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Lord's Day Liturgy

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.

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Lord's Day Liturgy

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.

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Lord's Day Liturgy

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.

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A Shot of Encouragement

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
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Lord's Day Liturgy

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.

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A Shot of Encouragement

Even Harder to Find

We may recognize it when we meet it, but we may not meet it very often.

Spiritual authority is hard to pin down in words, but we recognize it when we meet it.

It is a product compounded of conscientious faithfulness to the Bible; vivid perception of God’s reality and greatness; inflexible desire to honor and please him; deep self-searching and radical self-denial; adoring intimacy with Christ; generous compassion manward; and forthright simplicity, God-taught and God-wrought, adult in knowingness while childlike in its directness.

The man of God has authority as he bows to divine authority, and the pattern of God’s power in him is the baptismal pattern of being supernaturally raised from under burdens that feel like death.

—J. I. Packer, A Quest for Godliness, 77. (via Dane Ortland)

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Lord's Day Liturgy

Not an After-Creation Thought

When the Word created grain and grapes on day three, was He thinking about the glorious purpose that He would give bread and wine around a table some 4000 years later? When the Logos created man on day six, breathing life into his flesh and blood, did the He consider then how He would soon (in light of eternity) take on flesh Himself and spill His own blood for sinful men?

The apostle John not only wrote about the Logos and creation (John 1:1-4), he also wrote about the “book of life” that was “written before the foundation of the world” concerning “the Lamb who was slain” (Revelation 13:8). That means that the cross, and our remembrance of it at communion, was not an after-creation thought for the Logos-Lamb. As good as God declared creation was before the Fall, as much as the Logos and the Spirit and Father enjoyed what they had made, the Trinity knew what was coming.

While we chew over the eternal place of the cross and even the communion elements, let us remember that the Logos was with God, and by His body and blood, we who believe can also be with God. Jesus prayed that we may be with Him, to see the Son’s glory given to Him by the Father because the Father loved Him before the foundation of the world (John 17:24). The glory that He had with His Father before creation is the glory He shares with those who share in the communion meal by faith.

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Lord's Day Liturgy

No Successful Cover-Ups

Among his collected proverbs, Solomon teaches us a few things about the wisdom of confession.

Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper,
but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy.
(Proverbs 28:13)

First, attempts to conceal one’s sin ultimately fail because God already knows. Someone may ask how that observation comes from this verse. Here’s how. God’s fixes the truth in His universe that sin concealers cannot be a prosperers. But how does it work? Who enforces it? Assuming a successful cover-up as the verse does, how would we know whose prosperity to preclude? The principle holds because God knows. He cannot be snowed.

Second, confessing sin is the right foot forward and forsaking sin is the left foot, the necessary second step. Fools hop on confession alone. Honesty before God is good as far as it goes, but accurately describing a garden overgrown with weeds isn’t the same as pulling them out. Devoting time to confess sin should help us avoid the plastic smiles of hypocrites. But we also forsake sin rather than wallow in honest immorality.

Finally, the aim of confessing and forsaking is obtaining mercy. Confession doesn’t earn points with God; by itself, confession doesn’t make us presentable. We always need His mercy. In confession, we acknowledge our disobedience and our dependence on His grace. He gives grace to the needy, not to those who try to conceal their need by concealing their transgression. That’s why coming clean before God is wise.

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Lord's Day Liturgy

A Faith Increasing Ordinance

Communion is a faith increasing ordinance, not a doubt increasing one.

When we come to the Lord’s table, if we are thinking correctly, we remember our sin. But staring at our sin nourishes doubt. When we look at the bread, we are encouraged that the debt our sin incurred is no longer outstanding. There would be no bread unless another’s body had taken our judgment. We eat because Christ paid the penalty in full and we are forgiven. When we look at the cup, faith is strengthened as we remember that a sacrifice has already occurred. The cup means God is not waiting to satisfy righteousness with our blood. We drink because Christ freed us from guilt.

Do you have faith? If no, repent and believe. If you do have faith, even the size of a mustard seed, you are forgiven and free. Participation in this meal is a feast for faith, not a fast to prove we have it.

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Enjoying the Process

ETP as ePub

I received an email today from Lulu informing me that they converted my self-published book on Ecclesiastes into ePub format. It’s already available at the iBookstore for $4.99.

As always, hard copies can still be ordered from my storefront on Lulu and, as of today, the print price is only $9.50 (Lulu’s cost to print). Not only that, but now you can download the PDF for free.