A Day To Give

The Church is a hospital for sinners and not a rest home for the saints, as anyone who has been in a church for more than fifteen minutes will be aware.

Many, many people experience this and then burn out. Why go to church, why be part of a community when it’s simply another place to have to deal with people, but these ones by voluntary association? I have to do this at work, why do it here?

If you approach the question like this and run a social financial cost-benefit analysis on what you get for connecting to Jesus’ Body, you will certainly come up short. But if you think this way you will also come up short in everything—in marriage, friendship, at work and in your family.

Of course this not how it actually is, but selfishness in grabbing more for oneself always makes us feel empty, and generosity and obedience always makes us feel full and overflowing. If we run a biblical cost-benefit analysis, we see all the blessing God has poured out upon us. What does it cost to give it away? What do we get if we do? It was given us to in order to love others, and the only way it will be a blessing to us is if we do. This applies to every area of our lives—relational, vocational, emotional, financial, and spiritual. God gives to us so we can give, and when we do He entrusts us with more so we can give again. He who is faithful in little will be faithful in much.

The Church is a hospital for sinners, but it’s also a factory for saints. This is where God works on us, and He never burns out on us. God’s grace is abundant in the body life of His Son. Come to Him and find rest.

Seek First the Kingdom

As you begin the new year, 2016 AD, it’s good to look back and consider the past year, what you’ve done, how God has blessed you, and what to ask Him for and how to serve Him in the new year.

This can be counterproductive endeavor, like asking a kid to list all the things he wants for Christmas next year based on all the things he didn’t get this year. But it doesn’t have to be like that, and it won’t if we dedicate ourselves first to the Lord, and specifically to worshiping Him. Continue reading

Sign & Seal

Communion is a sign and seal of God’s covenant with us. This is often how God works in covenants.

Abraham had faith in God and was already justified, but God gave him the covenant of circumcision, which Paul says is “a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had while still uncircumcised” (Rom. 4:11).

The faith, the righteousness preceded the sign and seal. It’s this way in family covenants also. At a wedding, the bride and groom take an oath, that’s a covenant, which is signified by rings and sealed in their sexual union.

If communion is only a sign and seal, then why do it? Most importantly, God said to show the covenant this way. Abraham’s faith needed expression, and God wanted to give him a way to pass it on to his children. They were in covenant now, too. James says our faith is seen by what we do.

But second, the sign and seal are means of renewing the covenant. We don’t renew it because it wears out, but because we wear out if we don’t. Husbands and wives renew their love and enjoy their marriage covenant. Calvin said God gave “his church another sacrament, that is, a spiritual banquet, where in Christ attests himself to be the life-giving bread, upon which our souls feed unto true and blessed immortality.”

We are marked and fed here again by Christ’s love.

Get Help

One of the central characteristics of the wise man in the book of Proverbs is the way he seeks the input of wise people in his life. “A wise man will hear and increase learning, And a man of understanding will attain wise counsel” (1:5).

The motivation to seek it comes entirely from the fear of the Lord. He says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, But fools despise wisdom and instruction” (1:7).

Continue reading

Someone to Thank

This week most people in our country will celebrate Thanksgiving, a holiday that has been with us in some shape or form for almost 400 years.

Some people will note that we don’t have a lot of information about the first American Thanksgiving in 1621, just a brief account from Edward Winslow, the assistant of William Bradford who founded Plymouth Colony: “Our harvest being gotten in, our governor sent four men on fowling, that so we might after a more special manner rejoice together after we had gathered the fruit of our labors…many of the Indians coming amongst us, and among the rest of their greatest king Massasoit, with some ninety men, whom for three days we entertained with a feast.”

They had birds, but we’re not sure about the turkeys. They had a party, but no official holiday. They certainly had no parade. And all of this makes no difference. The point of Thanksgiving should not be lost on us. We’re not primarily celebrating the fact that they had a feast, nor are we celebrating thanksgiving or gratitude itself. We are in fact saying thank you, that is, giving thanks to God for all of His gifts, and the greatest gift, Jesus Christ. Thanksgiving is holiday named after a verb, and that verb has an object.

You can’t say thank you to no one. If there is no one above us, there is no one to thank. If harvest is the random product of time and chance, if our bodies and families and friends and jobs and freedoms and fridges full of food are nothing more than happen-stance pleasant circumstances, then someone might throw a party, but it wouldn’t be called Thanksgiving.

But there is Someone above us, and thanking Him turns out to be another one of His gifts to us. The Bible describes the condition of the human race this way, in Romans 1:20-21: “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened.”

We see God revealed in the world He made and sustains. This is His artistry. Rather than refusing to glorify Him and thank Him, we are invited to turn and give thanks, to seek forgiveness for our darkened hearts and the sins we commit, and trust in Jesus who came to put everything right.

Because God is the object of our gratitude, and because we deserve nothing from Him, we can be grateful for everything. This is why you should love Thanksgiving. You get to go be with family who would otherwise drive you crazy, and might still a little anyway, and be thankful for them. You have another reason for gratitude. You see what God has given you in Christ and everything that flows from that, and you get to party because of it and invite people to join in. This holiday was established when enough people knew this. As a culture, we don’t anymore, which is another reason for us to get on it.

Defund Planned Parenthood

These are my comments made at a Defund Planned Parenthood Rally.

Good Morning. Thank you for the opportunity to speak to you today. Thank you to the organizers and to all who have come out to support the cause of life: the lives of children, lives of children in the womb, the lives of mothers facing crisis pregnancies, and the lives of fathers of those children. Also I want to thank those who are listening now or who will hear or read who are not pro-life yet but are open-minded to hearing why we think everyone must be, and why now is the time to defund Planned Parenthood. Why are we here? Continue reading

The Right Transformation

One of the ways Christians have gotten themselves into trouble at the Lord’s Supper is by thinking wrongly about the elements, the bread and the wine. Jesus didn’t say “This is my body, broken for you” so that we could ignore what He is doing and instead wonder “How are the bread particles undergoing molecular transformation into Jesus’ body?” Continue reading

Pick Your Battles

In Matthew 17 the disciples came into Capernaum and the tax collectors asked Peter, “Does you Teacher not pay the tax?” Peter said “Yes.” And then we they were in the house Jesus asked him, “What do you think, Simon? From whom do the kings of the earth take customs or taxes, from their sons or from strangers?” 26 Peter said to Him, “From strangers.” Jesus said to him, “Then the sons are free. 27 Nevertheless, lest we offend them, go to the sea, cast in a hook, and take the fish that comes up first. And when you have opened its mouth, you will find a piece of money; take that and give it to them for Me and you.”

The kings of earth ought to take customs and taxes from strangers rather than squeezing their own people, thereby treating sons like strangers. The first century tax code was unjust, but what was Jesus’ point? Why are we told this?

“Nevertheless, lest we offend them…go pay the tax.” Jesus taught his disciples to know that there are some injustices worth fighting for, and some not. And there are some central injustices that when they are defeated, the lesser ones will be worked out. Jesus took this conversation indoors to his apostles, those who would listen, and taught them. He said pay the tax, it’s not worth offending them.

There are many applications from this story, but here are two.

Speaking of injustices, the political presidential season is upon on us and we must remember there are some issues that are bigger than others. There are many injustices but which ones are important, worth praying about, worth talking about? The right to life is important because human beings bear the image of God. This issue is front and center and should stay there. As you think about issues and candidates, let God’s Word inform your priorities.

And a second application on more personal level, there are many sins in the lives of those around us, and God tells us that love covers a multitude of sins. Most things are not worth bringing up, but worth covering in love just like God does for us. Where would we be if He didn’t? So let go of what isn’t important, challenge graciously what is important for the other person’s sake, and forgive as you have been forgiven.

Word with Sacrament

Throughout much of the Church’s history Word and sacrament have not gone together. During the Middle Ages Mass would occur with Lord’s Supper being offered in part (bread not wine) but without preaching.

You’ve no doubt been to many worship services, in fact most Protestant worship services, where the Word is taught, but the sacrament, the Lord’s Supper, isn’t offered.

Many Reformers in the sixteenth century wanted Word and sacrament to go together the way they do in Scripture. Martin Bucer tried to get the whole Christian community into the cathedral in Strasbourg to hear the Word and receive communion every week, and so did Calvin in Geneva, but it didn’t happen.

They wanted this because the Supper is the sign and seal of God’s Word, assurance that it’s really offered to us. It is put in our hands and in our mouths showing His fatherly care and hospitality to us. We eat and drink acknowledging that we accept His grace. If nothing is said, if there’s no Word, then what are we receiving? And if we hear the Word, it says “Taste and see that the Lord is good.” Jesus said “Do this in remembrance of me.”

No Chance

Christians “are never in the grip of blind force (fortune, chance, luck, fate); all that happens to them is divinely planned, and each event comes as a new summons to trust, obey, and rejoice.”

–J.I. Packer