Our texts for the week:
2 Chronicles 26:1-23; Isaiah 6:1-8; John 11:10
NOTE: This is a longer pastor’s note. For the short version, please scroll down to “Reflections for this week.”
In our quest to finish well, this week we’re looking at three encounters with the holy. The first encounter occurred in the life of King Uzziah. His name means “the Lord (Yahweh) is my strength” and boy did God deliver on this front. By any measure, Uzziah was very powerful. The typical ingredients that caused his strength are all there, including the development of the keystone habit to set his face to seek the Lord (at 16, 2 Chronicles 26:5). “As long as he sought the Lord, God made him prosper.” As a result, he “became very strong” (2 Chronicles 26:8) because “God helped him” (2 Chronicles 26:7). Twice the account talks about his “fame” (his ‘name’ i.e., his reputation) that spread all around (2 Chronicles 26:8; 2 Chronicles 26:15). He was a great builder, defender of the realm and organized a powerful army to protect the land from enemies. Under his catalytic leadership, new ways to increase agricultural production were put in place, new defense systems were engineered. Pretty much everything he touched turned into a success story (2 Chronicles 26:6-15). This glowing report ends like this: “his fame spread far, for he was marvelously helped till he was strong” (2 Chronicles 26:15).
The one thing Uzziah forgot along the way was to stay in his lane. His lane was to be a king, but for Uzziah that wasn’t enough any more. He wanted more power so he also fancied himself the role of a priest. This is where his story unravels. The Bible doesn’t sugar coat anything and is brutally honest: “But when he was strong, he grew proud, to his destruction.” He decided to become a priest and to enter the area of the temple that is only for the priests. All of a sudden, Uzziah is an intruder into Yahweh’s sacred space, much like Belloq in Raiders of the Lost Ark who thought he could take on the garb of a priest, to his quick demise.* When confronted by the priests with this foolhardy lane change, Uzziah literally explodes in rage and absolutely refuses to back down (2 Chronicles 26:19). So if Jehoshaphat’s weakness was his inability to say no, Uzziah’s own core weakness was his refusal to say yes to common-sense advice: “you have done wrong and it will bring you no honor [literally glory] from the Lord God” (2 Chronicles 26:18). Pride will do that to you: an inability to listen to good advice because you have grown accustomed to listening only to your own instincts. The consequences for Uzziah are dire. He loses everything, the kingdom, the power and the fame, since he ends up secluded for the rest of his life with a permanent blemish on his skin. His “leprosy” (not Hansen’s disease, but rather a skin blemish) makes him unable to operate as a king in God’s kingdom in the Old Covenant. More on that in a minute.
The second encounter with the holy shares striking similarities. This time, it’s Uzziah’s biographer, no less than the famous Isaiah the prophet (2 Chronicles 26:22; the book of Isaiah). He too finds himself an intruder into Yahweh’s sacred space, but Isaiah has a vastly different reaction. Tellingly, the event takes place “in the year that Uzziah died” (Isaiah 6:1). So the image in Isaiah’s mind is still fresh of Uzziah’s downfall. However, when Isaiah sees “the Lord high and lifted up” (Isaiah 6:1), his attitude couldn’t be any different from Uzziah’s. Rather than exploding in fury, he cries out in humbleness, “Woe is me, I am a man of unclean lips” (Isaiah 6:5). Isaiah realizes he doesn’t belong in the Lord’s presence because of his own short fall of glory before “the Holy One of Israel” (Isaiah 5:24; Isaiah 6:3). Whereas Uzziah digs in his heels in pride, to his demise, Isaiah humbles Himself before the Lord.
At this moment, we witness one the most powerful images of forgiveness in the Bible, “a burning coal…from the altar” (symbolizing a sacrifice) touches Isaiah’s lips with the wonderful result that his “guilt is taken away and his sin atoned for” (Isaiah 6:6-7). God Himself through sacrifice allows Isaiah to withstand the heat of His Holiness. His unclean lips are made clean. This moment becomes the springboard to his commission for fruitful service to the Lord for the rest of his life: “here am I, send me” (Isaiah 6:8). One encounter with the holy goes haywire because of pride, the other becomes the starting point of an incredibly fruitful ministry. It all hinges on staying in your lane and recognizing the God-lane is never ever ours. He is the creator God, the Holy One and we are not.
The third encounter with the holy occurs in the here and now. The path to the very presence of God and His holiness has been made through Jesus’ perfect sacrifice on the Cross. He has made a way so that by faith in Jesus, we not only have entered the holiness of God’s presence but we are not intruders anymore: “God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even where we were dead in our trespasses [our unclean state], made us alive together with Christ –by grace you have been saved– and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:4-6). To enter God’s presence all hinges on our humility to ‘bend the knee,’ to recognize our own unholiness, and the conviction that Jesus cleanses us from our unholiness/unclean state. Only through Jesus can we access safely God’s presence and actually be seated with Him! Today, we share Isaiah’s same access code: having enough humility to ‘bend the knee’ before a Holy God.
*due to the graphic nature of Belloq’s demise in the film clip, I am not including the link here.
**For other instances of the principle see Isaiah 14:13-15; Ezekiel 28:2; Genesis 3:5
When you and I are confronted with God’s holiness, God’s lane, what’s our reaction? When we are reading something in Scripture that confronts our own wayward way or when someone challenges us with some fresh godly input, what’s our reaction? Humility that says, ‘yes, let me get back into my lane’ (Isaiah)? Or pride and a raging reaction, ‘how dare you tell me what to do’ (Uzziah)? These encounters with the holy come to us routinely through the Word and/or other people speaking into our lives. Our core issue is pride, the original ‘anti-God’ sin (C.S. Lewis). It’s the deceptive idea that we must exchange our lanes for something bigger and better, that somehow our God-given lane is not enough anymore. We delude ourselves in a false sense of piety that says “I must increase so that God might increase” (cited in Mark Galli’s his weekly newsletter). To be sure, God may in fact bring increase, but it will always be within our God-given lanes of influence and responsibility. In Christ, yes we can do anything, but it doesn’t mean we need to do everything.
P.S. – In this call to ‘bend the knee,’ we remember that God Himself walked the walk when it comes to humility. When Jesus died on the Cross, He humbled Himself unto death, taking the form of a servant. This ‘bending of the knee’ through his life in obedience to the Father and His sacrificial death on the Cross is why God the Son is now exalted, seated at the right hand of the Father, with the name that is above every name (Philippians 2:5-11). As we follow Jesus, He is not asking us to do something he has not done Himself. This week be content and satisfied in the lane God has given you.
Hello church! We post these Sunday recaps to highlight the awesome things God did each Sunday at TCC. Here’s a recap of our Sunday services and programs last weekend.
When you and I are confronted with God’s holiness, God’s lane, what’s our reaction? When we are reading something in Scripture that confronts our own wayward way or when someone challenges us with some fresh godly input, what’s our reaction? Humility that says, ‘yes, let me get back into my lane’ (Isaiah)? Or pride and a raging reaction, ‘how dare you tell me what to do’ (Uzziah)? These encounters with the holy come to us routinely through the Word and/or other people speaking into our lives. Read more from Pastor Tom…
“Without repentance, our efforts to help the poor will continue to be characterized by providing material resources to the poor, rather than walking with them in humble and relational ways as we call on King Jesus to fix the root causes of both our poverties.” (pg. 248, When Helping Hurts)
Here’s a short note from Cindy Leonard, our Wheelchair drive coordinator:
I want to thank everyone who contributed to the Wheels For The World collection at TCC. Your generosity made it possible to give the Gift of Mobility AND the Gift of Gospel to children and adults Worldwide who would otherwise have neither, and most likely would be abandoned. four wheelchairs, wheelchair parts, and three pair of crutches, may not sound like much, but BELIEVE ME, they ARE PRECIOUS! Wheelchair parts are especially critical to restoring and building new wheelchairs. March is Wheels For The World Awareness Month, and I ask you to continue to keep your eyes and ears open to finding more wheelchairs and mobility aids. Actually, we need your help year round. Networking is crucial, and any contacts and connections to people and places like Senior Care and Rehab Facilities are important, BUT don’t forget the seemingly unlikely places like recycling centers, yard sales, and dumpsters! Together we can change lives around the world and literally lift them “out of the dirt, to seats of dignity, and filled with the HOPE OF JESUS! To God be the GLORY!
“He raises the poor from the dust, and lifts the needy from the ash heap.”Psalm 113:7
Serving Christ together in His love,
WFTW NE coordinator
Hello church! We post these Sunday recaps to highlight the awesome things God did each Sunday at TCC. Here’s a recap of our Sunday services and programs last weekend.
By any measure, Jehoshaphat was a great king: he nurtured the keystone habit of setting his heart to seek the Lord (2 Chronicles 17:3-4). But in the words of one commentator (Michael Wilcock), Jehoshaphat had one weakness: an inability to say no. In 2 Chronicles 18:1-34, this weakness to say no is reflected through ill-advised partnerships with king Ahab (the worst king ever, 1 Kings 21:25), including going into battle knowing full well the Lord wasn’t going to give them victory. In fact, his inability to say no created a complex web of deception and chaos almost to the point where his life was in great danger (2 Chronicles 18:31). Compromising also produced a huge leadership vacuum: “Israel scattered…as sheep that have no shepherd” (2 Chronicles 18:16). However, in spite of this weakness, the Lord rescued him and pulled him out of a really tough spot.
Jehoshaphat could have avoided a lot of problems if he had heeded the warning from Micaiah the prophet (2 Chronicles 18:22). He spoke the truth in the face of a large scale deception: no less than 400 prophets at the court of Ahab who kept repeating that victory would come to Ahab if he went to battle (2 Chronicles 18:11). In the face of this strong case of ‘group-think,’ Micaiah spoke up with courage and simply told the truth: ‘no, you will not win but will be defeated in battle.’*
Today we don’t fight against flesh and blood anymore so the battle is now spiritual rather than physical (Ephesians 6:12). We now put on the full armor of God (Ephesians 6:11). Yet the lesson remains in our quest to finish well: Know your keystone weakness and learn to say no. In this culture awash with so many deceptive interests, we too become like Micaiah and plainly speak the truth. Micaiah becomes the little boy who alone was willing to see that the emperor had no clothes.
For Jehoshaphat, the ‘second half’ of his war campaigns was a much more successful one (2 Chronicles 20:1-23). When he faced a multitudes of enemies with the odds squarely against him, he said the prayer that you and I pray so often: “We don’t know what to do, but our eyes are on you” (2 Chronicles 20:12). Thus, in spite of his weakness, he also knew how to make eye contact with his Lord in time of great need. He learned that by just showing up, the Lord would fight on his behalf (2 Chronicles 20:17).
When you and I are confronted with group-think that stands clearly against God’s Word, the temptation comes to stay silent like Jehoshaphat, unable to say no. Yet in his times of caving in, the Lord rescued Jehoshaphat and was with him and delivered him. We can all take comfort in that! God understands our keystone weakness and works with us.
But Jehoshaphat also nurtured the keystone habit of seeking the Lord. He did that superbly well. His life teaches us that in time of great needs, all we have to do is make eye contact with Jesus and actually show up: “stand firm, hold your position, and see the salvation of the Lord” (2 Chronicles 20:17). Jesus is the One who clothes us with His robes of salvation, His full armor.**
*If you read the story, the deception for these prophets is said to come from a spirit dispatched from the presence of God (2 Chronicles 18:18-22). Would God actually deceive someone? Of course not! We know that God never lies (Titus 1:2). This is the role of Satan (1 Chronicles 21:1) who has deceived people from the beginning (Genesis 3). Before the triumph of the Cross and Satan losing his ability to accuse us before God (see Revelation 12), spirits, including Satan, could have an audience with God in the heavenly realm (see Job 2:1). Thus, a nuanced reading of the text would say that God ‘allowed’ deception to spread among Ahab’s false prophets, a deception that Ahab created for himself through his repeated acts of rebellion against God and God’s people throughout his life.
**For the key roles garments play in the story of Jehoshaphat, see 2 Chronicles 18:9; 2 Chronicles 18:29; 2 Chronicles 18:33; 2 Chronicles 20:21)
Some reflections from Adam on our recent HS Mission trip to Guatemala. In case you missed it 3 students shared on Sunday their trip testimony here.
A mission trip is always a vision trip. We know that as we take 18 students and 3 leaders across the globe to serve others, we really receive much more ourselves. Hopefully we blessed children and families by running carnivals, building houses and stoves, putting on sports clinics, but God’s work in our hearts is forming us into seeing ALL our lives as ‘on mission.’ A mission trip is not a one-time event, but the beginning of a life offered to God and to serving others. Many students on the trip began to grasp this concept, and I can’t wait to hear their exciting stories this Sunday in our services. Join us!
I’ve been on these trips before as a high-schooler myself, so I had some expectations going in, but also know that anything can and will happen when you land in a developing country, and to not presume I knew what to expect. “Go with the flow” is the operative phrase on these trips!
One thing that made me smile was the way that the PLM staff and Pastor Kyle encouraged us to “Engage Guatemala.” It is easy for the students (and if I’m being honest, yours truly as well) to retreat into their comfort zones and only hang out with each other. It’s (relatively) easy to build a house. It’s a whole ‘nother endeavor to actually connect with the family you are serving – to actually learn about their lives, what brought them to this place of needing a home, and give them a hug. Engaging Guatemala means trying the little Spanish we knew to learn names, seek to understand lives, and to realize we are learning from and serving each other. It moves our missions trip from an us-helping-them to one of mutual service and brother/sisterhood. We quickly realized that there are parts of Guatemalan culture we prefer to the sanitized affluent culture of New England. For one, people are much friendlier, grateful, and willing to be served then self-sufficient Americans. They are kind, and have a genuine desire to connect with us if we are willing to connect with them.
And our students did an amazing job! Jorge, the director of PLM, said to Kyle one night at dinner that of the 23 mission groups they see in a year, ours was the most engaged with the local people. Kyle’s example, combined with his steady and consistent call to engage paid off. Also, our students rock! They were ready and willing to dive in, sometimes embarrass themselves with their lack of Spanish fluency, and Engage Guatemala.
Each morning began with a time of worship and a short devotional. I was able to share a few thoughts that were on my heart. Psalm 127:1, like any good verse, both humbles the proud and lifts up the spirits of a frustrated soul. It is not in our own strength that we do good deeds. The Lord is the one building these houses. So whether we’re exhausted and can’t put that next nail in, or feeling puffed up from doing a good thing, the verse reminds us that it’s God who’s at work making the world more beautiful. G.K. Chesterton sums it up nicely:
The world is not a lodging-house at Brighton*, which we are to leave because it is miserable. It is the fortress of our family, with the flag flying on the turret, and the more miserable it is the less we should leave it. The point is not that this world is too sad to love or too glad not to love; the point is that when you do love a thing, its gladness is a reason for loving it, and its sadness a reason for loving it more.G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy
* for our purposes this could be any place: Guatemala, Greater Boston, or anywhere…
And the Gospel is this: God loves this broken world so much that he gave his very self to make it more beautiful. And He’s not finished. He is still at working making it beautiful, and has put within each of us who call him Lord the same love to do something about it. He’s gifted us with resources and abilities to make the world more full of Christ as he is making each of us more like Christ.
So as we processed the trip I encouraged all to remember that though there is much work to be done in the world, God is working. God is building the house. This helps us fight against frustration and cynicism. Psalm 27:13-14 reminds us that God is working here and now. We’re not just waiting for heaven when all is made right.
I remain confident of this:Psalm 27:13-14
I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.
Wait for the Lord;
be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.
And we served not only with deeds but with words. There were several times each day that students had an opportunity to share (with the help of amazing PLM staff translators) their testimony with kids and adults.
This was a stressful thing for students to take on, but all who did so were glad they did. It’s an amazing opportunity to bring your life story into a 2-minute speech. What would you say? How have you seen God in your life? What might we say to show a young Guatemalan child that Jesus loves them?
Finally, a huge thank you to our fearless leader, Pastor Kyle! He served with seemingly limitless energy (no doubt fueled by a few extra CocaColas each day), a huge heart for both the Guatemalans and our students, and a passion to see Jesus glorified through our trip. Each day ended with a porch-time reflection led by Pastor Kyle and small group discussion facilitated by Kyle, Melanie, and Adam. The discussions drew out both the high and low emotions of the trip: excitement and entitlement, selfishness and sacrifice, guilt and gratitude. They were all there because we’re all human, and it was a joy to navigate those thoughts and feelings with our students.
If you ever get a chance, go on this trip! God won’t waste your time. As we work alongside a stellar local mission organization (Promised Land Ministries) and connect with the people we are serving, God turns our mission trip into a Vision trip that will stay with us for life.