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.