Sin sent away; Spirit sent to us

Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. 28 For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.

The words of institution in 1 Cor 11 are usually used at the celebration of the Lord’s Supper. This is why I say the same words that Jesus said every week: “This cup is the new covenant in My blood.” But in the Gospel of Matthew Jesus next said, “My blood is shed for many for the remission of sins.” This remission fo sins is the same phrase Peter preaches to Cornelius’ house, the last thing he says before the Spirit falls.

We know we have remission of sins because we are in God’s house, at Christ’s table, eating the food He gave us. We know we have remission of sins because we believe what Peter preached, like Cornelius did. We believe in one baptism for the remission of sins. Remission means sent away or released in the Bible. Our sins don’t cling to us, because we cling to Christ. The price, the cost of this remission, this forgiveness, was high. God can only send our sins away from us by sending Jesus away, the scapegoat. The wages of sin require not just death. Jesus descends to the hell of being sent away from the Father. So, God sends us the Spirit, and sends our sins from us. He sends for us to come to Him.


On Corporate Confession of Sin

Daniel 9:8
"O Lord, to us belongs shame of face, to our kings, our princes, and our fathers, because we have sinned against You."

The liturgical housekeeping piece fits well in the service today, as the quick reminder of why we worship as we do is about the confession of sin. Daniel confessed the sin of Israel, and included himself. In the same way, our confession of sin is corporate and personal. All together, we are not aiming for an emotional breast-beating session. This is more like a confession of faith that we are sinners.

The words we use are either the best from church history, or written by the worship leader and often relates to the sermon text, where that convicts us in a certain direction. This is one way the worship leader shepherds the congregation – it’s quite a thing to hand someone a confession of sin for them to pray to God, and for my part it is one of the most difficult things I do each week.

After the corporate reading, we also take time silently to confess our sins. Each of us brings to mind our own sins and confesses them. Like the rest of worship, this is the example for us to follow the rest of the week in our relationship to God. We don’t wait until Sunday to confess our sins, just like we don’t wait until Sunday to pray, read the Bible, or enjoy fellowship with God. If we find that we are only confessing sin at church, there is probably something amiss in our relationship with the Lord.


The relativism and bureaucracy we're dealing with

Hillsdale strikes again.
Their president, Larry Arnn, on Obama, the election, and the need for conservatives to articulate their principles better.

He quotes from Obama's book: “Implicit . . . in the very idea of ordered liberty,” he writes, is “a rejection of absolute truth, the infallibility of any idea or ideology or theology or ‘ism,’ any tyrannical consistency that might lock future generations into a single unalterable course . . . .”

That's our president's own published words. Wow.

His main point is that Obama's vision of government cannot work, so we should be optimistic in the long run, as Churchill was in the face of Hitler.

And yet Arnn isn't the conservative demagogue who rashly compares Obama to Hitler. He points out that our growing bureaucracy leads to a soft tyranny, but "that's not the intention of anybody who runs it today, or at least not very many people. But that is [bureaucracy's] direction."

These guys have solid positions on limited government, but also sane interactions with their political opponents. Very refreshing.

Check it out.


Review: How Sermons Work

How Sermons Work
How Sermons Work by David Murray

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Murray writes a clear and brief summary of what makes a good sermon tick.

He touches all the bases: the preacher's piety, the kind of text, how to engage the text, the kind of sermon, organizing, introducing, applying the material, and finally presenting the sermon. Some may complain he doesn't cover each adequately, but the point was to be brief and he does capture the essentials.

This was an excellent refresher course for me, after my first 10 years or so of preaching.

I especially enjoyed the last chapter and section on plainness. Don't use too much material, too many words, too many long words, too many long sentences, too much logic, too many quotes, too much doctrine. There's a difference between a shallow sermon for babes needing milk, a plain sermon that serves up meat, but well seasoned, cooked and cut, and a dense sermon that's just avoiding being shallow but plops a huge hunk of raw meat on the plate. Look, it isn't shallow!

One quibble: the author tends to assume the sermon will be based on one or two verses. I tend to preach longer texts.

Murray also balances well the work of exegesis with the piety of the preacher. A love for the Word and the people goes a long way to a good sermon, but you can't rely only on that with no study and thinking.

Please pray for your pastor during the week, that his daily study would be fruitful come Sunday.

View all my reviews



If you're looking for books to read, here's a list.


Excellent article on Christmas by RC Sproul, here.

Prophets not doing their job

Lamentations 2:14

Your prophets have seen for you
False and deceptive visions;
They have not exposed your iniquity
To restore your fortunes,
But have seen for you oracles
That are false and misleading.

Psalm 123:2
Behold, as the eyes of servants look to the hand of their master,
As the eyes of a maidservant to the hand of her mistress,
So our eyes look to Yahweh our God, till He has mercy upon us.


Is the Constituion Colorblind?

Great Imprimis article here.

In the middle section where he lays the Constitutional principle groundwork, he makes an intriguing argument for incrementalism. The Founders couldn't get the constitution adopted without the support of slaveholding states. But the constitution and Declaration assumed in the long run that all men are created equal.

"Prudential compromises regarding slavery in the Constitution were actually in the service of eventual emancipation.... Eliminate as much evil as possible, while possible, without destroying the basis for the elimination of further evil."

Much of the rest was of a more obscure nature, on the constitutionality of modern affirmative action programs. Interesting to some, maybe. But that middle section (lots of Lincoln quotes) deserves attention from a broad audience.

Were the 13-15th amendments in the wake of reconstruction the climax of our founding a nation of equal rights, or were they the camel's nose in the tent that have since caused all kinds of problems?

Check it out.

Dealing with Political and Spiritual Enemies

Obama is the most socialist president we have had as a nation. Someone asked me the other day what I thought of him: can he possibly have good intentions? My answer is yes. He really thinks it's the right thing to do, going European socialist. Public discourse is so poisoned: many conservatives simply cannot believe that people who see a bigger role for government in society really think that would be better. No, they must be ignorant or evil. Whatever happened to sincerely wrong?

Of course, Obama and his liberal friends are wrong and their policies will do a lot of damage to our country. We should oppose that agenda in every way we can.

But we are also not to curse a ruler of the people (Ex 22:28). Some really want to hear people cursing Obama. And don't the imprecatory Psalms like 35 and 109 make that okay?

It would be an interesting to answer the question:
How did David's imprecatory Psalms not violate Exodus 22:28?

Here's a brief attempt: Of course we should pray for the defeat of ungodly policies in our leaders and laws, but we may not vilify or revile the men advocating them. We may ask God to punish them or strike them down (a la the Psalms), but even that is different than high-flown histrionics and demagogue name calling (over at News with Views) designed to work people up against him.

Romans 12:14; Matt 5:44; 1 Cor 4:12 should prevail. "Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse."

We do need to have a greater awareness of our spiritual enemies and their methods, personally and politically. But our whole outlook shouldn't revolve around those enemies, either.


Review: The Story of King Arthur and Other Celtic Heroes

The Story of King Arthur and Other Celtic Heroes
The Story of King Arthur and Other Celtic Heroes by Padraic Colum

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Colum translates and retells a 14th century Welsh text about King Arthur and some of his knights. With a structure similar to the Arabian Nights, one tale follows another, some connected, others not. Common themes are courtesy and chivalry, performing difficult feats to win maidens, and overthrowing the unjust and rude.

I thought to add this to my collection of Arthur tales for children, but the plot and characters are a bit too foreign and disconnected to be very accessible to the average reader. Arthur fans should read it, but else stick to other classics (Once and Future King, Roger Lancelyn Green's version, e.g.). Colum did his best to make it accessible and nearly pulls it off.

View all my reviews

Review: Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

I read this in the evenings trying to keep up with two of my children reading it. Never had before. Should have read it before they did, and kept it from them.

Never has a "classic" evoked such antipathy in me!

Alice has a dream, and Lewis Carroll wallows in the absurd and the verbal pun the whole time. I enjoy fantastical and imaginative characters and plots, but the puns were groaners and the plot was deliberately absurd. Like the cubism of modern art, as my wife noted.

The random, disorderliness disturbed me to the degree that I sought out an explanation. Apparently Lewis Carroll was a mathematics professor at Oxford who enjoyed playing with logic and number puzzles. Many are buried in the dialogue of Alice, but the one I studied wasn't worth the effort. So the snippets of meaning are inaccessible to 99% of readers.

I cling to the thesis that I'm not an old crank who dislikes children's stories; I just demand some level of order to my stories, because that's how God wrote His. Plenty of chaos is fine, but here we seem to have a proto-type of post-modernism, eschewing meaning and metanarrative altogether.

I will not be reading any more Lewis Carroll.

View all my reviews


Why advent?

This is why!

A new memorial food law

Sermon text on Acts 10 - Peter and Cornelius

Cornelius' prayers rose up to God as a memorial. Jesus tells us to eat this bread and drink this wine as His memorial. A memorial brings someone to remember something. Keeping this memorial, this feast, every week doesn’t earn anything with God. Church attendance, Bible reading, prayers, these things cannot merit salvation. But they do strengthen our relationship with the Lord. Our faith in Christ and love for Him grow as we do this for His memorial at this table every week.

Also, this table is our new and transformed food law. It distinguishes the clean from the unclean, the believer from the unbeliever, those in the covenant from those outside of it.


Heart and hands repentance

Proverbs 4:23-27
      "Keep your heart with all vigilance, 
      for from it flow the springs of life. 
            24       Put away from you crooked speech, 
      and put devious talk far from you. 
            25       Let your eyes look directly forward, 
      and your gaze be straight before you. 
            26       Ponder the path of your feet; 
      then all your ways will be sure. 
            27       Do not swerve to the right or to the left; 
      turn your foot away from evil."

The direction of the heart leads to your mouth, eyes, hands, and feet doing these things instead of those. Heart is not disconnected from outside world. When you keep your heart, your life is well ordered. Unless you’re Job, you can't claim to have a pure heart while your life is a wreck.  If you are disobeying on the outside, you can't appeal to a heart inside that means well. They are connected. Sin with the hands requires heart repentance.


Why not unleavened bread?

If you've ever wondered why communion at church doesn't ordinarily use unleavened bread, you should read this.


Kind Grace

Titus 3:3-7
"For we ourselves were also once foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another. 4 But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, 5 not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, 6 whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life."

What we celebrate at this table is the grace of God. Grace isn’t just being nice to others, smoothing the way, being tactful. Grace is getting favor when you deserve condemnation. This table beautifully shows us both. Scripture says that this cup is a participation in Christ’s blood. We see here the price for our salvation. Jesus had to drink the cup of judgment and wrath that the Father gave Him, and He drank it all. In His death and resurrection 3 days later that cup was converted into a cup of blessing and life for us. We deserved a cup of wrath, but are given a cup of life. Grace. The kindness and love of God our Savior has appeared to us, saving and washing us, not by anything we did but by His mercy. It was the same love that spread the feast that sweetly drew us in. Else we would still refuse to taste, and perish in our sin.


Words of Life

Proverbs 4:20-22
    My son, give attention to my words; 
          Incline your ear to my sayings. 
    21      Do not let them depart from your eyes; 
          Keep them in the midst of your heart; 
    22      For they are life to those who find them, 
          And health to all their flesh. 

Solomon warns his son to keep his words in his ears and eyes and heart. We must keep God’s word on the radar screen of our mind. Because of our sinful nature, we tend to forget, to lose track, to wander off after other things. We think that our time is our own, that our lives are for us to use as we want. We forget that we are servants of the Lord Jesus, that we are bought with a price and are called to do His will. Let us keep His Word and will always before us. This is not a hard service. Vs 22 reminds us that God’s words are life and health. Too often we believe Satan’s lie that real life is found in doing what we want, or in the real world of earning a living. But man does not live by bread alone – we live by the words that come out of God’s mouth. Not believing that is the root of sin.


Start reading your Bible today

I admit it.

I'm a collector of Bible reading plans.

Here is one from Christ Church in Moscow, Idaho, that starts today, December 1, and goes for 2 years.
You read the Old Testament once, and the New Testament, Psalms and Proverbs twice.