Gossip and the Supper

Several Sunday’s ago our church heard the annual gossip sermon.

This is the sermon where the preacher outlined in detail the sins of each particular family as they had been related to the elders during the course of the year, and each family was called to public repentance. OK, so it was nothing so juicy as that. Instead it was a sermon that outlined, in juicy detail, the magnitude of the evil of gossip and the destructiveness of this seemingly innocuous sin. The following was the accompanying meditation on the Lord’s Supper.

One of the slogans of our church is that weekly practice of the Lord’s Supper is the first step in church discipline—this meditation is a practical application of that principle. The text was Matthew 26:57-68 (Jesus’ trial).

In the grand scheme of things, Jesus died because the world is full of sinners and thus full of sin, but if we look at the order of specific events that let up to His death (how He came to be crucified at a specific time in a specific place by specific people), we see that Christ Himself was crucified because the Jews conspired to lie about Him, and the Romans were willing to let the lie pass.

Can you see how serious the crimes of the tongue? Liars and slanderers lied and slandered to kill the most innocent of all men—to kill the God-man. Sins of the tongue are no mere trifles. Consider that when you hear that Paul tells us that we take this meal to commemorate the Lord’s death until He comes. We commemorate this most tragic of all deaths as one brought about by false witness, by gossips.

[T]he Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me.”

If you have unconfessed sin, confess it. If you have been convicted by the sermon today, confess those sins, repent, turn away, and guard your tongue.

But, how do you guard your tongue? Look at it this way: practicing the Lord’s Supper is not just an excuse for somebody to get up and give an extra little inspirational sermon—the fact that real food and real drink is involved here is because they have real meaning. As you partake of these elements meditate on them. Taste them, I mean that, taste them and remember what they feel like on your tongue.

Then, later this week when you are tempted to sin with your tongue you can remember that your tongue had a meeting with God this morning. This particular meal is a sign of ownership. Remember that all of your body, even its smallest part, belongs to Him.

Have you been convicted today? Then remember that as we proclaim the Lord’s death we also proclaim the kind of death that He experienced: a temporary death. Jesus died, but he also rose and ascended into heaven, leaving His Spirit to sanctify you as He intercedes on your behalf before the Almighty Father.

“In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.’”

The Order of Heavenly Memorials

Go look at Exodus 12 if you have not read it in a while. The first 28 verses detail the instructions concerning the practice of the Passover meal.

The scope of the instructions is broad enough to reach to all generations:

“So this day shall be to you a memorial; and you shall keep it as a feast to the LORD throughout your generations. You shall keep it as a feast by an everlasting ordinance” (v.

14).

“So you shall observe the Feast of Unleavened Bread, for on this same day I will have brought your armies out of the land of Egypt. Therefore you shall observe this day throughout your generations as an everlasting ordinance” (v.

17).

“And it shall be, when your children say to you, ‘What do you mean by this service?’ that you shall say, ‘It is the Passover sacrifice of the LORD, who passed over the houses of the children of Israel in Egypt when He struck the Egyptians and delivered our households” (vv. 26-27a).

Notice how God has chosen to act towards His people. Be astonished, even. The Passing Over, the event that Passover commemorates, does not occur until after these instructions (vv. 29-32). What kind of God is this? He establishes a memorial before He has yet done the thing memorialized.

********

In the same way, also, Christ, on the night He was to be betrayed, took the bread and the cup, and established a new memorial that signified His death before He died. Christ memorializes the End of all sacrifices before He became the end. The Lord’s Supper: The New Passover.

We worship a God who establishes memorials before He brings all things to pass. Have faith, then.

Further musings on free will

Last week I wrote a bit about free will and now I want to do so a little more. Specifically, I want to talk about the nature of choice.

Choice is a tricky beast, partly because it is a holistic process. The Nature vs Nurture camps can debate all they want but as far as I’m concerned the issue is settled, neither nature nor nurture can be said to reign supreme in shaping our lives (though Proverbs 22:6 does give a big nod to the effectiveness of appropriate nurture). We are as far as I can tell composite creatures, shaped by father Adam’s sin and the sin of our immediate fathers, shaped by upbringing, by knowledge and by experience, by things both physical and spiritual. We are shaped by all of these things, and coupled with the specific circumstances from moment to moment we approach every decision in our lives. And we do not possess the ability to separate these things from who we are and how we choose.

The problem is, if you accept this, then God must walk a very careful line of interacting with us, lest He tip our scales one way or another. In fact, if one were to take this seriously, the list of areas where God would not be allowed to exert His will would be incredibly large. And if He did choose to act, He would have to nudge us back towards perdition every time He did something that pushed us in the direction of redemption, lest He be accused of making our choices for us.

And this leads us to the problem of understanding the nature of choosing. How much chance has to exist that a person will choose either option for it to be properly called a choice? We know that all decisions aren’t 50/50. We know that there are many days that given the choice to live or die (and don’t we almost always have that option) there would be no thought involved, our choice is already made. “But I could have chosen death,” you say, “if I had really wanted to.” But isn’t that part of a choice? Yes, we choose what we want, but many little somethings have gone into making us into the sort of person that wants some specific thing. And how many of those little somethings bear the mark of the work of God? None? One or two? All of them?

I’m not trying to say there is no such thing as free will. I’m trying to say that we have defined it in such a way that it cannot exist with a God who wants to do any specific thing. It cannot co-exist the way we have defined it with a passage such as Romans 9.

Does that make sense?

A closer look at Ron Paul

If you haven’t been to Wikipedia and read their article on Ron Paul, you should do so, right now. This guy is sharp, he’s humble, and he is according to both his own party members as well as his political opponents, an excellent example of what a congressman should be.

Some of the things that stood out to me about Ron Paul:

  • He is strongly pro life (something very few presidential candidates can claim in this election)
  • He has never voted for a tax increase.
  • He has never voted for a congressional pay raise.
  • He does not participate in the Congressional pension (calling it immoral).
  • He sometimes spends three to four days a week in his district addressing constituents’ concerns, often accompanied by one of his 17 grandchildren.
  • Paul’s Congressional office returns money to the government each year; in 2000, the sum returned was $50,000

So, if you haven’t done so, it may be time for you to take a look at Ron Paul, because he’s running for President, and so far, he has my vote.

Facts* about me: Stuff I never even knew, though I suspected the bit about the dolphins

 

Ten Top Trivia Tips about Charles Churchill!

  1. Charles Churchillicide is the killing of Charles Churchill.
  2. Some people in Malaysia bathe their babies in beer to protect them from Charles Churchill.
  3. The condominium – originally made from Charles Churchill – was invented in the early 1500s!
  4. More people are killed by Charles Churchill each year than die in aeroplane accidents!
  5. It takes more than 500 peanuts to make Charles Churchill.
  6. Britain’s Millennium Dome is more than double the size of Charles Churchill.
  7. The only planet that rotates on its side is Charles Churchill.
  8. Never store Charles Churchill at room temperature.
  9. Charles Churchill is actually a vegetable, not a fruit!
  10. Dolphins sleep at night just below the surface of Charles Churchill, and frequently rise to the surface for air.
I am interested in – do tell me about

* Not to be mistaken with the word “facts” (notice the lack of asterisk) Facts* are quite tricky and are typically not facts at all. See Truthiness, also Honesty*

Blog of the Week: One more week of Bittersweetness

I’m about to do something unprecedented. It’s BIG. Really, really, BIG. But before I do, you have to understand something about the Internet, this website, and the Blog of the Week feature.

The Internet is a vast and virtual expanse of wasteland filled predominantly with web sites of little or no interest to anyone. It is a dark place. A bleak place. A place where, if you will pardon the expression, happy flowers do not grow.

But there are oases.

The problem is finding them. This is where The Preacher comes in. Poised between the Internet and the oases, like a magnifying glass between the sun and an anthill, this website, and in particular the Blog of the Week feature, serves to magnify those sites of quality which are oh-so-difficult to find.

But there is a downside. Much like the magnifying glass, the unfiltered gaze of The Preacher can prove unbearable. The strain produced by the flood of new visitors has been known1 to bring even the largest web site to its knees. In short, such power brings with it a terrible responsibility.

Which brings me to my announcement: Bittersweet Life will remain the Blog of the Week for one week more. You are shocked. Believe me: I understand your shock. You are amazed. Know this: I can empathize.

Never, not even once, in the two-week history of Blog of the Week has a blog remained as King of the List for such a span of time. But quality demands such a concession. For such a site as this, there is no other choice2

1 “known” in a figurative sense. Loosely known, as in “not really” or as in “I’m making this up” see fiction

2 Also, I am going out of town for a few days, and it is going to be super busy.

Soulwinning, Methodology, and Going in unto Hagar

Abraham had a problem. God had made a promise to him, and to the best of Abraham’s understanding, God had not delivered. Plus, the way things looked, God was not planning on delivering any time soon. And it was starting to bother Abraham. It was also worrying his wife. It worried her enough that she finally approached Abraham and said to him:

Behold now, the LORD hath restrained me from bearing: I pray thee, go in unto my maid; it may be that I may obtain children by her.

Sarai makes it clear to Abraham that she knows it is God who has kept her from having children. She recognizes that God is the one who opens and closes the womb, but at the same time, she also doesn’t believe it or at least is not satisfied with it, because she tells Abraham to go into Hagar and see if God will bless that union and give him the promised heir by her (as if God does not control the womb of Hagar as well).

What happens next? We all know the story. Hagar brings forth Ishmael, and fourteen years later, Sarah née Sarai, brings forth Isaac, a son of her own. A few years later, Ishmael is sent away, and he grows up away from his father and his step-mother and brother. The next time we see Ishmael in Scripture, he is meeting Isaac to bury their father Abrhaham. Go a few verses further and we are reading Ishmael’s obituary as it were.

And these are the names of the sons of Ishmael, by their names, according to their generations: the firstborn of Ishmael, Nebajoth; and Kedar, and Adbeel, and Mibsam, And Mishma, and Dumah, and Massa, Hadar, and Tema, Jetur, Naphish, and Kedemah: These are the sons of Ishmael, and these are their names, by their towns, and by their castles; twelve princes according to their nations. And these are the years of the life of Ishmael, an hundred and thirty and seven years: and he gave up the ghost and died; and was gathered unto his people.
(Genesis 25:13-17)

We know a little more about Isaac. We know that he married Rebekah and that he had two sons, Jacob and Esau. We know that he became wealthy. We know his story in greater detail without having to look it up. But, here is my question:

If we accept the premise that the spiritual counterpart to bringing forth children is seeing souls born into the family of God, then what is the spiritual counterpart to going in unto Hagar?

I believe that as Christians (both individually and collectively as the Church), we often find ourselves in situations that bring us to say, the LORD has restrained us from bearing. The LORD has not given us souls. We know and testify that salvation is of God, that it is by the working of His spirit and by His hand alone that sinners come to repentance, but at the same time we do not believe it, because we go in unto Hagar. We go in to the world and we say, perhaps by these methods that we once thought were wrong, we might raise up souls unto God. What it terrifying is this. More often than not, by these methods, we see fruit.

What we have forgotten is this, Ishmael had twelve sons, each of them a prince with castles and land, and Issac had only two, one of them a shepherd living in semi-exile. If someone looked at the fruit of Abraham’s life, at his child with Hagar and his child with Sarah, which one would they conclude was more “successful”. Would they conclude that going into Hagar was such a bad thing after all? Could they even conclude that it was a good thing? Based on Ishmael’s life, would the modern church have told Abraham: Go down into Egypt and purchase from the slave blocks one hundred Hagars and get them all with child and raise up an army of Ishmaels? Sometimes, I wonder.

What I am saying is this: the ultimate fruit of Ishmael was not determined in his or in Abraham’s lifetime. In many ways it has still not been completely determined and will only be known in full, in eternity. But It is no different with our methods of winning souls today. It is not immediate results that tell us whether we are doing the work of God or not. There was no lack of people to dance around the golden calf that Aaron made, yet Noah preached 100 years and only reached his household.

What do you think? Does this hold up to the light of God’s Word? Have we gone in unto Hagar? If so, how do we make things right?

This is a love story: a very short (and possibly unfinished) work of fiction

Author’s Note: This is not a new piece. I wrote it a few years ago, and while I’m still not totally happy with it, for some reason, I like it very much. So, occasionally, I get it out, reread it a few times, make a few edits, and stare at it, all the while wishing I had an idea for making it longer. This time, I thought I would share it with you. As always, comments are welcome

This is a love story. There is a girl. There is a boy. It is traditional.
I should warn you though, you have already been lied to.

Continue reading “This is a love story: a very short (and possibly unfinished) work of fiction”