Making Arrangements

Making Arrangements

Gift giving at our house was never a time for surprises.   Our gifts were so predictable we would could have dispensed with wrapping paper altogether.   My parents assured me they wanted the same things at every gifting opportunity.  For Christmas, my mother received chocolate-covered cherries and a flip calendar refill and my father a new can of Borkum-Riff.   At Father’s Day, my sisters and I would collaborate on new white dress shirt.   After the presentation of home-made cards and crafts, we would present our gift.  He would shake it and feel of it, then carefully, and with great suspense, open the package revealing to no one’s surprise a white Van Heusen dress shirt.  

Though it was Sunday, my father would never wear his new shirt on the day it was received.  We would implore him to, as a matter of ritual.   But he was unmoved.  He would lovingly place the unopened shirt in a special draw in his closet and declare, “I will save that one for my funeral.”   Why he felt the need to say this, I never knew.   He would, of course, eventually wear the shirt.  But we never noticed exactly when.  As far as we knew, he had indeed saved it for his funeral.   But, if so, that would have been his only funeral plan.    

My father was not a procrastinator.  He was a planner.  He loved to plan and organize.  Long after my sisters and I moved out, he would mail us detailed agendas of any road trip he might take.  He had files of files and lists of lists.   He was always a man with a plan.  Except, that is, when it came to funeral planning.  He had absolutely no interest in thinking about those things.   Any suggestion regarding funeral planning was met with swift rebuttal and redirection.

But as a pastor I have noticed how helpful advanced funeral planning is for a grieving family.  From decisions about burial places and furnishings, to the logistics of services, down to the music and readings – all these things give you the opportunity to make sure what matters most is shared with those who matter most as they grieve.   The thoughts shared at a funeral set the trajectory of grief and establish hope beyond the grave – hope that this is not the end, but only the end of the beginning, hope that there is more to come.

At first glance, it seems that Jesus’ burial arrangements were anything but planned.  The only clear preparation the gospels refer to is the anointing of Jesus at Bethany by Mary, the sister of Lazarus.  Victims of crucifixion could be claimed by their family for burial, but if not, they were thrown unceremoniously into unmarked graves.   The circumstances of Jesus death made it virtually impossible for his family to claim his body.  But as Good Friday ebbs away toward the Sabbath, events unfold which reveal that Jesus’ Heavenly Father had providentially made remarkable plans for his funeral, plans foretold hundreds of years before by the prophet Isaiah, who wrote, “And they made his grave … with a rich man in his death.” (Isaiah 53:9).

Jesus burial established a remarkable trajectory of hope for all who believe in him.  Had Jesus been tossed into a Roman burial pit, many clear and compelling proofs of the resurrection would not have been possible.  But in God’s advanced funeral planning for His Only Begotten Son, he is buried in a prominent place, in a grave secure from unseen access, in a new, unused tomb, wrapped in graveclothes that would be abandoned, and sealed and guarded tenaciously by his enemies.   God works through the courage of Joseph of Arimathea and the cowardice of the religious leaders to assure us that Christ is risen indeed.  Every detail of Jesus’ burial furnishes forensic proof of the resurrection and assures us of  our own redemption. 

Join us on Facebook Live at 10:30 am this Lord’s Day, April 5, as we examine Luke 23:50-56 and consider amazing importance of the death and burial of the Lord Jesus.  For updates on our current plans for worship while practicing social distancing go to our post, COVID 19 Update.

Behold Your King!

Behold Your King!

How many times have you misjudged someone, thinking they were weak, incapable, or a push-over? Then, unexpectedly, they act out of unforeseen strength to save the day and make a mockery of your precipitous assessment.   King George VI of England was such a man.   Encumbered with a speech impediment, a man of great natural reserve and deference, he was considered by English society to be a royal embarrassment.  He had none of the eloquence, confidence or charm of his elder brother and heir to the throne, Edward VIII.  

But for all of the appearance of strength, Edward had none.  His great love was not a love of duty or country, but a love of self.   His sordid affair with Wallace Simpson led him to abdicate the throne on the eve of Great Britain’s entry into World War II.    In his stead, the timid and unpromising, George VI ascended to the throne.   George hardly looked the part of King.  But for all his apparent weakness and inability, he had a strength none guessed.  His love of country and of duty and his strength of conviction guided Britain through its “finest hour.” 

Outward appearances never define a king.  Samuel learned this when he went to the house of Jesse to anoint a successor to King Saul.   Saul had possessed a kingly bearing.  A head taller than every other man in Israel, Saul had looked like a King.  So Samuel looked for such a man among Jesse’s sons.  But the Lord warned Samuel,

“Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him.  For the Lord sees not as a man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

1 Samuel 16:7

Samuel’s search led him to David, the smallest and least promising of Jesse’s sons, but the one who was a man after God’s own heart. (Acts 13:22)  Outward appearances never define a King.  

Luke’s account of the crucifixion is remarkable in many ways.  It gives scarcely any details about the crucifixion itself, but focuses attention on the reactions of those Jesus encountered as He traveled the way of suffering.   He was met with pity, mockery and bitter anger, but also remarkable and unexpected faith.   At every turn Luke declares the Kingship of Jesus.   Yet, Jesus hardly looks like a King.  To the eye he appears to be victim, not victor.  Luke uses the word ‘spectacle’ to describe the scene.   Those who looked upon this spectacle without faith saw Jesus as anything but a King.   But through faith others saw the King entering His kingdom.   Outward appearances never define a King. 

The “Daughters of Jerusalem” are warned by Jesus not to weep for Him, but for themselves.   They were looking at the cross and the Christ all wrong.   They did not understand what was unfolding before them.  They saw a victim suffering injustice, rather than a King bearing justice.  How do you look at the events of Good Friday?  What is your response to the cross?  Does it evoke pity, mockery, or despair?  Or does it call you to repentance, faith, and hope?

Join us on Facebook Live at 10:30 am this Lord’s Day, March 29, as we examine Luke 23:26-49 and consider the Kingship of Christ, powerfully declared, brazenly rejected and savingly believed.  For more information about how we are gathering for corporate worship amidst calls for “social distancing” go to our post, How to Survive the Pandemic.

Table Talk

Table Talk

Like every other home in 1970s America, we had a set of TV trays.   I am not sure why we had them, because we never used them.   While our neighbors were consuming TV dinners on TV trays huddled around the glowing phosphorescence of modernity, we ate our meals after the manner of our forefathers.  My father’s rules of the table were clear.  We all sat down together as a family for the evening meal.  No one could eat “on the run.” Our meals were not drop in affairs.

Before we served our plates or tasted the first savory morsel of my mother’s cooking, every person seated around the table would pray.   The TV was never allowed on during meal times.  And my father allowed no shirts without collars or bare feet at his table.  While we sometimes thought this protocol extreme, it had a defining effect on the culture of our family.

The dinner table is a microcosm of family life.   When everyone is eating on the run and doing their own thing, dropping in and dropping out for meals, the same patterns are typically true of the larger life of the family.   The family becomes less a family and more a group of cohabitors, living in the same space, but not living life together.  How we eat our meals is a reflection of how we live our lives.  Conversely, how we come to the table often establishes a culture of how we live our lives together.

This is true for our nuclear families and adoptive families as well.   This is particularly true in the Church.   The Lord’s Table has always been a culturally defining activity in the life of the church.  While its elements, the bread and wine, recall the gospel realities that call us into life together, it is our manner of approach, preparation, and participation that reflect the realities of that life together.   When they are healthy, our fellowship is healthy.  When they are unhealthy, our fellowship is unhealthy.   It is for precisely this reason that church discipline is often expressed through suspension from the Lord’s Table.  And restoration is signaled by readmission to the Lord’s Table.

Just as a covenant renewal pattern of our worship is the pattern of our relationship to Christ, so the Lord’s Supper is a pattern for our life in fellowship with one another – not just in the church, but in every sphere of our lives.  As one theologian put it, “how you come to the Lord’s Table defines how you come to every other table.”   So, it is not surprising that the “words of institution” (1 Corinthians 11:23-26) we so often hear as the pastor calls us to the Lord’s Table, come from a passage warning the Corinthian Church about the dangers of unworthy communing.

Remarkably Paul begins this call to the table with “on the night when [Jesus] was betrayed, he took bread and gave thanks.”    On the night in which He was betrayed!   What a somber way to introduce a joyful remembrance!  This phrase ought to get our attention and challenge us to consider our preparation, approach, and participation.   This phase also calls us to examine the biblical accounts of that First Supper, we often call the Last Supper.

Each of the gospels recounts the institution of the Lord’s Supper.  And in each account we see the graciousness of Christ and the frailty of the disciples.  As Paul notes in 1 Corinthians 10, these things are written for our instruction.   From the compelling gospel accounts of the Last Supper, we find both encouragements and warnings regarding our own preparation, approach and participation.   Join us this Sunday, March 8, as we examine Luke 22:1-38 and consider its encouragements and warnings regarding how we come to the Lord’s Table.  We meet from 5:00 – 6:30 pm in The Commons at St. Andrews Anglican Church at 8300 Kanis Rd in Little Rock.  Click here for directions. Come with a friend and join us for fellowship and worship. We look forward to seeing you there.

Beyond Repair

Beyond Repair

When something grips Noah’s interest, he is all in.  He reads everything he can find, then trolls Amazon for outlets to express his latest passion.   I know he is onto a new thing when he comes and asks, “Dad, what can I do to earn $30?”  I have learned to ask, “Noah what is it that you want?”  Then we will discuss the wisdom of this new pursuit and the merits and demerits of his particular choices.  And Noah never comes to me uninformed.  He has researched his pursuits very carefully.  He knows I will demand four or five compelling reasons to spend his, as yet unearned, money.

Not long ago, the passion du jour was a drone.  He studied the topic, scoured the offerings, and presented his business plan.  He worked tirelessly, performing some labor intensive and unpleasant jobs to earn the requisite $49.   I had a few misgivings, but decided to let him make the purchase.   For days Noah scanned the horizon for UPS trucks and closely monitored Amazon delivery notifications.  The day finally arrived and Noah immediately set about configuring his drone for adventure.  Within a day or two the not-so-robust-drone had endured more rough landings than its Chinese manufacturers had anticipated and it was beyond repair.  Even many hours with his clever older brother and more hard-earned replacement parts were not enough to restore the drone to active duty.   And so, to Noah’s great sadness, the drone sits, unusable and unrepairable – broken beyond restoration.  Nothing can be done, nothing can be salvaged.  It is destined for the trash.

But Noah’s sadness is nothing compared to the sorrow over lives that are broken beyond restoration.  Sin breaks our lives beyond restoration.   Sin breaks everything it touches.  We were made to have fellowship with God and with one another, yet every relational disaster in our lives is the result of sin.   We are tainted by it and so everything we touch is tainted by it.   And we cannot undo what we have done.   Sin breaks us beyond repair.   Unless the Lord remakes us by His grace, there is nothing that can be done, nothing that can be salvaged.  We are destined for the eternal dump, a place the Bible calls Hell.

When Jesus talked about Hell in the gospels, he used a word picture, familiar to His hearers.  He called it “Gehenna.”  Gehenna was the local land-fill, the trash dump, to the south of the city of Jerusalem.  It was the place where unrepaired things were carted and thrown out.   Jesus described hell, Gehenna, as the place “where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.”   It was the picture of the trash dump, in which the decomposition of things thrown away produced extreme heat and a haven for worms.  Jesus’ vivid illustration of Hell emphasizes that sad truth that Hell is the place where men, broken by sin and unrepaired by grace, will experience the full measure of their brokenness forever.

The gate of the city that opened out toward this dump was the Potsherd Gate, sometimes called the Dung Gate.  It was at this gate that the prophet Jeremiah was instructed to go with the elders and the priests of the people to give them a vivid illustration of the hard truth that no one can weather the justice of God unless they turn back to Him and seek His mercy.    The Lord had become to the people of Judah, just one more god among gods in a mythic pantheon.   They denied his sovereignty and did not fear His judgment.  They were backslidden, living with their backs to the Lord.

They presumptuously trusted in the works of their own hands.   They thought that they could endure God’s anger over their sin.  How bad could it be?  He relented in the end?  Surely, we can wait out his anger.  Surely it will blow over.  They rationalized, presumed, and lived in denial.  They thought that whatever problem God had with them, they could fix it or simply ignore it.   But their generation was beyond repair.   Jeremiah’s sermon from the Potter’s House had reminded them of God’s sovereignty and his ability to reshape them, despite the fact that they were bad clay.  Jeremiah proclaimed God’s offer of grace.

Then the word of the Lord came to me: “O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter has done? declares the Lord. Behold, like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel. If at any time I declare concerning a nation or a kingdom, that I will pluck up and break down and destroy it, and if that nation, concerning which I have spoken, turns from its evil, I will relent of the disaster that I intended to do to it.  Jeremiah 18:5-7

Even at this late hour God offers mercy if His people return to Him.   If they repent, He will relent.  God who may sovereignly do whatever he pleases with his marred clay, extends grace – the hope of being reshaped by the loving, careful hand of the master Potter.   But rather than yielding, prideful Judah must have the last word – and what a dreadful last word it is.

“But they say, ‘That is in vain! We will follow our own plans, and will every one act according to the stubbornness of his evil heart.’  Jeremiah 18:12

They rejected their only hope and continued to live with their backs to God.  What about you?  Have you lived with your back to God?  Are you unconcerned about his sovereign justice?   God offers us sovereign grace, but if we turn away from it, all that is left is sovereign judgement.   We should all be concerned.    Join us this Sunday, March 1, as we examine Jeremiah 19 and consider the dangers of living life with our backs to God.  We meet from 5:00 – 6:30 pm in The Commons at St. Andrews Anglican Church at 8300 Kanis Rd in Little Rock.  Click here for directions. Come with a friend and join us for fellowship and worship. We look forward to seeing you there.

Never a Fast Day

Never a Fast Day

The Lord’s Day is a Feast Day, never a Fast Day!  That has always been Christendom’s creed.  Even when long, protracted penitential fasts were the fashion of Medieval Christianity, the Lord’s Day was always excluded from the fast.  The Lord’s Day is to be a day of celebration, joy, and fellowship.  It is not the day for downcast faces or despair.   Any solemnity that marks the day is due to sheer awe for the graciousness of a Holy God of whom “mercy is His proper work.”   Any sorrow sown by conviction of sin is wiped away by the forgiveness and cleansing which are ours in Christ.  The Lord’s Day is a Feast Day, never a Fast Day!

Our forefathers were apt to call the Lord’s Day, “the Market Day of the Soul.”  It was not a day for buying and selling the commodities of temporal life, but a day to traffic in the commerce of higher things, better things – eternal things.   While our lives today blur the distinctions between the Lord’s Day and every other day, we are most blessed and at rest when we “remember the Lord’s Day and set it apart.”  The Lord’s Day is not like every other day.  Quite the contrary it is unlike any other day.  When the Lord was creating the world, He rested from His work, not just on the first day after he finished, but He finished by creating the seventh day – actively making it and setting it aside to celebrate, rejoice, and fellowship with His creation.

Thus, the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. So, God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation. Genesis 2:1-2

Is the Lord’s Day a feast day for you?  Is it the Market Day of your Soul?  Is it unlike any other day?  Or has it become like any and every other day to you?  Is it distinguished by the pursuit and enjoyment of the things that really matter, that last forever?  Or only the pursuit of more of the same things that won’t last.  Doubtless, for most of us, the week is the unit of time that most defines our lives, yet it is the only unit of time not defined by some celestial or environmental cycle.  It has no exemplar in nature.  It is simply given to us by God and delineated for us by the Lord’s Day.   Whether you observe it or not, your life revolves around the Lord’s Day.

Growing up, Sundays were always unique.  The usual biscuits that adorned every breakfast at our house, were replaced with blueberry muffins.   Lunch was a grand affair, usually grilled steaks, baked potato and salad – a meal we never ate except at lunch on Sundays.   My father always included me in his duties at the church.  Some weeks we drove a church van into downtown Atlanta to pick up a spunky group of elderly ladies.  Other weeks, I delivered the Sunday School boxes to each classroom before anyone else arrived.  My service made me feel important and useful.   After lunch, was “rest time.”  We could play quietly at home, but it was not a time for the usual kinds of play with friends and neighbors.  And then in the evening we would return to church for choir, and Royal Ambassadors (a Christian boys club), and worship.   It was a full day, different from every other day.  Full of feasting, fellowship and rest – all centered around worshipping and celebrating who we were in Christ.

When Christians lose delight in enjoying the “thousand sacred sweets” of the Lord’s Day, life begins to lose its savor in every other area as well.  Just as the Lord’s Table defines how we live at every other table in our lives, the Lord’s Day defines how we will live every other day.  The Lord’s Day with its corporate worship, fellowship, feasting, resting and serving is the heartbeat of the Christian life.  It is one of two positive commands in the Ten Commandments.  It comes with great promise.  Jesus reminds us that “man was not made for the Sabbath, but the Sabbath for man.”  The Lord’s Day is a Feast Day and never a Fast Day.  It is the Market Day of the Soul.

The prophet Jeremiah took great pains to make clear the deeply ingrained sin in the people of Judah.  By the time we get to the end of Jeremiah 17, we have heard the prophet call the people to repentance for their perpetual idolatry, their self-serving greed, their heartless oppression, and their continual refusal to heed the call of God to return.  So, it seems a little surprising that Jeremiah makes so much of calling them to repent of contempt for the Lord’s Day .  With so many dire issues on the table, is this not a bit of straining a gnat and swallowing a camel?  Yet this thinking shows that we have not rightly understood that the Lord’s Day stands at the center of our Christian life.

Join us this Sunday, February 16, as we examine Jeremiah 17:19-27 and consider the the great blessing of remembering the Lord’s Day.  We meet from 5:00 – 6:30 pm in The Commons at St. Andrews Anglican Church at 8300 Kanis Rd in Little Rock.  Click here for directions. Come with a friend and join us for fellowship and worship. We look forward to seeing you there.

Misdiagnosis

Misdiagnosis

Medical misdiagnosis is a serious problem.  Recent studies have estimated that as many as 12 million adults a year seeking outpatient care are misdiagnosed.  Worse yet, diagnostic errors may result in as many as 10% of patient deaths — more deaths annually than breast cancer.  To be fair, diagnosis is incredibly complex and patients place extraordinarily high expectations for accuracy on their doctors.  Patients often bet their lives on the opinions of their doctor.  When those opinions are wrong the prescribed treatment will fail to address the real condition and may even make the condition more acute.

Misdiagnosis is serious but nothing compared to the misdiagnosis of a deeper sickness that affects us all – a spiritually terminal condition the Bible calls sin.  This condition is congenital and inherited.  It is always fatal.  Every one of us has it.  Yet it is often misdiagnosed.  Doctors of skepticism dismiss that any sickness exists, while doctors of philosophy are more concerned with classification than cure.   Doctors of psychology declare this sickness to be a non-fatal dysfunction, easily resolved with the right therapeutic tweak.   Doctors of religion prescribe a course of works, coupled with a regimen of rituals and outward piety.  But with all these prescriptions, the cirrhosis of the soul continues unabated.

Just before the Reformation, the Church taught that man needed the grace of God to overcome his sin problem, just not grace alone.  The Church and its teachers had misdiagnosed the depth and severity of sin as mere spiritual sloth.  If only the patients would exert themselves, even just a little, and show that they were trying, God would give them the loan of grace they needed to make up what they lacked.   God helps those that help themselves!

Yet these Doctors of the Church had failed to read their diagnostic manual, the Scripture, which reveals that the patients are suffering from total depravity.  They are already spiritually dead (Ephesians 2) and none of them can exert themselves, even just a little (Romans 3).

Martin Luther worked and worked to do his part, yet with all his working he only felt that more working was needed.   Far from loving or seeking God, he hated and despised God for his implacable justice and harshness.  It was not until he read in Romans 1, “the just shall live by faith” that he realized that his hope was not in a loan of grace, but in grace alone, grace given to him, not in response to his willingness, but in spite of his rebellion.  Luther commented.

“He is not righteous who does much, but he who, without work, believes much in Christ…. The love of God does not find, but creates, that which is pleasing to it…. Rather than seeking its own good, the love of God flows forth and bestows good. Therefore sinners are attractive because they are loved; they are not loved because they are attractive.”

Dead men do not need renovation, but resurrection.   For this reason, the Reformers insisted that the only remedy for sin was Grace alone (Sola Gratia) through Faith alone (Sola Fide).

Our diagnosis is much more serious than we imagined.  The Fall broke more in us than we are aware.  The effects of total depravity extend into every last aspect of body, mind, and soul.  The prophet Jeremiah expressed this most poignantly.  “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9)  The ancient word heart used in this verse is an inclusive idea, encompassing the heart, soul, mind, knowledge, thinking, reflection, memory, inclination, resolution, will, conscience, the seat of appetites, emotions and passions and convictions and courage.   All these, Jeremiah says, are treacherous, rebellious and incurably sick.  Yet, we cannot see it.   As one pundit noted.

“The depravity of man is at once the most empirically verifiable reality but at the same time the most intellectually resisted fact.” ― Malcolm Muggeridge

Join us this Sunday, February 9, as we examine Jeremiah 17 and consider the diagnosis of total depravity and the remedy God offers us in Christ.  We meet from 5:00 – 6:30 pm in The Commons at St. Andrews Anglican Church at 8300 Kanis Rd in Little Rock.  Click here for directions. Come with a friend and join us for fellowship and worship. We look forward to seeing you there.

Costly Grace

Costly Grace

Free and cheap are not the same thing.   They are not even in the same ballpark.  In fact, the “free” things in your life will often be the most costly.   Everything costs something, to someone.   A free car will come with unforeseen expense.   And a free pet is anything but free.

Years ago we took our children to a local pet store in search of a cat.  The pet store hosted a pet adoption and it seemed a good idea to give a good home to a free, stray cat.   The adoptable cats ran the gamut of breeds, colours, and patterns.  But as we were perusing, the charming salesperson said, “and then we have this poor little kitten.”  Ushering my tender-hearted little girls to the back of the store she pointed out a tiny little calico with only one eye.   The girls were smitten.  All other options were off the table.  Their little motherly hearts went out to Callie and she joined our family.  She was freely adopted, but she was not cheap.

In addition to shots, spaying, and the usual pet expenses that confront a first-time pet owner, Callie lost her eye due to an infection shortly after she was born.  The cost of her vet care was not cheap.   She was free, but costly.  But she lived a long life in our family and was a most beloved cat.  Unlike many of our other cats, she loved to be with us, to be held by us, to stay close to us.    She would hear the approach of our car, run to the end of our long drive, and run ahead of us as we drove up – without fail.

The free things in our lives are often the most costly.   This is especially true of God’s grace.  It is absolutely free, but unbelievably costly.  It is the costliest thing in your life.   It is freely given and can only be received freely by faith.   Yet it’s cost to God was incalculable as His Son spent His life to fully pay the debt of justice that was ours to pay.

But it comes also at the cost of our lives as well.   When we are made new by God’s grace, the old passes away and the new comes.  But this new normal is a life lived under the Lordship of Christ for the glory of God the Father.  It is not simply forgiveness of sin and pardon from its consequences.   But we are united to Christ and undergo the work of sanctification wherein our sin is forsaken and holiness is pursued.    Grace is free. But it is not cheap.  On the contrary it is costly.

In his book, The Cost of Discipleship, Dietrich Bonhoeffer contrasts cheap grace and costly grace.

Cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves. Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession…. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate….

Costly grace is the gospel which must be sought again and again and again, the gift which must be asked for, the door at which a man must knock. Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ. It is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life. It is costly because it condemns sin, and grace because it justifies the sinner. Above all, it is costly because it cost God the life of his Son: “ye were bought at a price,” and what has cost God much cannot be cheap for us. Above all, it is grace because God did not reckon his Son too dear a price to pay for our life, but delivered him up for us. 

In the introduction to this book, Bonhoeffer famously observed that “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.”  How far will you follow Christ?   In Luke 9, Jesus challenges three would-be disciples with just this question.  How far will you follow me?  Through what adversity?  Through what difficulty?  Jesus concluded these encounters with a startling statement. “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”

The prophet Jeremiah was called to follow Christ down a difficult road.   Four decades of preaching fell on deaf ears.  No one listened.  No one responded.  He was hunted by the authorities and hated by his own friends and family.   He had no one to support him in his own grief over the judgment coming upon his people.   His only refuge was the Lord, but even the Lord often seemed distant.   All this comes to a crisis in Jeremiah 15 and the prophet confronts God and God calls Jeremiah to repent – to turn back from contemplating turning away.   The Lord reminds the prophet of His grace and his calling.  He reminds Jeremiah that the only way to stay close to Him is to follow wherever He leads.  Then the Lord calls him to an even rockier path.   He was not allowed to marry.  He was forbidden to be a part of the life of the community either in the joy of its feasts or the sorrow of its funerals.   His life would be a living sermon, declaring that God has also withdrawn from the life of the people.  How far will Jeremiah follow?

What about you?  How far will you follow Christ?  He offers grace and mercy freely.  But it is a costly grace.  It bids us to come and die.  Is there a place where you say, “here but no further?” Join us this Sunday, February 2, as we examine Jeremiah 16 and consider the costs of God’s call to follow.  We meet from 5:00 – 6:30 pm in The Commons at St. Andrews Anglican Church at 8300 Kanis Rd in Little Rock.  Click here for directions. Come with a friend and join us for fellowship and worship. We look forward to seeing you there.