Saturday, March 31, 2007

Doctrine is Important Enough to Argue About Online

Thanks to Todd for the link to John Piper's "Desiring God" website. In it, I found a quote about the value of blogging about significant theological issues. [Assumption: the preceding discussion of communion has indeed challenged you and caused you to think. I threw that third link in only to see if you would read it. It did indeed lack depth = it was spray.] Piper contends that this is a healthy thing that three brothers (and ever so seldomly a father) engage in online! :)

"The increasing abandonment of truth and moral absolutes in our culture, as militant diversity threatens all firm conviction, has dramatically influenced the evangelical mindset. The political spin doctors who specialize in deflecting attention away from truth onto feelings and relationships and styles have their counterpart in the evangelical tendency to avoid doctrinal disputes by casting issues in terms of demeanor and method rather than truth. Serious disagreements are covered over, while vague language and pragmatic concerns preserve hollow unity at the expense of theological substance and Biblical clarity and power."
(John Piper, God's Passion for His Glory, p.24)

Soooooo, keep on challenging me for my growth, and listening to my arguments and the arguments of others, and be free enough with your brotherhood to say, "that last one is spray". I need to know that I cannot get by with shotty arguments or "unity at the expense of theological substance" reasoning. That stuff won't fly here! Just remember to do it respectfully and be driven by honest truth pursuit and not one-upmanship or vainglory.

Let us be given to non-vague language and thinking,

Communion Links for Further Thought

As I have been thinking about the issue of "why do we do it that way" and reading many of your insightful observations, I have compiled some more food for your thought.

A thorough discussion of the communion issues -- Southwestern Baptist Seminary theologian
A blog detailing my view as "local church only" communion
A simple Baptist "4 reasons" why it has to be this way

My conclusion is that the reason that we practice communion in the local church only is a combination of our caution (a really good thing) and authority of the local church (a really important thing) and tradition (not always a bad thing). You will not find a single passage that says "thou shalt practice communion only in the local church building with only the sr pastor presiding using oyster soup crackers and Welch's graps juice served in plastic disposable cups". It is in fact a combination of principles and practical effects of the church's operation that have shaped our "local church only" communion.

Let's keep discussing,

Thursday, March 29, 2007

A Powerful Communion

Communion is a regular part of our worship here at WyBC. We partake of this ordinance every month, usually in the morning of the first Sunday. We do it often enough to remember and seldom enough to make it special. But I have never led a communion service outside of that slot.

Last night's youth group lesson was a look at the last supper. The last supper is the communion model that we follow. Two elements representing, in symbolic forms, the incarnate form of the suffering servant given for me. We used some oversized kaiser rolls and some cranberry drink and read through the Luke account. I was struck with some amazing "experiences" as I reflected on this text with the teens.

As we sat on the floor, the change of position generated a lot of discussion and chatter amongst the teens. "oh this floor is hard", "someone's feet stink", "I'm tired" (one boy tried to act disinterested and attempted to fall asleep during the lesson), etc. I waited, saying nothing, smirking and observing these rascals that I love. How like Jesus, I thought. As he made ready for this special celebration of Communion, there must have been some banter going on amongst the men; fussing about the accomodations, complaints of stinking feet, whining about physical exhaustion, etc. Yet Jesus waited and when he had there attention he said, "I've been looking forward to this time for a long time". "Here, here" I heard one of the disciples say. "Let's eat!" (one of the teen girls actually squealed, "what is it?" as she tried to discern what might be in my semi-transparent grocery bags. "oh good! its food; we get to eat!")

I thought how Jesus must have ached as he saw once again that the disciples were on the verge of missing one of the most significant final moments with their Master Teacher. He finished his statement, "This is one of the last times that we will be together before I go to suffer". Silence. The chatter stalls as the disciples heard the seriousness of the man that they recognized as their leader.

I counted my band of "merry men and women"; there were 13 of them. How much like the Savior on that Passover night! This group that I was trying to teach was very similar in size as the first communion takers. How strange to feel that bond with my Lord.

The verses continued, "he took the cup and gave thanks". What did he give thanks for? I am not sure, since the text does not record an .mp3 webcast of the event. But I believe that he could not have prayed "blessthisfoodtoourbodiesamen". He might have prayed through the liturgical thanksgiving associated with the Passover meal. But I belive that he made the liturgy his own, adding phrases and emphasis that the disciples had never heard before. I made every attempt to change this communion service from the somewhat formal (it is about the only high church liturgy that we do in the baptist church) event that we celebrate each month. I wanted these teens to get what Jesus was doing and saying. "This is a symbol of my body which will be broken for you in a few short days".

The teens were strangely silent. I hope that it was that they realized that this was not like any other lesson that we had ever had. I also hope that they were responding to the Holy Spirit's directions to be still. Whatever the case, they listened. I gave them time to close their eyes and think about the significance of this bread and juice and pray silently. "This is my body broken for you/me", "This cup marks the new covenant that I am about to seal with you/with me", now "this do in rememberance of me". I could not chew long enough or drink enough of that juice. I wanted that meditation time to go forever. I wanted teens and leaders alike to savor that moment. I prayed and I listened. I had brought these young people that I love to a communion moment with God. Some of them got it, some did not. "How like my Savior", I thought.

Think on these things at your next communion service,
Until he comes to get us,

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

My Ears are Underdeveloped Too

Yesterday, Oswald made another poke at me without ever having met me. I hate that when coincidentally, something written hundreds of years ago references something written thousands of years ago and it crosses my life at a critical juncture. Oh and it just happens to be on track with my spiritual needs for the day. [Taking my spiritual tongue out of my cheek, I turn it to praise: God's mighty arm is not shortened!]

Here, again, is a profound statement about discerning God's will for me today.
"God has to hide from us what He does, until, due to growth of our personal character, we get to the level where He is then able to reveal it."

So what Ozzy is saying is that if I don't hear what God's will is for me right now, my ears need to be developed? Is he suggesting that an understanding of God and His direction for my life might be based on whether I can handle it yet? Ouch. Oh man. That smarts.

I know that God can show me things that are too wonderful for me to grasp. (Job 42:3, Ps 139:6, Prov 30:18) I know that He can take me there even without me knowing what He is up to (been there, done that, bought the T-shirt). But imagine if He is simply waiting for me to grow up before He can invite me to come up higher or gives me the next piece of the puzzle. Imagine if I am indeed trying to run before I can walk. Imagine if He wants to get me to level 6 and I am stuck at level 1 because I am unwilling to stay at level 1 until my ears are more fully developed?

Almost in response to Monday's post, another chorus rings in my head with a personal twist on the lyrics: (Robert Cull, (c) 1976)

Open MY eyes, Lord,
I want to see Jesus,
To reach out and touch Him
and say that I love Him,
Open MY ears Lord and help ME to listen
open MY eyes, Lord,
I want to see Jesus

I come once again as a teachable servant. Help me to grow in my personal character today so that I am ready to hear Your next step for me. Help me to be prepared to go when I finally can hear Your directions for me. I am so ready to "hear" what Your plans are for today. I once again am forced to work on personal character in the waiting room while I wait for my next appointment with You. Keep me focused on my homework!
I love You and long to be ready and usable for Your work,
Please grow me first and then advance me,

I desire to worship and obey,
Speak, Lord, Your servant is listening,

Monday, March 26, 2007

My Spiritual Vision Impairment

I wear corrective lenses. I do not have enough money to afford lasik surgery. I need help my physical eyes to see properly.

Oswald Chambers wrote his commentary (My Utmost for His Highest) on Matthew 5:8 for today about spiritual vision. His title "Spiritual Vision Through Personal Purity" is an advertisement for spiritual laser surgery.
"Purity is the result of continued spiritual harmony with God. We have to grow in purity. ... If we want to maintain personal intimacy with the Lord Jesus Christ, it will mean refusing to do or even think certain things. And some things that are acceptable for others will become
unacceptable for us."

I want to be pure, I want to be holy, I want to be clean, and I want to be intimate with my Savior! Paul Baloche has penned these great lyrics:

"Open the eyes of my heart, Lord,
Open the eyes of my heart,
I want to see You,
I want to see You.

To see You high and lifted up,
Shining in the light of Your glory,
Pour out Your Spirit and love,
As we cry Holy, Holy, Holy!

Holy, Holy, Holy!
I want to see You"

Dear Jesus,
The only problem with this desire of spiritual sight is that to get a full force view of Your total and unleashed glory would decimate me. So God, just give me another glimpse. Make me holy so that I can catch another view of just Your train as it passes by! Make my face shine after the time that I spend with YOU in purity. Burn away the junk and give me an unobstructed, unclouded view of the one that I adore. Let me see only You!

Longing to know Jesus better through a cleansed life,

Angels Among Us

Do you remember that old spiritual,

All day, all night,
angels watching over me, my Lord
All day, all night,
angels watching over me.

I do not think about angels. My philosophy for the most part is: "can't see 'em, don't look for 'em, don't need 'em". Have you ever stopped to think about the ramifications of angelology on your every day life? I was recently challenged to do that by the Sr Pastor here at WyBC during his sermon series on the topic of Angels. It caused me to stop and rethink my theology at least in its relevant applications.

My conclusion is that the doctrine of angels does matter. (I knew that it did or it should!) But how? Here are a few of my thoughts on the subject.

  1. Angels are real. -- This point may be too simplistic a place to start, but I need an "easy button" here! This point of "like duh" theology reminds me that I can be caught up in the tangible, material world around me. My thinking worldview is often contorted into the world's pretzel shape -- I believe what I can see. But that is not the life of faith. I love the story of Elisha and the servant (2 Kgs. 2:15-17) where the eyes of the servant were opened. I wish that I had the eyes of Elisha or Tim LaHaye to see the armies doing battle. But I don't need to. I know that the battle is real because the Word tells me so. And I have weapons of warfare that are not carnal/fleshly (2 Cor 10:4) so that I can wrestle against spiritual forces of wickedness (Eph. 6:12). APP: Pray= do not let me be sucked into the trap of naturalism, keep me alert for spiritual warfare; Do= believe without sight (John 20:29)
  2. Angels are not to be worshipped. -- Again, don't miss the significance here in this basic building block. The world, especially the postmodern one is susceptible to this phenomenon. They want a supernatural, extra-ordinary experience. They crave new and exciting! This trend is good news for charismatic groups. However, it is an exposure of the finititude of the human mind and body to the power of the occult. This action is not recommended. But lest we think that this a new wave, consider that there have always been curiosity seekers when it comes to spiritual and miraculous things (cp. Acts 8:18-19, 9:13-15). Angels never accepted the worship and homage of men. They always stopped the process (Rev. 22:9) APP: Pray= I worship You alone O God! Do= do not seek an audience with angels or spirit guides, worship and commune with God alone
  3. Angels are on a mission from God. -- I don't need to go looking for them. If they have a message for me, I will see them. It's the old "don't call us, we'll call you" line. I don't need to waste one ounce of energy looking for their activity or even trying to summon it. God is the only one that I pray to. God is the Sovereign, the LORD God of (the angelic) Hosts. I have a hotline right to the commander-in-chief. He will let me know when I need to have an intervention with an angel. Until then, I will continue to speak to Him. APP: Pray= Open my ears to your message by whatever messenger you choose. Do not allow me to be deceived by false witnesses. DO= test the spirits whether they are from God or not (1 Jn. 4:1).
  4. I have something that the angels do not have; salvation. -- My life here on this earth, in the earthen vessel, is significant. It is not the vessel that makes it so, but the treasure inside! The Holy Spirit dwelling on board because of the Savior's substitutionary atonement is something that the angels are excited about (Luke 15:10) and long to understand personally (1 Pet 1:12). But they cannot. This is a gift. APP: Pray= Thanks be to God for His unspeakable gift (2 Cor 9:15) Do= Do not take this lightly, tell others how they can have such an awesome gift, true supernatural power in ther life!

So, angels do affect my everyday life. But I don't need to obsess about them. They are there and they are busy about the Lord's work -- as I should be! So, I must get back to work, since I too am a servant/messenger of God! :) Please note that I will not be ordering an angel pin for my lapel or an "I brake for angels" bumper sticker. I might watch "Touched by an Angel" reruns, but not to build my theology of angels. :)

The King of Angels is watching over me,