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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Where to look for assurance of election

I found this quote by Calvin helpful as our church studies Romans 9 together. Calvin’s emphasis on union with Christ throughout his writings again pays dividends as he reminds us to look to Christ to know that you are loved by God…and will be so forever. If we have been united to Christ by faith then we have no need to look into the past and be puzzled if God chose us. Christ is our assurance so we look at him.

But if we have been chosen in [Christ], we shall not find assurance of our election in ourselves; and not even God the Father, if we conceive of him as severed from his Son. Christ, then, is the mirror wherein we must, and without self-deception may, contemplate our own election. For since it is into his body the Father has destined those to be engrafted whom he has will from eternity to be his own…we have sufficiently clear and firm testimony that we have been inscribed in the book of life if we are in communion with Christ. (Calvin, Institutes, 3.24.5)

Suffering with Jesus

unionThe Bible speaks about various positive outcomes to suffering, or reasons why we can rejoice in suffering. However, one which I think we often miss out on is that as we suffer Christ actually suffers with us. It’s not simply that we suffer like Christ or that we suffer in his name—although both are also true—but the NT offers tremendous encouragement in the mystery that Jesus actually  in some way suffers with his church. This truth, forged in the OT with texts about God walking through the fire with us or being in the fire with us (cf. Is. 43; 63:9; Dan. 3:25; Ex. 33:14), is only ratcheted up in the NT through union with Christ.

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A Caution on Hard Texts

untitledOur church has been making our way through Romans and this week we begin 9 weeks on Romans 9-11. We should never shy away from God’s Word. In fact, many of the things that make us sheepish when we approach hard texts comes in part because we’re not fully getting the picture. Further study might not solve all your questions but it hopefully will help clear up initial misunderstandings that cause us to ask the kinds of questions that Paul responds to in Romans 9. Two quotes I came across this week provide helpful cautions.

To recall the first quote I actually did a search on my computer because it’s always stuck with me (at least the general idea has). Interestingly enough, I recorded this quote during the first week of March exactly ten years ago. It’s from R.C. Sproul’s book The Soul’s Quest For God.

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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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Paris: A Moveable Feast

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One year ago today my wife and I were in Paris celebrating our one-year anniversary in Europe. In an effort to remember the trip one year later and feel like I’m getting good use out of some of the pictures I wanted to blog on each city that we visited.

I’ll admit we only spent one day in Paris so our experience was limited. Our goal wasn’t to check off each museum and touristy attraction in our short time there but just walk the streets and take in the city and its unique culture. Paris is as magical as made to sound in every book and movie it’s mentioned. From the second your shoe soles hit the streets you realize you’re in a rare place. Paris makes you feel lucky for being there, not in a shady and dirty way like Vegas, but in a nostalgic and enchanting way. The food, the history, the sights, the people, the art, and the corporate excitement of so many people happy to be in one place.
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