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.’”

Treating the Scripture as a Person

Imagine the following scenario:

Your husband or wife calls you and tells you that they need to talk to you about something important when you get home. When you arrive, they usher you into the living room. “I’ve been thinking,” they say, “about how uncertain words are and how difficult it is to truly understand someone. I know that you try to talk to me, and that you expect me to understand what you’re saying, and I appreciate that, I really, really do, but I’ve made a decision. From now on, I’m just going to interpret what you say the way I want to, based on what makes the most sense for me. I think that will make things simpler.”

When they finish speaking, you sit, slightly bewildered, collecting your thoughts. Finally, you ask, “Why? I know we have misunderstandings from time to time, I know that sometimes I confuse you, but fundamentally I thought we’ve understood each other.”

Their response leaves you breathless, “Exactly,” they say, “This seems like the right thing to do. It means so much to me that you understand. I think we’ll get along so much better now. I hope you know how much I love you, and how much you mean to me.”

How would you react to such a conversation? Shock? Confusion? Bewilderment? You might begin to wonder if your loved one has some sort of dissociative disorder. You might even wonder if it’s you who have the disorder. You might wonder a thousand different things, but no one would think that this is normal.

But what if instead of you, the person being addressed was God Almighty? And what if instead of a loved one, it was you who had sat God down for the talking to?

How often do we treat the Word of God as less than a person? How often do we forget that when we open up the Word to read, it is not a dead man, but the living God Himself who is speaking to us? How often do we let the fact that we must interpret the Word, pervert itself into the idea that we can interpret it, anyway we want?

How often do we forget that the exact message that God wants us to know cannot be rendered unknowable? I don’t know about you, but I forget it all the time.

A Poem Bridging March Madness and Easter

When The Citadel beat Notre Dame
there were accusations of bribery.
At half-time Mike Brey had asked a ref
why they had called no fouls.
He simply said, “Because there were none.”

“And how do you explain the scratch marks
on my players arms and faces
and that their hands are bleeding?”

“Stigmata?” said the referee
and quickly walked away.

The Mundane Deception

If you listen to commercials or read print ads, you’ve probably run into the word “mundane” a few hundred times or more. You may have even used it from time to time in everyday conversations. And why shouldn’t you? It’s a perfectly good word for describing the ho-hum, humdrum, habitual lives that we hate to live. Or is it? I think that somewhere in the modern consumption of the word, we have also managed to swallow a lie. And not just any run of the mill, garden variety lie, but a lie big enough to turn the tables and swallow us as well. A lie that, were things seen as they truly are, would be properly described as mundane.

The word mundane comes from the Latin word mundis, and means of the world or earthly and by implication, it has come to mean boring, banal, and unexciting. And that’s significant, because mundane has another meaning as well, one that backtracks a bit and unwinds itself, a meaning that in some ways, diminishes the borders of the word, and in other ways, sets it up as a ruler over an incredibly populous kingdom. Intrigued? The word mundane means of the world, and before you say, “you just said that”, let me explain that it means of the world in the sense that it does not mean, of heaven.

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A World Without Hypothetical Situations

I don’t have time to give this the treatment it deserves, but for those of us who hold to the Reformed position, this deserves some serious thought.

Perhaps you’ve heard the old bon mot, imagine a world without hypothetical situations. But let me suggest something: if you believe that the world from beginning to end has been ordained by the Words of God, and that nothing happens or exists outside of this ordination, then that is exactly the type of world that you live in.

When I talk to and debate theological issues with Arminians, and we discuss the nuts and bolts of salvation and God’s goodness and the history of the world, invariably someone will propose that we examine the world through the simplified lens of a hypothetical situation. And this is where things start to break down.
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Al Mohler, Ann Coulter, John Edwards, and the word “faggot”

Apparently Ann Coulter recently called John Edwards a faggot and Al Mohler has written a piece distancing himself from her actions. And while I agree with Mohler in general, here’s where I start to lose the thread of his argument:

Conservative institutions cannot afford any association with this kind of language or attack. The issues are far too serious to be treated in this manner, and the very convictions Ann Coulter often defends are now sullied by association with her. Referring to John Edwards by using a word meant to demean homosexuals? What was she thinking?

How about saying that Christians cannot afford any association with this kind of language or atttack. How about saying that because sodomy is a serious sin in the eyes of God, it should not be mocked (something I am guilty of) by making a joke out of it. In other words, the problem with the word “faggot” is not that it is offensive to “homosexuals”, but because it is offensive to God in that it makes light of sin. As I think about this, I am convinced that by distancing himself from Ann Coulter’s comments for the reasons he states, Dr. Mohler is demonstrating how easily we fear men more than we fear God. I should also say that I’m not accusing Dr. Mohler of something that I haven’t done myself many, many times. In fact, I probably do it every day without thinking about it. And that’s the problem I’m addressing. Ann Coulter may very well be a jerk. She might be rude and crude and downright mean. But the problem is not with Ann Coulter. The problem is with Christians who are not holy. The problem, is that we don’t fear God.

The First Type of Evangelism, part III

In the part one of this ongoing series, we talked about the Shema Yisrael and its connection to what Jesus Christ calls the first and greatest commandment. In part two, we discussed evangelism in general and the dangers of over-simplifying the Gospel. Today, I wanted to go in a slightly different direction and talk about marriage as a form of evangelism. But before we can do that, we need to lay a little more ground work.

We are spiritual beings, and that’s important to remember, if for no other reason than the fact that we are constantly forgetting it. And it’s so easy to do. We wake up in the morning, and the first things we are faced with are the pressing demands of our bodies.

“To the bathroom,” screams our body, “but you should also start the coffee. Also, how about some breakfast? I’m thinking sausage and pancakes and maybe some eggs… Or a bagel!!! One of those asiago cheese thingies with bacon scallion cream cheese… But first, I need a shower, and a good gargle or two — what did I eat before I went to bed?!? — and by the way, HOW’S THAT COFFEE COMING?!?!”

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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”

God, Grammar, and the Precision of Scripture

I don’t have time to go into it in depth right now, but the following passages should be read and their implications considered anytime we wonder about the precision of Scripture and how seriously and literally that we should take it. First read this:

Master, Moses wrote unto us, If a man’s brother die, and leave his wife behind him, and leave no children, that his brother should take his wife, and raise up seed unto his brother. Now there were seven brethren: and the first took a wife, and dying left no seed. And the second took her, and died, neither left he any seed: and the third likewise. And the seven had her, and left no seed: last of all the woman died also. In the resurrection therefore, when they shall rise, whose wife shall she be of them? for the seven had her to wife. And Jesus answering said unto them, Do ye not therefore err, because ye know not the scriptures, neither the power of God? For when they shall rise from the dead, they neither marry, nor are given in marriage; but are as the angels which are in heaven. And as touching the dead, that they rise: have ye not read in the book of Moses, how in the bush God spake unto him, saying, I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? He is not the God of the dead, but the God of the living: ye therefore do greatly err.
(Mark 12:19-27)

Then read this:

Brethren, I speak after the manner of men; Though it be but a man’s covenant, yet if it be confirmed, no man disannulleth, or addeth thereto. Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ. And this I say, that the covenant, that was confirmed before of God in Christ, the law, which was four hundred and thirty years after, cannot disannul, that it should make the promise of none effect.
(Galatians 3:15-17)

In these passages, Jesus and then Paul expound on doctrine based on what would (at first) seem to be insignificant details. In the first example, Jesus establishes the fact (before the unbelieving Sadducees) that there is a resurrection by pointing out that God said to Moses, “I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob”. Then, in the second example, Paul reveals that in Genesis 22:18, God was referring to Jesus Christ and not to Isaac and his descendants because the singular Hebrew word for seed was used and not the plural.

So think about this the next time you hear someone questioning the precision of the Word of God. And also tell your children that, yes, grammar is important.

Taking Issue with C. S. Lewis

I’m treading on dangerous ground here, but I think C. S. Lewis has something wrong. In The Weight of Glory we come across this passage, which also appears as an excerpt in the Wikipedia deinition of Sehnsucht.

In speaking of this desire for our own faroff country, which we find in ourselves even now, I feel a certain shyness. I am almost committing an indecency. I am trying to rip open the inconsolable secret in each one of you—the secret which hurts so much that you take your revenge on it by calling it names like Nostalgia and Romanticism and Adolescence; the secret also which pierces with such sweetness that when, in very intimate conversation, the mention of it becomes imminent, we grow awkward and affect to laugh at ourselves; the secret we cannot hide and cannot tell, though we desire to do both. We cannot tell it because it is a desire for something that has never actually appeared in our experience. We cannot hide it because our experience is constantly suggesting it, and we betray ourselves like lovers at the mention of a name. Our commonest expedient is to call it beauty and behave as if that had settled the matter. Wordsworth’s expedient was to identify it with certain moments in his own past. But all this is a cheat. If Wordsworth had gone back to those moments in the past, he would not have found the thing itself, but only the reminder of it; what he remembered would turn out to be itself a remembering. The books or the music in which we thought the beauty was located will betray us if we trust to them; it was not in them, it only came through them, and what came through them was longing. These things—the beauty, the memory of our own past—are good images of what we really desire; but if they are mistaken for the thing itself they turn into dumb idols, breaking the hearts of their worshippers. For they are not the thing itself; they are only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never yet visited.

My issue with Lewis’ thinking here is that it conflicts with my understanding of the depravity of man. I have no problem with the idea that what every man needs is Jesus Christ; what I do have an issue with is that a man without Christ has any concept of his need for Him (and I realize that Lewis is almost saying that, but not really). Don’t get me wrong, I agree with Lewis in essence, but when he says that we misidentify Nostalgia, Romanticism, and Adolescence for that longing for another country, he misses the point. I would contend that the only reason that anyone in England had a past that contained elements that could be called good was because of the influence of Jesus Christ upon English culture. If Mr. Lewis were to consider a cannibal in the darkest parts of Africa, which aspect of his life would be the mistaken longing for heaven? One could argue, I suppose, that even his depravity is that mistaken urge, and I would be more inclined to that argument, but I don’t believe that’s the argument made here. When Lewis says, the secret also which pierces with such sweetness that when, in very intimate conversation, the mention of it becomes imminent, we grow awkward and affect to laugh at ourselves; the secret we cannot hide and cannot tell, though we desire to do both. We cannot tell it because it is a desire for something that has never actually appeared in our experience, I do not think he would attribute to our cannibal’s depravity the idea of a sweetly piercing secret.

I also can’t find a place in Scripture where Christ calls someone to Him, by telling them that He was that thing they always wanted. Instead, He calls men to repent and to escape the coming judgement, He calls men to fear a God that has the power to cast their body and their soul into hell.

I should say this: I love this passage by Lewis. It does speak volumes to me, but it speaks to me as a Christian, and on some level, I think it would speak to men who were raised in a nation built around the morality of Jesus Christ. And that is where I think Lewis misses the mark. If we read this passage (as I originally did) and come away from it with a method for speaking to sinners, we have cheated ourselves. “There is a city for which you have been longing” is not the message that we see in Scripture. Instead we are told to speak to men who are damned and to show them a Savior. And once they know Him, they can rightfully say that now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city.

As always, comments, critiques, and outright criticisms are welcome.