Sweat and struggle. Run. Fight. Receive. Give. [Fear Yahweh. Live!] Be grateful even for death, for the ticking clock counting down on you.

Seventy years. Eighty if you’re strong. Less if you’re like the Messiah. Look to Him and receive more grace. Stagger on. You can do it. Only a decade more. Or two. Or four. But there is a finish line. There will be an end to the weight on your back and the ache in your skull. This place is no Tartarus, and our God is no Scrooge. He gives without ceasing. Even when we fell, when our first parents defied Him, the first thing He gave them was an end, mortality, a path to resurrection, and the promise of a Guide.

And then he clothed them.

(N.D. Wilson, Death by Living)

Father,

In the midst of this sin-stained, fallen, and groaning world you have given us the remarkable gift of making death a grace. Only you could pull off something like that. So help us, Father. Fill us with your Spirit. Infuse us with awe and wonder at who You are. Help us to taste and see that you are good, and to fight the good fight, to struggle, advance, and never give up. To thus taste and swallow down every one of time’s moments. To come to our death by living, clothed all the while in the righteousness of Christ.

Yes, and very amen, in Jesus’ name.

Pursuing the wise and good life with you,

Pastor Matthew

matthew@calvarystcloud.org

matthewmolesky.com

P.S. If you’d like to study some of the wisdom literature further, I highly recommend the Wisdom Series from The Bible Project, and their resources on the book of Proverbs.


Proverbs Thirty-One Day Reading Plan

August 14: Proverbs ch. 1

Aug. 15: ch. 2

Aug. 16: ch. 3

Aug. 17: ch. 4

Aug. 18: ch. 5

Aug. 19: Grace Day


Aug. 20: ch. 6

Aug. 21: ch. 7

Aug. 22: ch. 8

Aug. 23: ch. 9

Aug. 24: ch. 10

Aug. 25: ch. 11

Aug. 26: Grace Day


Aug. 27: ch. 12

Aug. 28: ch. 13

Aug. 29: ch. 14

Aug. 30: ch. 15

Aug. 31: ch. 16

Sept. 1: ch. 17

Sept. 2: Grace Day


Sept. 3: ch. 18

Sept. 4: ch. 19

Sept. 5: ch. 20

Sept. 6: ch. 21

Sept. 7: ch. 22

Sept. 8: ch. 23

Sept. 9: Grace Day


Sept. 10: ch. 24

Sept. 11: ch. 25

Sept. 12: ch. 26

Sept. 13: ch. 27

Sept. 14: ch. 28

Sept. 15: ch. 29

Sept. 16: Grace Day


Sept. 17: ch. 30

Sept. 18: ch. 31

Day Thirteen: You Can’t Always Get What You Want

August 28, 2018

You can't always get what you want;
But if you try sometimes you might find;
You get what you need.

Huh.

One of the key assumptions we’ve been working with as we make our way through the wisdom literature is that God has hardwired wisdom into the way creation (and the creatures within it…us) operates. It was there at the beginning. It’s the inner logic of everything, and the secret code for how it works. (see Proverbs 8:22-31)

And it appears here the Rolling Stones have stumbled onto a bit of the code. They sing of desire (“what you want”), of effort (“if you try”), of seeking and receiving (“you might find, you get what you need”).

But thousands of years before, under the direction of the Holy Spirit, Solomon had already stumbled onto that bit of code:

Hope deferred makes the heart sick,
but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life.
(Proverbs 13:12, English Standard Version)

The word hope here is very close to the word that follows, desire. In other words, “what you want.”

And hope is the general feeling that some desire will be fulfilled. It is the anticipation and expectation of it, and the grounds and foundation for feeling optimistic about its realization. And Solomon states the obvious, what we are all painfully aware of—when we don’t get what we hope for, we feel heartsick.

A common, unfortunate Christian response is to pooh-pooh wants and desires. We sometimes act as if its wrong to want things. But the Bible says here quite the opposite. To defer a desire not only brings heartsickness, but if you could fulfill the desire, it would actually lead in the opposite direction: fulfillment. And this fulfillment—the finding the Stones sang of—would be like a tree of life to you, or sweetness to your soul (Proverbs 13:19). You don’t need much help from me to understand that those are good, happy things.

So, it’s ok to want, or desire.
It’s ok to find, or have fulfillment.

But we’re left with the questions: how do we “try sometimes” to “get what we need”? And how do we know what we need?

I think the answer is found in the context of this bit of the code hardwired into creation that Solomon has discovered Proverbs 13:12 and 19. For if we read all the verses in-between, from verse 13 through verse 18, we find him speaking of “the word,” “the commandment,” “the teaching of the wise,” “good sense,” “the prudent acting with knowledge,” and the one who listens to “instruction” and “reproof.”

In other words, Solomon here provides what is the seedbed for healthy desires that will yield the fruit of life and sweetness. Namely, wisdom. And this wisdom begets wisdom. And wise living. So that by “learning from the wise, one can enjoy a life of fulfilled aspirations” (D. Garrett)

Father,

What a happy proverb this is! I am so thankful today that you give voice to my experience, that when my hopes are dashed my heart gets broken, and when my aspirations are fulfilled I feel a life of fruit-fullness and sweetness. And that these feelings aren’t wrong, but actually designed by you! But you don’t give me carte blanche. So help me Father. Through the Holy Spirit, shape my longings and yearnings and aspirations to be in accord with your wisdom, so that I might live a good life, a fulfilled life, a fruitful life, and a happy life.

Yes, and very amen, in Jesus’ name.

Pursuing the wise and good life with you,

Pastor Matthew

matthew@calvarystcloud.org

matthewmolesky.com


P.S. If you’d like to study some of the wisdom literature further, I highly recommend the Wisdom Series from The Bible Project, and their resources on the book of Proverbs.


Proverbs Thirty-One Day Reading Plan

August 14: Proverbs ch. 1

Aug. 15: ch. 2

Aug. 16: ch. 3

Aug. 17: ch. 4

Aug. 18: ch. 5

Aug. 19: Grace Day


Aug. 20: ch. 6

Aug. 21: ch. 7

Aug. 22: ch. 8

Aug. 23: ch. 9

Aug. 24: ch. 10

Aug. 25: ch. 11

Aug. 26: Grace Day


Aug. 27: ch. 12

Aug. 28: ch. 13

Aug. 29: ch. 14

Aug. 30: ch. 15

Aug. 31: ch. 16

Sept. 1: ch. 17

Sept. 2: Grace Day


Sept. 3: ch. 18

Sept. 4: ch. 19

Sept. 5: ch. 20

Sept. 6: ch. 21

Sept. 7: ch. 22

Sept. 8: ch. 23

Sept. 9: Grace Day


Sept. 10: ch. 24

Sept. 11: ch. 25

Sept. 12: ch. 26

Sept. 13: ch. 27

Sept. 14: ch. 28

Sept. 15: ch. 29

Sept. 16: Grace Day


Sept. 17: ch. 30

Sept. 18: ch. 31

Day Twelve: Did You Just Call Me Stupid!?

August 27, 2018

Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge,
but he who hates reproof is stupid.
(Proverbs 12:1, English Standard Version)

Among many clear directives I grew up with, and established in our home as we began having children, was this: you do not have the right to call somebody else stupid.

And then along comes Solomon, the Bible, Proverbs 12:1, and challenges all my upbringing and parental direction. Sheesh. What gives?

We should start by asking what the word ‘stupid’ means.

Of course, there is the obvious definition: ‘lacking sense or understanding’, or ‘marked by a lack of intellectual acuity.’ And however harsh the word may be in our culture, and justifiable the reason for using it rarely, we can’t deny the truth of it. But, in the Bible, it is used in another way. It communicates a lack of reasoning that bears a beastly brutish-ness about it. As in:

I was so brutish [stupid] and ignorant—
I must have seemed like a senseless animal to you.
(Psalm 73:22)

Or how the Bible describes such behavior this way:

If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us,
we guide their whole bodies as well.
(James 3:3)
Be not like a horse or a mule, without understanding,
which must be curbed with bit and bridle,
or it will not stay near you.
(Psalm 32:9)

Do you see the pattern of the Bible’s wise counsel for us? God wants us to know, through Proverbs 12:1, that there will be people he will place into our lives to give us input and feedback on our behavior and living. They will provide knowledge as a way to disciple us (that’s what discipline is, discipleship.). And when we love that kind of helpful feedback, when we listen and take it in, we are showing that we love knowledge. It helps us grow, it enables obedience, we become more like who God wants and is helping us to be.

But if we allow our pride to rear its head. If we act like a brutish beast or a senseless animal, and reject that knowledge, reject that feedback, we are exactly like that horse or mule without understanding. And what God is declaring here is that if we do that, if we reject a reproving or correcting word from someone, we are, indeed, stupid.

And I’m not going to tell him he doesn’t have the right to say that.

Father,

It’s a hard thing to hear that there are things in my life I’m doing poorly, or that I’ve committed a wrong, or engaged in sin. I am so quick to be defensive and argue my case. Help me to love knowledge. Help me to graciously receive reproof and correction. Father, please fill me with the power of the Spirit so that I might defeat the flesh, which is at war against my soul.

Yes, and very amen, in Jesus’ name.

Pursuing the wise and good life with you,

Pastor Matthew

matthew@calvarystcloud.org

matthewmolesky.com


P.S. If you’d like to study some of the wisdom literature further, I highly recommend the Wisdom Series from The Bible Project, and their resources on the book of Proverbs.


Proverbs Thirty-One Day Reading Plan

August 14: Proverbs ch. 1

Aug. 15: ch. 2

Aug. 16: ch. 3

Aug. 17: ch. 4

Aug. 18: ch. 5

Aug. 19: Grace Day


Aug. 20: ch. 6

Aug. 21: ch. 7

Aug. 22: ch. 8

Aug. 23: ch. 9

Aug. 24: ch. 10

Aug. 25: ch. 11

Aug. 26: Grace Day


Aug. 27: ch. 12

Aug. 28: ch. 13

Aug. 29: ch. 14

Aug. 30: ch. 15

Aug. 31: ch. 16

Sept. 1: ch. 17

Sept. 2: Grace Day


Sept. 3: ch. 18

Sept. 4: ch. 19

Sept. 5: ch. 20

Sept. 6: ch. 21

Sept. 7: ch. 22

Sept. 8: ch. 23

Sept. 9: Grace Day


Sept. 10: ch. 24

Sept. 11: ch. 25

Sept. 12: ch. 26

Sept. 13: ch. 27

Sept. 14: ch. 28

Sept. 15: ch. 29

Sept. 16: Grace Day


Sept. 17: ch. 30

Sept. 18: ch. 31

31 Proverbs: Grace Day

August 26, 2018

If you’ve been reading along in this little series—congratulations! You’ve made it to the end of the second week. Today is a “Grace Day.”

So take the day off. Read another portion of the Holy Scriptures, or look back and review Proverbs 1-11. We’ll begin again tomorrow.

Pursuing the wise and good life with you,

Pastor Matthew

matthew@calvarystcloud.org

matthewmolesky.com


P.S. If you’d like to study some of the wisdom literature further, I highly recommend the Wisdom Series from The Bible Project, and their resources on the book of Proverbs.


Proverbs Thirty-One Day Reading Plan

August 14: Proverbs ch. 1

Aug. 15: ch. 2

Aug. 16: ch. 3

Aug. 17: ch. 4

Aug. 18: ch. 5

Aug. 19: Grace Day


Aug. 20: ch. 6

Aug. 21: ch. 7

Aug. 22: ch. 8

Aug. 23: ch. 9

Aug. 24: ch. 10

Aug. 25: ch. 11

Aug. 26: Grace Day


Aug. 27: ch. 12

Aug. 28: ch. 13

Aug. 29: ch. 14

Aug. 30: ch. 15

Aug. 31: ch. 16

Sept. 1: ch. 17

Sept. 2: Grace Day


Sept. 3: ch. 18

Sept. 4: ch. 19

Sept. 5: ch. 20

Sept. 6: ch. 21

Sept. 7: ch. 22

Sept. 8: ch. 23

Sept. 9: Grace Day


Sept. 10: ch. 24

Sept. 11: ch. 25

Sept. 12: ch. 26

Sept. 13: ch. 27

Sept. 14: ch. 28

Sept. 15: ch. 29

Sept. 16: Grace Day


Sept. 17: ch. 30

Sept. 18: ch. 31

Psalms: Psalm 34—Taste and See

August 26, 2018

Last week, I reminded you that we’d be spending some more time in the Psalms. For many, heading into the Psalms wasn’t new territory, as you’ve been following along with the Read Scripture app, and have already read through Psalms once this year. Therefore, you’ve probably spent time on the Bible Project page on the Psalms, benefitting from the wonderful big-picture resources available for this praise and prayer book of God’s people (if you haven’t done that, I highly recommend you at least check out their nine-minute overview video).

This past Sunday we took a look at Psalm 34 as both a window in the rest of the Psalter, and how we can apply it to our lives, as well as discover that in the Psalms we find complementary material to the wisdom literature we have already studied: Job, Proverbs, and Ecclesiastes. In other words, we find here lyrical wisdom. And we discovered what many of us already know—songs have a delightful and wonderful way of teaching us about life, and how to live it. Psalm 34 is a powerful example of this. For in its verses we find the answer to two of the most important questions in our day-to-day living that we can consider.

How can I taste, sense, that Yahweh is good?

And how can I see, apprehend and know and identify, that Yahweh is good?

I had a handful of people share with me after this week’s sermon that this part of Psalm 34—Taste and see that Yahweh is good (v. 8)—had been frequently quoted to them over the course of their lives. That it had usually been kind of dropped as one of those knee-jerk responses to people that Christians sometimes say, “Yes, but, taste and see that God is good!”

And what they appreciated in the sermon was that we spent the whole time really digging into what it actually means. What does it mean to taste that God is good? What does it mean to see that God is good? Really?

By God’s grace, I think it was a good start at understanding what a lifetime of tasting and seeing God can be like. King David was a skilled guide, and the lyrics of his song provided an accurate and detailed map. If you’d like to consider these questions, and begin the adventure of tasting and seeing, you can watch or listen to the sermon here.

And if you have any questions or feedback, I always appreciate hearing from you, and having the opportunity to further serve you.

Finally, if you’d like to prepare for this coming Sunday, be sure to read and check out all the resources at The Bible Project on the Song of Songs, the last book in our study of the Wisdom of Israel.

Seeing and Savoring with You,

Pastor Matthew

matthew@calvarystcloud.org

matthewmolesky.com