Sunday, July 29, 2007

Exhortation-Loving God

We like to flatter ourselves that ourselves that our faith is believing and that believing somehow means simply hearing or assenting. But the Scriptures hold us to a much higher standard.

1 John 4:20-21 20 If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen? 21 And this commandment have we from him, That he who loveth God love his brother also.

You cannot love God and hate your brother. Even here, we flatter ourselves, thinking that we do not have ill, seething feelings towards our brother. But hatred often does not look like ill, seething emotions or even words. Sometimes it comes out in calm or even flattering speech.
Some Christians so flatter themselves that if they SAY nice things then they must be nice. And if they are nice, then they must somehow be a disciple of Jesus. This is the ‘good people’ theory. They are just ‘good people’. But God does not allow for this kind of hypocrisy when the same lips that utter nice words in order to be heard by certain people also utter despising words to other people.

Also, when someone fancies themselves spiritual because they can write spiritual words, God is not mocked when that same person is attracted the world’s allurements, whether money, beautiful things, power, sex, prestige, honor at the world’s table, or many other sins. God sees. God knows. It is just that a hypocrite doesn’t really care if God sees or God knows. They are only playing their game for the eyes of watching men. This is why this person has a hard time being obedient when the restraints of coercive power are removed. When mother and father, husband, minister or friends stop applying the pressure to do what is right, they slip off into sinful behavior, proving what their heart was all along.

We are all prone to this kind of sin. I am not saying that we are all hypocrites but it is true that without God’s ordained means of grace and authority, we would be much more likely to fall into these kinds of sins. We need the authority of fathers and mothers, husbands, ministers and friends to keep us from following our sinful inclinations. These are God’s means of grace to us. But we also need to realize our own sinful inclinations, confess them and repent of them. So that, when we find ourselves free from any coercive powers, we then choose to do what is right because it is right, because it pleases the Lord, because we are following the Holy Spirit.

James 1:22 22 But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.

Brothers and sisters, do not be deceived, love of God reveals itself in your behavior. That love is expressly revealed by loving your closest neighbors. If you want to measure how much you love God, all you have to do is see how you treat your wife or husband, your children, your parents. To the extent that you have not loved them well, you have not loved Him well. So, let us confess our lack of love of God for our lack of love for them that God may forgive us and enable us to love deeply, as Jesus loved, giving Himself a sacrifice for others.

Communion Mediation-Head and Body

Lately, we have been talking a great deal about being in fellowship with the saints, serving them, loving them. It is what we emphasize repeatedly here at the Lord’s Table, Communion, the Eucharistic meal. We are to be in fellowship with God and with His people. The one loaf signifies not only the broken body of Jesus, broken for us, but also the body of Jesus shared communally with all of us. Our unity in Jesus is a reality. Jesus is the one loaf but we also are the one loaf. He is the head of the body, the church, but we are the body of Christ, the church. The one loaf represents Christ, head and body.

Now, something is powerfully wrong when there are divisions and strife in the body of Christ. What is supposed to be a unified body becomes a divided body. This is what was happening in Corinth when the apostle Paul warned that some of them were sick and even had died because of how they partook of the Lord’s Supper.

The supper is a wonderful gift to the church, a place and an action wherein we receive the thing signified in the sign. We receive Jesus as we eat and drink together. How shameful is it when we parcel Him out, only wanting certain portions of the body of Christ, receiving some and not others, maintaining bitterness, withholding forgiveness, thinking of oneself above others. These are the kinds of sins, the not discerning the Lord’s Body, that was a great problem in the Corinthian Church. They did not recognize that the gathered saints were the earthly manifestation of Christ with us. This is a very great sin and one that we ought not to make.

So, it is fitting that we look around, that we see who is here, that we rejoice with them for partaking in Jesus. It is good for us to let all pretenses go at this meal, to humble ourselves before the Lord as unworthy in ourselves to even be here. And yet rejoicing that He has invited the likes of us to partake of this great meal with Jesus. If we are humble this way, if we see this rightly, then it is easy for us to esteem others more highly than ourselves. When we do this, we have become like Jesus, which is the goal of our Christian faith, which is the great blessing of this meal.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Communion Meditation-Spilt Wine

Spilt milk does not disinherit one from the family. In some families, spilt milk means no dinner. But that is to the shame of that sort of father.

What spilt milk ought to mean is that the child needs milk. They are little and the cup is too big, or they are have a hard time paying attention to all the details, or they are just too clumsy.
But even fathers spill milk, too. But they almost always do so with an excuse. “Oops, my fingers are all buttery from the corn.” Or, with a cross look at an adjacent and innocent child, “Who put my cup right there?”

My question to you is, “Who is causing schism at the family table when milk is spilt by a little toddler? The child or the angry father? It is manifestly NOT the child.

Spilt milk, spilt happily, displays the unity of the family. It displays the welcome of children and the maturity of mother and father, brothers and sisters. Instead of thinking, “I can’t believe Billy would disrespect our table that way!”, everyone should be thinking, with a smile on their face, “I remember when I used to do that almost every night.”

My wife mentioned to a visitor, how she loves to see the wine on the pages of our communion songs. She received a bit of a surprised look. I suppose Presbyterians ought not to spill their wine on the Psalter.

But we ought not to cry over spilt wine. In fact, we ought to laugh and remember when we were just babies and wine was something we had to get used to. We ought to remember when it was hard to hold it and hard to wait for everybody else. But then we learned to discern the Lord’s body. And when we saw them waiting, we waited, too, because we knew that we were of them. And we ought to remember the times we were cross at the spilt wine and had to repent because we caused a little one to stumble.

But Jesus is kind to us. He gives us bread. He gives us wine. He gives us each other. He gives us little children and He builds our faith to be like their’s. So, let us eat and drink, crumble and dribble, drop and spill, grow and mature, all to His glory.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Potter Putter

The other day, Leah and I were engrossed in our HP books. Our five year old Calvin was watching us, sort of sad at the loss of his playmates.

He disapparated.

After a while we hear Rebecca question him upstairs, "How do you like Harry Potter, Cal?"

"It's good, got throgh the first page at the Dursley's."

He started Harry Potter 1 to see if he can catch up with the family.

Harry Potter Pages-No Spoilers

Interesting tidbit.

Since last Friday, my family has read 4758 pages of Harry Potter 7, The Deathly Hallows.

Six of eight of us have finished the book. We are eagerly waiting on mom to finish so we can have an all out family discussion.

No spoiler here, it's good.

More to say in a week or two when you all should have finished reading the book.


James 4:1-11 4:1 From whence come wars and fightings among you? come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members? 2 Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not. 3 Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.

Our opening Scripture and prayer spoke of peace. Peace is so wonderful. With peace, we can worship, think, enjoy and love. Peace is the wonderful fruit of maturity. Maturity in a home, maturity in a church, maturity in a business or maturity in a government.

But we have a bit of a problem with the way we seek to obtain peace. We think that peace needs to happen somewhere out there. And in order for it to happen out there, the way to peace is imposed. Peace comes through conflict and conquest. We even have a historic word for it, a Pax Romana, or Roman peace, an imposed peace through strength.

In pagan societies and in devlish behavior, this is true. Peace can be and is imposed from the outside. But that kind of peace only lasts as long as the coercion. Throw off the coercion and revolution and anarchy ensue until another peace is imposed. But in Christ, this entire way of worldly thinking is inverted. Peace is not imposed by the stronger. Rather, it comes by subduing ones own desires, even desires that may be good in themselves. It looks to the good of others, rather than to personal advancement over and above others. Peace is not something that is conquered and obtained. It is something that comes when competing desires are subdued and put in their proper priority and place.

What is the cause of strife among people? Among family members? Among fellow brothers and sisters in Christ in a particular church? Is it not striving? Is it not thinking of yourself foremost and everybody else as also rans? And what if somebody else has something that you desire? Say, a good wife, a nice car, a peaceful home, a seat of honor. What causes your strife with them? Isn’t it the fact that you want what they have? And this causes you to lust to envy? Producing in you all sorts of ungodly, competitive desires?

That is not the way to Christian peace. We do want peace. We want it the way Jesus brought it, through service, self-sacrifice, obedience to the Father’s commands. If we learn this kind of humility, then peace will dwell with us and God will lift us up to the seats of honor. But let it be Him who lifts and not you, yourself. That is the way of the world, the way of the devil and of the flesh. But let us choose the better way, the way of the Spirit, the way of Jesus Christ.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Mimetic Desire

Mimetic Desire, find out about it. More to follow.

As my wise and faithful pastor said, "It's all in Girard."

Exhortation-Loving Discipline

Today, we receive new members into our congregation. The Tuckwiller family, who are members of Christ, are becoming members of this part of the body of Christ. Furthermore, we receive Eden McMaster, through birth and baptism, rebirth, into the body that is Providence Church. We are thankful that our body continues to grow. Growth of the body is a good thing. It makes the body strong, more capable of accomplishment, able to resist disease and sin.

But growth also makes one more capable of sinning, particularly against the family for which one joins. Eden could not have sinned against God or the McMasters a few months ago. But now she is here. She is a gift from God, a tremendous blessing, able to bring joy and delight, laughter and celebration. But she is also fully capable of bringing sadness and sorrow, tears and lamentation.

What will hold her to the former and keep her from the latter? Just this. She has a family. That family belongs to Christ. Therefore she belongs to Christ. This is not something that Eden should fear, as if her father would somehow be a cause of grief to her, instead of blessing. On the contrary, he will love her and teach her how the McMasters live, worship, eat, dress, talk and think. When she disobeys, her father will love her with kindness, hardness, spankings, hugs, tears, forgiveness, restoration, and healing. Without her mother, she would die. Without her father, she would be wanton. Without her brothers and sisters, she would grow eminently self-centered and selfish.

It is not enough for her to say that she has been born into God’s good world. She needs to be born into a godly family and nurtured in all the ways of God through obedience, wisdom, experience and familial expectations. This is a great blessing to her.

I hope you can make all the proper connections to life in the body of Christ. Although the threat of judgment is strong in faithful congregations, the threat of judgment is not the purpose of the relationship. The connection of covenant community is for blessing and not cursing. It is for nurture, growth, accountability, confession, repentance, restoration, healing, service, love, peace and unity. And partly because of the true threat of godly discipline, and the presence of real restorative discipline, all of these wonderful blessings can be enjoyed by the faithful.

Communion Meditation-Wine is Wine

In our bulletin, we say that the wine is wine. That is a true statement. The wine is wine. It almost sounds absurd to say that, the wine is wine, as if we were cracking a joke or something. But nobody in the Christian church seems to think the reverse is funny, the wine is grape juice. Everybody keeps a straight face when that is said. Even though it is a joke. And the kid in the front row who always asks questions just keeps his mouth shut. And the professor rambles ever onward. “You see, this wine was never fermented, so it has a fit use for adults and children. Grape juice, you see, versatile, sweet, able to be swallowed by an adult, loved by children everywhere.”

But in our bulletin it says that the wine is wine. I hear the protests. “But we don’t like wine. It’s too strong. We are not used to it. It makes me gag. It’s a stumbling block. The children are not of age.”

Oh? Who says? Who says that the children cannot partake? Who has made a Christian’s drink and turned it into a drink for kiddees? And who says that children ought not to have wine? Worried schoolmarms? Preachers in skirts? Skirts as preachers? Teetotalers? Prohibitionists? Modern evangelicals? The Bible? Jesus? Who says? By what authority? And who should YOU listen to?

Is it any wonder that the church is so full of babies when we will only give them baby drink? And worse, we won’t even give it to them until they are old enough to not like it so much anymore. But I think that even babies, Christian ones, can hold their wine better than these.

Do not misunderstand me. I am not saying that the church will grow up into maturity if we only start serving wine at communion. But it IS partly true. We need to do what Jesus said to do, everywhere. Even if we do not like it very much. Even if it is strong drink for us. Even if we need to develop a palate worthy of tasting Jesus. Even if the world hates what we do.

We may as well start here.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Letters of Augustin

"..but it is the fact that anything which we are taught by allegory or emblem affects and pleases us more, and is more highly esteemed by us, than it would be if most clearly stated in plain terms." Augustin, Letter 55.21

Preachers harken to the wisdom of Augustin. It is hard work to come up with analogies, metaphors and allegories. Easier to say than paint.

Thank the Lord for the story of Scripture with all of its wonderful pictures.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Non-Fiction is True

Some things are counter-intuitive. That just means that you wouldn't have thought of it if somebody didn't tell you. (Double negatives are cool, too.)

I have neck problems. When my neck hurts, I hold it this way and I do not want to hold it that way. But I've found a great booklet (Treat Your Own Neck, McKenzie) that teaches that you need to exercise your neck that way. It works. But it's counter intuitive. I would not have done so unless somebody told me to.

Fiction as truth is sort of the same thing. It is obvious once you see it but otherwise remains a mystery. Many people assume that fiction means 'not true' but that is simply not true. Granted, there are plenty of fiction writers who write things that are mostly not true. But, here's the deal, nobody reads them. The ones who write things that are true are widely read.

But I thought you said it was fiction? Aren't they making it up?

Well, yes, and no.

Good ficiton writers understand the world and in understanding the world they are able to convey truth in a story, in a character, in a situation. Oftentimes, much better than any non-fiction account of a similarly true event.

As a pastor, I sometimes have the privilege of giving counsel. God-words often bounce off the counselee with the same consistent rebound of return volley that said counselee practices on Sunday morning. But a story has a way to penetrate deep into the soul. Especially if the story, the made up story, is painfully true.

Here's another post but I'll give you a teaser. We cannot understand God's story, the Bible, if we cannot even understand a basic story, say C.S. Lewis's The Chronicles of Narnia. We think we understand the truth statements of the Bible but if we are incapable of understanding stories, we really do not understand the Bible. BECAUSE-the Bible IS a story.