joy


Christians-and-the-New-CreationBeginning the new year with Paul Minear and his book on metaphors of transitions in the New Testament: chapter 5, From One Covenant to Another.

When you think about it, this is by far the most important transition time in human history and therefore deserving of our best attention, especially at the beginning of another year of life on planet earth.

By examining twelve Scriptural texts from seven different New Testament documents, Minear helps us visualize the contrast between the old age and the new.

I can’t think of a better wish for the new year than to be enriched and encouraged as we read authors such as Minear writing on Scriptural texts that inspire us to discover for ourselves the word of God.

Using the Lenten season profitably

The Gift of all gifts

Death in Adam, Life in Christ

Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned— for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come…for if by the one man’s offence many died, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ…the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more,  so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord…

(abbreviated from Paul’s letter to the Romans, chapter 5. ESV Bible)

No one understands at once all that is included in God’s Gift to Adam’s sinful race. In fact, I plan to still be unwrapping the gift of Jesus Christ until the day my life on earth ends. The Lenten season for me has become an excellent time of extended meditation on this gift and the far reaching themes it touches- from the beginning in Adam into the eternal age that is even now breaking in-the new heavens and the new earth.

For Lent, I’ll be thinking about the reality of sin and it’s destruction here on earth. I have plenty to mourn about, starting with my own participation in the rebellion & conspiracy against the Creator. This mourning will only end at the crucifixion of the Holy One of God, Jesus Christ the Righteous son of God.

Did you happen to notice in this critical text, that the Apostle Paul calls the free gift from God to sinners, “the gift of righteousness“? Going back and reading the context of these verses, beginning at Chapter 5, and reading through Chapter 8, I think I will have a deeper unwrapping of the gift. Peace w/ God, access to the presence of the Holy God, and a rejoicing in the hope of the glory of God! (and this will also put suffering in perspective-see chapter 8, verses 18-39).

Slowly unwrapping this “unspeakable gift” has its own reward; through Christ it will strengthen me and enable me to “reign in life” in the midst of this wicked generation together with those “who love God and are called according to His purpose”, and to be “more than conquerors through Him who loved us”.

Speaking of righteousness, see my related post on Psalms 1,2

A Christmas Day Essay

What does Christmas mean to me personally? Actually today is not really more significant as a day in the calendar than any other except for the fact that it allows many Christians to concentrate on one day out of all the others and focus on that day when The Christ actually came into this world in human flesh.

That is what the whole Christmas season means to me this year; a focus on the first Advent of Christ and I have been engaged in that for some time. For me it really is a case of Holy Obsession! Being possessed in my spirit by this great event in world history. Or as the Apostle Paul put it, being astonished in utter awe:

Great is the mystery of godliness:

God was manifested in the

flesh…seen by angels, preached

among the nations, believed on in

the world, received up in glory!  

( first letter to Timothy, chapter 3)

By considering what the Biblical narrative tells us about this “great mystery”, including the details of the event itself beginning with the announcements to Mary and Joseph, the journey to Bethlehem, the political context, the ancient promises to Israel fulfilled, and all that follows.

I am still learning the discipline required to not get lost on any of the details, such as the baby and his mother, as important as that is. But by keeping my obsession centered on Jesus Christ and the entire revelation of Him as it unfolds in the Biblical story from beginning to end. Certain selected Christmas music really enhances my obsession at Christmas, another reason why I love the Advent Season. Besides my all time favorite, which is to listen to Handel’s Messiah at this season (at least once), there are certain others that have become very special.

Several years ago my daughter gave us a Christmas album by the Irish Tenors. Of all the wonderful songs on that album, my favorite has become their version of “The Holy City”. I remember my dear Mother singing this song in Church more than once. The text is based on a ‘dream so fair’ that contains three different scenes. The first, is the glad occasion of Jesus riding into Jerusalem as the children sing Hosannah or what is now celebrated as Palm Sunday. The second scene is a very somber one which ends in the “shadow of a cross”. The final vision is of the New Jerusalem, the eternal vision of John’s Revelation, chapters 21 and 22. Listen to the music and see if you can sense the same “holy obsession” that I do on this Christmas day, 2010. And may I wish all those in the weblog family, a very obsessed Christmas!

” That they may behold my glory” – The Prayer of Jesus 


Gifts of the Ascended Christ

 

The greatest desire that Christ expressed in his prayer was that his people might be with him to behold his glory. It is clear that in this prayer the Lord Christ was referring to his own glory and the actual sight of it.

Only a sight of his glory, and nothing else, will truly satisfy God’s people. One of the greatest privileges the believer has, both in this world and for eternity, is to behold the glory of Christ.

Ever since the name of Christ was known on the earth, there has never been such direct opposition to the uniqueness and glory of Christ as the present day. It is the duty of all those who love the Lord Jesus to testify according to their ability to his uniqueness and glory.

I would therefore try to strengthen the faith of true believers by showing that to see the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ by faith is the climax of all Christ’s requests for his disciples in this present world. Here in this life, beholding the glory of the Lord, they are changed into his own likeness by his Spirit (2Cor.3:18). Hereafter, they will be like him for they will see him as he is (1 John 3:2). This knowledge of Christ is the continual life and reward of our souls.

If, therefore we would have a more active faith and a greater love to Christ, giving rest and satisfaction to our souls, we must have a greater desire to see more of his glory in this life. We should not look for anything in heaven other than what we have some experience of (by faith) in this life. If we were fully persuaded of this we would be more often thinking about heavenly things than we usually are.

– John Owen (1684) from The Glory of Christ, the theme of the final year of his life (d.1683).

If Owen found it difficult in England in his day, how much more in our day to keep the greatest gift of all our constant priority. The Advent season is the perfect time to evaluate the year and one’s own choices to judge how well we have resisted all the distractions of the world and kept our eyes on this Leader who is both the Author and Perfecter of our faith.

 

Watch ‘Jesu, Joy of man’s desiring’.

For Brazilians: YouTube honoring Nilson Fanini (1932-2009)  “Verei Jesus como Ele e’ ” e tambem “Para Que vejam a minha gloria” http://youtu.be/3HLhhHNDvxg

Related Post: What difference has looking made?

 

 

The Jewish Festival of Lights begins tonight at sundown and as I wish my Jewish friends a very Happy Hanukkah, I can’t help from thinking that here too is a perfect remembrance of the first Christmas.

Similar to my last post, in appreciating another faith tradition, I have little trouble in having my own Christian faith strengthened. For what was the Messianic Hope looked for when the darkness of sin and the Roman occupation seemed so hopeless? Was it not the faith that what God Himself had promised His people, He would one day give?

And then it happened-The Light of The World became human flesh and was announced by a brilliant light in the East. As I listened to a wonderful explanation of the Festival of Lights this a.m. on NPR, I was transported back in the Biblical narrative to that moment.

The word ‘anamnesis‘ perfectly describes for me now, not only the “Sacraments” of the Church that are so important to the Christian faith, but also the Advent season with all it’s expectation and joy. In fact, I happen to have a book out on my desk called, “Ecumenical Perspectives on Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry” (1983 edition) and what I find in the description of the Sacrament of the Eucharist, pretty well sums up what I am remembering (recollecting, reminiscing) as I celebrate Advent.

” Christ instituted the Eucharist, sacrament of His body and blood with its focus on the cross and resurrection, as the anamnesis of the whole of God’s reconciling action in Him. Christ Himself with all He has accomplished for us and for all creation…is present in this anamnesis as is  also the foretaste of His Parousia and the consumation of the Kingdom.

The anamnesis in which Christ acts through the joyful celebration of His Church thus includes this representation and anticipation. It is not only a calling to mind of what is past, or its significance. It is the Church’s effective proclamation of God’s mighty acts. By this communion with Christ the Church participates in that reality.” (page 205)

 

2012 UPDATE the Festival of Lights began on December, 8, 2012.

Dedicated to the memory of all veterans who gave their lives for us.

“For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died;  and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.” – The Apostle Paul

A wonderful discovery regarding worship resources. I find encouragement from many places in the blog world and yesterday was an outstanding example. It was on a blog that I had not visited before (believe it or not) called “Stay on the Rock“, that turns out to be the blog of Lifewayworship.com. I don’t feel bad singing their praises since I have spoken several times of my appreciation for the worship resources of other denominational sources such as that of the United Methodist.

The sacrament of communion

What caught my attention first was the theme of the post: Worship at the communion table. For those that don’t already know, Lifeway is the publication arm of the Southern Baptist Convention of churches and is the largest supplier of protestant material. Many churches that are not Baptist use it as for resources.

The Baptist tradition as well as the larger evangelical church, has come under fire from those of the liturgical churches for a weak theology of worship by men the likes of J.I.Packer and John Stott, Anglicans, just to name a few. So you can imagine my delight to find someone in the inside of Lifeway worship team who is reading something outside the Baptist tradition like Robert Webber’s “Ancient-Future Worship”. The post let me know that the guys producing worship resources for the churches understand that the theology of the church is important. Just another example of how rich the different traditions are and that by being willing to consider what those outside our own limited tradition have to say can only enrich everyone.

I made a short comment on the post but I wanted to publicly say to the blogger and his team- “congratulations”, for their important contributions to the churches. If you visit the post, you will note at the bottom a link to a long list of church music deemed appropriate for the communion service including both traditional hymns and contempory choruses. Here again, the rich theology of the Lord’s Supper should dictate what is best appropriate to make this one of the most blessed experiences of our corporate life together.

So thank you Lifewayworship team for your faithfulness and for including some of this bloggers favorites such as “I Love Thy Kingdom”, “In Christ there is no east or west”, “One Day”, “The Wonderful Cross”, and “Come to the table”.

See my own post last year related to Communion

I am so glad there is an interval of days between the Ascension of Christ and the Day of Pentecost. I admit that in the past I have not paid enough attention to Ascension Day. And if I did, it was to focus more on the disciples, what they were doing in obedience to their Lord’s instructions.

By continuing now to give my spirit free reign to roam through the narrative looking for additional ways the Ascension is referenced by the Biblical writers, I am finding all sorts of treasures. Some of these I have added as comments on the previous post.

Gifts of the Ascended Christ

Since this one deals so directly to the theme of E4Unity, the unity of the universal Church of Jesus Christ, and the necessity of that unity as related to the perfecting of the Saints, I want to post this separately. Read how the Apostle Paul, reasoning from the historical Ascension of Christ, emphatically states how the Church is to perfect herself in this present age: Ephesians 4:7-16

But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift.  Therefore it says,

“When he ascended on high he led a host of captives,
and he gave gifts to men.”

 (In saying, “He ascended,” what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower regions, the earth?  He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.)  And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds  and teachers,  to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ,  until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood,  to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ,  so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.  Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ,  from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.

This I believe, is exactly what the Apostle had in his spirit and in his prayers for those first recipients of this letter (see chapter 3: 14-21). This is the vision the Father has allowed me to see for most of my adult life- the vision of His purpose for His new creation, not the race of Adam but the race of the last Adam, even Jesus Christ.

Most of our American calendars do not even have this very special day in the Christian Faith marked. Too many Christians don’t celebrate the significance of what that historical day means.

” But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart.  Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.”

John’s Gospel, 16:6,7

But the Ascension, just like the birth, the Crucifixion, and the Resurrection of Jesus Christ has a vital part of the Biblical narrative to contribute. The ancient Christian Faith cannot do without it. And if we want to understand our role in that faith tradition, we must search out what was happening on this historic occasion. So I urge you to search the Scriptures with the help of  some of the excellent resources available to inform yourself of how this part of the Jesus story expresses God’s wisdom for His creatures. I found this excellent meditation from Robert Hart. He provides us the kind of resources that makes the journey a little easier and enjoyable.

“When we consider the Ascension, we must pay attention to the emphasis given by these scriptures to the coming of the Holy Spirit, so that the Apostolic Church would continue the ministry of Christ as an extension of his incarnation in the fallen world.
(To Continue reading)

There is a lot to discuss these next ten days before Pentecost. That event is also full of significance in the Biblical story as we tried to speak to last year. Keep your Bibles open and keep reading together with the Church.

The conclusion to Lent and to Passover, is the victorious and risen Lamb who has accomplished redemption! Easter is the victory out of suffering and anguish and separation. Celebrate with me the victory of Easter.

Revelation chapter 5: 

6 And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, with seven horns and with seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. 7 And he went and took the scroll from the right hand of him who was seated on the throne. 8 And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. 9 And they sang a new song, saying,

         “Worthy are you to take the scroll
             and to open its seals,
           for you were slain, and by your blood you    ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation,
10 and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.”

11 Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, 12 saying with a loud voice, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!” 13 And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!” 14 And the four living creatures said, “Amen!” and the elders fell down and worshiped.

A related Easter homily by Robert Hart: The Victory of Easter

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