Attacking Brothers with Blessing

Paul usually included a benediction of grace and peace in his letters. “The God of peace be with all of you. Amen” (Romans 15:33). “The grace of the Lord Jesus be with you. My love be with all of you in Christ Jesus. Amen” (1 Corinthians 16:23-24). “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brothers and sisters. Amen” (Galatians 6:18). Here our greetings convey both human love and divine favor. Paul was not merely talking about a blessing; he was imparting it. In doing so, Paul was drawing on a rich Old Testament tradition. The “blessing” was standard practice among the people of God from the very beginning. Fathers pronounced a blessing on their children, a leader on the people. The blessing was given through prophetic utterance or the change of a name. Such a blessing communicated God’s favor. The loss of blessing was considered a terrible curse, as we learn from Esau, who wept bitterly when his father decided to let the blessing on Jacob remain, even though he had received it under false pretense.

Esau’s cry-“O Father, bless me!”-has echoed through the centuries in the hearts of those who have never received a greeting that carries the blessing of God. Children, parents, spouses, lovers, colleagues and friends want to know that our love for them reflects the love of God, that our love for them channels the love of God. People want to know that God’s favor rests on them. They depend on us, at least in part, to receive that blessing.

Our Christian enemies need that blessing too. I am not proposing that we ignore or dismiss tensions in the church today, but I am suggesting that we mitigate them by praying the favor of God on our Christian opponents whenever we meet them, whether in cordial or adversarial situations. They belong to God, as we do; they believe in God, as we do; they stand in need of God, as we do. The substance of our disagreements might not change, but the spirit of the relationship often will if in our greetings we bestow God’s blessing. We need to remind our opponents that though we differ with them in theology or practice, we still regard them as Christian brethren.

Gerald L. Sittser. Love One Another: Becoming the Church Jesus Longs For (Kindle Locations 316-328). Kindle Edition.

Love is a way of Thinking

A Series on Love, Part 2

I want to begin by discussing the life of the Mind. I know I said all of our external expressions must be expressions of Love. But we know from reading the Gospels that Jesus spoke and expressed love completely differently than any other person who ever lived. What this reveals is that He thought about love differently than any person who had ever lived.

It’s no surprise, Isaiah 55:8 says “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD.” Jesus expressed love differently because his thoughts were perfectly aligned with God, the Father. So one of our major responsibilities is to conform our thoughts to the thoughts of God. Jesus commanded us to love each other like He loved us and to do that we have to understand the nature of the love He showed us. 

The Apostles were very concerned with the life of the Mind because they knew it was necessary for Holiness.

Romans 8:6 “For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.”

2nd Corinthians 10:5 “We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ,”

Romans 12:2 ”Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind.”

To Act like God you have to think like God and to think like God you have to continually renew your mind by studying His word. Now I am not saying that Godliness, Holiness and Salvation are dependent on your thinking the right thoughts. It’s not a matter of knowledge or right doctrine.  A mere mental assent. In everything I am going to say about the life of the mind, I am presupposing that this mind has already been united to Christ through Justification; through the work of Christ on the Cross.

But the mind is kept alive by feeding it a regular diet of edifying material. Continue reading “Love is a way of Thinking”

God Vowed to Walk There With Them

Zampieri - Adam et Ève (détail)
Zampieri – Adam et Ève (détail) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Adam stood outside the Garden, with God, in the valley of death; ashamed and defeated. God cursed the ground on Adam’s behalf, increased the pain of labor for Eve and spilled the blood of a substitute to make a covering for His wayward and fallen children. In the midst of the first evil, God promised a son to restore the lost and broken relationship that God had  enjoyed with man.

In the pain of that moment, betrayed, accused and hated by His own children whom He had given the world, God knew something profound. That all the sons of Adam and Eve would be unable to bear the burden, were too weak and broken to fight back against the dragon. God knew that the Son that was promised would be ravaged and that the battle would cost that Son his life. And God knew, God promised in that moment, at the very beginning, with the tears of betrayal fresh on His cheeks, that the Son whose blood would be spilled for mankind, would be His own Son; His only Son. Continue reading “God Vowed to Walk There With Them”

Five Offerings and Jesus

“Each of the five sacrifices that Leviticus requires of the Israelites points to Jesus’ life and death. The burnt offering symbolizes Jesus’ offering of Himself to the Father as the spotless Lamb of God. The grain offering points to Jesus’ life, with the flour representing His perfect character in word and deed. The fellowship offering symbolizes the peace we have with God through Christ (Col. 1:20). The sin offering explains Jesus’ death on the cross, when He took the place of every sinner who would ever believe. Finally, the guilt offering points to Jesus’ payment for our sins against others. None of these sacrifices actually forgives sin, but they point toward the ultimate sacrifice of God’s Son, who makes complete atonement for all sin (Heb. 10). It is through Jesus’ death that every believer is made holy in the sight of almighty God: “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor. 5:21 NIV). But not only has Jesus provided the means for our positional holiness, He also demands us to live with a practical holiness: “For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life” (1 Thess. 4:7 NIV). This practical holiness is possible only through the power of the Holy Spirit, who gives us both the will and desire to obey Jesus’ commands (Phil. 2:13).”

Wiersbe, Warren W. (2010-11-01). Be Holy (Leviticus): Becoming “Set Apart” for God (The BE Series Commentary) (pp. 8-9). David C Cook. Kindle Edition.

The Covenant Structure of Worship

The purpose of the Sunday service is covenant renewal. During corporate “worship” the Lord renews His covenant with His people when He gathers them together and serves them. We do not renew covenant with God because it was going to expire or run out, like a lease. We renew our covenant with God because it is our life: we renew covenant with God in Worship the way food renews physical life or sexual communion renews marriage.

The covenant structure of creation and recreation

Yahweh’s covenant with Adam contains, in seed form, the other covenants in Scripture, as well as, covenant renewal worship. The post fall covenants are not ad hoc, novel arrangements, but renewals of the creation covenant. Following is the structure of covenant making and therefore covenant renewal and how it directly informs the liturgy of the Church.

  1. As covenant Lord, Yahweh takes hold of His creation in order to do something new with it.
  2. The Lord effects a separation. What God grasps is then transformed from one state to another, from the old to the new: a new creation. This new union (dirt and life-giving breath of Yahweh) receives from God a corresponding new name, which implies a new hierarchal relationship. There is a covenant head (Yahweh) and there are those who are dependent on that covenant head (human creatures).
  3. A new verbal communication of stipulation is expressed by the covenant Lord, a way of life fit for the new covenantal situation, a gracious enumeration of how to live fully and joyfully in this new covenant.
  4. The Lord offers His covenant partners a fellowship meal. He gives the gift of signs and seals of the covenant (two trees) together with a setting forth of blessings for grateful faithfulness and curses for ungrateful disobedience.
  5. The Lord arranges for the future succession of the covenant, which in this covenant involves marriage and children. Continue reading “The Covenant Structure of Worship”

How to Increase Through Decrease

The Christian life is full of paradox; apparent contradictions. The doctrine of the Trinity is chief among these paradoxes, but there are many others. How do many members become one body and not lose their identity as individuals? How do husband and wife make one flesh and also not lose their identity as individuals? How does God ordain everything that comes to pass without doing violence to the will of His creatures? These mysteries are means of exhibiting the necessity of faith and demonstrating the transcending Holiness of our God who is Three in One. We believe so we can understand, as Augustine wrote. We live standing on the promises of God.

Another paradox that stems from God’s very nature is the principle of gaining by losing; growth through death; increase through decrease.  God increases His glory by giving it away. Every person of the Trinity demonstrates this principle. It is at the heart of the Community of Love. Jesus said that anyone who loses his life gains it (Matthew 10:39). This is not some trick or stumbling contradiction meant to frustrate us. It is God’s reality and He demonstrates this principle over and over again.

The Father gave His Son to gain a people (John 3:16). The Son gave His life to gain a crown (Hebrews 12:2). The Father and Son gave their Spirit to gain a church, a world; a kingdom (Acts1:8; Romans 8:14; Ephesians 2:22). The Spirit gives free and abundant access to throne of God to everyone  ordained by the Father and saved by the Son. The Spirit does not withhold, doesn’t horde and does not restrain union and communion with the Father or the Son (Romans 8:15, 15:13; Titus 3:5; 1 Peter 1:12). The Sprit is generous in His ministry. Continue reading “How to Increase Through Decrease”

How we Change by changing diapers

The toil and circumstances of our lives are God’s means of sanctifying us. Our circumstances are administered to us like medicine, to address our specific heart issues. Whether you need more patience, peace, compassion, trust or kindness, you will find your circumstances address those deficiencies directly. They may not be the circumstances you think you need or challenges you think you need but we don’t know ourselves as well as God does.

We all need to grow in our faith and our circumstances are meant to show us our dependence on God’s provision, protection and goodness. We must submit to God’s will and seek His Spirit to have the grace for the toil and circumstances he has ordained for us or our toil and circumstances will overcome us. The circumstances of our lives work on our hearts like sandpaper or hammers. Our toil works on our hearts like the purifying fire of the crucible or the consuming flames of a house fire.  Continue reading “How we Change by changing diapers”