Tag Archives: Emmaus

galatians 2.11-14

This Sunday I am preaching from Galatians 2.11-14, the oft discussed collision between Paul and Peter in Antioch.  It is a fascinating scene that understandably flows out of the previous sections even as it captures the magnitude of the theme of Galatians as a book (what it means to have an identity rooted in Jesus and his righteousness, adding nothing else that restricts our freedom).

11 But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned.12 For before certain men came from James, he was eating with the Gentiles; but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party. 13 And the rest of the Jews acted hypocritically along with him, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy. 14 But when I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, “If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you force the Gentiles to live like Jews?”

Here are a few thoughts that will likely not be a major part of my sermon, or mentioned at all.

If you desire to listen to our series in Galatians, visit http://www.westvalleypres.org.

For your consideration:

The flow up to this text could be summarized like this…

In 1.11-24 – A GOSPEL NOT FROM MAN.  Paul is adamant that his gospel did not come from man, but from God by revelation of Christ.

In 2.1-10  – A GOSPEL CONFIRMED BY MAN.  Paul expands his declaration to include an acknowledgment that, while his gospel did not come from any man, he went up to Jerusalem after more than a decade of fruitful ministry (again by revelation) and received confirmation by man that indeed his gospel was from God!   He was affirmed in that the apostles added nothing to his gospel, and he was privileged to preserve it in their midst (2.4-5).

Now, in 2.11-14 – A GOSPEL WORTHY OF CONFRONTATION WITH MAN. Paul recounts a story in which Paul confronted his fellow Christian man (Peter of all people!) in defense of the truth of the gospel and the necessity that one walk in it, adding nothing to it.

Two questions that are worthy of thought…

First, was Peter acting with good intentions in his breaking table fellowship with the Gentiles upon the arrival of the “certain men from James” (which I take to be a delegation of Jerusalem Christian leaders)?

Some cannot fathom that Peter could so boldly deny his revelation in Acts 10, that he is not to call unclean that which God has made clean.  Thus, they propose that Peter was trying to do the right thing by way of the Jewish Christians of Jerusalem, who may have been dealing with factions of zealots who were opposed to the unrestricted table fellowship happening in places like Antioch, where the gospel of Jesus had taken root among Gentile and Jewish “Christians.”  See Acts 11 for clarification on how Gentile/Jew followers of Jesus were first called Christians.

Richard Longenecker, in his brilliantly technical commentary, makes the case that: It was simply a misguided tactical maneuver made under pressure, he became confused under pressure, could not bring himself to express his true convictions, and so found himself retreating from what he knew to be right.

Maybe.  To me, that sounds a bit minimizing.  Paul does not mince words in Galatians 2.11 when he says that he opposed Peter to his face, because he stood condemned (assumedly before God, in Paul’s view).  Even more, Paul describes Peter’s withdrawal from table fellowship as “separating” himself, a theological description of what happened (v.12).  And again, twice in v.13 Paul labels the behavior of Peter, Barnabas and others as hypocrisy.  This all was not in step with the truth of the  gospel (v.14).  There is hardly a minimization, dismissal, qualification by Paul for Peter’s actions!   Rather he uses the strongest semantics possible (condemnation, separation, hypocrisy, non-gospel) to make his case for the gravity of Peter’s actions.

Thus, I will be preaching and applying this from the vantage point that – IN THE MOMENT – something else ruled Peter’s heart/actions other than the magnificent gospel of Jesus that had also been revealed to him.  In the moment, Peter caved to an alternative passion.  This is not unlike our testimony of passionate Peter in other stages of his journey (consider Matthew 16 and his standing toe-to-toe to obstruct Jesus on the way to the cross; also Matthew 26 in his denial of Jesus at the cross).  I am all too like Peter.  In spite of what I believe to be true, confess to be true, long to be true … at unguarded moments I live my life guided by sabotaging “ruling passions” that are not in step with the truth of the gospel.  I need the body of Christ in relationship to show me my blindness.  My guess is that my congregation is no different. We need to weigh this text vis-a-vis our ruling passions as well.  God give us relationships under the umbrella of the truth of the gospel to uncover our deception and blindness for Jesus sake!

Second, why did Paul wait so long to call Peter out in front of other Antiochan Gentile/Jew Christians?  How long did Paul let this un-gospel separation continue before he spoke up?

On one level, we simply do not know how long Paul observed Peter’s “separation” before he publicly spoke up.  We do know, however, that sufficient time elapsed such that Barnabas and “the rest of the Jews” could fall in line with the hypocrisy.  Perhaps Paul waited to watch matters unfold to discern whether he should go to Peter privately (Matthew 18.15-18) or to pursue things publicly due to the communal defection at play.  We do not know.  I simply point out to you that on first read, it appears this whole incident occurs in one lunchroom encounter.  Having examined the text and extant reading, I am now convinced that this situation went on for some while such that it had time to permeate Barnabas and others before Paul was compelled to speak up on behalf of the gospel.

May God work through his Word studied and preached and heard in his local church, such that we will walk in step with the gospel and not bow IN THE MOMENT to our own ruling passions that sabotage what we know to be true in Jesus!

Peace.

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the sound of renewal

What is the sound of renewal?

What should we be listening for when God’s people gather as a collection of individuals all uniquely exposed to the renewal of the gospel in their lives? Or, what should I be listening for when I sit across a table at Starbucks, or Perk on Main (our local coffee shop), talking to a broken person whom God is redeeming in the present through the past work of Christ and the continual work of the Spirit?

I have been thinking about this.

I have been wrestling.

As regards West Valley PCA… we are a church that is growing.  Every Sunday when we gather, the critical mass is expanding such that the SOUND of our gathering should crescendo just the same.  But what is that sound?  What is the sound of a people gathered by God, whom he has been renewing daily, personally, and thus corporately?  How does renewal sound when we call to God in worship, or sing in celebration, or collectively repent in liturgical prayers?  How does renewal sound in small groups and coffee shop meetings?

I want to know the sound of renewal that grumbles within people.

We should know the sound of renewal that the gathered of God should be known for.

While pondering all this, I happened upon Ezra 3.  Immediately, I knew I was being informed by the Word of God about the SOUND of RENEWAL.  This is the hope of my soul… that I would pastor a church that has the acoustics of redemption.  That my family would sound this way… and be part of the sound.

It’s an honest sound, to say the least.  But let me not analyze it…I will leave the Word of God to you.  The context of Ezra 3 is simple: God’s people have been brought back from exile, and are privileged (by the decree of Cyrus) to rebuild the temple which had been destroyed.  Upon the completion of the new foundation, the people all gathered in worship.  They were back in the land promised them by God!  They were together!  They were experiencing a renewal of God’s plan and place and presence!  What was that sound???

Ezra 3.10-13 – And when the builders laid the foundation of the temple of the Lord… they sang responsively, praising God and giving thanks to the Lord, “For he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever toward Israel.”  And all the people SHOUTED with a great shout when they praised the Lord, because the foundation of the house of the Lord was laid.  But many of the priests and Levites and heads of fathers’ houses, old men who had seen the first house, WEPT with a loud voice… so that the people could not distinguish the sound of the joyful shout from the sound of the people’s weeping, for the people shouted with a great shout, and the sound was heard far away.

Yep.  That sounds about right.  God’s people, renewed by God yet struggling because it is all still so broken, so imperfect, so not quite finished.  Yeah, to me as the pastor of West Valley PCA and as a man and husband and father… what I hear from the renewed is all so, indistinguishable.  People weeping as they long for MORE, God, please MORE!  People shouting as they taste freedom and see the glory of God in their lives for the first time.  That is the life.

Sounds like renewal to me.  Sounds like reality til Jesus returns and the weeping fades away (Revelation 21)…

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still here

We are still here… no blogs of late.  My apologies.  Too many hours away from home as it is.

God is doing an amazing work in my heart, in the lives my children, in the eyes of my wife, and in the congregation that God has called us to serve.  Times they are a changing and they are a crazy.

Sunday we had more folks at WVPC than ever before, and we are praying for wisdom.  We are cramming people into a space that doesn’t fit us.  We are seeking wisdom on facility mayhem.  We are praying for small groups that are forming, for discipleship relationships that are beginning, for broken people who are hurting, and for both the comforting and exposing AFFECT of the saturating Word of God -in all whom we engage!  I am preaching through Colossians.   We are having membership classes.  We have transitioned into year numero two – budgeting, leadership training, etc.  We are out hosting community events.  I think the buzz is contageous.  Acts 2 tells us so!

O God have mercy.  We are in over our head.

As I told our congregation at our annual meeting on Sunday – I believe they are crazy for following a 31 year old.  Someone said: Jesus was only 33.  To which I replied: no one here actually knows how badly I need Jesus.

I do.  Jesus Christ, thank you for rescuing me from sin.  Covering me with righteousness.  Giving me your Word.  Implanting your Spirit.  Being my Wisdom from God that appears foolish to the world.  For letting me fail time and again so that I can meet my need for you face to face.  thought to thought. 

O God, draw people into your midst in all churches that declare your gospel for the glory of Christ.  Do it at West Valley.  Bring your kingdom to earth as it is in heaven – by your people declaring your Word and embodying your resurrection power in a spirit of humility and weakness.  The powerful work, then, is all yours for your namesake.  Amen.

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learning where I’ve been

Monday night, I took out the trash – and like in the movies – looked to my right, and my neighbor Wil and I were synchronized in our husbandry.  Two dads simultaneously taking out the trash at 10:45pm.

“I like your beard,”  he said.  “It makes your eyes pop.”

To which I said, “Don’t ever tell me that again.” (or something)

Then I told him that it has nothing to do with a beard.  Maybe its because I haven’t been a person for about the past 6 months.  You see that in peoples eyes, right?  Distance, disengaged, empty.  So now my eyes pop, and neighborhood men have noticed.  Sweet.

Actually, he’s right.  I feel a bit like Paul in Acts 9, after his conversion encounter with the resurrected Christ (not conveying that I have recently been converted).  After he had been stricken with blindness at the appearance of Christ, Ananias was sent to say to him, Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus who appeared to you on the road by which you came has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.  After which Scripture says, immediately something like scales fell from his eyes.  Maybe passerbys taking out their trash noticed the change in his eyes.  Or was it the beard?

Seriously, I am daily learning where I have been.  Something like scales are coming off of my spiritual eyes as I feel like the calcification of my heart is chipping away.  I can weep for people, pray with people, study Scripture to preach to people… and all to discover Christ who alone can cure blindess. 

It’s weird to feel like I can see again, because now I want to look back to figure out where Ive been in the months of launching out West Valley PCA (www.westvalleypres.org).  But its hard to look back to where you’ve been when – at the time – I wasn’t seeing much of anything.

O God, help my eyes to pop.  My tears to flow.  Your heart to care.  My eyes to read.  Your Word to convict. 

Maybe the patchy beard is here to stay…

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west valley presbyterian church – services have begun!

our worship space before the addition of people and folding chairs!

our worship space before the addition of people and folding chairs!

 

Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.  Psalm 127:1

We are so thankful that the Lord gathered his people and inhabited our praises this past Sunday as west valley presbyterian church (pca) gathered for our first preview service.  It was an unadvertised sacrifice of worship wherein we planned to give God our new expression of praise, unsure of exactly what it would be!  The Lord was gloriously present in our worship and community – and he brought more than we expected… college kids, neighbors and friends in our target area… close to 100 people to hear his gospel, to offer our broken but made-beautiful selves in thankful worship.  The text that resounded throughout the service was John 17, where Jesus prayed that we might share in both the GLORY and ONENESS of the Father and Son.  And that, I think, we did!  Through the gospel, we are glorious not grotesque.  Through the gospel we are one with each other and the Godhead!  What a gift.

kids sermon, the first try.  "I spy..."

kids sermon, the first try.

 

It is clear, that like children, we at west valley pres are being cared for and fed by our Creator and Redeemer and Father.  We are bruised reeds whom he holds and cherishes.  We are conduits of his kingdom into our broken world.  O God, may your kingdom come to the west valley as it is in heaven.  May we receive your gracious gospel in your church even as you extend it through your church.  O God, what is man that you are mindful of us?  What is a new chuchplant that you would gather people to yourself through us?  What is in store O God!

If you live in the lowermac and emmaus (west of allentown) region of the Lehigh Valley, come check us out!  We long to be a “come as you are community where Christ is celebrated and brokenness renovated”   www.westvalleypres.org

 

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West Valley Presbyterian Church Plant

west valley church plant office

Check it out… there we will be.  The first floor office on the left (slightly hidden)!  We are so thankful for the opportunity to already be “in” the downtown as Emmaus is renovating its artsy center.  New retail spaces.  Newly renovated store exteriors.  A newly landscaped “triangle.”

We are in the process of painting and designing the space – such that it will be useful and warm and a place for community rest.  My hope is that we will be able to host the work of various local artists inside our office, such that we get walkthru traffic simply by saying: “come check out our local art.”  What an opportunity to display the creation of those in our community who are reflecting the image of their Creator.   What an inroad for conveying the gospel that redeems all things! 

I have spent the week working on my fundraising “packet” – letters and funding plans and demographic/personal bios.  If all goes as planned, we will mail many out next week!  If you know of anyone who would desire to participate in a kingdom church plant in the North East, please send them my way!  jim@cornerstonepca.net

God is at work in the admistrating this HUGE transition.  Pray for Cornerstone families who are praying about surrendering to the call of church planting.  Pray for a sacrificial spirit to suppress all of our “preferences” as we jointly prefer to plant a church to God’s liking!  A church OF the broken that is FOR the broken in our community BEFORE him who binds up the broken hearted! 

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Screwtape Letters, again

This is a terrifyingly real thought.  In the following section, Screwtape is impressing upon his nephew the entire point of tempting their “patients” – you and me.

Screwtape speaks about the importance of tempting people not with something enticing, but with Nothing…

Nothing is very strong; strong enough to steal away a man’s best years not in sweet sins but in a dreary flickering of the mind over it knows not what and knows not why, in the gratification of curiousities so feeble that the man is only half aware of them, in drumming of fingers and kicking of heels, in whistling tunes that he does not like, or in the long, dim labyrinth of reveries that have not even lust or ambition to give them relish, but which, once chance association has started them, the creature is too weak and fuddled to shake off. 

You will say that these are very small sins; and doubtless, like all young tempters, you are anxious to be able to report spectacular wickedness.  But do remember, the only thing that matters is the extent to which you separate the man from the Enemy.  It does not matter how small the sins are provided that their cumulative effect is to edge the man away from the Light and out into the Nothing.  Murder is no better than cards if the cards can do the trick.  Indeed the safest road to Hell is the gradual one – the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts,

Your affectionate uncle Screwtape

Kinda makes me glad for the pointed struggles of reality’s particular moments.  Better that than to “ease on down the road.”

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West Valley church planter(s)

At our initial West Valley PCA church plant gathering on Sunday night, I tried to be intentionally vague about most things while annoyingly clear about other things.  For example: where will we worship?  vague shrug.  When exactly will we begin? vague shrug (with clearly stated ‘launch indicators’)  What kind of music?  vague shrug.  Frequency of the Lord’s Table?  vague shrug.  Interestingly, I have my hopes and convictions about each of those things… but they are not for now… nor is this church plant enterprise about my hopes.

One of the things that I hope to make excitably clear is that the West Valley PCA project will NOT be about one church planter who (by God’s grace) ministers among core group, out of which a launch team is formed.  Rather, the kingdom prayer is that God would CALL church planters (plural) to engage our neighborhoods with the gospel and Christ incarnate through the body of the church.  I failed, in the midst of the details, to share a text that invigorates me in this regard.

Isaiah 32 speaks of the King.  God’s King.  The King whose kingdom we are to be praying would come to earth in justice and mercy and extravagant unconditional gospel-love. 

32:1 – Behold, a king will reign in righteousness.

But as the text moves on to describe his rule… it includes his people!  … and princes will rule in justice.  EACH will be like a hiding place from the wind, a shelter from the storm, like strams of water in a dry place, like the shade of a great rock in a weary land.

Notice, it is not merely the King who is the hiding place from the wind.  His kingdom is made up of princes (plural) who shelter others from life’s storm and brokenness, who are like streams of water bringing satisfaction to the people in our dry and despairing world; our weary land!  The picture, for me, is one of Christ being the King of a kingdom made up of princes who PLANT the benefits of his glorious kingdom in our weary context (wherever that might be).

The translation into church planting is simply in the plurality of planters, much the same as the plurality of princes!  O God, would you call out churchplanters, such that “EACH will be like a hiding place from the wind (for their neighbors being blown like tumbleweed), a shelter from the storm (for their family and friends who are sick and tired of being beaten be the storms of guilt and family distress, etc), like streams of water in a dry and weary land (in Emmaus and Lower Macungie and all of the West Valley).  May your work be so ‘pluralized’ among church planter(s) that we embody one unified Christ-centered community!

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West Valley Presbyterian Church, PCA mission

Last night I enjoyed the presence of 33 friends and good coffee at our first West Valley PCA (mission church) gathering in Emmaus PA.  I am excitedly silent… or is it, silently excited.  (which makes you more excited?)  In sum, we hung out, went through the demographic gospel-needs of our target (East Penn area of the Lehigh Valley – specifically Lower Macungie and Emmaus) and I took the privilege to convey a bit of my philosophy of ministry – you know, that bit about being a church of weak people who depend on a strong gospel.  Otherwise said like this: Would that God create a church of the broken, for the broken in our community, before the One who binds up the broken

We talked about being a church that DOES CHRIST’S KINGDOM among our community, rather than just doing church among the churched and calling it kingdom.  What that will look like in human flesh (incarnate), we are yet to really know.   We trust these upcoming months will reveal gospel-opportunities where the kingdom is as stunning in Emmaus/Lower Mac as it was in Acts 2.

The cry is that the 33 people present would pray and begin to do neighborhood church planting as the gospel heals their brokenness and moves them into the brokenness around them.  A high calling.  Sacrifice.  (Yes, last night was as much about getting people excited as it was setting the bar of churchplanting high for the sake of surrender!  This is way too big for all of us, and only those whom God truly calls from the beginning should be involved)!  We said it like this: May this be a church plant of church planters (plural), rather than just a church plant with a church planter (singular) with a core group…  O God, would you call church planters out!  My friends in the West Valley – CALL them out to humble sacrifice, O God!

We also walked next door to the new office space of West Valley Presbyterian Church… we prayed.  Some wept.

I think I’d like to be quiet now. 

Stunned.

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church plant gathering

It’s here.  Finally. 

On Sunday, March 9th, from 5-7pm, we will hold our initial west valley church plant meeting at Mas Cafe in Emmaus PA.  This gathering will be for the sake of burden inculcation and kingdom anticipation in the West Valley through a PCA church plant.  We will not be vision casting or planning… but rather discussing the unique needs of our demographics in the East Penn area of the Lehigh Valley.  What are the needs?  What are our responsibilities before God if we would be his church in our target area?  Who should be involved?  How will things unfold in the next 6 months?  What is it to be a church plant that is wide open for the sake of kingdom and gospel ministry among our neighborhoods and communities?  Why is there a need for a church plant? 

Ray and his wife Courtney, owners of the new Mas Cafe, will be providing a full slate of coffees and cappacinos – in addition to snacks.  Childcare will be a block away at the Powell home where we will have a handful of college/career age adults watching our children during our gathering.  If you know you and your kids will be joining us, it would help if you would leave a comment or let me know.

If you are curious as to the nature of the church plant, the needs of Emmaus/Lowermac, or the sacrifice involved for those God will call to be ‘church planters’ – then join us!  Will you consider DOING KINGDOM and planting a church that will be for the renewal of the West Valley (west side of the Lehigh Valley) – for the renewal of our broken, sinful hearts – for the renewal of our families and neighbors – for the renewal of our secular culture and its comprehensive need for mercy and worldview transformation through Christ and his BIG gospel!

Mas Cafe

332 Main Street, Emmaus

Sunday, March 9

5-7pm

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