The notes from this week’s Ask Pastor Matt can be found over at my blog.
Grace and peace.
The notes from this week’s Ask Pastor Matt can be found over at my blog.
Grace and peace.
We deviate from “the norm” this weekend with another installment of “Ask Pastor Matt.” Instead of a sermon, I (Matt) will be answering questions submitted last week by attendees at Rev.
After I’m done, Ryan Rolfe & The World’s Most Dangerous Praise Band will lead us in worship.
Revolution meets every Sunday night at 315 Chillicothe Street in Portsmouth, OH.
Coffee & Community at 6:30 complete with free food, time to hang and listen to good music (this will we will be spinning a mix of some of the best tunes of 2009).
We kick off Ask Pastor Matt & worship at 7pm.
Everyone is welcome. Come as you are.
Revolution: It’s Not Just A Church, It’s A Movement
The Christmas Conspiracy Project Part 3–Render Unto Caesar…
The Bible is a story (a true story) but a story and, as it is with any story, how you begin the story and end the story determines the type of story you are telling.
The story begins in Genesis. Let’s look at 1:26-27.
26 Then God said, “Let us make human beings in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”
27 So God created human beings in his own image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.
Note the refrain about all of us being made in the “image of God.” In the ancient near east and during the time of the Roman Empire, you would stamp your image on that which belongs to you.
Now, the story ends in (in some ways) in Revelation. Let’s look at 19:11-18.
11 I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and makes war. 12 His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself. 13 He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. 14 The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. 15 Coming out of his mouth is a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. “He will rule them with an iron scepter.” He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. 16 On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written:
KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.
17 And I saw an angel standing in the sun, who cried in a loud voice to all the birds flying in midair, “Come, gather together for the great supper of God, 18 so that you may eat the flesh of kings, generals, and the mighty, of horses and their riders, and the flesh of all people, free and slave, great and small.”
19 Then I saw the beast and the kings of the earth and their armies gathered together to make war against the rider on the horse and his army. 20 But the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet who had performed the signs on his behalf. With these signs he had deluded those who had received the mark of the beast and worshiped his image. The two of them were thrown alive into the fiery lake of burning sulfur. 21 The rest were killed with the sword coming out of the mouth of the rider on the horse, and all the birds gorged themselves on their flesh.
As scholar N.T. Wright argues, Jesus’ return is depicted as a general leading an invasion. This is where the clip from The Boondock Saints comes in. Jesus will return to judge and will banish the darkness. All addictions that tear at us, broken relationships that pain us or stress that weighs on us will be gone.
The story begins with God creating it and finishes with Jesus returning to set things right.
Where do you fit in to this story?
Look at Matthew 22:15-22
15 Then the Pharisees went out and laid plans to trap him in his words. 16 They sent their disciples to him along with the Herodians. “Teacher,” they said, “we know that you are a man of integrity and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. You aren’t swayed by others, because you pay no attention to who they are. 17 Tell us then, what is your opinion? Is it right to pay the imperial tax to Caesar or not?”
18 But Jesus, knowing their evil intent, said, “You hypocrites, why are you trying to trap me? 19 Show me the coin used for paying the tax.” They brought him a denarius, 20 and he asked them, “Whose image is this? And whose inscription?”
21 “Caesar’s,” they replied.
Then he said to them, “Give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.”
22 When they heard this, they were amazed. So they left him and went away.
Normally, we look at this passage in regards to how we was followers of Jesus should approach political issues or something like that but I think there is much more going on here.
Caesar stamped his image on coins to signify that it truly belongs to him. What has God stamped His image on?
Take a look in the mirror and think about it.
On Christmas, we celebrate the coming of the world’s one true God, one true King and one true Lord and anticipate his return.
While we wait, we urge you this Christmas to pledge to finally render
We wrap up the 3-part series The Christmas Conspiracy with a short talk entitled “Render Unto Caesar…” and an extended time of worship led by Ryan Rolfe & The World’s Most Dangerous Praise Band.
We come together at 6pm to watch & discuss The Advent Conspiracy DVD (compelte with free pizza and pop) then transition into Coffee & Community with even more free food and a little Trans-Siberia Orchestra to celebrate the season and then wrap up with our gathering at 7pm.
Everyone is welcome. Come as you are.
Revolution: It’s Not Just A Church, It’s A Movement.
The Christmas Conspiracy Project Part 2
Once again, the way to gain a truly deep understanding of Scripture is to understand the circumstances under which it was written.
So, before we turn to the “Christmas story” in Luke 2, we need to understand a few things…
First of all, the Roman Empire ruled the world from Great Britain to modern Iraq (thanks Ray!) and the Caesars (kings or emperors) ruled the empire.
How did Rome & the Caesars gain power? Terror! They had the largest and best trained army in the western world and would give an unconquered area the choice of either freely joining the Empire and paying taxes to it or going to battle and risk being crucified (the Romans could crucify more than 2000 in a day) and/or being enslaved.
The Romans claimed that they were bringing peace but, at least in Israel, there was a 80-90% tax rate to fund this terror marketed as “peace.”
Second, Rome also made outrageous claims regarding their Caesars. For example, the Roman Senate proclaimed Augustus “God incarnate on earth”…
In 17 BC, Augustus proclaimed himself “Son of God” complete with a 12 day celebration called ‘advent.”
Caesar Augustus also took the titles “prince of peace”, “savior of the world”, and “the one who is to come.” but Rome’s favorite title for Caesar was “Lord” and the proclamation that a Caesar had been crowned was called “the Gospel” and the message behind Rome’s gospel was “on your knees.”
Caesars began to be worshipped at places called “ecclesias” (what we would call “church”) and if you didn’t worship Caesar, then, eventually, you could be killed.
This brutal, nasty and harsh life was the background to Luke 2
1 In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. 2 (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) 3 And everyone went to their own town to register.
4 So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. 5 He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. 6 While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, 7 and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.
8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.
12 This will be a sign to you:
You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, 14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”
16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.
20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.
21 On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise the child, he was named Jesus, the name the angel had given him before he was conceived.
22 When the time came for the purification rites required by the Law of Moses, Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord 23 (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord”), 24 and to offer a sacrifice in keeping with what is said in the Law of the Lord: “a pair of doves or two young pigeons.”
25 Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him. 26 It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. 27 Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, 28 Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying:
29 “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you may now dismiss your servant in peace. 30 For my eyes have seen your salvation, 31 which you have prepared in the sight of all nations: 32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel.”
33 The child’s father and mother marveled at what was said about him. 34 Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, 35 so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”
36 There was also a prophet, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, 37 and then had been a widow for eighty-four years. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying.
38 Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem. 39 When Joseph and Mary had done everything required by the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee to their own town of Nazareth.
40 And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was on him.
Now ask yourself a few questions about this passage: (1) Why take a census? Was it not for tax reasons to fund the empire? (2) Why is Joseph not working his family land? Is it because the tax rate has forced him to sell it? (3) Given that Jewish families were expected to show hospitality to all people, especially family, why are Joseph and Mary forced to be outdoors? Does it have to do with the fact that Joseph is engaged to a women who is a “single mother”? (4) why are shepherds, were considered “unclean” invited to the birth of the King? and (5) Why does Luke use Caesar language to describe Jesus? Maybe we have read this story all wrong.
Maybe it is much more subversive then we have been led to believe. Maybe it is presented as anti-Roman, anti-terror rescue. Now, let’s say you don’t believe that the Christmas story in Luke can be that subversive…well, let’s look at Mary’s own words in Luke 1:46-55 and esp. note the words highlighted in bold:
46 And Mary said:
“My soul glorifies the Lord 47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, 48 for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed, 49 for the Mighty One has done great things for me— holy is his name.
50 His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation.
51 He has performed mighty deeds with his arm; he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
52 He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble.
53 He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty.
54 He has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful
55 to Abraham and his descendants forever, just as he promised our ancestors.”
56 Mary stayed with Elizabeth for about three months and then returned home.
Sounds like a Bob Marley song celebrating Che Guevara or Rage Against The Machine lyrics!
The message is that Jesus is Lord…there no other…all others are pretenders to the throne, he, and he only, demands and deserves worship.
This was taken so seriously by early Christians that scores of them died rather than bend their knee to Caesar.
Now, ask yourself, what do you worship? Who or what is your master? Only when Jesus becomes your God, your master, your Lord can we lead a subversive, radical insurgency to unmask the false masters and lead the hurting to peace. Esp. at Christmas, we need to be like subversives fighting a guerilla war then consumers worshipping the lord of consumerism.
These are two different empires…which one will you serve?
This Sunday Night at Revolution, we come to part 2 of The Christmas Conspiracy Project.
Once again, we will begin with a study of the Advent Conspiracy at 6pm, complete with the normal evangelical meal of free pizza and pop.
Coffee & Community will begin at 6:30. This is a time where we hang out, sip coffee and listen to good music and this week we’ll be spinning a little Trans-Siberian Orchestra in honor of the season.
We will kick off the service at 7:00pm and end by 8:15pm.
I (Pastor Matt) will be preaching on Caesar and Jesus and then Ryan Rolfe & The World’s Most Dangerous Praise Band will lead us in worship.
Revolution meets every week at 315 Chillicothe Street, Portsmouth OH.
Everyone is welcome. Come as you are.
Revolution: It’s Not Just a Church, It’s a Movement.
In order to understand Scripture, you have to understand the context in which it occurred and/or was written.
So, before we look at Matthew 2, let’s consider the setting.
Herod the Great was ruler of Israel when Jesus was born. What do we know about him?
He and his father helped Rome conquer Israel.
Herod began his political career as a kind of sheriff of Galilee and he raided the coffers of the area in order to pay tribute to Rome.
Later he led a 3-year military campaign to defeat the Roman Empire’s arch enemy, the Parthians from the east.
Herod ended his campaign by laying siege to Jerusalem and slaughtering the inhabitants in order to “bring glory to Caesar.”
Rome then crowned him “King of the Jews.”
He embarked on a massive building program including a number of elaborate palaces & fortresses.
This included rebuilding the entire city of Caesarea, which included a stadium that could seat 500,000!
He did this by taxing the people to the tune of an 80-90% tax rate.
Some estimate that he was the richest person in history!
He then took on the Jewish Sanhedrin in order to take total power in the region.
Herod kept power by commissioning a secret police force that kept him informed of any plots or even rumors of plots.
He often dressed like a working person and wondered the streets to hear what was being said. If he heard someone criticize him, he would send his troops to kill that person!
One rumor led him to murder 2 of his own sons despite their gut renching pleas for mercy.
Another led him to burn a number of Pharisees alive and slaughter 300+ troops.
He was even known to kill entire families of alleged insurgents in order to maintain power via fear.
Before he died, Herod ordered his elite guard to round up the most popular Jewish leaders from every corner of Israel, gather them into an arena and, once he was dead, to kill them all so that there would be weeping in every part of Israel.
So, at the time Jesus was born, the average Israelite lived in fear and staggering debt from the tax burden.
That is the background to keep in mind while reading Matthew 2
1 After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem 2 and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”
3 When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. 4 When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born. 5 “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written:
6 ” ‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for out of you will come a ruler
who will shepherd my people Israel.’ ”
7 Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. 8 He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and make a careful search for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.”
9 After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. 11 On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. 12 And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.
13 When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up,” he said, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.”
14 So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, 15 where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: “Out of Egypt I called my son.”
16 When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi. 17 Then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled:
18 “A voice is heard in Ramah,
weeping and great mourning,
Rachel weeping for her children
and refusing to be comforted,
because they are no more.”
19 After Herod died, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt 20 and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who were trying to take the child’s life are dead.”
21 So he got up, took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel. 22 But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning in Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. Having been warned in a dream, he withdrew to the district of Galilee, 23 and he went and lived in a town called Nazareth. So was fulfilled what was said through the prophets: “He will be called a Nazarene.”
Herod treats the birth of Jesus as the birth of a revolution aimed at ending his tyrannical rule and he was right!
If nothing else, the “wise men” from the east who came to worship Jesus were probably representatives of Rome’s arch enemy, the Parthians. That alone would’ve jarred Herod!
Now, think about the stark contrasts between Jesus and Herod.
Herod kills to grab power he doesn’t deserve/Jesus dies to earn power he already deserved.
Herod taxes the poor in order to bring glory to Caesar/Jesus feeds the poor in order to bring glory to God.
Herod builds a temple, Jesus is the temple.
Herod kills those rumored to rebel against him/Jesus dies for those who are in rebellion against him.
Jesus came to assume the throne as the true king of the Jews.
To be king of the Jews was to be the one true king of all creation. The Scriptures teach that Israel was to be a nation that brought all the nations to worship the one true God, thus healing the world and establishing the reign of the one true King (see Isa. 2:2-4; 11:1-9; 55:1, 3-5, 12-13; etc.)
the coming of the one true king pervades every corner of our conscience including literature, art, film, etc.
I love Conan the Barbarian and this is my favorite scene…
If that were in Scripture, it would be my life verse. Now, lamentation of the women aside, Jesus has called us to fight as well.
But, this king who has earned our loyalty through his death, has called us to fight but to do so in a very different way.
We are to be loyal soldiers who proclaim the kingship of Jesus (evangelism), train fellow soldiers to fight (discipleship) and kick the darkness until it bleeds daylight (redemption).
We fight the fight by caring for the poor and visiting the sick & imprisoned.
Jesus came not to bring a shallow, soul-crushing, tiring materialistic holiday but to birth a revolution that would overturn the rule of darkness.
So, as yourself, are you a submissive lackey of Herod & Empire or are you an insurgent?
Are you loyal to the one true king or do you live in fear & debt? I mean, don’t you find it strange that Jesus came to liberate his people from people like Herod who oppressed through fear and debt and we celebrate this liberation by putting ourselves in debt and stressful situations?
Let’s spend less, give more, build a Kingdom, lead an insurgency, be a revolution.
Long live the king!