Communion Meditation: Contention or Communion

(This is a mediation shared with my local church to prepare our hearts for communion. I hope the gospel of grace in Jesus encourages you.)

We often call this time together “communion.” Do you ever ask yourself why we use that word? If you look up definitions for the word “communion,” it means to be united, to be one, to share intimacy together or to participate in something together. The word likely combines two Latin phrases: com, meaning “with,” and unus, which means “oneness” or “unity.” The Latin-speaking Catholic church referred to this as communion because it was with oneness or unity.

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Communion Meditation: A Shared Table

(This is a communion meditation shared at my local church. I hope it can encourage your heart with the gospel of grace in Jesus.)

When we think about Communion we often talk about who Jesus is and what he has done for us individually. In light of today’s message, we should also think about the corporate dimension we celebrate in communion. What promises does God make to us as a body when we eat and drink? What are we saying and acknowledging to one another when we partake?

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Communion Meditation: Focusing on God’s Grace Rather Than Our Guilt

(This is a meditation used at my local church to prepare our hearts for communion. I hope it encourages you with the good news of grace in Jesus.)

This morning, I want to remind us Jesus gave us the Lord’s Supper so we might feed on and be refreshed by him.

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A Theology of Feasting

picIn our kitchen we have this framed chalk art in the image to the left. “You cause the grass to grow for the livestock and plants for man to cultivate, that he may bring forth food from the earth and wine to gladden the heart of man, oil to make his face shine and bread to strengthen man’s heart” (Psalm 104:14-15).  It’s a reminder that food and drink are both God’s provision to care for us but also an evidence of his goodness in giving us food to add to our happiness. God wants us to enjoy our food, our drinks, and our feasts!

The Bible describes feasting in very positive terms—although there are obviously times where it’s corrupted or misused like all of creation. It seems God created us to thoroughly enjoy food as a gift but also to prepare our hearts and minds for something even more satisfying.

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Should the Perception of others be a driving force for ethics?

imageThe King James Version translates 1 Thessalonians 5:22 as “abstain from all appearance of evil.” While studying verses 16-22 in preparation of a sermon I came across this quote from Gary Shogren. Having been raised in a church culture where the appearance of holiness rivaled actual holiness, his remarks were a helpful antidote to obsession with any “appearance” of evil we might give off. Obviously this could be taken too far if we exercise no cautious wisdom at all when it comes to appearances of sin that might be detrimental, but his words are still worth considering.

Verse 22 clearly is instructing the church to test prophecies so that they hold onto what’s from the Spirit (5:21) and reject any evil, false prophecies not from the Spirit (5:22). That context shines light on what Paul is and isn’t saying in this text, which is why Shogren writes the following.

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Comparing Romans 5 to Romans 8

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During Pastor Mark’s message this morning–which was a great one–he mentioned the connection between Romans 5 and Romans 8. Whereas some might use the language of bookends for these two chapters, he more aptly described Romans 5 as the foothills of Romans 8. As we noticed this morning, as we ascend up Romans 5 we’re stunned by the heights of glorious truth only to catch a glimpse of the towering mountain called Romans 8 just ahead. You could give me either chapter to live on and I think I’d be okay.
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Sweeping Statements in Colossians

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As I’ve been studying Colossians the last few weeks I’ve been amazed by the glorious, sweeping statements about the supremacy and sole-sufficiency of Jesus Christ. Colossians is all about clarifying just who this Jesus is and why nothing and no one else needs added to him. Even when it seems like it’s not about him it is all about him. For example, the whole point of the vain and empty ascetic lifestyle that can’t stop the desires of the flesh (2:20-23) is to demonstrate the supremacy of Jesus who puts to death the flesh in us and resurrects as new people (2:11-14; 3:1-4). As our eyes are redirected towards him we see equally glorious, sweeping statements made about us in him. We’re told not only who we now are in Christ but what’s true of us and what belongs to us because we are in Christ. The book has a lot less than other NT books on how to live the Christian life but it more than makes up for this by showing us the blueprint of truly living (Jesus) and reminding us we are now being remade in him. When you can’t get him out of your mind he will show up in your life (your affections and actions). Here are some of those gigantic statements about Jesus and then about us in him I’ve found in Colossians.

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A Few Links

Here are the links to a few recent things I’ve written for other websites.

Our church is hosting Dr. John Piper this weekend for our THINK|14 conference. To start tilling the soil of our hearts I provided two blogs.
Why Theology Matters…For Everyone
A Primer on Philippians

Here was an article giving three reasons the ascension matters for us right now. The Ascension: What’s Jesus Up To?

On this blog I did seven individual articles on ways God the Father loves us. I condensed them into a summary article for Gospel-Centered Discipleship.

Kingdom of God Intro: Jesus’ people in his kingdom under his rule

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The Kingdom of Jesus: His Rule, His Place, and His People
“Though we do not have kings in America, or want them, our unconscious mind both has them and wants them. We all know what a true king is, a real king, an ideal king, an archetypal king. He is not a mere politician or soldier. Something in us longs to give him our loyalty and fealty and service and obedience. He is lost but longed for and will some day return, like Arthur.”[1]

The Bible is the story of kings and kingdoms through and through.[2] From Genesis 1 when God commissions his image-bearers to exercise dominion until Revelation 21-22 when Jesus restores a kingdom on the new earth, the whole story smells thick with the aroma of kingdom. And yet, in the opening quote Peter Kreeft pins down an interesting reality that has haunted American evangelical theology.[3] Because we are a people who prize democracy—which means we dislike, dread, or don’t understand kings—American churches have taught very little about “the kingdom of God.” Not that this is the only reason we’ve avoided teaching on the kingdom of God.[4]

The shock of it all is that we haven’t downplayed a theme on the margins of the Bible but one of the primary themes in the NT—and the Bible as a whole. It’s clear that for Jesus, the Kingdom of God was both at the heart of his teaching and his role. John the Baptist prepares the way for Jesus by preaching that the kingdom is nearing (Mt. 3:2). Jesus tells the Jews—who would have heard him with Messianic and Kingly expectations from the OT—that the kingdom is now among them (Lk. 11:20; 17:21). He commissions his disciples before and after the resurrection to preach the good news (gospel) of the kingdom (Lk. 9:2; Acts 1:3). In the Epistles, the exact phrase “kingdom of God” becomes less prominent but the same ideas are retained (Col. 1:13; Heb. 12:18-29). All of that to say, if the Kingdom of God was a priority in Jesus’ teaching and mission, and if it’s at the heart of NT theology, then we should probably make it a priority in our understanding of the NT.

A thorough investigation of kingdom would require tracing its importance and development through every epoch, as well as more in-depth exegesis on a host of NT passages rich with a theology of the kingdom. That can’t be done here—and others have already done it—so I will try to give a fast-break summary of major ideas and descriptions of kingdom in the NT. I will also be arguing for the present (already) aspect of Jesus kingdom being the Davidic kingdom Israel had been looking for. My hope is that by providing a basic framework of the kingdom of God we can begin to take next steps in understanding and then living in light of Christ’s Kingdom we are a part of right now.

A View from the Chopper
Recently I’ve enjoyed doing travel research. I’m a huge fan of history but also like good food, different cultures, and beautiful sights. Researching a location usually begins with the 30,000 foot view. What are the eye-catching zoomed out views of a worthy site (city, landmark, scenery)? How is the place generally described and what gives you a basic feel for the place? It’s similar to a helicopter tour that shows you the city as a whole. But, soon after that, you have to start getting into specifics. What are the specific buildings to see, where is a good hotel, where do I get on a bus? The helicopter view is great in its breadth but walking in the streets is where you really see the depth of a city. This summary will start with the helicopter view and then later on allow us to start navigating the roads and stepping into the must see landmarks when it comes to the kingdom of God. As we take this tour, there will be sites I don’t have the time to point out—not because they aren’t important—so you’ll just have to go back and check them out on your own.

Where We’re Headed
There is much to be said so I will unpack this important idea in 7-8 posts. If you stick with this you will not be an expert on the kingdom of God, but, you will hopefully know a little bit more than when you started. I’ll be honest up front, I’m primarily summarizing a Reformed understanding of the kingdom of God in the NT in its present (already) form, and making a theological defense for why this present kingdom is the promised Davidic kingdom. Here’s a summary of the upcoming posts.

• The OT backdrop on kingdom
• Two misunderstandings on the kingdom
1) Jesus fundamentally understood the kingdom of God promised in the OT differently than the Jews of his day.
2) The kingdom is already present in a real sense and is not wholly future
• The already-not-yet temporal pattern to the kingdom
• How the kingdom of God could be described
1) Working off of Graeme Goldsworthy: God’s people in God’s place under God’s rule
2) Working off of Geerhardus Vos: It’s theocentric, powerful, righteous, and based on God’s graciousness.
• The importance of Ascension to understanding that it is the Davidic Kingdom
• The importance of Pentecost to understanding that it is the Davidic Kingdom
• The Kingdom of God is the eschatological new creation kingdom

Footnotes:
Header image courtesy of the images & graphics Jedi, Greg Pilcher.
[1] Peter Kreeft, The Philosophy of Tolkien (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2005), 44.
[2] The word for “kingdom” is used 162 times in the New Testament.
[3] Kreeft does not here make the connection between American democracy and the misunderstanding and downplaying of kingdom from the Bible. In the beginning of the section on Kingdom, Faithmapping does hint at the connection. Daniel Montgomery and Mike Cosper, Faithmapping (Wheaton: Crossway, 2013), 29-30.
[4] Two other reasons could be mentioned. First might be our need for proof texts where the word “kingdom” is used rather than being able to make connections with thematic allusions like “throne,” “reign,” “David’s Son,” and others. Second, the prominence of dispensational theology in much of America, which until the last 20 years saw the kingdom of God as almost entirely future, minimized preaching and teaching on the kingdom of God.