Fun reading

Finished this one recently - a fun read, with some witty Scriptural and classical allusions. I recommend it.

Communion Exhortation - 4/20/08

Sermon theme: watching and praying amidst temptation...

As Jesus watched and prayed in Gethsemane, He asked that He not have to drink the cup of wrath from the Father. But there was no other way to provide us with the cup of blessing.

This bread, this cup of blessing, shows forth His sacrifice and our forgiveness, our acceptance with the Father, as He offers us His cup, at His table. Have you yielded to temptation? You have an advocate with the Father in heaven. The proof of that is the Word you have heard, the Spirit in your heart, and the Table before you. This table is an assurance of our forgiveness where we have stumbled and fallen.

As we receive such assurance, we also take Christ’s life into our own. He resisted temptation. We receive His vitality to stand firm before the devil’s attacks. We are communing with Christ, not simply remembering Him, though we do that, too. This meal is not so much a mental or spiritual work of ours, remembering, focusing, or feeling something going on in you. In this meal, the Holy Spirit is working upon us, feeding us with Christ. We don’t just receive assurance of forgiveness here, but we receive strength to bear fruit and resist temptation. You are the soil. The seed of the Word has been sown. The Table is both fertilizer for your soil, and weed killer for your soil, designed to bear fruit for Christ.

1 Cor 10:16-17: “The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread.”

Wise-Hearted Crafting

Exodus 35:25-26: “And all the women that were wise hearted did spin with their hands, and brought that which they had spun, both of blue, and of purple, and of scarlet, and of fine linen. And all the women whose heart stirred them up in wisdom spun goats’ hair.”

While I'm NOT spinning goat's hair (yet), I have finished a few knitting and sewing projects lately. I stumbled upon this article by Nancy Wilson and was moved to consider my desires to make beautiful things under a new lens. She does a wonderful job describing how "women whose hearts have been filled with wisdom (wise-hearted women) are stirred up to make things." Read this great article here.


Calvin follow-up

I'm reading Calvin [below] as saying that the Father was the primary cause of the Son's obedience. The Son had a mission to fulfill, and He did it. He had stuff to do. But He did not have to earn God's favor, like he didn't have it before. Same with Adam, pre-Fall. It does not follow that if God does everything for Adam, Jesus or for us in grace, that what is done is worthless. Those works mentioned in Rev 19:8 were only possible by grace, but certainly not seen there as worthless. Our labor is not in vain, and yet is all of God's grace. We work out our salvation b/c God works in us to will and do it.

If merit means fulfilling the terms of a gracious covenant, I'm fine with it. In that sense, merit and grace can co-exist. We merit salvation by exercising faith in Christ. FV thinks saying "living-faith-which-includes-works" is much better than saying "merit," in this context, since merit implies lack of gracious covenant terms. Creating someone/thing and establishing a covenant with them is inherently gracious.

But usually merit means work(s), and DOES rule out grace. Rom 11:6. The word is specifically used to deny that the cov of works was gracious. This is the anti-FV version of the cov of works: no grace involved, b/c it is works and Adam merits or demerits the tree of life, sans grace. It is on-his-own obedience. Except that it wasn't.

Merit implies on-his-own. Faithfulness emphasizes the relationship the parties are in from the beginning... much better.

What is lost saying "faithful in covenant" instead of "merited terms of covenant"? Only an unbiblical, on-your-own, earn-your-way-into-God's-favor posture. And we gain the relational aspect b/t God and Adam pre-Fall.

This is not a false dichotomy, between contract and covenant relationship, but a spectrum which shades how we view our relationship with God. Very important.

Why so much emphasis on the (contractual) commands and prohibitions and so little on the (covenantal) walking together in the cool of the day and hiding from God in shame? Why so much emphasis on the Sinai laws and so little on the covenantal presence in tabernacle. Both are present, the contractual flowing out of the relational. We obey out of gratitude, not out of guilt or law-contract.

If your son merits his allowance, he need not be grateful to you. He earned it and deserves it. You owe it to him.
But if your son is faithful to you, he remains grateful.
The allowance contract is there as one aspect of the father/son relationship, which is more fundamental.

I don't like the contract emphasis, but agree that element is necessary. God is ultimately to us a Father, not a lawyer or business partner. Forensic justification is real and necessary, but it is there so we can leave the courtroom and go home with our Father and eat at His table.

Emphasis will depend on audience. General world or soft evangelicals need to hear the backbone of grace: law, sin, atonement, etc. Conservative, strict, Reformed types usually need to hear covenant as relationship, and stay away from the idea that the essence of the Gospel is the forensic and legal, while the relationship is icing on the cake. The Gospel is both escape from a justly wrathful God, and a Forgiving Father welcoming home a prodigal son.

Communion Exhortation - 4/13/08

Text: Colossians 3:18-19
Theme: Marriage is a covenant, a uniquely God-structured relationship designed for union. Our relationship with God in Christ is a covenant along the same lines.

The engagement ritual of Jesus’ day was something of a courtship, involving the parents of the engaged couple. When the parents were satisfied, and agreed on a bride price, they would bring the couple before them at a table. The young man took a cup of wine, called the Cup of Acceptance, and offered it to the young lady, saying something like, “This cup is my covenant with you.” As she drank, the lady accepted the covenant relationship.

Jesus uses this language as He institutes the Lord’s Supper in the upper room with His disciples: “This cup is a new covenant in my blood.” He is comparing the covenantal relationship of salvation through Him, with the covenant of marriage. Believing in Jesus is more than a get out of hell free card. You accept an eternal intimate relationship with Him, Your Lord and Bridegroom.

Of course, Israelite children grew up in this covenant with the Lord. Before they could mentally understand and accept this covenant, they were eating the Passover Lamb with the covenant family that DID understand it. They did not have to wait until being of marriageable age to partake of the lamb. 1 Cor 10:17: “Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread.”

And, Of course, this Supper is not just our accepting Jesus. It is not just our profession, our action, our remembering. God is acting here, giving Himself to us, nourishing and feeding our souls – the Spirit of Christ uniting us with the life of Christ. The Spirit is strengthening and sweetening the covenantal union between His Church and Her Lord.

He brings us to His banqueting Table; His banner over us is love.

John Calvin, Christ's "merit" and Federal Vision

From Calvin's Institutes, Book II, chapter 17

"Therefore when we treat of the merit of Christ, we do not place the beginning in him, but we ascend to the ordination of God as the primary cause, because of his mere good pleasure he appointed a Mediator to purchase salvation for us.
"...The free favour of God is as fitly opposed to our works as is the obedience of Christ, both in their order: for Christ could not merit anything save by the good pleasure of God..."

So... we can speak of the merit of Christ, but only if we understand it as not totally-on-His-own obedience apart from the Father.

Merit as commonly understood means deserving and rules out gratitude. Christ actively and completely obeyed His Father, and that obedience is imputed to us. But to call it merit implies an all-on-His-own-ness that isn't true. Father and Son are two parties in a covenant to save us, and one in essence, but they are not two parties to a contract, held together only by the terms of that covenant.


Communion exhortation - 4/6/08

Text: Luke 7:1-10 – faith of the centurion, who built the synagogue.
Theme: faith results in merciful living

God is faithful. Even when we had failed Him, He remained faithful and kept His covenant with His Son, to redeem us as His Bride. God’s faithfulness resulted in mercy to us. Jesus was faithful to carry out His father’s will, all the way to the cross. Christ’s faithfulness led Him to sacrifice Himself, and resulted in mercy to us.

That mercy was not an idea to be studied, but God’s own bodily presence with us, living a sacrificial, obedient, humble life among us. Mercy is incarnation; mercy is being present – present for your wife, your children, present in your community; mercy is shown before you on this table.

Mercy flows from faith. You have received mercy b/c God was faithful to you. It is shown forth here, where we proclaim Christ’s death at the cross.

As you receive mercy from Christ, be merciful to Christ’s Body, as you discern her gathered around you. 1 Cor 10:17: “Because there is one bread, Jesus, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread.” And then turn and be merciful as Christ’s Body in a hurting and dying world that needs Him. Proclaim His death until He comes again.

Why they leave

"The real problem here in our churches is the experiential standard that our churches require before bringing our young people to the Table. When the conservative Reformed world stops losing her sons and daughters to the world, then I would be willing to say we don't have a version of this problem any more. Lack of assurance is a two-edge sword. There are people who don't have assurance who desperately want it. There are others who don't have it (and don't really want it anymore) because the church chased them away. The Master is busy with the regenerate people, we said."

Douglas Wilson


Happy Birthday Little Monkey

My nephew turned 2 yesterday, and while we missed out on the festivities, my sister sent us a photo of the cake she made for him.

She may be 8 months pregnant, but that doesn't slow her down when it comes to creating awesome cakes! Way to go, Sis!


The best books, for free!

I just found the most amazing thing.

At books.google.com, there are many entire books available FOR FREE from one of my favorite publishers, Canon Press.

This link goes to many of them.

Some recommendations:

The Lord's Service is the best book on worship I've ever read.

Mother Kirk is an excellent orientation to the Church.

Fidelity is a practical guide to purity for men.

Critique of Modern Youth Ministry is what it says, and does it well.

Reforming Marriage is the best marriage book I've read.

Reformed is Not Enough is the best summary of the Federal Vision, in substance, not just the controversy surrounding it.

Trial and Triumph is an excellent church history to read with your children.

Story from the home front

While cooking this afternoon, Owen and Isaiah were were helping Sara sift flour. The handle is a bit tight, and Isaiah couldn't do it at first. Owen cheered him on by saying, "Take dominion of the flour!" To which Isaiah gave an extra measure of effort, knowing full well what his brother meant...

The Lord's Prayer


Good article

Great stuff here.

I first heard this kind of thing on my trip to Israel, and now find the idea advanced in my church circles.

We have to sound a clear note in preaching the Gospel, of course, but the Bible doesn't always line up according to the categories we want to impose on it.

Communion Exhortation - Resurrection Day

Text: Colossians 3:1-4

Adam awoke to life in a Garden, shown food to eat and a Bride to love. But he let Eve eat of the wrong food and death followed.
Jesus awoke to new life in a Garden tomb, having shown His disciples the right food to eat a few days before. His bride the church symbolized by Mary. In the resurrection, all creation is made new. There is a new bride to love in the church as we nourish and cherish each other, a new world to subdue as we baptize and disciple the nations, food to enjoy, which now includes the tree of life – Christ your life. Food is given us for life. But Christ is our life. Turns out Christ is our food.

As our life is hidden with Christ, so in Rev, when we overcome we are promised that we will be given some of the hidden manna. This means the jar of manna that was put in the ark, in the temple. The veil to that temple has been torn, we have access to it. Peter and John had access, too, as they entered the tomb and found the ark, with cherubim at the head and foot of the grave. But the revealed manna, the bread of God, had risen and is now hidden in heaven. And we are with him, risen with Him to heaven, seated with Him there. Enjoy fellowship with the source of your life – Jesus Christ.

We have several new family members this morning as a local congregation of Christ, some communing for the first time. Please take time to greet and encourage them after the service. We have been adopted into the family of God. This is the family table. Our baptism is our seal of adoption. We come not so much as separate families, but as the one family of God. We also have visitors with us, and we invite all those who are baptized into the Triune God, and who are not under the discipline of Christ’s Church, to commune with Him at His table. 1 Cor 10:17: “Because there is one bread, Jesus, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread.”

Communion Exhortation - Good Friday

Text: Romans 3:21-26

Every celebration of the Lord’s Supper points to the crucifixion on Good Friday. We proclaim His death in this way, until He comes again.

God has brought us back to Himself in Christ’s cross. We are here b/c He wants us to be with Him, and has made that possible in spite of our sins, which had separated us from Him.

We ought to know two things deeply
1. How great our sin, and its consequences.
2. How great God’s love, overcoming those consequences, restoring us to fellowship with Him.

Both of these are pictured at this table. We see a broken body and spilled blood, showing the wages of sin.

But we also see these very things becoming our life, the foundation of our restored fellowship. For this reason, this is GOOD Friday.

Let us consider the great price for our sin, symbolized here. May it lead us not to despondency and despair, not to self-centered wallowing in our guilt, flaying our conscience to merit God’s approval. Rather, may our meditation on the great price for our sin lead us to glorify God for His sacrificial love, willing to give up His own Son so He could freely give us all things.

Communion exhortation - Palm Sunday

Text: Col 3:12-17; Luke 19:28-44

Here is your Lamb, given to spare you from the angel of death, given as God redeems you from the bondage and punishment for your sins. The Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world. Here we are reminded of that sacrifice, when Jesus was brought near, right up to the altar, and offered up on the cross. His sacrifice was pleasing in God’s sight, and put an end to the need for more sacrifices. Now all those in Christ are pleasing to God. We rejoice in our favor with God in Christ. He sits us at His table.

But this is where we commune with our God. God tells us that Christ lives in us. That we put on Christ-like-ness. Christ within, Christ around us. We are united with Him. When the sacrifice was killed, cut apart and burned, it looked like the end, but its blood was a sign of God’s covering our sin, and the smoke rose to be a sweet smell in God’s nose. The same happened with Jesus, when He died. It looked like the end, but His blood truly covers our sin, and He rose vindicated and approved by the Father, in full communion with Him. The same happens with us, when we come to faith in Christ, we die. It looks like the end, to surrender your life to Jesus. But He takes it, covers your sin, and unites you to Christ in full Communion with Him.

The Body communes not just with Christ our head, but with other members, and so as we are re-membered by the Spirit of God, put away any division, offenses, complaints, blame or bitterness against one another. Take it off and lay it down. Pick up Christ and put Him on. Even more, take Him in to yourself, so that you become more like Him.