Failing to Breathe

One of the ways we know if we’ve been born again is our attitude those who sit around the Lord’s table with us.

Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him. (1 John 5:1)

This meal of communion is only for Christians, those who are born again, and Christians are those with a particular affirmation and with personal affection. We’re united by spiritual birth to the Head and His Body.

Those who are born of God believe “that Jesus is the Christ.” Any claim of new life apart from confessing that Jesus is Lord and Savior is a bogus claim. The lyrics sung by the born again are clear: Jesus is the Christ, the promised and anointed one, the substitutionary sacrifice who died on the cross for sins, was buried in a tomb for three days, and was declared to be the Son of God by His resurrection.

The harmony of the born again song is loving other born againers; this is not a solo. We who are born of God confess Christ and care for one another. Diluted affections for, resistance to forgive, and reluctance to fellowship with other believers calls into question one’s spiritual life just as failing to breathe calls into question one’s physical life.

If you’re harboring resentment or anger toward a brother, whether the size of a cruise ship or kayak, you should repent and make that right before you celebrate the symbol of our uniting love. He has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and we who are born again must love all the others who share our living hope.

Come, eat, and celebrate your born again life in Jesus the Christ. Come, eat, and commune with your born again family.

One Sign of Being Born

According to the apostle John, “No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God” (1 John 3:9).

In other words, no one stays the same after the new birth. Being born of God is like being raised to life from death, being transferred from darkness to light, being delivered from slavery to freedom, being released from guilt to peace, being cured from blindness to see sin for what it is and hate it. A regenerated man cannot keep on going in the same direction.

Christian, is the change visible in your life? Are you tending the imperishable seed sown by God in your soul? Are you putting away all filthiness so that you may receive the implanted word? Are you watching closely so that the cares of this world don’t choke the word and keep you from being fruitful? As one who is born again, are you practicing righteousness more reliably, loving the brethren better, and confessing your sin more eagerly? By these behaviors it is evident who are the children of God (1 John 3:10).

Though it ought to grow better by grace, our practice of righteousness and love of the brethren isn’t perfect. We do not say we have no sin. We will always be in need of an Advocate. That’s part of the reason for our corporate time of Christian confession: if anyone does sin as God’s child, he has an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous (1 John 2:1).

He caused us to be born again that we might not keep on sinning. But if we do sin, He promises forgiveness and cleansing when we confess our sins. Honest confession itself is one sign of being born of God.

Check In to Build Up

Singing to Build Up

Greg Gilbert on the ministry of making melody:

I think we ought to encourage every member of our churches to sing every song in the service with gusto, even if they don’t particularly resonate with the song. Every Christian has a certain set of hymns and songs that deeply resonate with them—the melody, the words, an experience they had when they first heard it—and our natural tendency is to give those favorites everything we’ve got…but then sort of check out when the next song is one we don’t particularly like.

But here’s the thing: When you sing in a congregation, you’re not just singing for yourself; you’re singing for every other member of the congregation, for their edification and building up in Christ, too. In I Corinthians 14:26, Paul tells us that when we come together, everything we do—including our singing—is done for each other. Singing hymns is not just an opportunity for each of us, as individuals, to worship God in our own way. It’s an opportunity for the church, as a whole, to worship God together. That means that even if you don’t like a particular song, it’s likely that someone else in the congregation resonates with it deeply—they feel about it the same way you feel about your favorites—and so you have a responsibility to love that person by singing that song with all the heart you can muster. In other words, don’t check out on songs that aren’t your favorites; sing them! And sing them loud and heartily, not because you particularly like them, but because you may be helping to edify another brother or sister whose heart is engaged deeply with those songs. Worship isn’t finally an individual experience; it’s corporate. And everything we do—everything, Paul tells us, including our singing—should be done for the building up of the saints.

(ht: B2W)

Clearly Outrageous

On Women, Divisiveness, and Hobby Horses

A new post from Rachel Jankovic on the joy that’s possible when we differentiate principles from methods. The principle here applies to much more than mommas pushing their favorite idols techniques. It creeps into any corner where someone says something that’s “clearly outrageous.”

Do not get caught up in method camps and chisel away at the number of saints you can fellowship with every time you read a new article about that thing that has become the most important thing. Do not build for yourself an arsenal of inflammatory topics.

Talking with Our Mouths Full

We are witnesses of the Light. We see Him by faith, not by eye-sight, but that’s okay because we call men to spiritual sight in the Light.

As witnesses we proclaim the Logos, the Light, the Lord. The apostle Paul said, “as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes” (1 Corinthians 11:26).

How is it that we are proclaiming? We usually think about proclaiming in verbal terms, with words and stuff. Paul says we are proclaiming while at this table, so are we talking with our mouths full? Didn’t mom tell us not to do that?

Right, and that’s not what Paul is talking about. He’s saying that our participation is a proclamation. Eating and drinking is saying something even if we don’t say anything at that moment.

I’m emphasizing this because salvation isn’t something only in our heads, it has to be there, but it isn’t only there. God is spirit and Person, in Jesus a person with flesh and bones. The world is His, not just our words. Eternal life is lived, not merely thought about. So proclaim the gospel of grace by fellowshipping around His table.

Gloppy Gratitude

We impress no one by pointing out all the things that are wrong or incomplete. We live in a fallen world, so complaining about all the fallen things is easier than shooting fish in a barrel, it’s like breathing air while shooting fish in a barrel. Everyone does that.

Not everyone can or will give thanks for things in this sin ridden world. But the world is still God’s world, full of barrels and breaths, and He is making something of us in it. He also uses us to make something of others.

One of the things He intends to make us, and those around us, is thankful. We cannot sow grumbling, bitterness, or reluctance and think that we will reap thanksgiving. Our gratitude should belch and gush like runaway lava, carrying away small-minded criticisms and negative attitudes and spiteful squabbles. Our gratitude should be thick and sticky like a snowball gathering speed and size as it sweeps down the mountainside, uprooting every petty sapling planted in the path.

We need a gooey gratitude, nearly impossible to wipe off. If our thanksgiving is runny and thin, it will slip through the cracks and be easily ignored. But gluey, gloppy gratitude restricts how much negativity a neighbor can exercise. We won’t cause gratitude to abound by sharpening our complaints against crybabies; criticizing criticizers usually doesn’t deter them. Criticism ebbs as tides of gratitude surge. That consistency of gratitude will change a culture.

The Right Banquet Hall

God has prepared a banquet table and all who eat at the Lord’s table share not only His gifts, but also His very life. The bread at this banquet is unlike any other bread. The 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” (John 6:32b-33).

The bread is heavenly but it’s not manna, it’s a Man. Jesus went on to teach, “I am the bread of life.” (v.35). “I am the bread that came down from heaven” (v.41), and “the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh” (v.51).

In the Logos was life (John 1:4), and “unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, You have no life in you” (v.53). Note: being in the right banquet hall or reading the menu accurately isn’t enough.

Communing with Him at this table and eating this bread doesn’t prepare us for life, it is life. Eating and drinking is abiding in Him (v.56). The fellowship here doesn’t lead somewhere else. “As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me also will live because of me” (v.59). Believe, eat, and live.

Wait No More

There are many ways to adopt and/or care for widows and orphans. There are so many, actually, that many people who desire to do something may not know where to start. Here is one opportunity.

Right now, there are approximately 130,000 kids in US foster care. There are 10,000 kids in the Washington state foster care system and between 1,000 and 1,500 of those kids have no legal parents and want to have them, meaning, they want to be adopted. There are also over 5,000 churches in Washington state. It seems as if Christians could do something.

Enter the Wait No More event on September 24. From 1:00-5:00pm on Saturday, at Overlake Christian Church in Redmond, Focus on the Family is arranging information and agencies to get families in the process to adopt kids from the foster system. Here is a one minute overview video.

Washington Wait No More Promo Video

Focus on the Family has already held eight events in seven other states (two in their home state of Colorado). They only go to states with significant interest and existing infrastructure to make things happen. They are spending their own resources to build trellis, organizing placement agencies and state officials and churches, not only to make the needs known, but also to recruit families to adopt.

The event is free, however they do ask that people register so they can have enough materials for all who attend.

1:00-3:00pm will be a gathered time for education and motivation. Then, from 3:00-5:00pm, there will be time to interact with many of the ministries and adoption agencies. Those who are interested will be able to sign up before they leave and will be contacted soon therefore for the next steps.

Adopting through the foster system isn’t for everyone. For that matter, adoption, whether through foster or private or international, isn’t for every family. But loving the unloved and dying to bring life is. Here is one opportunity, where other people are spending all sorts of effort to build trellis that we can utilize.

Additional things you can do:

  1. Read Adopted for Life by Russell Moore, a fantastic resource about adoption in general.
  2. Visit 127adoptions.org and/or read Chuck Weinberg’s blog that tells their family’s story of adopting from China.
  3. Talk with Esther about serving at the 127 table on Saturdays. Those of you who follow her on Facebook already know some of the updates and that info is now on the church website as well.
  4. Email me with questions about adoption or about the event itself.
  5. Pray for attendance and interest in the Wait No More event.
  6. Register and attend, or tell others about, the event: icareaboutorphans.org

Ruined Appetites

We won’t receive the food of His holy Word if we are full of sin. We must acknowledge and abandon sin before we’re free to feed on Scripture, and feeding on Scripture is necessary if we hope to grow in salvation.

Therefore, putting aside all malice and all guile and hypocrisy and envy and all slander, like newborn babes, long for the pure milk of the word, that by it you may grow in respect to salvation– (1 Peter 1:1-2, NAS)

Numerous translations (such as the ESV, NIV, NRSV) read as if there were two commands but, really, Peter provides one prerequisite and then one command. We could play up the grammatical structure: “having put aside sin…long for Scripture,” or “Crave the pure after getting rid of the putrid.”

Peter mentions five sins and, though not an exhaustive list, these five are sufficient to inhibit spiritual growth. “Malice” or viciousness exalts oneself as judge over others and rather than positioning oneself under the judgment of the Word. “Guile” or deceit honors false words rather than the Word of truth. “Hypocrisy” allows division of soul rather than bring one wholeheartedly before the Word. “Envy” promotes pursuit of competing satisfactions rather than promoting the Word that is more to be desired than gold. “Slander” likewise ruins a tongue’s taste for true goodness.

Any and all of these sins will cripple our spiritual growth. But which sin in this passage is the worst? The greatest sin here is not longing for the Word. The other sins ruin our appetite for that which will nourish our souls. Sin burns our tongues, it leaves a bitter taste. All sins must be confessed and put away so that we will hunger for the good Word and grow.

Grow Right By

Growing in grace leads to surprising difficulties. As disciples we want to grow more and more into the image of Christ. As a church we want the whole body to be built up and knit together. Stagnant spirituality stinks, so how could spiritual progress not be necessarily refreshing? Growth is positive, yes, and sometimes painful.

Growing in grace can be painful when others see our growth and say something encouraging. A friend says, “You don’t fly off the handle nearly as often as you used to.” He’s thankful for the grace at work he sees in your life. You’re reminded how frequently you got up on the angry side of the bed. Your wife says, “I’m so thankful for how sweet and compassionate you’ve become.” You hear her talking about a husband formerly known as a selfish fathead. We wanted to be more patient and joyful. We prayed that God would make us more kind and loving. But now that other people notice, it hurts.

If they would just forget what we were like than maybe we could too. Of course, if they (and we) forget, the testimony of God’s grace is forgotten, too. Be careful when you grow in grace, other people may notice and it may pop more pockets of pride.

Be careful also when you want others to grow in grace. It can be painful, not only for them to see us grow, but for us to see them grow. Your disciple starts taking his kids for pancakes every Saturday morning and leaves you without a golf buddy. Your son gets serious about his faith and starts getting up early–unlike you–to read his Bible and pray. We wanted them to grow but not grow right by.

If they would just stay where they were then we could too. Of course, if they (and we) stay put, the God’s grace makes no name for itself. When others grow it may make us fearful that our own weaknesses and immaturity will be seen, or it make may us jealous that they’re receiving growth blessings that we want.

Blessings of grace, even in Christian growth, may make us uncomfortable and expose more need for growth and sins to confess.