AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Growth, Liturgy, Theology

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    My wife and I recently worshipped at a Lutheran Church and appreciated the liturgical, gospel-centered service.  However, there was one element that left a remarkably sour taste in my mouth.  It was the notion of a closed table at communion.

    Theological Differences End At the Table 

    Granted, church traditions will always have different understandings of communion.  There will be different views across the spectrum of Christianity, this is a historical guarantee.  Roman Catholics, Orthodox, Lutheran, Reformed, and Baptists all believe something different when it comes to the Eucharist.  However, our differences should pale in comparison to the unity of sharing a common meal.

    Bread and wine

    In the First Century, Paul wrote to the church in Corinth:

    23 For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is for[e] you. Do this in remembrance of me.”[f] 25 In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.  I Corinthians 11:23-26

    Jesus did the most ordinary of things when he was with his disciples for the last time— He shared a meal with them.

    He took bread and passed it to his friends.

    He took wine and shared it too.

    Differences between each of the disciples were put on hold, as they ate and remembered the story of Passover.  Personality clashes paused for a moment, as Jesus reconstituted the direction of the Church with a new identity.  An identity rooted in following Jesus.

    Anticipation of Unity 

    The table also offers the prospective hope of unity when the Kingdom of God has been fully revealed.  Right now, we eat and drink at the communion table in anticipation of the great feast of Jesus the Messiah, as depicted in Revelation 19.

    One day Jesus will return, and He will put the world to rights.  He will unify his people, and Roman Catholics will sit next to Lutherans and Russian Orthodox will sit next to Pentecostals at the feast of the Lamb.  What better way could we prepare for this day then to open the communion table to all baptized Christians?  Certainly each person must come to the table with a heart made ready through a time of reflective repentance—that’s a given.  However, a Baptist should be able to drink the wine (or grape juice!) and eat the bread alongside a Presbyterian, Lutheran, and Anglican on any given Sunday.

    For the sake of Jesus, let’s not overlook our differences, but at least demonstrate unity.  


    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Liturgy

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    Every Monday, I run a series on this blog that bring written prayers that I have found encouraging.  It is my hope these written prayers will help encourage you at the start of each week and they might draw you closer to Jesus.  You can find the whole collection here.

    We confess, merciful God that we have let ourselves be enslaved to our selfish egos.  We have expected to find your favor because of our good works instead of relying on your grace alone.  Forgive us and reform us to know again the freedom you offer through your perfect pardon.



    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Theology

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    The Christian religion places a huge emphasis on blood.  Specifically, this faith is centered on the blood of One Man (and his sacrificial death) and the temple rituals found in the Old Testament point to this Man.

    What happened on the cross has remarkable implications for us today.  As Ted Olson wrote in an older piece in Christianity Today, Jesus’ blood “justifies, redeems, reconcile, sanctifies, justifies, cleans, frees, ransoms, brings peace, and unites us.”  The New Testament writers connect so many pieces of Christ’s salvific work with his blood.

    For those in Christ, we have joy beyond all measure because what Jesus has done.

    My hope is built on nothing less

    Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness;

    I dare not trust the sweetest frame,

    But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.

    On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;

    All other ground is sinking sand.

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    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Liturgy

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    Every Monday, I run a series on this blog that bring written prayers that I have found encouraging.  It is my hope these written prayers will help encourage you at the start of each week and they might draw you closer to Jesus.  You can find the whole collection here.

    Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.

    Hebrews 13:20-21


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    I mentioned in a previous post that I read through the vulnerable memoir of New Testament scholar Wesley Hill and finally wrapped it up a couple of weeks ago.  Hill’s Washed and Waiting: Reflection on Christian Faithfulness and Homosexuality is hauntingly honest and open about the tension between faith and life.

    In his book, Hill confronts his sexual desires and his desire to follow Jesus, even when those two seem to be at odds.  What I found to be so refreshing was Hill’s aim to place his own desires in front of God’s.  He aimed at bringing the whole of his life under the Lordship of Jesus.

    While I do not understand what it would be like to be in his shoes, I do appreciate his perspective on the journey of bearing certain unmet desires in this life.  And the thing is this: no matter how perfect one’s life is on the outside, there is always something missing underneath the façade.  There is always something that does not met all of our desires.  

    In the stillness of the evening or in the stirring of the morning, we are met with the unending call of our unrequited desires: wealth, security, companionship, love, sex, children, to be understood, and self confidence.  For Hill, it is the unmet desire for marital intimacy that he will not taste.  For me, it has been self-confidence and insecurities.  What unmet desire or unfulfilled need has not been filled for you?

    Maybe it’s too painful to say out loud.

    I would love to say that Jesus is the answer, but it’s too simplistic.  After all, Paul had a thorn in his side for years and it was never removed, even after a lot of prayer. This metaphorical thorn stayed with him throughout his ministry, and it very well could stay for a majority of our lives too.  Even Moses himself longed to enter the Promised Land, but he never set foot on the soil of Canaan.  Sometimes desires will be unmet this side of glory.

    One of the beauties of Scripture is that we are assured that our desires will be met one day.  Our desires will be fulfilled on the other side, as we physically look at the face of God and thrive.  For now, we wait with unrequited desires and trust that Jesus will bear our burden as we journey through this life.   For now we wait, because his grace will sustain us through the desert.

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    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Liturgy

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    Every Monday, I run a series on this blog that bring written prayers that I have found encouraging.  It is my hope these written prayers will help encourage you at the start of each week and they might draw you closer to Jesus.  You can find the whole collection here.

    Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father, who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace, comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word. Amen.

    II Thessalonians 2:16-17


    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Theology

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    I have been reading Reza Aslan’s Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth and have found a tremendous amount of material that I disagreed with.  While I will address Aslan’s work in a future post, I wanted to offer a thought I had while reading his thoughtful book.

    What is more damaging to the Christian faith: a book aimed at knocking out the divinity of Christ or a pseudo-Christian work like Your Best Life Now by Joel Osteen?

    Think it over for a second and I’ll give my opinion.

    Done?  Good!

    It is definitely the latter.  Before you throw your tomes at me, let me unpack my bombastic statement.

    Christianity in History 

    Historically speaking, Christianity grew and flourished in a hostile environment.  Amid the religiously diverse environment of the Roman Empire, Christianity stood squarely as monotheistic, evangelistic, and Trinitarian.  It spread across social categories rather quickly, even if persecution ran rampant across several different leadership regimes.  Both Jew and Gentile alike attacked the Christian faith from the first century on; however, it withstood the storm.

    Christianity in Debate

    Whether it was rooted in the Enlightenment or in secular Communist regimes, intellectual questions have not and will not decimate the Church.  For every skeptical voice, there are able statesmen and women who can answer the charges (For example, NT Wright’s work easily handles the issues raised by Aslan).

    On the other hand, the Church from its infancy on has been susceptible to the allure of false teaching from within.  I distinctly recall the moment when I realized this.  I was in my New Testament Survey class at Vanguard University when I was confronted with the textual truth that many of the letters in the NT were addressed to confront the false beliefs creeping into the Early Church.  Racial tension, gnosticism, abuse, and so many other terrible things poisoned various churches across the Mediterranean.  To put it differently, the churches died of a thousand internal cuts instead of one major assault.

    Danger of Pseudo-Christianity

    Pseudo-Christian works will come along arguing for material blessing if we only follow Jesus [and pay the author millions of dollars].  They will come along revealing expanded narration of near-death experiences when all we need for salvation can be found in Scripture alone.  False teachers and snake oil salesmen alike will come along and tell you that you have to do more, be more, try harder, and put on a good show in order to earn good feelings.

    I will gladly prefer the Church to be bombarded with New Atheists, ex-fundamentalists, skeptics, and angry comedians instead of the rampant pseudo-Christian works that are passed off as orthodox.  Again I’ll say: show me a challenge to the deity of Christ and take away the hopeless work of televangelists!  The latter category enslaves the people of Christ in order to add one more cheap car to an already crowded garage.

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    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Culture

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    noun \ˈgäd also ˈgȯd\

    1 capitalized :  the supreme or ultimate reality: as

    a :  the Being perfect in power, wisdom, and goodness who is worshipped as creator and ruler of the universe

    b Christian Science :  the incorporeal divine Principle ruling over all as eternal Spirit :  infinite Mind

    2:  a being or object believed to have more than natural attributes and powers and to require human worship; specifically :  one controlling a particular aspect or part of reality

    3:  a person or thing of supreme value

    4:  a powerful ruler

    Who are your gods?  Can you name them?

    In the Christian tradition, there is one true God whose name was revealed to Moses as YHWH and was personally revealed in the person and work of Jesus the Messiah.  However, the religious marketplace of the Ancient Near East was vibrant, as Baal, Zeus, Aphrodite, and many others vied for attention.  And the Bible captures this quite well, as the stories recount the clash of cults between YHWH and other gods (Elijah and the prophets of Baal is probably the most memorable).

    If I can be so bold to say: in American society, work is a god.  Busy-ness is a god.  Beauty and prestige are gods.

    Throughout the annals of history, the gods of this world competed for our attention with a refrain of constant noise.  In the ancient world, Israel’s God—YHWH—claimed to be the only God among the other false gods.  There simply was no other.

    Today, there aren’t too many idols on desks at work.  Instead, we have idols of a busy calendar, bigger paycheck, better looks, more sex, and a better society.  Productivity, paychecks, taking care of ourselves, and building a more just society are all good things; however, they became nefarious when they become the only thing.  When they become the highest thing and our lives gravitate around the position.

    As I close out this musing for the day, I want to ask you to consider whether a god competes for your attention.  What vies or your focus?  Busy-ness?  Fame?  Wealth?  You?

    What god clamors for your worship?

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    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Liturgy

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    Every Monday, I run a series on this blog that bring written prayers that I have found encouraging.  It is my hope these written prayers will help encourage you at the start of each week and they might draw you closer to Jesus.  You can find the whole collection here.

    Such, O my soul, are the miseries that attend on riches.  They are gained with toil and kept with fear.  They are enjoyed with danger and lost with grief.  It is hard to be saved if we have them; and impossible if we love them; and scarcely can we have them, but we shall love them inordinately.  Teach us, O Lord, this difficult lesson: to manage conscientiously the goods we possess and not covetously desire more than you give to us.

    –St. Augustine

    From The Choice: The Christ-Centered Pursuit of Kingdom Outcomes


    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Growth, Story

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    I posted the following prayer in a previous post, and wanted to comment on one portion of the passage.

    O Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, have mercy on me, a sinner…

    It seems as if I am standing on one side of a huge canyon and see how I should grow toward you, live in your presence and serve you, but cannot reach the other side of the canyon where you are.  I can speak and write, preach, and argue about the beauty and goodness of the life I see on the other side, but how, O Lord, can I get there?  Sometime I even have the painful feeling that the clearer the vision, the more aware I am of the depth of the canyon…

    I can only keep trying to be faithful, even though I feel faithless most of the time.  What else can I do but keep praying to you, even when I feel numb; to keep speaking in your name, even when I feel alone.  Come, Lord Jesus, come.  Have mercy on me, a sinner. Amen. 

    – A Cry for Mercy by Henri Nouwen

    Did you catch what Nouwen wrote in the last quoted paragraph?  He wrote that he tried to be faithful despite his inclinations of faithlessness.

    Have you ever tried to be faithful?

    Perhaps you tried to be patient, or kind, or gentle, or pure, or selfless?  To be blunt how’d that work out?

    I don’t know about you, but I fail.  I fail way more than I would like!  Even in those times I do succeed, I step away from the situation utterly exhausted.  Thanks to the work in books like Willpower, we now know that humans have a limited amount of willpower that becomes depleted throughout the day.  While Baumeister and Tierney offer helpful suggestions on the subject of willpower in everyday life, when it comes to the willpower of faith Nouwen is discussing, I am afraid it just cannot be implemented in the same capacity.

    When I try faithfulness, I end up with moments of great success and failures.  However, the God revealed in the Bible does not measure our lives on an average or curve.  He measures it compared to his holiness, and we come up woefully short.

    Fortunately, the great message of Jesus the Messiah, is that God himself reconciles the world through Jesus.  We are saved through his faithfulness and are justified through his salvific work (see II Timothy 2:13 and II Corinthians 5:19).

    Reader, don’t be burnt out through your own strength.  Instead, trust in Jesus and his faithfulness.  Everything else will be added to you through his Spirit who lives and dwells in you.

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