Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Lord of the Strong Drink

Our God is the Lord of the Strong Drink, and this Table is a Table of a potent and dangerous meal.  In Isaiah 19:14, the prophet says that God has mixed a dizzying drink for Egypt that has caused Egypt to stumble and then stagger in its own vomit.

This is not a pleasant picture but it is relevant to this Table.  According to Paul, this table can be a place of dizzying judgment as well.  In Corinth, some were sick and some even died because they came to this table full of envy and divisions.  If you are bitter towards your husband, if you are estranged from your brother or sister because they have sinned and refused to seek reconciliation or because you have sinned and refused to seek reconciliation – beware – this meal will make you sick.

Some, Paul warned, are sick and die because they come to communion when they are out of communion.  But this Table provides the solution as well.  Here, the Lord provides a Spiritual drink that is a spiritual emetic.  This becomes a Table of joy because, through the fiery Spirit of Pentecost, the Father purges our inner parts.  This wine is a mix of the wine of the Spirit and the blood of the Son and it is given to purge us of our remaining filth within to make us so that we might be saved.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Ongoing Martyrdom

We gather together here for the public worship of God our Father and His Son, Jesus, Who reigns over all of heaven and earth.  We declare this proudly and gratefully and today we proclaim this truth with no fear of persecution.  But throughout the world and throughout the history of the church there have been and are places where bearing the name of Jesus has meant certain death.

This is the story of martyrdom.  To be a martyr is to be a witness, a testimony, to the Lordship of Jesus over all things.  This week the headlines in the news included the story of 21 Coptic Christians beheaded by ISIS thugs simply for bearing the name “Christian.”  The murderers made clear that they were executing these men because they were “followers of the Cross.”  Persecution of Christians for their faith is alive and well and we should be very aware of this truth.

Some have asked if these Coptic Christians were actually martyred given the fact that we would probably consider them to have some very unorthodox views on the Person of Jesus Christ.  And while it is true that we would have some strong disagreements on very important doctrines of the faith, it cannot go unnoticed that these men were beheaded for refusing to renounce Jesus, even if they were confused about Him at some level.

For twenty-one centuries now, the testimony of the church has rocked the world of unbelief – unbelief of all kinds.  This has occurred while the church herself has been slowly growing up, maturing in her understanding of what God has given to her.  And we are far from done.  In the midst of the work of the kingdom, the Lord asks each one of us, each one of you, whether you will follow Him or not.  Will you pick up your cross, deny yourself, mortify your own flesh, and follow Him to Jerusalem, to Gethsemane, to the Cross, to the grave, so that you might follow Him out of the tomb and into eternal life?

You are called to be faithful even if that faithfulness means faithful unto martyrdom.  And you are called now to come and worship this Christ that splits the world in two and renew your vows of faithfulness to Him because of His faithfulness to you. 

Friday, February 20, 2015

When Women Fear

"In that day Egypt will be like women, and will be afraid and fear because of the waving of the hand of the LORD of hosts, which He waves over it." - Isaiah 19:16

This "fear" is not necessarily a sign of weakness but of wisdom.  While he may be speaking of a fear which non-warriors have when they are attacked and have no means at all of protecting themselves, something else may be going on here.  For consider what this "fear" brings about:

"In that day five cities in the land of Egypt will speak the language of Canaan and swear by the LORD of hosts;..." - Isaiah 19:18

That fear of Judah and Judah's God drives them to Judah's God.  The fear of a woman, Rahab, drove her family to the God of Israel (Joshua 2:8-11).  This was an efficacious fear, a wise fear, a fear we should wish upon all unbelievers of the true God and His ways.

This is a fear which is the delight of the LORD - "His delight is in the fear of the LORD" Isaiah 11:3

Because this is a fear that leads to salvation.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Egypt's False Fortresses

Egypt, like Judah, hopes in the wrong things.  And through this judgment, God is not only again teaching Judah to forsake turning to allies in order to protect herself.  He also uses Egypt as an example of what not to put your trust in.

vv1-4:  False Religions, False Gods, Idols

vv5-10:  Natural Resources

vv11-15:  False Wisdom, whether man-centered, or demon-centered

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Ash Wednesday, 2015

I am not a partaker of Lent.  Wilson sums up how I feel about Lent well - here

But, if I were to make a case for Lent, I would stand strongly with Sumpter - here

I love the church.  I am grateful for these pastors and for the CREC.  And I am thankful for the ongoing work of reformation.  More of it!!

Isaiah's Prophetic Preaching

Chapter 19 of Isaiah displays the powerful work of prophetic preaching (Webb):  judgment and salvation.

In 19:1-15, in Hebrew poetry, Isaiah sings the LORD's coming to Egypt in order to visit devastating judgment upon her.  But in vv16-25, in prose, he declares through prophecy that Egypt will repent and turn to the God of Israel.  In fact, she will be declare to be "Egypt, My people" (v25).

Centuries before, Egypt was told to "let my people go!"  Great judgments fell upon her then, judgments from which Egypt never fully recovered.  But God's judgments are efficacious and even more so in this Gospel Age.  Judgments are the means by which He turns nations to Himself or back to Himself.  Sometimes it begins with only a remnant.  But it always and eventually runs the course of leaven in a lump.  "Egypt, My people."  "Assyria, the work of  My hands."

Why not, "America, My people?"  Lord, have mercy.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Death and Resurrection....and my death

Wilson writes, "...without the new birth you cannot have the church...The new birth has a predicate, and that predicate is death - death to sin, death to self, death to striving ambition, and death to lordly pride." - AC, p78.

One rabbit trail meditation I have had on these ideas is the difficulty of shepherding those who are dying, literally dying, and their loved ones as they watch these brothers and sisters die.  We all deal with the "why does this have to happen" as the body withers away often with much pain, always with much grief.

Jesus said that if we wanted to follow Him we had to take up our crosses, we had to die daily, we had to mortify the flesh, and follow Him.  And so, as disciples, we seek to do so each day.  But so much of what we do each day is practicing for the real game; the day we actually die.  In that day, no matter how well we have fought the flesh, our pride, the devil, the world, we will find that we will really, really win the battle.  But in order to win that battle, we will have to die.  

And in that victorious death we will find ourselves following Christ, our bodies to the grave for now waiting to follow Him in the resurrection, and our spirits up and into His presence.  It will be for us a day of victory and of rest.

Paul:  "for me to live is Christ; and to die is gain."

Monday, February 16, 2015

Make the Fire Burn Hotter

"Evangelical experience is born from the Word, and the Word will cause that experience to seek out the constraints placed upon it by the Word.  This need not be a quenching of the Spirit - in the early rounds, it is the Spirit quenching us.  A proper bounding of the fire is done in such a way as to enable the fire to burn hotter." - Wilson, AC, p78

And so we give ourselves with faith to the worship of the Covenant Renewal service.  Not faith in the service, mind you, but faith in God Who has promised to work in that service.  And not faith in God as one might have in a genie in a bottle; there is no controlling this God and His actions, His timing, His manners and devices.  He is Lord and God of all.

But we want the fire to burn hotter.  And with holy impatience, we want it now.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

The New Solomon's Table

Solomon was the son of David and David had been promised that his son would sit on an everlasting throne over all nations.  Solomon, for all his wisdom, acted foolishly and married wives from many nations, wives who led him into idolatry with the gods of those nations.  His table was a table of nations but a table full of unclean demons from the wicked nations of men.

But another Son of David came.  Rather than marry many wives and fall to their gods, this Son of David came and took one bride, but she was from many nations, a bride who brings the nations away from their false gods and to the living God, the One true God of Israel.  The table of this Son of David is table of nations as well, but a table of nations subdued, cleansed and renewed in loyalty to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Look up and see – look out and see – the nations are being gathered into this Table and to the one true Bridegroom.  This is a taste of the great Wedding Feast to come.

Friday, February 13, 2015

The Public Worship of Jesus

Believing in Jesus Christ as the Son of God and Lord of the earth is not a matter of private personal opinion.  It is impossible to simply believe in Jesus down in my heart.  To believe in Jesus only down in my heart is to disbelieve in the Jesus of the Scriptures.

Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ is a matter of public obedience to divine revelation.  If Jesus Christ is not Lord of all then He is not Lord at all.  And so, while it is true that you must believe in Jesus Christ down in your heart, that is, sincerely and without reservation, that believing must be a matter of public testimony that Jesus is King.

That is why the first thing we do to declare our loyalty to the promises of God is to receive baptism and to do so publicly.  That is why the first thing we do every first day of each new week is to gather publicly before all nations and their rulers, and declare the crown rights of Jesus Christ.  We do so openly.  We do so inviting all to come and receive the forgiveness we have been given.  We do so declaring the Prince of Peace and the only way for all reconciliation to actually occur between men and nations.  But we do so uncompromisingly, unapologetically, forcefully, triumphantly, and thankfully.

This is what you have been summoned to do now – by the grace of God and in the power, the saving power for the whole world, of the Holy Spirit.  Come and worship our God.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

When Did Your Conversion Take Place?

This can be a very scary question for children growing up in covenant homes.  They cannot remember a time that they didn't consider themselves a Christian, a follower of Christ.  If their parents have been consistent in their covenant upbringing, they have never known a time that their parents refused to bring them to the Table as covenant members of Christ.  They were small saplings and there may not have been fruit, but only because the branches were too small to hold any.  But that is no reason not to feed the sapling and believe that it will grow up and bear fruit - and as covenant parents to do all you can to make that as easy and natural (or supernatural) as possible.

We do not have to have Damascus road type conversions in order to know that we are saved.  Timothy was taught the Scriptures from his earliest recollection, raised as a covenant member from the beginning.  Douglas Wilson is fond of saying you don't have to know what time the sun rose to know that it is up (Wilson, AC, p71).

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Tares in the Wheat Field and Branches on the Vine

It turns out that there are two ways (at least) to consider the kingdom of God.  One is to understand that there are tares in the wheat field that are really tares and really not wheat.  They will be pulled up at the harvest, set aside and burned.  They seem to have no ontological wheatness in them.

But then there are the branches in the vine that do not bear fruit, are cut out and burned.  They really were branches, really united to the vine, and really partook of ontological branchness.

Sometimes those who are sons of Abraham are really sons of Abraham in one way and really sons of the devil in another way.  Sometimes one's uncircumcision is circumcision to God and one's circumcision is uncircumcision.  You have to watch and listen closely.  But not because God wants to make this harder to understand.  He wants to make a point about hearts and the absolute necessity of the new birth.

"God is perfect, but He is no perfectionist.  He likes to mess with our heads.  I suggest we let Him" - Wilson, AC, p70

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Rotten Eggs

Wilson says it well - 
"It is not possible to make a good omelet with rotten eggs.  The new birth deals with the eggs.  The church, whenever she is not animated by the regenerating Spirit of God, tries to fix the problematic omelet by means of kitchen upgrades, better recipes, graduate studies for the cooks, and more." - Wilson, AC, p68.

And so the issue is the regenerating Spirit of God; He is what makes the difference.  Eggs which are rotten need to be made new, and no amount of whisking is going to change anything.  

And so what is that church above to do?  She cannot fix the problem and she cannot whistle up the Holy Spirit.  All that is left is to cry out to God.  And of course, when that occurs from hearts that have been made contrite it turns out the Spirit has already come.