Friday, March 24, 2006

Communion Part 3 

My third communion sermon is posted. I discuss what communion teaches us about fellowship with the body.

The Corinthians' sin which so concerns Paul in 1 Corinthians 11 is that they used communion to divide the Lord's body, which is why therefore Paul refuses to call what they do the Lord's Table. The Lord's Table should be doing the opposite of that, uniting the table.

We see from Scripture that the kingdom of God is a dividing force in the world, separating families, cities, and nations. From Luke 12:

51 "Do you suppose that I came to give peace on earth? I tell you, not at all, but rather division.
52 "For from now on five in one house will be divided: three against two, and two against three.
53 "Father will be divided against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law."

And from Matthew 12:
47 Then one said to Him, "Look, Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside, seeking to speak with You."
48 But He answered and said to the one who told Him, "Who is My mother and who are My brothers?"
49 And He stretched out His hand toward His disciples and said, "Here are My mother and My brothers!
50 "For whoever does the will of My Father in heaven is My brother and sister and mother."

Other passages could be cited, like Luke 14:25-33, but the message is clear- the kingdom of God and the relationships it creates transcends all other relationships. And we celebrate that relationship in the Lord's Table. This is therefore not an abstraction; not just a mystical relationship with the invisible church. Mystical abstract relationships create no responsibility in me. This is a concrete relationship with the members of my church, with concrete responsibilities.

The modern age, and the modern experience of Christianity, wants to be free to maintain only the relationships that suit me. We want to pick and choose who we love, who we regard as our neighbor. And so we retreat to megachurches or out of "organized religion" altogether. The criticism of organized religion is the same as the modern tendency to cohabitate without marriage- the benefits with no responsibility. I can feel religious because I go to "church" with thousands of other people where I'm treated to a great concert but have no responsibilities at all to my congregants, or go to a church that looks like a coffee shop and talk about how I feel, or not go to church at all and just think about reading my Bible and praying some time. In each case there is no responsibility to the brethren, and that is what church is all about. And so church membership is on the outs in so many churches today. People want to be free to come and go. They want to be a Methodist one week and a Presbyterian or Catholic the next. Whatever suits their whims.

But the real church, the real fellowship, is a body of people bound to each other and to Christ by Christ's blood, who have responsibilities to each other, who are part of each other's lives. We ought to be striving to make our church family even more our real family than those related by blood. For ultimately, it's not natural blood that binds us, but Spiritual blood. The natural blood will bind us only on this earth, but His blood will bind us for eternity.

The whole sermon is here.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Katie at school 

Katie visited her grandma the other day at school. Here she is, working on differential equations. Only simple ones though. Cmon people, she's only three. It's very important to be supportive.

Babies as Prize Cattle 

Al Mohler has a great article in Business Reform about the modern attitude regarding children and the tendency to abort those who might have some genetic defect.

It's an insightful and depressing article. Eugenics was rejected once; the programs of the Nazis were rejected later; and now we're doing the same thing. The only difference is that the previous programs to improve our genetic makeup was doing via government fiat and program, and the current effort is being done entirely by the individual.

But Al's wrong about one thing. This is not a "relatively recent development." The ancient world did this all the time. If a baby was unwanted because deformed or weak or just female, they would expose it. They would leave it out under the bridge alone and the baby would die. It was abortion, minus the medical invasiveness, and just requiring a little more time.

Christians put an end to that practice as they were able by rescuing those abandoned babies. A rejuvenated and serious church would put an end to the modern practice as well. The moderns have taken away the option of rescuing their unwanted babies. In their selfishness, they don't provide their unhappy offspring even the slight hope of being saved by someone else. The ancients would comfort themselves and assuage their guilt by telling themselves that their babies were in the hands of their gods. The moderns have no gods, and leave their babies in the hands of merciless science.

Science divorced from ethics is a horrible thing. It always has been and always will be. The Romans scientifically butchered the Gauls; the Stalinists scientifically solved the Ukrainian problem; the moderns scientifically pursue their lusts and desires. But God sees all. The ancient "barbarians" were closer to the truth than the modern practicing atheist, of which our churches are full. Those little babies are in the hands of God. He cares for them, and their blood calls to Him for vengeance. And He is listening.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

The Table of the Lord, and of Demons 

Last Sunday's sermon was from 1 Corinthians 10, and was the second in my series on communion. This week, I focused on the fact that in eating the Lord's Supper, we are fellowshipping with God, and in doing so making a statement about our unity and solidarity with Him. That is, we are stating that we are His people.

Paul is exhorting the Corinthians to put away their association with idolatry, since eating at the altar is fellowship with the altar. Therefore, eating at the altar of demons is fellowshipping with demons, since the pagan nations (albeit unknowingly) worship demons. If we try to fellowship with God at the same time as we are fellowshipping with the enemies of God, we will fail, we will be hampered in our efforts by our divided loyalties and muddled allegiance.

This is a warning most specifically against those who believe themselves to be strong in the faith. The Corinthians' argument was, "We are strong, and we know an idol is nothing in the world. Therefore we can fellowship with these pagans in their pagan practices and not be affected by it." Paul's answer to that is, "He who thinks he stands, take heed lest he fall."

Are demons still active in the world? And if we wanted to fellowship with those demons, where would we go to find them? Satan is the father of lies, and wherever you find the lies that lead people astray in our own age, there you will find the demons of our own age. And wherever you find people engaging the activities that express those lies, you will find people fellowshipping with demons.

It is difficult to apply this precisely to every believer's own situation. We have liberty in Christ and we ought not infringe on another believer's liberty. But we should also not use our liberty simply to protect our amusements and lifestyle. Our question should be, how do we grow closer to God? How do we aid our fellowship with God, and with God's people? And what should we avoid doing to avoid hindering that fellowship?

This is the subject of last week's sermon. If you'd like to pursue this topic in greater detail, listen to the sermon and / or leave me a comment.

Friday, March 10, 2006

The Monty Sedlak Affair 

Proverbs 18:13-
He who answers a matter before he hears it, It is folly and shame to him.

I was alerted to a story going around about an incident where a government employee was forced to remove a hat saying "US Border Patrol" and cover a sign on his truck reading in part "English Speaking American", over a US flag. The supervisor was a man named Monty Sedlak and Mike Gray was the employee. Sedlak writes, in part, "Some of your conduct ... is reprehensible and discriminatory to our non-English speaking and/or Hispanic workforce. You are in violation of ... guidelines which ensure a workplace free from harassment and sensitive to the diversity of employees." It sounds like a story of hypersensitive PC-ism run amuck, like many other stories we've heard in recent years. Here's some links to some sites taking just that stance. I am not sure of all the legal issues involved, though I usually trust The Volokh Conspiracy for those kinds of matters, and they say there's nothing illegal about this at all:
"Sorry, Mr. Gray, the government is your employer, and it may forbid speech at the workplace that it thinks is offensive to other workers, even if you think your boss is being hypersensitive..."

But as the proverb warns us, there is often more to the story than first appears.

I happen to know Monty Sedlak from way back. He is a conservative Christian, not a liberal politically, not a Democrat. He is an elder in a very conservative church. I haven't spoken to him about this incident. But the thought of Monty getting caught up in some left-wing moonbattery is just too unbelievable.

Consider a possible scenario: A guy is becoming known on a job site for being a racist and a bully, intimidating the Mexican workers. There's nothing concrete, though, nothing you could actually discipline a guy for. Given his known attitudes and behavior, though, his hat and his sign "ENGLISH SPEAKING AMERICAN" take on a different tone, a part of the intimidation. So you take hold of what you can, prohibiting those things to hopefully get hold of this intimidation.

Is this an impossible scenario? And did all of these right-wing sites consider this before they lumped this in with all the other PC garbage that's out there? Do we conservatives know no one that uses their so-called conservativism as an excuse to bully and intimidate people? The fact that some of these sites are saying that Mr. Gray is being forced to cover up a flag is just a demonstration of their disingenuousness. It is the speech on top of the flag which is the problem, not the flag.

Monty Sedlak is a human being. And he's doing a government job, where he has the obligation to implement a lot of procedures and policies that he may not even agree with. All anyone's heard is just one small part of the story. And the fact that they are willing to make definitive pronouncements on what's going on based only on this limited information makes them, according to the Bible, fools.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Thoughts from Luke 12 

A hypocrite is not someone who fails to live up to their stated beliefs. We all do that. Jesus did not call every sinner a hypocrite. He saves it for one particular group- the Pharisees. And His attack on them over and over takes the same line, that their religion is for public consumption.

The word hupocrisis from which we get the word “hypocrite” is related to the concept of acting, someone performing a play. The Pharisees were not hypocrites because they didn't live up to what they said they believed. They were hypocrites because they didn't really believe what they said they believed. Jesus describes their hypocrisy as leaven, an almost invisible force that subtly but thoroughly changes the whole enterprise of which it is part. And so Jesus tells us to beware of that hypocrisy.

The hypocrite is guilty of more than just being impious or not religious enough. He is a fool. He believes that he will benefit by fooling men about his religiosity, but he cannot fool God, and it's God he should be worried about. Everything spoken in secret will be shouted from the rooftops. God will reveal the secrets of men's hearts, and so the hypocrite is a fool.

Instead of being like the hypocrite, we should throw ourselves without reservation, completely on the providence of God. This whole section of Luke, really starting with the beginning of Jesus' journey away from Galilee toward Jerusalem is on this subject, of complete commitment. And how else could we understand this:

“But rather seek the kingdom of God, and all these things [material needs] will be added to you.” (Luke 12:31).

Many of us try to have one foot in the kingdom of God and one foot in earthly concerns. Many of us understand our religious activity in terms of what we do on Sunday and maybe Wednesday nights, if we're devout, but our work and entertainment and everything else is separate. Maybe even I see my work and entertainment and relational choices in some degree constrained by my religious choices, but that's still different than seeing my whole life choices entirely in the light of my search for the kingdom of God. But this is what Jesus is calling us to.

The man in chapter 12 calling on Jesus to get his brother to divide the inheritance with him is seeking to use religious matters to work gain for him. His priorities were exactly the opposite of what they should have been. And so Jesus tells the story of the rich farmer, pulling his barns down to build bigger ones and saying to his soul, “Soul, take thine ease, eat drink and be merry.” He is saying to his own soul, “Soul, you have everything you need, and now I am satisfied.” But God demonstrates graphically to him that his soul cannot be enriched one bit by the things of this world. I am reminded of a quote from “The Unforgiven”. Clint Eastwood, the old grizzled gunfighter is talking to a young kid:
“It's a hell of a thing, killing a man. You take away everything he has, and everything he'll ever have.”

This is exactly what God does to the rich man. In the blink of an eye, all of his material possessions are stripped away, and he stands before God, a naked soul, and what does he have to offer God? What does he have to inoculate himself against the judgment of God? His riches could, in a limited way, protect him from famine, political problems, war, discomfort and sickness. And even that is a sketchy proposition. But they were absolutely no help at all against that which he should have feared above all else- the one who can cast soul and body in hell.

This is why the hypocrite is such a fool. He seeks to please those who have little to offer and little to threaten, and in doing so, he enrages the One who can offer everything, and take it all away. He greatly offends the one who could give him mansions in heaven or an eternity in hell.

Let us seek to please God. Let us seek His kingdom with our lives, desiring every part of our life to reflect our conviction that Jesus is Lord of this earth, now. He has the riches of heaven to pour out on us. Why should we worry about our financial concerns, health concerns, relational concerns? God loves us, He created us, and He knows what we need.

It is an interesting paradox- Jesus tells us in v. 31 to seek the kingdom, and then in v. 32 that it is the Father's pleasure to give us the kingdom as a gift. Which is it? Both, of course. The process by which we struggle and strive to find the kingdom is the process by which the Lord grants it to us, for we know that it is in the Spirit's power that we strive, and the Spirit is a gift, a gift that in conjunction with the death of Jesus which makes the Spirit's work possible is the greatest gift we could ever receive.

Monday, March 06, 2006


Two new sermons have been uploaded. The first is the last sermon in my series on Acts, and presents the doctrine of the Kingdom of God, as we see it in Acts and elsewhere.

The second begins a series on the Lord's Table that I am going to pursue over the next few weeks. I have perceived a tendency in myself to focus on my own sins when going to the Lord's Table. And I am wondering if this is not a badly misplaced focus. We are told that when we eat the bread and drink the cup, we are proclaiming the Lord's death, till He comes. And while I must, according to 1 Corinthians 11, examine myself in order to eat of the table worthily, it seems to me that my participation in the table itself must be focused on Christ's work, not on my sin. Therefore the table is a celebration of a victory, which is what Christ's death was and is, not on my own condemnation and worthlessness.

You can download the sermon to explore this topic in more detail.

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