Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Communion Meditation- My Beloved

Christ loved the His Church and gave Himself for her. He completely gave Himself, even to death, the cursed death of the cross. He did this because He was more concerned with doing right by her, in loving her, than He was for His own body. He suffered for her in many ways. He was ridiculed, misunderstood, often even by her. But Jesus did not let any of this distract Him from His goal, to do all for the bride and then to dwell with her always, even to the end of the age.
         And we come here each week to hear the promises of God, in Christ, “You are my beloved, in you I am well pleased.” The prayer of Jesus has become a reality and we are intimately connected to Him forever, world without end. Jesus has been raised from the dead and He has raised us up with Him in the heavenly places. There is no ‘til death us do part.’ We have entered eternity with the Lord Jesus and His bride will continue forever until she is made utterly glorious at the Resurrection, in full consummation, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing.
         For you gathered here, this bread and wine, His own flesh and blood, is His testament to You that He will never leave you or forsake you. The Lord has done this and it is marvelous in our eyes.

Exhortation-Perils that Separate

Today, we continue our study in what the Bible says about husbands loving their wives. The Scripture says that a man shall leave his father and mother and cleave to his wife and the two shall become one flesh. This one flesh analogy refers back to the relationship of Christ and His Church.
In Romans, the Apostle tells us that nothing can separate from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. He then presents a long list of things that try to separate us. With even a small amount of creativity we can think of how these things relate to modern marriage in America. Have you let these things separate you from your wife? Tribulations, earthly trials and daily trouble. Distress, concern about loved ones, your job or sickness. Persecution, assaults from outside your marriage because of your faith in Christ. Famine, lean financial times. Nakedness, the result of poor decisions or even being exposed as having made huge mistakes or sins. Peril, a scary diagnosis of your future in health, work, prospects, family. Sword, things beyond your control in the government, taxes, elections, wars and rumors of war.
         And these are just the earthly powers. The rest of the passage talks about all kinds of spiritual forces that seek to separate us from the love of God. Husbands, there are many perils that can separate you from your wife. Have you let them?
         There is a dual need here. First repent for your lack of diligence in protecting this relationship as jealously as Christ protects the Church. Secondly, seek the power and the wisdom of the Spirit to keep that which God has entrusted to you.
         Single men and ladies, wives and children, you also must look at how God protects those relationship that are dear to Him not letting earthly or spiritual forces intervene. How, then, are your relationships? Seek Christ in them now.

Friday, March 23, 2012

The Beautiful Bride

As we gather here we represent a communion, a closeness of relationship between us, the gathered people of God, and our Lord Jesus.  Outside of Christ and His Church, there is no relationship closer than that of husband and wife.  It is a wonderful picture, Christ the bridegroom, we the bride. And just as Christ loves His Church and makes her beautiful, so husbands are to do so with their wives, love them and make them beautiful.
         And from Christ and His Church spring forth numerous children, further declaring the communion of many into one glorious unity.  Thus, a family, as a representative of Christ and His Church is to show forth this unity.
Sometimes the nuclear family is broken, husband to wife, or children to parents. This is another reason why there is so much beauty here, in Christ’s Church. He takes all these broken people, broken families, broken relationships and makes them all one in His Church.
         So, we are to image God’s unity in our marriages and in our homes but if we have failed to do so, for whatever reason, we can come here and find God’s family unified in Christ. In Him, we are all one and the Lord will continue to knit us together, in Him, through His Spirit until we are without spot or wrinkle or any such thing.

Husbands, Love Your Wives

There is always enough sin around for us to find the need for confession and repentance. Today, we speak of the call for husbands to love their wives, even as Christ love the Church and gave himself for her.
         No doubt, you men understand that you have not loved your wives in this way. None of you have died for her. But you should all be dying for her. You should be sacrificing yourself to nourish and cherish her. This should be done in tangible ways and she should know it.
         We all wax and wain in our love towards our wives. This being the case, we need to be continually called back to God’s purposes for us as husbands, washing our wives in the Word, calling them to the high calling in Jesus Christ, cleansing them and sanctifying them by our love and service to them.
         This calling as husbands is a high calling, indeed and one that we cannot accomplish with the presence and power of the Holy Spirit. Let us ask the Lord’s forgiveness for our failures and call upon Him to empower us by His Spirit to do that which He has called us to do.
         Incidentally, one of the chief callings of husbands is that of faithfulness. So, if you men, women or children have been unfaithful or disloyal to your spouse or Lord, in thought, word and deed, now is the time to confess this sin and seek the Lord’s forgiveness.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

3:33 and 4:44

Woke up again this morning at 3:33am. I awoke exactly 1:11 later at 4:44.

This happens with a great deal of regularity. It no longer surprises me but it always pleases me. When I wake up, I always utter a brief prayer, "Thank you Lord for reminding me of your love and kindness towards me, even in the watches of the night," or something equally groggy and similar. Not much of a prayer and I promptly fall back into a peaceful sleep.

Waking at this hour, 1:11, 2:22, 3:33, 4:44 and 5:55 has been going on for the last 12 years or so, since I became a pastor. It does not happen every night, usually once or twice a week, often on Saturday nights when my mind is thinking about Sunday worship service. And I don't always have two like last night, waking at both 3:33 and 4:44. Usually just once in the night.

It always reminds me of the Trinity and God's love and care for me.  I am not sure if my body time clock has figured out how to count time exactly during the night, or if the Lord specifically wakes me up to comfort me.  Either way, I am amazed at God's care over His creation, me, either to make such a creature that can tell time in his sleep or that He would deign to gently wake me up just to remind me that  He is still there. Both are reasons for awe and thanksgiving.

Friday, March 09, 2012

Dear Saints, we are once again seated at the Table of the Lord. It is the table of the Father but also the Table of Jesus and His Bride.  We have come to the place where we are fed and nourished. This is a place of peace and rest, a place of feasting and toasting, a place of fellowship and joy.
This is one reason that we do not make this a personal private moment, a place to examine yourselves and your motives. That has already happened. The Lord has examined you and He has applied the grace of Jesus to you so that you could come here without such inward and discouraging thoughts. The time of introspection is over. It is time to look up, look to Jesus, bask in the glory of God, the Father, the risen Lord Jesus, the joy of the Holy Spirit, the presence of the saints, the food at God’s table, the joy of fellowship, the peace of forgiveness, the welcome of friends.
This is not a personal private moment but rather a public feast of food and wine in celebration of the name of Jesus, the High King, who has taken on a bride, His Church, the mother us all. We are at home here, a place of peace and rest and joy.

Exhortation- Road to Encouragement

It is true that we come to church for encouragement. We come out of obedience but it is an expectant obedience. We come to worship because it is right but in doing right we have expectations of reward. This is good. God expects us to do right but it is not merely out of duty. He teaches us that if we do what is right, He will bless us. It is also true that we cannot always tell what that blessing looks like. Sometimes, blessings come in the form of what call hidden blessings. Trials and tribulations produce in us the good fruit of patience, perseverance and even peace amidst the storms. These trials then become the means of all sorts of other blessings. So, the expectation of reward does not come without the reality that the reward is often the result of enduring great difficulties.
         In this sense, I want to encourage you through this difficult time we call Confession of Sin.  Trials often cause us to examine ourselves. Sometimes our trials are a result of our sins, for example, a financial meltdown caused by negligence. Other times our trials are no fault of our own, say unforeseen health issues that we face ourselves, or in a spouse, parent or child. But whatever the trial, we often look at ourselves to examine our hearts, motives and actions. And this is good. We seek to be pure vessels through which God can pour out His grace, mercy and blessing.
         So, this time of confession is just that. It confronts us with our own failures and sins but is a means through which we open ourselves up to the searching wisdom of the Holy Spirit, seeking to forsake every evil way, currently known by us or not, and asking God to cleanse us and bless us through this purging. Nobody wants the pain of the searching but we all want the result of the blessing. But first things first. Be open. Be honest. Confess. Repent. Be forgiven. Be a vessel of honor, ready for blessing and reward.

Thursday, March 01, 2012

Cariad- My Love

Love at first sight is not an isolated phenomenon.  Many lovers explain the sense of knowing that this one is to be my one and only cariad. In saying this, I do not diminish the truth that many have fallen slowly in love.  This is why we call it falling, not leaping (sometimes we do!).  But some have experienced the true thrill of a bungee jump as they set eyes on the girl of their dreams. I am not talking about the rush of blood and heart at the sight of a temptress.  A good man does not confuse this with love, but, rather, the more serene and deeper thrill of a thoughtful gaze through the eyes, pretty ones, to the soul. A knowing look that reaches beyond the surface into that place where secrets are kept and she, and he, does not blush to have them revealed. We often laugh (or scoff) at the Hollywood version of True Love and Following Your Heart. But such stories arise from realities, even realities that are not commonplace, none-the-less, real.
Perhaps I am simply an old romantic and romanticism is much criticized in my circles. It has been replaced with the sterile precision of the purveyors of the science of love. Here's how you do it. Just so and don't worry about the fireworks or lack thereof! I suppose there is some method to that madness. But love is not so easily tamed nor so easily named. It often comes when least expected it and lasts, if it really is a godly love to be cultivated, a lifetime.
Such is my story as my love, my cariad, gracefully entered my fifth grade classroom. How could I know then? I cannot tell you how but the fact that I did know is still we with me today.  We survived Mrs. Hellewell, graduated on to sixth grade and grew up and into love, the kind of love that perseveres and gives and sacrifices and lives.
My dear Kate, my fifth grade sweetheart is my ever and beloved darling, my dear wife of twenty-five years. This is mysterious and unexplainable but this kind of love always is.
My dear, you will always be my one and only cariad.

Communion- Mother Church, Bride of Christ

Mothers are to image the Church. But we all gather here as the church. Each one here is not a wife or a mother but the collected church is in the place of wife and mother in connection to Christ.  It is beautiful how God has revealed these truths to us.
         As the bride of Christ, we know that He is ever faithful. He will fully fulfill His role as the husband, beautifying His wife until she is without spot or wrinkle or any such thing. We all participate in Christ’s washing of us in His Word.
         Furthermore, we, as the Church, play the role of mother. The church is mother to her children, those who belong to God as adopted children; true heirs of the promises of life. The church speaks this truth to her children and makes them feel safe and secure in the love of the Father. So, like a mother, we the Church encourage all of God’s children that we are truly His and thus recipients of His peace and blessing.
         These promises are given to us in Jesus Christ and represented in this meal.

Exhortation- Motherness

Today, in our sermon, we look at Motherness.  I am thankful that we have many wonderful examples of mothers in this congregation. Our church is imaging God as we see faithfulness in our homes in our represented mothers and fathers. And to this extent we get a good example of what God is like. He is a faithful Father and He also represents the nurturing atmosphere provided by mothers. The godly characteristics needed for motherhood flow directly from the Trinity.
         But it is not good for us to reason simply from the creature to the Creator. We have good mothers in our midst but their duty as mothers needs to be derived from God and His Scriptures. We are doing this but must do so more and more. To that extent, we will no doubt find places where we fall short of God’s character and of His law.
         We fathers and mothers may already know where we have fallen short this week, fathers provoking children to wrath, mothers failing to maintain a fragrant and sweet aroma in the home. As we seek to know and apply God’s standard in our roles as mothers and fathers, we will need to repent of our false standards and our failings of His true standard.