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From Justin Taylor’s Between Two Worlds:

Tim Keller, King’s Cross: The Story of the World in the Life of Jesus, pp. 67-69, commenting on Mark 5:38-42:

Jesus saw a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly. And when he had entered, he said to them, “Why are you making a commotion and weeping? The child is not dead but sleeping.” And they laughed at him. But he put them all outside and took the child’s father and mother and those who were with him and went in where the child was. Taking her by the hand he said to her, “Talitha cumi,” which means, “Little girl, I say to you, arise.” And immediately the girl got up and began walking (for she was twelve years of age), and they were immediately overcome with amazement.


Do you think it is odd that when Jesus arrives at Jairus’s house he says that the girl is just sleeping? The parallel account of this story in Matthew and Luke’s Gospels make it clear that Jesus understands she’s dead. She’s not mostly dead; she’s all dead. Then why does he make that reference to sleep? The answer is in what Jesus does next.

Remember, Jesus sits down beside the girl, takes her by the hand, and says two things to her.

The first is talitha. Literally, it means “little girl,” but that does not get across the sense of what he’s saying. This is a pet name, a diminutive term of endearment. Since this is a diminutive that a mother would use with a little girl, probably the best translation is “honey.”

The second thing Jesus says to her is koum, which means “arise.” Not “be resurrected”: it just means “get up.” Jesus is doing exactly what this child’s parents might do on a sunny morning. He sits down, takes her hand, and says, “Honey, it’s time to get up.” And she does.

Jesus is facing facing the most implacable, inexorable enemy of the human race and such is his power that he holds this child by the hand and gently lifts her right up through it. “Honey, get up.”

Jesus is saying by his actions, “If I have you by the hand, death itself is nothing but sleep.” . . .

. . . There’s nothing more frightening for a little child than to lose the hand of the parent in a crowd or in the dark, but that is nothing compared with Jesus’s own loss.

He lost his Father’s hand on the cross.

He went into the tomb so we can be raised out of it.

He lost hold of his Father’s hand so we could know that once he has us by the hand, he will never, ever forsake us.

Gracious Father, we come to you this morning and we rest in Christ. We worship you by the Holy Spirit and glory in Christ Jesus our Lord. And we praise you that in him our “though our sins are like scarlet they shall be white as snow; they are red like crimson they shall become like wool.” Give us the grace, Lord, to be willing and joyfully obedient feasting upon all that is offered to us in Christ Jesus. Make this gospel, this good news, be central to all we do here at Restoration as we strive to make disciples that delight in the supremacy of Jesus Christ.

We pray this gospel message starts and sustains and strengths a Spanish-speaking church plant in Columbia Heights. We praise you the M’s are on their way to DC; we praise you that you have provided housing; we praise you for the financial means to support the M’s; we praise you for the many members in our congregation eager to help in this work. For the glory of your name in Christ Jesus, use our efforts to start this church to hallow your holy name. Give us wisdom and discernment and favor as we come alongside A, M, R and B. Do this Lord; do it for the sake of your name and for the salvation and eternal satisfaction of your people.

Father, this morning we rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep. We know that on a day like Mother’s Day there are so many different emotions that we bring to you. We thank you for the godly mothers among us. We thank you for those of us here who had godly mothers growing up. We thank you for the new mothers here this morning.

Father, what a gift you have given to use in mothers – their compassion and tenderness and wisdom and strength and intelligence. We pray for our moms and the moms here, that you would give them strength where they are weak, wisdom where they are unsure, patience with the many demands placed upon them, faith in your care for them and their families, and love—deep love—for those whom you have given them to nurture.

And we pray for those of us here who have a hard time on a day like today. We pray for those who have lost their mother. We pray for those who have a strained relationship with their mom or never knew her at all. We ask this morning Lord that you would meet us in our pain, heal our hearts where they are wounded, soften our hearts where they are hardened, and enable us to forgive and to love even those who have hurt us.

Some here this morning are saddened on a day like today because they long to be a wife that they might be a mom, or they long to have children, and yet are not able to do so. Father of mercies, give us comfort in our sadness, help us all trust in you despite unfulfilled longings, and joy in knowing that you never stop loving us or having our best in mind.

Lord, we thank you for the children among us. We pray that you would use Restoration Kids to make disciples of the children here at our church. We thank you for the many members who serve and teach the gospel to our children. Grant salvation to each child here that they might never know life apart from trusting and treasuring Jesus Christ.

We pray for K this morning, cause the joy of the Lord to be her strength. We pray for J&L that Christ would be exalted in their marriage. We pray that M&T would rest in the sovereign goodness of you, our great God. Build up our body in love that we might spur each other on in faithfulness of Christ as we journey toward heaven together.

For the glory of your name Lord advance your gospel among the BKs. Grant peace and wisdom and joy to R&E. Help them to continue to learn the language. Cause your word to be sweet to them and encourage them in their work.

Lord this morning as we begin a new sermon series, fill our brother N with your Spirit; grant him wisdom and insight as he leads us through heralding your word. Feed our souls this morning; cause our eyes to see the majesty of your glory. We pray all of this in the matchless name of Jesus. Amen.

Isaiah has been called “The 5th Gospel” and “The Bible in Miniature.” Its 66 chapters reveal God’s global judgment, hope and glory. Listen in to this podcast as we discuss why we are preaching this book now and how to get the most out of the sermons.

DC127 seeks to reverse the adoption list in DC – that is, instead of children waiting to be adopted, the goal is to have parents waiting to adopt. In this episode, some of our members talk with Chelsea, the director of DC127. Listen to learn what we have done and what we hope do continue doing.

When I first began reading Psalm 119, I wanted to stop almost as soon as I started. I could not relate to the Psalmist and did not know how I would change. I had little hope that simply reading when I felt so disconnected from the words on the page would be helpful.Psalm 119 begins like this:

Psalm 119 begins like this:

                  [1] Blessed are those whose way is blameless,

                                    who walk in the law of the LORD!

                  [2] Blessed are those who keep his testimonies,

                                    who seek him with their whole heart,

                  [3] who also do no wrong,

                                    but walk in his ways!

                  [4] You have commanded your precepts

                                    to be kept diligently.

                  [5] Oh that my ways may be steadfast

                                    in keeping your statutes!

                  [6] Then I shall not be put to shame,

                                    having my eyes fixed on all your commandments.

                  [7] I will praise you with an upright heart,

                                    when I learn your righteous rules.

                  [8] I will keep your statutes;

                                    do not utterly forsake me!

 

The first eight verses describe those who see God’s law rightly and lives in proper response to it—they are blessed, their ways are blameless. We also see what God expects of us—that his precepts be kept diligently. And when the men and women are steadfast in keeping God’s statutes they will not be put to shame; they will praise God with an upright heart. This stanza then closes with a plea that may seem a little out of place: “I will keep your statutes; do not utterly forsake me!”. The desperation expressed here feels like a turn from the opening exultant verses, but this is actually a signal to a clear message that emerges throughout the rest of the Psalm and would later become clear to me: we have a responsibility to treasure and practice God’s precepts, but this would be meaningless and impossible without God’s presence.

The second stanza continues like this:

[9] How can a young man keep his way pure?

                                    By guarding it according to your word.

                  [10] With my whole heart I seek you;

                                    let me not wander from your commandments!

                  [11] I have stored up your word in my heart,

                                    that I might not sin against you.

                  [12] Blessed are you, O LORD;

                                    teach me your statutes!

                  [13] With my lips I declare

                                    all the rules of your mouth.

                  [14] In the way of your testimonies I delight

                                    as much as in all riches.

                  [15] I will meditate on your precepts

                                    and fix my eyes on your ways.

                  [16] I will delight in your statutes;

                                    I will not forget your word.

 

At this point, I started to read the Psalm through a particular lens that was Psalmist-centric, like this:

[9] How can a young man keep his way pure?

                                    By guarding it according to your word.

                  [10] With my whole heart I seek you;

                                    let me not wander from your commandments!

                  [11] I have stored up your word in my heart,

                                    that I might not sin against you.

                  [12] Blessed are you, O LORD;

                                    teach me your statutes!

                  [13] With my lips I declare

                                    all the rules of your mouth.

                  [14] In the way of your testimonies I delight

                                    as much as in all riches.

                  [15] I will meditate on your precepts

                                    and fix my eyes on your ways.

                  [16] I will delight in your statutes;

                                    I will not forget your word.

 

Like a rock skipping across a pond, my heart smacked upon the phrases in bold and rebounded such that it entirely missed the lines in between. I read these lines as an indictment and rebuke from a master Christian rather than a call to join a fellow disciple in worship. This set the tone for how I would continue reading the rest of Psalm.

“My soul is consumed with longing for your rules” (verse 20)

“Your testimonies are my delight” (verse 24)

“I find my delight in your commandments, which I love” (verse 47)

 

These verses brought no comfort to me, only condemnation. I could not honestly echo the Psalmist here, and I doubted I would find any consolation in Psalm 119.

When you flood a plant’s bone-dry soil with water, it takes time for it to soak in. The water spills at out of the pot, its full measure is rejected, not reaching the roots. Do we conclude then that water was not what the plant actually needed? Of course not. So, while the full meaning and true call of Psalm 119 was lost on me at first, the first flood of these verses softened my soul just enough to receive a bit more with the next flood, and the next, and the next.

As my heart started to soften, and my mind engaged more sincerely with the text, I saw almost a total inversion of my first interpretation of the Psalm. Instead of the Psalmist boasting in his righteous delight of the law, there is earnest and desperate pleading, and rapturous thanksgiving to the God who has given this law. The essence of verse 8 “do not utterly forsake me!” is repeated over and over through different pleas to the Lord. The affirmations of verses 9 through 16 are responses to what God has done in the heart and mind of the Psalmist. In the 176 verses of Psalm 119, 57 of these verses contain pleas to God:

let me not wander from your commands” (verse 10)

open my eyes” (verse 18)

teach me good judgment and knowledge” (verse 66)

keep my steps steady according to your promise” (verse 133)

seek your servant” (verse 176)

 

The most common of these pleas are for God to teach the Psalmist (9 verses); for God to “give [him] understanding” or make him understand (6 verses); and for God to give him life (7 verses). The need for God to teach, enlighten, and shape the heart and mind is clear in every stanza. The relationship between the Psalmist’s love of the law and God’s role in cultivating this love is most clearly shown in verses like these:

I will run in the way of your commandments when you enlarge my heart!”(verse 32)

Give me understanding, that I may keep your law and observe it with my whole heart” (verse 34)

Incline my heart to your testimonies, and not to selfish gain!” (verse 36)

My lips will pour forth praise, for you teach me your statute.” (verse 171)

 

The Psalmist’s love for God’s word comes through the same, and only, means through which we are ever able to love God, by his grace through faith. It is God’s action that changes our hearts, and we trust this for salvation:

In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. (1 John 4:10)

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. (Romans 5:6)

 

Likewise, Psalm 119 teaches that it is God who teaches us to learn and love his word. He does this through guarding and keeping us (verse 10); enlarging our hearts (verse 32); through affliction (verses 67, 71, 75); and through others who love God (verse 79).

And as God teaches us to love and follow his word, we know there is so much more happening than simply understanding ideas. Is it just by chance that the phrases “give me understanding” and “give me life” appear so often with such similar resound? No. In fact verse 144 makes the connection perfectly clear—“give me understanding that I may live!” Understanding of what? Again, there is no room for doubt. The Psalmist has begged repeatedly for understanding of the law, statutes, precepts—the very words of God himself. For the words of God are not like the words of men and women. We are who we are, and say what we say, and these may have little to do with each other. Our words cannot be trusted to consistently portray our identities or intents. This is not so with God. His words are in perfect alignment with his character and his will. “You are good and you do good” we read in verse 68, to which the Psalmist cries “teach me your statutes”.

As these truths sink in, we should take heart at the fact that God is active and able to change us and our emotions, even if our hearts do not yet respond. And yet this is not an excuse to do nothing but wait for our feelings to change. It is an invitation to yearn in the presence of God, to confess the distorted desires that keep us distant, and to humbly yet boldly plead for Him to do what we cannot—to change us. It is beautiful to me that in this psalm, the writer cries out “Consider how I love your precepts!” and in the next breath then asks God to “Give me life according to your steadfast love” (verse 159). We are called to love God, and so love his word. To be sure, he is worthy of all our love. But thank God that when he gives us life, he does so according to his love and not ours. In this we again see the grace of the gospel.

In considering spiritual disciplines, our understanding of grace should remind us that the act of reading scripture is not what changes us in and of itself. Consistently reading the word (or practicing any spritual discipline) does not earn life, but positions us to be watered by the grace of God bought for us in Christ. John Piper helps to explain this: “God has given us [the spiritual disciplines as a] means of grace. If we do not use them to their fullest advantage, our complaints against him will not stick. If we don’t eat, we starve. If we don’t drink, we get dehydrated. If we don’t exercise a muscle, it atrophies. If we don’t breathe, we suffocate. Just as there are physical means of life, there spiritual are means of grace.”[1]

Whether or not considering these truths causes your emotions to react in this moment or in the next week or in the next month, I would encourage you to engage anyway. Read the Bible knowing that God does not shun us when we are cold, but that he invites us to come and listen to him speak that our hearts would thaw. When you are surrounded by others who seem to effortlessly love scripture, resist the urge to envy their ease and know that you are welcome to plead with God and ask others to plead on your behalf. When you trust God to become a Christian, but are later tempted to trust your own efforts to be a good Christian, know that this is not the gospel. Jesus, the Word made flesh, is the founder and perfecter of our faith. As we trust him for salvation, we trust that through him we too will delight in word of the Lord.

 

[1] John Piper, “Put in the Fire for the Sake of Prayer,” December 28, 2008.

(From RC member Whitney K.)

Most Christians would confess that reading the Bible should be a central aspect of discipleship, whether or not they regularly do so. While we have tried, many of us have struggled to cultivate Bible reading as a habit and substantial practice of our faith. There are times when this aversion to reading the Bible is not due to intellectual obstacles (I don’t understand what this means; I don’t know how to study the Bible), nor is it due to simply a lack of discipline (I was running too late to have a quiet time; I don’t consistently prioritize reading scripture). Instead for some of us, during some seasons, we avoid personally engaging with God’s word for reasons related to our emotions and affections.

We’re taught that God’s word is important, and we know how we’re supposed to feel about it. We know that God and what he says are worthy of our highest affections and delight, so when we read and don’t feel anything — our hearts stirred, souls comforted, or minds excited — we can experience deep frustration and guilt. Over time, these feelings can keep us from approaching God’s word at all, and when we do re-engage with scripture without perceiving an immediate effect, our reluctance to approach God through his word becomes more engrained and harder to resist. On top of this, we may have convinced ourselves that we are alone in these feelings, or at least that good Christians don’t feel this way, for this long.

And yet, most of us are not convinced that we should give up entirely. In spite of our lacking emotions, we believe that God works through his words, and for the good of our soul we must meet him there. But even knowing this, we wait. We avoid. Afraid for our feelings to fail yet again, we procrastinate until something is different. Until we are different.

—-

Last was year difficult. I was not sad to see 2015 end; I did not reminisce fondly about the year’s events, nor could I look back at the suffering with a sense of appreciation or purpose. For months I felt overextended, rarely refreshed, dry and weary. I understood that church services and Christian community were supposed to be good for me, but they were also hard. When these encounters stirred me to consider the joy of our faith, I was often simultaneously sorrowful and walked away feeling emotionally raw from the stripping away of pretense that comes with honest interactions. At first, this season was easy to explain by circumstances (family health trouble, demanding work, hurtful relationships) and in those specific, defined trials I was able to turn to God. But as the year went on, these circumstances changed or resolved, and I expected my soul to rebound accordingly. It did not, and I did not see a way out. Sin and behavior that God had long since freed me from became disturbingly more appealing, and in this especially, it became clear to me that my soul was not well.

In response, I decided to seek trusted counsel. After describing the past year, the external trials and my internal approach to despair, my counselor’s questions turned to spiritual disciplines. I prayed often, attended Sunday services and weekly small groups, I served others, and strived to earnestly repent of the sin in my life; however, I did not consistently read God’s word. That habit had been difficult for me to develop, primarily due to lack of discipline in the general sense, and now that I was struggling I was reluctant to admit that I had fallen out of this practice again.

The diagnosis of my state was clear to my counselor, and it was obvious, though unsatisfying, to me. Unlike the blessed man described in the first Psalm who delights in the law of the Lord and meditates on it day and night, I did not. As a result, I was not like a tree planted by streams of water. I was withering. My soul was parched and I had begun to doubt that there was a water that could satisfy it.

The remedy was as clear, and unsatisfying to hear, as the diagnosis. I needed God himself. I needed his word, and she suggested regular reading and reflection on Psalm 119. While discipline continued to be a factor in my failure to read the Bible, the greater hindrance at this point was my heart. Its indifference in spite of God’s worthiness, and my inability to change myself rendered me deeply frustrated at the idea of delighting in God’s word. As a result, the opening passage of Psalm 119 did not renew my hope in the Lord and my delight in his words. Instead it was the millstone around my neck, a yoke of condemnation that I did not and could not feel as I should. I did not and could love God as he deserved.

The first reading was exasperating. At least some of the subsequent readings were as well, but as I continued to read day after day, I began to see more in the passage. So, if the Psalmist’s “love letter to the law” has yet to excite you, or like I’ve described, his affections have so far only added to your guilt and shame before God, then I invite you to consider this text further.

In this episode the elders talk about how they have been encouraged by the members of Restoration church, and how they hope we continue to grow in Christlike maturity.

Gracious heavenly Father, we come to you in the name of Jesus Christ. We praise you for the breadth and length and height and depth of you love shown to us in him. As we have confessed our sins, we now draw near to you through Christ. For as far as the east is from the west, so far is your forgiveness to us because of Jesus. We rejoice that in his death sin was defeated. We rejoice that in his resurrection true live is given.

Holy Spirit cause us to rejoice in our forgiveness and to pursue holiness; cause us to rejoice in being reconciled with our Father in heaven. Give us an unquenchable desire to read the life-giving, soul-shaping Word that we might behold the fullness of God in all that he is and all that he has done. We thank you Lord for all that you’re doing here at Restoration Church; and we ask that you would continue to give us the grace to make disciples that delight in the supremacy of Jesus Christ.

We thank you for Restoration Kids. As they learn about Israel in the wilderness this morning, show them their need for Christ. We praise you for all the members who serve our children. This morning we pray for Haigh and Page and Chris and Tessa and Mike and Liz and Whitney and Isabel and Jodie as they serve the children this morning.

Strengthen us with your grace, Lord. Help us to build each other up in Christ being eager to encourage one another; help us to be quick to forgive each other and extend grace to one another. May we extend mercy to those who are hurting and suffering. Cause us to be a people who enter into each other’s suffering that we might care for each other in the most difficult times. We praise you for the way the Holy Spirit is bearing fruit in our midst, among the people of our church. Give us the grace to continue to love one another sacrificially and treat each other better than ourselves. Help us not to fight for our own personal preferences, but to constantly rejoice in the gospel. Let us put away all bitterness and anger and slander, along with all malice. Cause us to be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another as God in Christ has forgiven us. Use our church to be a visible representation of the gospel displaying your manifold wisdom and glory.

Lord, we thank you that we get to labor among many other healthy churches here in DC. Pour out your grace on The District Church and Redemption Hill and Capitol Hill Baptist and Grace DC and Washington International Church and All Nations DC. Give the pastors of these churches much grace and wisdom and delight in Christ. Use them to faithfully shepherd and equip the saints for the work of ministry.

As we think about the events of the past several weeks, we are reminded of how broken our world is, Lord. We long for Jesus to return. Come Lord Jesus come. We long for the Day of no more hate crimes, no more natural disasters (Ecuador, Japan), no more terrorist attacks, no more death, no more waiting for hope to be fulfilled. Father, we rejoice in hope because of Jesus’ empty tomb; we will be patient in tribulation because Jesus has overcome evil; we will be constant in prayer because Jesus is on the throne of heaven.

Father, we’re mindful this morning that for our good you have appointed public rulers and government authorities. Give the lawmakers and law-enforcers of this land a sense of justice and wisdom. We pray for those in all levels of government – congress, mayors, governors, the president. Have them to be men and women of integrity and honesty in all their dealings; let wisdom enter their hearts, and let knowledge be pleasant to them; make their hearts and ears attentive to godly counsel. Give all world-wide leaders and rulers a spirit of unity, a spirit that longs for best interest of the people as a whole that humanity might flourish.

Holy Lord, we praise you for the hope of the gospel. We pray this gospel message would spread among the Behdini Kurds (Bible Translation) and among Haitian pastors and churches. We pray this gospel message would take root among the Spanish speakers in Columbia Heights. We pray for our brother Alejandro and his family this morning. We praise you that our prayer for a visa has been heard and granted. Give us wisdom to work out all the details of their move to DC. Providentially work that your name might be increasingly hallowed in Columbia Heights.

We pray all of this in the strong, grace-giving name of Jesus. Amen.

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Making Disciples that Delight in the Supremacy of Jesus Christ