Righteous Sinner

All are sinful - Jesus is righteous - Those who are in Christ, through faith, are declared RIGHTEOUS.

3/11/2010

Communion Meditations & Prayers

There is no meal like this meal

For the Christian, nothing in this world compares to this meal. In it we are reminded of the sacrifice of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ - His dying in our place; taking the wrath that we deserve, so that we might receive forgiveness and favor with God. As in the Old Testament practice of Passover, the blood covers, God’s wrath is averted, and the sacrifice is eaten. Likewise, we partake of our sacrificial lamb, and remember and receive His grace freely given to us. We eat the bread and drink from the cup and we are brought near, by God’s Holy Spirit, to Jesus.

There is no meal that satisfies our emptiness like this meal. No comfort food reminds us of Jesus and ministers to our aching souls. No other food and drink strengthens and sustains our spirits. No other meal gives us true and lasting hope. No other meal convicts us of sin, and reminds us of God’s grace. No other meal takes our heart-breaking circumstances and tells us not to lose heart. No other meal points us to the reality of Christ; where burdens that seem too heavy and too long are comparatively slight and momentary; where we focus on the unseen and eternal, instead of the visible and transient things of this world.

This meal is good news for sinners, and because it is so precious we are told to approach it with great respect. The Apostle Paul tell us, “Whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord.” He goes on to say, “Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself.”

There is no meal like this one. No other meal that causes us to stop and examine our hearts before we eat. No other meal that corrects our doubts and reminds us of our eternal hope.

This morning, many of us come to the Lord’s Table with heavy hearts, with earth-shaking news; yet by this meal we are given sustaining grace, and the hope of glory, because Christ is near to the broken-hearted and saves the crushed in spirit.

Prayer:

Father,

Knowing the nearness of Jesus both now and at His second coming … it is only reasonable that we be a people who rejoice.

“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice.”

We give thanks for this meal that reminds us why we ought to continually come back to joy. We give thanks for your Son, Jesus, our savior and friend. All that burdens us can be brought to you by prayer and supplication and with thanksgiving because Jesus is our savior and friend – interceding on our behalf. Thank you for supplying us with your peace, for guarding our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus; for graciously sending your one and only Son to die in our place, and for resurrecting Him from the dead, so that we might have ever-lasting life.

We pray, with joy, in the name of Jesus, Amen.

Feeding on Jesus, Our Bread of Life

As we prepare to eat the bread and drink from the cup, let us remember, and receive afresh … Jesus.

Jesus said,

“Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven (speaking of the manna given in the wilderness), but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”

Concerning himself, Jesus declared:

“I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.”

Are you, or were you hungry this morning? That hunger communicates more than your reliance on food to satisfy your craving, or to remind you to fuel-up for the day. Your physical hunger is a picture of your real, spiritual hunger; and this hunger can only be satisfied by a steady diet of the bread of life. We need food to survive physically, and we need Jesus to survive in every way.

For those who do not know Jesus, this meal is nothing special. To them it is only a tiny rectangle of bland bread, a thimble of juice, and some weird talk about eating Jesus’ body and drinking His blood.

But for those who know and love Jesus, this meal continually reminds us that apart from Him there is no genuine satisfaction, there is no nourishment for our souls, and there is no true and everlasting life. He is the bread that satisfies our hunger and strengthens us for each day. His shed blood is our source of life. In this meal we remember, celebrate, and continue to rely upon the one who said, “my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink … whoever feeds on me … will live because of me.”

We need this meal because Jesus is life. Only He can satisfy our cravings. Only He gives us eternal life. Those who do not know Jesus seek everything but Him, and are never satisfied. Those who belong to Jesus continually feed on Jesus, and will always be satisfied.

As we pause, and give thanks, before eating any ordinary meal; let’s pause now, before this precious meal, and give thanks to God for His Son, the bread of life.


Prayer:


Our Father,

What a precious and wonderful idea … that You would have us eat of this meal often so that we would remember the life-giving provision of Your Son, Jesus. What a wonderful plan to gather your family, the church, around a meal where there is unity and fellowship, and where we remember our continual need to feed on Jesus – keeping our eyes fixed on the one who is our eternal satisfaction, instead of earthly pleasures that will not last. Thank you for the wonderful truth given to us in this meal – our continual need to have Jesus in us, by Your Holy Spirit, until the day we see Him face-to-face – either when we die, or at His glorious second-coming. We look forward to that day, and we give thanks now for this meal, and the way in which You have pointed us to Jesus, our means of grace and eternal life.

We pray together, as your grateful, adopted, children … in the name of Jesus, Amen.

2/19/2009

Knowing Who is Better than Knowing When

Have you noticed the renewed emphasis on end times teaching? In particular, the point of view that follows the Left Behind novels (dispensational premillennialism) tends to grow in interest with every new crisis, war, or rise of a powerful world leader. Although we ought to joyfully anticipate the Lord’s coming, I wonder whether we look forward to it for the right reasons. Do we look forward to His coming because we’re growing more and more in love with Him, as we study His Word, or do we fear the times and anxiously look for His rescue?

Being the book-buyer for a chain of Christian bookstores for over 25 years has enabled me to see a repeated pattern of end-time highs and lows. When a war breaks out in the Middle East, the prophecy sales go through the roof, and when Saddam Hussein was captured and executed nobody wanted to read about the “biblical” connection to his construction work in ancient Babylon. Are bar-codes and credit cards signs of the end? What happened to the math that confidently calculated the Lord’s coming by interpreting Jesus’ reference to a generation (40 years) as being connected to the rebirth of national Israel in 1948? 1988 came and went, and all 88 reasons for His coming during that time were proven to be false.

Over the years, and even today, I hear people longing for the Lord’s coming in relation to their trials or fears. It’s natural to long for better days, but we need to be careful that Jesus remains the object of our affection, and not simply the one who gives us our idols of relief, security, and comfort. There is a connection, and yet there is a subtle difference. For, when Jesus comes again, things will be set right, which will result in our joy; but the subtle difference becomes clear when we examine the object of our joy. Is it found in the absence of trouble, or is it found in the prince of peace?

Yes, Jesus is coming again someday, but instead of putting our hope in the timing of His coming (something we cannot know – Mt 24:36) shouldn’t we instead trust in the revealed truth of God’s sovereign control over every event of every day of our lives? With this, there will be no let-down. He knows how to give good gifts to his children (Jas 1:17). He knows what is best, and we are told not to worry, because he sovereignly cares for us (Mt 6:25-34). His word reveals that the events of each day occur only because he sovereignly wills them to occur (Jas 4:13-17). Our God, who is in absolute control of every event, has promised to work ALL things for our good – defining good as our being conformed to the image of Jesus (Rom 8:28-29).

Paul says (in Phil 3) that in comparison to knowing Christ, everything is garbage. His sight is primarily set on the person of Jesus Christ, not the day of his coming. The surpassing worth he spoke of was not in the hope of future relief, but in the present, and ongoing, relationship with Jesus. Yes, we look forward to his coming, but it should have to do with seeing the one we have grown to love, and not simply for the relief of our current circumstances. I’m sure Paul wasn’t saying, “I can hardly wait till Jesus gets here so that I can finally get rid of this thorn.” No, what he did say was, “For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ (v.8).” Like the psalmist, Paul’s desire and treasure was in the person of God. He says,

“Whom have I in heaven but you?
And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.
My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”
– Ps 73:25-26

Shouldn’t this be our example? Shouldn’t our growing love for Jesus overwhelm all other desires so that we say, “There’s nothing I want instead of you, or even along with you. You’re everything I need.”

So, instead of focusing on the news and what may or may not be signs, let’s focus on Jesus. Instead of getting caught up into things that come and go, why not get caught up in the beauty of Christ revealed to us in Scripture? I suspect that if we do, we’ll rejoice not so much in the earthly troubles Jesus saves us from, but in the treasure that is the Son of God. And, if he does come in our lifetime, we’ll be ready.

1/27/2009

God's Most Loved, and Hated, Attribute

"There is no attribute of God more comforting to His children than the doctrine of divine sovereignty. Under the most adverse circumstances, in the most severe troubles, they believe that Sovereignty hath ordained their afflictions, that Sovereignty overrules them, and that Sovereignty will sanctify them all. There is nothing for which the children of God ought more earnestly to contend than the dominion of their Master over all creation---the kingship of God over all the works of His own hands---the throne of God, and His right to sit upon that throne.

On the other hand, there is no doctrine more hated by worldlings, no truth of which they have made such a football, as the great, stupendous, but yet most certain doctrine of the Sovereignty of the infinite Jehovah. Men will allow God to be everywhere except on His throne. They will allow Him to be in His workshop to fashion worlds and to make stars. They will allow Him to be in His almonry to dispense His alms and bestow His bounties. They will allow Him to sustain the earth and bear up the pillars thereof, or light the lamps of heaven, or rule the waves of the ever-moving ocean; but when God ascends His throne, His creatures then gnash their teeth, and when we proclaim an enthroned God, and His right to do as He wills with His own, to dispose of His creatures as He thinks well, without consulting them in the matter, then it is that we are hissed and execrated, and then it is that men turn a deaf ear to us, for God on His throne is not the God they love. They love Him anywhere better than they do when He sits with His scepter in His hands and His crown upon His head. But it is God upon the throne we love to preach. It is the God upon the throne whom we trust."

-Spurgeon, delivered May 4, 1856 in a sermon titled "Divine Sovereignty"

1/16/2009

Grieving for our Future Scouts ... a letter to a friend

Dave,

What are they teaching our boy scouts these days? Sure, “snow camping” sounds adventurous, but come on … tents? sleeping bags? air mattresses?

Back in my day (if I actually were a “boy scout”) they would blindfold us and drive us out in the middle of a blizzard, strip us naked and leave us for a week to survive in sub-zero conditions. We learned: which plants were edible; how to make snares to catch rabbits; how to start fires with some rocks and a couple of sticks … or that our teeth with crowns could be pulled and knocked together to get a spark. We’d make shoes from the rabbit hides; we’d sneak up on deer and kill them with our bare hands and bodies, and bare teeth (those that were left). We’d make wind-breakers from the lining of their intestines, drink the water from their stomachs (yes, there was plenty of snow, but you still need to know this is a possibility), eat their hearts, bathe in their blood (yes, again … snow), and we’d sleep inside of their steaming carcasses. We’d make sling shots with their guts and shoot their frozen eyeballs. Yes, there were plenty of rocks, but you need to know these things if ever you are stripped naked and dropped in the middle of a desert with no rocks, and only sand. It’s hard to shoot sand, you know. I’ll describe that to you another time. Yes, those were some good times (if I actually were a “boy scout”), and some lessons that will serve me well … if ever I find myself lost and naked in the woods. You never know … it could happen!

Well, have “fun” in your “tent,” snuggled in your “sleeping bag,” with “thermal underwear,” on top of your “air mattress,” with “food,” and your “portable, private latrines,” while “fully clothed,” and knowing your “actual location.” Have “fun,” while I stay home and grieve for the future of our boy scouts (in my 70 degree home) as I recall the good old days where I imaged doing such things if I actually were a boy scout.

Respectfully (grrrr) yours,

Brian

11/05/2008

Considering the Reproach as Greater Wealth

I read a very inspiring article written by an African American preacher who is apparently being persecuted for voting according to his conscience, and not his race.

Amazing! While watching President-elect Obama deliver his acceptance speech, I found myself caught up in the emotion of seeing our country elect its first black President. What an incredible moment; and what a sad moment. It's incredible when you realize it was only a few hundred years ago that our country enslaved people of his race and that we're only a few decades removed from horrible racism, and the civil rights movement. And yet, this same pinnacle moment is combined with great sadness because it comes in a man whose beliefs will promote the evil of abortion ... to ALL races.

I'm thankful for Pastor Redmond's stand against evil. It says a lot about his faith in Christ. He reminds me of Moses (mentioned in the Hebrews 11 hall of faith) who, by faith, chose to be mistreated with the people of God rather than enjoying the sinful pleasures of Egypt. He did this because he considered the reproach of Christ to be a greater pleasure.

Unlike Pastor Redmond, I saw bishop T. D. Jakes (also an African American preacher) interviewed this morning on a national talk show. It was apparent that he supported President-elect Obama, and I just couldn't help but wonder how a Christian (or, even more so, a pastor) could prefer race to life. Because I expect an "evangelical" preacher to be bothered by abortion, gay marriage, and leaders who support such things (maybe I'm naive), I assume his support of Obama comes down to race. Shouldn't our support be determined by a candidate's thinking and beliefs?

I don't want to minimize the difficult decision this is for so many African American believers, as Pastor Redmond's article clearly shows this struggle, but when it comes down to it our allegiance should always land on the perfect law of God, and we should always oppose unrighteousness.

Redmond writes:

"If a person would allow himself to be pigeonholed into becoming a person of a nationalistic or ethno-centric thought out of the fear of being viewed as an Oreo or Uncle Tom, then Reformed Theology is not for that person. But neither is the Gospel, for the Gospel calls each of us to stand against an ethnic-centered philosophy of one's own race, for such a philosophy is naturally conformed to this present world and is in need of redemption. If you cannot stand against your own culture where it does not square with the Scriptures, you are the one who is ashamed of Christ, and such shame has nothing to with philosophical or ontological Blackness; it only has to do with your view of the majesty of the God who calls you to deny yourself in order to follow Christ." ("Sovereign in a Sweet Home, Schooling, and Solace," in Glory Road: Our Journey Into Reformed Christianity, ed. Anthony Carter [Wheaton, IL: Crossway, Wheaton, forthcoming])

But now that Obama has been elected, how should we, as believers, respond? Can we live for the glory of God alone while he is our leader? Actually, we have even more opportunity to do so when times are tough. The people of God were given specific instructions concerning their governing authorities, and it's helpful to remember that believers were told this while their leaders were persecuting and killing them.

Pastor Redmond writes,

"The question for me at this time is this: Can I continue to live Soli Deo Gloria under a President whose moral judgment already is questionable before he takes the oath of office? Yes I can, for I can be obedient to Scripture, praying for the one in authority (I Tim. 2:1-8), honoring the one in authority (1 Pet. 2:13-18), submitting to the one in authority (Rom. 13:1-7; Tit. 3:1), and seeking righteousness for the entire citizenry (Prov. 14:34). These I will seek to do by grace. I will "honor the good appointment of God."Moreover, I can follow the admonition and example of Calvin, who ... preached that believers should impute to themselves the ills of government and recognize the common grace given to mankind through human governing authorities."


Click here to read the entire article


Thank you, Pastor Redmond, for your Moses-like, Christ-like, example to believers of all races. God is glorified when our words and actions prove that He is our greatest treasure.

10/22/2008

Thoughts on 1 Peter 1:1-2

Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ,

To those who are elect exiles of the dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood:

May grace and peace be multiplied to you.


Peter begins by addressing his letter to believers, quickly acknowledging God’s role in their salvation. The first description is "elect." God is the one who has mercy on whom He has mercy (Rom 9). We are elect not because of anything we do, but because this is the will of God. It is His choice to have mercy (by electing) those He chooses to have mercy upon. If His choice is based on anything outside of His own sovereign will, then it ceases to be grace and becomes a favor that is in some way merited by those who draw God's merciful attention. Peter writes to those whom God has chosen, and he also acknowledges that they are exiles. Spiritually speaking, they no longer belong to an earthly kingdom, but are spiritually like Jews who are scattered in a dispersion and without a homeland. As Christians we are exiles in a dispersion because our citizenship is a heavenly one - one in which we do not currently reside.

Peter describes the basis for our election in verse 2, when he says that it is "according to the foreknowledge of God the Father." Again, our election is not according to our free choice that draws God's merciful attention, but it is instead according to God's foreknowledge. To say that foreknowledge is God seeing our future, good choice, which then determines His choice, is to destroy the very meaning of grace - making God's favor merited by our good decision. No, foreknowledge speaks to God's action in knowing us in intimate relationship. He is the initiator of our knowledge of Him. To know God is to love God, and apart from God’s intervention we do not love Him. We love Him only because He first loved us. Knowing God is more than intellectual awareness or emotional experience. Knowing God always involves God first loving us by revealing Himself to us in a saving way. We love Him because He first loved us. We know God because He foreknew us. He chose to reveal Himself to us in such a way that we would be in intimate relationship with Him. In foreknowing us, God determines to give us intimate relationship with Himself by being the initiator who overcomes our hard hearts. He determines to know us, even though we do not want to know Him.

Just as God came and revealed Himself to a pagan named Abram- making him an elect exile - so we become a people without a homeland because of God’s decision to reveal Himself to us in a way that brings us into relationship with Him, forever changing our allegiances.

This also agrees with John 6, which shows that God the Father gives a certain group of people to the Son, and entrusts him to save them all. It begins with the Father’s choice, then the Spirit sanctifies or sets apart these for the holy purpose of obeying Jesus, and Jesus is the one whose blood is shed - making this intimate relationship with God possible.

"May grace and peace be multiplied to you."

God already has been gracious to us through His decision to be in relationship with us, giving us the Spirit to set us apart for seeing Jesus as our atoning sacrifice, which brings peace between God and us - a relationship that previously was not one of peace, but one of our rebellion and His coming, just wrath. We already have been given grace and peace, and yet our ongoing relationship with God is a continual multiplying of God's unmerited favor toward us, which brings continual peace with God and peace in hearts that are continually reminded of the fact that our biggest problem has been remedied.

May grace and peace be multiplied to you this day, and every day, because of the Father’s choice, the Spirit’s work to set us apart, and because of all that Jesus has made possible through His life, death, resurrection, and glorification.

10/20/2008

The Message ... from Calvin

"Let us ... remember, whenever each of us contemplates his own nature, that there is one God who so governs all natures that he would have us look unto him, direct our faith to him, and worship and call upon him. For nothing is more preposterous than to enjoy the very remarkable gifts that attest the divine nature within us, yet to overlook the Author who gives them to us at our asking." - John Calvin

Translation:

When you're thinking about yourself it's only reasonable that you'd also think of the one who made and sustains everything that exists. You can't separate yourself from the one who maintains your very existence. Shouldn't we worship, trust, and appealed to Him for our every need? Yes, and nothing would be more ridiculous and outrageous than enoying gifts that are designed to show the worth of God ... while ignoring God, the generous giver.