Communion That Smells

As we spread “the fragrance of the knowledge of [Christ] everywhere,” God says that we are an aroma “among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance of life to life” (2 Corinthians 2:14-16). Spreading the fragrance happens by preaching (see verse 17), it happens by practice, and it happens when we partake at the Lord’s Table.

When we eat and drink we are “proclaiming the Lord’s death until he comes” (1 Corinthians 11:26). So when we gather around this table, it’s not only a left-over scent of break baked earlier in the morning, it’s not only the lingering whiff of a bottle of wine uncorked before the service, it is an aroma of life and death. Our communion has a smell to it, for some that fills them with more life from the fullness of God’s life, and for others it fills them with more death as they detest our joy in a meal of flesh and blood.

“Who is sufficient for these things?” (2 Corinthians 2:17) Who is “adequate” (NASB)? Who is worthy? It’s a humbling question with an obvious answer. None of us are worthy, no not one. But the good news is for the unworthy. Jesus died for the insufficient. Jesus rose again to bring us with Him to the Father. The bread is His body and the wine His blood given for us, and it is grace that is an aroma from life to life.

Calvinist Knees

How does a Calvinist confess his sins? That’s not the start of a joke.

We are a Calvinistic church, meaning that we believe that God is God, God rules over all, and that includes His sovereignty in the salvation of men. We believe that He elects spiritually dead men to be brought to Him as worshippers for eternity. He has their names already written in a book. They are a love gift from the Father to the Son as a Bride.

Whether you like the nickname or not, it’s convenient theological shorthand. The least you could do is hope to be a Calvinist that isn’t weird.

So how does a Calvinist confess his sins? Some don’t. They confess that total depravity is a true doctrine, but they reason that God saves His chosen ones regardless of any specific repentance, so individual confession doesn’t matter. I’d call this a form of hyper-Calvinism, and more than that, I’d call it wrong.

There are some other Calvinists who don’t confess their sins because the truths of the doctrines of grace have caused them to see everyone else’s errors but their own. A certain kind of knowledge puffs up (1 Corinthians 8:1). I’d call this hypocritical-Calvinism, and it is worse than wrong.

Those who realize that they were corrupt and contemptible to God, rebels without a cause, dead in sin apart from God’s free choice and God’s perfect blood and God’s initiated heart-transplant, should not be proud. A Calvinist should confess his sins in humility. A Calvinist should confess his sins on his knees. We could call him a Calvikneest.

As part of our liturgy we’ve been inviting those who are able and willing to kneel in humble confession for many years. It’s not a convenient position for many, and a physical impossibility for a few. But for those who are able, wouldn’t it be a great testimony if others knew we were Calvinists by our knees?

He Is Neither Here Nor There

I’m late to linking but the point remains piquant: the principles underneath today’s public education are rotten and Christians need to get off the floor.

Whoever the audience is for this blog, I imagine that it’s mostly my friends. If you are one of my friends, I also figure you read Blog and Mablog, and you almost certainly enjoyed #NoQuarterNovember. Wilson’s first post was, Burn All the Schools, and I’m still crying (on the inside) with laughter over this analogy:

If there ever were to be a true reformation among us, Christians leaving the public school system would form a refugee column that would make the Mississippi River look like a solitary tear running down Horace Mann’s cheek.

As was the point with every #NoQuaterNovember post, he offered no qualifications. His post wasn’t about where Christians can or should teach. His post wasn’t about if Christians have survived or possibly could survive in the government education system. His post wasn’t that every private or Christian school is necessarily doing things right.

The point is that Christian parents are called to disciple their kids in the Christian way of life, and the “Christian way of life” does not include acting as if Christ is irrelevant to everything in life. It’s as if some education tsar took the anti-Shaffer-apologetic: “He Is Neither Here Nor There.” That’s the least bad problem with State schools, and that’s not good.

Gaining Weight

I pray that we all gain weight this year.

In a day and age like ours, in a country like ours, the exceptions are the few who need to put on more pounds of body weight. When we think about our daily bread we’re thinking about which kind of carbs we crave, not the minimum portion we need to survive. The abundance of food is a blessing, and of course blessings can be abused, and belt sizes bulge.

The kind of weight I’m talking about instead is the weight of glory. I’m talking about finishing this upcoming calendar year more full of God than now (see Ephesians 3:19). Don’t be light, be heavy. Put on some gravity. Get dense, not like a fool, but thick in faith and love.

This is God’s plan for us. When we know more of His love we are made more full of Him. Sometimes that includes suffering so that our bucket can be made bigger to hold more.

For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison (2 Corinthians 4:17)

In various ways we’re being prepared for weight that can’t be compared. Our weekly communion together is part of that process; it both a fills and an expands. The Table is set with the bread and cup of His love, by faith we eat and drink and are filled. At the same time this is only a mouthful of the eternal feast. We are made more hungry and thirsty, and our capacity is enlarged for more.

Buried and Barricaded

If you were in the center of a redwood tree I imagine that you would not be affected by much. If you were standing beside a redwood tree I imagine that you would be affected very much by the glory of the tree.

Sin buries and barricades our affections. Sin blinds us to the ugliness of our sin, sin dulls us to the poison of our sin. Sin even tries to tell us that sin is satisfying, that righteousness is the sucker-outer of life.

When God saves us He gives us new hearts, hearts that are no longer hard but that are sensitive to the true, the good, and the glorious. He clears our minds so that we recognize the deceiving propaganda of sin. He calibrates the scales of goodness in our evaluating organs so that we hate what is wicked and love the heights of all that is good.

It’s why our time of confession each Sunday morning is a time for us to take sin seriously. We take forgiveness seriously, too, purchased by Christ on the cross, and secured by God Himself for all His elect. And while we come with faith that atonement has been paid in full, we still come to train our hearts that sin is gross, sin is rotten, sin will kill.

When we offer our worship in confessing sin we take David’s lyrics as a guide:

The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
   A broken and contrite heart,
      O God, you will not despise.
(Psalm 51:17)

A broken and contrite heart is not without hope, but it is broken of hoping to produce something good out of our own hearts and it turns to God for His grace in forgiveness, acceptance, and renewed affections.

The Last Battle

4 of 5 stars to The Last Battle by C. S. Lewis

There is one page in this book that is the worst. The rest of it creates the right kind of longing to fight, and if necessary die, for Aslan. There is a better home where we belong.


2010:

Alright, again, I enjoyed the fiction. What is this world coming to?

Also, I choked up a couple times especially near the end.

O Come Again, Emmanuel

Maybe some of you have family that you haven’t seen for a while coming to your house for Christmas, or maybe you are headed to see them. If things are good, you’re even eager to see them and share the day together. You’re looking forward to it, and you’re preparing for it. You’ve invited them, you’ve got their trip itinerary printed and hung on the refrigerator door, you’ve put new sheets on the kids’ beds, you’ve bought enough food for two feasts, and you’ve wrapped the presents and put them under the tree.

There’s a lot of work to do for those we love even when we’re not with them. Our care for one another is integrated into how we plan our days, how we spend our money, what we think about and work toward. But by comparison, none of that replaces being with those we love.

As Christians we are eager for Christ’s second return. We live by faith, which is not the same as living quietly in our heads. Our trust in and love for Christ should be integrated into the rhythms of our weeks, into the lines in our budgets, into the extra seats around our tables, into the lyrics we sing and the products we buy and the words we use to communicate. It’s all for Christ.

Yet by comparison none of those things will mean as much to us as when we get to see him face to face. When that happens, our joy will be complete (an even better expectation than that in 2 John 12).

Now we eat with Him by faith, but the day is coming when we will eat with Him face to face. O come again, Emmanuel.

When We Have Problems

The Lord’s response to Paul’s request to have his thorn removed is archetypal.

He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9a)

That is a fantastic truth. We should share that on the Internet. Someone should print it in a sympathy card, probably using a gentle, italic font, and adorn it with a soft colored flower. It’s perfect, especially for Paul, and other people.

Paul continues:

Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:9b-10)

How many of us don’t really want to be content, we want to be content in a Thomas Kinkade Christmas painting hanging on the wall of a set in a Hallmark Channel movie? It looks so calm, cozy, and probably chocolaty. The fire is delightful, and, if the kids are awake, they’re not stirring one another up to irritation.

But of course the first Christmas was God’s own experience of traveling away from home, of family being displaced, being uncomfortable. God was born in obscurity and weakness, to poor and tired parents.

Us, though, we’ve got big plans to be joyfully adoring Him, until you can’t find the wrapping paper where it was supposed to be, and the house is more messy than Walmart shelves two hours after Black Friday sales started. You wanted to host the extended family, but, not like this.

Christmas, and contentment, is harder than it looks. But God’s grace is sufficient, and He wants His power to be seen as the power of Christ rests upon us when we have problems.

Born with Flesh

The apostle John wrote that “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). A few chapters later John recorded Jesus, who was talking with some grumbling Jews, “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh” (John 6:51).

The enfleshing of God in Jesus led to the death of God in Jesus, which we know led to the resurrection of God in Jesus, and then led to eternal life with God to anyone and everyone who believes. We eat Jesus’ flesh by faith, we drink His blood by faith; the eating and drinking are abiding in Him, and we do that in constant dependence on Him.

This is our life, and this is love. In his first epistle John wrote, “By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers” (1 John 3:16).

You can’t take on flesh, you were born with flesh. But you can give it, and that is the way of glory and truth. Love Jesus, love the soul satisfaction only found in Him, eat His body and drink His blood. He is our greatest good and will be forever. So “beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God” (1 John 4:7).

Deserving a Different Christmas

During this advent season we focus our thoughts on the first coming of the Messiah, about the Father sending His Son from heaven to earth. The Christmas story, as told by Matthew and Luke, is a story of the Son’s contentment with His Father’s decision.

In those days many gods of men were getting a lot of man’s attention. But Jesus didn’t come out of petty or bitter jealousy. In fact, that sort of jealousy doesn’t come from above.

If you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. (James 3:14-16)

James wrote to believers. Christians aren’t the only ones who have these problems, but they are at least the ones who should know better. Instead, too often what we think is that we deserve better, or we wished we had better.

It’s not only kids who are discontent in December; “But I want THAAAAAT!” Big people have their “virtuous gimmes” when they see someone else blessed, and assume that those blessings are absolute, no heaviness attached. It must be better to have more money, a bigger house, an easier or more secure job. It must be nice to have more energy, to need less sleep, to be more strong. “I want THAAAAAT!”

This is not Christmas wisdom. This is not Christian wisdom. This is earthly, unspiritual, demonic, and divisive, even if it’s only in your heart.

If anyone “deserved” a different Christmas it was Jesus. Yet Jesus was content with His Father’s plan and timing to get Him glory. Are you?