- Welcome to Cascade CRC's Community Group. This is a new resource where we can connect with our small groups, give online, interact with worship services and schedule the gym. If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to Pastor Tim.
- ReadWednesday's WordNovember 30, 2022
Portraits of Faithfulness
Throughout the book of Daniel, we see many amazing stories. These are all the “Sunday school stories“ that I grew up learning. There is Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the fiery furnace. Daniel in the lion's den. The writing on the wall. These are all stories that have gone beyond the church, and most people in American culture have heard them.
The temptation is to focus on those individual stories and lose the big picture. The book of Daniel is not a collection of miracle stories. It is a single story about an exile living a faithful life under God's direction.
Daniel was an outcast, exile, and outsider. From the very start, when they refuse to eat the food from the king's table, to the very end, when Daniel is praying even though it might cost him his life, Daniel and his friends, give us a portrait of what it looks like to be faithful to God in a culture that rejects the Lord and His ways.
This insight into Daniel is far more applicable to our day-to-day lives. I highly doubt that I will soon be cast into a fiery furnace or into a den of lions. I will, however, be challenged to remain faithful during stressful situations. I will be tempted to neglect prayer instead of substituting my own busyness. I will be tempted to bite my tongue instead of sharing God's good news. I will be tempted to blend in with all the other people and religions, instead of standing out as an exile and follower of Jesus.
Those are the Temptations that have plagued God’s people from the time of Moses through the apostles into today. Peter denied knowing Jesus so that he could fit in with the rest of the people watching the execution. Peter also blended in with the Judaizers instead of standing up for the gospel of grace - a story we read in the book of Galatians. Others in the Bible and throughout church history have dealt with similar temptations.
As I study, Daniel, I find myself praying for the wisdom and faithfulness that Daniel and his friends exhibit. I want the view of God that Daniel’s friends had when they told the king:
If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up. - Daniel 3:17-18
The second half of Daniel shifts from historical stories to apocalyptic visions. As we read about stories of mountains, toppling, statues, and beasts, coming out of the sea, let’s keep the same view in mind. This book is not a collection of amazing stories and fantastic visions. It’s a testament written to people in exile to help them remain faithful.
May God, through his word, help us to remain as committed to him as the heroes we read about in God’s word.
- ReadWednesday's WordNovember 23, 2022
Are We Thankful for the Word of God?
The practice of gratitude keeps us from taking things for granted.
One of the benefits of our Thanksgiving holiday is that it makes us mindful of all the things in our life we should be grateful for. It is very easy to turn an entitled eye toward our refrigerators, pantries, families, savings accounts, and all of our other blessings - expecting them to be there day after day. A holiday like Thanksgiving forces us to slow down, look a loved one in the eye, and remember that they are a gift.
There are many things in life we easily take for granted. One of them is the Bible. There are many days when I consider the Bible almost to be an obligation. It’s the first thing I engage in when I wake up, usually followed right by exercise. It is easy for me to treat both of them like chores. I have to get through before I can get onto the rest of my day.
What if I could change that script? Imagine how much more powerful our time in the Bible could be if we treated it as a gift instead of a chore.
We are reading the book of Ezekiel and phrases like, “the word of the Lord came to Ezekiel” are sprinkled throughout the readings. Imagine what is really happening. The God of the universe, who created everything out of nothing, who created humanity out of the dust, condescends to talk to a single human being in what must be the equivalent of baby talk for God. He brings His word to a mere mortal so that he can offer it to people who won’t even listen to it. Imagine the patience and love God must have for us. Imagine how willing He is to condescend, to wait, to make very clear the path to salvation.
The Bible is not an obligation. It is a gift of grace. It is very appropriate that we are also reading Psalm 119, the longest Psalm, which is mostly a song of gratitude for the living Word of God.
I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday. And along the way, I hope you were able to pause and offer your Thanksgiving for God’s word. After a year of taking it for granted, I know that I certainly need that mindset
- ReadWednesday's WordNovember 16, 2022
Paul vs James
But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.” Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds. You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder. - James 2:18-19
We are wrapping up the book of Hebrews, with great explanations of faith. Hebrews defines faith as "...confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” Hebrews 11:1
This is a fitting end to this section of the Bible. While we don’t know who wrote the book of Hebrews, they were obviously influenced by Paul. The author stresses that faith is believing in the things God can do. Story after story is recounted in Hebrews 11 of women in men who did amazing things with their faith.
Now we turn to the book of James. James, quite famously tells us that "faith without works is dead". Some theologians don’t like this. Martin Luther call James “an epistle of straw” because he thought it worked against justification by faith alone.
Are Paul and James at odds with each other?
When we understand their individual contexts, we can begin to see that they’re not standing against each other in combat. Rather, they are standing back to back, defending a common truth against different enemies.
Paul is writing to people who are trying to earn salvation. They thought they had to get circumcised, keep kosher, and follow the Mosaic Law. To these people, often from Jewish backgrounds, Paul has to stress the idea that our works can’t save us. He essentially teaches us that works without faith are dead.
James seems to be writing to people who have grown complacent in their faith. They say they believe in Jesus, and that they are His disciples, but their lives are not changed, and their generosity is not evident. They throw out theological platitudes, then go on living as if Jesus had nothing to do with them in a practical way. To these people, James appropriately says “faith without works or dead."
Back to back, they are defending the gospel of the kingdom of God. Jesus said that the kingdom of God is at hand. Our job is to repent and believe the good news. Repentance looks like changed lives. Selfish people becoming generous. Exclusionary people learning to embrace others, who are different Self-righteous people learning humility and grace.
Which message do you need in your life right now?
Are you complacent in your faith and lacking in generosity and other good works? Then James is for you. Let him challenge you to temper your tongue, clothe the homeless, and feed the poor.
Or, are you working so hard for your faith that you’ve lost assurance of your salvation? If so, then Paul is for you. Let him remind you that we are saved by grace through faith, and not by works, so that no one can boast. Rest in God‘s grace,
And for all of us, especially as we draw closer to Thanksgiving, letour hearts be overflowing with gratitude that we are saved from works, and saved to good works