Contend Earnestly: July 2009

Friday, July 31, 2009

Thursday, July 30, 2009

FREE BOOK on Communion: This is For You

It has been odd to see that many aren't commenting, etc. on the posts on communion. Either I am doing a terrible job of writing or people just aren't that interested in taking a look at the aspects of communion. Whatever the kind of sucks. Oh well...I'll just keep writing. I haven't read the whole thing, and I will put up a review when I am done, but there is a great resource from Tim Lien and Company on the Table. What I have read so far has been very uplifting and filled with great understandings and personal reflection on the Supper. You can order a hard copy or you download the booklet for free. Check it out here: This is for You - Forty Reflections on the Sacrament of Communion

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Wednesday, July 29, 2009

What Is My Responsibility For Communion?

So, in the last post we went through a little on what communion is. Trying to show that it is more than merely symbolic, but not actually eating the flesh of Christ. There is, like most theologies, a balance. What I would like to focus on in this post is what we, as Christ's bride, should be focusing on as we come to the table.

Please offer up any suggestions or questions you might have in regards to the thoughts on this series.

When we come to communion, we come to celebrate a great and glorious Saviour. We come to remember all who Christ was, we come to remember how Christ died, how brutal He was slain, why He was slain and we are to proclaim that slain Lamb, who came to save sinners. We do not come to the table to remember what we have done, what we have accomplished, why we should be saved, but we come to remember what He has done, what He has accomplished and How Christ saved us through His blood.

This is the wondrous exchange made by his boundless goodness. Having become with us the Son of Man, he has made us with himself sons of God. By his own descent to the earth he has prepared our ascent to heaven. Having received our mortality, he has bestowed on us his immortality. Having undertaken our weakness, he has made us strong in his strength. Having submitted to our poverty, he has transferred to us his riches. Having taken upon himself the burden of unrighteousness with which we were oppressed, he has clothed us with his righteousness.
John Calvin

The calling to remembrance happens in both 1 Corinthians 11:23-29 and also in Luke 22:19 and it is quite the term to use as our Saviour calls us to understand where our eyes should be...not on self, but on Him.

Why Are We to Remember?

The first question when we come to the Lord’s Supper should be on understanding what Christ meant when He said, “Do this in remembrance.”

Remembrance meant to the Jews: to recall information or events, with a focus on responding in an appropriate manner ; mention, remind, cause to remember (proclaim, tell, i.e., assert truths about one, as one speaks publicly, implying that this information has been known before

So to the Jews, the word remembrance actually was very close to the word proclaim. To remember meant to proclaim, that is why Paul says in 1 Corinthians 11:26 that when you share in the Lord’s Supper you are proclaiming the Lord’s death.

We must understand that we are Christ’s remembrance, we are the ones who carry the remembrance of what Christ did through the nations, and it isn’t just what we say but is who we are. The Puritan’s used to preach and say that if there be any doubt in their message to look at their lives as living proof of the saving power of Christ. Can we say the same? Can we say that we truly are Christ’s remembrance?

Look to Joshua 4:1-7

We can see here that these stones were set up as a memorial, they were set up so when others asked, what are these here for, why are these stones gathered? People would answer and reconfirm, to bring remembrance what the Lord had done.

The parallel in the New Testament comes in 1 Peter 2:4-10

We are the very living stones for Christ. We are just as those stones who were set up for remembrance for the Israelites. Yet, because of Christ, we are no longer dead stones, but living stones. We are here so that when
people ask, what are these stones, these people, here for, what do they represent, why are these stones gathered together? People, and we, will say they are here as a living remembrance of the Living Christ who came and died for His people. We are the stones that proclaim what Christ did just as the stones were set up for the remembrance for what the Lord did at the Jordan.

The question is when we come together for the Lord’s Supper is, is Christ glorified in us? Are we remembering the way that we are told, are we proclaiming his death? When people see us do they see living stones that tell the story of Christ. That show the transforming power of Christ so that we too can be described as Paul described in 2 Corinthians as a sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him.

Paul warns that we must examine ourselves, we must test ourselves because we are who people look to, to see Christ. Just as Hebrews 1 says that Christ is the radiance of God’s glory so shall we be for Christ, we need to be as the moon is to the sun; a reflection of the majesty, splendor and holiness of the risen Christ.

If we do not pass this examination, if we do not pass this test, and we still drink of the cup and eat of the bread, we are judged because we are falsely proclaiming who and what Christ is.

Look to 1 Corinthians 11:28,29

When we come to take of the Supper we are here to worship our God through remembrance. We are not here to just do a ceremony, we are not here because we have to be here, we are not here to make an appearance amongst the brethren, we are here to remember what the Lord did for us. Our complete focus is to be on Christ, and not on ourselves. That is why we are told that if we take in an unworthy manner we drink judgment on ourselves.

Why are we to examine? We are to examine so that we may bring our sins to the cross, so that we will remember how lowly of sinners we are, so that we will cry out like the tax collector did in Luke 18 when he said, "Oh God, be merciful to me, a sinner." When we examine ourselves and realize who we are and the remembrance of the righteousness imputed to us by our Saviour, how can we have any anger or malice towards another? For we are in deep debt to our God just like they.

Do you have anything against your brother? Then your focus isn’t on Christ but on yourself. Do you have sin that is uncared for and not despised in your life? Then your focus isn’t on Christ but on yourself. Do you come to the table wanting something besides worshiping and remembering Christ Jesus our Lord? Then you go for the wrong reason, because the Lord's table is only about Christ, it is only about remembering what He has done and who He is, and not about us.

We should come focused as Paul focused and said for to me, to live is Christ and John the Baptist said that He, Christ, should increase, but I must decrease.

We, the living stones of Christ come only to proclaim the risen Christ through the remembrance of Him. We are Christ’s living stones of remembrance.

Remembering the Body

First, Christ says, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” The first thing we must remember is who Christ was. we are to remember Christ’s body through the breaking of bread, Christ like David was born in Bethlehem which means “house of bread.” Bread was the staple in Jewish life to bring nutrients to the body, it sustained the body and made the body strong and gave the body energy. We are told to break bread to remember Christ’s body, the one who is now our sustenance, the one is our power and strength the one who gave us the Spirit to empower us and make us his bold witnesses, we are told through this to remember his body.

“For the bread of God is that which comes down out of heaven, and gives life to the world.”Then they said to Him, “Lord, always give us this bread.”Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst. John 6:33-35

To the Jew, when someone’s body was mentioned it was more than just mere flesh, it meant the essence of who that person was, it described everything about that person. So when we see that Christ says this is my body and tells us to do this in remembrance, we are to remember His life, remember what He did on this earth, His ministry, His words, His teachings and yes remember His sinless life.

We must remember that He came and lived amongst us. He was the God/Man; 100% God and 100% Man. For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form.

1 Peter 2:21-22 says, For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you can example for you to follow in His steps,

1 Peter 3:18 says, For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the 1spirit;

1 Corinthians 5:21 says He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him

This meant by implication that to know something meant to participate in, so Paul is saying that Christ, whether inward or outward, had no knowledge of sin based on experience.

I know of a father losing a son but I don’t know how that is, or how that feels, Christ knew of sin, but had no personal experience of sin.

Why is this important for us to know and remember His perfect life? Hebrews 2 and 4 both tell us so that we can confidently come to our Saviour who was tempted in all things yet without sin, so that we can draw near to Him and find mercy in the time of need.

The other reason leads us into our last point. We must remember His perfect life because of the blood that He shed. He had to be a perfect sacrifice and Hebrews 7:26-28 tells us why.

The other priest’s offerings were done out of the blood of animals, but this sacrifice was done from our perfect Saviour who knew no sin. We are to remember the life of Christ who in Luke 2:52 was said to be increasing in His wisdom, showing His humanness. And in forgiving the sins of the prostitute in Luke 7 shows His Deity. This is the Christ we remember.

Remembering the blood

The last is to remember the blood, Christ says, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood, do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.”

And according to the Law, one may almost say, all things are cleansed with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.
Hebrews 9:22

We are told that the blood had to be shed. His blood had to be shed to cover our sins, our filthiness before our Maker so that we should share in the glories of heaven instead of the depths of hell. To remember this we must look to John 19 to remember His perfect sacrifice.

John 19:1-6; 16-30

Pilate then took Jesus and scourged Him.

It is important to note that before this happened, the night before it was said that as Jesus was praying His sweat became blood. There is actual medical evidence of this, and when it happens that the skin in response becomes very fragile, so the flogging to come was going to have a higher impact than any other human had ever felt.

This scourging happened by taking and beating Christ using a whip of braided leather thongs, which encompassed metal balls and sharp bone and sometimes nails to tear the flesh off the person, it was so brutal that most didn’t live through this and many times the spine became visible. The usually beat them with 39 lashes because experience told them that 40 lashes would kill the man. And remember that Christ’s flesh was very thin and fragile at this time because of the night before.

It is recorded by Josephus that “certain rebel Jews were torn to pieces by the scourge before being crucified”

Read John 19:16-30

Note that Jesus' thirst is from another condition known as hypovolemic shock caused by extreme loss of blood and so because the heart is pumping large amounts of blood to try and recapture the loss of the blood the person becomes very thirsty as the body craves fluids to replace the volume of blood lost.

The crucifixion was so bad that as they drove the nails into His hands and His feet it is said to try explain this pain would be to take that same nerve that causes pain when you bump your funny bone, the ulna nerve, and take pliers and squeeze and crush that nerve, that would be similar to the pain at this point.

This pain that our Saviour, our Creator went through was one that He knew He would have to endure for our sake.

And Hebrews 12:2 tells us that we are to fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him, He endured the cross!

This is what we are to remember and proclaim at the table. The precious blood that was spilled in our place, so that we would not be cast into the darkness but that we would be in His glorious light worshipping Him forever.

This blood, bringing into existence the New Covenant, bringing into existence hope for the gentile to be part of the church, the bride of Christ.

This is the kind of remembrance we are to have when we come to the table. May we take this seriously and may we understand Him more through the visible signs of Christ's death as we take part in communion.

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Sunday, July 26, 2009

Reaction to DWYL in Seattle

I figured I would put forth what I saw from the guys at the DWYL concert and give you the ins and outs from an actual show. Before I start, I thought I would give you some quick things that I recognized right off the bat:

1. White People in Seattle will show up for any free concert
2. Give white teenage girls long enough and they will start to sing out loud
3. iPhone pictures really suck for these types of venues
4. Give any person long enough, by the end of the show when done by Reach Records, they will be bobbing their head at some point
5. Even Christian Hip Hop concerts don't start on time, which meant a long wait outside, and is why #2 in this list, proved to be true.

After waiting in line a good half hour after it was supposed to start, I was able to enter Mars Hill, which I found out was half the battle since they had to turn people away because of fire code restrictions. I was a little disappointed in the merch, as I was hoping to grab some stuff that they didn't have available online anymore, but that was a small deal compared to the greatness of the evening. At around 7:30, someone showed up on stage and started the intro to our evening. This happened to be the campus pastor of Mars Hill Downtown, Tim Gaydos. He introduced our surroundings (watch this vid for more detailed information on the downtown campus), which was a former hip hop club redeemed for Christ's glory and showed off the former go-go cage that has yet to be turned into anything useful...probably a coat rack in the future. What was cool is that not only did Tim share the local mission of Mars Hill and their community, but also God's Block, a local hip hop organization, was able to share some about their local outreach and mission as well. So, those present, weren't left wanting as Reach Records left town the next day, there was local ministries present and willing to serve in whatever capacity someone would need after the show packed up and left town. Very important.

After those intros, the crowd now very anxious, the show started. The lights darkened, and John Piper started to fill the room with excitement as this video was played on the huge screen behind the stage. At the conclusion of this, the whole crew took the stage, which included, Sho Baraka, Tedashii, Flame, Lecrae and Trip Lee. I am trying to remember their opening song, which I believe was Jesus Musik, originally done by Lecrae and Trip Lee (video here).

At this point the order of appearance was Sho Baraka, Flame, Tedashii, Trip Lee and Lecrae. The way they did things was amazing. Because we have all been to concerts with the opening acts that we didn't know, and couldn't understand what they were saying, and because Reach Records is all about serving Christians and reaching out to the lost, they would, at times, stop the music and just talk. Not only this, but they would also give their testimonies through their lyrics while the music was completely off and it was just them and the mic. By doing this, the concert had purpose, it had a clear message, and that message could be understood even if you had no clue who these guys were.

One of the best parts of the night is when "Here am I, Send Me" started with Lecrae and we were all shouting to the top of our lungs and he stopped the music. He asked us to check our hearts, to understand that we aren't there to just be pumped by the music, but to sincerely speak to Christ to send us wherever. After he spoke to us, instead of continuing the song, Tedashii took the stage and they hit it up with "Go Hard" which was a perfect continuation of Lecrae's message.

I will have to say that the night was completely centered on Christ. They kept making sure that the audience knew that the guys from Reach were not to be looked upon as anything, but they were here to serve us for the glory of Christ. Over and over again, they kept pointing to the wonders of our Lord. And, because of this, I believe it had a great impact. The reason I say this is that I first saw these guys at Resurgence about 2 years ago. The whole room is filled with mostly white middle aged pastors. You have two young black men screaming "Here am I, Send Me." At first, the place was numb, didn't know what to do. But as the words were on the screen, the hearts of these two young men were shown on stage, by the end of the song, we were all on our feet yelling, "SEND ME." The same thing happened this past Friday. There was a young couple next to me. She was blond and he was a guy with a lot of tats, and a shaved head and dressed making me think he was probably more in tune with the Indie scene in Seattle. Basically, he was your normal mid 20's white downtown Seattleite. They at first were looking at each other like, "why did we come to this?" But, as I watched them, by the end of the night, they were both starting to bob their heads to the music. I can say that they might not have liked the type of music, but the message and the hearts of these young men got to them. That is what is cool about Reach Records. For whatever reason, they cross boundaries.

As the concert drew to a close, Tedashii took the stage. Mind you, this is right after they all were on stage throwing water on us, because it was so hot, and bouncing to "Joyful Noise" (video). Tedashii comes on stage and gives a full gospel presentation. He starts in Genesis and walks through redemption. Mind you, some leave, but most stay and are captivated by his words and his message: The hope in Christ. Realize that we had just spent over an hour outside in line, 45 minutes inside waiting for the concert to start and then two hours of crazy music inside with the heat, so to watch the eyes be captivated with the message of Christ was awesome. As Tedashii drew to a close, he told people that they would be up in front to pray and speak with them about Jesus. He made it very clear that they were not there to sign autographs, to listen to demos, to meet people, or give tips on how to make your life better, they were there to pray with the lost. Very cool to see them be upfront and honest and to see the "concert" show it's true purpose: to save souls. Just as I was about to leave, one last announcement was made. They asked us to quickly leave, because they were going to do another FREE concert for all those who were turned away from the first one. This is why I love Reach Records.

The whole night was centered on Christ. They didn't only tell lost people how to get saved, but they continually made sure that those who said they were saved, were and weren't wasting their lives. And, this wasn't about making money. How could it be? It was free. There was just a white bucket when you came in to throw a donation into...there wasn't even a suggested donation shown...just give if you want. And if anyone thought it was about money, the second free concert should have given that away as nothing but garbage. You see, when you just want to spread the fame of Christ, you don't worry about the other stuff. You don't worry how much money you are going to make from the concert, how tired you are, what time you'll get to bed or how early you have to leave to get back home. It is "how can I serve you Lord?"

This is definitely what I learned by going and seeing these guys for myself. When they scream, "Here Am I, Send Me", they are not singing a song, they are literally screaming out to God for guidance and presenting themselves as living sacrifices.

I don't care if you hate hip hop. You should support Reach Records because they are reaching people for the cause of Christ that you would never be able to reach. I praise God for them and I pray that He continues to use them for years to come. Click here for their storefront.

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Friday, July 24, 2009

Watch in Preparation for DWYL Tour: Joyful Noise

With DWYL happening tonight in Seattle, figured I would put up a couple of videos to prepare me. Enjoy and have a great weekend.

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Thursday, July 23, 2009

The Ins and Outs of Communion: What is Communion?

For most of my life, actually up until about a year or two ago, I had a firm belief that communion was simply a ritualistic, or merely symbolic, thing we did that had really very little, if no, spiritual significance. I was more in the Zwingli scope of thought than the historical Reformed thought on the Lord's Supper. But, from studying some of the Scriptures, it seems as though that yes, it is definitely a picture of the cross and redemption, but also has some real spiritual significance. I am not thinking here like a Catholic would where they believe that they are eating the actual flesh of Christ and such, but what I am saying is that in some way, hard to explain, Christ's presence is found. Now, we know that Christ is omnipresent, so in me saying this, I don't cross any lines, but I also believe that when communion is taken as an ordinance of Christ, we find spiritual significance.

Here is what I mean.

We speak of when the pastor preaches that he preaches by the tongue of the Spirit. We pray that he is not speaking but the Holy Spirit. When we pray, we believe that it is not us praying, because we do not know how to pray, but the Spirit prays in our stead. So, when looking to the table, Paul tells us something very important in 1 Corinthians 10:16

Is not the cup of blessing which we bless a sharing in the blood of Christ? Is not the bread which we break a sharing in the body of Christ?
1 Corinthians 10:16

The term used here when speaking of the Supper is "sharing" or "koinonia" in the Greek. It has this idea of fellowship with another. This isn't simply meaning that you and I as we gather share together, but what is happening here is that this sharing, this fellowship is sharing together in Christ's blood and body. We, in some way, which I believe is further proved in 1 Corinthians 11 when using the term "remembrance" (which I will get into in the next post), share in the sufferings of Christ on the cross as we partake of the table.

We can see the significance of this term when Paul uses it when speaking of sharing or to have fellowship in the sufferings of Christ:

But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.
Philippians 3:7-11

“He who partakes of the cup, partakes of Christ’s blood.” But it may be asked here: ‘in what sense?’ This, of course, is not here explained. But it is in some real, veritable way predicable of all who partake. Otherwise the parallel with the idolatrous act rebuked, would not be sustained. Paul means to show that as by means of the sacrament we truly come into communion with Christ, so in the idolatrous feasts, whether a person intends it or not, he does worship the idol."
Christian Friedrich Kling

Lange, John Peter ; Schaff, Philip ; Kling, Christian Friedrich ; Poor, Daniel W.: A Commentary on the Holy Scriptures : 1 Corinthians. Bellingham, WA : Logos Research Systems, Inc., 2008, S. 210

Paul says, that the cup which has been in this manner blessed is κοινωνίαν — the communion of the blood of the Lord. It is asked, in what sense? Let contention be avoided, and there will be nothing of obscurity. It is true, that believers are united together by Christ’s blood, so as to become one body. It is also true, that a unity of this kind is with propriety termed κοινωνία(communion.) I make the same acknowledgment as to the bread. Farther, I observe what Paul immediately adds, as it were, by way of explanation — that we all become one body, because we are together partakers of the same bread. But whence, I pray you, comes that κοινωνία (communion)between us, but from this, that we are united to Christ in such a way, that

we are flesh of his flesh, and bone of his bones? (Ephesians 5:30.)

For we must first of all be incorporated (so to speak) into Christ, that we may be united to each other. In addition to this, Paul is not disputing at present merely in reference to a mutual fellowship among men, but as to the spiritual union between Christ and believers, with the view of drawing from this, that it is an intolerable sacrilege for them to be polluted by fellowship with idols. From the connection of the passage, therefore, we may conclude, that (κοινωνίαν) the communion of the blood is that connection which we have with the blood of Christ, when he engrafts all of us together into his body, that he may live in us, and we in him.
John Calvin

As these two point out, the reason that we can partake and be in fellowship with one another as the church, is because we commune with Christ BY his blood and body. The cup and the bread do not save us, but we should not reduce this time to merely symbolic usage either. It has real significance. But, again, we do not take it as far to say that we are literally participating in the blood and body of Christ as we partake. This is what the early non-Christians thought we meant and why they called early Christians, wrongly I might add, cannibals.

So, what we see within communion, or the Lord's Supper, is some real spiritual significance that is also symbolic showing our participation, fellowship and sharing of the blood and body of our crucified and risen Lord and Saviour. From here, we can now take on our responsibility given to us by Christ and Paul as we come to the table.

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Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The Ins and Outs of Communion: Introduction

For whatever reason, the past year I have been thinking a lot about communion. For all my life I have only been a member in churches where communion was celebrated once a month with the reason always given that we don't want to make it just a repetitive event with no meaning. I always thought that made sense, until I really started to understand what worship meant. I always thought worship happened on Sunday, in the "sanctuary", with someone's grandma playing the organ or an ex-hippie playing the guitar and us singing songs (I have enjoyed both). This is what I thought worship was reduced to. Not much thought was put on the fact that every part of the weekly gathering was worship and that every day of my life was worship. When my eyes were opened to this reality, the questioning of communion started to really come into full view.

I started to think. If communion is a part of worship, why do we only do it once a month, whereas we collect an offering once a week? Can't giving become repetitive and meaningless? But, since we have to pay the bills at church, giving has always been given much more credence than communion. Once I started to question the amount of times communion was practiced, every other part of communion started to be put up for Scriptural testing. I will be honest, my historical viewpoint of communion is very weak. What I desire to put forth, and will lean on history buff's to aid, is the ins and outs of communion. Such as:

What is Communion? Am I a cannibal?

Who should practice communion?

What should I do during, before and after communion?

How often should we practice communion?

Where should it be practiced?

What elements should be used? i.e. Is wine appropriate?

Who should administer the elements?

All of these will be discussed at some point and hope that you will join in the discussion of understanding this very important part of our worship. Please also comment on other things that you would like to see a post on in regards to communion. Much discussion and killing has happened throughout the church ages on the different convictions of communion so I don't expect to "solve" those differences. What I would like to do is get a firmer grasp on what I believe and why and I invite you to join in the discussion and wonder if you will also actually challenge yourself through the Scriptures and not continue to observe communion the way you have always done it because "daddy told me this is how it should be done."

My tag line for this blog from the beginning that surprisingly has never changed (unlike my header picture) has been,

a blog dedicated to understanding how to live out theology. Always questioning tradition according to Scripture and never leaving Scripture out of the discussion.

This is what I hope to do once again with these posts on communion.

I will leave this first post with Calvin's comments on 1 Corinthians 10:16

Is not the cup of blessing which we bless a sharing in the blood of Christ? Is not the bread which we break a sharing in the body of Christ?
1 Corinthians 10:16

16. The cup of blessing. While the sacred Supper of Christ has two elements — bread and wine — he begins with the second. He calls it, the cup of blessing, as having been set apart for a mystical benediction. For I do not agree with those who understand blessing to mean thanksgiving, and interpret the verb to bless, as meaning to give thanks. I acknowledge, indeed, that it is sometimes employed in this sense, but never in the construction that Paul has here made use of, for the idea of Erasmus, as to supplying a preposition, is exceedingly forced. On the other hand, the meaning that I adopt is easy, and has nothing of intricacy.

To bless the cup, then, is to set it apart for this purpose, that it may be to us an emblem of the blood of Christ. This is done by the word of promise, when believers meet together according to Christ’s appointment to celebrate the remembrance of his death in this Sacrament. The consecration, however, which the Papists make use of, is a kind of sorcery derived from heathens, which has nothing in common with the pure rite observed by Christians. Everything, it is true, that we eat is sanctified by the word of God, as Paul himself elsewhere bears witness, (1 Timothy 4:5;) but that blessing is for a different purpose — that our use of the gifts of God may be pure, and may tend to the glory of their Author, and to our advantage. On the other hand, the design of the mystical blessing in the Supper is, that the wine may be no longer a common beverage, but set apart for the spiritual nourishment of the soul, while it is an emblem of the blood of Christ.

Paul says, that the cup which has been in this manner blessed is κοινωνίαν — the communion of the blood of the Lord. It is asked, in what sense? Let contention be avoided, and there will be nothing of obscurity. It is true, that believers are united together by Christ’s blood, so as to become one body. It is also true, that a unity of this kind is with propriety termed κοινωνία(communion.) I make the same acknowledgment as to the bread. Farther, I observe what Paul immediately adds, as it were, by way of explanation — that we all become one body, because we are together partakers of the same bread. But whence, I pray you, comes that κοινωνία (communion) between us, but from this, that we are united to Christ in such a way, that

we are flesh of his flesh, and bone of his bones? (Ephesians 5:30.)

For we must first of all be incorporated (so to speak) into Christ, that we may be united to each other. In addition to this, Paul is not disputing at present merely in reference to a mutual fellowship among men, but as to the spiritual union between Christ and believers, with the view of drawing from this, that it is an intolerable sacrilege for them to be polluted by fellowship with idols. From the connection of the passage, therefore, we may conclude, that (κοινωνίαν) the communion of the blood is that connection which we have with the blood of Christ, when he engrafts all of us together into his body, that he may live in us, and we in him.

Now, when the cup is called a participation, the expression, I acknowledge, is figurative, provided that the truth held forth in the figure is not taken away, or, in other words, provided that the reality itself is also present, and that the soul has as truly communion in the blood, as we drink wine with the mouth. But Papists could not say this, that the cup of blessing is a participation in the blood of Christ, for the Supper that they observe is mutilated and torn: if indeed we can give the name of the Supper to that strange ceremony which is a patchwork of various human contrivances, and scarcely retains the slightest vestige of the institution of our Lord. But, supposing that everything else were as it ought to be, this one thing is at variance with the right use of the Supper — the keeping back of the whole of the people from partaking of the cup, which is the half of the Sacrament.

The bread which we break. From this it appears, that it was the custom of the ancient Church to break one loaf, and distribute to every one his own morsel, in order that there might be presented more clearly to the view of all believers their union to the one body of Christ. And that this custom was long kept up appears from the testimony of those who flourished in the three centuries that succeeded the age of the Apostles. Hence arose the superstition, that no one dared to touch the bread with his hand, but each one had it put into his mouth by the priest.

17. For we are one bread. I have already stated above, that it was not Paul’s particular design here to exhort us to love, but he mentions this by the way, that the Corinthians may understand that we must, even by external profession, maintain that unity which subsists between us and Christ, inasmuch as we all assemble together to receive the symbol of that sacred unity. In this second part of the statement, he makes mention only of the one part of the Sacrament, and it is the manner of Scripture to describe by Synecdoche the entire Supper by the breaking of bread. It is necessary to warn my readers, in passing, as to this, lest any less experienced person should be put off his guard by the foolish cavil that is brought forward by certain sycophants — as if Paul, by mentioning merely the bread, had it in view to deprive the people of the one half of the Sacrament.

Calvin, John: Calvin's Commentaries: 1 Corinthians. electronic ed. Albany, OR : Ages Software, 1998 (Logos Library System; Calvin's Commentaries), S. 1 Co 10:16

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Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Lecrae's Story and DWYL Tour in Seattle

I am not sure how the DWYL Tour date in Seattle got here so quickly. I knew they were coming but it seemed like it was far off. Now, it is here. They will be here in Seattle this Friday at the Downtown Campus of Mars Hill. Here is the link for the info: DWYL Seattle. I am a little perturbed at myself because I forgot to ask for an interview with the artists as I am on their media mailing list for their new albums and such. I have made a request for an interview, but it might be too late. I will update you as soon as I know if I can get one or not as I have emailed my contact at Reach Records.

If you still don't know much about the dudes at 1.1.6. make sure you check them out. I have included a video from the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association that is a quick bio of Lecrae. I hope you enjoy.

Lecrae Story from Adamson.TV on Vimeo.

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Monday, July 20, 2009

Hey Husbands...Grow Some

It is interesting when speaking to some about anger within the household and how it affects marriage. It is funny when someone jokingly asks, "So, after almost 10 years of marriage, how many times have you slept on the couch?" I quickly become as serious as an IFB preacher does when he hears rock music. I respond, "I never have, nor will I ever." This isn't because I am the man and believe it is my bed and my wife needs to deal with me. Not at all. I actually have a different outlook that some do when speaking of being angry with my spouse. But, I do believe it is the husband's job to resolve any conflict that is happening within the household.

The reason I tell husbands to "grow some" is because some men become so skittish around an angry wife they throw out all theological conviction for the cause of not having to confront an angry wife. This isn't godly in any way.

Scriptures tell us this:

Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil an opportunity.
Ephesians 4:26-27

This is definitely not only speaking of marriage, but of a holy life in general. We can apply this verse in numerous ways, but in this post, I want to make a charge to the husbands.

Lead Your Wife

The one rule I started out with when Stacy and I were married is the rule that we wouldn't lay our head on our pillows angry at each other. Has this caused some crazy conflicts at 1am? Yep. Has this made our marriage better? Yes. Is there something more at stake here than a happy marriage? Of course.

I told my wife that I honestly wanted to work out conflict before we went to sleep, if there was any. I did not want to take our anger to the next day. Stacy didn't always enjoy this, but she knows that if we have conflict, it will be dealt with swiftly. But, husbands need to take charge in this to lead the wife in this area. It isn't that the wives aren't capable, but we are charged as husbands to lead our wives in this and show them the gospel in it. Ephesians 5 tells us that Christ is the head, both spiritually and physically, of the church and the husbands are to be such for their wives. Showing the wife the gospel by reconciliation each night is a great way to keep the cross and resurrection of Christ in front of the eyes for both partners.

Sometimes this takes great humility from the husband to apologize to the wife and tell her that you were wrong. Sometimes it takes you growing some and telling the wife that she was in sin how she reacted and responded in her time of anger. Our wives are not immune from Scripture when it tells us:

We urge you, brethren, admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with everyone. See that no one repays another with evil for evil, but always seek after that which is good for one another and for all people.
1 Thessalonians 5:14-15

The wives are included in this context. Now, just as you wouldn't tease a UFC fighter for being overweight, you don't want to come at your wife in an attitude of pride. Come to her in humility, first apologizing if you responded or acted in any way that was unbecoming of a loving husband, but grow some and tell her if she was wrong. Believe me, sometimes this isn't fun, but I have noticed that for the most part, if I come to my wife in the right way, she responds in humility and loving repentance. She also knows it is coming before night's end as well, since we have the rule that we will never go to sleep angry.

Opportunity for Gospel Presence Not Satan's

Notice the second part of the verse here. It states,

and do not give the devil an opportunity

If you allow anger to ferment, the devil will win out and the gospel loses its opportunity. What this verse is really stating is that something will have an opportunity, it will either be the gospel or it will be the devil. If we deal with our anger with our spouse, we give opportunity for the gospel to show itself and clean our hearts. Think of this. If you deal with anger with your spouse, you and her have the chance to speak of repentance, forgiveness, the cross, the resurrection and the hope of heaven ruled by God where no sin and no (unrighteous) anger will exist. When you deal with sin together as a married couple you get a chance to see the gospel with your eyes, you and your spouse have the chance to see Christ face to face.

If you do not deal with your anger quickly, you instead give the devil opportunity. Every chance the devil gets, he will quickly rush in and squander gospel opportunity. He will give the one angered pride, he will give them questions on the love of the spouse, questions on motives of the spouse, questions on the spouse's commitment, etc. Remember he is prowling around like a lion looking for someone to devour. Being angry with your spouse is like unlocking the gate and throwing your spouse in the lion's cage. Just as Paul states elsewhere that if either spouse deprives the other of sexual intimacy, it gives Satan an opportunity, so does anger.

I have heard it stated that the passage in 1 Corinthians 7 is showing that if you deprive your spouse, it allows Satan in your marriage bed. I do not know any husband that wouldn't freak out like a Jerry Springer guest if they saw another in their marriage bed, why would we allow Satan? Husbands must take this head on and not give the devil the opportunity to move in and stir up trouble.

The husband must grow some and take anger head on. I must say that if the husband ever allows his wife or himself to sleep on the couch because of anger he is no man and he is not leading his wife and he needs to grow some and start leading his wife instead of wearing a skirt and being a pansy. When we as husbands do not lead our wives in the area of anger we give the devil an opportunity to squash the gospel. When we as husbands decide that our pride is more important than our wives and ultimately the gospel, we might as well call ourselves "daughters of the devil" because we don't even deserve to be called "sons of the devil."

Husbands, grow some. Lovingly lead your wife so that both of you can continually see the gospel and Christ face to face.

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Thursday, July 16, 2009

Ocean Reflection

We come to Seaside, OR every year for our family vacation and every year I am reminded how small I am as I stand at the ocean's edge. As my wife and I were sitting watching our children and the waves breaking behind them, we were in awe of our God. We just sat and started to chat about how big and how great God is if the ocean is even a small reflection of the power and awesomeness of our Creator. Even more so, to realize that the ocean's beauty is in the midst of a fallen world and not even as great as it could have been, is amazing to think of. What beauty awaits us in heaven?

This time reminded me of God's questions posed to Job:

Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind and said,
“Who is this that darkens counsel
By words without knowledge?
“Now gird up your loins like a man,
And I will ask you, and you instruct Me!
“Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?
Tell Me, if you have understanding,
Who set its measurements? Since you know.
Or who stretched the line on it?
“On what were its bases sunk?
Or who laid its cornerstone,
When the morning stars sang together
And all the sons of God shouted for joy?
“Or who enclosed the sea with doors
When, bursting forth, it went out from the womb;
When I made a cloud its garment
And thick darkness its swaddling band,
And I placed boundaries on it
And set a bolt and doors,
And I said, ‘Thus far you shall come, but no farther;
And here shall your proud waves stop’?

“Have you ever in your life commanded the morning,
And caused the dawn to know its place,
That it might take hold of the ends of the earth,
And the wicked be shaken out of it?
“It is changed like clay under the seal;
And they stand forth like a garment.
“From the wicked their light is withheld,
And the uplifted arm is broken.
“Have you entered into the springs of the sea
Or walked in the recesses of the deep?
“Have the gates of death been revealed to you,
Or have you seen the gates of deep darkness?
“Have you understood the expanse of the earth?
Tell Me, if you know all this.
Job 38:1-18

Read the whole chapter here

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Monday, July 13, 2009

WWJD Bracelets Are Stupid

I really wish that we would grow up as Christians. I wish we would see that Madonna has actually correctly put forth Christianity:

Christianity is becoming more of a currency than a belief

This is actually on point and pretty disturbing. When Michael Jackson died, not sure if you heard that he, in fact, died, vendors were outside his funeral to take advantage of the death by selling t-shirts with R.I.P. on the front. I started to scoff and laugh, and then realized that this isn't far from what Christians have done with our hero that died. Before Jesus died, the cross was seen as an obscene object and not for affection or to be worn proudly around the neck with 14 caret gold and diamonds laced within it. But, leave it to Christians to start to market the cross like MJ fans did the programs from his funeral on ebay the day after. Whatever we need to do to make a buck.

I am not sure if I am more disturbed by the companies that hock this crap or for the stupid consumer for buying and chalking it up as using it as a witness for the cross of Christ. I still don't get how having a blanket in your house with a lighthouse on it stating, "Then Jesus again spoke to them, saying, “I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life" is a witnessing tool. It might warm your guests feet, but I doubt it will make them realize their need for Christ. Plus, the lighthouse is just distracting.

This is contemporary Christendom though. We tell ourselves that if we buy this crap and wear it or put it around our home that people are going to read our mugs and see our t-shirts and want to sell everything that they have to follow Christ, for a small donation. What is even crazier is that people who aren't Christians see right through this, and aren't attracted to Christ because of it. We are cheapening Christ by buying all this crap and really telling people that Jesus is no different than the local show hocking crap at their concerts. Really, what is the difference between us wearing some odd verse on our t-shirt with Christ dying on the cross and someone wearing a Cold Play t-shirt with a lyric and tour dates on back? Jesus has become nothing more than a pop icon instead of the Jesus that died a brutal death on the cross and rose from the dead to save souls. I think that all this marketing has dumbed Christianity down so much that it a large part of why people have issues with his bloody death and why people don't like to read parts of the Bible that calls them whores with their legs spread open waiting for anyone who passes by. (Ezekiel 16). Instead, we would like Jesus' name to look like a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup wrapper on a t-shirt.

Every time I see someone wearing a WWJD bracelet, I want to simply tell them, "He wouldn't be wearing your bright pink bracelet, that's for sure."

At some point we have to realize that no matter what we do, just wearing the crap around our neck doesn't make us a Christ follower. That would be like the local transvestite wearing chick clothes and saying he is a lady. Wear the clothes all you want man, but you are still a dude. At the end of the day, you still have to shave your face and put on a cup when you play softball.

Christianity has to be a heart change, not a change of clothes. The way we put it forth today though is that if you want to be a Christian, then you have to listen to lame music, wear lame t-shirts (like "Lord's Gym: Bench Press This!") and put the little Jesus fish on your car for all to see that not only you have changed for Christ, but your car has been redeemed as well.

At some point, we have to see how dumb we look as we try and sell people our crappy trinkets for Jesus. Instead, what we need to do is lived a changed life, not a changed wardrobe. We need to live for Jesus, we need to speak Jesus. I get like this every time I walk into a Christian bookstore and see all the crap they try and sell poor shmucks for a little righteousness for their wall. Today, instead of buying anything, I walked next door (to the wine and beer shop) and bought a beer glass and then went home and drank a beer for the glory of God and thanked him for his many true blessings in life as I sat and saw his creation in the form of a great ocean staring at me from my balcony.

I really hope that at some point we see that the war is not happening in what we wear or hang on our wall, but is in the heart of man. We need to speak and live Jesus with others so that they see the greatness of him and realize that he is not some pop culture icon that hopes that someone will buy a ticket to the show.

He's not a show. He's the Creator and Sustainer of all life.


He thinks your bracelet is dumb and so do I.

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Friday, July 10, 2009

John Calvin Is Dead, But He Would Be 500 Today If He Lived Before the Flood

I have learned a ton from the writings of John Calvin. I call myself a Calvinist, not because I am a follower of Calvin, but because I believe that the soteriology that is placed in his writings are clearly biblical. Are there some hard parts of Scripture based on my belief in this soteriology, yes. Do I believe that the correct theological underpinnings of Calvin are overwhelmed by them? Not at all. This is why I call myself a Calvinist. Today marks Calvin's 500th birthday and so I decided to share a couple of snips from his Institutes of the Christian Religion that have had the greatest impact on me outside of Scripture. I have always struggled with sin. I have struggled to understand how my sin and Christ's righteousness fit together and how I could continually sin and still say I love Jesus and believe that I am elect. This is a real struggle and one that I still fight with. I have found John Calvin's words on this to be most helpful. I have always been told to evaluate myself to see if I am in the faith. The problem is that in all stages of my life, I always come up short. When I honestly evaluate myself the way the Bible puts forth, I never measure up. Calvin puts forth words that show that Jesus is the mirror of our election and that if you look to Christ salvation is certain; if you return to yourself damnation is certain. I am not downplaying keeping the commandments of Christ out of a love for him, but the way I was told to evaluate myself I have found was close, if not completely, heretical.

Thank you John Calvin for exposing this to me. I pray that you find these words encouraging and know that John Calvin is dead, but Jesus Christ is alive and always has been.

Here, however, we give no countenance to that most pestilential philosophy which some semi-papists are at present beginning to broach in corners. Unable to defend the gross doubt inculcated by the Schoolmen, they have recourse to another fiction, that they may compound a mixture of faith and unbelief. They admit, that whenever we look to Christ we are furnished with full ground for hope; but as we are ever unworthy of all the blessings which are offered us in Christ, they will have us to fluctuate and hesitate in the view of our unworthiness. In short, they give conscience a position between hope and fear, making it alternate, by successive turns, to the one and the other. Hope and fear, again, they place in complete contrast,—the one falling as the other rises, and rising as the other falls. Thus Satan, finding the devices by which he was wont to destroy the certainty of faith too manifest to be now of any avail, is endeavoring, by indirect methods, to undermine it. But what kind of confidence is that which is ever and anon supplanted by despair? They tell you, if you look to Christ salvation is certain; if you return to yourself damnation is certain. Therefore, your mind must be alternately ruled by diffidence and hope; as if we were to imagine Christ standing at a distance, and not rather dwelling in us. We expect salvation from him—not because he stands aloof from us, but because ingrafting us into his body he not only makes us partakers of all his benefits, but also of himself. Therefore, I thus retort the argument, If you look to yourself damnation is certain: but since Christ has been communicated to you with all his benefits, so that all which is his is made yours, you become a member of him, and hence one with him. His righteousness covers your sins—his salvation extinguishes your condemnation; he interposes with his worthiness, and so prevents your unworthiness from coming into the view of God. Thus it truly is. It will never do to separate Christ from us, nor us from him; but we must, with both hands, keep firm hold of that alliance by which he has riveted us to himself. This the Apostle teaches us: “The body is dead because of sin; but the spirit is life because of righteousness,” (Rom. 8:10). According to the frivolous trifling of these objectors, he ought to have said, Christ indeed has life in himself, but you, as you are sinners, remain liable to death and condemnation. Very different is his language. He tells us that the condemnation which we of ourselves deserve is annihilated by the salvation of Christ; and to confirm this he employs the argument to which I have referred—viz. that Christ is not external to us, but dwells in us; and not only unites us to himself by an undivided bond of fellowship, but by a wondrous communion brings us daily into closer connection, until he becomes altogether one with us. And yet I deny not, as I lately said, that faith occasionally suffers certain interruptions when, by violent assault, its weakness is made to bend in this direction or in that; and its light is buried in the thick darkness of temptation. Still happen what may, faith ceases not to long after God.

Institutes of the Christian Religion, 3.2.24

First, if we seek for the paternal mercy and favor of God, we must turn our eyes to Christ, in whom alone the Father is well pleased (Mt. 3:17). When we seek for salvation, life, and a blessed immortality, to him also must we retake ourselves, since he alone is the fountain of life and the anchor of salvation, and the heir of the kingdom of heaven. Then what is the end of election, but just that, being adopted as sons by the heavenly Father, we may by his favor obtain salvation and immortality? How much soever you may speculate and discuss you will perceive that in its ultimate object it goes no farther. Hence, those whom God has adopted as sons, he is said to have elected, not in themselves, but in Christ Jesus (Eph. 1:4); because he could love them only in him, and only as being previously made partakers with him, honor them with the inheritance of his kingdom. But if we are elected in him, we cannot find the certainty of our election in ourselves; and not even in God the Father, if we look at him apart from the Son. Christ, then, is the mirror in which we ought, and in which, without deception, we may contemplate our election. For since it is into his body that the Father has decreed to ingraft those whom from eternity he wished to be his, that he may regard as sons all whom he acknowledges to be his members, if we are in communion with Christ, we have proof sufficiently clear and strong that we are written in the Book of Life. Moreover, he admitted us to sure communion with himself, when, by the preaching of the gospel, he declared that he was given us by the Father, to be ours with all his blessings (Rom. 8:32). We are said to be clothed with him, to be one with him, that we may live, because he himself lives. The doctrine is often repeated, “God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life,” (John 3:16). He who believes in him is said to have passed from death unto life (John 5:24). In this sense he calls himself the bread of life, of which if a man eat, he shall never die (John 6:35). He, I say, was our witness, that all by whom he is received in faith will be regarded by our heavenly Father as sons. If we long for more than to be regarded as sons of God and heirs, we must ascend above Christ. But if this is our final goal, how infatuated is it to seek out of him what we have already obtained in him, and can only find in him? Besides, as he is the Eternal Wisdom, the Immutable Truth, the Determinate Counsel of the Father, there is no room for fear that any thing which he tells us will vary in the minutes degree from that will of the Father after which we inquire. Nay, rather he faithfully discloses it to us as it was from the beginning, and always will be. The practical influence of this doctrine ought also to be exhibited in our prayers. For though a belief of our election animates us to involve God, yet when we frame our prayers, it were preposterous to obtrude it upon God, or to stipulate in this way, “O Lord, if I am elected, hear me.” He would have us to rest satisfied with his promises, and not to inquire elsewhere whether or not he is disposed to hear us. We shall thus be disentangled from many snares, if we know how to make a right use of what is rightly written; but let us not inconsiderately wrest it to purposes different from that to which it ought to be confined.

Institutes of the Christian Religion, 3.24.5

A big thank you goes out to Steve Costley for revealing these to me about 2 years ago: Controversial Calvinism

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Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Why People Hate Calvinists

I'll be upfront, I am a Calvinist. I know that it is sometimes used like a cuss word or could be used like a "yo momma" joke...Yo momma is such a Calvinist, you said you got her tulips and she started quoting Romans 9. Anyways. From what I have found being a Calvinist is that it is sometimes a curse calling myself one because of the baggage that comes along with it. These are also things that I have been guilty of, but figured I would throw these out there to hopefully remind myself and others why people hate us so. And this is a reality that we need to make changes in. These aren't straw man attacks against us, these are real gripes with real ground to stand on. What is funny is that as a Calvinist desiring to discuss theology with other Calvinists I have seen these characterizations happen over and over again personally.

That's Not Exegesis, That's Eisegesis!

What I have found with us Calvinists is that we like to think that we have the corner on exegesis. Almost like we invented biblical interpretation. We can argue with the best of them on Greek syntax and verb forms but if you for some reason don't get it after all that explanation, we will simply go to our "go to guy"...the good ole Mr. Eisegesis. If after everything we have explained to you and you still don't get it and you try and explain your case, if we don't like it, out comes the claim that you are not exegeting Scripture, you are eisegeting Scripture. We are the ones who always allow Scripture to speak for itself, not you. You simply are allowing reason and your tradition overwhelm your thoughts on Scripture instead of allowing it to speak for itself.

I have heard this claim no matter the argument and no matter the competing views. So reason number one for people hating Calvinists is the simple claim of us having the corner of exegesis. You don't agree with our should stop with your stupid eisegesis.

"I Don't Know" Isn't In Our Vocabulary

Whether we like it or not Arminians have some very good thoughts on Scripture and bring up some great arguments. What happens when they bring up these arguments and won't leave us alone after we tell them that they are the kings of eisegesis? We would never simply tell them, "I don't know," but we pull out the balance beam and parallel bars and start our gymnastic routines with the Bible.

We make the most absurd observations on Scripture, whether it is trying to show why "all" doesn't mean "all" or why "world" doesn't mean "world." It becomes something like out of the Bible code handbook. You first have to put on Calvin's goggles then you can see the clarity of the golden plates. There are some hard parts of Scripture that just aren't clear on how they fit into the theological beliefs of Calvinism.

We have to realize that it isn't wrong to simply say, "I don't know", when something doesn't seemingly fit into our theological system. Although I don't agree with Spurgeon on his thoughts of the atonement, he at least said that he didn't understand how the common call and desire of God for the reprobate to be saved worked if Jesus only died for the elect. He admitted that it was a tough issue that he could not reconcile. He simply said, "I don't know". It would seem that Deuteronomy 29:29 gives us this precedence to do so:

The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our sons forever, that we may observe all the words of this law.

Some things we just don't know, some things we need to say, "I don't know" to. We are human, this is okay. We should stick to those theological understandings that God has given us understanding with and be willing to be transparent with the others. God's glory isn't taken away when we don't know how things all fit, God's glory is shown off though when we decide to admit our finite humanness to our brothers in Christ.

Calvinism Should Drive Us to Humility, Too Bad We Instead Drive Over People With It

The theological conviction of Calvinism should put us in a very humble position. If we understand that we utterly sinful, totally depraved, not good, with no capacity to turn to Jesus unless the Spirit opens our eyes and draw us, then we should see that Christ is most exclaimed and glorified and we are left with no boasting on our part. Instead of humility, what I have seen most clearly is that our pride is built because we have the theological corner of the market. We enter debates with our heads held high and scoff at those who disagree with us. I understand that people might make ad hominem and straw men arguments against us, but I wonder what would happen if we actually responded with humility instead of attacking them like they just landed on the beaches at Normandy.

I think we would get a lot further in discussions on theology with our brothers in Christ if we came at them with humility and actually listened to what they had to say. Some that I have seen scoff and are very rude to those who have differing opinions and outlooks on Scripture. We like to say that we are merely the messenger, but sometimes we act as though we are the message and giver of wisdom. We like to tell others that they can't do anything apart from Christ, that they do no good, that they do nothing that would make God choose them...then we seemingly forget that these same things apply to us.

Forgetting humility should disqualify us from Calvinism. We should have to turn our Calvinist card into CJ Mahaney and have to attend a Free Will Baptist church for a year. If we believe in Soli Deo Gloria, then we need to start living it instead of living like we believe in Soli Me Gloria.

These are three quick reminders to myself and hopefully some other Calvinists to get back to a theological system that should honestly drive us into believing God's sovereignty, His greatness and our humility. May we love those brothers and sisters in Christ who don't believe exactly as we do and realize that, although we think we know everything, we truly don't.

When you have to do gymnastics for Scripture, continually tell others that they are eisegeting texts while you are showing perfection and show off your humility with pride, you are practically showing that you don't believe that God is to be praised or that God is in control. But, you are practically showing that you are to be praised and that your arguments are what is going to win people to Jesus or to a theological system. Sad really.

May we live like God would desire for us to live and may we speak to others of the faith as God would desire us to.

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Tuesday, July 07, 2009

It Worked, Why Ever Change?

Something that has concerned for quite some time is the thought among Christians on what ministries, programs and the like to use for mission work within the community. Anytime you try to speak to people about possibly changing these programs or dismissing them altogether, what usually happens is that someone will have a great story of redemption that happened because of the ministry or show how it has worked for decades. But, is this enough to keep a ministry going or start it in your church?

I am very leery of "boxed ministries" because what these state is that they have come up with some sort of program that works for all cultures for all times. But, what does it mean to have a ministry that works? Do we see anything like this in the Bible? Honestly, what is our calling as a gathered church in our communities around the globe?

Here is the truth, God calls you specifically, your church corporately, and the universal church together to spread his fame for his glory. God has done this in many different ways, but even looking biblically, we can't see one way that was the most appropriate for everyone. Let's be honest, just because God spoke through Balaam's ass doesn't mean that we should raise a bunch of asses and let them loose on the city hoping they speak. Even though it seems that this happens in other ways today. Did it work for the purpose God had as told in Numbers? Yes. Does that mean that because it worked then, we should try it now? If you think, yes, then you might want to look for a Red Sea to part and a burning bush to talk to you.

This doesn't mean that God won't use the same way twice, but in reality, God calls us within the culture that we are in now. I am sure that people have been saved through many different ways, but is that our calling? Isn't there something that works in all cultures for all time?

The answer is actually, yes. We are always called to live for the glory of God. We are called to live out the gospel, and preach the gospel to those around us in the best way possible. This is how Jesus did it. He didn't come to Jerusalem wearing khaki pants and Tevas. He came to the culture and spoke and lived the way that the culture lived so that he could reach them (there is so much that could be written and has been written based on this one sentence). In all this, he never sinned, but loved the people so much he became one of them. This is what we are called to do. We are called to live in the culture, love the culture all for God's glory. Whether we like it or not, our job is not to convert people, but to live for Christ. Through our living and through our preaching the Holy Spirit will take souls for the glory of God, but we cannot and will never win one soul for Christ. We are merely the instrument. It's like giving glory to the shovel for digging the hole instead of the one doing the digging.

Is the axe to boast itself over the one who chops with it?
Is the saw to exalt itself over the one who wields it?
That would be like a club wielding those who lift it,
Or like a rod lifting him who is not wood.
Isaiah 10:15

We need to know our place and simply ask God how he wants us to live out his glory to those around us. We need to be willing to serve those around us without some secretive plan to convert them to Jesus. Now, would we love for those around us to convert to Christ? Of course, but we should be willing to love the community around us and serve them for the glory of God and let God do the work and let God allow the right timing in speaking to them about Jesus. It should be natural, not some odd tract or bullhorn yelling at them as they try to buy milk at Safeway. We should be willing to serve and love a community even if no one that we know of is never converted. If we bend ourself to only converting, we will stop loving and serving the community if we find no converts. Ask Jeremiah, sometimes that is God's plan. It won't be easy, but we must continually love a community even if that community hates Jesus and never show any converts.

The worst part about trying to get people to see this is that everyone has a story where this one guy was saved because of this certain ministry. That's great, praise God, but that isn't the question at hand. The question isn't what happened that one time, but the question is, "What is the best way for us to live out Christ to those around us right now?"

We must get around this idea. It actually is way more pervasive than we think. I have had people that go into almost a depression type feeling because they had a great vacation with family that don't love Jesus and they never preached to them the gospel. Or that they passed someone on the street and didn't ask them if they knew Christ. It becomes evangelism out of guilt instead of love for others and ultimately love for God alone.

The question isn't "what has worked in the past?" but the question is "How do I currently live out God's mission for his glory right now?" The church must start personally, then it will spread corporately. Humility is key to this, because this might mean putting an end to programs and ministries that have been in the church for ages. This is way harder to do than to say and think about. But, we must be a people that is searching for God's will and glory now, not God's will and glory for a different generation and a different culture. Some things that "worked", and I use that word loosely, in the past, might not be what we are called to do today.

In Reformed circles we use the term, "Semper Reformanda" which means "Always Reforming." The question is, "Are we doing this in the community and culture we are in now?" If not, I am afraid that we are just being lazy, not wanting to change and just pointing to conversions and love that happened 25 years ago instead of pointing on how we impacted our community for Christ last weekend.

I know that this post has been quite the rant and quite the mish mash of ideas, but I pray that you read this and simply ask, "What is the best way for me to live out the glory of God to those around me?" Don't hang your hat on an ass and a burning bush, hang your hat on knowing you worship an eternal God who will not give his glory to another.

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Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Why My Family is Going to Public School

So, here is the culmination of this series. For some reason some thought I was asking advice on where my children should go to school. That is not what the purpose of this series is about. The purpose is for us all, including my family, to revisit why and how we make decisions while on this earth. This last post will put forth why our decision has been made, for now, to put our children into public schools. I want all to remember that this is not a polemic against homeschool or private school, this is merely an affirmation of our decision, not an attack on yours. So, when I say, "We fear the Lord" I am not saying that the homeschooler or private schooler does not fear God. Please catch this so you don't read this and think I am hammering you, but maybe the Spirit is hammering never know.

Here are a few of our reasons why we believe God has put our family on mission in the public school system.

Seeking God's Glory Above My Family's

This is the first question that we should all be living by. Am I saying that I honestly live this out perfectly? No, because if I did I would never sin. The fact of the matter is I honestly probably live this out in some areas and are very blinded in other areas. I will say that the verse that puts our whole lives and our decisions in perspective comes from the famous 1 Corinthians 10:31,33 passage:

So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God…just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved.
1 Corinthians 10: 31,33

This verse dwindles all our decisions to even the mundane. Even the every day drink and food that we enjoy should be done for the glory of God. We do this for the sake of God's glory because we are not seeking our own advantage but for other's, so they might be saved.

So, when making a decision on schooling my child, my first question is not what advantage it will be for my family or for my child. I don't first ask, "what has the best education, what will be the safest, what will have the least temptations, what will be the easiest for our family, what will make my kid the smartest, where will the fight be less" My first question is "what glorifies God the most? Where can I seek the advantage of other's most so they might be saved?" For our family, whether we were in the slums or suburbia we would choose the public school system because we believe this is where we can show off the glory of God the most.

People think that I would change my mind if I were in the ghetto, but what they forget is that the situation or school system is not the first question or insight. My first thought, my first question is simply, "God, how can I glorify you the most through my family so that many will be saved?" All my decisions flow from this, it is a top down approach, not a bottom up approach.

I Want My Family to God's Voice to the Pagan World

Is there many ways that this can be accomplished? Yes, of course. Will the schooling of our children be the only way that my family tries to accomplish this? Of course not. But, my children and my wife and I are going to do what we can to show off the glory of God to those who oppose him. We are going to do our best to emulate the meekness of our Saviour. We are going to do our best to take stands where stands need to be made. We are going to do our best to do as Christ did, befriend those who most Christians wouldn't dare to be friends with. I hope my child becomes friends with those of other faiths, I hope my child becomes friends with the self righteous, I hope my child becomes friends with the self debasing, I hope my child becomes friends with the homosexual, I hope my child becomes friends with the popular and most hated kids in the school. I hope that he does all this to show off Christ, and yet not sin.

Will my children do this on their own? No. We will be there alongside them to show them Jesus and his grace, forgiveness and love. We will be there to show him what Christ desires from those friendships and what he doesn't. We want our child to be in the world but not of it. We want them there to show those friends what it looks like to live for Christ, but not hate the sinner. I want my child to be able to stand for the morals and holiness that God calls his people to even when those around him are living for the sake of self instead of the sake of Christ.

Not only is this going to be the calling of our children, but this is going to be the calling of my wife and I. Because of this, we will get a chance to be a light to the teachers, staff and parents of all those involved. We will be able to show what it looks like to disagree with a worldview but not hate those who oppose us. We will be able to show them the light of the gospel that does not hate them, but desires them to turn to the One who created them for His sake and not their own. We will be able to be there for those who oppose Christianity to be able to talk to us and understand the Christian worldview from the voice of a Christian instead of reading it in a book by an atheist.

This is a whole family calling. This is actually even more tame than what God called Daniel to. Daniel was completely taken from his home and given over to the king in his early teens. Was Daniel taught and trained in the ways of the Lord before hand? Yes, very much so, and this is why he saw everything through the eyes of God and for God's glory. He wasn't transformed to be like the king, but brought truth to the king and showed the king and his servants the true God. He was instrumental in turning the king's heart to God. God used the foolishness of a kid, to bring the wisdom of the king, literally, to its' knees.

We are actually doing something quite less. We are not turning him over to the public schools and asking our children to live with the principle. We are continually training our children every day for the sake of Christ and then asking them to go to school and live out the teachings of Christ every day. This is not only a challenge for our children, but for us. We must continually train in the offensive truths of the gospel and then be defensive with those things that our child learns that are contrary to the Gospel. We must not lose sight of this and we must take this head on daily. We must plummet the gospel deep into our child's heart so that all things flow from the wisdom and love of Christ and not man.

Hi, My Name is Seth, and I am a Calvinist

I love God, I love his truth and I love that he alone is sovereign and my life is in his hands. I don't trust in my actions or in what I see, but I put my life, and my family's life in the hands of God. I believe that God has put this mission on the hearts of my wife and I. The question is "do I believe that God is in control or do I believe that what I see and my decisions are what controls fate?" Am I responsible for the decisions that I make? Yes, of course I am. But I will not make decisions because I am fearful of what might happen if I do. I make decisions based on God's glory and the fear of the One who can destroy both body and soul in hell, not based on those who can merely destroy the body. So what if my child is not as smart as he could have been, so what if my child is teased, so what if my child has no friends, so what if my child has to constantly stand against the norm? I say "so what" even though this would be very hard to take, very hard. But what if my child went through all that and someone goes to heaven because of the witness of true Christianity? What if God's purpose was to use my child for His glory? What if God really meant: In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven (Matthew 5:16)? We don't expect our missionaries to live in fear, we don't see David, Daniel, Jeremiah, Elijah, Elisha, Shadrach, Meshach, Abed-nego, Paul, Peter or Jesus to live in fear...why should we? Why did all these do what they did? They all did it for the glory of God so that others could see their good works and worship God.

I trust in the sovereignty of God's will and understand that his will and his purpose and his glory is far more important than whether or not my child gets a better education or is seemingly safer. I have heard this many times before, but someone who is called to the front lines of war by God is far safer than if he were to deny God's call and be sitting comfortably in his house. Missionaries who go to these dangerous areas of the world understand this.

This is what I am saying to everyone who reads this. You are the safest wherever God calls you, not where stats put forth. Does God put the desires in our heart? Yes of course. He does this so that we live for him, not for ourselves. He does this because he is control, not because we are in control. He does this for the sake of his glory, not for our family's.

I trust that this decision is going to be a very difficult one. I also trust in my God who tells me that he is in control and that my hope is not found here, but in Christ. My hope isn't found in educating my child, but my hope is found intraining my children to be like Christ. My hope isn't found in my family being safe. My hope is found being safe in the arms of Christ.

My hope is not found in man, my hope is found in Christ.

I pray that this series has been helpful in getting back to the root of all our decisions. Don't start with the decision first, that is bottom up. Start with the glory of God. Start with where God has put you on mission and then make your decisions flow from these premises and you will be in safest, most God honoring, place that you can be. This will lead some to homeschool, some to private school and even some to public school.

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