tohu va bohu Posts

Discipline hurts. Discipline is not entirely the same as punishment, though the pain part may overlap. God says in the book of Hebrews that discipline stings, at least in the moment (Hebrews 12:11). But He also says that the sting is not the point. Punishment aims at pain. Discipline aims at the peaceful fruit of righteousness.

Throughout the Bible God reveals that His discipline is like that of a father (as in Proverbs 3:11-12). The starting assumption is that to discipline like a father means to discipline in love. A father knows what is right, he is honest when his son doesn’t do what is right, and he doesn’t wait around for everything to just work itself out. A loving father speaks up, decides consequences, provides training, and some of that may be painful.

What are the disciplined supposed to learn? As mentioned, they are supposed to learn what is right, and that doing right has a different pain than not doing right. God’s discipline leads to holiness, and that is good (Hebrews 12:10).

But isn’t it also true that discipline teaches a son that he is loved? Love cares about what is right and about the other person and about the other person learning to love what is right. Love isn’t hands off. Love trains to transform a son to grow up so that he can discipline his son in love. Discipline turns sons into kings (see Revelation 3:21).

Our Father has a fully stocked discipline arsenal. When He sees His children disobey, with discontented or tepid souls, He has limitless ways to get our attention. Is He disciplining you? It is because He loves you.

liturgy

There is a similarity between our worship liturgy and the holiday liturgy many families will follow this week.

Each Lord’s Day our service drives toward the communion table. The call to worship, our confession of sin, and the Word’s work of consecration prepare us to share together in the communion of Christ. Unlike many services that prepare for and respond to the centerpiece of the sermon, we think the sermon centers our hearts for sake of the Lord’s Supper. The Savior brings us together, unites us, and we give thanks.

On big holidays, such as Thanksgiving, there is usually a lot of prep work, all of which points to a shared table. There is shopping and cooking, there is traveling and decorating, but it all aims to bring people together to share food, and especially this week, to express thanksgiving.

But both the Lord’s Supper and your holiday supper are subordinate ends. They are ends, we’re trying to get there, but we’re not trying to stay there.

Communion is a uniting in fellowship, to the end of the glory of God, and also as we continue to glorify God in our thankfulness for Christ and fellowship one another beyond Sunday. The Thanksgiving table isn’t intended to be a tall rug that covers all bitterness and hurts and offenses until the leftovers get put in the fridge when we can go back to being grumpy with one another. No, it is a time to renew thanks for sake of prolonging thanks.

Communion makes communion better. Thanksgiving makes thanksgiving longer, if we do it right. Even the marriage supper of the Lamb will be a feast that kicks off eternal feasting. So we drive to the point where we can really get going.

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The wise Preacher once observed a heavy and hideous scene.

“There is an evil that I have seen under the sun, and it lies heavy on mankind: a man to whom God gives wealth, possessions, and honor, so that he lacks nothing of all that he desires, yet God does not give him power to enjoy them, but a stranger enjoys them. This is vanity; it is a grievous evil.”

Ecclesiastes 6:1–2, ESV

Here is an illustration I’ve always appreciated. “God is the One who gives things, and God is the one who gives the power to enjoy things. These are distinct gifts…just as a can of peaches and a can-opener are distinct gifts” (Wilson, Joy at the End of the Tether). God could give a man a warehouse full of canned peaches, and get that man on the talk show circuit about his terrific warehouse management techniques, and it wouldn’t be enough.

Who knows how many things he has to be thankful for? Sounds, Scripture, salvation; food, family, friendship; life, liturgy, literature; ice cream, the Internet, ibuprofen; butter, bread, beauty; kids, congratulations, compassion; potatoes, promises, pies. These are all wondrous gifts, with whip cream on top, to mankind.

But there is one more gift that puts all of those gifts in place. One other gift that keeps us from serving the gifts as gods or from fearing that we will. The great gift is the power to give thanks. Gratitude itself is a grace. Not letting us think that we have gotten all these things by our own power (see Deuteronomy 8:17), but turning us to the God of generosity and abundant blessings is His own work in our hearts.

Give thanks to God who works and wills thankfulness in your hearts.

liturgy

3 of 5 stars to Purgatory by Dante Alighieri

2019: I am still impressed by a couple things after my second trip through the poetic Purgatory. Penance is no fun, while also not being biblical, so, whew. That Dante mixes literature, history, and imagination into such an extended poetic form really does make one give thanks to God for His common grace in sub-creators.

2016: I’m sure I would have enjoyed this even more if I knew Italian history, and if I believed in Purgatory. As it is, I’m glad to be through it and heading into Paradise.

Goodreads

Back again with a diagram of the first half of The Amen’s message to the lukewarm Laodiceans in Revelation 3:14-18. Verses 19-22 will come soon, as in next week, Deo volente.

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The New Testament is full of things to do because Jesus is coming. Building bunkers to stay low and stay out of the fray is not one of them.

“Establish your hearts for the coming of the Lord is at hand” (James 5:8). “The Lord is at and, do not be anxious about anything” (Philippians 4:5-6). We ought to be people of holiness and godliness waiting for and hastening the day (2 Peter 3:11-12). With the end of all things at hand we should be self-controlled in order to pray, to love one another, to show hospitality, and to use our giftedness (1 Peter 4:7-11).

In short we ought to steward the minutes and talents He’s given us so that when he returns He we can given Him a return on His gifts to us (see Matthew 25:14-30). He is coming, so we just conquer.

Also, we commune. The regular celebration of the Lord’s Supper as His Body on the Lord’s Day is an act of eschatology. He will reign forever and we will reign with Him, because He rose from the dead. Our sharing of communion now is a witness to our sharing of the kingdom them.

“For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes” (1 Corinthians 15:26)

Believer, fellowship with your people at this table, eat and drink in witness to His death, His resurrection, and His return.

liturgy

I am not the first to register it, but I definitely want to repeat it: being a victim is a bad identity.

There are genuine victims. Some victims have been treated brutally. This is a world of sin, and sinners sin against others in wicked ways, and not always because the other person brought it on himself. Decisions are made that are unfair, contracts are broken, payments extorted, acts committed that really do damage others.

There are also bogus victims. Some victims have never been a situation that they couldn’t twist to find themselves into the victim’s role. It could have started with a small misperception turned into a federal case, it could be a complete misrepresentation of reality, a lie to cover your own conduct with a story that keeps throwing the bucket in the sympathy well. There are micro-aggression chasers, how-have-you-hurt-me-today journal keepers, and these demean real victims while doing no good for themselves.

Christians will be tested, reviled, beaten, lied about, discriminated against, and even killed. They will suffer, unjustly, and Jesus said: Don’t be surprised (1 Peter 4:12). Jesus also said: Rejoice (1 Peter 4:13; 1 Thessalonians 5:16; Philippians 4:4).

Jesus also became the ultimate sacrificial victim in order to give you a new name, a new identity. He laid down His life so that you could have life, not so that you could more accurately complain, with Bible references and everything.

If you are a true target of another’s sin, trust God. Repent from your sin, and obey. If you are tempted to blame your bad feelings on others, if you always see yourself as the Oppressed, if you find it easier to live by complaint than by faith with thanks, repent. Your identity is Whose you are, not what has been done to you.

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When Jesus instituted what we call the Lord’s Supper, He pointed to the cup that points to His covenant.

After telling His disciples to eat the bread representing His body, “he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins'” (Matthew 26:27-28). Luke recorded it also, “Likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, ‘This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood'” (Luke 22:20).

The “new covenant” is named as such in Jeremiah 31:31, and related descriptions are paralleled in Ezekiel 36. This new covenant is not like the Mosaic covenant given to Israel when they came out of Egypt. In this one, the Lord promised to put His law directly within them, to write it not on stone tablets but on their hearts. This covenant wouldn’t just point out why they needed forgiveness, it would purchase and apply it.

In its original setting the new covenant was for “the house of Israel and the house of Judah” (Jeremiah 31:31). The Lord compared the likelihood that He would fulfill this promise to the fixed order of the sun and moon. “If this fixed order departs from before me, declares the LORD, then shall the offspring of Israel cease from being a nation forever” (Jeremiah 31:35-36).

And it is the Lord who has opened the door for us who were not Jews to enjoy the good news of forgiveness and new hearts. He has opened the way for us, He will finish His promise to save a coming generation of Israel by His Spirit (Romans 11:25-26), and His Word is as good as it has ever been.

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