Monday, December 31, 2012

Christmas in Newtown

Christmas in Newtown, CT, is certainly far different than anyone in that town expected.  The tragedy there is horrible and we should remember to pray for the town and for those families who have many gifts under their tree that will never be opened.  And that tragedy, of course, underscores the countless tragedies which occur all over the world – and sadnesses that I know even are in some of our own homes because of losses – losses of dreams, losses of loved ones, losses that often don’t make sense.


These are not reasons to stop celebrating Christmas.  The need for Christmas is not ruined by such tragedies.  The need for Christmas is only made more obvious – even as the murder of innocent children under the wicked Herod seeking to kill the Christ made more obvious of the need for Christ to come.  We need Immanuel.  We need God with us.  We need God to come down and in some amazing way that only He understands, carefully balance his holy threat to bring justice to a disobedient people and at the same time fulfill His promise to save them from their utter disregard for Him.  As a nation, we mourn the senseless murders in Newtown.  As a nation, let us also mourn our utter disregard for Jesus.


And so we come to worship Him again – not because there are no troubles, but because trouble has been swallowed up in victory.  Death has been swallowed up in victory – for all who are in Christ Jesus.  Our worship of God instructs us in our doubts and difficulties, strengthening us through our trials that we might obtain the great prize of our sanctification full and complete in Jesus – and our worship declares our faith in the faithfulness of Another, One in Whom all things are put right and will be put right – and His declaration through His Word and through His messengers, His disciples and ambassadors to the world to come and find peace – true peace with God and with men.  This is the only way, but thank God there is a way, for He has made the way.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Celebration of Incarnation

Christmas is the celebration of the Incarnation – and the Incarnation means that God took on flesh and dwelt with us.  After Jesus came, all foods became clean.  After Jesus came, all the earth became holy and not simply the little place called Israel.  After Jesus came, all peoples received the blessing of Abraham and not simply those who were of the line of Abraham by blood.  After Jesus came, the world was remade.


Among other applications, this means that God likes stuff – the stuff of the earth.  There is nothing unclean in what you put in your mouth, in the land that you live on, in the family line you come from.  There is nothing unclean if you have faith – faith in the One who has made all things new.  There is a false teaching that if you become a Christian you have to stop enjoying the things of this earth.  That is not true.  In fact, what you are to do is enjoy more than ever the things your God created, the things your God has made new, the things your God has given to you to enjoy to the glory of His name.  You may not make an idol of any of these things – they must all be hated in comparison to the love you have for the Savior – but with love for your Savior you are to love your Savior’s redeemed and reconciled earth.  In fact, it is another form of idolatry to try and be “spiritual only” as though you only were a spirit now.  You are not – and because of the resurrection – you will not be – forever and ever after the resurrection.


So practice here – practice now – learn to eat and drink, to dress and build, to decorate and repair, to build and restore, to invent and write and sing, to lie down in a wonderful bed, get up and take a hot shower, pour yourself a cup of hot coffee – look out your window and say – He made it all for me and for His glory – and Amen.  Go decorate a cookie to the glory of God!

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Worship Through Trials

As we gather to worship our great and good God, we do so in the midst of many trials and difficulties, many confusions, many uncertainties.  Some of those trials are personal, individual – maybe there are some that no one else even knows about but you today.  Some are familial and relational, some are financial, some are health related.


Some of the trials are of a more corporate nature, and we certainly have a new one today.  Today is the day when Washington State will witness its first sanctioned, official and public wedding ceremonies of same-sex marriages.


What should we be doing?  What are we to do with all of these difficulties?  The answer is found here – in the Lord’s Day Worship of God’s people.  Here we come and confess our sins and the sins of our people.  Here we beseech the God of mercy for mercy, the God of healing for healing, the God of answers for answers.  Here, we gather to be flayed open by His Word, opened, re-arranged, examined, and cleansed, transformed, instructed, rehabilitated, restored.  Here we gather and are granted the wisdom of the Lord, in Word and in Bread and Wine.


This is the place to start everything.  That is why this is the place to start the New Week – for this is the Day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and – in the midst of every named trial – be glad in it.  Let Him meet you here for He has promised to do so – and as you humble yourself before Him, as we humble ourselves before Him – He promises to lift us up. 


Then we will know – then we will be sent – then we will be able to serve – and bring heaven to earth

Friday, December 28, 2012

Advent Opportunities

As we come into the season of Advent, our preparation for the coming of the Messiah, our preparation to celebrate the Incarnation, we must remember that this is not for us to remember simply as individuals.  You might look forward to your own personal times of reflections upon the birth of the Messiah, or the comfort He brings to you as his child – as well you should.

But we are the people of God and not simply the individual children of God with no relation to one another.  As soon as we begin the work of living out our faith we find that we must do so in the context of the one anothers.  Love one another, pray for one another, be kind to one another, defer to one another, consider one another more important than yourself, forgive one another.


We are the people of God and this means that our celebrations as well as our trials are to be embraced in community with one another.  How are you celebrating the season of Advent and Christmas?  Immediately OTHERS should come to your mind.  Whose lives will you brighten with hope in days of darkness?  Who will join you around your table with sweet communion and fellowship?  Who lives near you and has no idea what to do about the darkness in their own lives – and here, God has given you another opportunity, another Christmas – to give a word of hope – a word of LIGHT – to just such a situation as theirs.


Our worship here is a time of public confession and profession. We are unashamedly declaring the crown rights of King Jesus over everything – and as we leave here we should live out echoing the same declaration in our words and actions.  So you are summoned to now come and worship – but you are summoned with the intent to then change the way you live out there as soon as we are done in here.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Welcomed to Your Father's House

Everything about our worship of God finds its center in Jesus Christ.  We are not allowed to come to God the Father and call Him Father because we are His children.  We are summoned to come to Him as our Father because He is the Father of His Son.  We are only coming to Him as Father because we are found in His Son, we are in Christ.  And we are only in Christ if we have died with Him and have been raised to new life in Him.  And we are only in that new life if we have faith – and that faith is His gift to us – His grace.


We declare this relationship as we confess the Creed – I believe in one God, the Father…  And this is true for us even though we are Gentiles.  Isaiah had promised salvation for the gentiles when He wrote, “Even to them I will give in My house and within My walls a place and a name – Better than that of sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name that shall not be cut off (Isaiah 56:5).”  God has not brought you into His house, into His family, and sort of allowed you to be a part of all that is going on.  You are not simply a beggar who has been brought in for a meal; you are not simply a guest who has been invited to stay for a while.  You are family – you are kin – you are the sons and daughters of God – no – you are better than that of sons and daughters – you have been given an everlasting name and you shall not be cut off.


How is it that you cannot be cut off?  Are you in Christ?  Have you died with Christ?  Do you believe in Christ?  Have you risen with Christ?  Then, you will be kept in Christ and Christ does not lose those who are His.  And this means that you may come and worship God as Father and not as some distant deity, some powerful but impersonal ruler.  It means you come as a beloved son or daughter, known and well-known by the perfect Father, the Almighty Father, the personal Father.  To come and worship is to come to Your Father’s house and to know and be known again, to relive through remembering and to rekindle hope through hearing of His promises again.  Come and worship Your heavenly Father.

The Magician's Twin

Here is a well done video on C.S. Lewis's views on scientism.  Well worth watching.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

No Room For Him

(Homily Preached on Christmas Morning, 2012)


For centuries it had been foretold.  The prophets had promised that a Savior would come.  There had been righteous kings, elders, rulers and common people who knew, believed, hoped this would happen.  There were women and children who believed, waited, anticipated.  And yet, when the time came, when the very day came for this King to be born, there was no room for Him.  This would be the way of Jesus the Christ.


Luke makes this strange little note to us on the story of the birth of Jesus – “and she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.”  This has become a quaint, sentimental, serene verse describing the Nativity.  But cut through the sentiment and you will find that this is the way of Jesus, the way of the kingdom of God in, over, and through this world.


It was time for Jesus to be born, and there was no place for Him to be born – no place among humans, the very people for which the Incarnation was necessary.  We are not told what went on at the inn, how Joseph and Mary were unable to find any place for Mary to be given to have her Child, what the circumstances were when this Inn-keeper had to say “no, I’m sorry, there is no more room.”  But, whatever happened, Mary found herself giving birth to her firstborn Son, the One conceived by the Holy Spirit, in a cave or in some animal shelter of some sort.  There was no cradle – there was only a feeding trough.  HE WHO would be the Bread of Heaven slept at first in a food tray for animals.


But this was the way of Christ.  There was no way for Jesus to be conceived in the normal fashion for there was no room for a sinless Man to be brought into the world solely through the line of the first Adam.  And yet, He had to be from the line of the first Adam in order to be a Man.  And so, God made a way.  There was no human proclamation of His birth – no birth announcement by relatives, no social media to send pictures.  But God made a way – He sent angels to announce to shepherds keeping watch over their flocks by night – and the stars joined with the angels in proclaiming the birth of the Messiah.


When Mary first heard that she was going to be with child, there was no room for her to believe such a thing, but God sent the angel Gabriel to tell her.  Joseph as well, had no room to believe such a crazy story until in a dream, God made a way by confirming what Mary had told Joseph to be true.


There continued to be no room for Jesus.  Months later, when wise men arrived from the East and announced that a star had led them to Bethlehem, Herod refused to allow such a declared King to threaten his rule and all the male children two years old and younger were murdered.  But God had made a way, warning Joseph in a dream again and allowing the holy family to flee to Egypt in the night. 


Some thirty years later, when Jesus began His ministry, being baptized by John, He went and preached in His hometown of Nazareth.  “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, Because He has anointed Me” He read from Isaiah and told all those in the synagogue that day that these words were fulfilled now and that He was the fulfillment.  There was no room in Nazareth at that point for Jesus – there was no room for such truth and so they sought to throw Him over a cliff – but God made a way and Jesus passed through the midst of them and went on His way.


There was no room for Jesus as He travelled along in His ministry – so much so, that one time when a certain scribe asked if he could follow Jesus, Jesus responded, “foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.”  In fact, you would think the scribes and the Pharisees, the “keepers of the law” would have recognized that the very embodiment of the Law, the Word-made-Flesh, Immanuel, was before them.  They had studied and studied God’s Word, and yet, Jesus would say to them – “you search the Scriptures for in them you think you have eternal life, and these are they that testify of Me.”  But there was no room in their theology for Jesus – there was no room in their self-righteousness for Christ – there was no room in their law-keeping for One who would Judge them for their well-hidden sin.


Jerusalem, the home of the Temple of Yahweh, the House Built for His name, should have had all of the room in the world for the very One that had made this city famous.  And yet, when Jesus went to Jerusalem, there was no room for Him.  Not only did they condemn Him to die – even His crucifixion took place outside the city – at the place of the Skull and right beside a city garbage dump.


This was Jesus, the Son of God, and there was no room for Him – no room for Him in the inn, no room for Him in Nazareth, no room for Him in Jerusalem – no room for Him in this world – anywhere.  And this was just the way God wanted it.  This was no thwarting of God’s plans, no victory over Christ’s ministry nor His purposes to become the King of kings and Lord of lords.  Rejecting Jesus never keeps Jesus away  in the end.  We are not celebrating the birth of a man who hoped to become King of Israel only to be tried in a kangaroo court and murdered by thugs dressed in priestly robes and Roman uniforms.  We are celebrating the birth of King who turned the world upside down, because that world was upside down – lost in its darkness, lost in its sin.


There was no room in the world for Jesus – which is exactly why Jesus came to remake the world.  There was no room in the sons and daughters of Adam for a Savior – which is exactly why Jesus came to regenerate these same sons and daughters, bringing forth objects of wrath and by the power of His resurrection, making them objects of His mercy and love, people of His delight and affection, brothers and sisters with Him before His holy Father in heaven.


Jesus was promised the world, all the nations – and in Pontius Pilate and the Jewish leaders, the world, all the nations, Jew and Gentile alike, rejected Him.  There was no room for Him.  But when He rose from the dead, when He ascended to His Father’s right hand, when He sent His Holy Spirit, He was declared to be the One who had created all things – all room – and had redeemed all things – all room – for Himself.


We see this same scenario played out over and over in the life of the church.  Wherever Jesus is faithfully proclaimed, we are told there is no room for Him.  Presently, in our country, we are told there is no room for Him in our public places, in our civic buildings, in our government schools – our fear of catching Jesus-cooties if we overhear His name or prayers to Him or the singing of His praise – is as silly as our fear of second-hand smoke drifting over the fence of some neighbor’s yard.  The world hates both – but the world particularly hates the name of Jesus and the true meaning of Christmas.  It always has, it always will.  This is its curse, this is the consequence of its unbelief and rebellion – this is the state of things.  But this is why Jesus was born in a stable – this is why He was rejected of men – this is why He died on the cross – He has come and He has redeemed to Himself the nations of men.  There was no room for Him, but now there is all the room in the world for Him for He has redeemed the world.  He bought it.  He purchased it.  He owns it all.


And this is why we must still say “Merry Christmas” with all the trimmings.  This is why we must still proclaim “Jesus is Lord” even when we are told to shut up.  This is why we must pledge allegiance to the kingdom of God even when it is uncouth in the public eye.  When we hear that there is no room for Him, no room for this kind of thing, in such and such a place, it is the same sad story  and we must refuse to comply.  We must do so winsomely and with great faith – with our eyes to the life, death, and resurrection of the One for Whom there was never any room.  Because, we know, of course there was no room in the world – that is why He has remade the world – that He might bring salvation to that world.


Isaac Watts would pen these words –

Joy to the world, the Lord is come – let earth receive her King.

Let every heart prepare Him room – and heaven and nature sing.


No more let sin and sorrow grow, nor thorns infest the ground

He comes to make His blessings flow far as the curse is found.


He rules the world with truth and grace and makes the nations prove

The glories of His righteousness and wonders of His love.


O, but there is room.  For He has made room.  For He has remade all things.  He will have the nations – and this morning – He would have your heart, your devotion, your praise.  Some would ask you if there is room in your heart for Jesus – and it is commanded of you to make room – but you know there is no room – no room in your heart.  Some would invite you to make room for Jesus in your heart – they would say that He stands at the door of your heart and pleads to be allowed in.  Such talk is nonsense, you say – and you are right.  But it is nonsense for reasons you did not expect.  Jesus isn’t inviting.  Jesus already knows there is no room in your heart, your unconverted heart for Him.  That doesn’t stop Him from coming – it never has – it never will.  Jesus has come – and every knee will bow, every tongue confess.  Jesus has come and so every curse will be overturned.  Jesus has come and so all things are made new.  Jesus has come and He is not asking you to make Him Lord – He is declared to be Lord, even the son of God – not because you have said anything.  It didn’t have anything to do with you.  What then must you do?  Well, what do you do at Christmas when you are given a gift from a well-wisher, from someone who loves you – you have already received gifts this Christmas, you probably have more gifts waiting for you at home or at the relatives.  What will you do with that gift?  You can’t declare it to be a non-gift.  You have no power over it.  You might say you can refuse the gift – but refusing the gift doesn’t make it not a gift.  There it is.  There it remains.  The salvation of the world has come and it is outside of you – it has nothing to do with you – it will not respond to you saying that it has or hasn’t come.  It is joy to the world. 


And this gift is your new heart.  You don’t decide if you want a new heart – it is decided for you.  You didn’t decide if you wanted that old, unbelieving, stiff-necked heart – and you don’t get to decide if you want the new heart, the one that believes, loves, and responds to the gospel of grace.  Behold, you have a new heart.  Here – take it – receive it – or rather, realize that you have received it for it has been placed in you – by the work of the Holy Spirit. You don’t have to make room for it.  God already did that.  God already took care of that.  God sent Jesus when there was no room for Him and God made the room.  For those who have eyes to see, ears to hear, hearts that now believe – Merry Christmas!


In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit - Amen.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Short Homily for the Providence Christmas Concert

“For unto you is born this day, in the city of David, a Savior, which is Christ the LORD.” –
This evening, we have the privilege as parents, relatives, and friends of these students of Providence, to hear the performance of a Christmas concert.  It is hardly unusual to have a concert this time of year in schools throughout our nation.  It is, however, becoming a rarer and rarer thing to actually have a concert which honors the birth of Jesus Christ and celebrates the season of Advent and Christmas.
But Providence is a Christian School and as such, we have the freedom to have a Christian concert and unashamedly proclaim the truth of the Savior of the nations.  That is wonderful – and for that we give great thanks.

And so we have wonderful music and a wonderful theme to enjoy.  But there is something else – something else which is very important.  As a parent at Providence for more than 13 years now, I can tell you that this is a different kind of Christian school – and one of those differences, a distinction – is that you will find that the staff and the students truly love the Lord Jesus Christ – it is apparent in our culture.  Now, I cannot peer into hearts and I certainly do not personally know each and every student here – but I can confidently say that, on the whole, you are listening to children who love Christ and who are growing in their love and knowledge of Him.
That said, here is the important extra to a concert like this at Providence.  These students are not simply performing for you – they are giving something to you.  This is a Christmas gift of sorts from them to you.  It is Christ the Lord.  It is the Babe who was born of a virgin and placed in a manger because there was no room for Him in the Inn.  It is the Man who, 33 years later, would suffer and die by means of crucifixion – the God-Man who, as the Head of the new Humanity, would suffer death for all who would put their faith in His death and die in Him – and bring resurrection life to all who would put their faith in His resurrection life and find new life in Him.
This is not simply a concert.  It is a gift.  It is a gift of forgiving love, of eternal hope, of the power of lives changed by the Person of the Holy Spirit – the Spirit of Christ – the Spirit of Christmas.  As they are about to sing – consider these words – they really mean them – and they mean to proclaim them to you…

1. On Christmas Night all Christians sing,
to hear the news the angels bring.
News of great joy news of great mirth,
news of our merciful King’s birth.
2. Then why should men on earth be so sad,
since our Redeemer made us glad
When from our sin He set us free,
all for to gain our liberty?

Welcome to Jesus Christ, and Merry Christmas

Thursday, November 29, 2012

From Psalm 34

Not only from my enemies
But from my fears
       Deliver me, my God who hears

With tongues on fire
And eyes that could
       I taste and see the Lord is good

Fear of God
is right to learn
       It is good Life to which I turn

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Useful Teaching

"To teach men how to live and how to die, is the aim of all useful religious instruction." - C.H. Spurgeon

Friday, November 23, 2012

Thanksgiving and Trials at the Supper

When Jesus instituted the Supper, Luke records that He said, “with fervent desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.”  This was a meal of life, a meal that answers everything, that solves everything, and Christ longed to give it to the world.  That same night, however, He would pray in great agony, sweating drops of blood and asking the Father, if it was possible, to take away the cup He was about to drink, the death He was about to die.

But, for the joy set before Him, the next day, Jesus endured the cross, despising the shame, and soon thereafter sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

So – do you have great thanksgiving and rejoicing to give?  Then you must come to the Table of Thanksgiving – the Eucharist – and eat the celebration.  Do you have great sorrows and heaviness of heart? Then you must come to the Table of Suffering and drink the cup of consolation.  Christian, come in your faith, come with your doubts, come with your sorrows, come in your joy.  Come and welcome to Jesus Christ.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

The Completed Work

At this Table we are memorializing a work which has been completed and a work which is being completed in us.  Whether it has to do with your own life, your marriage, the fellowship of the church, the leavening of the world by the kingdom of God – in all of this – the particular and definitive work of Jesus Christ on the cross – His death, burial and resurrection, is being remembered.
It worked.  That’s the story.  He won.  Death lost.  The devil was put down.  The reconciliation of the world is found here, in a meal, in a gospel, in a Word made flesh.  Come quietly – Kiss the Son while there is time – that is what is being declared.  Be Still and Know that I am God – no matter your situation, church or family or individual, nation or state or city – Be still and know – Jesus Christ has done it all.  It is finished, He said.  Come and welcome to Jesus Christ

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Thanksgiving Upon Us

Thanksgiving is upon us and not only should our tables be groaning under the weight of the offering.  As Christians, we first have our salvation to be thankful for – and the further you look at what the love of Jesus Christ in your life means, the more and more overwhelmed with gratitude you have to be.  And the further you are filled with gratitude for that deliverance and victory and hope, the more and more grateful you will find yourself for every blessing you have received under the sun.

Today, most of what we call an American Thanksgiving has become a pathetic event.  It is pathetic because we refuse to give thanks to the Giver of all that we have received.  We refuse to acknowledge His existence, His presence, and the generosity of His giving.  We shake our fists at a God we do not even believe in.  How can you thank God, we say, when you look at the devastation of a Hurricane Sandy, the ongoing wars, the terrible economy, disease and want that is spread over the globe. 

Instead, our Thanksgiving, our giving of thanks, must be changed from the inside out. We need a reformation and revival of Thanksgiving – not simply the day – but a whole mindset, a new way of living.  When you are in Christ, you have everything and there is nothing kept from you from the Father without His kind, perfect, eternal, and personal reasons for you.  How do you know this?  Look to the cross.  In the only event that could ever be truly called unfair, unjust, uncalled for – the crucifixion of a perfect, holy, good, and loving man – God said “no” because He had a greater “yes” for His Son and for the world.

Death brought forth life for those who died with Christ.  The grave broke open, the stone rolled away, and a resurrection declared a new humanity, a new way, a new covenant, a new world.  It is upon these truths that we base our Thanksgiving.  In our sovereign and good God.  It was upon those truths that pilgrims who had suffered tremendously would still set aside three days and feast together before God in a declaration of His grace and kindness.  Count your blessings and come and worship your God.  Count your blessings and enter into His gates with thanksgiving and into His courts with praise.

Reconciled to God through Christ

When we come to the Table, we are partaking and proclaiming.  We are partaking of the new life, the new creation, the new humanity, and we are proclaiming the new life, the new creation, and the new humanity.  We are celebrating what has been done for us, what is being done for us, and what will be done for us – through Christ, in Christ, and for Christ.
God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation.  And we have been summoned to come and eat and drink of this Word.  We do so by faith, through the power of the Holy Spirit, and willingly, because from the inside out, He has and is making you new in Christ.  Come and welcome to Jesus.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Blessing Your Enemy Just Like Jesus

When Jesus broke this bread on the night He was betrayed, He was declaring just the kind of love He is commanding in the passage we looked at in Luke 6.  Jesus’ body was just about to be broken for those He loved and it was just about to be broken by those He loved.  Jesus’ blood was just about to be poured out for those for whom He died and it was just about to be poured out by those for whom He died.  Jesus was blessing His bride who was, at that moment, His enemy.

Jesus gives what He commands and then commands what He gives.  He gives life, He gives refreshment, He gives nourishment, He gives truth, He gives love.  And then He says, now go give these things as well.  Do you believe?  Do you embrace Christ here at this Table?  Will you have all of His gifts, all of His mercy, all of His kindness – here?  You only can by faith, you only can by the work of His Spirit – and this is the only way you will be able to give it away as well.  Come to Jesus – and Welcome

Monday, November 19, 2012

Idol-Killing Power at the Table

Paul warns us about this Table.  He says, 1 Corinthians 10:21-22 (NKJV)
21 You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons; you cannot partake of the Lord’s table and of the table of demons. 22 Or do we provoke the Lord to jealousy? Are we stronger than He?

Acknowledging that there is real covenantal power, real covenantal protection, real covenantal nourishment and spiritual communion here at this Table, Paul warns us not to think we can go to such tables with an a la carte mentality (A little of this god, a little of that, whatever is working for me today).
And so two things:  First, there is a real idol-killing power at this Table and in partaking by faith at this Table you are being built up in Christ with Christ’s body and blood to be a living sacrifice yourself to God and to God alone.  And so second, while this is primarily God’s covenant renewal with you; this is an appropriate place to renew your vows, your love, your devotion, to Him as well.  Coming to this Table means, for you, that you are not going to travel to any other table.  Jesus Christ is the Way, the Truth and the Life - and Amen.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Dead Food - Real Life

Food is another display for us of death and resurrection.  We don’t think about it because the act of eating is so normal to us as creatures.  But Jesus spoke, and quite literally, when He said that “Man does not live by bread alone.”  Food is a source of life for us, and yet food is a dead substance.  How can that which is dead give life?
Nourishment is a miracle; it is similar to the proclaimed sacrificial miracle that a seed must die in order to produce fruit.  It takes the Word of God to bring forth life from this death and so by its deadness, food discloses our complete dependence on the Word that proceeds from the mouth of God for something which is dead to become for us  - Life.  Welcome to the Table and welcome to Jesus Christ. (HT Leithart, BAtH p.18)

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Mutual Indwelling

As we come to the Lord’s Table, we are called to see this mutual indwelling played out in our lives.  Not only does the Father indwell the Son and the Son the Father, but we are indwelt by them, by their same love in the person of the Holy Spirit.  We really do partake of Christ, He really does give Himself to us, we really are nourished by His body and blood.

And so all those who have been baptized into Christ are summoned and welcomed to this Table – for just that purpose – to be indwelt – to be made full – to be nourished and built up – and to be prepared – to give yourself away, to die, to live for others, to sacrifice, to glorify others, to be Christ’s crown and glory – to proclaim His gospel in our lives.  Amen

Friday, November 16, 2012

Sunday After Elections

Well, that was quite a week, wasn’t it?  Are you exhausted from the election, the post-election analyses, and for most of us, the post-election blues?  Finger-pointing, excuse-making, none of it matters.  After billions and billions spent, we have the same president, and basically the same house and senate that we had before the election.  At the state level, we now will be teaching our children in the government schools that marriage is the union of one adult and another and their sex doesn’t matter.  Children will soon start asking why marriage should only be limited to adults and why only limit the union to two persons?  But the good news is that now we can just light up and smoke a doobie and forget about it all.

No, a thousand times no.  We do not have to drop into the green smoke of despair.  And so, once again, the King of kings, meaning the King of America and all the nations, has summoned you to His throne for another council.  His intent is to call upon us to call upon Him, to bring forth His Word and shake the nations, beginning with us, beginning with His church which appears to be in a deep stupor of sin and compromise.  But that has never stopped our Lord and Good Shepherd.  He has a rod and a staff and He knows how to use them.  And so He intends to get our attention and then to call upon us to join with Him in ruling over the nations with the truth, with gospel love, with mercies that are new every morning.
We are not witnessing the signs of the end times.  These are signs of present judgment, present discipline, and the spankings will certainly be painful.  But our good Father knows how to discipline those He loves; His chastening is not joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness – and He intends to train us with it.

But it all starts here – at the throne and in His Lord’s Day service of worship.  We, the church universal, we do not believe that Jesus Christ has authority over all of heaven and earth; and so it should come as no surprise to us that neither does the rest of the world.  We therefore have turned and placed our trust elsewhere for the rule of our governments.  Feel the rod.  Kiss the Son, and call this nation to repentance.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

I Need a Real Thanksgiving

"...sorrowful, yet always rejoicing" - Paul
I need a Thanksgiving that does not deny my sorrows, my heavinesses, my grievings – which doesn’t call on me to pretend to be happy, happy all the day, and which doesn’t require me to get so drunk that I cannot remember my sorrows.  I need a reality check – a real reality check, where my soul can honestly know sorrow and at the same time know constant rejoicing – practiced rejoicing – a rejoicing that is rooted in Reality because it is rooted in Christ because I am rooted in Christ.  And being in Christ, faith comes forth – faith in the resurrection, faith in the vindication, faith in the perfect work of the One who puts me in the fire, removing dross, to make the glory more pure.

Lex Orandi Lex Credendi

I recently heard a good story.  A pastor from one of our sister churches, one whose service of worship is very much like ours, said, “ - A young lady (18 or 19 years old) that has been attending our church, after coming pretty much weekly for 5 or 6 months recently said, "You know, when I started coming here, I knew I didn't believe any of this Christianity stuff, but I really liked the people, they were so joyful and nice. Just the other day, when someone asked me what I believed about something, a line from the Nicene Creed just sort of came right out of my mouth, and I realized, Hey, I believe all that stuff now. I don't know what happened. I just sort of realized it was all true." 

First of all, something for all of us to learn.  Love and joy, fellowship and simple hospitality manners always goes much further in capturing the affections and attentions of visitors, and even of the lost, than we can ever imagine.  People are won or lost to our congregation primarily by how they are treated and what they perceive of our love for one another and not immediately by our creed, our style of worship, or other formal things.

Second of all, there was a principle at work in this woman’s life that is true for all of us as well.  The law of prayer is the law of belief. Lex orandi, lex credendi. The way we worship shapes the way we think. And the way we grow up worshiping shapes the way we will live for the rest of our lives.  The truth is that our liturgy displays the gospel.  The shape of the liturgy shapes the way we believe. 

God teaches us every Lord’s Day what the rest of life is to look like.  He calls us all together to be a unified and holy community, this is why we are brought together, confronted with our sins and called to confess our sins at the very beginning—we do this because this is a foundational bedrock to the kingdom.  There must be peace, there must be reconciliation, there must be forgiveness, there must be a coming together in unity and love.  And then, once the family is united, and all sin is taken care of, he then begins to instruct us with his Word.  Then we seek his throne of grace, where we find a Father that is eager to answer us and bring judgments upon the world because of our requests and cries.  From His Word we are given the knowledge and wisdom from above, we are shown the way of life and righteousness.  After this our Father calls us to his table where he renews covenant with us, demonstrates his love,  nourishes and strengthens us, so we might go out into the world and fulfill our calling by his grace.  And once he has ministered to us in this way, he then lifts up his hands and sends us out with his blessing to go and bring to the nations the grace we have received.  Christian, you have been summoned to worship…

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

I Believe - Nicene Creed

As we gather to worship, we will confess together what we believe and are presently using the Nicene Creed.  The Greek word which is translated “I believe” has more depth to it than you might at first notice.  The word indicates far more than simple intellectual assent.  It can be translated “I trust” or “I have faith.”

“I believe” therefore has more demands than a simple set of intellectual ideas.  We are saying, “We trust in God the Father Almighty, Maker of Heaven and earth.  And so, when we confess our belief in God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, we are at that moment rendering praise and worship to God, fealty to serve Him as He has declared – and this makes saying the creeds together in the worship service a well-suited function. 

After confessing our sins, hearing again that we are forgiven and clean in Jesus Christ, and then walking through a statement of faith with hearts full of trust in the One we are describing, there ought to be a growing anticipation and impatience, a holy impatience – to get to the next Psalm to sing and to enter into the worship of so great and holy, so merciful and forgiving, so glorious and majestic a God as our God is.

He is here for He has called you, His children, to come and worship Him in Spirit and truth.  He intends to meet with you, to hear your prayers, to receive your worship, to sing and delight with you in covenant renewal.  He intends to feed you, to nurture you, to knit you together, and to send you out in the power of His name.  And so, in Jesus’ name – let’s get to it.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

All Worshippers Are Sinners

Whenever you preach on the subject of Homosexuality, which I will be doing this Lord’s Day, you lay yourself open to the charge of bigotry and homophobia.  But the only reason we have come here to worship God is because we all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.  The question is never whether you have sinned, but which sins have you committed, which manifestation of your sinfulness has been revealed in your thoughts, words, and deeds.

And so all worshippers of the true God are sinners.  Some are heterosexual sinners and some are homosexual sinners and some have lusted in their hearts over non-sexual temptations.  To call homosexuality a sin does not narrow the definition of sinner.  We are all sinners and we are all under the wrath of God unless we find ourselves in a place where a Propitiation of that wrath has occurred for us.

And sometimes those who practice homosexuality make the claim that they did not choose to be homosexuals; they claim it is their natural tendency.  Well, welcome to the fallen race.  All of us are bent to sin, some to this kind of sin, some to another.  But put the law before us and “poof” there are particular sins which will begin to manifest themselves.  Homosexual tendencies are no excuse for homosexual sin any more than violent tendencies are an excuse for outbursts of anger and violence.  It just means that we sin because we are by nature sinners.

Now this also means that we have no excuse, those of us who have no temptations in the homosexual kind of sin, to reject homosexuals as less than us in any way.  We all sin and we all fall short of God’s glory.  And this also means that if you are sitting here and you have temptations towards homosexuality you are welcome here – welcome to come to Jesus Christ with all of us sinners – and find grace and help for us all in our times of need.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Why Recite Creeds?

A few more thoughts on Creeds as we take on the reciting of the Nicene Creed in the weeks ahead.  Many of you may have grown up or been a part of churches that do not hold to creeds.  They complain they are extra-biblical, not from the scriptures.  They confidently declare, “No creed but Christ:  that’s my confession of faith.”  It can appear more pure than those who hold to statements that are not directly from scripture – but a closer look reveals the problem.

In fact, just yesterday I was approached by a Jehovah’s Witness who wanted to share with me words of peace and hope.  Now he claims to be a follower of Christ.  What happens if we simply agree on Christ without any definition.  Who is this Christ?  Was He really God?  Was He fully God or was He only partly divine?  Was He the Son of God and therefore not God?  And how does this make any sense?  James writes in 2:14, “You believe that there is one God.  You do well.  Even the demons believe – and tremble”

And so, when someone says they have “no creed but Christ” they may think it sounds tolerant and wise, but it is neither.  It is not only unwise, but it is actually arrogant and foolish.  There is value in listening to the words of learned men who have helped us to understand the scriptures over centuries.  Of course, we believe the Scriptures to be the only final and infallible authority for our faith and practice – but even when I say that, I am recalling a statement that comes from a confession – because it is helpful.

Learning the creeds help prepare you to answer for your faith.  So what exactly do you believe when you say you are a Christian, you can ask someone from a cult.  And when you are asked, you can say something intelligible, helpful, and pointed.  And so join with the church, our church, and the church of this gospel age, in declaring the truth of Jesus Christ to the world in desperate need of salvation.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Constant Need for Christ

Coming to the Table reminds us of our constant, ever-present need for Christ.  It’s not that we need to be saved again, but that while it is true that salvation is a one-time event, it is also a process that we are all going through.  We have been saved and we are being saved – and Christ is the means to that salvation from beginning to end, from faith to faith, and from grace to grace.  All of us, and all of our families are, by the grace of God, on just that journey.  That is why we come to the Table.
In the midst of great answers to prayer, we gather together at this Table in faith.  In the midst of ongoing trials, we gather together at this Table in faith.  In the midst of everything God gives us – all of us are fellow sinners, fellow saints because of Christ alone, and fellow sojourners on the journey He has given to us to walk.  The only requirement for coming to this Table is submission to Jesus Christ which is the gift of God – and this is the only requirement for being in deep and abiding fellowship with Him and with one another.