Thursday, November 27, 2014

Excerpt from Mary Poplin's chapter on Materialist Naturalism

Two interesting paragraphs from Mary Poplin in her chapter on material naturalism:
"For decades, secular education and media have shaped us to think to a large degree as material-naturalists. Most of us can still remember watching popular astronomer Carl Sagan standing in front of a picture of the universe, always beginning his long-running "Cosmos" television series proclaiming, "The cosmos is all that is or ever was or ever will be!" Even preschoolers are taught the same materialist-naturalist sentiments when they encounter the Berenstein Bears proclaiming, "Nature is all that is or was or ever will be." Recently I saw a T-shirt emblazoned with an extreme sentiment of naturalism: "I used to care but I take a pill for that now.
"When something is wrong inside us, we often first seek a medication to alter our body chemistry. Only secondarily do most of us stop to consider that what might be wrong could have first originated in our soul or spirit (the ultimate site of transformation). When I suffered from depression, medication was the only remedy I wanted. However, the origin of my depression was an intense inward focus, self-absorption, which was only exacerbated by the secular counseling that encouraged wallowing in my pride, which was oddly diagnosed as low self-esteem---two sides of the same coin. Medication can be a tremendous aid as one struggles to right one's thought life, just as a bandage can help a wound heal more effectively even though it is the work of the material inside one's cells that actually accomplishes the healing."

Monday, November 24, 2014

New Hymn Based on Scarborough Fair Tune

I've always loved this tune, and I was listening to it last night, so I decided to attempt to write some lyrics for it this morning:

Do you know the God who is love?
Sent His Son in grace from above.
In Him all things find beauty and meaning,
in Him our souls have more than enough.

See His pow'r, the storm He can still,
for all things must follow His will.
His presence with you is your assurance,
to guide you with His wisdom and skill.

Who's this man who speaks to the sea?
Waves obey immediately.
By faith behold the glorious myst'ry:
for God has come to humanity.

With all nature bow to your Lord,
in submission learn from His Word.
Your Teacher, Savior, Lord and Provider,
your God enfleshed of ultimate worth.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

"Music Is Destroying the Church" --Daniel I. Block

Best sentence I've read this week:

"Although the songs we sing should bind us together, in our day music is destroying the church."  --Daniel Block, Guenther H. Knoedler professor of Old Testament at Wheaton College

Block is one of the few people that understand what is happening with worship today, and how resemblance to the biblical pattern of worship has been eviscerated.  Sadly, we are following our own understanding in worship, not the Scriptures.  Singing in the church has been turned into a sacrament, a liturgical function the Word of God does not give it.  No longer do we have a service of the Word and a service of the table.  Contemporary Evangelicalism has replaced Word and table with a service of singing and a service of preaching.  The service of the Word has been corrupted, and the service of the table removed except for its infrequent observance.  It is a sad state of affairs that is corrupting Christians and hurting our society as we cease to be salt and light.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Missing Out by a Failure to Listen and Submit

Psalm 81:10-12 (ESV)

10 I am the Lord your God,
    who brought you up out of the land of Egypt.
    Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it.
11 “But my people did not listen to my voice;
    Israel would not submit to me.
12 So I gave them over to their stubborn hearts,
    to follow their own counsels.

Notice the Lord's good intentions for us in verse 10.  He wants to satisfy our hearts.  He wants to fill us and give us grace, joy, peace, and himself as our portion.

But notice also the proper response to his offer of grace and salvation in verse 11.  We must hear his Word and submit to Him and his good and gracious will.

Finally, notice what happens when we refuse to hear his instruction and submit to him.  He judges us by letting us go our own way.  He lets us follow what we think is best, rather than his way, and it leads to a lack of inward satisfaction and the joy of knowing the Lord.  We miss the highest purpose of our creation, which is to be in fellowship with the Father and the Son, a fellowship that provides a continual inward feast and delight.  The Lord points to the fellowship/feast that satisfies the soul in the last verse of the psalm: "But he would feed you with the finest of the wheat, and with honey from the rock I would satisfy you.”

Don't miss out on the feast/fellowship you and I were created for.  Listen and submit to the Lord.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Paradigm Shift: A Sacramental Worldview

I feel like I have experienced a paradigm shift in my view of the world the last couple years.  The best way I can describe it is that I now hold to a sacramental view of the world.

A sacramental view of the world is a view that sees all created things as pointing to a higher, heavenly reality.   What is a sacrament? A sacrament is a sign that points to and participates in a higher reality.  So, for example, the bread and wine of the Lord's Supper point to, but also participate in, the body and blood of Christ.  When we take the bread and the wine as Christians, we not only see Christ, but we also participate in Him, and receive his life.

But the sacrament of the Supper is based on the ultimate sacrament of Jesus Christ, whose incarnation joins God and man, heaven and earth, and whose death and resurrection enable his people to move from death to life, from earth to heaven, to participation in the triune life of God. 

In using common and universal elements like water, bread, and wine, the sacraments, but particularly the Supper, show us how to view all of God's creation and how to use and enjoy it in a manner pleasing to our Creator and Redeemer.  In our Lord's actions before the Supper, we have a picture of how humanity is meant to live:

First, Jesus receives the bread and wine.  All things are a good gift from God the Father.  Lust is about self-grasping, but trust is about receiving all things from the Father.

Second, Jesus looks to heaven and gives thanks.  The God and Father of Jesus is good and generous and deserving of continual thanksgiving.

Third, Jesus breaks the bread.  We offer what we receive from the Father back to him, including ourselves.  This self-offering is our reasonable worship, and it imitates the self-giving of each member of the trinity to one another, and the self-giving of Jesus on the cross.

Fourth, the bread is given and eaten, a bread which points to and participates in the body and blood of Jesus.  In all created things we are given, we can see Jesus in them if our eyes are opened, and we are able to use them to share in his life, that is, to enjoy satisfying fellowship with the Father and the Son.  Truly Jesus is our true portion and daily bread.

In using the creation this way, we see its true meaning and beauty, which is derived from Jesus, in whom all things hold together.  In using creation this way, we avoid the idolatry that ends in death and lack of satisfaction.  In using creation this way, we have a continual feast as we live in fellowship with the Father and the Son through the Spirit, as we walk in a world that speaks to us about God's glory, mediated through the Son, continuously.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Christ the Key to Understanding All Reality

Psalm 78:67-70 (ESV)
67 He rejected the tent of Joseph;
he did not choose the tribe of Ephraim,
68 but he chose the tribe of Judah,
Mount Zion, which he loves.
69 He built his sanctuary like the high heavens,
like the earth, which he has founded forever.
70 He chose David his servant
and took him from the sheepfolds;

Verse 69 in context teaches us the truth we learn in John 2 that Jesus' body is the temple/sanctuary. The human body is remarkably patterned after the sanctuary/temple of the earth, which was patterned in the Old Testament after the heavenly temple. In the incarnation, Jesus brings heaven and earth together, and in him we see the sacramental ontology built into creation itself, which points to higher realities and participates in them because in Christ all things hold together.
Christ is the key to understanding all reality and the way human beings are to live. He opens our eyes to see that all created things, including our bodies, are sacramental and are to be used in such a way that we see Jesus in all things, offer them to them to him, and participate in his life by faith.

A "Sweet and Infinitely Inclusive Jesus?"

I read this today and it was a good warning for me, and maybe it will be a good warning for others too:

"Those who devote their lives to idolatry while offering facile and superficial worship will come under the sentence of destruction and exile.  Jesus does not defuse such judgment: he repeats and re-enacts it.  The Old Testament focuses our understanding of Jesus' role as an eschatological prophet of God's judgment.  The sweet, infinitely inclusive Jesus meek and mild, so beloved by modern Protestantism, is a Jesus cut loose from his Old Testament roots."  --Richard B. Hays in "Reading Backwards: Figural Christology and the Fourfold Gospel Witness"

Said in a more blunt way, we are fooling ourselves if we think Jesus will accept us and save us if we do not seek to follow him as our Lord and Teacher.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

New Hymn for the Opening of Worship

These lyrics are sort of my alternative to "Shine, Jesus, Shine," a truly awful "worship" song that has happily receded in use. It is based on Luke 8:16-18, in which Jesus teaches what we should do when we gather in church, which originally met in houses.  Thus the house setting of the parable in verse 16 points to a church setting. Here are the words and tune if you want to try singing it:

Shine, O Jesus, In Our Midst

Suggested tune: SONG 13 ( Based on Luke8:16-18. Meter: 7777. Words: William Weber, 2014. (after sermon, beginning of worship, song of illumination, church and its mission)

v. 1
Shine, O Jesus, in our midst,
send Your Spirit to assist.
We would seek to lift You high,
and Your name to glorify.

v. 2
As we gather 'round Your Word,
may we see Your glory, Lord.
Make Your kingdom myst'ries known,
to Your children, to Your own.

v. 3
Gather those who do not know,
grace and truth and glory show.
May they come into the light,
leave the darkness of the night.

v. 4
Lord, if we profess Your name,
children of the Light our claim,
may our Father we obey,
hear and do His Word each day.

v. 5
On the final judgment day,
Christ the hearts of men will weigh.
So be careful how you hear,
ready when your Lord appears.

v. 6
In our hearts and all we do,
Jesus, we would honor You.
Light and life on us bestow,
may it increase, may it grow.

Lord and Savior, but not Teacher?

Jesus is Lord, Savior, and Teacher. These three offices correspond to the Old Testament offices of king, priest, and prophet. More and more I think the office that gets short shrift in our day is teacher. While some people falsely think Jesus can be their Savior without being their Lord, there seem to be lots of professing Christians who say Jesus is their Lord and Savior, but care little about learning from him as their teacher. How can we claim to be his disciples and pay no attention to his teaching? As Christians we should immerse ourselves in the Gospels everyday, but do we? Jesus should be our sole teacher. Every other teacher in our lives should be judged in relation to Jesus' teaching. But if we barely know what Jesus says, how will this discernment take place? We need to return to the Gospels day after day to learn from our teacher, if we claim to be his.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

New Hymn Based on Luke 8:19-21

Wondrous Priv'lege to Us Granted
Suggested tune: REGENT SQUARE (  Meter: 878787.  Based on Luke 8:19-21.  Words: William Weber, 2014.  (song after sermon, adoption, union with Christ, family of God, the church, incarnation, new birth/regeneration, God's love, trinity)
v. 1
Wondrous priv'lege to us granted,
if to Jesus we belong.
Into Him are we engrafted,
if His name we call upon.
Blessed to be in Jesus' fam'ly,
give Him praise in joyful song.

v. 2
Jesus is our older brother,
in His mercy came to earth.
On an errand from the Father,
to bring many sons to birth.
Blessed are we in Jesus' fam'ly,
praise the Son of matchless worth.

v. 3
Father, You in love adopted,
rebel orphans sought to bless.
We were barred from Your blessed presence,
now in Jesus, free access.
God our Father, Christ our brother,
In His fam'ly we are blessed.

D v. 4
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,
love from all eternity.
Father, help your church to model,
triune love for all to see.
Through the Son and by the Spirit,
form a loving family.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Daniel Block on the Place of Scripture Reading in Worship

"Evangelicals must rediscover that the Scriptures were written to be heard; they were not written primarily to be preached. Whether we are reading the book of Judges, the prophecies of Ezekiel, the Gospel of Mark, or the Epistle of James, the texts come to us as preaching.  Despite creedal statements to the contrary, the relative absence of the Scriptures marks contemporary evangelical worship and reflects a very low view of Scripture.  At best, the Scriptures are read piecemeal and impatiently, that we might get to the sermon---for our voice and our interpretation have become more important than the sacred  Word of God. At worst, determined to be contemporary and relevant, we do not open the Scriptures at all, dismissing the practice as a fossil without vitality and usefulness.  In so doing we displace the voice of God with the foolish babbling of mortals, foreclose the possibility of true worship, and intensify the famine for the Word of God in the land (Amos 8:11-14).  If true worship involves an audience with God, then the health of the church depends upon hearing the voice of God in the Scriptures."  

--Daniel Block, Wheaton College Old Testament professor, from his book, "For the Glory of God: Recovering a Biblical Theology of Worship"

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Being Real in Church?

I've been thinking about something I heard tonight. A statement to the effect that "I want to go to a church where I can be real."
On the one hand, I agree. Church is the place where we go to confess we are sinners, who are without hope apart from the saving grace of Jesus Christ. We confess we have sinned in thought, word, and deed. We confess we have not loved God and his Son with our whole heart, mind, soul and strength. We confess we have not loved our neighbor as ourselves. We even confess we have left undone things we should have done. Being real is confessing our true state before God and others.
But on the other hand, I disagree with going to church to be real if this becomes an excuse not to pursue what is truly real. For what is truly real, from the biblical standpoint, is Jesus Christ, the one who is the great I AM, from whom all things derive their being. We come to church to get in touch with what is truly real, and what is real is Jesus Christ to whom all things ultimately point. Being real in church means receiving his life, his being, his "realness" through Word and sacrament.
True Christianity goes beyond the confession of sins, and even knowing the truth. True Christianity is about seeing Christ, participating in Christ's life, and learning to be Christ to one another.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

The Value of Hebrew Poetry in a Sacramental World

Proverbs 12:9 (ESV)

9 Better to be lowly and have a servant
    than to play the great man and lack bread.

The parallelism of Hebrew poetry teaches us to make comparisons, which is a valuable skill in a sacramental world where created things point to higher realities that find their fulfillment and being in Christ.  The parallelism in this verse leads us to an interesting place.

The main comparison in this verse is between the lowly and the supposed "great man."  The contrast is therefore between pride and humility.  No human being is truly good or great, for all human beings derive their life, meaning and goodness from their Creator.  Therefore, anyone who thinks he is great is playing a part that is farcical.  Humans by nature are dependent on God physically and spiritually, and when we recognize our lowly, poor estate, we play the role that rightly belongs to us as dependent creatures.

What is odd about this verse is that in a literal sense the lowly or poor would not have a servant, and the great or rich would never lack bread.  Therefore the literal sense in this verse drives us to the spiritual sense, and this is the way a sacramental world works as we move from the literal to the spiritual.

I would suggest that the proud lack, not physical bread, but the bread of life, who the New Testament reveals to be Jesus Christ, the God/man, who joins heaven to earth, and is, therefore, the ultimate sacrament.  God opposes the proud so that the proud miss the life-giving communion they could have with the triune God.

But how does the humble, lowly person have a servant?  Literally this cannot be true, so who or what is this servant of the poor man?  I would suggest that the servant is his body, which through repentance and faith becomes subservient to his spirit.  By putting to death the sinful cravings and deeds of the sinful nature, the lowly are able to turn away from the slavery involved in the idolatry of created things.  Instead of idolizing creation, the humble begin to see God in created things, and are lifted  from those earthly things to Jesus Christ and heavenly things, so that they might participate in the life of God.  Thus, the humble, through their fight against the threefold lust of 1 John 2:15-17, by faith are able to eat the Bread which the proud know nothing about. Amazingly enough, this little proverb is teaching us how to have communion with God, which is only possible through repentance and faith in Jesus Christ!

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