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

Child Dedications

August 26, 2018

BRINGING UP A FUTURE GENERATION FOR CHRIST

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)

Day Eleven: A Pig Is Still A Pig

August 25, 2018

Like a gold ring in a pig’s snout
is a beautiful woman without discretion.
(Proverbs 11:22, English Standard Version)

“Well…I never!” she replied to the King.

Reading this proverb, it seems highly probable to me, given the stories of King Solomon and all the women in his life (1 Kings 11:3), that this was probably a proverb born from experience. He comes along a beautiful woman, of high social standing, of influence and power; but in his interactions with her, he begins to see her true self shining through all her external adornments. She has no discretion—she is a woman of loose and dissolute conversation, her mind and conscience are defiled. There’s a beauty for the eye, but the corruption of her character slowly transforms how Solomon sees her, and no amount of jewelry will cover that up.

So he mutters, maybe a bit under his breath, “For all that beauty, it’s like a gold ring in a pig’s snout.”

Hence, her response.

So how does this play out in your day today? (think carefully here men….)

Remember, these individual sayings of wisdom are here to help us dig deep into our living. To roll them around in our minds for awhile, prayerfully considering them, asking God to reveal the truth he wants us to see in something so succinctly stated.

Maybe this can get us started. Here’s what struck me.

The right response to having wallowed in the mud of unrighteousness and becoming corrupt is not to try and add a dash of put-on good behavior, as if that somehow changes the truth of who we really are. All you’ll end up looking like is a bejeweled swine. A pig is still a pig.

True beauty, and loveliness, only comes about from a changed heart. It happens by humbling ourselves before God and asking him to clean us and beautify us from the inside out. Then we actually will be transformed, from one degree of glory to the next, as we set our eyes on Christ. We will be a new creation, in every way.

I wonder if the Apostle Peter was remembering Solomon’s wisdom when he wrote this to the women of the church:

Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear— but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.
(1 Peter 3:3-4, English Standard Version)

While written to the ladies, I think there’s an implication for all of us here. Namely, don’t let your adorning be external, but internal. If you want to put upon yourself imperishable beauty, that not only God can see as precious but all can behold and appreciate, cultivate the hidden person of the heart.

Then, feel free to put on the bling and dress to the nines.


Father,

Even after you’ve cleaned us up with the gospel and washed us with the water of the Word, we are prone to wander and wallow in all kinds of mud holes of sin. Make us wise. Help us to see that we can’t hide such things. The jewels of good works and good behavior will not provide the beauty we seek. We need you to cleanse our hearts, so that we can be fully, truly, clean and transformed. Adorn us with the gospel today, Father, by the cleansing force of your Holy Spirit.

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 Ten: The Proverbs of Solomon

August 24, 2018

On day two, we paused for a moment to consider the structure of the book of Proverbs. As we are now heading into that section of the book that most people are familiar with, it seems like a good idea to consider that layout again.

The first nine chapters we’ve just completed are extended descriptions of wisdom, largely in story form with instructions from a parent to a child, often using images of “Lady Wisdom” and “Woman Folly.” They are there to explain two pathways, one that leads to a wise and good life, and one that leads to destruction. And these first nine chapters are there to help us see why we should care about chapters ten through thirty-one, which contain all the individual sayings of wisdom for which the book is famous.

A couple of reminders as you begin your journey reading these individual sayings of wisdom. First, remember that not all of them are promises or guarantees. If you read them that way, you will very quickly find yourself arguing with their validity, maybe having experienced the opposite of what they say to be true. Rather, in general, they are highly probable possibilities of what will happen if you follow the path of wisdom they provide. Second, most of the sayings are made up of two lines, with the second line providing a contrasting statement that strengthens the idea found in the first, providing a solid snippet of wisdom.

For example,

When words are many, transgression is not lacking, 
but whoever restrains his lips is prudent. 
(Prov. 10:19, English Standard Version)

See how the second line supports and enforces the first?

One of the tools I have close at hand when studying the Scriptures is a good commentary, often by a dead guy (or gal), who will help me interact with and glean from the text. I’ve always been amazed how just a few dollars will allow me unfettered access to wise scholars across the ages of Christendom. Today I pulled out Charles Bridges’s work on Proverbs. Here is what came from his meditation on this brief saying:

Hypocrisy and slander are not the only sins of the tongue. Indeed, considering the corrupt spring from which they flow we cannot think of words, much less when words are many, without sin.
There is the sin of egotism. Our own mouth praises us, but no one else (Prov. 27:2). We love to hear ourselves talk and to present our own judgments intrusively.
There is also the sin of vain babbling. The fool talks forever about nothing, not because he is full, but because he is empty; not in order to give instruction, but for the pure love of talking. This wantonness is a sin of the flesh, trifling with the most responsible talent, when “conversation is,” as Bishop Butler rightly says, “merely the exercise of the tongue; no other human faculty has any place in it. One meets with people in the world who never seem to have made the wise man’s observation that ‘there is a time to keep silence.’ These times, one would think, should be easily discerned by everybody; namely, when a man has nothing to say, or nothing but what is better unsaid.” 
The government of the tongue is, therefore, a searching test of the soundness of our religion. Since the sin is linked to manywords, it is surely wise to hold our tongue—not in silence, but in caution; to weigh our words before uttering them; never speaking except when we have something to say; speaking only just enough; considering the time, the person, and the circumstances. “Light words weigh heavy in God’s balance” (Nicholls). 
Never let us think of these sins as anything less than the nails that pierced our Lord’s hands and feet. Thus we will become like the one who holds his tongue (see also Psalm 141:3).

Or, in other words,

Too much talk leads to sin. 
Be sensible and keep your mouth shut.
(Proverbs 10:19, New Living Translation)

Father,

Thank you for this fresh, wise reminder of the power of words, which is to say, the power of our tongues. Our words can heal or destroy, give life or give death. They can set the world ablaze. So help us Father, by the power of your Holy Spirit. Make us quick to listen, and slow to speak. Take control over what we say, place a guard upon our lips, that we might be prudent 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

Day Nine: It’s Decision Time

August 23, 2018

When I was growing up, the preacher in our small-town church used to quote this line from a poem by Robert Frost often,

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one least traveled by,
and that has made all the difference.

I wonder if Frost had read Solomon. For centuries before his poem, the Israelite King presented a similar picture. He confronts us with a choice—not of two roads, but of two houses on either side of the road. He paints a picture of stark contrasts. 

On one side of the road, there is a beautiful, luxurious home, standing tall and strong with seven pillars dominating its face. Standing in the door is its builder, the elegant lady named Wisdom. She has prepared a feast for us to enjoy—roast beast and fine wine mixed with savory spices. And she has a host of maidens inviting us in to a home filled with warmth, insight, and life. (Proverbs 9:1-6)

On the other side of the road, a simple, plain, windowless home that is on the edge of the sketchy part of town. In its doorway is the shady-looking, smooth-talking seductress, Woman Folly. She offers no feast—only simple bread and water will be found here. She promises pleasures, but sucks people in to a home filled with coldness, foolishness, and death. (Proverbs 9:13-18)

And both sides are calling, “Whoever is simple, let him turn in here!” (Proverbs 9:4,16)

It’s decision time for the simple.

And just who are the simple? Well, friend, that’s you and me. Here’s how Ray Ortlund puts it:

Anyone can join the party: “Whoever is simple, let him turn in here!” Remember that “the simple” is the beginner who lacks commitment. But Christ [the Wise] is so humble to welcome us in, just as we are. Here is a simple gospel mantra always to keep in mind: “One, I am a complete idiot. Two, my future is incredibly bright. Three, anyone can get in on this.” All we have to do is turn to him: “Whoever is simple, let him turn in here!” That is repentance. Gospel repentance is more than turning away from sin. Gospel repentance is, first and foremost, turning toward [wisdom, namely,] Jesus Christ. How can you and I ever turn completely from our sins anyway. As the old hymn says, “If you tarry till you’re better, you will never come at all.” Christ is inviting us to come now and receive his very best: “Come, eat of my bread and drink of the wine I have mixed” (Proverbs 9:5).

Ah, that’s what the sacrament of the table shows us, doesn’t it? We regularly observe the sacrament of communion as a symbol of the feast that awaits us in the new heavens and the new earth. The cross is foolishness to men, but to us, it is the wisdom of God.

So, it’s decision time.

In one sense, it’s a one-time decision. Which house will we choose? Lady Wisdom or Woman Folly? Life or Death?

In another sense, I think we know that we keep running back and forth between these two houses all the time. Because we are human. Because we are sinners, and we can “never completely turn from our sins anyway” in this age. But praise God, in Jesus, forgiveness can always be found! We are always welcome in the house of seven pillars when we have been marked and covered by the blood of the Wise One.

Father,

It’s decision time again today. Give us eyes to see and spiritual senses to taste that all you offer is what is truly good. Help us to choose you. Again and again. And when we fail, remind us that you always receive us and are quick to forgive your repentant children. We love you Father.

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 Eight: Without Further Ado

August 22, 2018

So here we are, about one-quarter of the way into Proverbs. If you’ve been reading along—well done! I hope you have enjoyed digging into these texts as much as I have, discovering the path of wisdom, in the fear of Yahweh, toward a good life.

At the very beginning of our journey, I defined wisdom as expertise and competence, as applied skill for living, similar to how we would talk about a craftsman applying skill in his labor. By way of reminder, I made the case for exploring Proverbs daily this way—

Which is why this book, as part of the larger wisdom literature of the Bible (along with Job, Psalms, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs), is indispensable in the very natural human longing for a good life. In one sense, Proverbs is this kind of instruction manual that helps us see better the hardwiring of how wisdom is already operating in creation, so that we can follow its lead, and work with it, and not against it (Proverbs teaches us the latter would be folly). This is the path toward Lady Wisdom, this is the path toward a happy life, this is the path toward a good life.

The next seven days of this little writing project were attempts at introducing you to exactly how the wisdom found in this book is worthy of our attention, and indispensable for good living, and a good life. But here’s the thing, they were merely that, attempts at introduction.

In this way, I feel like that guy who’s been asked to introduce the highly popular, sought-after, and charismatic speaker. You find yourself trying to say some thoughtful and compelling things, but all the while realize who people really want to hear from is the person they actually came to see. 

And as we take up chapter eight, here she is. Lady Wisdom, in all her glory, ascending to the stage, and addressing us directly. Today, I will let wisdom speak for herself. You won’t want to miss this.

So….without further ado

1 Listen as Wisdom calls out! 
Hear as understanding raises her voice! 
2 On the hilltop along the road, 
she takes her stand at the crossroads. 
3 By the gates at the entrance to the town, 
on the road leading in, she cries aloud, 
4 “I call to you, to all of you! 
I raise my voice to all people. 
5 You simple people, use good judgment. 
You foolish people, show some understanding. 
6 Listen to me! For I have important things to tell you. 
Everything I say is right, 
7 for I speak the truth 
and detest every kind of deception. 
8 My advice is wholesome. 
There is nothing devious or crooked in it. 
9 My words are plain to anyone with understanding, 
clear to those with knowledge. 
10 Choose my instruction rather than silver, 
and knowledge rather than pure gold. 
11 For wisdom is far more valuable than rubies. 
Nothing you desire can compare with it. 
12 “I, Wisdom, live together with good judgment. 
I know where to discover knowledge and discernment. 
13 All who fear the Lord will hate evil. 
Therefore, I hate pride and arrogance, 
corruption and perverse speech. 
14 Common sense and success belong to me. 
Insight and strength are mine. 
15 Because of me, kings reign, 
and rulers make just decrees. 
16 Rulers lead with my help, 
and nobles make righteous judgments. 
17 “I love all who love me. 
Those who search will surely find me. 
18 I have riches and honor, 
as well as enduring wealth and justice. 
19 My gifts are better than gold, even the purest gold, 
my wages better than sterling silver! 
20 I walk in righteousness, 
in paths of justice. 
21 Those who love me inherit wealth. 
I will fill their treasuries. 
22 “The Lord formed me from the beginning, 
before he created anything else. 
23 I was appointed in ages past, 
at the very first, before the earth began. 
24 I was born before the oceans were created, 
before the springs bubbled forth their waters. 
25 Before the mountains were formed, 
before the hills, I was born— 
26 before he had made the earth and fields 
and the first handfuls of soil. 
27 I was there when he established the heavens, 
when he drew the horizon on the oceans. 
28 I was there when he set the clouds above, 
when he established springs deep in the earth. 
29 I was there when he set the limits of the seas, 
so they would not spread beyond their boundaries. 
And when he marked off the earth’s foundations, 
30 I was the architect at his side. 
I was his constant delight, 
rejoicing always in his presence. 
31 And how happy I was with the world he created; 
how I rejoiced with the human family! 
32 “And so, my children, listen to me, 
for all who follow my ways are joyful. 
33 Listen to my instruction and be wise. 
Don’t ignore it. 
34 Joyful are those who listen to me, 
watching for me daily at my gates, 
waiting for me outside my home! 
35 For whoever finds me finds life 
and receives favor from the Lord. 
36 But those who miss me injure themselves. 
All who hate me love death.” 
(Proverbs 8, New Living Translation)

Father,

What a glorious thing wisdom is! How worthy of our pursuit! Today, we simply ask—cause us to love wisdom, for she loves all who love her, and she makes herself available to those who seek her diligently. Make us lovers and seekers, for her gifts are better than gold, and her wages better than silver. Who wouldn’t want her? For whoever finds her finds LIFE, and, favor from you! So give us a heart for wisdom, we pray, dearest Father, by the power of your Holy Spirit, who is at work within us.

Yes, and very amen, in Jesus’ name.

Pursuing Lady Wisdom 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 Seven: Smooth Operator

August 21, 2018

24 So listen to me, my sons, 
and pay attention to my words. 
25 Don’t let your hearts stray away toward [the adulteress]. 
Don’t wander down her wayward path. 
26 For she has been the ruin of many; 
many men have been her victims. 
27 Her house is the road to the grave. 
Her bedroom is the den of death.
(Proverbs 7:24-27, NLT)

This is the third time (cf. Prov. 5:1ff; 6:20ff) that the father has warned the son against adultery. As we observed in day five’s meditation, given the frequency of infidelity in our own time and culture, it should be no surprise that he is doing so. For it is a heart-wrenching reality that in our own time (as it probably was in theirs), adultery is pervasive among us, with almost every week bringing the news of yet another moral failure of a spouse, and the consequent dissolution of a marriage.

So the father, rightly, grabs us lovingly by the collar, gives us a shake, and says, “Wake up to this! Be attentive! Listen to what I’m saying now!” And then waves the devastating consequences of adultery like a smelling salts beneath our noses in an attempt to keep us from falling to temptation.

And why do we need smelling salts? 

Because the adulteress is seductive, she is a smooth operator (Prov. 7:21). She will lull a person lacking sense (Prov. 7:7) to sleepily succumb to sexual sin. She will share promises of satisfaction that can be secretively relished. She will smother with kisses, seize with allurements, spread out a seeming banquet of delights, persuade with physical pleasures.

It struck me this morning that there is a deeper danger than merely a person here, the one the father describes as the adulteress. Don’t get me wrong, I think in each instance the father is describing an actual person, an adulteress. But he is also describing the sin of adultery. And what I feel freshly awakened to this morning by these smelling salts is the scary reality that there is a prince of the power of the air, a spirit at work in people that tempts and compels them toward disobedience (Ephesians 2:1-3).

Remember, dear friend, sin is this powerful force and attacker, seeking to devour us (1 Peter 5:8). Sin is a wily foe, it is crouching at the door, and its desire is contrary to a good life for us (Genesis 4:7). Sin does not come with a full, frontal assault, saying,

“Here I am, your old friend sin. Come on, turn aside to my ways, stray over here to my path, I’ve prepared some delights that will lead to your slaughter, pierce your heart, lay you low, cost your life, bring you to the grave, and secure your painful and untimely death.”

Who would willingly buy in to that sale?

No. Sin doesn’t come at you that way. Sin is smarter than that. Sin is a seductress. Sin is a smooth talker. Sin baits and hides the hook of your destruction with pleasures and delights, enjoyments and amusements, in order to pierce your soul, hold you fast, and drag you into Sheol and the chamber of death (Proverbs 7:27).

What is the answer to slaying this crouching, smooth-talking devourer of souls? 

The sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God (Ephesians 6:17).

1 Follow my advice, my son; 
always treasure my commands. 
2 Obey my commands and live! 
Guard my instructions as you guard your own eyes. 
3 Tie them on your fingers as a reminder. 
Write them deep within your heart. 
4 Love wisdom like a sister; 
make insight a beloved member of your family. 
5 Let them protect you from an affair with an immoral woman, 
from listening to the flattery of a promiscuous woman. 
(Proverbs 7:1-5, NLT)
I have hidden your word in my heart, 
that I might not sin against you.
(Psalm 119:11, NLT)

Father,

Thank you for being the kind of Father that’s not afraid to tell us about the truly scary monsters that live in our world. Sin and Satan are wily and vicious foes, bent on our destruction. But you have supplied us with a book, that warns us of these smooth operators. You describe the kinds of traps and snares that will be laid in our path, so that we might have success in overcoming their temptations. Place within us the desire to follow your advice, treasure your commands, guard your instructions, and obey your commandments, that we may truly live! Fill us with your Holy Spirit, and remind us of the victory that Jesus has already secured by his costly cross.

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 Six: Hate Isn’t Always A Bad Thing

August 20, 2018

Maybe you’ve seen this kind of interaction.

Child: “I hate you!” or “I hate this!”
Parent: Don’t you ever say that again! We don’t hate anyone or anything, to hate is a horrible thing!

Generally, parents in such situations have gotten it right. To hate—a person or a thing—is almost always a bad thing. And this lesson goes beyond the family unit, with our culture recognizing, in various ways, that hateful behavior and speech is not wise, nor does it lead to a good life. There seems to be something almost hardwired in us to know that hate is ugly…

People level the accusation of hate speech against one another when the argument seems to have gone too far. 
We’ve codified it in our laws, labeling some acts as hate crimes. 
We cringe at the presence of hate which seems all to common in our dialogue in the realm of ethnic harmony. 
And even Taylor Swift sang what many of us have sadly resigned ourselves to accepting in a social media driven culture, “haters gonna hate.”

But is hate always a bad thing? 

Are there instances where hate is actually wise, and does, in fact, lead to a good life?

Is it possible that something so ugly can lead to beauty?

16 There are six things Yahweh hates— 
no, seven things he detests
17 haughty eyes, 
a lying tongue, 
hands that kill the innocent, 
18 a heart that plots evil, 
feet that race to do wrong, 
19 a false witness who pours out lies, 
a person who sows discord in a family. 
(Proverbs 6:16-19, NLT)

The parent speaking here (Proverbs 6:1), in answer to our questions, believes that hate is sometimes a good thing; that there are instances where it is wise, and leads to a good life; where something normally ugly can lead to beauty.

Listen, I’m not trying to be clever here, the wisdom found here is simple and straightforward. Our good and loving Father here reveals that there are times where it is wise to take feelings of intense and passionate dislike and turn them in the direction of seven behaviors that share one thing in common—they are all sin.

One reads this list— arrogance, speech marked by lies, murder, plans for evil, swiftness in wrongdoing, giving false testimony to someone about someone, and the agony brought about by a family member dividing the family—and you intuitively know they are wrong.  You think about the ugliness they are responsible for in the world, and it’s easy to get that you should hate them.

But here’s what you also get: they reveal your guilt. 

And that is why this proverbial father is offering what seems to be such basic advice. He knows that his son (and us with him) need reminding. We need sins pointed out, described as ugly, shown as the target of intense dislike by a holy God, so that along with God, we will detest them (and all sin) as well.

In this strange way, as Christians, we are called to meditate beforehand on the sinfulness of sin, so that when tempted, we will feel like God toward it, and not enter into it. Consider how God feels.

He hates sin. He has an intense dislike and aversion toward these things, he cannot endure or abide them, and it is impossible for him to take part in them.

He detests sin. It causes horror and disgust in him, to look upon it is repulsive to him.

So the question is: Do we feel this way about the things listed here? Deep in our bones. Seeing them as he sees them, reacting to them in the way he reacts to them. Dear friend, we must not take sin lightly. In the famous words of John Owen,

Be killing sin,
or it will be killing you.

If you would hate, hate sin; and if you would detest, detest sin. Follow the example of your heavenly Father. This is the way of wisdom. This is the path toward beauty and a good life.

Father,

Forgive us for taking sin lightly, when it is so very dangerous. While we want to love what you love, and desire what you desire, we learn from this passage that we also want to hate what you hate, and detest what you detest. These emotions rightly directed are part of living and bringing about a good life. So help us, we pray. Give us discernment, and give us courage. Make us a wise people who bring about your kingdom because we obey your commands and do not neglect your instruction. And thank you for your Son, upon whom you laid all that which you hate and detested, making him to be sin, so that we become your righteousness, and have access to the power of the Spirit who helps us in wise living.

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

Grace Day

August 19, 2018

If you’ve been reading along in this little series—congratulations! You’ve made it to the end of the first week. As a reward to both of us, you the reader, and myself as the writer, I’ve decided to make Sundays a “Grace Day.”

So take the day off. Read another portion of the Holy Scriptures, or look back and review Proverbs 1-5. We’ll begin again tomorrow.

And, please note the newly adjusted reading plan below, which reflects this change.

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

Ecclesiastes

August 19, 2018

Over the last three weeks in our Sunday gatherings, we’ve been studying the portion of the Whole Story of the Bible known as “The Wisdom of Israel.” It’s important to remember how we’ve been thinking about wisdom as we do so. Namely, wisdom is applied skill and competence. It is an understanding that Yahweh himself has hardwired wisdom into all of creation and all of humanity (Proverbs 8:22-31). It is the inner logic for how everything works, and the ‘secret code’ to discovering a good life. Therefore, in the words of the Bible Project,

The wisdom books of the Old Testament offer three different [but complementary] perspectives on how to live well in God’s good world. They reveal the collected wisdom of generations of godly people, and invite us to consider the complexity and simplicity of living wisely.

The three books they are referring to are Job, Ecclesiastes, and Proverbs, which we’ve now completed as the first part of our exploration of wisdom. But there are two books yet to go, which make up the lyrical wisdom of the Old Testament—Psalms and the Song of Songs.

Now, why should you care about these books? Because we all want to live a good life. We all want our lives to mean something, and to be spent well for a greater purpose. And we all desire peace, happiness, contentment, and joy as we invest the precious moments of our living that God has provided. What we’ve been discovering is that wisdom is the path to a good life.

So, if you’d like to study further—and I hope you do—I recommend you listen to this latest installment in The Whole Story, my sermon on Ecclesiastes. In particular, the introduction provides a metaphor to understand how Job, Proverbs, and Ecclesiastes work together and balance each other. 

Then, head on over to The Bible Project to watch their Wisdom Series on these three books. Just click on the image below to open yourself up to three beautifully done short films that bring clarity to this foundational part of the Scriptures, as well as a wealth of additional resources.

If you’d like to study Ecclesiastes in particular, you can peruse additional study resources here

I’d like to remind you that this coming Sunday we will be making our way into Psalms. If you’ve been following along with the Read Scripture app, you’ve already read through Psalms once this year, so I’m not asking you to read all 150 chapters in preparation! Rather, my plan is to spend a little time with an overview of the Psalter, and then dive into Psalm 34 as an example for how to understand and apply this lyrical wisdom to our lives. If you’d like to prepare, check out the Bible Project page on the Psalms.

Finally, if you haven’t already, you should download thenew Calvary app. It is the fastest way to access all of these sermons and articles. And, if you’ve been blessed by the ministry of Calvary, it also provides an easy way to give electronically right in the app. It is the generous support of people like you that make this content available, that you might mature as a disciple of Jesus Christ.

Warmly,

Pastor Matthew

matthew@calvarystcloud.org

matthewmolesky.com

Day Five: Be Attentive To Wisdom

August 18, 2018

“That can’t happen to me.”
“I would never do that!”
“I’m not that kind of person.”
“I know I would never make a decision like that.”
“There is no way we would end up there.”

While it is hard to nail down a precise figure (I looked at a number of studies), one large study pulling together a number of other studies reports: “To conclude, a close analysis of [the] Infidelity rate and its growth pattern clearly indicates that nearly one half of all married men and women are involved in extramarital affairs.”

Nearly one half.

Almost fifty percent of married men and women, who stood before others and made vows of fidelity, commitment, and love; fifty percent who would have said, “I would never do that!”…did that.

One of the things that I love about the Bible is that it does not shy away from some of the most difficult aspects of a very sinful humanity. It speaks with clarity, boldness, insight, frankness, and courage. Further, I love that in this particular instance, here in Proverbs 5, we are hearing the gentle, pleading, and yet firm words of direction and warning from a father to a son. 

An important note here—if you are a woman reading this chapter (and other’s like it in Proverbs), please don’t be offended, as if Solomon is portraying all women here in this bit of counsel. As if all men should be afraid of and able to blame women for their sin. He is not doing that. He is describing an adulteress.  You could switch the roles here quite easily, and imagine Solomon addressing his daughter, warning against an adulterer.

So, if you haven’t read Proverbs 5 yet, please go read it now.

(queue quiet piano music…)

Ok. Done?

Welcome back.

Note the first words from the father’s mouth, “My son, be attentive to my wisdom.” (Proverbs 5:1)

That means you, dear reader. Whether you are married or not married, this wisdom applies to you. For the former, this wisdom will protect your marriage right now; for the latter, this wisdom will protect the marriage you may someday enter into.

“Be attentive.”

Don’t be so prideful, thinking you are above this, better than this, immune to this. That will be your first step toward the destruction of adultery. Pride goes before the fall (Proverbs 16:18). I’m pretty sure that that 50% thought the same way, and look where that got them.

As a pastor, I can tell you far too many stories of couples in the church that have found themselves here. Couples who never thought they would be here. Couples that I never thought would be here. Walking with people who have fallen into the kind of destruction this father is warning against is some of the most excruciating ministry I’ve ever been involved with. I have sat with men who have groaned, with the feeling of their flesh and bodies almost consumed, and spoken just like this,

“12 How I hated discipline, 
and my heart despised reproof! 
13  I did not listen to the voice of my teachers 
or incline my ear to my instructors. 
14  I am at the brink of utter ruin 
in the assembled congregation.”  
(Proverbs 5:12-14, English Standard Version)

Listen, dear friend. The complexity of this cannot be fully dealt with in a little article like this. I get that. Books have been written. Helpful books. But let me at least say this here.

Adultery. Does. Not. Pay.

It will not get you what you are looking for.

If you are considering it right now, please, stop for a moment. If you are thinking you can get away with it, that no one will know, you can’t.

He will know.

Your Father will know.

Why would you trade enduring intimacies for cheap thrills with a whore?
for dalliance with a promiscuous stranger?
 Mark well that God doesn’t miss a move you make;
he’s aware of every step you take.
The shadow of your sin will overtake you;
you’ll find yourself stumbling all over yourself in the dark.
Death is the reward of an undisciplined life;
your foolish decisions trap you in a dead end.
(Proverbs 5:20-23, The Message)

Dear friend, maybe you are reading this, and you are planning, considering, pondering, imagining, or fantasizing about this destructive path. 

“Be attentive.”

Or maybe you are reading this, blissfully married, “drinking from your own cistern” (5:15), “rejoicing in the [spouse] of your youth” (5:18), and “intoxicated always in [your spouse’s] love” (5:19).

“Be attentive.”

And don’t try to be attentive alone. One of Satan’s most effective strategies is to isolate you from others. Every marriage needs the encouragement found in God-centered, Jesus-loving, Spirit-filled, Bible-saturated friends. Either way—tempted or contented—make sure your marriage is open to others, allowing them to strengthen you and keep you in the way of wisdom.

It is only on that path that you will find a good life. The happiness you are longing for. And while this little article may not be able to accomplish much, I am completely confident that this one little, Spirit-empowered chapter can.

Father,

This isn’t necessarily a breezy, happy, cheery text to take in today.

It’s weighty, sobering, and if we would honestly meditate upon it, quite disturbing. This is some of the darkest sin imaginable that can give birth to some of the most destructive actions possible. Grab our attention, Father. Keep us and guard us from sin. Show us the way to true contentment and a good life. We don’t want to end our days in utter ruin, our lives in a heap of rubble at the end of a dead end street. Please! Set our eyes always on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, so that we may live in the intoxicating place of committed, married love—either now, or in the future, if that should be part of the plan you have for 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: ch. 6

Aug. 20: ch. 7

Aug. 21: ch. 8

Aug. 22: ch. 9

Aug. 23: ch. 10

Aug. 24: ch. 11

Aug. 25: ch. 12

Aug. 26: ch. 13

Aug. 27: ch. 14

Aug. 28: ch. 15

Aug. 29: ch. 16

Aug. 30: ch. 17

Aug. 31: ch. 18

Sept. 1: ch. 19

Sept. 2: ch. 20

Sept. 3: ch. 21

Sept. 4: ch. 22

Sept. 5: ch. 23

Sept. 6: ch. 24

Sept. 7: ch. 25

Sept. 8: ch. 26

Sept. 9: ch. 27

Sept. 10: ch. 28

Sept. 11: ch. 29

Sept. 12: ch. 30

Sept. 13: ch. 31

Day Four: Orienteering

August 17, 2018

Many who know me are quite aware that I am indoorsy. It’s not that I don’t enjoy going for a run, a bike ride, or even a hike through the woods or in the mountains. It’s just that I don’t want to sleep out there. I believe God inspired us to create hotels and houses for a very good reason: to return to, enjoy, and sleep in. It’s a very important part of what separates us from the animals.

Well, back when I was in school for ministry training, all the students in our small school were taken for a multi-day hike in the northern woods of Wisconsin as a bonding experience. Before we began this adventure, our guides gathered all the men into a few groups and taught us orienteering. They held up a large piece of paper with colors and squiggly lines all over it, and said, “This is a map.” They showed us a compass. They taught us how to find our location, identify topography and checkpoints, and chart a course from point A to point B. This was really important information, because (little did we know) each of us would be responsible at some point over the course of the coming days to lead the others safely from checkpoint to checkpoint, eventually finding our way back home to civilization.

I learned a great deal on that trip (boy, could I share some stories!). Not the least of them was how crucial it was to have someone give you their wisdom on making one’s way through difficult country, the importance of taking care of one’s bodies with food and water, and the absolute necessity of a functioning compass and accurate map. Without them, you could get utterly lost and your life could be in peril.

The father in Proverbs understands such things. Listen to how he talks to his son, as he sets out into a dangerous world:

20 My son, be attentive to my words; 
incline your ear to my sayings. 
21  Let them not escape from your sight; 
keep them within your heart. 
22  For they are life to those who find them, 
and healing to all their flesh. 
23  Keep your heart with all vigilance, 
for from it flow the springs of life. 
24  Put away from you crooked speech, 
and put devious talk far from you. 
25  Let your eyes look directly forward, 
and your gaze be straight before you. 
26  Ponder the path of your feet; 
then all your ways will be sure. 
27  Do not swerve to the right or to the left; 
turn your foot away from evil. 
(Proverbs 4:20-27, English Standard Version)

This isn’t a checklist for a hike into the woods. Rather, it is a checklist for safely making our way wisely in the world. 

The first thing the father points out is that our bodies are a big part of making our way safely in this world. He engages multiple of the senses and members: we must be attentive to words of wisdom, never letting them out of our sight; we must prick up our ears to take them all in, listening carefully and closely; our eyes must also be set steadfastly on the path, and we need to carefully plant our feet as we move forward, staying on the proper course. 

Above all, like caring for a good compass so it operates and leads one properly, we must keep our heart with all vigilance (v. 23). You see, the father understands that it’s not what’s on the outside, but what’s on the inside, that’s most important. And from theheart (which means our minds, hearts, and whole personality) “flow the springs of life”—the capacity to properly live with joy and vigor regardless of circumstances. And without wisdom’s protection, corruption will enter in, hindering the proper functioning of the heart, and thus its ability to keep us safely on course. 

Finally, to find our way, we must have a good map. It is the wise words and sayings of the father that reveal the topography of our lives in this world, the obstacles we will come up against, the peaks we will ascend, and the valleys we will have to traverse. The words and sayings provide the path and way (v. 26) we must follow. And if we do, we will make our way safely home, we will find our way to life and healing (v. 22).

We will live a good life.

Father,

We approach you today, in the light of this text, in a spirit of gratitude. What a good Father you are! Thank you for opening your mouth and giving us words and sayings of wisdom. We know that there are principalities and powers in the heavenly places that will come against us, so thank you for reminding us to keep our hearts with all vigilance. Thank you for giving us a good map, and a compass, and sound bodies. And , help us now, Father, by your Spirit whom you have given to us, to be good orienteers so that we can live lives of wholeness, joy and vigor, and make our way through this dangerous world, to arrive safely home to you. 

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: ch. 6

Aug. 20: ch. 7

Aug. 21: ch. 8

Aug. 22: ch. 9

Aug. 23: ch. 10

Aug. 24: ch. 11

Aug. 25: ch. 12

Aug. 26: ch. 13

Aug. 27: ch. 14

Aug. 28: ch. 15

Aug. 29: ch. 16

Aug. 30: ch. 17

Aug. 31: ch. 18

Sept. 1: ch. 19

Sept. 2: ch. 20

Sept. 3: ch. 21

Sept. 4: ch. 22

Sept. 5: ch. 23

Sept. 6: ch. 24

Sept. 7: ch. 25

Sept. 8: ch. 26

Sept. 9: ch. 27

Sept. 10: ch. 28

Sept. 11: ch. 29

Sept. 12: ch. 30

Sept. 13: ch. 31

Day Three: A Heart of Wisdom

August 16, 2018

When we baptize someone at our church, we always remind our people that baptism is an outward sign of an inward reality. This picture of being lowered fully into the water and rising up again that happens on the outside for all to see, is a window into the soul of the baptized, revealing a heart cleansed, purified, and surrendered to Jesus, and thus saved, transformed, and made a part of the family.

An outward sign of an inward reality.

This is what the father, writing to his son in Proverbs chapter three, is after. You see, he is pointing the way to wisdom, but it is not because he is aiming merely at his son’s behavior. This proverbial wisdom, these guidelines and commandments, aren’t the end game. The father is aiming at something far deeper.

My son, do not forget my teaching, 
but let your heart keep my commandments, 
for length of days and years of life 
and peace they will add to you. 
Let not steadfast love and faithfulness forsake you; 
bind them around your neck; 
write them on the tablet of your heart
So you will find favor and good success 
in the sight of God and man. 
Trust in Yahweh with all your heart
and do not lean on your own understanding. 
(Proverbs 3:1-6, English Standard Version)

Did you know that Solomon talks about the “heart” 75 times over the course of the book of Proverbs? You see, that is what he, and what the father here in chapter three, and what our heavenly Father, is after.

Our heart.

He does not want our intellect buckling down and forcing our bodies into submission to the guidance and commands offered here by the power of the will. No, he wants our hearts. The heart is the engine of true and glad obedience. The father is wooing the son’s heart, that it keeps the commandments (v. 1), that it is tattooed with the proverbs (v. 3), that it is the true fountainhead of active and lived trust (v. 5). 

Quite simply, a heart enraptured with God is the first requirement for following along on the path of wisdom. 

Is that true of you today? If not, or, actually, even if it is, let’s stop for a moment right now. Let’s turn off the radio or TV or iTunes if they are playing, let’s ask the kids to quiet down for a moment if they are near, and let’s push out the distractions buzzing around our minds like pesky little flies.

Let’s quiet ourselves.

And talk with God.

Let’s do that together, shall we?

Father,

This morning we confess that our desires are weak, and you don’t have our whole heart. But we want that to change, and are glad that you have promised the Spirit as our Helper and our Guide. Lead us to you, Father. Here’s our heart, take and seal it. We know that if you have our heart, our lives will also be yours. What good news! Make it so right now, and throughout this day. For your glory, and our joy.
Yes, and very amen, in Jesus’ name.

Well, we’ve heard from God.

We’ve talked with God.

Now let’s fire the music back up, and worship God.

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: ch. 6

Aug. 20: ch. 7

Aug. 21: ch. 8

Aug. 22: ch. 9

Aug. 23: ch. 10

Aug. 24: ch. 11

Aug. 25: ch. 12

Aug. 26: ch. 13

Aug. 27: ch. 14

Aug. 28: ch. 15

Aug. 29: ch. 16

Aug. 30: ch. 17

Aug. 31: ch. 18

Sept. 1: ch. 19

Sept. 2: ch. 20

Sept. 3: ch. 21

Sept. 4: ch. 22

Sept. 5: ch. 23

Sept. 6: ch. 24

Sept. 7: ch. 25

Sept. 8: ch. 26

Sept. 9: ch. 27

Sept. 10: ch. 28

Sept. 11: ch. 29

Sept. 12: ch. 30

Sept. 13: ch. 31

Day Two: Our God Will Supply

August 15, 2018

It’s important we pause for a moment and look at the simple structure of Solomon’s book of Proverbs. The first nine chapters are extended descriptions of wisdom, largely in story form with instructions from a parent to a child, using at times images of “Lady Wisdom” and “Woman Folly.” They are there to explain two pathways, one that leads to a wise and good life, and one that leads to destruction. And these first nine chapters are there to help us see why we should care about chapters ten through thirty-one, which contain all the individual sayings of wisdom for which the book is famous.

So, as we head into chapter two today, it makes sense that we take a look at an extended description (versus those smaller individual sayings we will find in later chapters) so we can enter the world of wisdom that Solomon is attracting us to.

My son, if you receive my words 
and treasure up my commandments with you, 
making your ear attentive to wisdom 
and inclining your heart to understanding; 
yes, if you call out for insight 
and raise your voice for understanding, 
if you seek it like silver 
and search for it as for hidden treasures, 
then you will understand the fear of Yahweh 
and find the knowledge of God. 
For Yahweh gives wisdom; 
from his mouth come knowledge and understanding; 
he stores up sound wisdom for the upright; 
he is a shield to those who walk in integrity, 
guarding the paths of justice 
and watching over the way of his saints. 
(Proverbs 2:1-8, English Standard Version)

Here is a loving parent, speaking winsomely to his child, “My son…” And what he longs for his son (and us) to see is the path toward what he introduced in the very beginning; namely, “the fear of Yahweh which is the beginning of wisdom” (Proverbs 1:7). He doesn’t leave his child on his own, wondering how to do this. He helps, guides, and instructs. Notice all the if’s tied to action in verses 1-4: 

if you receive, 

if you treasure up, 

if you make your ear attentive, 

if you incline your heart, 

if you call out, 

if you raise your voice, 

if you seek, 

if you search.

If…If…If…If…If you pursue and get after it, here is the glorious promise, my son, THEN you will understand the fear of Yahweh! THEN, you will find the knowledge of God!

Friend, isn’t this glorious?! God has given us a command—live wisely as the path to a good life. AND, he has given us a promise—I will supply in response to your God-centered desire and pursuit!

The good news is that Yahweh is the source of all wisdom, from his mouth come knowledge and understanding. He stores it up for his children, he is a shield to his children, he is guarding our paths in this, and watching over our ways.

He is a good, good Father.

So now go, my friend. Pursue wisdom, believing in the Father, and he will supply the desires of your heart.

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: ch. 6

Aug. 20: ch. 7

Aug. 21: ch. 8

Aug. 22: ch. 9

Aug. 23: ch. 10

Aug. 24: ch. 11

Aug. 25: ch. 12

Aug. 26: ch. 13

Aug. 27: ch. 14

Aug. 28: ch. 15

Aug. 29: ch. 16

Aug. 30: ch. 17

Aug. 31: ch. 18

Sept. 1: ch. 19

Sept. 2: ch. 20

Sept. 3: ch. 21

Sept. 4: ch. 22

Sept. 5: ch. 23

Sept. 6: ch. 24

Sept. 7: ch. 25

Sept. 8: ch. 26

Sept. 9: ch. 27

Sept. 10: ch. 28

Sept. 11: ch. 29

Sept. 12: ch. 30

Sept. 13: ch. 31

Day One: The Fear of Yahweh

August 14, 2018

The fear of Yahweh is the beginning of knowledge; 
fools despise wisdom and instruction.
(Proverbs 1:7, English Standard Version)

I argued in yesterday’s post how God has hardwired wisdom into all of creation, and that wisdom is an applied skill in working with the grain of his design, and not against it, so that we may have a good life. An immediate question arises: if this is true, wouldn’t that mean a good life is available to all who recognize and pursue this, whether or not they believe in God? 

To a degree, yes, it is available to all. God displays a grace common to all humanity so that when they follow the kind of wise living described in the pages of Proverbs (and the wisdom literature of the Scriptures), they will benefit, quite apart from their willingness to believe in him. 

However, I believe the verse above reveals a kind of access to wisdom and knowledge that will lead to the truest and most satisfying life, which only comes by fearing Yahweh. We cannot truly grasp wisdom in all its facets so that we may grow in applying it to our living without first recognizing God as the source. The source of all wisdom, and all that is truly good. Fear—reverence, awe, and humility—before the Creator is the beginning of knowledge. Belief is the threshold we must cross to enter into the possibility of a truly good life. 

Seen this way, this verse is the theme of Proverbs. If you had to squeeze all thirty-one chapters down into one sentence, this would be that sentence. It’s why we begin here. Which means it’s quite important to understand what the fear of Yahweh is, if it is going to be the controlling idea throughout the book, and our study.

Here’s how the commentary, Proverbs: Wisdom That Works, describes it:

What is the fear of Yahweh? The structure of this verse is itself suggestive. Hebrew poetry was written in parallel lines—an A-line, then a B-line, and the B-line clarifies the A-line. So how does the second line help us here?
The key word is the word “despise.” That is an emotional word, a word of contempt and relational aloofness. It is the arrogance of being above instruction, too smart for it, too good for it, too busy for it. Such a “fool” might be a gifted person, but he does not “feel the need for moral cleansing.”
What then is the fear of Yahweh? It is not a cringing dread before Yahweh. It is not a guilty “Oh no, here comes God. I’m in for it now.” The fear of Yahweh is openness to him, eagerness to please him, humility to be instructed by him (Proverbs 15:33). The fear of Yahweh is a willingness to turn from evil and change (Job 28:28). The fear of Yahweh is surrender to his will (Genesis 22:12)…..The fear of Yahweh is when we realize, “I am not the measure of all things. I am being measured.” That reverence toward God, perhaps surprisingly, builds our confidence and flows out as a “fountain of life” into everyone and everything we care about (Proverbs 14:26,27). It takes us to a place of maturity where no one has to follow us around with a tedious list of do’s and don’t’s, constantly telling us what to do. We are motivated from deep within. We know what is right, and it is what we love, because it is of God.

Read that bolded text above one more time. For it is that last bit that is so important on our adventure toward wise living and a good life, dear friend. It was what formed our dinner conversation as a family last night, as our children started defining a good, wise, God-fearing life as merely seeing Proverbs like a list of commands to be followed. That is not the aim. Rather, the proverbs are the qualities that comprise a life of beauty that is ours for the taking. And how we take that life of beauty is by fearing, respecting, standing-in-awe-of, and loving the God who designed them. A relationship is how we begin. And, it’s how we continue, until the end.

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: ch. 6

Aug. 20: ch. 7

Aug. 21: ch. 8

Aug. 22: ch. 9

Aug. 23: ch. 10

Aug. 24: ch. 11

Aug. 25: ch. 12

Aug. 26: ch. 13

Aug. 27: ch. 14

Aug. 28: ch. 15

Aug. 29: ch. 16

Aug. 30: ch. 17

Aug. 31: ch. 18

Sept. 1: ch. 19

Sept. 2: ch. 20

Sept. 3: ch. 21

Sept. 4: ch. 22

Sept. 5: ch. 23

Sept. 6: ch. 24

Sept. 7: ch. 25

Sept. 8: ch. 26

Sept. 9: ch. 27

Sept. 10: ch. 28

Sept. 11: ch. 29

Sept. 12: ch. 30

Sept. 13: ch. 31

An Introduction

August 13, 2018

Yesterday I preached the twenty-sixth sermon in The Whole Story sermon series, on the book of Proverbs (watch the sermon here). One of the main points of the sermon—because it is one of the main points of the book of Proverbs—is how wisdom is this thing that helps you see the way the world truly is, the way it works, so that you can live well inside of it. This is because wisdom is expertise and competence, it is applied skill, seen in the ways the Bible uses the word for craftsmen (Exodus 35:31), goldsmiths (Jeremiah 10:9), and sailors (Psalm 107:27).

Therefore, wisdom, this applied skill, needs to be engaged in our lives in the same way a woodworker understands the grain of the wood she is working with—she operates with the grain of the wood, and not against it. In the same way, we want to operate with the grain of creation, as designed and crafted by God (Psalm 19:1), and not against it.

As we explored yesterday, Solomon himself revealed how wisdom is hardwired into all of Creation, when he presents Lady Wisdom saying,

22  “The Lord possessed me at the beginning of his work, 
the first of his acts of old. 
23  Ages ago I was set up, 
at the first, before the beginning of the earth. 
24  When there were no depths I was brought forth, 
when there were no springs abounding with water. 
25  Before the mountains had been shaped, 
before the hills, I was brought forth, 
26  before he had made the earth with its fields, 
or the first of the dust of the world. 
27  When he established the heavens, I was there; 
when he drew a circle on the face of the deep, 
28  when he made firm the skies above, 
when he established the fountains of the deep, 
29  when he assigned to the sea its limit, 
so that the waters might not transgress his command, 
when he marked out the foundations of the earth, 
30  then I was beside him, like a master workman, 
and I was daily his delight, 
rejoicing before him always, 
31  rejoicing in his inhabited world 
and delighting in the children of man. 
(Proverbs 8:22-31, English Standard Version)

Do you see?

One of my favorite preachers, Ray Ortlund, reflects on this passage this way—

“Wisdom was here first, before us.
“Wisdom was God’s first creation.
“He wired wisdom into the cosmos as the inner logic of everything. So wisdom was how everything started and how it still works. We are born into this world long after things were set up so amazingly. [We are surrounded in all of our living with this massive creation, this reality that was, in the beginning, “formless and empty” (Genesis 1:2, NLT), and God crafted and worked on it in order to let his divine excellence stand forth in a finished display of his craftsmanship.]
“So Biblical wisdom (like we find especially in Proverbs 10—31) is more than handy tips. It is the secret code to reality. And in the Bible it is speaking to us, so that it isn’t a secret anymore!”

Which is why this book, as part of the larger wisdom literature of the Bible (along with Job, Psalms, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs), is indispensable in the very natural human longing for a good life. In one sense, Proverbs is this kind of instruction manual that helps us see better the hardwiring of how wisdom is already operating in creation, so that we can follow its lead, and work with it, and not against it (Proverbs teaches us the latter would be folly). This is the path toward Lady Wisdom, this is the path toward a happy life, this is the path toward a good life.

It seems like a good idea, therefore, to get as much as we can from a book like Proverbs. So yesterday I proposed we all set aside time each day, for the next thirty-one days, to read one chapter from the book of Proverbs. I would further suggest that you do this alongside of reading the book of the Bible that we are currently studying as we make our way through the Whole Story.

For example, that would mean this week you would read the book of Ecclesiastes, which I will preach on Sunday 19 August, as well as read a Proverb each day. I have included a reading plan for Proverbs below, with tomorrow as our first day of reading.

As a final incentive toward you joining in, also starting tomorrow, I will choose a proverb each day from the chapter we read together. I will spend time meditating on it, and will then write a brief (2-3 paragraphs) article and post it here on the Calvary blog—every day, for the next thirty-one days. We are calling this little writing series 31 Proverbs (yeah, I spent alot of time on that name).

I really hope you will come along with me on this adventure. I am eager to see how God will use the wisdom of Proverbs to shape us more into the image of his Son, who is himself the wisdom of God (1 Corinthians 1:24) and in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (Colossians 2:3).

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: ch. 6

Aug. 20: ch. 7

Aug. 21: ch. 8

Aug. 22: ch. 9

Aug. 23: ch. 10

Aug. 24: ch. 11

Aug. 25: ch. 12

Aug. 26: ch. 13

Aug. 27: ch. 14

Aug. 28: ch. 15

Aug. 29: ch. 16

Aug. 30: ch. 17

Aug. 31: ch. 18

Sept. 1: ch. 19

Sept. 2: ch. 20

Sept. 3: ch. 21

Sept. 4: ch. 22

Sept. 5: ch. 23

Sept. 6: ch. 24

Sept. 7: ch. 25

Sept. 8: ch. 26

Sept. 9: ch. 27

Sept. 10: ch. 28

Sept. 11: ch. 29

Sept. 12: ch. 30

Sept. 13: ch. 31

Helpful Resources for Living on Mission

August 5, 2018

This last Sunday, we gave a number of things away that I believe are really helpful resources as we live on mission at Calvary, making more and maturing disciples of Jesus Christ. I thought it would be helpful to make sure you had access to them, in case you were unable to be there, or you were there but missed noting the ones we gave away.

First, we handed out the “Moving People to the Right” visual that we have been referring to for months now (click on image to download a .pdf). I walked us through the 4Es at the beginning of yesterday’s sermon in the hopes it would become more concrete to your everyday, and on the backside you will see listed the contexts where we live this out. You’ll hear more about those contexts this coming Sunday, and during our Wisdom series over the next four weeks.

Second, we handed out a new sermon schedule and reading card for our journey through The Whole Story over the next few weeks (click on image to download a .pdf). Please note that we’ve slightly adjusted the schedule from the previous card, so that this week your reading is in Proverbs, which I will then preach on this coming Sunday, August 12th. Also note that you’ll continue reading a Psalm per day in addition to that.

In addition, to spur us on to work the 4Es—engage, evangelize, establish, equip—into our speech and lives, I gave away some books for those who could answer a few questions at the beginning of the sermon. A number of you asked what those resources were, so here you go.…

Pastor Jon recommended this resource to fan the flame of our evangelistic efforts, and to supply ideas on how to naturally and confidently share the good news of the kingdom of God.

A major aim of The Whole Story sermon series is to establish and equip Calvary in our understanding of the big story of the bible. One of my favorite resources toward that end is this wonderful resource from Sally Lloyd-Jones. And don’t let the idea that it is a children’s bible keep you from buying and reading it. As Tim Keller has encouraged, “I believe that every Christian should read this bible.” You will find yourself encouraged and equipped.

A resource that pairs wonderfully with Jones’ work is this newer study Bible, put out by Zondervan, and edited by one of my favorite pastors and scholars, D.A. Carson. This bible takes a biblical theological approach (i.e., a more ‘story-like’ study) in the articles and notes supplied along with the NIV text of the Scriptures. It is an excellent resource for us as we make our way through the Whole Story.

One of the books I read every single week as I prepare the sermon for Sunday in the Whole Story series is this little volume by Tremper Longman. What it lacks in length, it makes up for in concise, understandable, and helpful introductions to each of the books of the Old Testament. Every chapter addresses an Old Testament book and deals with content, authorship and date, literary style, and how that book anticipates the Gospel; as well as providing additional resources for study, and discussion questions.

All of these resources are available at our Whole Story Resource Table and Book Nook in the lobby at our campus. I hope they will be helpful to you as you pursue our mission of making more and maturing disciples of Jesus Christ.

Tolle Lege!

Pastor Matthew

matthew@calvarystcloud.org

matthewmolesky.com

Job

August 5, 2018

This last Sunday, we made our way back into our Whole Story sermon series after a powerful four weeks taking a look at how we can help people ‘move to the right’, out of and away from the kingdom of darkness, and into the kingdom of the beloved Son. The sermon also served the purpose of kicking off our entry into the Wisdom literature of the Old Testament, with the story of Job as our first step in that journey.

One of the big questions that Job’s story raises is the cause of suffering. And while the account of his sufferings take up only a few verses of forty-two chapters, much of the book is a response to the intense and sudden sufferings he endures.

At the very beginning of the story, we are given a view into how Job’s suffering comes about, information Job and his friends are never given. Namely, an interaction between God and the Satan (the Accuser) where we see God responding to the presence of the Satan and his earthly travels by pointing out his servant, Job.

“Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?”
(Job 1:8; see Job 1:6-12)

And even after Satan takes his family and his possessions, we hear God observe in a second interaction, 

“Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil? He still holds fast his integrity, although you incited me against him without reason.” 
(Job 2:3; see Job 2:1-6)

While we are never given an explicit reason for Job’s sufferings, I think we see in these interactions at least a partial reason from this interaction in the heavenly courts. For it strikes me that part of why God chooses Job in this way, for these trials, is precisely because he knows that Job will not fail to continue turning to and trusting in him. He knows his faith will endure, which is why Job is chosen. And in this way, Job becomes a powerful example for us—to show us that it is possible, frail as we humans are, to endure the most painful afflictions. And trust in God is the way. 

Because Job never gives up on God. Even as he grieves, even as he laments, and complains, and challenges, and pleads, we read that “in all these things Job never sinned with his lips” and that “all that he said was right” about God. He is vindicated by God himself in the end, even as he repents for some of his strong language and assumptions (Job 42:1-6).

Therefore, this was a major aim in our study of the book. I proposed that Job challenges our assumptions about how much we should know or understand, that it confronts us with our limitations as finite creatures before an infinite, limitless Creator. We worked through this sentence as an outline of the book:

We often suffer—
we will not always understand,
but we can always trust.

I encourage you to take a listen to the sermon, in the hopes that God will use it in your life to give you hope and comfort in the midst of suffering—suffering you are experiencing yourself, or that you may be helping someone else endure. For further resources on this book, I encourage you to head over to the Bible Project, where you will find videos, articles, books, and outlines on Job to help you study and grow. In addition, be sure to check out their series on Wisdom, which has additional videos and resources for the books of Job, Proverbs, and Ecclesiastes.

Finally, be sure to read Proverbs this week, in preparation for this coming Sunday’s sermon and study on that book.

Until then,

grace and peace to you friends,

Pastor Matthew

matthew@calvarystcloud.org

matthewmolesky.com

Balance Life's Demands With Life's Prayers

August 2, 2018

I’ve just finished an extended time of rest with my family and friends, away from the regular demands of ministry (and the rest of life, for that matter). One of the benefits of time away is the break it creates with normal routines. You have the luxury of space in your day. A slower pace. Unplanned and unhurried time, opening the way to new rhythms as you get some distance from how you’d been living, maybe in ways that weren’t healthy, sustainable, intentional, or enjoyable.

One of the greatest joys of my time of rest were daily appointments of communion with God that had no boundaries. I could just read his Word. I could just sit quietly, letting the RPMs of my mind cycle down to almost zero. I could just talk to him with a freedom flowing from an empty iCal.

This new rhythm revealed how unhealthy my regular, not-on-vacation rhythm of communion with God had become. Hurried. Distracted. Restless. Anxious. Bounded. Enter this morning, the dawn of a new day, Monday morning, post-vacation communion with God. A reading of and meditation upon Psalm 55. A Psalm that Alex Motyer titles “The Balanced Life.” 

Huh.

That’s God timing for you, folks.

In this Psalm, King David writes this:

“As for me,
I will call out to God,
and Yahweh himself will save me.
Evening and morning and noonday,
I will muse and murmur,
and he is sure to hear my voice.
In peace he has ransomed my soul from the battle I had…
The transcendent God will hear…”

(Psalm 55:16-19, Motyer’s translation)

See it there? The rhythm David discovered?

‘Evening and morning and noonday, I will muse and murmur…’

That, my friend, is a rhythm, and a healthy one at that. Unbounded—David isn’t relegating his praying and his pursuing to any one portion of the day; rather, he will enter into communion with his Father throughout the day. He is confident that God will hear his voice, God himself will save.

That’s so good.

But it’s worth thinking about this further. Digging a little deeper. Alex Motyer offers this ‘Pause for Thought’ in his daily devotional of the Psalms. I quote it at length, because its that helpful. And it is my prayer that it will help you in your pursuit of our Father, in the name of the Son, by the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Regularity, setting specific times apart for prayer—and keeping to them in a disciplined way—is something the Bible encourages. We all find the story of Daniel’s practice in prayer moving to read (see Daniel 6:10). How, in spite of the king’s foolish, self-glorifying edict, he went to his upper room, with its windows towards Jerusalem, and knelt down three times a day. We sense not only the old man’s yearning heart for the city of God, but his confidence in prayer and his commitment. 
I wonder if Daniel had caught the vision of the threefold discipline from Psalm 55:17, ‘evening and morning and noonday’? How to end one day, and begin another; how to stop in the middle of a busy life and turn to God.
Isaiah made a forecast that the Servant of [Yahweh]—Jesus—would practice the discipline of what we used to call ‘the morning watch’ (see Isaiah 50:4), and Mark 1:35 records an occasion when he did just that. In Acts 3:1 we find Peter and John keeping the statutory hour of prayer, the ninth hour, and the devout Cornelius testifies to the same prayer discipline (see Acts 10:30).
Should we be ‘evening, morning, and noon’ people? The answer is, ‘Why not?’
Two truths are important before we make excuses about the busyness of life today. First, prayer is a simple thing, not necessarily prolonged (see Matthew 6:7-8), and secondly, none of the passages we have referred to says anything about the time when we pray or for what length of time. As soon as we think of starting the day with God, our minds begin thinking about four or five a.m. or some other unearthly hour—because we read somewhere that some great prayer-warrior was always up and about by then!
‘Setting aside time’ means just that—doing what is possible for us within our God-given day and our God-given abilities.
Time to read a verse of the Bible; time to call upon God.
And here’s a final thought: Psalm 55 begins with prayer (Psalm 55:1) and ends with trust (Psalm 55:23). If we say we are those who trust, those who are saved by faith, then a primary way this shows itself is to balance life’s demands with life’s prayers.
(Alex Motyer, Psalms by the Day: A New Devotional Translation, p. 147, paragraphing and emphasis mine)

Turn your ear, O God, to my prayer,

and do not hide yourself from my plea for grace.

And, for my part, [O God],

I keep trusting in you.

In Christ,

Pastor Matthew

matthew@calvarystcloud.org

matthewmolesky.com

Psalm 19

July 1, 2018

Last week at this blog I reminded you that a central aim for our sermon series through The Whole Story in the Bible is to inspire you to read this life-transforming book. As part of your daily reading plan, I pointed to the spiritual practice of reading a Psalm each day, because…

“…we believe that reading the Bible isn’t just an intellectual experience, but also spiritual. We invite you to take the year to develop the daily habit of praying through the Psalms [as a spiritual experience]. And by the end of the year, you’ll have prayed through the whole book of Psalms two and a half times!” (The Bible Project)

So, this last Sunday, I preached a sermon from Psalm 19 for two reasons. One was to provide this simple reminder and encouragement to read a Psalm each day. Another was to highlight the orienting nature that the Psalms provide to our wandering hearts. Namely, when we find ourselves going astray, the Psalms provide a spiritual guide (the Psalmist) and map (the Psalm) to find our way back to our Refuge and Redeemer.

One of the orienting helps that David provides in Psalm 19 is the created world that surrounds us every day. He describes how it points us to the transcendent God, reminding us he is the GOD who is there, informing us about who he is by what he has made. 

I’m often helped by great people of the faith who have gone before us, and written down there own meditations (Psalm 19:14) for our instruction. One such person is St. Gregory of Nyssa, who lived from 335-394. One historian calls him “one of the church’s profoundest and most eloquent thinkers and writers…on the Christian life.” I found it quite providential that, while reading from the church fathers on Sunday evening, after having preached on Psalm 19 in the morning, I came across his meditation on Psalm 19:3!

David says, “there is neither speech nor language, where their voice is not heard” (19:3). 
How can this declaring and showing be silent? Can there be a voice that doesn’t speak to the ear? Is David contradicting himself with an impossibility, when he speaks of words with no sound, speech without language, proclamation without voice? Or is there not truth’s pure perfection in his teaching, telling us that heaven’s speech, and the word proclaimed by the day, isn’t an expressive voice or lip-language, but a manifestation of God’s power to those who can hear it, even though they hear no voice?…Nothing has arisen from chance or accident. Some fantasise that our whole universe was fashioned by purposeless chance-combinations of primary elements, and that no providence pervades the cosmos. But Scripture teaches that the universe has a Cause behind its systematic organisation. On this Cause, all nature depends; it owes its beginning and foundation to Him towards whom it aspires and moves, in whom it rests. As Paul says, His eternal power and Deity are understood, clearly seen through the world’s creation (Romans 1:19). Thus all creation and, above all, the orderliness of the heavens, declare the Maker’s wisdom in His skilful works.
This, I think, is what David wants to say: visible things testify to the universe’s wise, skilful fashioning, and continuance through the Lord’s power over all. The heavens, showing the Maker’s wisdom, practically shout with a voice; though silent, they declare the Creator’s craftsmanship. We can hear the heavens teaching us: “O mortals, in looking on us and seeing our beauty and vastness, our incessant orbit with its orderly, harmonious movement, acting in one methodical direction, turn your thoughts to our Ruler! Through the beauty you see, envisage the beauty of the unseen Source!”

Yes, and very amen!

I hope you will make the reading of a Psalm a part of your daily routine. To study further on this remarkable portion of the Bible, you can check out the page on the Psalms over at The Bible Project, where you will find videos and further resources.

One other note: this coming Sunday we will begin a four-week summer sermon series called “We Exist…” We are excited to share with you from God’s word how you can practically live out our purpose statement as a church family to make more and maturing disciples of Jesus Christ, by “moving people one step to the right”, through the tactics found in the Four Es. What are the Four Es, you ask?

We believe it will be a very helpful series to help you seize the summer for the kingdom of God. Join us, starting this Sunday, at 10:30am.

In Christ,

Pastor Matthew

matthew@calvarystcloud.org

matthewmolesky.com

Zephaniah

June 24, 2018

We’ve been on quite a journey through the pre-exilic prophets in our Whole Story sermon series. I’ve heard from so many of how much God is teaching and revealing to you through these books that few of us have spent any substantial time studying. For my part, I have come to a place of now counting these as some of my favorite portions of Scripture, that I will come back to again and again.

And the reason I will is because these men have taken me by the hand, and lead me into previously unexplored territory on the character, attributes, majesty, glory, and plans of this stunning God we find in the pages of Scripture. Take this last week as an example — our study of the prophecy of Zephaniah.

In this little book, we find language that draws probably the greatest contrast in all of Scripture. Namely, we have one of the most awesome descriptions of the wrath of God in judgment for a little over two-thirds of the prophecy: the earth will be consumed in the fire of his burning jealousy and wrath; the very order of creation will be reversed, returning to darkness, gloom, and void. And, we have one of the most vivid and soaring descriptions of the love of God for his people, with language that at first read seems almost over the top. The words used, by God, for how God feels about sinners are frankly hard to comprehend and accept.

All in the same book.

And all connected to this Day — the Day of Yahweh, the Day of Judgment — that is coming. This urgent proclamation that “the END is near!”

If you’d like to learn more about all of that, I encourage you to listen to my sermon on the book of Zephaniah. And for further study on this book of stark contrasts and the coming end of the world, head over to our friends at The Bible Project. There you will find videos, milestones, study resources, and recommendations for further reading and study on this book, as well as all the books found in The Whole Story of God.

One other thing.

The aim of The Whole Story sermon series has been to inspire in you a love for the Bible. Part of how that love should very naturally work itself out is in the desire to read it regularly, and hopefully, daily. So each week, our hope has been that you will have read the portion of the story under study prior to coming to the Sunday morning service to hear a sermon from that book.

One way to do that is to use the sermon and reading guide that we’ve handed out in our service the last two weeks, which is also available on the Whole Story Resource Table in the lobby, and can be downloaded here. Another way is to use the Read Scripture app, which allows you to have the week’s reading already put together for you, and includes the Bible Project videos for each book and various themes, right inside the app. We highly recommend you download it.

One other aspect about that daily reading plan — it includes taking in a Psalm each day. You can watch this three minute overview video that explains the whole story of the Bible, the reading plan, and why the Psalms are so important to our daily intake of God’s Word.

“Each day’s reading session includes a Psalm, because we believe that reading the Bible isn’t just an intellectual experience, but also spiritual. We invite you to take the year to develop the daily habit of praying through the Psalms [as a spiritual experience]. And by the end of the year, you’ll have prayed through the whole book of Psalms two and a half times!” (The Bible Project)

Therefore, this coming Sunday, to emphasize this aspect of our exploration of The Whole Story, I will be preaching a sermon from Psalm 19. I encourage you to read it each day, as well as take in the video on the Psalms from the Bible Project team. That way you will be prepared with a ready and expectant heart as we gather together Sunday morning at 10:30am at Calvary.

Enjoying the God of The Whole Story with you,

Pastor Matthew

matthew@calvarystcloud.org

matthewmolesky.com

Habukkuk

June 17, 2018

We live in a world under a curse (Genesis 3:14-19). 

And that is an easy thing to forget.

I remember my first trip out of the country. I had the privilege to serve on a short-term missions team that would bring encouragement to some people in northern Cameroon, as well as teach the book of Hebrews in a seminary located in the city of Ndu. Our team was made up of three Americans, and one native Cameroonian. And before the teaching, because of our Cameroonian team member, we had the opportunity to visit some very small, remote villages. It was a shocking experience, as I had never come into close contact with truly difficult living conditions.

A short time later, we were all staying in a hotel in the town of Bamenda. While resting in our room together (because it had air conditioning!), I remember reflecting with my new Cameroonian friend my amazement at the people of Cameroon. Namely, despite the incredibly hard life they were faced with on a daily basis, they had so much joy. They expressed so much generosity of spirit. They were a constant encouragement. And I struggled to understand how that was possible.

His answer was profound.

“Matthew, in America, you wake up every day with the expectation that things are going to go well for you, that things will be great, everything will go well and smoothly. So that when it doesn’t go according to plan, you are easily upset, frustrated, and unhappy. In Africa, we wake up every day with the expectation that things will not go well, and life will be hard. So that when there is some little bright spot, it is easy to be joyful, thankful, and happy.”

In other words, they woke up every day understanding that the world is under a curse. All creation is fundamentally handicapped, hamstrung, and hampered. That is an easy thing for Americans to forget. And that forgetfulness which leads to unrealistic expectations makes handling the bad circumstances — especially really bad circumstances — that we find ourselves in all the more difficult. 

For, how can a good God allow, or even plan, really bad things to happen to ‘good’ people? How can a sovereign God stand by and do nothing? Doesn’t he care? Why does he tolerate such circumstances? Why does he, at times, seem absent?

These are the kinds of questions that all of us, at one time or another, have asked. 

So, what do we do when faced with such situations and our questions? How do we live?

In the book of Habakkuk, we find a shining example of what it looks like to faithfully wrestle with God when life is hard. We see and hear a man who is bold, clear, honest, and open with very raw emotions and sometimes shocking language. But we also see a man who never, ever, never gives up on God as part of the solution; he never walks away from God. That’s not even an option on the table. 

The book of Habakkuk has a very clear message to deliver when it comes to making it through those bad parts of our lives, and, actually, the good parts as well. An answer for how to truly live.

If you’d like to learn more about that, I encourage you to listen to my sermon on the book of Habakkuk. And for further study on this frank conversation between Habakkuk and his God, head over to our friends at The Bible Project. There you will find videos, milestones, study resources, and recommendations for further reading and study on this book, as well as all the books found in The Whole Story of God (which we call the Bible).

Finally, just a reminder that this coming Sunday we will turn our attention to Zephaniah. Be sure to read it a few times this week (since it is only three chapters long) so that you may come with a ready and expectant heart as we gather together Sunday morning at 10:30am at Calvary.

Living by Faith Alongside You,

Pastor Matthew

matthew@calvarystcloud.org

matthewmolesky.com

Nahum

June 11, 2018

If you’ve been a part of churchgoing for any length of time, you are probably familiar with the thinking about the Old and New Testament that goes something like this…

“Do you really believe in the ‘God of the Old Testament’? I mean, he seems so ticked off all the time! All that vengeance, and wrath, and anger. All those times where he orders the extermination of whole cities, and sometimes wipes them out himself (see Sodom and Gomorrah). 
I much prefer the ‘God of the New Testament’. You know, Jesus. There is someone I can follow. He was loving, kind, compassionate, and accepting. With Jesus, everyone was welcome.”

When you open up the book of Nahum, he appears to present to us very clear evidence of this ‘God of the Old Testament.’ For example:

Yahweh is a jealous and avenging God; 
Yahweh is avenging and wrathful
Yahweh takes vengeance on his adversaries 
and keeps wrath for his enemies. 
3  Yahweh is slow to anger and great in power, 
and Yahweh will by no means clear the guilty.
Who can stand before his indignation
Who can endure the heat of his anger
His wrath is poured out like fire, 
and the rocks are broken into pieces by him.
With an overflowing flood 
he will make a complete end of the adversaries, 
and will pursue his enemies into darkness. 
9  What do you plot against Yahweh? 
He will make a complete end
trouble will not rise up a second time. 
10  For they are like entangled thorns, 
like drunkards as they drink; 
they are consumed like stubble fully dried
(Nahum 1:2-3, 6, 8-10; English Standard Version)

And that is just a small portion of Nahum’s vision of God!

But what if this approach — to try and separate out an ‘Old Testament’ and ‘New Testament’ God — is far too simplistic? What if God is actually consistent in both his mercy and wrath across the Whole Story? And what if — think about this — what if God’s wrath is actually good news?

I encourage you to watch or listen to my sermon on the book of Nahum. Instead of trying to ignore the Old Testament when it comes to our understanding of all of who God is, we wrestle with these texts that can be difficult to hear, study, and comprehend. And as we do, I think you will agree that the only hope we have in the face of the righteous wrath of the Divine Warrior is that Divine Warrior himself.

For further study on Nahum, head over to our friends at The Bible Project. There you will find videos, milestones, study resources, and recommendations for further reading and study on this book, as well as all the books found in The Whole Story of God (which we call the Bible).

Finally, just a reminder that this coming Sunday we will turn our attention to Habakkuk. Be sure to read it a few times this week (since it is only three chapters long) so that you may come with a ready and expectant heart as we gather together Sunday morning at 10:30am at Calvary. In addition, be sure to check out episode two of their “The Story of the Bible” series. It will help you place Habakkuk in the overall flow of the story of the Bible.

Tolle Lege!

Pastor Matthew

matthew@calvarystcloud.org

matthewmolesky.com

Baptism 6/10/18

June 10, 2018

Watch as the young Beck men proclaim their love for Jesus as they obey his command to be baptized.

All My Hope

June 8, 2018

One of the things I LOVE about being a pastor at Calvary is some of the amazing people I get to serve with every day. A couple of those are our worship pastor, Matt Faulkner, and one of his worship leaders, Christy Freeman. I could write a whole article describing all the reasons I love these two, and why collaborating with them in the context of our Sunday gatherings is so fun and rewarding, but I'll keep it to these:

  • They have a high view of God, and take him seriously.
  • They don't take themselves too seriously.
  • They LOVE Jesus.
  • They love followers of Jesus.
  • They are steeped in the Bible.
  • They are filled with the Spirit, and are prayerfully dependent upon him.
  • They worship. They don't just sing, or play music, or perform, they themselves worship.
  • And while it's important they worship, they don't get so wrapped up in it that they forget about the people they are there to lead, and they lead us into the presence of the God they are experiencing. I love watching that: seeing them worship, seeing our people respond, and feeling my own heart pulled toward God because of it all.

Finally, they are willing to try new things to help us worship well. Soon after Pastor Matt came to Calvary, he pulled together a little group that he calls the Song Selection Team (Christy is on that too). They gather regularly, each person presenting songs to the group, discussing it measured on various factors, before it can be introduced to the congregation.

Often that intentional process results in a song really helping our people worship God, and it becomes a part of our regular song rotation. But sometimes, despite all that work and intentionality, it's clear a song (for various reasons) just doesn't cut it. In fact, just such a situation happened in the last month. And what I love about Pastor Matt and his team is that in spite of all their hard work and intentionality, after feedback and review, they cut the song from our rotation. Why? Because it's not about them, it's about God, and our church family being helped to worship him well.

I say all this as a prelude to something I am really excited about for this Sunday. Pastor Matt and his team have a new song for us to sing at Calvary. It's called All My Hope. And in the providence of God, it is a marvelous complement to what God will be revealing about his character as we study the book of Nahum this week, as part of The Whole Story sermon series.

If you are a reader of this site, and live in the St. Cloud area, and don't have a church home, we'd love to have you join us. Hey, among other things, you'd get a chance to learn a song that may be new to you! And, we'll be sure you hear the good news about Jesus, and the kingdom of God that he is bringing for all who trust in him.

Enjoy this video of the song to help get you prepared to really belt it out on Sunday. And, I've attached the lyrics below as well.

Shalom, Pastor Matthew

I've been held by the Savior
I've felt fire from above
I've been down to the river
I ain't the same
A prodigal returned
All my hope is in Jesus
Thank God my yesterday's gone
All my sins are forgiven
I've been washed by the blood

I'm no stranger to the prison
I've worn shackles and chains
But I've been freed and forgiven
And I'm not going back
I'll never be the same
That's why I sing
There's a kind of thing
That just breaks a man
Break him down to his knees

God, I've been broken more than a time or two, yes Lord
And showed me what it means to be a man
Come on and sing

Matthew Molesky

matthewmolesky.com

Micah

June 3, 2018

I think one of the challenges to reading through The Whole Story of the Bible is to keep reminding ourselves that the people involved were very real people dealing with really crucial and often difficult circumstances. For example, we have now arrived at a sobering word from Yahweh through the prophet Micah.

Stop for a moment and remind yourself — Micah was a man much like you. He had the daily challenges of life, arguably more acute to a person living in an agrarian, subsistence culture in the ancient Near East. Picture him making his way through the tasks of his day, engaging with those in his city, working, conversing, going to bed, waking up and starting all over again. In the midst of that, as we read in this little book, he was dealing with some pretty severe issues of injustice and unrighteousness in his culture and from his governmental and religious leaders.

And he’s a person, just like you, trying to make his way in that reality. Except, unlike you, he then hears a word direct from Yahweh. It is a word vivid in poetic imagery; for example, a courtroom scene that would rival any Law and Order episode, and God himself walking the earth. It is a word rich in description for what a culture should look like in terms of justice and righteousness. It is a word that has connections to the Old Testament story that has unfolded before it, as well as the New Testament story that follows.

And, it is a word from Yahweh that is over 2,500 years old, and yet is just as timely and applicable as if Micah had stepped onto the scene today. For we still have the same issues of injustice and unrighteousness. We still have a culture, and the people in that culture, crying out for and pursuing justice, but in many cases unhinged from any kind of standard that can rightly guide them.

So this past Sunday, in my sermon on Micah, I try to make those connections between his day and ours, and to give some very concrete and practical ways we are already responding as a church family. Finally, I reveal how we can keep progressing as Micah shows us the path forward to pursue justice and display righteousness, and thus extend the life-giving and Eden-like kingdom of God in our day and our place. For I believe all that is what God means when he says,

He has told you, O man, what is good
and what does the Lord require of you 
but to do justice, and to love kindness
and to walk humbly with your God?
(Micah 6:8, English Standard Version)

I encourage you to watch or listen to my sermon on this incredibly helpful word from God, through Micah, for our lives, and for those we are trying to reach with the good news of Jesus and the Kingdom of God.

And for further study on Micah, head over to our friends at The Bible Project. There you will find videos, milestones, study resources, and recommendations for further reading and study on this book, as well as all the books found in The Whole Story of God (which we call the Bible).

In addition, be sure to check out their theme video on Justice, which provides a vivid and helpful look at how foundational justice is to the rescuing work of God in the world, throughout the story he is writing and bringing about.

Finally, just a reminder that this coming Sunday we will turn our attention to Nahum. Be sure to read it a few times this week so that you may come with a ready and expectant heart as we gather together Sunday morning at 10:30am at Calvary.

Following Jesus with you,

Pastor Matthew

matthew@calvarystcloud.org

matthewmolesky.com

Jonah

May 27, 2018

We’ve made our way through The Whole Story to one of the most famous stories in all of the Bible, and maybe all of literature. The story of the prophet Jonah.

If I were to ask you to consider what you think the story of Jonah is about, what would likely jump to mind is a great fish (or whale), a disobedient prophet being swallowed by a great fish (how did he survive that?!), and a city filled with such wicked people it warranted destruction (Ninevah). But is that what this story is really all about? I don’t think so. I think we’re meant to learn about something else. And we see it most clearly near the end of the story, in chapter four, verse two:

“And Jonah prayed to Yahweh and said, “O Yahweh, is not this what I said when I was yet in my country? That is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster.” (Jonah 4:2, ESV)

A couple of things worth noting.

First, don’t miss that Jonah tells Yahweh that this is what he told him before he even left home. Which means that Jonah had said this very same thing at the very beginning of the story, right after chapter one, verse one. He had pointed out how loving God is, and how often that causes him to extend grace and mercy, and relent from punishment planned. So now we can clearly see that this story begins with a meditation on the fixed reality of the rescuing and transforming love of God, and it ends with a meditation on the fixed reality of the rescuing and transforming love of God.

Huh.

Second, don’t miss that this meditation is based on something Jonah had come to know (“I knew…”, 4:2) because he knew The Whole Story. You see, he is quoting something that Yahweh himself had proclaimed about himself to another of his prophets, Moses, way back in the book of Exodus, when Yahweh met Moses on Mount Sinai:

So Moses cut two tablets of stone like the first. And he rose early in the morning and went up on Mount Sinai, as the LORD had commanded him, and took in his hand two tablets of stone. The LORD descended in the cloud and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the LORD. The LORD passed before him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.” (Exodus 34:4-7, ESV)

Which among other things, shows that even for disobedient prophets, studying and knowing all of Scripture is pretty foundational to understanding who God is, and how he operates, and how he relates to the people he has created.

From this understanding, again, I think we find that the main point of the book of Jonah is a meditation on God’s love, and how he wants to rescue and transform not only Ninevah, but Jonah himself. And as we watch God sovereignly bringing that about over the course of this story, I think we learn two things about God’s love. One, his love is sometimes expressed in the painful circumstances of our lives to transform us into the vision of who he wants us to be. Two, his love is aimed at his enemies, to rescue and transform them.

And what gets really fascinating is to then jump forward hundreds of years to another story, connected to this one. The story of the Son of God, Jesus, in the midst of some pretty disobedient Israelites (just like Jonah) who are asking him for a sign. In his response (see Matthew 12), we learn how Jesus understood and applied the very real story of Jonah in his preaching and ministry, and what that means for us today. (Are you beginning to see how important our little adventure is, which we are calling the Whole Story? Once again, we find ourselves agreeing with Eugene Peterson, “In order to read any part of the Bible you have to read the whole Bible.” Namely, to properly read Jonah, we must go all the way back to Exodus, and all the way forward to Matthew’s Gospel!)

If you’d like to know more about how all that is found in this story, you can watch or listen to my sermon on this fascinating piece of history, which is a part of God’s overall redemptive purpose to rescue people out of the kingdom of darkness, and transform them within the Kingdom of his Son.

And, for further study on Jonah, head over to our friends at The Bible Project. There you will find videos, milestones, study resources, and recommendations for further reading and study on this book, as well as all the books found in The Whole Story of God (which we call the Bible).

Finally, just a reminder that this coming Sunday we will turn our attention to Micah. Be sure to read it a few times this week so that you may come with a ready and expectant heart as we gather together Sunday morning at 10:30am at Calvary.

Standing in Wonder at the Overwhelming, Never-ending, Boundless Love of God,

Pastor Matthew

matthew@calvarystcloud.org

matthewmolesky.com

Obadiah

May 20, 2018

As I sit down to write this little article, I’ve just come from a hospital room visiting one of our long time members at Calvary. In addition to the circumstances that caused him to be admitted, he has been battling a serious health condition for many years.

As I sat with him and talked, what struck me is how very tired he looked. The groaning of creation under the weight of sin and its consequent effects that the Apostle Paul writes about (Romans 8:22) was heavy on him. Here was a man who, through the suffering and affliction that he has valiantly faced without complaint, could say with the great Apostle,

And we believers also groan, even though we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory, for we long for our bodies to be released from sin and suffering. We, too, wait with eager hope for the day when God will give us our full rights as his adopted children, including the new bodies he has promised us. (Romans 8:23, NLT)

It is a hard thing to live in a broken world. For even though I have great confidence in Jesus, and in the good news of salvation that he has brought through his cross-work, my heart is heavy to see the suffering of precious saints and children of God. 

This man, sitting on the edge of his hospital bed and chatting with me, has been such an amazing example to me of tireless joy in the face of remarkable, extensive, and prolonged adversity. As I drove home, and watched cars passing me by, and observed homes and apartment complexes and business filled and bustling with people, I thought about how probably none of them would ever know of this man and his life of faith. And of how I wanted them to know of this man! To know the strength of his character, the resiliency of his faith, the extent of his love and care for his friends and family, the way he has poured out his gifts within and through our church family, his indelible mark on our community and city, on and on I could go describing to them a life of faith well lived — even though he would never want me to do that

He has run the race so well, even as it appears he may be nearing the finish line. He’s even been sharing the story of salvation with one of his doctors.

So faithful.

You may be wondering, “What does your hospital visit to your friend have to do with a little article on the focus of this past Sunday’s sermon, the book containing the prophecy of Obadiah?”

Well, Obadiah warned of a coming day of Yahweh, a day when all accounts would be settled between the God of the universe and all members of the human race for all time (Obadiah 15). He warned that on this day Edom and “the surrounding nations will swallow the punishment [Yahweh] will pour out on [them]” (Obadiah 16). It is a punishment described as “a foaming wine” of God’s wrath which will be swallowed down by all of those sinners that find themselves outside of the family of God (Psalm 75:8; Jeremiah 25:15).

It is a terrifying picture.

And it is something my friend, still in that hospital room as I write, does not have to be afraid of, and is not afraid of. Why? Because he knows a Man who drank that cup of wrath, filled with the punishment my friend deserved for the sins my friend has committed. My friend knows of a King who came, and went to a cross to die for him, even as that King asked if the cup of wrath could pass from him (Matthew 26:39). My friend knows that our Savior, Jesus, submitted to his Father, saying, “Not my will, but yours be done.” 

Therefore, my friend, and the rest of us sinners who are trusting in Jesu, are not afraid. Because Jesus paid it all. Sin had left a crimson stain, but he washed it white as snow through his death on a cross, and his rising again, and his ascension to the right hand of the Father.

So I guess it doesn’t matter much that there will be so many in the world who will never know about my friend, even though I would like them to. Because one day, this Jesus, who drank down the punishment, and saved my friend; this Jesus will look him in the face — recognize him! — and say before countless other saints who will hear the same words,

“Blessed are you who had to weep and suffer, for now you shall laugh as you spend eternity with me! Great is your reward in heaven! Well done, good and faithful servant, well done. Come, and enter into the joy of your Master!” (cf. Luke 6:21, 23; Matthew 25)

One other thing my friend shared today — how much he loves the Bible. After more than eight decades on this planet, he still treasures God’s Word. I think he would agree with me that a big reason he does is because it is this unified story that points us (even Obadiah!) to Jesus. 

So as you read this right now, I hope you believe in Jesus. I hope you are trusting in him. For there is a day coming when our lives will end. There is a Day of Yahweh coming when a judgment will be rendered. And the only thing that will save any of us from the wrath we deserve for the sins we have committed is this good news — it is by grace alone that we will be saved, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone. If you’d like to know more about that, take a look at this life-saving Story.

And, for further study on Obadiah, head over to our friends at The Bible Project. There you will find videos, milestones, study resources, and recommendations for further reading and study on all the books found in The Whole Story, including Obadiah. You can also watch my sermon on Obadiah.

Finally, just a reminder that this coming Sunday we will study one of the most famous stories in all of Scripture, found in the book of Jonah. Be sure to read it a few times this week so that you may come with a ready and expectant heart as we gather together Sunday morning at 10:30am at Calvary.

In Awe of the Saving Grace and Mercy of God, through Jesus, the Christ, our Master,

Pastor Matthew

matthew@calvarystcloud.org

matthewmolesky.com

Amos

May 13, 2018

We continue to study the 400 year history of God’s covenant people, the Israelites, as found in the books of first and second Kings, but as seen through the eyes of Yahweh’s prophets. Our most current study? The prophet Amos, and his poetry, sermons, and oracles.

The benefit of moving through this prophetic literature by covering a book each Sunday is that it is easier to identify some themes. For example, a common progression in each book is the identification of covenant failure by Israel, a proclamation from Yahweh via a prophet of his accusations, a description of judgment, the opportunity for repentance, and the promise of salvation and restoration for the repentant.

One of the most encouraging things I am learning about God in The Whole Story is his steadfast love for his people expressed through his promise of salvation and restoration for those who repent. It is remarkable to see that, no matter how long the list of sins and accusations against his people, no matter how abhorrent their failure, regardless of the amount of time that has passed, the steadfast love of Yahweh never ceases, and his mercies never come to an end.

And that is really good news.
Because we are no better than Israel.
And we are all really ‘good’ sinners.
So I need this kind of repeated, consistent message:

Hosea 14:1—7
1 Return, O Israel, to the Lord your God, 
for you have stumbled because of your iniquity. 
2  Take with you words 
and return to the Lord; 
say to him, 
“Take away all iniquity; 
accept what is good, 
and we will pay with bulls 
the vows of our lips. 
3  Assyria shall not save us; 
we will not ride on horses; 
and we will say no more, ‘Our God,’ 
to the work of our hands. 
In you the orphan finds mercy.” 
4  I will heal their apostasy; 
I will love them freely, 
for my anger has turned from them. 
5  I will be like the dew to Israel; 
he shall blossom like the lily; 
he shall take root like the trees of Lebanon; 
6  his shoots shall spread out; 
his beauty shall be like the olive, 
and his fragrance like Lebanon. 
7  They shall return and dwell beneath my shadow; 
they shall flourish like the grain; 
they shall blossom like the vine; 
their fame shall be like the wine of Lebanon. 

Joel 3:16—18; 21b
16  The Lord roars from Zion, 
and utters his voice from Jerusalem, 
and the heavens and the earth quake. 
But the Lord is a refuge to his people, 
a stronghold to the people of Israel. 

The Glorious Future of Judah
17  “So you shall know that I am the Lord your God, 
who dwells in Zion, my holy mountain. 
And Jerusalem shall be holy, 
and strangers shall never again pass through it. 
18  “And in that day 
the mountains shall drip sweet wine, 
and the hills shall flow with milk, 
and all the streambeds of Judah 
shall flow with water; 
and a fountain shall come forth from the house of the Lord 
and water the Valley of Shittim. 
….Yahweh dwells in Jerusalem.”

Amos 9:11–15
11  “In that day I will raise up 
the booth of David that is fallen 
and repair its breaches, 
and raise up its ruins 
and rebuild it as in the days of old, 
12  that they may possess the remnant of Edom 
and all the nations who are called by my name,” 
declares the Lord who does this. 
13  “Behold, the days are coming,” declares the Lord, 
“when the plowman shall overtake the reaper 
and the treader of grapes him who sows the seed; 
the mountains shall drip sweet wine, 
and all the hills shall flow with it. 
14  I will restore the fortunes of my people Israel, 
and they shall rebuild the ruined cities and inhabit them; 
they shall plant vineyards and drink their wine, 
and they shall make gardens and eat their fruit. 
15  I will plant them on their land, 
and they shall never again be uprooted 
out of the land that I have given them,” 
says the Lord your God. 

Over and over again, his promise to those who would turn to him is that he is faithful to forgive, heal, and restore. And for us, that means trusting in the Messiah that Israel could only look forward to, but that we now celebrate — Jesus. When we embrace the Christ, all the promises are ours. One day we will enter into the joy of our Master, because of his finished work and perfect life and spotless righteousness given to us in exchange for our incomplete works and imperfect life and corrupted souls, so that we might live with him in a new heavens and new earth that will be glorious beyond our imagining and which will never end.

If you’d like to listen to a song celebrating and articulating a stunning vision of that King, and our future, I highly recommend heading over to the Rabbit Room, with Andrew Peterson, to take in “Remember Me.” It’s always a good thing for our theology to lead to doxology.

And, for further study on Amos, head over to our friends at The Bible Project. A great way to start your weekly reading of a book that we are working on (or to review it after the sermon) is to visit their website. There you will find videos, milestones, study resources, and recommendations for further reading and study on all the books found in The Whole Story, including Amos.

Finally, just a reminder that this coming Sunday we will study our smallest book yet, weighing in at just one chapter — the prophetic proclamation of Obadiah. Be sure to read it a few times this week (every day if you can), so you may come with a ready and expectant heart as we gather together Sunday morning at 10:30am at Calvary.

Grateful with you for a loving and merciful Father,

Pastor Matthew

matthew@calvarystcloud.org

matthewmolesky.com

Joel

April 29, 2018

The main aim of the sermon series we are currently in, The Whole Story, is to inspire you to read through the whole Bible over the course of about eighteen months, which began in January 2018. A foundational reason for this is that we believe that on this journey we will experience, week by week, the exciting truth that the Bible is a unified story that points us to Jesus. 

If you’ve been with us for most of this year, you know that our goal has been, in most cases, to cover one book each Sunday morning when we gather as a church family. Now, as the Bible is made up of books of varying lengths — from one chapter (e.g., Obadiah) to one hundred and fifty chapters (Psalms), it means that our reading homework each week varies as well.

Take the last three weeks as an example. We went from Isaiah (66 chapters — whew!) to Hosea (14 chapters) to Joel (3 chapters). In two weeks, we’ll be in Amos (9 chapters), and for the following six Sundays after Amos, no book will be longer than four chapters.

This last week, I had the opportunity to ask a friend if he had completed the three chapters of Joel (it was Thursday). He said he hadn’t, because he was wanting to stretch it out over the course of the week. I suppose that’s OK, but I’d like to suggest a different approach to you for your reading over the next few weeks, as I did to him, borne out of my own study of these prophetic books.

It’s quite simple, really.

Read the whole book every single morning. 

I’m often blessed to hear someone say to me, “I’m amazed at what you see in the story that I didn’t see in the story when I read it.” Would you like to know my secrets to such discoveries?

Well, first, it’s prayerful dependence on the Spirit of God in order to understand (and proclaim) the Word of God. That is a must. A non-negotiable. When you sit down to read, ask him to open your eyes, that you may see wonderful things from his Word (Psalm 119:18).

Second, it is simply reading the text over, and over, and over again. Doing so with a pencil in hand, and a Moleskine right next to my Bible. It is circling words and phrases that are repeated, that seem emphasized, that I don’t understand and am prodded to study further. It is underlining things and drawing arrows and making lines that connect ideas. And the only way all of that can happen is by immersing myself in the text, by saturating myself in the story.

You see, I’m certainly not smarter than you. I don’t have access to a greater power than you. We all have the same Bible, the same Father, the same King, and the same Holy Spirit. That same GOD is there with you, eager to reveal his truth to you, and to answer your prayer for eyes that are open.

Imagine if you did this for the coming book of Amos. As I will be traveling this week to attend the graduation of our oldest son from Minnesota State University, I will not be preaching Amos until Sunday 13 May. So if you start reading Amos every day today, that means you will have read this book thirteen times before you walk into our Sunday morning gathering that day. 

Imagine what God will reveal to you! I was still making new discoveries this last Sunday morning in the book of Joel when I read it before heading to the church campus for our gathering. So imagine how ready you will be for the preached word — the questions you may have, the observations you yourself will have drawn, the applications to your life you have already begun to work on, the points that you would love to discuss with your family or community group.

And all from simply asking God to help you understand his Word, and then applying yourself — in a workman-like manner — to immersing and saturating yourself in that word. Trust me, friend, these two simple practices will transform your walk through The Whole Story of Jesus.

But there is one more secret to share with you. One more tool that we have in common. 

And that is our friends over at The Bible Project. A great way to start your weekly reading of a book that we are working on (or to review it after the sermon) is to visit their website. For example, if you’d like to study further on the book I preached from this last Sunday, Joel, visit the page on Joel. There you will find videos, milestones, study resources, and recommendations for further reading and study on this small but power-packed prophetic word.

One more important thought before I let you go. We must continue to remind each other why we are doing this, why we are going through all the books of the Bible in eighteen months, the core and heart of this journey through The Whole Story. 

And it is this:

We want more of God.

The Psalmist says it this way in Psalm 119:2 — 

Blessed are those who are preserving his testimonies [i.e., his Word],
with the whole heart they are seeking him.

Do you see? The goal of the psalmist is not the testimonies, or the Word, itself, but where the Word is taking him. To whom the word is taking him. The reason he is preserving and spending time in the Word is because his heart is consumed with seeking and knowing its Author. He is found in the Word not for the sake of the Word, but because in that Word he meets his God.

Dear friend, that is my prayer for you this week as you read Amos. That you will enter Amos’s book, and his world, because you want to see more of our Father, and his Son, by his Holy Spirit, and having spent time there, you will be satisfied with more of this amazing God.

Confident he will open our hearts and enlighten our eyes,

Pastor Matthew

matthew@calvarystcloud.org

matthewmolesky.com

Child Dedications

April 29, 2018

Watch as children are dedicated this last Sunday morning.

Hosea

April 22, 2018

The book of the prophet Hosea. 

Honestly, in first reading, it can be difficult to grasp. There are quite a few movements and shifts in thinking, and our author mixes various styles of writing and a multitude of images and themes. So as I spent time over the course of a week with this book as a reader, and studier, what struck me was that I needed to process and meditate on Hosea as a whole. To step back and see the larger picture. To not get lost in the details. And I kept asking the question, “Is there a major theme here that you are trying to communicate, Father?”

Now, different readers, commentators, teachers, and preachers may all answer that slightly differently. It may be that the theme is judgment. It may be that the theme is the covenant breaking of the children of Israel. Those would be fine choices. They are certainly present in Hosea.

And, what is also present here is the long-suffering mercy, compassion, and love of God. This essential message in the book is put on visual display through the powerful metaphors of marriage and fatherhood. Over and over it struck me, as I read, and studied, and stepped back to look at the wide vistas of the story, that God, through the prophetic ministry of Hosea, wants us to see how our unfaithfulness and stubbornness “are not enough to exhaust God’s redeeming love that outstrips the human capacity to comprehend” (ESV Study Bible note). 

And friend, that love is breathtaking. In this book you will find pictures of the kind of love that your heart truly longs for, the kind of love you were made for. That may sound like over-emotional language, but trust me, its not. Hosea delivers. There are treasures of hope to be found here. I know. I dug in the soil of this story for a week, and came away with many, a few of which I shared in a sermon on this book. You can watch or listen here.

And if you’d like to study further, I highly recommend heading over the The Bible Project’s page on Hosea. There you will find videos, milestones, study resources, and recommendations for further reading and study on this deeply encouraging and satisfying prophetic word.

One thing we often forget is that our theological study (orthodoxy) ought always lead us to worship (doxology). Therefore, I want to draw your attention to two songs that you could use yourself, or in the context of family, or a gathering of a community group or friends. For singing shouldn’t only happen on Sunday!

The first is the song we ended our service with when I preached Hosea. It is a song called “Good Good Father,” and my favorite performance of it is by Housefires. You can watch here. Another song quite popular right now that explores God’s extravagant love is called “Reckless Love.” You can view a lyric video for it here. It is my prayer that you find them helpful to both bask in the biblical truth of God’s love, and to reflect a heart of gratitude and praise to him for that love.

One final note: to prepare for this coming Sunday, be sure to read through the book of Joel, prayerfully meditating on its three chapters.

It is my prayer that you will continue to grow in your understanding of, love for, and hope in God as we continue to make our way through The Whole Story. And, as always, please feel free to email me with questions about or ideas for The Whole Story.

Resting in the extravagant, astounding, reckless love of GOD,

Pastor Matthew

matthew@calvarystcloud.org

matthewmolesky.com

Isaiah

April 15, 2018

We are now making our way into the “Prophets Before the Exile” section of The Whole Story. I really like the way our Read Scripture plan breaks a bit here from the order of the books of the Old Testament in our common English translation of the bible. For the Read Scripture plan is more in line with how the story actually unfolded.

You see, the books of the Kings give us this four hundred year story of forty kings ruling over the divided kingdom of Israel to the north and Judah to the south, a multitude of prophets, and the runaway covenant disobedience of God’s people. With that now established in our minds, we will focus in on that one set of characters — the prophets —  and hear the details of what God had to say through them in that same four hundred year period before the exile (2 Kings 25).

Eugene Peterson has this to say about the prophets:

The unrelenting reality is that prophets don’t fit into our way of life. For a people who are accustomed to fitting God into our lives or, as we like to say, “making room for God,” the prophets are hard to take and easy to dismiss. The God of whom the prophets speak is far too large to fit into our lives. If we want anything to do with God, we have to fit into God.
The prophets are not reasonable, accommodating themselves to what makes sense to us. They are not diplomatic, tactfully negotiating an agreement that allows us a say in the outcome. What they do is haul us unceremoniously into a reality far too large to be accounted for by our explanations and expectations. They plunge us into mystery, immense and staggering. 
Their words and visions penetrate the illusions with which we cocoon ourselves from reality. We humans have an enormous capacity for denial and self-deceit. We incapacitate ourselves from dealing with the consequences of sin, from facing judgment, from embracing truth. Then the prophets step in and help us first to recognize, and then to enter, the new life God has for us, the life that opens up hope in God.

As he says there at the end, we will see much over the next ten books of God speaking through the prophets against our sin, describing its consequences, leading us to truth, and making it possible for us to enter “the life that opens up hope in God.”

And it all begins with the magisterial work of Isaiah. If you’d like a primer on what many scholars have called “the most complex book in the Bible” and “the fifth Gospel,” I highly recommend heading over the The Bible Project’s page on Isaiah. There you will find a whole page of videos, milestones, study resources, and recommendations for further reading and study on this stunning and wide-ranging prophetic word.

I’d also like to direct your study to a very helpful video on how Isaiah fits into the larger biblical story — The Gospel of the Kingdom. And finally, you could watch last week’s sermon on Isaiah.

To prepare for this coming Sunday, be sure to read through the book of Hosea, prayerfully meditating on its fourteen chapters.

It is my prayer that you will continue to grow in your understanding of, love for, and hope in God as we continue to make our way through The Whole Story. And, as always, please feel free to email me with questions about or ideas for The Whole Story.

Hoping in GOD,

Pastor Matthew

matthew@calvarystcloud.org

matthewmolesky.com

Kings

April 8, 2018

As the Bible is an ancient text, it makes sense that much of it is a recording of history. But to respond by merely reading it as a textbook would be a mistake, for this is history written with a very particular purpose. Namely, it is a theological history — its authors, under the inspiration of God, make theological arguments by the way they tell the stories, and what they include in them.

The books of the Kings are a prime example of this. A small group of historians sat down, with the Israelite exilic community of around 500 B.C. in mind, and aimed to explain how it is that the nation found itself in the place it was in. They had compiled what happened before, written it down, recording it for the generations that follow, in the hopes of helping Israel understand why they are where they are, and who they are where they are.

The lessons they draw are helpful for us in very similar ways. Their efforts are an attempt at grabbing us by the collar to get us to slow down for a moment, and to look behind us — in our case, around 2,500 years behind us — to see where we’ve come from, in the hopes of positively influencing where we are going, and who we will be when we get there.

These historians use three powerful types of characters to tell the story and unfold their theology. And it becomes clear that there is a sobering warning here, and great hope. A warning of a very clear and present danger in this world, and a message of hope for the one and only way it can be overcome.

If you’d like to explore this book of the Kings further, to see how that unfolds, I suggest you continue by means of the following helpful resources:

  • Watch last week’s sermon on Kings.
  • This video, The Story of The Bible, is a superb 5 minute summary of this kind of theological history.
  • And this 6 minute video on sin, from the Bible Project’s “Bad Word Series,” helps us understand this very clear and present danger in the world.
  • Click here to find a whole page of videos, milestones, study resources, and recommendations for further reading and study on the 400-year history of the Kings.

Finally, be sure to dive into the book of Isaiah in preparation for this coming Sunday. Plan ahead in your reading, as this one is 66 chapters long! As always, please feel free to email me with questions about, or ideas for, The Whole Story.

A fellow follower of the King,

Pastor Matthew

matthew@calvarystcloud.org

matthewmolesky.com

Baptisms 4/8/18

April 8, 2018

King of My Heart (Samuel part two)

April 1, 2018

It’s a little hard to believe that we are already twelve sermons into our adventure through the Bible called The Whole Story. I have been very encouraged to hear from many of you how this pace of moving through the Scriptures week-by-week, book-by-book has helped you see things you’ve never seen before, and appreciate our Father and his Son, Jesus, so much more. Personally, I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed preaching as much as I have this year, discovering how, as our friends at The Bible Project say it, “The Bible is a unified story that leads to Jesus.”

That truth is exactly what we discovered as we came upon Holy Week and Easter Sunday. It wasn’t necessary at all to step away from The Whole Story (at this point in the book of Samuel) to find Jesus, and clear promises about who he is and what he is doing in the world. What a delight to uncover, in the middle of this story about Israel’s first kings, the promise of a forever king and forever kingdom, and how that connects from the time of David all the way to the resurrection of the Christ.

If you’d like to see some of those connections from a slightly different perspective of what we studied together on Easter Sunday, please check out this great resource on the Messiah from the team at The Bible Project. And, if you weren’t able to be with us on Easter Sunday, you can watch the sermon, “King of My Heart” here. If you missed our Good Friday service, you can find that sermon here.

Finally, I’d like to encourage you again to read the Whole Story along with us. I just received yet another note yesterday from someone sharing the impact of doing that this year. She said, “So thankful for your encouragement to read through the Bible…changed my life. Wow.”

God’s words have a way of doing that.

I would love for you to have the opportunity of that life-changing experience as well, and all you have to do is take up this book, and read. And really, it’s more achievable than you may think.

Did you know that the average person reads about 200-250 words per minute? So, let’s take the average of that, and say you can read 225 words per minute. If you divide out all the words in the Bible (775,000) by the days in a year and that average per minute, you can read the whole bible in a year with an investment of about 10 minutes per day. That’s really doable.

Maybe for you, it would help to be able to listen to the Bible. With most narrations of the Bible coming in at about 75 hours long, you can read/listen to the whole Bible in a year with an investment of about 12 minutes per day. You can listen for free at ESVBible.org

Even if you haven’t been reading along thus far, please don’t miss out on a life-changing experience by letting that stop you. Jump on our little moving train of The Whole Story and read 1 and 2 Kings this week, in preparation for Sunday. And if you are really up for a challenge — and a treat! — take a separate 20 minutes a day on Genesis through 2 Samuel, and you’ll catch up in no time.

Happy Reading! And, see you Sunday.

So blessed to be on The Whole Story journey with you,

Pastor Matthew

matthew@calvarystcloud.org

matthewmolesky.com

Eight Acts of Service on Easter

March 29, 2018

We’ve arrived once again to the glory of Holy Week. And as Easter Sunday draws closer, it is good to remind ourselves of ways we can bless those who don’t normally attend Calvary on this highest attended service of the year.

I am grateful that I am a part of a church like Calvary, where you already do a wonderful job of this. I hear quite frequently from guests, and newer regular attenders and members, that part of what drew them in to Calvary was the friendliness of our church family. So, many of these reminders are things many of you are already pretty good at. 

That said, it’s always good to be freshly encouraged in ways that we can make a Good News impression on guests with just a few simple acts. Which was exactly the goal for Thom Ranier as he wrote Nine Considerations for Church Members on Easter, in the hopes that we would all remember that we “have an opportunity to make an eternal difference.” Here are eight of them:

  1. Pray as you enter the property. Pray for the guests. Pray for the services. Pray for the pastor and the sermon.
  2. Park at the most distant spot available. Save the closer parking places for guests.
  3. Greet people. They may be guests. They may be members. It’s okay to introduce yourself to either.
  4. Look for people to help. You know the place well. Many others will not. Be a guide. Help someone who looks like he or she needs help.
  5. Sit as close as possible to the front of the worship center. Save the back rows for guests and late entrants, so they don’t have to walk past so many people.
  6. Sit in the middle. Don’t claim that aisle seat where people have to walk over you or past you.
  7. Sit closely. Your worship center may be packed. If so, be willing to sit cheek to cheek.
  8. Pray as you leave. The Holy Spirit is likely working in many persons who attended. Pray for His continual work of conviction and comfort.

“These are simple acts, family. They are acts of service. And if you survive doing these acts of kindness and service on Easter, you just might be able to do them on other days of worship as well.”

I am looking forward to celebrating the life, death, and resurrection of our King at our Good Friday service (7pm) and our Easter Sunday service (10:30am) with you this weekend.

The Lord is Risen!

He is Risen Indeed!

Pastor Matthew

Samuel Part One

March 25, 2018

As Douglas Wilson has observed, these are fragile times. And when a nation finds itself in the kind of mess we find ourselves in, there is a kind of widespread longing for a leader who has the qualities, vision, and ability to show the way out. That makes sense. Who doesn’t want to find their way out of a mess? But it’s a dangerous spot to be in. It can leave one vulnerable to charlatans and pipe dreams.

A wise dead guy once wrote that there is nothing new under the sun. Given the fallibility of humanity, it makes sense to look and see if such a mess has happened on a nation-wide scale before, and what was successfully done about it. And given our desire for a solution we can actually count on, it makes sense to do that in the Bible.

Which brings us to the book of Samuel (found in two parts in our English Bibles). There’s guidance here for this longing inside of us for a leader. A leader who won’t fail us. A leader who can truly deliver. And it’s all found in the story of David and Goliath, which is actually — as we discovered on Sunday — a story about three Kings. A story that helps us understand all of 1 and 2 Samuel. We could sum up that whole story this way:

God raises up kings to rule the Israelites. The first is a failure, and the second becomes God’s most faithful king, but then rebels, resulting in the slow destruction of his family and kingdom. And it all points to the Leader we long for.

This past Sunday we spent the majority of our study discovering where not to look for that One who will show the way out. But that doesn’t mean the longing was wrong. Or even that the longing for a King was wrong. It has always been God’s plan to save us from this mess through a man. And this coming Sunday, we will find, in the middle of this story brought to us in Samuel, the answer to humanity’s longing for a Leader.

I hope you’ll be able to join us, both on Easter Sunday at 10:30am (as well as Good Friday at 7pm). A great way to prepare would be to:

  • Make sure you’ve continued reading through The Whole Story as we preach through it each Sunday, which means this week you’ll complete 2 Samuel. And don’t worry, if you are behind, or haven’t even started, don’t let that stop you. Jump in right now by reading 1 and 2 Samuel this week.
  • Review last week’s sermon on Samuel (part one).
  • Click here and here to find videos, milestones, study resources, and recommendations for further reading and study on this remarkable tale of some of the most famous stories in the Bible. A tale filled with Kings, Giants, Miracles, Battles, War, and — the Leader we all long for.

As always, please feel free to email me with questions about or ideas for The Whole Story.

Looking forward to our Gathering on Sunday morning,

Pastor Matthew

matthew@calvarystcloud.org

matthewmolesky.com

Ruth

March 18, 2018

Two weeks ago, we spent our Sunday morning gathering in the book of the Judges. It describes a time in the nation of Israel of great darkness, disobedience, destruction, and dystopia. It was a time, states the last sentence in the story, when “there was no king in Israel, and everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” (Judges 21:25). It was very disturbing.

This past Sunday we, we stayed right there, “In the days when the judges ruled…” (Ruth 1:1). We made our way through the remarkable story of Ruth, Naomi, Boaz, and God. The simple story of an ordinary Israelite family facing tragic loss, and God using an immigrant to bring about unexpected hope, both in the present, and forevermore. It is this small but bright light in a very dark time.

The story and example of Ruth and Naomi provided some really great points of application for our lives, and we had the time to move through a few of those. The power of friendship and the radical nature of discipleship (I got that structure and ideas there from some great work on Ruth by Tim Keller), as well as the very ordinary nature of our lives providing a theater for the omnipotence of God.

One of the areas we didn’t get to spend much time on is the nature of a kinsman-redeemer, how Boaz fulfilled that role, and that in doing so he was a type of the Messiah, the Christ, as our Redeemer. In this way, this story is a beautiful reminder that God is always doing more than we know or realize in the small spaces of our stories to accomplish his plans and purposes for the world.

One of the books I am consulting throughout The Whole Story series is A Biblical-Theological Introduction to the Old Testament: The Gospel Promised. In his essay on Ruth as part of this volume, John J. Yeo writes:

…the kinsman-redeemer serves as a messianic type for the following reasons:

(1) he must be a blood relative (even as the incarnate Christ became a blood relative to humankind via the virgin birth); 

(2) he must have the means to redeem the forfeited inheritance (even as Christ alone had the merit to redeem sinners);

(3) he must be a willing redeemer (even as Christ willingly laid down his life for sinners); and

(4) he must be willing to marry the wife of a deceased kinsman (which typifies the marriage relationship between Christ and his church).

This is just one of the beautiful aspects of the unified story of the whole Bible that always points to Jesus. Over and over and over again we see in the old covenant story of God’s dealing with his people these types of the One who is to come. In this way, the richness and depth of the new covenant story of God’s dealing with his people and the world through Jesus is intensified. Right up to today. For us.

Which is what Ian Duguid points to in his commentary on this story:

[God] is the Redeemer behind the human redeemer, [Boaz], in Ruth and Naomi’s story. This is also what [Yahweh] has done for each of us. He is the Redeemer behind each of our own personal salvation stories. He sought each of us while we were utterly lost. Not only did he make us feel valuable; in Christ, God actually made us valuable. It is not just Ruth’s story that turned out to be part of a much bigger narrative than she ever imagined. Your story and my story are also woven into the bigger tapestry of what God is doing in Jesus Christ.

How encouraging!

For further study on the book of Ruth, I suggest you continue exploring by means of the following resources:

  • Review last week’s sermon on Ruth.
  • Click here to find a whole page of videos, milestones, study resources, and recommendations for further reading and study on this remarkable story of a very ordinary family that brought unexpected, eternal hope to the world.

Finally, be sure to dive into the story of Samuel in preparation for this coming Sunday, which is also the first day of Holy Week. As always, please feel free to email me with questions about or ideas for The Whole Story.

Looking forward to our Gathering on Sunday morning,

Pastor Matthew

matthew@calvarystcloud.org

matthewmolesky.com

Judges

March 4, 2018

This past Sunday we continued our trek through The Whole Story of the Bible, entering into the world of the Judges. This bit of the story contains stark contrasts. 

On the one hand, we continue to marvel at God displaying his power on behalf of his people — lop-sided victories and a magic fleece (Gideon), bandits overthrowing kings (Jepthah), and an ancient superman whose strength breaks the backs of Israel’s foes (Samson).

On the other hand, every one of Israel’s deliverers is revealed as flawed and deeply imperfect, and both people and chieftains continue to devolve into ever-increasing acts of such darkness and wickedness that this tale would receive a parental-advisory warning, even by our culture’s standards. 

This darkness is a display of the dehumanization of humanity. And in order to comprehend why this is so tragic, one needs rightly understand the image of God, and how we are meant to reflect that image. Our friends at the Bible Project have created a six-minute video (along with some other helpful materials) that will help you better understand this theological concept, and how it sheds light on the tragedy and significance of the story of Judges.

For further study on the book of Judges itself, I suggest you continue exploring, by means of the following resources:

  • Review last week’s sermon on Judges.
  • Click here to find a whole page of videos, milestones, study resources, and recommendations for further reading and study on this remarkable history, Judges.

One important note. This coming Sunday, March 11, we will take a slight break from moving through one book at a time in The Whole Story, as I will be out of the pulpit. But it is just a slight break. Tim Tomlinson, President of Bethlehem College and Seminary (my alma mater), will be preaching. His study and sermon will be on the 23rd Psalm. 

So how is this just a slight break?

Well, for those of us reading each book of the Bible every week, as we make our way through The Whole Story (and using the Read Scripture app to do so), you have also been reading one psalm per day. This has been a helpful and encouraging practice, as the Psalter forms a strong foundation to our worship and prayer lives. 

Therefore, Tim’s proclamation will serve as a very minor detour on our journey through The Whole Story. And, having spoken with Tim, and hearing how this familiar psalm has been captivating his heart, mind, and imagination in new and fresh ways, I am eager to sit in the gathering alongside you as he preaches. You won’t want to miss it family!

Finally, for those of you who might be a bit behind in your reading along with us book-by-book, the next two weeks afford a wonderful chance to catch up; especially as our next book of study will be Ruth (just four chapters long!). As always, please feel free to email me with questions or ideas for The Whole Story.

Looking forward to our Gathering on Sunday,

Pastor Matthew

matthew@calvarystcloud.org

matthewmolesky.com

Joshua

February 25, 2018

I was talking with a member of our church family after the service Sunday morning. He shared with me how, when his children lived at home with them, he used to teach them about the Bible. Namely, he didn’t call what we find contained within it merely stories, though they are that. Rather, he went out of his way to describe them as histories.

I really liked that idea, because in our culture, when we hear the word story, we would probably think in our minds of fiction, nine times out of ten. In the words of my friend, the word history makes us think of something that did, truly, occur. It is an account of reality. We probably wouldn’t even question it.

Which is why we started there in the sermon on Sunday, describing Joshua and a number of books that will now follow in our ongoing study of the Bible, the histories. For these things actually did happen, and it’s important to understand the facts of the past, as recorded and told in the Bible. And we must then move beyond what merely happened, to ask the question “why,” and what the significance of these histories may be both in the past, and our present.

If your curiosity and interest has been piqued (and I hope it has), I suggest you continue exploring the history found in the book of Joshua. The resources below will help you proceed:

  • Review last week’s sermon on Joshua.
  • After eight weeks in our series now, your probably used to this second suggestion, and have already bookmarked in your browser the book summaries from the Bible Project. Namely, Click here to find a whole page of videos, milestones, study resources, and recommendations for further reading and study on this remarkable history, Joshua.
  • Watch the theme video and check out resources on The Day of the Lord, which helps us think through the violence within the histories found in the Bible.

As always, please feel free to email me with questions or ideas for The Whole Story. I look forward to seeing you on Sunday, when we will begin the next chapter of the drama by studying the story found in Joshua. Be sure to read it before you come!

Grateful to Serve the God of all History with You,

Pastor Matthew

matthew@calvarystcloud.org

matthewmolesky.com

Deuteronomy

February 18, 2018

You’ve probably never considered the book of Deuteronomy as one long funeral sermon, given by a man who knew he would die, to a people aware of his impending death. That’s exactly what we reflected on this last Sunday.

As such, it is a poignant proclamation of the paramount. It is a declaration of how to live in a way that honors the Creator and brings us joy and the abundant life. In a word, it points us to love. But the question is: Do you know what that word means?

If your curiosity and interest has been piqued, I suggest you continue exploring this chapter in The Whole Story that God has written, the book of Deuteronomy. The resources below will help you proceed:

  • Review last week’s sermon on Deuteronomy.
  • Watch the video that is part of the Bible Project’s Torah series for an extremely helpful overview, and for how this story addresses the condition of the human heart (and what the Bible means when it speaks of ‘the heart’).
  • After seven weeks in our series now, your probably used to this last suggestion, and have already bookmarked in your browser the book summaries from the Bible Project. Click here to find a whole page of videos, milestones, study resources, and recommendations for further reading and study on this remarkable book, Deuteronomy.

Finally, the foundational statement in all of Deuteronomy is found in what is known as The Shema. 

“Hear, O Israel: 
Yahweh our God, Yahweh is one. 
You shall love Yahweh your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.” (Deuteronomy 6:4-5, ESV)

The Bible Project has also created an in-depth study of what I believe is this single greatest summary statement for how to live (if you think that’s an overstatement, just read Jesus and Paul). Be sure to check out their series on The Shema.

As always, please feel free to email me with questions or ideas for The Whole Story. I look forward to seeing you on Sunday, when we will begin the next chapter of the drama by studying the story found in Joshua. Be sure to read it before you come!

Resting in the love of Father, Son, and Spirit,

Pastor Matthew

matthew@calvarystcloud.org

matthewmolesky.com

Numbers

February 11, 2018

This last week we made our way through the book of Numbers. We learned how this book, filled with some pretty famous Sunday School type of stories, is also shot-through with the sad themes of unbelief and rebellion. It is shocking how a people who experienced so many displays of God’s faithfulness could still be ungrateful and unsatisfied with his provision and timing. Which ironically makes it so relevant for our study, for we all struggle with being satisfied with the circumstances of our lives.

We also discovered that while God must address such an attitude with his justice and discipline, he also continually displayed his mercy toward his people. In fact, we were able to see how his justice can actually function as mercy, for Israel, and for us

If you would like to continue exploring this section of The Whole Story found in Numbers, the resources below are a great place to start:

  • Review last week’s sermon on Numbers.
  • Watch the Numbers video that is part of the Bible Project’s Torah series for an extremely helpful overview, and for how this story points us to the grace of God in Jesus.
  • Click here to find a whole page of videos, milestones, study resources, and recommendations for further reading and study on Numbers.

One of the other things that we explored this last Sunday was a little on how to read the Story of the Bible. Namely, how Numbers should be understood as a story that stands on its own, how it functions within the overall story of the Old Testament, as well as how the New Testament authors (e.g., Jesus and Paul) understood it as part of the Whole Story. If you’d like more instruction on how to understand the broader scope of Scripture, I highly commend this six-part video series on How to Read the Bible

Each video is only about six minutes in length, and you will find a study guide on the webpage for use along with the videos.

As always, please feel free to email me with questions or ideas for The Whole Story. I look forward to seeing you on Sunday, when we will begin the next chapter of the drama by studying Deuteronomy. Be sure to read it before you come!

Overflowing with thanksgiving for the snake-crusher and sin-bearer, Jesus,

Pastor Matthew

matthew@calvarystcloud.org

matthewmolesky.com

Leviticus

February 4, 2018

This last week we explored how Leviticus comes crashing into our current cultural context declaring our sin and resultant need, as well as the only pathway to true validation and acceptance in the face of such a possible crisis of identity. In addition to our weekly sentence summary of the book of the Bible from the folks over at the Bible Project, we were treated to this deeply encouraging truth seen in the book of Leviticus, and fulfilled in the Good News of Jesus:

We are far more sinful and flawed in ourselves
than we ever dared believe;
yet at the very same time we are more loved and accepted 
in Christ Jesus 
than we ever dared hope.

(Tim Keller)

It is the backdrop of Leviticus — with its thousands of priests and millions of sacrifices — that causes the beauty of the work of Jesus — the one priest, and the once for all sacrifice — to shine all the more brilliantly.

If you would like to continue exploring this section of The Whole Story found in Leviticus, the resources below are a great place to start:

  • Review last week’s sermon on Leviticus.
  • Download the Leviticus study guide here (scroll down the page a bit to ‘Related Resources’) to study on your own, or even better, as a family or in your community group.
  • Click here to find a whole page of videos, milestones, study resources, and recommendations for further reading and study on Leviticus.

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Every once in awhile, I will recommend a book that I find accessible and helpful for further study on The Whole Story. This week, that resource is Introducing the Old Testament: a short guide to its history and message, by Old Testament scholar, Tremper Longman III. 

This is the first volume I pick up each week as I begin my preparation for the sermon. It is less than 200 pages, but what it may lack in overall length it makes up for with concise, insightful commentary on every book of the Old Testament, in just a few pages per book. For each book, Longman provides analysis on content, genre, and most helpfully, ‘Connections’ (how the book anticipates the Good News). He also ends each chapter with questions for review and discussion. And Longman doesn’t sacrifice scholarship while making this an accessible and enjoyable read — a tough balance to deliver on!

I highly commend it to you. It is available on Amazon, as well as at the Whole Story resource table in the lobby (beginning on Sunday, February 11th). 

As always, please feel free to email me with questions or ideas for The Whole Story. I look forward to seeing you on Sunday, when we will begin the next chapter of the drama by studying Numbers. Be sure to read it before you come!

Filled with joy because of the welcome and acceptance found in Jesus,

Pastor Matthew

matthew@calvarystcloud.org

matthewmolesky.com

Exodus 19-40

January 28, 2018

There are a number of major themes that weave their way through the whole story of the Bible: covenant, kingdom, and temple, just to name a few. This last Sunday we looked at the theme of God’s presence in each of the sections of the story that we have covered thus far (Genesis 1-11, Genesis 12-50, and Exodus 1-18), and then how this idea of God’s presence comes into a bit of a sharper focus in Exodus 19-40.

Moses himself gives us an example of how important this idea of God’s presence with his covenant people is in one of his interactions with God. It happens immediately following the golden calf incident, which occurred while Moses was on Mt. Sinai receiving instructions from God regarding designs for his dwelling place, the tabernacle.

[And God said,] “Go up to a land flowing with milk and honey; but I will not go up among you, lest I consume you on the way, for you are a stiff-necked people.”
When the people heard this disastrous word, they mourned.
And Moses said to God, “If your presence will not go with [us], do not bring us up from here. For how shall it be known that I have found favor in your sight, I and your people? Is it not in your going with us?…” (from Exodus 33)

Moses, and the people with him, cannot imagine life without the presence of God. And it is in interactions like this that we see how they are desperate to know and experience the presence of God (this is further displayed in his famous story of Moses pleading to see the glory of God, found in Exodus 34).

Exodus concludes with the desire for his presence being met: God has descended in glorious fashion from Mt. Sinai, into the Eden-like tabernacle that he had designed, and the people had built. What a marvelous turn of events from the “disastrous word” to the beauty of his glory among the people!

But then, in the last few verses of Exodus, comes this surprising problem:

“Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. And Moses was not able to enter the tent of meeting…” (Exodus 40:34-35a)

It appears that the presence of God brings its own set of challenges for the people of the covenant, who are sinful and fall short of what God requires. So how will they enter his presence? Moses is positively egging us on, to turn the page, and continue reading in the book of Leviticus.

If you would like to continue exploring this section of The Whole Story found in Exodus 19-40, the resources below are a great place to start:

  • Review last week’s sermon on Exodus 19-40.
  • Download the Exodus 19-40 study guide found here (scroll down the page a bit when you get there) to study as a family or in your community group.
  • Click here to find a whole page of videos, milestones, study resources, and recommendations for further reading and study on Exodus 19-40.
  • This coming Sunday, 04 February, we will be studying Leviticus. As we discover how God will solve the problem of sinful people living in his presence, a couple of important themes will surface. Watching the videos on Sacrifice and Atonement and Holiness from the Bible project will help you prepare as you read the story and come to the Sunday morning service.

I’d like to repeat a suggestion I made last week or keeping up on your bible reading as we make our way through The Whole Story sermon series. One of the best ways to do this is listening to the Bible. While you are on a commute, making dinner, shoveling the walk, or on a run, you can listen to the Bible reading that day. Yes, listening counts! My favorite website and app for that comes from ESV.org. Check it out.

As always, please feel free to email me with questions or ideas for The Whole Story. I look forward to seeing you on Sunday, when we will begin the next chapter of the drama by studying Leviticus. Be sure to read it before you come!

Seeking Jesus, the point of The Whole Story, with you,

Pastor Matthew

matthew@calvarystcloud.org

matthewmolesky.com

Exodus 1-18

January 21, 2018

I think it is probably safe to say that there are two great peaks in the mountain range of God’s rescue and restoration of the earth. What the cross-resurrection event is to the New Testament, the exodus is to the Old Testament. In each case, the great redemptive salvation act (exodus/cross) produces the covenant community of God’s people (Israel/church) who are called to serve God and his universal mission. (I suppose one could argue a third peak: his culminating rescue of us when King Jesus returns and consummates his kingdom.)

This last Sunday we looked at that first peak: the great salvation act of the exodus that produces the covenant community of Israel, who are called to serve God and his universal mission. Further, we discovered the reason God did all this in Exodus 6:6-7:

“Say therefore to the people of Israel, ‘I am Yahweh, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will deliver you from slavery to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great acts of judgment. I will take you to be my people, and I will be your God, and you shall know that I am Yahweh your God, who has brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians.”

There it is: that they (and we) will know that Yahweh is our God. He is the one who has brought us out from the burdens of our slavery, for his glory, and our joy. What a God we serve!

If you would like to continue exploring this section of The Whole Story found in Exodus 1-18, the resources below are a great place to start:

  • Review last week’s sermon on Exodus 1-18.
  • Click here to find a whole page of videos, milestones, study resources, and recommendations for further reading and study on Exodus 1-18.
  • This coming Sunday, 28 January, we will be studying Exodus 19-40, where we will find the next step in a line of God’s covenant dealings with us as his people and family: the Mosaic Covenant. You could watch this 5 minute video from the Bible Project to get a great overview of the bible’s covenant theme.
  • Download the study guide found here (scroll down the page a bit when you get there) to study the bible’s covenant theme.

And remember our sentence summary for Exodus 1-18, with the emphasis placed on Yahweh:

YAHWEH rescues the Israelites from slavery in Egypt and confronts the evil and injustice of Pharaoh.

One final suggestion and reminder for keeping up on your bible reading as we make our way through The Whole Story sermon series. One of the best ways to do this is listening to the Bible. While you are on a commute, making dinner, shoveling the walk, or on a run, you can listen to the Bible reading that day. Yes, listening counts! My favorite website and app for that comes from ESV.org. Check it out.

As always, please feel free to email me with questions or ideas for The Whole Story. I look forward to seeing you on Sunday, when we will begin the next chapter of the drama by studying Exodus 19-40. Be sure to read it before you come!

Seeking Jesus, the point of The Whole Story, with you,

Pastor Matthew

matthew@calvarystcloud.org

matthewmolesky.com

Genesis 12-50: I Will Bless You

January 14, 2018

It is hard to look at any one text in the Bible and say that it is more important than any other text of the Bible. Since the whole Bible is inspired by the Holy Spirit as God’s Words, it is all equally valid and useful for growth in the grace and knowledge of our King, Jesus (cf. 2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 3:18). At the same time, there are those passages that are particularly vital and important to knowing what God is up to in his rescue and restoration plan for the world.

We came across just such a passage in our sermon series on The Whole Story this last Sunday. As we began our exploration into Genesis 12-50, we read what is arguably the most important text between the Creation account and the birth of Christ — Genesis 12:1-3:

Yahweh had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you. 

       “I will make you into a great nation, 
       and I will bless you; 
       I will make your name great,
       and you will be a blessing.
       I will bless those who bless you,
       and whoever curses you I will curse;
       and all peoples on earth 
       will be blessed through you.” (NIV)

What hope! God’s blessing is dependent on God, and not me. See how many times he says “I will…I will…I will.”

Now, it is true there are things that I must do in response to God’s blessings and promises, and as a result of my love for him (cf. Exodus 20:6: Matthew 22:34-40; John 14:15). At the same time, what we learned in the Genesis account is the truth that at every point of failure and folly in Abraham’s story (and the successive generations), God restated his blessing, promises, and covenant. The fulfillment of those blessings and promises are on his initiative, and dependent on his steadfast love and faithfulness. Not my initiative, or steadfast love and faithfulness. Again, what hope!

If you would like to continue exploring this truth, and further implications of this section of The Whole Story found in Genesis 12-50, the resources below would make a great start:

  • Review last week’s sermon on Genesis 12-50.
  • The covenant God made with Abraham in Genesis 12-50 is one in a line of his covenant dealings with us as his people and family. You could watch this 5 minute video from the Bible Project to get a great overview of this theme in The Whole Story.
  • Download the study guide found here (scroll down the page a bit) to study the covenant theme in The Whole Story.

Finally, remember our sentence summary for Genesis 12-50?

God promises to bless rebellious humanity through the family of Abraham, despite their constant failure and folly.

Click here to find a whole page of videos, milestones, study resources, and recommendations for further reading and study on Genesis 12—50.

As always, please feel free to email me with questions or ideas for The Whole Story. I look forward to seeing you on Sunday, when we will begin the next chapter of the drama by studying Exodus 1-18. Be sure to read it before you come!

Seeking Jesus, the point of The Whole Story, with you,

Pastor Matthew

matthew@calvarystcloud.org
matthewmolesky.com

The Whole Story: Genesis One Through Eleven

January 7, 2018

This last Sunday, January 7th, we kicked off our new sermon series, The Whole Story. As Genesis is the first book of the Bible, we began there, by covering chapters one through eleven (we’ll cover twelve through fifty next week). This breakout is because this expansive book of the Bible deals with two very important themes for the rest of the Story. Namely, “Creation and Fall” (Genesis 1-11) and “The Covenant with Abraham” (Genesis 12-50).

In addition to posting the sermon each week (you can find it here), we are providing additional resources for your further study and understanding in response to the sermon and, more importantly, the text of the Story. It is our hope that you will use these resources in your community group, in your family worship time, or in conversations with friends, to further interact with and apply this portion of God’s Story to your lives.

As I mentioned in the service on Sunday, we have partnered with the Bible Project to provide the majority of these additional materials. We are incredibly grateful for this highly skilled group of artist theologians who are inspiring us all to more pleasure and delight in The Whole Story of God’s plan of rescue and restoration. Here are the resources for this past week’s sermon and text, Genesis 1-11:

  • The Bible Project page for Genesis 1-11
  • Each week, this will be the most important part of further investigating this section of The Whole Story. On this page you will find the one sentence summary for Genesis 1-11, an interactive “Milestones” section, multiple videos that will help you grow in your understanding of this portion of the story, the ability to download a study guide for the text, recommended books to read further, and finally, additional articles and podcasts on the text.
  • In the sermon, I reflected on the pursuit of Bible reading, and how sometimes that can be quite difficult. I quoted from a book I recently read, and many of you asked about it. You can find Liturgy of the Ordinary: Sacred Practices in Everyday Life here.
  • I also mentioned a very helpful podcast by a good friend of mine, which will be covering Biblical Theology over the coming year. Biblical Theology is, in essence, a branch of theology that better helps us understand the whole story of Scripture. The name of the podcast is Doctrine and Devotion, and you can find out more information about following it, and their blog, here.

One final thing. This will also be a place where we continue to share ideas for how to be consistent, regular, and successful in reading through The Whole Story together this year. If you find yourself having difficulty keeping up reading the story traditionally, that is, holding a paper Bible in your hand, you may find great help listening to the Bible. It still counts! There are multiple apps and websites that allow you to listen to a text of your choosing for FREE. My favorite is probably the ESV mobile app and the ESV website.

And by the way, if you have questions, suggestions, or a testimony you’d like to share as we make our way reading and preaching through The Whole Story, please call, email, or talk to me on a Sunday morning. I’d love to hear from you.

And remember, be sure to read Genesis 12-50 in preparation for the upcoming sermon on Sunday, January 14th.

In the name of Jesus, the point of The Whole Story,

Pastor Matthew

matthew@calvarystcloud.org

Why Should I Read The Bible?

January 4, 2018

I was reading the introduction to a book on the Bible the other day, written by Francis Chan. Here is a portion of what he said:

For the past 35 years, I have been reading and studying the Bible daily. I honestly can’t imagine how life would have turned out if I neglected this habit. Each morning, I take time to seek God and remind myself of what is true and real.
It is my favorite time of the day.

Huh.

His favorite time of the day.

I wonder, is that true for you?

So let’s make this a safe place for a moment, shall we? I’m betting that it’s not true for you. At least, not all the time. Maybe not most of the time. Heck, if we asked Francis Chan, he might even admit that it’s not his favorite time of the day, every day. I mean, some of us are hoping that at least half the days it can be our favorite time of the day. 

Or it’s a goal, even as you read and internally respond to this — you desire for the time you read the Bible to be your favorite time of the day, but you just don’t know how to get there. Maybe you don’t even really know where to begin.

As a pastor, I feel like I’m supposed to say exactly what Chan has written, “Reading the Bible is my favorite time of the day.” And most days it is. Most days I love waking up, coffeeing up, praying up, and then gobbling up the Bible. But not every day. I’m just like you in that. I need reminding about why the Bible — God’s Whole Story — is an important part of my day, for every other part of my day. That the story is here for my pleasure and enjoyment. That I don’t have to feel guilt or shame tied to the pursuit of God’s Whole Story, rather, I want to delight in the Story.

It’s another reason we are beginning this adventure we’ve been telling you about. An eighteen month (or so) hike through God’s Whole Story. And we begin this Sunday exploring why you should read this story, as the pathway toward your delighting to do so. I believe God will bless you with being able to say, with Chan, “It is my favorite time of the day.”

Between now and Sunday, as a small first step in the journey, take a few minutes to watch a helpful video from the organization we are partnering with in this series, The Bible Project, as they show us that the Bible is, in fact, one big amazing Story told by God. And they introduce the app we are encouraging you to use, Read Scripture, and how it helps you read The Whole Story. (We’ll talk more about that on Sunday too!)

 

Advent 2017: Hope and Love — Christmas Eve 2017

December 24, 2017

This last Sunday, we completed our Advent Series for 2017 with two unique services on Christmas Eve.

Our first service was Sunday morning, and we unpacked the Biblical theme of Hope. We clarified the difference between Biblical idea of Hope, as opposed to mere human optimism. And in the clarification, we discovered what healthy human existence can look like in Jesus. To view that morning sermon, please click here.

Our second service was Sunday afternoon, where we heard a Christmas Eve devotional on the Biblical theme of Love. We heard from two biblical prophets in history, found in the Bible — one of them human, and one of them divine. They interpreted the Luke 2 Christmas story for us, and taught us that the love of God helps us see that we are far more wicked than we believe, and yet far more accepted and loved than we ever dared hope. To view that afternoon devotional, please click here.

As we have shared with you over the last two weeks, we have teamed up with the Bible Project for our Advent series this year. In fact, it was this wonderful team of people who love Jesus who gave us the idea for this series in the first place! So, please take a look at the videos below. The first further explores the Biblical theme of Hope, and the second, the theme of Love. Each are only about four minutes long. You will find your comprehension broadened as you go on an animated tour through the whole Bible. 

Finally, download the study notes (see the links right above each video) to use as a guide with your family, some friends, or your community group. It will guide your continued exploration to discover what these Biblical themes are all about.

May God grant you his Shalom, Joy, Hope, and Love,

Pastor Matthew

study notes on Hope

 

study notes on Love

 

Advent 2017: Joy

December 17, 2017

This last Sunday, we unpacked the Biblical theme of “joy.” And we began by asking a simple — but very important — question. Namely, “What is joy?” 

While it may seem obvious, unless we really understand what joy is, we will search for the wrong thing. So we then spent some time thinking through what our misconceptions about joy may be, and getting some clarity on what God had to say about it (hint: see Luke 2:10, and context). To view the sermon from Sunday, 17 December, click here.

As we shared with you in last week’s post on “peace,” we want you to continue learning about the bible’s teaching on “joy.” Therefore, we have teamed up with the Bible Project for our Advent series this year. In fact, it was this wonderful team of people who love Jesus who gave us the idea for this series in the first place! So, please take a look at the four-and-a-half minute video on Joy below. I think you will find your comprehension broadened as you go on an animated tour through the whole Bible. 

Finally, download the study notes (see the link right above the video) to use as a guide with your family, some friends, or your community group. It will guide your continued exploration to discover what biblical joy is all about.

For our joy,

Pastor Matthew

Study Notes

 

The Whole Story

December 13, 2017

In the early 1990s, George Barna spoke at a gathering of ministry leaders sponsored by the International Bible Society. In his speech, he pointed out, to this group of people dedicated to getting the Bible into the hands of people, that easy access to well-translated Bibles isn’t enough. “Bibles are everywhere in this country,” he said, “but the research shows an alarming disconnection problem. People find the Bible to be a difficult book, don’t understand it, and in fact, are abandoning it in droves.”

In the audience was a man named Glenn Paauw. Right then and there he made a commitment: “I don’t know how long I’ll work here, but for as long as I do I will not be content to just sell or distribute Bibles. I am going to work on understanding this disconnection problem….thirty years from now I don’t want to hear the same story.”

That commitment turned into a book, Saving the Bible from Ourselves: Learning to Read and Live the Bible Well. In it, he argues that at the heart of disconnection from the Bible is understanding, quite simply, how to read it. So, unsurprisingly, that book birthed a reader’s edition of the Bible, The Books of the Bible.

Which leads to why we are starting a sermon series called The Whole Story. In part, this series is further fruit from that talk in the early 1990s, and the burden God put on Glenn Paauw’s heart, along with my own. The majority of my life is bound up in a passion for the Bible, and by an extension, the God of the Bible. And now at forty-eight years old, I understand the disconnection problem between people and the Bible. And I agree with Glenn — a great deal of that is because we simply don’t know how to read and enjoy and revel in the story God tells in the Bible.

So on Sunday, January 7th, we will begin a year and a half exploration of the whole story of the whole Bible. We will savor it through single sermons unpacking whole books of the Bible. And we will see it is not, actually a difficult book. That it can be understood. And that it is worth our attention, meditation, and, lo and behold, our enjoyment! We will learn how to read it, and how to live it. And we will do so by God’s active involvement in the process through the gracious work of his Holy Spirit.

And all along the way we will celebrate the One whom the story is about, for the Bible is one big unified story that points us to Jesus.

Eager to begin the journey with you,

Pastor Matthew

on behalf of the elders and pastors of Calvary

 

Advent 2017: Peace

December 12, 2017

This last Sunday, we unpacked the Biblical idea of peace. Our english word and understanding needs to be informed by what God means when he declared through the angels, “on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” (Luke 2:14b). So we studied some texts that helped us learn about the concept of shalom (Hebrew) and eirene (Greek), and how it is Jesus, and only Jesus, who can fulfill all our desires for peace, wholeness, and completeness. To view the sermon from Sunday, 10 December, click here.

In order to help you continue delighting in this Biblical truth, we have teamed up with the Bible Project for our Advent series this year. In fact, it was this wonderful team of people who love Jesus who gave us the idea for this series in the first place! So, please take a look at the four-and-a-half minute video on Peace below. You’ll love how they take you on a visual tour through the whole Bible. And then download the study notes, also below, to use as a guide with your family, some friends, or your community group to continue exploring this rich, encouraging, biblical concept of peace.

Peace to you,

Pastor Matthew

 

STUDY NOTES

Upcoming Preaching

November 14, 2017

In this excerpt from a recent sermon, Pastor Matthew gives us a roadmap for where the preaching on Sunday morning will progress as we complete the series in Acts, move into the Christmas season, and what’s on tap in 2018 and beyond.

How to Keep Studying the Sermon

November 14, 2017

In this excerpt from a recent sermon, Pastor Matthew gives us some insights on how to keep working through the sermon Scripture text as we move into our week. The key? Inwardly digest the Word.

Baptism 8/20/17

August 20, 2017

Baptism is a joyous celebration as believers follow God's commandment. Watch here as Shikhar commits his life to Jesus by following this beautiful command.

com·mu·ni·ty

June 7, 2017

com·mu·ni·ty - a feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals. Each of us was designed to be in community, to talk and listen, to love and be loved. We long to relate, to commune, to belong. 

How do I get in community? 

“What makes an aggregation of people into a community is that they are drawn together around some common object. Weaker community can be created by a common interest, such as a hobby, a sports team, a musical genre. Stronger community comes together around deep beliefs and causes, or powerful common experiences, like going through a flood or battle together—and surviving. There have been countless ‘buddy movies’ about some group of misfits who are extremely different in all kinds of ways, but then they are thrown together into a life or death situation. When they come through it together, it becomes the basis for a deep, permanent bond, stronger than blood.” Timothy Keller (Full Article- http://www.timothykeller.com/blog/2008/10/1/the-difficulty-of-community)

What is the “common object” that makes US a community?

The apostle Paul tells the church in Ephesians 2 about us being dead in our sin, feeding off our own desires. He goes on to say, “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together in Christ.” (v. 4,5)

Stop for a moment and consider those verses (for as long as it takes)

God’s Mercy.   God’s Love.   We were Dead.    We are Made Alive, in Jesus.

There is no deeper sense of community than what Christians have in Jesus. We all were dead in our sin, and have been restored to God through Jesus.

So amazing— Shocking! Yet, we often forget this beautiful truth. Our unity, we have in Jesus, surpasses any other sense of belonging. God makes you His own, through Jesus. You are drawn in as part of the family. That is why we call each other a family here at Calvary.

The only problem is, we don’t always act like Jesus, even though we are in Jesus. We’ve been adopted into the Family of God, yet we still tear each other down with our words and actions.

If you’ve been the church for any amount of time, you’ve likely been stung by your community, your family. We forget that we are to be humble, gentle, patient, and loving (as Paul shares later in Ephesians 4). That we are a part of one body. To harm someone within your family directly harms the whole family unit.

So family, “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” Ephesians 4:31,32

In our American culture, where we want it done fast, on the cheap, and to perfection… Remember being the church, a family, takes time, effort, and commitment. There is no greater place to belong, no greater community than when you are in Jesus.

Practical Speaking-

So what should you do if you aren’t experiencing the kind of community you want?

In an article by Aaron Menikoff, You Don’t Find Community by Looking

for It, he shares 3 insightful answers.

#1- Pray for your church faithfully. Pray the body of Christ you’re part of would grow in this area. Churches fall short. No church is perfect. So pray your church would be so filled with Christ’s love that it would overflow into personal relationships within the church.

#2- Examine yourself. Are there patterns of behavior in your own life that serve as obstacles to the community you desire? Maybe your work schedule makes the kind of face time needed to live together difficult. Perhaps you’re prioritizing certain hobbies over gathering with God’s people (Heb. 10:24–25). Maybe, for whatever reason, you’ve kept others at arm’s length—refusing to let them really get to know you. Consider how you could make a greater effort to create the community you want to see.

#3- Seek solace in Christ. True community is never found by looking for it. It can only be found by pursuing Christ. He understands loneliness better than we do. Jesus hung alone, deserted by his closest friends, bearing the shame of sins he never committed. He knows what it’s like to be ignored, abandoned, overlooked. Fallen humans are inherently disappointing. Only Jesus is perfectly fulfilling. So let your seasons of loneliness point you to his sufficiency. 

2017 Graduates

June 4, 2017

In our worship service on June 4th, we honored our graduates, and Pastor Josh prayed over them. Please continue in prayer for these young men and women as they begin their next chapter!

A CULTURE OF URGENCY

May 31, 2017

I am thankful for the chances I have to mow my lawn. Yes, you heard me right! I’m thankful because it provides opportunity to multitask and listen to leadership podcasts. Most people listen to podcasts in their car, but when your commute to work consists of a short walk, you have to find alternative times.

This past week I listened to a leadership podcast from Craig Groeschel titled, “Institutionalizing Urgency”

In this podcast, he makes the case that we need to:

Learn to declare war on complacency and embrace urgency, because we cannot change what we’re willing to tolerate.

See, for many organizations, complacency is hard to see. Unfortunately, urgency is not always the default mode, complacency is. The greatest threat to future success is current success. Success feeds pride, and pride kills urgency: nothing fails like success.

Now, while Craig was sharing from an organization church leadership perspective (with hope that churches would not get complacent in their mission), I began to also think about urgency in terms of sharing the Gospel from a personal perspective. Whether as a church, or personally, my hope is that we will have a culture of urgency when it comes to sharing the Good News!

At Calvary, our mission (and hopefully your mission as well) is to make more and maturing disciples of Jesus Christ. Now, understanding that Jesus could return at any time (Matthew 24:36-44), it makes that mission all the more urgent. We might have 24 hours to accomplish that mission or 24 years. We don’t know!

The danger is in becoming victims of complacency - willing to ‘tolerate’ our current commitment to the mission. Over time, our bias for action becomes a bias for discussion. We sit around and talk about the mission but we’re no longer productive in accomplishing it. Yes, I understand it really is Jesus who accomplishes the mission by drawing others to Himself, not us. The goal is not activity, busyness, or doing ‘more’. The goal is that we’re faithfully following the great commission (Matthew 28:16-20), that is productivity. 

Here’s a short illustration from William Booth’s - A Vision Of The Lost to help us see the importance of urgency: 

“I saw a dark and stormy ocean. Over it the black clouds hung heavily; through them every now and then vivid lightening flashed and loud thunder rolled, while the winds moaned, and the waves rose and foamed, towered and broke, only to rise and foam, tower and break again.
In that ocean I thought I saw myriads of poor human beings plunging and floating, shouting and shrieking, cursing and struggling and drowning; and as they cursed and screamed they rose and shrieked again, and then some sank to rise no more.
And I saw out of this dark angry ocean, a mighty rock that rose up with it’s summit towering high above the black clouds that overhung the stormy sea. And all around the base of this great rock I saw a vast platform. Onto this platform, I saw with delight a number of the poor struggling, drowning wretches continually climbing out of the angry ocean. And I saw that a few of those who were already safe on the platform were helping the poor creatures still in the angry waters to reach the place of safety.
On looking more closely I found a number of those who had been rescued, industriously working and scheming by ladders, ropes, boats and other means more effective, to deliver the poor strugglers out of the sea. Here and there were some who actually jumped into the water, regardless of the consequences in their passion to "rescue the perishing." And I hardly know which gladdened me the most - the sight of the poor drowning people climbing onto the rocks reaching a place of safety, or the devotion and self-sacrifice of those whose whole being was wrapped up in the effort for their deliverance.
As I looked on, I saw that the occupants of that platform were quite a mixed company. That is, they were divided into different "sets" or classes, and they occupied themselves with different pleasures and employments. But only a very few of them seemed to make it their business to get the people out of the sea.
But what puzzled me most was the fact that though all of them had been rescued at one time or another from the ocean, nearly everyone seemed to have forgotten all about it. Anyway, it seemed the memory of its darkness and danger no longer troubled them at all. And what seemed equally strange and perplexing to me was that these people did not even seem to have any care - that is any agonizing care - about the poor perishing ones who were struggling and drowning right before their very eyes . . . many of whom were their own husbands and wives, brothers and sisters and even their own children.”
"Who Cares?" by Mauricio Palacio

As God has laid this on my heart, it’s been personally convicting. I am far from being the best disciple maker. What I am though, is committed… committed to becoming a better disciple maker and not getting complacent (or distracted) in the mission. 

Take a moment and think about your own life.

What are you willing to tolerate (because you cannot change what you’re willing to tolerate)?

As you think about your own life and journey, what are you doing that’s ‘busy’ work but not ‘productive’ work when it come to making more and maturing disciples of Jesus? 

What are you most distracted by?

If Jesus was coming back tomorrow, how would your to-do list for today change?

How uncomfortable would you allow yourself to be in order to see others come to know Jesus?

My prayer is that this would be an encouragement to you - and that we, the Calvary family, would embody a culture of urgency when it comes to sharing The Gospel.