Faith Working Through Love: Children of Promise

In our text Sunday, Paul makes a comparison between Abraham’s two sons. His first son, Ishmael, was the result of a union with Hagar, his concubine, a slave woman. It was Abraham’s way of helping God keep his promise. But Hagar, his concubine couldn’t produce an heir, only a son born in slavery. Paul says that this represents the Jews of his day, enslaved to the law, trying to leverage human effort to secure their salvation.

His second son, Isaac, through his free wife Sarah, was born seventeen years later when he and his wife were unable to conceive. God kept his promise but did it in a way no one could take credit for it. Not only was he born in freedom, but he was born the genuine heir of Abraham’s estate. Isaac represents all who are children of God by grace alone through faith alone.

He concludes that the Gentile Christians were children of promise, and they can’t now rely on human effort to establish right standing with God. So come ready to worship Sunday, for God has set us free in Christ

Tim Locke
Faith Working Through Love: Forming Christ

Sunday we will consider Paul’s personal appeal to the Galatian believers to resist those who are excluding them. These Jewish disciple-makers were trying to incite the Gentile believers to adopt the law by excluding them from the Christian community. Paul calls out this power-play and urges his audience to see through it.

In this section, he shares his personal love and zeal for these believers, like a mother in labor. His efforts and continued concern is that they experience the full formation of Christ in their lives, not succumbing to the pressure they’re experiencing. 

This passage has strong implications for our church and ministry. So read Galatians 4:12-20, and let’s be ready to consider this text.

Tim Locke

Sunday’s passage is an important one to Paul’s presentation. He addresses the Gentile believers directly urging them to not retreat back to religious ceremony as their source of righteousness. Doing religion can make us feel like we’re good people: we give a little bit of money, we attend church, we do a little bit of good, we keep most of the rules. The Gentiles had left their culture of worshiping pagan deities and following the rules of their setting, to follow Christ by faith. Now they were being told that faith in Christ is not sufficient, and they should start keeping Jewish ceremonies. It feels natural, but it threatens their faith in Christ.

We’re not different from the Galatian believers. We’re programmed to equate good deeds and ceremony with righteousness. As sinners, we fall short, so we look to Jesus instead. But this doesn’t change our programming and our attachment to religion. How do we combat this programming?

Come Sunday to hear Paul’s presentation.

Tim Locke
Faith Working Through Love: adoption

On Sunday we will go back to our study of Galatians and focus our attention on Paul’s argument that we have received “sonship” through faith in Jesus. While Paul argues that justification makes us right with God, not obedience to the law, now he expands our understanding of redemption to include our inclusion by membership in God’s family. What’s amazing about this is that God can give us new life and justify us without adopting us. Adoption demonstrates his love, as John says, “See what kind of love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.” (1 John 3:1) God demonstrated his love by sending his Son (Romans 5:8), then he blows us away with his love by adopting into his family.

 Being a member of God’s family comes with amazing benefits: how we relate to him; how he relates to us; what Christ provides us; the work of the Spirit; etc. It’s an amazing list that we’ll consider together and pray the Spirit helps us live in our adoptive relationship with God.

So come Sunday, and let’s worship God for adoption!

Tim Locke

Sunday we celebrate the victorious resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. To celebrate we will look at Lamentations 5, the last poem of the book. While this poem, like the others, highlights the hardships Judah was facing, it calls on God to grant renewal or “new life.” Jeremiah says, “Restore us to yourself, O LORD, that we may be restored! Renew our days as of old.” Notice that Jeremiah leads Judah in asking God to restore them to himself. What a great prayer! Jeremiah isn’t asking for God to restore their fortunes, or restore their freedom, but to be restored to Him. This is the fruit of repentance.

He also prays for God to grant renewal. The word “renew” means to “make anew.” Jeremiah is praying for God to bring life in the midst of death and destruction. According to Jeremiah, their dancing has been turned to mourning, but he knows that God can bring renewal. 
This is the testimony of the resurrection: God can bring new life and restore us to himself! So come Sunday and let’s celebrate God’s renewing grace through the resurrected Christ!

Tim Locke

Sunday we’ll look at the fourth poem in the book of Lamentations. This poem again speaks of the devastation that Judah is experiencing, especially the starvation of the people. What makes this poem unique is that it addresses God’s undermining of key institutions of society: temple, princes, children, and religious leaders. It doesn’t take much for Judah to shift their hope from God to these institutions. It raises the question of the psalmist, “If the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?”
The poem ends with a warning to Edom, one of the nation's that joined Babylon in attacking Judah, that the cup of God’s wrath is coming to them next. While Judah has experienced God’s correction, they will be restored, while Edom - and by extension all who attacked Judah - will face God’s wrath. 
Sunday is Palm Sunday. This text fits well because while God dethrones the shepherds (princes, priests, and prophets), Jeremiah prophecies that God will give them a new Shepherd who will care for them. So, come Sunday and consider God’s faithfulness in Christ!

Tim Locke

Sunday we’ll look at the third poem of Lamentations, which is a favorite of believers and from which songs have been written. It’s a passage of great hope to a people in devastating circumstances who are questioning God’s faithfulness and mercy. Jeremiah explains his own suffering and how he found hope in the midst of it. His own suffering caused him to forget “what happiness is.” He walks the people down a well worn path to the goodness of God saying, “This I call to mind, and therefore I have hope.” He’s not just telling us about God, but teaching us how to find rest in His goodness.
God’s faithfulness gives us assurance, as Jeremiah says, “the Lord will not cast off forever, but, though he cause grief, he will have compassion according to the abundance of his steadfast love” (v31-32). Even as we experience God’s correction, or the hardships that train us in righteousness, we are assured that God is faithful and that he loves us.
So, come Sunday and consider the faithfulness of God!

Tim Locke

Sunday we’ll continue with Lamentations by looking at chapter two. It’s an interesting chapter because Jeremiah gives voice to Judah’s complaint that God has gone too far in his correction. He says in verse two, “The Lord has swallowed up without mercy.”  He goes on to describe the harshness of God’s destruction, saying, “he did not restrain his hand.” Was their complaint accurate? Had God gone too far? Was he unjust?
Questions like this are honest. I think when he corrects us, we often feel this way, but that’s typically because we undersell our sin, saying things like, “It’s not that bad; Consider what others have done; It wasn’t entirely my fault.” Whenever we think this way, we expose our own self-deception and human reasoning concerning sin.
So how would God answer their complaint? How would God answer your complaint? Jeremiah voices the complaint but then tells the people to cry out to God for mercy! If God is unjust, if he is unrestrained, then why cry out for mercy? 
Come Sunday, and let’s consider if God is merciful.

Tim Locke

Sunday we will begin a new series in the book of Lamentations with the theme, “Not Forsaken.” The author, Jeremiah, laments the fall of the Southern nation of Israel, Judah, and particularly the destruction of Jerusalem. The five poems express the loss experienced by the people of God for their sin and declares that God is just in his discipline of the nation. It also examines that discipline, questioning if it was excessive.
It explores the question of whether God has forsaken his people. God’s chastening often feels like rejection, but Jeremiah affirms that God is merciful and faithful. As we approach our Easter celebration, we are reminded that Jesus was forsaken so that we could be received, adopted into God’s family. The resurrection gives us assurance that God is merciful and faithful, that he never forsakes his children!
So, join us Sunday and hear consolation from God to his children.

Tim Locke
Faith Working Through Love: Redeemed

Sunday we considered Paul’s argument that we are united in Christ regardless of our social standing, by faith alone, in Christ alone, through grace alone. Paul ends that paragraph that we are “heirs according to promise.” He’s going to build on this in the next section, which we’ll consider.

His argument is that everyone is enslaved to what he calls the “elementary principles of the world.” Here he seems to refer to the law, particularly the ceremonial laws of the Old Testament and the ceremonial laws of other religions. He clarifies in verse 10 saying, “You observe days and months and seasons and years.” He goes further in Colossians when he says, “let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath.” (Col. 2:16)

Under Christ, the ceremonial regulations are cast off. This is freedom that propels the gospel and the church in every culture around the world. So, come Sunday and consider what it means to be free in Christ.

Tim Locke