April 2010

Monthly Archive

You Are What You Eat (Updated)

Posted by on 29 Apr 2010 | Tagged as: Holy Eucharist, Robert E. Webber

jesus-eucharist-733676

Becoming Like Christ at the Table of the Lord

I tell you the truth, anyone who believes has eternal life. Yes, I am the bread of life! Your ancestors ate manna in the wilderness, but they all died. Anyone who eats the bread from heaven, however, will never die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Anyone who eats this bread will live forever; and this bread, which I will offer so the world may live, is my flesh.

John 6:47-51 (NLT)

The baby boomer generation was the first generation raised with a constant stream of television programming.  Programming that poured into our living rooms depicting perfect families and perfect lives. (Do you remember the advent of “Living Color”? ) The television world of sit-coms and dramas resolved all major relationship problems in thirty minutes to an hour. The perfect world of television idealized life for the Baby Boomer. This explains the Baby Boomer inability to cope with the dogged problems of living in a fallen world.

The Baby Boomer generation was the first generation to be fed a constant diet of fast food: MacDonalds, Taco Bell, and Dairy Queen for all. We were no longer a culture that prepared meals. We ate on the run to re-fuel. Meals were no longer for fellowship or a moment to thank God for his bountiful provision. We became a generation which no longer asked if we will eat, but only what and when we will eat. Many of us lived off hamburgers and french fries and now our coronary arteries display the results. Nutrition class in high school became nap time for many of us.

I can remember many a mom saying, “If you don’t stop eating all those hamburgers, you will just become one big hamburger.” In unison, the mothers around the country declared, “You will become what you eat.” Little did they know how true that warning was for our lives and society.

Indeed, the scriptures declare that, “we are what we eat.” When we partake of the Body and Blood of our Lord in the Lord’s Supper, Christ is present (see Koinonia and the Lord’s Supper). As we partake of him by faith, he transforms us and the whole congregation.

Transformation of the bread and wine by the mysterious action of the Holy Spirit into the Body and Blood of Jesus. Transformation of the Christ-follower by the work of the Holy Spirit into the image and likeness of Christ. Transformation of the congregation into the people of God bringing them into heavenly worship of our Triune God by the transporting work of the Holy Spirit.

We are are what we eat for during the partaking of the Lord’s Supper, we are being transformed into the likeness of Christ.

What nourishes and transforms us at bread and wine is the disclosure of the whole story of God-creation, incarnation, re-creation-which takes up residence inside of us as we take and eat, take and drink. For in this symbol a reality is present-the divine action of God redeeming his world through Jesus Christ. . . . We become what we eat-living witnesses to Christ who lives in us.

Robert E. Webber, Ancient-Future Worship: Proclaiming and Enacting God’s Narrative (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2008), 146.

HT: Webber Quote of the Week

Heavenly Worship (Part Two)

Posted by on 24 Apr 2010 | Tagged as: Holy Eucharist, My Sermons, Roman Catholic Church, Worship

Every Creature in Heaven and Earth is Worshipping Now

And every creature which is in the heaven and upon the earth and under the earth, and those that are upon the sea, and all things in them, heard I saying, To him that sits upon the throne, and to the Lamb, blessing, and honour, and glory, and might, to the ages of ages.

Rev. 5:13

Often when we think of the Book of Revelation, we think future: second coming, final judgment, and the new heavens and new earth. However, the events in the Book of Revelation have happened, are happening, and will happen (Rev. 1: 8). These unusual and spectacular events happened in the first century to the original recipients of this book, prophecy, letter of John. Revelation speaks today to churches oppressed and persecuted by mighty governments who claim absolute, almost religious, authority over every citizen in their realm. Of course, the Book of Revelation contains insights into eternity which speak of Christ’s visible return in glory and the experience of eternal life in God’s presence.

Revelation chapters four and five reveal to us the the great throne of God. The throne is a symbol of the sovereign majesty of the King. The world may be in turmoil, but God reigns: he is defeating his foes, expanding his kingdom, and overcoming Satan’s wiles. Around the throne, all manner of heavenly creatures, elders, angels, and humans worship and declare their praises of the Holy One and the Lamb.

The door to heavenly worship (Rev. 4:1) is open as we “join our voices with Angels and Archangels and with all the company of heaven” (1979 Book of Common Prayer, 362) to praise and worship the Holy One and the Lamb for their holiness (5:8), for creation (4:11), for New Covenant blessing (5:9-10), for Calvary’s victory (5:12), and for their Unity (5:13). Around the Table of the Lord, the church is given a grand invitation to be lifted up into the heavenly places (Eph. 1:3) and experience now the joy of eternal worship.

In the earthly liturgy we take part in a foretaste of that heavenly liturgy which is celebrated in the holy city of Jerusalem toward which we journey as pilgrims, where Christ is sitting at the right hand of God, a minister of the holies and of the true tabernacle; we sing a hymn to the Lord’s glory with all the warriors of the heavenly army; venerating the memory of the saints, we hope for some part and fellowship with them; we eagerly await the Saviour, Our Lord Jesus Christ, until He, our life, shall appear and we too will appear with Him in glory.

Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy 8, The Council of Vatican II.

In the Cross . . .

Posted by on 23 Apr 2010 | Tagged as: The Cross

Salvation Is Found

The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life.

1 Tim. 1:15-16

This blog is dedicated to the Cross: the death, burial, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus. The Cross is the great act of Jesus in dying for our sins, being buried in the tomb, rising from the dead, baptizing with the Holy Spirit, and ascending to the Father.  All grace flows from the Cross as its source and all grace leads back to the Cross as its crown and triumph. The Cross of Christ is our victory, our repentance, our hope, and our call. The quote below from the great spiritual writer, Thomas a Kempis, says it all:

In the Cross is salvation, in the Cross is life, in the Cross is protection from our enemies, in the Cross is infusion of heavenly sweetness, in the Cross is strength of mind, in the Cross is joy of spirit, in the Cross is the height of virtue, in the Cross is perfection of sanctity. There is no salvation of the soul, nor hope of everlasting life, but in the Cross.

Thomas á Kempis, The Imitation of Christ

Christ’s Resurrection Means Our Resurrection

Posted by on 22 Apr 2010 | Tagged as: Resurrection

Jesus was Raised First, Then Us

For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ.

1 Cor. 15:22-23

The doctrine of the Resurrection of the Dead (also called Glorification) will happened when Christ returns, he will raise from the dead the bodies of all believers who have died in Christ since the beginning of time (1 Thes. 4:15-18). Jesus will reunite these bodies with their souls (spirits) which have been residing in heaven (Phil. 1:21, Dan. 12:2-3). Also, he will change the bodies of all those believers who are alive, giving them glorified bodies. Therefore, all believers from all time will have perfect resurrection bodies just like their Savior. The resurrection of the dead is the final work of God in applying Christ’s work on the Cross to our lives and to creation (1 Cor. 15:50-57).

[Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Grand Rapids, Mich: Zondervan, 1994), 828.]

There are very few Christians who believe the resurrection of the dead. You may be surprised to hear that, but I should not wonder if I discovered that you yourself have doubts on the subject.

By the resurrection of the dead is meant something very different from the immortality of the soul: that, every Christian believes, and therein is only on a level with the heathen, who believes it too. The light of nature is sufficient to tell us that the soul is immortal, so that the infidel who doubts it is a worse fool even than a heathen, for he, before Revelation was given, had discovered it—there are some faint glimmerings in men of reason which teach that the soul is something so wonderful that it must endure for ever.

But the resurrection of the dead is quite another doctrine, dealing not with the soul, but with the body. The doctrine is that this actual body in which I now exist is to live with my soul; that not only is the “vital spark of heavenly flame” to burn in heaven, but the very censer in which the incense of my life doth smoke is holy unto the Lord, and is to be preserved for ever.

The spirit, every one confesses, is eternal; but how many there are who deny that the bodies of men will actually start up from their graves at the great day! Many of you believe you will have a body in heaven, but you think it will be an airy fantastic body, instead of believing that it will be a body like to this—flesh and blood (although not the same kind of flesh, for all flesh is not the same flesh), a solid, substantial body, even such as we have here.

And there are yet fewer of you who believe that the wicked will have bodies in hell; for it is gaining ground everywhere that there are to be no positive torments for the damned in hell to affect their bodies, but that it is to be metaphorical fire, metaphorical brimstone, metaphorical chains, metaphorical torture.

But if ye were Christians as ye profess to be, ye would believe that every mortal man who ever existed shall not only live by the immortality of his soul, but his body shall live again, that the very flesh in which he now walks the earth is as eternal as the soul, and shall exist for ever.

That is the peculiar doctrine of Christianity. The heathens never guessed or imagined such a thing; and consequently when Paul spoke of the resurrection of the dead, “Some mocked,” which proves that they understood him to speak of the resurrection of the body, for they would not have mocked had he only spoken of the immortality of the soul, that having been already proclaimed by Plato and Socrates, and received with reverence.

C.H. Spurgeon, “The Resurrection of the Dead,” preached Sunday morning, 17 February 1856, New Park Street Chapel.

HT: Pyromaniacs

On Reading the Book of Revelation (Updated)

Posted by on 20 Apr 2010 | Tagged as: Apocalyptic, Prophecy, Second Coming

Apocalyptic Literature

The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show to his servants the things that must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, who bore witness to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, even to all that he saw. Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near.

Rev.1:1-3

Apocalyptic writing tells a symbolic story by which eternal insight is given by an angel to a visionary prophet. This heavenly perspective explains God’s eternal purposes to a church that is struggling on earth with persecution, oppression, trials, and sorrow. Apocalyptic literature uses powerful images to prick the imagination and draw the reader into God’s eternal perspective on the events of this world.

First, seventy per cent of the symbols’ meaning are drawn from the original context of  the Old Testament’s use of that symbol. Second, John’s symbols are also pulled from the contemporary Roman world using pagan images to illustrate sources of evil in the world. Third in our culture, we tend to think of symbols as meaning something less than real or true. John’s symbols are intended to convey deep theological meaning while simultaneously impacting our spirits and emotions. We tend to read a text “literally” as opposed to reading it “symbolically” as if a literal interpretation makes the text more true. In the Bible, symbols are understood to be just as “true” as other more historical or literary passages.

Before Apocalyptic literature can be applied to our day, the text must be read in the light of its original context. In other words, the writing must make sense to the readers of the first century before it speaks to a reader in the twenty-first century.

Apocalyptic literature was written not only to inform the church, but to impact believers’ emotions and encourage their spirits as well. We need to read the Book of Revelation with our hearts as well as our minds. Apocalyptic literature is designed to uplift our emotions by strengthening our wills with the truth of God’s sovereign grace and the power of his redeeming Cross.

What then is the Book of Revelation’s message?

1. That God is awesomely majestic, as well as sovereign in all our troubles.

2. That Jesus’ sacrifice as the Lamb ultimately brings complete deliverance for those who trust in him.

3. That God’s judgements on the world are often to serve notice on the world that God will avenge his people.

4. That regardless of how things appear in the short run, “sin does not go unpunished,” and God will judge.

5. That God can accomplish his purposes through a small and persecuted remnant; he is not dependent on what the world values as power.

6. That worship leads us from grief over our sufferings to God’s eternal purposes seen from a heavenly perspective.

7. That proclaiming Christ invited persecution, the normal state of committed believers in this age.

8. That Christ is worth dying for.

9. That a radical contrast exists between the God’s kingdom (exemplified in the bride, the new Jerusalem) and the world’s values (exemplified in the prostitute, Babylon).

10. That the hope God has prepared for us exceeds our present sufferings.

11. That God’s plan and church ultimately include representatives of all peoples.

Craig S. Keener, Revelation, NIVAC(Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2000), 41.

Heavenly Worship (Part One)

Posted by on 19 Apr 2010 | Tagged as: Eastern Orthodoxy, Holy Eucharist, John Calvin, My Sermons, Worship

Lifted Up With the Ascended Christ

At once I was in the Spirit, and behold, a throne stood in heaven, with one seated on the throne.

Rev. 4:2

Heavenly worship occurs during the celebration of the ancient liturgy as the people of God are lifted up to heaven with the ascended Christ as they partake of Holy Eucharist. The Holy Eucharist unites heaven and earth by elevating the church into an experience of worship with the people of God, past and present, around the throne of God in the presence of God.

Heavenly worship recognizes that the line between the physical reality of earth and its three dimensions and the spiritual reality of heaven and its angelic worship will become blurred as we enter the presence of the Lamb of God , slain yet standing, on the altar of God.

The worship that we experience on earth should be an experience of the worship that is presently occurring in heaven. Not only should heavenly worship be our experience, but our models of worship should reflect those elements of worship used in heaven.

Biblical instruction directs the people of God to worship following the model and practices of heaven. Earthly worship is to mirror heavenly worship in “spirit and in truth” (Ex. 24:9-11; Isa. 6:1-5; Ezek. 1:4-28; Dan. 7:9-14; Heb. 12:22-24; Rev. 4:1-5:14).

In order that pious souls may duly apprehend Christ in the supper, they may be raised up to heaven . . . and for the same reason it was established of old that before the consecration the people should be told in a loud voice to lift up their hearts.

John Calvin, The Institutes of the Christian Religion, 4.17.36.

We knew not whether we were in heaven or on earth.” Worship, for the Orthodox Church, is nothing less than “heaven on earth.” The Holy Liturgy is something that embraces two worlds at once, for both in heaven and on earth the liturgy is one and the same—one altar, one sacrifice, one presence. In every place of worship, however humble its outward appearance, as the faithful gather to perform the Eucharist, they are taken up into the “heavenly places”; in every place of worship when the holy sacrifice is offered, not merely the local congregation is present, but the church universal—the saints, the angels, the Mother of God, and Christ himself.

Timothy (Kallistos) Ware, “The Earthly Heaven,” Eastern Orthodox Theology: A Contemporary Reader, ed., Daniel Clendenin (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1995), 12.

By Faith in Jesus

Posted by on 16 Apr 2010 | Tagged as: Faith

Faith Pleases God

And to the one who does not work but trusts him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness.

Rom. 4:5

Faith is a response of the heart which receives what God has already done for us in Christ. Faith is relying on God’s character, standing on God’s promises, believing God’s Cross, and obeying God’s Spirit with a certainty that surpasses physical sight and human reasoning.

In our hearts, we are assured that God’s faithfulness will bring God’s Word to pass in our circumstances, intervening in our lives, and meeting our needs. Faith says that Christ’s shed blood is more than sufficient to forgive our sins, Christ’s death on the Cross defeats Satan’s hold on our lives, and Christ’s glorious resurrection conquers the world’s influence, the flesh’s control, sin’s grip, and death’s defeat over us.

We become Christians by faith in Jesus, we stay Christians by faith in Jesus, and we grow as Christians by faith in Jesus.

Tim Chester, You Can Change (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2010), 43.

HT: Of First Importance

Koinonia and the Lord’s Supper

Posted by on 15 Apr 2010 | Tagged as: Early Church Father, Holy Eucharist, My Sermons

Koinonia: Sharers in the Life of God

When we bless the cup at the Lord’s Table, aren’t we sharing in the blood of Christ? And when we break the bread, aren’t we sharing in the body of Christ?

1 Cor. 10:19 NLT

I was raised in a tradition that taught that the Lord’s Supper (i.e., Holy Eucharist or Holy Communion) was merely symbolic.  By the partaking of the grape juice and the consumption of a cracker, a simple memorial meal was offered to give thanks for the death of Christ. I always appreciated these quarterly services, but I thought there must be something more to this solemn ritual. The spiritual experience of the celebration of our Lord’s Body and Blood had to be more significant than just a service of memory by mental recall.

As a young Christian, I studied Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians faithfully and diligently. In my studies, I found key biblical words which provided deeper meaning to the celebration of the Lord’s Supper (1 Cor. 10: 14-22) than previously I had been taught. Consequently, I realized that large segments of the Body of Christ also made that same discovery and practiced those truths for centuries.

One of those words of significance was the Greek word, koinonia (1 Cor. 10: 16).  Koinonia is translated as share (NLT, NASU, NRSV), participate (NIV, ESV), partake (The Message), fellowship, commune (NKJV), and union (Douay-Rheims). As the reader can see, Koinonia is a word of great depth and meaning. The Apostle Paul is saying that when we receive the elements of wine and bread; we are sharing, participating, partaking, fellowshipping, communing, and uniting with the risen Christ. In Holy Communion, we experience afresh all the benefits of the finished work of Christ and encounter through Christ’s presence sanctifying grace to live the Christian life.

When we drink the Blood of Christ and and eat of the Body of Christ . . .

1. We share in the power of the resurrected Christ. He is risen and therefore alive, and by his power, we are made victorious.

2. We participate in the very life of God. We become receivers of the divine nature (2 Peter 1:4).

3. We partake of his grace. Sanctifying grace to live the Christian life: strength and power to respond to every life situation according to the will of God.

4. We fellowship with God and all his saints as the congregation enters into heavenly worship (Rev. 4 & 5).

5. We commune with Christ enjoying afresh his love, grace, and covenant promises.

6. We are brought into union with the heart and will of God. Our hearts are “righted” as we receive Christ the Body and Blood of Christ. By partaking, we submit to his Lordship afresh conforming our hearts and wills to his designs and purposes.

In summary, the Apostle Paul describes our Eucharistic meal as a koinonia. Koinonia means sharing, partaking, fellowship, communing, and unifying participation in the life of God. When we drink the Blood and eat the Body of our Lord Jesus Christ: we commune with Christ, we share in his resurrection, we partake of his grace, we fellowship with God and his saints, and we are brought into union with his heart and will. In short, we become partakers—people who share in the very life of God.

Daily communion and participation in his holy Body and Blood of Christ is a good and helpful practice. Christ clearly says, “He who eats My Flesh and drinks My Blood has eternal life.” Who doubts that to partake of life continually is really to have life in abundance? For myself, I communicate four times a week . . .  on the Lord’s Day, on Wednesday, on Friday, and on Saturday, and on the other days if there is a commemoration of a martyr.

St. Basil the Great of Caesarea (375 A.D.) cited in What the Church Fathers Say About  . . . ed., George W. Grube (Minneapolis, MN: Light and Life, 1996), 8.

God Doesn’t Have a Deadline

Posted by on 14 Apr 2010 | Tagged as: A. W. Tozer, God's Sovereignty

God Never Hurries

He will not let your foot slip —

he who watches over you will not slumber;

indeed, he who watches over Israel

will neither slumber nor sleep.

Psa. 121:3-4 NIV

As a pastor, I feel like all the books that I own are half-read. My time is constrained. I read diligently for sermon preparation each week. As a canon theologian, I need to do theological research for denominational papers and essays. Also, I develop Bible studies as needed for Wednesday and Sunday nights. I am constantly looking to various resources for help in teaching and studying the Bible. I start a book to educate myself on a particular subject, but cannot finish the book for the need to move on to the next topic of inquiry.

Lately, I have decided on a new goal. Presently, I am not teaching St. Michael’s Seminary. So, I have some time for reading that I have not had over the last five years. Therefore, I have decided to make time and attempt to finish some books. Books that I, and others, consider classics. Books that have passed the test of time and devotionally inspire me to greater love of Christ. I am starting with A.W. Tozer’s The Knowledge of the Holy.

The Knowledge of the Holy is an extended meditation on the attributes of God. Each chapter focuses on a particular quality of God’s character, nature, and being. The book sounds abstract, but each chapter is written as an act of worship drawing the reader into a sweeter, more intimate love relationship with the Blessed Trinity. Tozer wrote the book out of concern for the Evangelical church. If we have a mistaken understanding of God: our conduct, choices, and actions will result in poor judgments, flawed decisions, and immoral behavior.

A right conception of God is basic not only to systematic theology but to practical Christian living as well. It is to worship what the foundation is to the temple; where it is inadequate or out of plumb the whole structure must sooner or later collapse. I believe there is scarcely an error in doctrine or a failure in applying Christian ethics that cannot be traced finally to imperfect and ignoble thoughts about God (pg. 10).

Today, I completed chapter eight on God’s infinitude. For God to be infinite means that he is inconceivably great. God has no limitation and nothing externally can determine his choices. Time is an externality that making constant demands on us, but not God. Time takes a great toll on our lives: it attempts to pressure us into making impulsive decisions. Time forces deadlines and makes us feel inadequate, insufficient, and overwhelmed. However, God is not limited by time’s constraints: he is limitless and endless. God is not shaken by deadlines: he has all the time in the world.

Jesus Christ is fully God, he lives in us by the presence of the Holy Spirit, and as he lives in us, he will not be intimidated by deadlines. Therefore, we should never be panicked, under the gun, or anxious as a result of a deadline. The God who is infinite is in control of our personal lives. God is above deadlines, and therefore, we can be free from their anxious and worrisome producing demands.

How completely satisfying to turn from our limitations to a God who has none.

Eternal years lie in His heart. For Him time does not pass, it remains; and those who are in Christ share with Him all the riches of limitless time and endless years. God never hurries. There are no deadlines against which He must work. Only to know this is to quiet our spirits and relax our nerves. For those out of Christ, time is a devouring beast; before the sons of the new creation time crouches and purrs and licks their hands. The foe of the old human race becomes the friend of the new, and the stars in their courses fight for the man God delights to honor. This we may learn from the divine infinitude.

A. W. Tozer, The Knowledge of the Holy (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1961), 52.

Contentment: The Elusive Virtue

Posted by on 09 Apr 2010 | Tagged as: Puritans, Sanctification

Contentment is Learned Not Instantaneously Acquired

Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.

Phil. 4:11-12

Contentment is satisfaction in God himself. We don’t care whether life is the way we want it as long as we have his presence, joy, and love. Nothing the world offers compares with the satisfaction we have in Christ. Contentment is finding our needs met in God’s love and our sufficiency fulfilled in God’s adequacy (Phil 4:11; 1 Tim. 6:6; Heb. 13:5). We are able to experience joy while being fulfilled with the necessities of life that the Lord has provided. Contentment is developed over time: its is not an instant virtue. Contentment is obtained through trusting Christ and a willingness to live without the world’s passing fashions. Contentment is obtained by trusting God’s will, submitting to his appointments (even if they are disappointments), and drawing our strength from Christ (Phil. 4:13).

Christian contentment is that sweet, inward, quiet, gracious frame of spirit, which freely submits to and delights in God’s wise and fatherly disposal in every condition.

Jeremiah Burroughs, The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment (Reprint; Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1964), 19.

HT: Redeemer Blogs

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