Friday, November 24, 2006

Exhortation-Thinking Like a Christian

One of the issues that we try to emphasize in our church is thinking like a Christian. That is much easier said than done. All around us there is an attempt to get us to think like the world. And this attempt is often more successful than we like to admit. We often raise alarms against the attempts. We are disgusted by the world’s systems and its desire to allure us into its clutches. All around us are images, sounds, smells and tastes that draw us in, that frame our way of thinking. It feels worldly but we are so caught up in the center of it, that we are often unable to tell what exactly it is that feels so worldly.

I believe that the reason this is the case is because we have not been trained to think like Christians. From our earliest days, we have been programmed to think according to our culture. If our culture is particularly Christian, then our tendencies lean in that direction. If our culture lurches away from the Christian faith, then Christians lurch with it towards the world. It is a true lurching but since the entire center shifts, Christians find themselves at the right of what use to be the left. This is true of conservative politics, as well. What we now call moderate conservatives, would have been the right wing liberals just fifty years ago. Many modern conservatives are pro-homosexual, pro-abortion, pro-big government. What we now call a conservative, isn’t.

This sort of thing is rapidly sweeping modern evangelicalism in America. Modern evangelicals are beginning to embrace (perhaps already have embraced), the extreme relativism of the liberal movement of the 1920’s. Gresham Machen articulated this clearly in his book Christianity & Liberalism, first published in 1923. He outlines liberalism as a rejection of historic Christianity. This is significant because Machen was attacking the prevailing views of his own denomination. He was a Presbyterian. It appears that his fight was with the creeping scientism of his day. That is, science trumps the infallibility of Scripture, so we better get our doctrines lined up with science. Out with miracles, then, the virgin birth and the bodily resurrection of Jesus must go.

Today, even science is not king. In my opinion, culture is now king. Our authorities have become teenagers with an attitude. And this adolescence is drinking at the fountain of youth, so the teenager does not grow up when he hits 20. At 30, 40, and 50, he is still cool.

But what is culture? Well, a loose definition is simply what a given group of people in fact believe and practice. So, you could have any number of cultures, vast or broad. A national culture, a local church culture, a family culture and so on. What strikes me as odd in this, is that there seems to be no driving mechanism of our current culture. This is as true in the political realm as it is in the church. The shifting nature of the culture is the determinate factor of the next shift. It is like an ocean liner adrift without engines or a rudder. It simply blows where it will and wherever it blows is somehow, inexplicably, declared the right place to be. Perhaps it is not culture, per se, that drives the ship but, rather, the logical end of strict democratic government. The people have become god.

This is what happens to a culture that sails without a destination, without a map, without a navigational system, without a captain. In our culture, when the mapmakers actually do arrive, they get hooted out as representing a place that either cannot be a real place or one that certainly can never actually be achieved. So, out with the mapmaker and his map. Back to sailing, if you can call it that, at the mercy of the winds. The fates again direct the aimless wandering of the ill-fated crew.

The modern evangelical church is no help. At the risk of getting tossed off the ship, instead of maps, they offer advice. Their advice is appreciated, sort of, but never followed and the ship continues wandering aimlessly.

I started this exhortation thinking about thinking like a Christian. How do we do that? We are all on this ship. It is going where it is going. We cannot get off. What do we do? We need a new culture but we cannot change the one we are in.

So, we must grow a new one from within. We must be subversive in the greatest possible way. We must overthrow the crew. As long as the ship is sailed by the captain’s orders, and it always is, total victory is our only recourse. We offer a simply solution. Look at the map. Steer the ship. Arrive at port. But we have an advantage over our adversaries. We have time. We have homes. We have spouses. We have children. We can teach our children to read maps. We can raise a new captain. We can get to port.

We have begun this task. We are raising our children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. We have high expectations of our children, of our marriages, and of honoring God in our worship. We are learning the Word of God and that it applies to every area of life, church, family, work, government, cooking, art, education, and recreation. We reject every form of liberalism, changing the Word of God to suit man. Christ came to make us new, to renew us and to change us into His image. He inaugurated a New Heavens and a New Earth. Behold all things are made new. Therefore, we reject liberalism, conservatism, evangelicalism and every other ism. For all isms are merely new gods in old clothes. But we stand on the authority of the Word of God, inspired, infallible and able to change body and soul into the image of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Our culture has too long had a strangle hold on us. By God’s grace, we are prying its death grip from the throats of our children. May He teach us, and them, to rise above the prevailing wisdom of the day, to a bolder and higher calling. But not one that is couched merely in such politically sounding meaningless words as that last sentence. No, our calling is in Christ and Him crucified. His death is the only hope of life for such a hopeless culture. Our meandering must stop as we anchor to Him. Perhaps, by His grace, He will sink the ship we are on, baptizing it to new life and set it sailing again, powered by the Holy Spirit, directed toward the port of last call, Eschaton Bay. They are building a cathedral there.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Exhortation-Give Thanks

Dear brothers and sisters, it is Thanksgiving week and we are to give thanks. We do not a thanks to the air nor to no one in general, but rather, a we give thanks and a praise to our God who has been good to us. David has penned a glorious thanksgiving for us in 1 Chron 16:7-36. Let us give thanks together as we read it and let us remember this week to be thankful, not complaining, not grumbling, not pessimistic, but rather, thankful.

1Chron. 16:7-36 Then on that day David delivered first this psalm to thank the LORD into the hand of Asaph and his brethren. 8 Give thanks unto the LORD, call upon his name, make known his deeds among the people. 9 Sing unto him, sing psalms unto him, talk ye of all his wondrous works. 10 Glory ye in his holy name: let the heart of them rejoice that seek the LORD. 11 Seek the LORD and his strength, seek his face continually.

12 Remember his marvellous works that he hath done, his wonders, and the judgments of his mouth; 13 O ye seed of Israel his servant, ye children of Jacob, his chosen ones. 14 He is the LORD our God; his judgments are in all the earth.
15 Be ye mindful always of his covenant; the word which he commanded to a thousand generations; 16 Even of the covenant which he made with Abraham, and of his oath unto Isaac; 17 And hath confirmed the same to Jacob for a law, and to Israel for an everlasting covenant, 18 Saying, Unto thee will I give the land of Canaan, the lot of your inheritance; 19 When ye were but few, even a few, and strangers in it. 20 And when they went from nation to nation, and from one kingdom to another people; 21 He suffered no man to do them wrong: yea, he reproved kings for their sakes, 22 Saying, Touch not mine anointed, and do my prophets no harm.

23 Sing unto the LORD, all the earth; shew forth from day to day his salvation. 24 Declare his glory among the heathen; his marvellous works among all nations. 25 For great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised: he also is to be feared above all gods. 26 For all the gods of the people are idols: but the LORD made the heavens. 27 Glory and honour are in his presence; strength and gladness are in his place. 28 Give unto the LORD, ye kindreds of the people, give unto the LORD glory and strength. 29 Give unto the LORD the glory due unto his name: bring an offering, and come before him: worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness. 30 Fear before him, all the earth: the world also shall be stable, that it be not moved. 31 Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice: and let men say among the nations, The LORD reigneth. 32 Let the sea roar, and the fulness thereof: let the fields rejoice, and all that is therein. 33 Then shall the trees of the wood sing out at the presence of the LORD, because he cometh to judge the earth. 34 O give thanks unto the LORD; for he is good; for his mercy endureth for ever.

35 And say ye, Save us, O God of our salvation, and gather us together, and deliver us from the heathen, that we may give thanks to thy holy name, and glory in thy praise. 36 Blessed be the LORD God of Israel for ever and ever. And all the people said, Amen, and praised the LORD.

Dear Christian, we are thankful but sometimes it is easy to not be thankful. It is easy to forget. It is easy to be grumpy and complaining. When we are this way, we must see our danger and turn again to the Lord.

Communion Meditation-Thanksgiving

As we gather around our tables this coming Thursday, let us be thankful. It is good that our nation takes a day to remember to be thankful. For, remembering to be thankful is the only way that we actually are thankful. We teach our children this. If someone gives them a piece of candy or a kind word, it is not thankfulness to enjoy eating the candy or to relish in the kind word. It may be nothing more than greediness or self-righteousness or pride. But when a child or an adult says, “Thank you, I appreciate that very much,” then they are being thankful. When this happens, instead of a mindset of entitlement to the good done to them, a humility of self is both generated and conveyed. This is primarily the case because thanksgiving makes us aware of the grace and mercy of the giver. We do not deserve the candy or the praise but it is given anyway. When we realize this, thanksgiving ought always to be the response. To fail to recognize this is the beginning of forgetfulness, the creeping in of self-righteousness and an entitlement mindset that makes all of one’s problems somebody else’s fault. Folks, we Christians must not go there.

How will we ever learn this lesson so that it fills up our whole souls and flows out from us with an ever-gushing stream of thankfulness? I know just the place. We gather here each Lord’s Day. We get to eat and drink the life of Christ. We are invited to do this by the Holy God, the Creator of the universe, of man, the world and all that is in the world. We are brought here as friends of Jesus Christ, collectively, we are the very bride of Christ. He sends His Holy Spirit so that we have the presence of Jesus with us until the ends of the world. And….we don’t deserve to be here. We are not holy, like Jesus, at least not without Jesus. We are not God’s perfect children, at least not apart from our connection to His Son, in Whom He is well pleased. We are not royalty, at least not until betrothed, engaged and wed to Christ as His Church. We are not eternal beings, at least not until filled with the everlasting Spirit of God.

But here we sit each week, welcome, well-fed, full of promise, full of joy. And the only thing we can do as recipients of such a great blessing is to give thanks. To fail to do so is most rude. To not see the need to do so is near damnable. But to give thanks and to receive, even apart from our own worthiness to do so, generates the humility of thanksgiving in us that spreads to every corner of our lives. It all starts here.

So, let us eat and drink with thanksgiving. We give thanks for Jesus, for this covenant meal, for our homes, for our spouses, for our children, for our parents, for our immediate and extended families, for our church, for our elders, for our jobs, for our friends, for our government, for our country, for our state, for our city, and for all things good from God.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

A New Song

A New Song
Sing of God, the Father.
Sing of God, the Son.
Sing of God, the Holy Spirit,
Three in One.
Blessings to His Majesty.
Maker of Heaven and Earth.
Glory to the Incarnate One
With earthly joy and mirth.
And to God’s Breath, we breathe,
Praise, for our new birth.

Communion Meditation-Dangerous Fire

The Lord’s Supper is a dangerous place. Holy places were dangerous in the Old Testament. We sometimes make the mistake of thinking that Holy Places are no longer dangerous. It is no wonder that many defile the sanctuary with their worship. But beware. Touching Holy things when unholy is more dangerous now in the New Covenant than it was in the old.

Heb 12:18-29 18 For ye are not come unto the mount that might be touched, and that burned with fire, nor unto blackness, and darkness, and tempest, 19 And the sound of a trumpet, and the voice of words; which voice they that heard entreated that the word should not be spoken to them any more: 20(For they could not endure that which was commanded, And if so much as a beast touch the mountain, it shall be stoned, or thrust through with a dart: 21 And so terrible was the sight, that Moses said, I exceedingly fear and quake:) 22 But ye are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, 23 To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, 24 And to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel. 25 See that ye refuse not him that speaketh. For if they escaped not who refused him that spake on earth, much more shall not we escape, if we turn away from him that speaketh from heaven: 26 Whose voice then shook the earth: but now he hath promised, saying, Yet once more I shake not the earth only, but also heaven. 27 And this word, Yet once more, signifieth the removing of those things that are shaken, as of things that are made, that those things which cannot be shaken may remain. 28 Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear: 29 For our God is a consuming fire.

All those who were unholy and who touched the mountain, died. This is frightening because our mountain is more holy, if you will. Our firey God attends this altar still. If you come to His mountain, this holy place, you might die. But if you refuse to come, you will most assuredly die.

So, while coming is frought with potential danger, not coming is guaranteed danger. The only logical thing to do, then, is to come.

But we do not come with trepidation and fear, wondering if we will die or live. That is not the point at all. We come as friends of Jesus Christ. We come as the children of God. We come as vessels cleansed by the fire of God’s Spirit. We come, not fearful of our own unworthiness. We admit that. We come, dressed in Christ, who is worthy. We come, believing God, because He says, “Come and welcome.” And because we are His holy vessels, His Holy Fire, taken and eaten here, is the guarantor of further purification. The Supper exposes, but for good to those who are the beloved, those who are called according to the purpose of God. And this should make us want to come.


In the Old Testament, touching unclean things made one unclean.
Lev 5:2-3 2 Or if a soul touch any unclean thing, whether it be a carcase of an unclean beast, or a carcase of unclean cattle, or the carcase of unclean creeping things, and if it be hidden from him; he also shall be unclean, and guilty.

And the unclean were not allowed to touch hallowed things or holy things.
Lev 12:4 4 And she shall then continue in the blood of her purifying three and thirty days; she shall touch no hallowed thing, nor come into the sanctuary, until the days of her purifying be fulfilled.

Very interestingly, when the sin offering touched anything, it made it holy.
Lev 6:27 27 Whatsoever shall touch the flesh thereof shall be holy: and when there is sprinkled of the blood thereof upon any garment, thou shalt wash that whereon it was sprinkled in the holy place.

In the New Testament, things are a bit different. There are no things that are unclean in and of themselves. As Paul says,
Rom 14:14 14 I know, and am persuaded by the Lord Jesus, that there is nothing unclean of itself: but to him that esteemeth any thing to be unclean, to him it is unclean.

But, we are still to keep ourselves clean in Christ. There is filthiness in the world that the Christian ought not to be tangled up in and we are to be cleansed from filthiness.
2 Cor 6:17-7:1 17 Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing (aligning yourselves with unbelievers, marrying an unbeliever); and I will receive you, 18 And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty. 7:1 Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.

It is not the things, themselves, but the heart of man. Sin is not outside of us. It is in us, in the will when we disobey. We do not become clean by cleaning the outside of the cup.
Col 2:20-23 20 Wherefore if ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances, 21(Touch not; taste not; handle not; 22 Which all are to perish with the using;) after the commandments and doctrines of men? 23 Which things have indeed a shew of wisdom in will worship, and humility, and neglecting of the body; not in any honour to the satisfying of the flesh.

We are in earthen vessels, our fallen bodies, struggling against sin and the disease and death of sin, but there is hope. For all those who touch Jesus are cleansed.
Matt 9:21 21 For she said within herself, If I may but touch his garment, I shall be whole. And others, Matt 14:36 36 …besought him that they might only touch the hem of his garment: and as many as touched were made perfectly whole.

Also, whomever Jesus touches is cleansed.
Mark 8:22-25 22 And he cometh to Bethsaida; and they bring a blind man unto him, and besought him to touch him. 23 And he took the blind man by the hand, and led him out of the town; and when he had spit on his eyes, and put his hands upon him, he asked him if he saw ought. 24 And he looked up, and said, I see men as trees, walking. 25 After that he put his hands again upon his eyes, and made him look up: and he was restored, and saw every man clearly.
Mark 10:13-16 13 And they brought young children to him, that he should touch them: and his disciples rebuked those that brought them. 16 And he took them up in his arms, put his hands upon them, and blessed them.

But, touching Christ, now, or being touched by Him, His blood, sanctifies us so that we can approach the most Holy without fear.
Heb 9:13-14 13 For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh: 14 How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?

This is wonderful promise and ought to remind us of the need to confess our sins and to be touched by Jesus so that we are cleansed and made whole.