Friday, March 13, 2009

Communion Meditation- Jesus Gives

Of course, the counter to stealing is giving. Thieves break in and steal but the Lord breaks the bread of His body and gives it to us. The Lord could have come to the earth and like other Kings taken us for Himself and used us up to advance His own glory. Instead, He gave Himself for us and gave us His glory in His Holy Spirit.

The nature of thievery is taking. The nature of godliness is giving. The Lord gave Himself for our sins. The Lord gave His Holy Spirit to us. The Lord gave us, who are the meek, the earth to inherit. The Lord gave us the waters of baptism, the bread of His body, the wine of His blood, the Holy Spirit to make it all alive with the fire of God. He gave us the promise of His covenant with us, to be our God and to claim us for His people. He gave us the Church. He gave us each other because it is not good for us to dwell alone. He gave us blessing upon blessing and promises of greater things to come, of eternal life, of perfect bodies, of victory over sin and death.

The Lord gives to us and we should learn to give to Him and to one another. That is what we do here as we break and eat the bread and wine, given for you.

Exhortation-Eighth Commandment

Exodus 20:15 Thou shalt not steal.

There are many ways to steal things. My hope is that you Christians would not outright steal from anybody. You won’t steal money, or anything from a store, or some possession from your employer because you think you are underappreciated or under paid. You children will not take things that don’t belong to you, candy or toys. That is stealing. You should be extremely honest about other people’s property.

But we Christians sometimes steal in other ways that can lead to the destruction of our character and make a thief out of us in the long run. I am thinking of two specific areas where we steal time and money.

The first is the Lord’s Day. God requires that we spend one day in seven at His house in worship and attending to our own rest from our work and seeking after our own desires. We should set aside this day specifically for worship and for gathering with the saints and not pursuing things that keep us away from or distract us from these blessed and restful duties.

Another area where we steal is in tithing. The Lord’s portion is one tenth of our increase. If you do not give one tenth of your increase to the Lord then you are stealing from Him.

Since the Lord is the dispenser of all good gifts, it should not surprise you that if you steal from the Lord on the Lord’s Day in time or money, the tithe or your duty of rest and worship, it should not surprise you, if you are short of time and money.

Furthermore, I warn you that if you take light your duty to the Lord in these areas that you will bear the fruit of your behavior as other sins latch on to these two in your own life or in the lives of your family members.

Judas was a petty thief, pilfering from the money, box but in the end he was the monster that betrayed our Lord.

Communion Meditation- Fidelity

You shall be ever faithful. You shall give all fidelity to Christ and to His Church. As we come before the Lord each Lord’s Day, we affirm our commitment to Christ and renew our vows to Him. This is something akin to a married couple renewing their wedding vows. Or perhaps, on their yearly anniversary, remembering where they have come from and where they are going, together. Or even as they make a regular monthly or weekly date, affirming that they would date no other, seeking love nowhere else. And though I hesitate to say such things at church, this is like those sweet and tender things that lovers say to each other at the most intimate times.

It is in all of these places that love is remembered and rekindled, that prior commitments to one another are embraced and renewed, that the safety of the relationship is established, that jealousies and fears are abolished.

This meal is the meal of the faithful. God is faithful to us in Christ and through His Holy Spirit. We are faithful to Him, coming to Him by no other name except that great name of Jesus Christ, in whom all of our prior sins and prior infidelities are washed away. So, God receives us as faithful and makes us ever more faithful by washing us in the blood of Christ and the renewing and sanctifying work of His Holy Spirit.

Exhortation-Seventh Commandment

Exodus 20:14 Thou shalt not commit adultery.

All through Scripture, spiritual unfaithfulness is called adultery and idolatry. The two are closely related. It is no wonder that when the hinges have come off of the church regarding basic Christian understandings of Scripture, proper worship and obedience to Christ in the fundamentals of the faith, that the doors of spiritual and physical protection also fall off. We seem to be in such times. The Church does not know the Word of God nor heed that which she knows. When the Church loses her first love, she goes after the second. That is idolatry. That is adultery. And when we speak of such so-called spiritual sins, we must understand that our spirituality always manifests itself in the flesh.

So, we must repent. We must turn to the Word of God. We must seek to walk in the power of the Spirit. We must worship God as if our lives and our marriages depended on it.

If your love grows cold; if your thoughts wander; if your first love waxes old, then you must examine your heart. Are you faithful to Christ? Do you love the Lord by doing what He says? Is your worship robust and sincere? Are you feeding on Christ in the Supper and growing in strength?

If we do this, then we can expect our love for our spouses to be consistent with our love for the Bridegroom of the Church. Husbands are to love their wives as Christ loved the Church and gave Himself for her. Wives, reverence Your husband, and respect them, even as the Church is to submit to the Lord Jesus.

Do this and you will be faithful in thought, in word and in deed.

Communion Meditation- Brotherly Love

Thou shalt not kill. Anger with your brother has been the problem from the beginning. It started when Cain killed Abel. There was enmity between Isaac and Ishmael, between Jacob and Esau, between Joseph and his brothers, between Moses and Aaron and their sister, too. David had trouble with his brothers and Absolam murdered his own brother. Jesus, Himself, had envious brothers and the Apostles, brothers in the Lord, envied one another and were seeking the places of honor. Judas betrayed his brothers and by his betrayal killed his spiritual elder brother, the Lord of glory.

But we are here at the Lord’s table, gathered as the children of God, brothers and sisters in Christ, friends of our elder brother, the Lord Jesus. There is no place for envy here. We do not seek to put ourselves above our brother Jesus, nor above His friends to our left and to our right. We esteem others higher than ourselves, seeking rather to wash their feet than to rise up above them. The old way of enmity between brothers has been killed and therefore, we shall not kill with word or deed, with tongue or thought. But we shall love and serve, for love covers a multitude of sins.

The old ways are gone and behold all things are new in Christ Jesus. We are set free to be one with our brothers and sisters. This is what we declare here in this meal.

Exhortation-Sixth Commandment

Exodus 20:13 Thou shalt not kill.

We often tend to think that others commit egregious sins and our sins are small and therefore worthy of grace. But we do not earn grace by being the least of sinners. We receive unmerited grace because we are sinners in great need of that grace. No Christian should be a murderer. We know that murderers do not inherit the kingdom of God. And Jesus reminds us that the murdering mindset is in the heart of all that envy their brothers and harbor hatred in their hearts.

Mathew 5:21-24 Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment: 22But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, RacaRaca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire. 23Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; 24Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift.

We trust that none of you would be so angry and bitter as to actually kill another person. But remember that the anger and hatred that rages in the heart of the murderer began as a flickering flame in the bosom of an ordinary sinner. Do not feed that flame. Do not give yourself reason to stay angry. Do not hold grudges. Do not refuse forgiveness. Do not envy your brothers and sisters in Christ, comparing yourselves one to another. Do not let the sun go down on your anger.

But rather, bless those who curse you. Bless and curse not. Turn the other cheek. Just as you have been forgiven, so also forgive. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Be reconciled to your brother and then come and offer your gifts to God.

Money Wisdom From Proverbs

Proverbs 13:4 The soul of the sluggard desireth, and hath nothing; but the soul of the diligent shall be made fat.

I have titled these entries, Money Wisdom From Proverbs, but like all wisdom it is multi-faceted and applies in many areas of our lives. This one certainly does.

The sluggard wants and is never fulfilled. Part of this wanting is a desire for people and things to serve him. Because he is a sluggard, he thinks that the world exists to give him pleasure, to make him happy, to build his self-esteem, to cater to his every want. We live in a world that is intent on developing more sluggards. Because we have so much excess, even after the recent market declines, we are prone to getting anything we want, and also of giving anything they want to our children. This is a great mistake and will only produce people who are never satisfied.

However, there is another kind of man, the diligent man. He is one who works hard because he does not feel that he is owed a living. He makes a living and more. He works hard to provide for himself and those around him. Such a man is a good husband, a giving father, a neighbor indeed. This diligent man gives of himself and finds that the more he gives, the more he has to give. The sluggard, on the other hand, finds that the more he takes, the less he has to give.

To him who has shall more be given. To him who has not, even what he does have shall be taken from him.

And what of these men’s souls? The giver is fat, the taker is lean. And while it is good for our bodies to be lean, we really ought to have fat souls.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Communion Meditation-Trust in the Lord

We put our trust in the Lord. This is what we do when we come to Him in this meal. We are declaring our allegiance to Him and to His people. He welcomes us, having judged that we are worthy partakers of this meal. We are worthy through the blood and righteousness of Jesus Christ. Having said that we are worthy through Jesus, we should be reminded that we are indeed worthy. We do not come to this table as unworthy, vile sinners. We come to this table as cleansed, worthy, righteous saints.

This ought not to make us haughty, as if we deserved His favor. It should make us humble because we know that we have received the unmerited favor of God. But there it is, we are in the favor of God, through Christ and His Spirit. We are here, blessed and favored of God. He takes us for His own and we take Him for our own. He owns us and we own Him. He has not failed us. We are not disappointed but both pleased and blessed because we put our trust in the Lord.

Exhortation-Fifth Commandment

Exodus 20:12 Honor thy father and thy mother, that thy days may be long in the land which Jehovah thy God giveth thee.

This commandment has far reaching implications. I believe that sinning against God in this way is the fountainhead of a multitude of other sins. The sins of the entire second table of the law flow from the failure to honor father and mother.

If we honor our father and mother, then we will not kill, commit adultery, steal, perjure, or covet. Children, and you are all children, you need to do what your parents would have you do. Of course, that is not universal or absolute. Some of your parents might teach you to covet wealth or power or worldliness. But that is the exception in Christian homes, rather than the rule. Every godly Christian parent wants his children to be moral, godly and industrious. So, children, heed God and heed your parents. Or, shall I say, obey God by obeying your parents.

If you submit yourselves to your parents, and desire to please them with honor, you will also be honoring God and your neighbor. If you refuse to honor your parents, it will be impossible for you to honor God and therefore impossible for you to honor your neighbor. And I think it fits to simply replace love for the word honor here. You cannot love God without loving your parents. You cannot love your neighbor without loving God. You cannot love your neighbor without loving your parents.

For you adult children, this may look a little different. Giving honor may not mean strictly obeying them. You have now established your own households. It is okay that you go to a different church and believe some different doctrines and practices. But those doctrines and practices should be fully consistent with honoring your parents. So, do not use your different views as a means to dishonor them. If you think you have a deeper faith and better practices, then that faith and practice should produce more honor, not less. If you are unable to honor your parents, then your understanding of your faith and practice is dramatically misplaced. Confession and repentance are in order.

Communion Meditation-Sabbath Rest

We are told by the Lord to remember the Sabbath Day. It is not merely the day that the Lord wants us to remember. He wants us to remember Him in the day. He wants us to come to Him, stay a while, meditate on His goodness, remember what He has done for us, thank Him, seek His face, honor Him with gifts, receive the Word of God from Him, be absolved of our sins, rejoice in His grace and mercy, see His people, love them as we love Him, gather before Him honestly, humbly and boldly, partake of Christ to the fullest, eat the bread, drink the wine, be filled with His Holy Spirit, overflow with thanksgiving, resting in our Savior, Jesus.

This sets the stage for everything else that we do as God’s people. By serving Him in this way, we see that God is really serving us. This produces more humility, more joy, more love for God and His people. When we remember the Sabbath, God blesses us far beyond our expectations. Who would neglect so great a salvation? Who would neglect so great a blessing? Our God is good, let us remember Him and give Him thanks.

Exhortation-Fourth Commandment

Exodus 20:8-11 Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.

It interesting that in the Ten Commandments there are only two strictly positive commands of things that we should do. Granted, all of the commands are about how we should love God and love our neighbor. But as they are given, only two are things we should do. The rest are things that we should not do.

It is also interesting to me that in the New Covenant era when we ought to be enabled to more fully do what God requires us to do and be able to more fully resist what God tells us not to do, the two most neglected commands are the ones that were positive commands in the Old Covenant, the fourth and fifth commandments.

We are told to Remember the Sabbath and to Honor our father and mother.

Today we are dealing with Remembering the Sabbath. Why do New Testament Christians readily sign up for 9 of the 10 commandments? What is this resistance to honoring the Lord’s Day as the Christian Sabbath?

In the New Covenant, we should desire to serve God more, not less. We should give Him all of our days because all of our days are His. So it should be no problem to set aside one whole day as a Sabbath of rest in the Lord Jesus. It is not just going to church, although that is a most important element. We should cease from our regular labors of making money and striving in the world. We should focus our minds heavenward so that the rest of our week can have the right focus, too. We should prepare ourselves to rest, which is work, and we should learn the glory of what rest in Christ is.

Until we learn to Remember the Lord’s Day as our Christian Sabbath, we should not expect to get along very far in our walk with Christ. This is not the end all of our faith in Christ but it is a basic principle in which all the rest of our growth in grace is strictly dependent.

Money Wisdom From Proverbs

Money Wisdom From Proverbs

Proverbs 12:11 11He that tilleth his land shall be satisfied with bread: but he that followeth vain persons is void of understanding.

This sentiment is uttered many times in the Proverbs, namely, that a diligent man will eat of his diligence. But there is more than that here. A man who sees that tilling and work and patience is God’s way of acquiring wealth, is the sort of man who will enjoy all of it. There is another kind of man that is prone to follow vanity. These men are not few nor far between. They are numerous and the crafty can always catch them. Multi-level organizations recruit thousands of people void of understanding that believe the lie that if they work 10 hours a week for a few years, they will never have to work hard again. Of course, vain persons are recruiting them and the recruitees become vain persons as the promised dollar signs begin to cloud their eyes.

Here is the funny catch. The man who tills his land, and works hard, getting a small and stable return for his efforts is the one who is satisfied with food. It is the fool, constantly seeking the ease of wealth easily, that is without understanding and without bread.

Why is it that those who are always trying to recruit you to do Amway (by any other name) are driving a beat up old K-Car, and the farmer (by any other name tilling and toiling away steadily year after year is driving a new Ford-150?

Those who seek to secure wealth quickly rarely do. And those who seek to secure their bread in the Fall by working hard in the Spring often find an enormous harvest, 30, 60 and 100 fold.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Not 18 Anymore

Okay, went skiing and was dramatically reminded that I am not 18 years old. The jumps were tempting me. So, I made a run, nice and slow, got a bit of air, like three feet dude! Then another run on the jumps and catching some real air. Went for a nice big spread eagle and hit it fine. Then, a little dipsy doodle, don't konw what it is called, drop the skis down a bit and back up and hit the landing. Then, I was feeling plucky and a bit crazed. Perhaps it was the sun, or the 65 degree temperatures. Oh, I know, it was all those young bucks going over the same jumps and only catching half the air. I was older but able to outdo them. I know, I know.

So, the next run I try a half daffy, one ski up, one ski back, lots of air and hit it solid. Now I'm flying over the jump, really, not sure how far or high but plenty of time to do simple tricks. Getting enough air to do a back flip but I was always afraid to do that. So, the next time down, and it really was my LAST time down for the day. Well, I had even planned it to be my last time down, even if it hadn't turned out the way it did.

So, on my last run on the last jump, I figured I'd get the most air and do a fairly easy trick. Swing the skis off to one side, the right, and back again for a landing, ski down to the lift, call it day and head down to the golf course for a few holes before heading home.

So, lots of speed, up the jump, and, whoosh, way higher than I expected, and zipped out of balance, skis to the right and "Woohoo!!", I whooped as I was very surprised and thinking things were not right.Down I came with skis still right, not perpendicular, that would have been worse, but about a 45 degree angle, which was bad enough. I had just made fun of a snowboarder attempting a 180, that only did a 90. 90's don't work to well. Guess what? 45's don't either.

Down I came with skis at 45 degrees, left knee buckled and I heard? felt? a lot of yucky sounding crunching noises. I yelled in pain for about 30 seconds and lay in the snow like an old dog too tired to rise to say hello. I figured it was pretty bad. My first thought was that my leg snapped, broken. Then, when the pain subsided a bit, I was thinking torn ligaments. My daughter skiied down to the lift, called the ski patrol and they carted me off the mountain. Oh, and did I mention that the jump was right below the ski lift? Humiliation! Pride goeth before a fall.

I was thinking, very expensive ski trip. As it turns out, may not be too bad. Went to the doc, x-rays, nothing broken. He stress tets the knee, thinks ligaments are intact. Bad sprain, knee imobilizer, pain pills, and ice. Oh, and slightly separated left shoulder. Right knee tweaked, right shoulder tweaked and left elbow bruised. Wondering what other ailments I'll feel today.

Things I Never Noticed in the Bible

I'm sure you noticed this before, at least if you are a pastor or an elder. You, probably at least had a seminary prof tell you this, although you have forgotten.

When Israel enters the Promised Land, they are told not to go after the Edomites because that land had been given to Esau. Also, they are told not to mess with the Ammonites and Moabites. If you recall, Lot's daughters got him drunk and slept with him after they had escaped Sodom. The resulting children were Ammon and Moab, the fathers of the Ammonites and Moabites.

So, God honored all of these men and their tribes, Esau who is Edom, Ammon and the Ammonites and Moab and the Moabites. He honored them and gave them ample opportunity and time to declare their allegiance to Yahweh. Alas, they did not do so and were a constant thorn in the flesh to Israel. Eventually, judgment is pronounced against them in Ezekiel 25.

Ezekiel 25 The word of the LORD came again unto me, saying, 2Son of man, set thy face against the Ammonites, and prophesy against them; 3And say unto the Ammonites, Hear the word of the Lord GOD; Thus saith the Lord GOD; Because thou saidst, Aha, against my sanctuary, when it was profaned; and against the land of Israel, when it was desolate; and against the house of Judah, when they went into captivity; 4Behold, therefore I will deliver thee to the men of the east for a possession, and they shall set their palaces in thee, and make their dwellings in thee: they shall eat thy fruit, and they shall drink thy milk. 5And I will make Rabbah a stable for camels, and the Ammonites a couchingplace for flocks: and ye shall know that I am the LORD. 6For thus saith the Lord GOD; Because thou hast clapped thine hands, and stamped with the feet, and rejoiced in heart with all thy despite against the land of Israel; 7Behold, therefore I will stretch out mine hand upon thee, and will deliver thee for a spoil to the heathen; and I will cut thee off from the people, and I will cause thee to perish out of the countries: I will destroy thee; and thou shalt know that I am the LORD.
8Thus saith the Lord GOD; Because that Moab and Seir do say, Behold, the house of Judah is like unto all the heathen; 9Therefore, behold, I will open the side of Moab from the cities, from his cities which are on his frontiers, the glory of the country, Bethjeshimoth, Baalmeon, and Kiriathaim, 10Unto the men of the east with the Ammonites, and will give them in possession, that the Ammonites may not be remembered among the nations. 11And I will execute judgments upon Moab; and they shall know that I am the LORD. 12Thus saith the Lord GOD; Because that Edom hath dealt against the house of Judah by taking vengeance, and hath greatly offended, and revenged himself upon them; 13Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD; I will also stretch out mine hand upon Edom, and will cut off man and beast from it; and I will make it desolate from Teman; and they of Dedan shall fall by the sword. 14And I will lay my vengeance upon Edom by the hand of my people Israel: and they shall do in Edom according to mine anger and according to my fury; and they shall know my vengeance, saith the Lord GOD.

I think all of this speaks of God' great patience and kindness. But also of the nature of covenant, covenant keeping and breaking, election, and many other theological issues. God is always faithful, gives much room for repentance, but in the end judges sin and rebellion. Israel also rebelled repeatedly. But eventually God brings the antidote to all rebellion, the Lord Jesus as Christ, the Messiah and His Holy Spirit. So, the covenant lines receive all of this and those will not covenant with Yahweh, Ammonites, Moabites, Edomites, eventually are cut off completely.