Coming to the Table “Unworthily”

A Roman Catholic challenged me to explain how my non-sacramental view of the Lord’s Table provided any spiritual benefit. He was confident that Sacramentalism provided saving grace. He could not see how my Ordinance did anything at all. Further contemplation changed how I led worship at the Table. Provoked further by an excellent paper written by my daughter (for class at Central Baptist Seminary, VA), my study and understanding deepened. My Roman Catholic friend was correct – there is a grace to be found at the Lord’s Table – but not in the manner prescribed by his dogma. Rather, it is found in Christ. This article by Pastor Chris Anderson (found on ChurchWorksMedia.com) is a sound and biblical perspective. His exegesis shows that the Bible teaches Communion is not to be a ritual, a Baptist confessional, or a morbid, self-centered introspection. It is to be joyously centered in Jesus’ gospel work and should leave us much more aware of His power and grace. I know it’s a cliche now but — it’s not about us. It’s about Him.

What Does “Unworthy” Mean?

Gathering with the Lord’s church to remember Christ and His work is a vital part of Christian worship and an edifying exercise for both the corporate body and the individual Christian. Yet, Scripture protects the Lord’s Table in 1 Corinthians 11:27, where we are warned not to partake “unworthily” (KJV) or “in an unworthy manner” (ESV). That’s important—so important that people can suffer illness or even death for doing it (v. 30). But what does it mean?

For many, it means bondage. Countless believers have spent their entire lives afraid to partake of the Lord’s Table because they doubt their own worthiness. Communion has become a time when they remember themselves rather than (or at least more than) Christ. They’ve been trained (in part due to the KJV’s translation, in part due to careless teaching) to focus on their relative obedience or disobedience in the days preceding the Table. The result is pride, or despair, or fear—but not worship! Gordon Fee explains:

Unfortunately, this adverb was translated “unworthily” in the KJV. Since that particular English adverb seems more applicable to the person doing the eating than to the manner in which it is being done, this word became a dire threat for generations of English-speaking Christians. (The First Epistle to the Corinthians, 560)

Many of you can say “Amen.” You’re there. I’ve been there. Let’s make sure we’re clear on this. This requirement doesn’t mean that you must be “worthy” to participate based on your performance as a Christian. You’re not ready to partake because you’ve “been good.”

  • First, regardless of what you may think, you’ve never been good. The fact that you think you have just demonstrates that your standard of “good” is far different than God’s.
  • Second, your spiritual performance doesn’t determine your worthiness. Whatever Paul is saying, that’s not it, for that would be legalism in the truest sense—the idea that your obedience makes you more or less acceptable to God. True grace welcomes the penitent one, not the worthy one.
  • Third, the fact that you’re unworthy is the whole point! If you feel unworthy, you’re getting it! Your sinfulness—your unworthiness—is why Christ came and offered His body to be broken and His blood to be spilled in your place.

So if Scripture isn’t dealing with the worthiness of the Christian, what is it doing? Well, the word “unworthily” is an adverb, not an adjective. That means that “unworthily” is describing the partaking (“eats” and “drinks”), not the participants. It’s not saying that we must be worthy in ourselves, but that our manner of partaking must be worthy (as the ESV translation makes clear). The surrounding context tells us what that means:

  • To promote or allow a factious spirit is partaking in an unworthy manner (vv. 18–20, 33).
  • To partake selfishly and thoughtlessly is partaking in an unworthy manner (vv. 21–22, 33–34).
  • To have a self-satisfied, flippant attitude is partaking in an unworthy manner (vv. 28, 31).
  • To treat the Lord’s Table like a common thing is partaking in an unworthy manner (v. 29b).

What a privilege it is to fellowship with Christ’s church, worshiping Christ’s person, remembering Christ’s work, and awaiting Christ’s return! This is a precious time. The next time you prepare to partake, take pains to approach the Table as Scripture requires. Be reverent, humble, and thoughtful as you gaze on Christ through this ordinance. Examine yourself (v. 28). But make no mistake: you’re not worthy, and you never will be. Here, as on every occasion, you approach God on the basis of Christ’s merit, not your own. He is worthy. So partake in remembrance of Him, not yourself. Worship. Remember. And rest.

Chris Anderson is an author, hymnwriter, husband, father and pastor (Kilian Hill Baptist Church) and hosts ChurchWorksMedia.com.

A Really Good Day

An early birthday gift from family!

Today was really strange. I do not remember a Saturday like this since … well, I don’t really remember a Saturday like this. Marcia and I got up early. We headed out in the rainy chill to a warehouse sale at the Bob Timberlake Studios in Lexington.  Just the two of us. Alone. We picked out a nice table and a nice leather travel bag. (The bag is mine.) Got some help loading the table. Then we, just the two of us, headed south to check out a rumor of a fishing hole. Appears it was true and that’s a good thing.  I tracked down a good boat landing while there at High Rock Lake. A return trip is in order. It was still raining and chilly. We stopped for some good old Lexington style North Carolina Barbecue while in town. Just the two of us. Then it was back to Mocksville to check out a possible rental. Just the two of us. She spied a “great-old-house” (as she called it) next door to the one we went to look at. It had a log cabin in the back yard. She was intrigued. Of course we looked at it. And in it. (Hey, the door was open.)  Marcia loved the “great-old-house” as any restoration buff would but I reminded her that we’ve already done that once. After I grabbed a coffee from a shop on the town square, we – the two of us –  headed down the 801 and over to Cooleemee to stop by the old mill where her grandfather worked the afternoon shift for decades. Of course, that was after he worked the day shift on his farm. It was the first time in years it was open to the public. A restoration of the mil is being organized. She loved it and I loved being with her. Just the two of us. Then it was up to Cana and the now empty site of her grandma’s family farm. This was important to her and that was important to me. And that’s why it was one of the best days ever. Of course, just her and I were there to unload the table from the car when we got back. Just the two of us. My phone didn’t even ring. I take that back. It did once. I ignored it though. Today was really strange. A good strange. Just the two of us. I Loved it.

Red Pig BBQ: A “not so kosher” southern delicacy located in Jerusalem, NC

Great leaders manage relationships before they manage “things”

13 Ways to Grow Relational Capital
Posted: 12 Feb 2013 12:00 AM PST/The Resurgence

As a leader, if you want your team to go from good to great, hard conversations are inevitable.

People will make mistakes, changes need to be made, and constant excellence can be an allusive goal. There are three factors in how those conversations will go:

1. What you say
2. How you say it
3. The amount of relational capital you have going into the conversation

The first two you can control in the moment, but the third takes time. What is relational capital? For this post, we’ll define relational capital as: the cumulative trust built up through positive interactions.

A culture in which people are pursued breaks down the power of sin.

Leaders must embrace a sincere pursuit of relational capital throughout their ministry or they may find themselves creating a culture of fear. Fear says, “Get it done or there will be consequences.” Relational capital says, “I care about you and your development, so I am willing to invest in a relationship that promotes trust, honest correction, and mutual respect so we can all pursue excellence together.” One must not be short-sighted in how they manage and develop those under their leadership, but anticipate the difficult conversations by depositing relational capital to everyone around them now.

Here are some ways to build relational capital in your team or organization:

1. Start with God
If you want to be good giver of love, it starts with being a good receiver of love. If you have been affected by the love of God to you, you should be compelled to show the same love to others. It all starts with your relationship with God (1 John 4:7–12).

2. Build a culture of encouragement
An occasional “Good job” will eventually loose its potency. Be timely, specific, honest, and thoughtful in your encouragement, not only recognizing the task, but the gifts the person has.

3. Show appreciation
You can truly never say thank you enough. Appreciation expresses value, which is a powerful affirmation for those on your team (Eph. 1:16).

4. Aim to correct in person
Not necessarily in everything, but any time a performance issue that can be tied to a heart issue, in-person is a far better communication method. Care doesn’t translate well through text.

5. Clear the air
Don’t let conflict linger or things go unsaid. If there is conflict, don’t let it fester. Sin thrives in darkness—disarm it by bringing it in the light (Eph. 4:31–32).

6. Don’t just talk business
Leaders are often highly productive and focused on the task at hand. This can often lead to an unintentional neglect of the people around them. People follow leaders, not organizations, so let them see the whole you.

7. Bring humor into the workplace
Don’t take yourself too seriously.

8. Don’t complain downstream
The leaders at the top of your ministry need the trust of those at the bottom, and that needs to trickle down through you. Complaining undermines the trust of those above you and potentially the whole organization. If you have conflict with someone, go to them (Matthew 18:15–17).

9. Admit mistakes
If you are in culture in which no one admits mistakes, fear will abound. This needs to start with the leaders so those under them will feel safe enough to take risks without fear of penalty.

10. Allow for people to be heard
If there is no safe way to address issues, people feel trapped and become embittered.

11. Speak well of everyone
Perception is reality. When people hear you speak well of everyone in the organization, (especially the highest leaders) that creates a contagious culture of unity and love.

12. Contain your frustrations
We are all sinners, and ministry is hard. We will all inevitably have struggles with other people and the work. It is good to have a select few mature, trustworthy people to help you process through these struggles in a way that doesn’t hinder the mission of the church.

13. Be mindful of the source of your frustration
Knowing my own pride, 99% of the time I am frustrated it is because someone assaulted my pride or my view of self. In your frustration, don’t react and vent to anyone with an ear to hear. This can do far more damage than you realize.
Warning signs of a lack of relational capital

• No one ever tells you you’re wrong. No one is perfect, and if no one tells you otherwise, they fear the consequences.
• Conflict leads to division rather than unity. Conflict between two mature Christians who care about each other should result in a better relationship rather than a more division.

Why this is so important

In the end, this is a lot more than a management technique. The enemy wants to destroy the church and halt its mission. Pride, entitlement, bitterness, confusion, and ultimately division are his weapons of choice, and the pursuit of relational capital a tool to combat that.

A culture of love in which people are pursued by building relational capital breaks down the power of sin, and this leads to stronger relationships, higher morale, innovation, and a unity that is not easily undone. There is too much at stake to not work for this (Eph. 4:1–3, 15–16).

An Opportune Moment

So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. (Phil. 2:1-4)

There are times when it is easy to be thinking about others and there are times when it is easy to think of yourself first. Being fallen and prone to selfishness, it is always easy to think of yourself.  It is most difficult to think of others when you are under stress, or most so, when you are under distress.  As hard as it is at such times to put others first, such times are rare opportunities to reveal your God and His grace. Putting others first when your own heart is in turmoil or your own life is facing challenges reflects Christ, who when under the stress and distress of the cross and our sin, continued to serve and obey His Father and to love us. He, being our example, would be most pleased if we would be like Him. That means being motivated by a passion to honor God first and to meet the needs of others around us. Never is this more Christike than when we obey our Father under pressure and when our flesh is screaming for some selfish comfort and pity. Never is it more glorifying to Him than when we, like Him, serve others for His sake rather than serve ourselves. Such moments in life are full of opportunity to glorify our Heavenly Father.

 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.  (Phil. 2:5-11)

Vote for Freedom

President Obama’s administration has sought to limit and redefine our important 1st Amendment Right in ways too numerous and complicated to recall on this page. Let me illustrate it with the President’s own words. His constant claim that he believes in the “Freedom to Worship” is more than curious. It is revealing.

Most presidents have called it what our Bill of Rights calls it, the “Freedom of Religion”. “Freedom of Worship” is terminology used by those liberals who believe that the practice of one’s faith can be limited by government. “Freedom of Worship” refers to what you can do on Sunday in your church building. “Freedom of Worship” is the freedom to recite creeds, doctrine, teach, preach, sing, and to mentally and spiritually agree with others of like faith. “Freedom of Religion” refers to how you practice and live out your faith as a citizen throughout the week. “Freedom of Worship” does not allow me to practice my beliefs when they cause conflict for society. “Freedom of Religion” allows me to raise my family according to my faith, do business according to my faith, marry according to my faith, etc. “Freedom of Worship” does not allow me to practice my beliefs when they cause conflict for society. In other words, if you carry your beliefs outside the church and home into society and they cause conflict, then the government has the authority to step in. Their word will be final on what is allowed in the public square and what isn’t. (Example: the struggle over a definition of marriage has deeper and broader than relational legalities. It threatens to tell you how you must think and how your conscience must feel and you may be punished if you disagree.)

The present administration believes that government should decide what beliefs should be practiced in society. This is why President Obama refers to the 1st Amendment in words that do not appear there. He does not believe what the 1st Amendment says nor in how it has been defined and practiced in America’s past. Furthermore, he believes government has the right to enforce its beliefs. That is why there is a huge uproar and fight in response to his effort to force religious institutions to pay for contraceptives, etc. Their attempt to punish those who do not share their belief about when life is conceived reveals what they believe. They believe they have the power to tell their citizens how they should think and how their conscience should feel. The administration is confident that they will win this fight on account of the fact that they are not enforcing this on local churches but on private institutions. They will allow citizens worship in their churches on Sunday but force private institutions filled by those worshipping citizens and run by those churches during the week to conform to the governments beliefs. You can only argue like this if you believe government can limit what beliefs a citizen can practice. Allow them to “worship” but not practice.  Most frightening is the reality that they feel they can force citizens to go against their conscience. (Note the fight over whether private pharmacies can be forced against their conscience to give out the “morning after pill.”) The power to tell people they must go against their conscience and do wrong has been one of the most abused powers in history.

Those who have held both the power of the sword (government’s rightful authority to punish) and the power of religion have committed history’s greatest atrocities. If a government can punish citizens for how they think and believe, that power will corrupt that government. Anybody thinking Gulag? Jailing people for what they thought and said failed in Russia. The attempt to tell people what they could believe, say, and do in the public square was devastating in too many ways to recount. It crushed the Russian culture, economy, and people. It failed in China, Cuba, Albania, etc. It is failing and will fail in radical Islam. These are recent memories and radicalized Islam is an ongoing tragedy to which we are witnesses.

If we have forgotten abuses recent and present, is there any hope of learning from our own history? Can you spell inquisition? Have we Baptists forgotten the wedding of these two powers in Luther’s Germany, Zwingli’s Switzerland, and the Pope’s France and Spain? Of course this ought to frighten us. This is why so many of our forefather’s came to these shores in the 17th Century. Tired of being told how they must think about church and worship and life, they crossed dangerous seas at great risk. Though many died in those first winters, they kept coming. The momentum grew rather than declined. The risk and danger of living under the king was greater than the risk of carving out a new public square in an inhospitable land. The wilderness of New England was more attractive than the security of Britain’s public square. The king’s authority to punish those who differed with him in conscience drove them to what they perceived was a lesser, though great, danger. Even once here, their leaders struggled with these two powers. Roger Williams was himself driven by those who ran from the king to a wild place where he organized the first truly free public square in the colonies. That was of recent enough memory in our founding father’s minds to be ensconced in our Bill of Rights as the first right – primary and necessary to all the others that followed.

Freedom of religion (not “of worship”) is worth retaining for the sake of our families, our neighbors, and the world. The way we retain this freedom is not by waiting. If possible, and it is, we citizens should stop such abusive tendencies of government while they are small and nascent. We should not wait for the President to establish “freedom of worship” through a liberalized judicial system or an untrained congress. We citizens need to stand up for it now . . . and later.  Go vote. Vote your conscience. Do so while you can without fear of fines and reprisals that would force your conformity.

When God Pulls the Rug Out

This post is written by someone else, not me. It blessed my heart and I wanted to pass it on. When confronted by life’s trials we often settle for superficial answers — usually, not just often. Ed Welch thinks God wants us to come to deeper answers. I agree. What do you think?

When God Pulls the Rug Out

By: Ed Welch of the Christian Counseling and Education Fellowship     (Published: Sep 10, 2012)

 

Has this happened to you?

You read all the signs that were so blatantly from the Lord—“yes, this is the path, go this way, I am with you.”

You have been amazed at the way he opened doors—you were scared but you walked through them.

The Lord confirmed his will for you through other people too—they were excited that God was doing this.

Finally, you were on board. You were excited. You were all in. You had peace about your decision.

And then, splat, he pulled the rug out from under you.

How will you be able to trust God again?

This, I think, is a common experience. Very common. It happens with all kinds of decisions: business, vocational, financial and relationships. You pray earnestly, you see God moving, you are amazed, and then…  it looks as if he simply vanished and left you on your own. You especially see it in broken relationships. That is, you seek the Lord about a marriage or relationship decision, it starts almost too well, and then the relationship takes a sudden and tragic turn, and there is no explanation for it.

You want to know why

Some problems are universal, but this one is for those who are spiritually mature. It happens to people who are earnestly seeking God, and only the mature do such things. And though anger toward God might flash occasionally, it isn’t the real issue. The real problem is that you feel you no longer know him. You want to know why God did this, yet he is silent. It doesn’t make sense: he gives with one hand and takes away with the other.

“Why?”

When no response comes, you start filling in the blanks. Maybe you deserved it. Maybe you have done wrong and you need to figure out what it is. That’s what maturity gets you; you see yourself as the culprit. This approach is understandable and—misguided.

Not a scavenger hunt for sin

“Why, O Lord?” is a recurring question in Scripture. In response, God does not send anyone on a scavenger hunt for sin, and does not fill in all the details that the asker might want to know either. Instead, he reaffirms that he does see trouble and grief (Ps. 10:14), and he will strengthen those who are weak (Is. 40:27-31). With these words he is revealing to us what we really need to know.

Check your assumptions

But there is another matter to consider.

All this started with our assumptions about how God works—we had confidence that we could know the will of God. We could discern the “open doors” and had that “peace.” Even more, we were confident that those open doors would lead to blessing, according to our definition of blessing. Perhaps it is time to re-evaluate.

The Apostle Paul held very different assumptions yet he believed that he knew plenty about God’s will. The King reigns, the Spirit has been poured out, the nations are ripe for the picking—that was enough for him. The times he received specific direction, he was confident that it would mean blessing for the larger church and hardships for him. He knew that if God was in it there would be challenges—challenges that reveal weaknesses and test faith.

God is not playing games when he pulls the rug out from under you. He is up to something, but it is probably not what you think it is.

Dealing with the Truth

You can’t learn without chewing on something and you really don’t learn until that something has chewed on you. “Chewing” on something means reflecting and meditating on the matter. But being chewed up by something is a matter of letting that truth work on you. In the end, a truth that has chewed on you requires that you accept that truth into your world without changing that truth or else that you reject that truth. Accepting that truth means letting that truth change you. It means adjusting your view and your life to it. Rejecting it means staying with what you are already confortable with and what you have already shaped your life around.

For a believer in the scriptures, this is truer than anybody else. If I want to change God’s truth because it does not fit into my world or my comfortable perception of how life works, I know that is to compromise God’s truth. I can’t do that. So, I must accept that truth and change my life accordingly. Unless, I find that to uncomfortable. Then I am tempted to find fault with that truth and prove it is not true (a mistaken view, misinterpretation, a heresy perhaps) or I must just ignore it as though I never heard it and chewed on it (never mind that it chewed on me). A believer who chooses to be true to the Word of God will be faced with times when the very truth he has learned demands change. In order to bring that truth into his life, he must now change the structure of how things have been done. He will have to change how he has mentally filed and how he has “managed” that area of his thinking. The familiar will have to accept the unfamiliar and the known will have to make room for some unknown. Discomfort is created. At some point, the believer will have to either agree or choose to disagree with that truth. And they will have to obey it or not.  But many believers no longer approach truth this way anymore.  While we are glad to chew on something, it seems that these days we aren’t really open to letting it chew on us.

That discomfort was better known in past days as conviction but today it is rarely identified as such. At least, not in today’s post-modern world. It’s now defined as a matter of relevance or irrelevance, enlightenment or ignorance, and culturally acceptable or not. Agreeing with God’s truth and accepting it as truth used to be known as confession. Remember admitting to God that He was right and your were wrong. That’s how you became His child. You were told the truth that you were not His child, but rather a sinner estranged from Him. After chewing on that for a while it started to chew on you. It did not feel comfortable.  But you accepted it because it was true. You chewed on the gospel and it chewed on you. You were uncomfortable (convicted). Finally, you accepted His view that Jesus was sufficient and able to make you His child through His work on Calvary. So you agreed with God that you were a sinner and that your only hope was Jesus (confession). You became God’s child! But nowadays, we don’t really confess anymore. We “learn” a new truth but rarely admit our old truth was wrong.  If the acceptance of the new truth means being chewed on and experiencing any measurable discomfort, then it is only necessary to give it intellectual and academic assent but not really admit it is “right enough” and my old view is “wrong enough” for me to adjust to. Biblical confession rarely happens anymore it seems.

And that kind of confession was what use to bring about that other old fashioned idea, repentance. That meant an actual change. In other words, that meant letting the truth you had chewed on chew on you until you had been chewed up and remade. Conviction and confession used to lead to change. It meant that you would follow through with a change that impacted more than just your thinking and your doing. It meant letting that truth impact your being. It changed who and what you were. Again, remember when you first believed? By God’s grace, though you were a sinner, you became a saint. After that? Repentance continues in a believer’s life for they who were once set in their sinful ways continue to repent of those ways. Slackers and slouchers become workers with a new ethic. Liars, deceivers, and manipulators become trusting and trustworthy truth-tellers. Thieves and takers become givers and contributors. From grace to grace we are changed into the image of the Firstborn. Conviction, confession, and repentance continue.

Repentance is the visible marker of genuine conviction and confession wrought by God’s truth and accomplished by His Spirit. At least, it used to be that way. What has happened? We still believe that God’s truth and revelation is still THE TRUTH don’t we? It is still, to us, absolute and final isn’t it?

If it is or not is revealed by how you respond when the Word you have been chewing on chews on you. Do you conform to it? Do you change? Do you confess when convicted and let repentance take its course regardless of the level of discomfort it may cause you? Sure it hurts. The whole planet hurts. It’s under a curse and only the truth of God can set it and any of us free from that curse. And if you change it is because you have believed. No change? No belief.

You can’t learn without chewing on something and you really don’t learn until that something has chewed on you. And a believer in Jesus has not really believed until that truth has changed him at the core of his being.

The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ. (1 Corinthians 2:14-16)

 

The Myths of Cohabitation

In an effort to speak to moral issues that threaten the flock and community in which we live, biblical warnings and rebukes with explanation will be placed here upon occasion.  Sourcing both special and natural revelation, this is an attempt to equip you and others both in life and in the defense of truth.  Replicates of statements worthy of passing on will often appear, and at times, adaptions and abridgments of such.  Though nothing (other than God’s thoughts) can truly be called original, I will upon occasion, after chewing the cud sufficiently, regurgitate what I assume is from my  own soul !  Any lack of attributing credit is indicative of a weak memory more than anything else!

Today’s insight comes from the staff at Kairos Journal, Current Trends, found at www.kairosjournal.org)

“Traditional marriage is on the rocks in the West, and not just because of the influence of the homosexual activist community and the introduction of so-called gay marriage. Heterosexuals are also to blame for marriage’s bad press. Since the 1960s and 70s, heterosexual cohabitation outside of marriage has skyrocketed. In fact, the number of American couples cohabiting has risen 1,500 percent in the last fifty years, with more than 7.5 million couples currently living together. Most American adults in their 20s will live with a romantic partner to whom they are not married at least once, and most marriages will be preceded by cohabitation.1 When queried about why they live together, many couples exclaim, ‘Oh, marriage is just a piece of paper.’ While Christians know that lifelong, heterosexual marriage is much more than that, the justification for living together is often made on the assumption that cohabitation is more emotionally healthy than marriage.

When one examines the data, however, cohabitation is actually harmful to couples and children. Even secular researchers have concluded that couples who live together before marriage tend to be less satisfied with their marriages and more likely to divorce.2 In her statistical analyses of the rise of cohabitation and its effects, sociologist Patricia Morgan has debunked four popular myths about living together: 3

Myth no. 1: Living together sets women free from the shackles of a male-dominated, dependent relationship in marriage.

Fact: Women and their children are at greater risk of being abused in a cohabiting relationship than they are in a marriage.

Myth no. 2: “It’s the quality of the relationship that matters, not the bit of paper.”

Fact: Where people live together without marrying, the quality of the relationship is often significantly worse than it is in marriage.

Myth no. 3: Cohabiting relationships are just as stable as marriage. The ‘bit of paper’ does not mean anything.

Fact: Cohabiting relationships break down more easily than marriages do. Couples who have children without getting married are very unlikely to stay together while their children are growing up.

Myth no. 4: People live together until they have children and then get married.

Fact: Couples who have children and then marry are more likely to divorce than couples who marry first then have children. Cohabiting couples with children are more likely to break up than those without children.4

So, people may offer a variety of reasons for living together, but emotional health and the well-being of children cannot be among the justifications.

Christians should rejoice over God’s good and gracious gift of covenantal marriage. Helping congregations—especially young people preparing for marriage in the future—understand the benefits of monogamous married love and dispelling the myths of cohabitation are great privileges afforded to the faithful shepherd.”

 

1 Meg Jay, “The Downside of Cohabiting before Marriage,” The New York Times, http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/15/opinion/sunday/the-downside-of-cohabiting-before-marriage.html?_r=2 (accessed April 18, 2012).
2 Ibid.
3 Morgan’s study centers on England and Australia, though it does connect with the literature on the U.S. and continental Europe.
4 Adapted from Patricia Morgan, Marriage-Lite: The Rise of Cohabitation and Its Conse- quences (London: Institute for the Study of Civil Society, 2000).

 

Unforgettable Meals

It was a meal they would never forget. It is one we remember often. The Last Supper. There Christ taught His disciples a new feast. The feast, not of the Passover, but the feast of the Lord’s body and blood. Communion. The Lord’s Table. We remember it with majesty and sobriety. It does not fill us with bread but with humility and joy. It should be the most important dinner date on your calendar as a believer. Too many treat the Lord’s command to attend this meal “until He returns” forgetfully. It may not be the gourmet feast we Americans revel in as the world’s upper crust of the 21st century but it is the richest and most costly table fare you can ever partake of. For you and I, unforgettable is what it should be.

Another unforgettable meal was the one after the Last Supper. Do you think the apostles and followers of Jesus had much of an appetite on Friday? Could they even think of food during the betrayal, persecution, and crucifixion of their Lord? It’s easy to imagine they fasted unintentionally. Yet,sooner or later they had to eat. And the first time they sat down to eat without Him who had been the center and core of their lives for the three plus years, had to be a struggle. Did they even know how to arrange the seating? Who was the honored guest now? The head of the table? Whose words would they bend forward to catch? They undoubtedly thought of the last meal they had with Him – the Passover. From the gospel narratives, we know they were filled with fear. Questions big as trains rumbled through their minds and their unnerved souls were trying to find a truth they could lean on, hold to, or cling to. Sitting down to eat without Him was an unforgettable experience I’m sure. Like the meals we have with our families following the funerals of loved ones. Poignant, lonely, emotional, powerful, needful. It is not remembered for who was there so much as for who was not.

And what of the first meal after His resurrection? Unforgettable, He appears through the wall and into their presence. He demands food  and reveals fresh wounds proving His flesh and blood humanity is genuine. He calms their fears. Thomas returns to the fold. Questions are answered even as new questions begin to surface. Who could ever forget that meal?

As we eat tomorrow with family and friends, it should be memorable. Not because of the ham and its trimmings.  (What a meal to celebrate the greatest Jew who ever lived. Where did that tradition come from? Maybe it has to do with being set free from the Law by the Christ or something.) No, it’s not the food. It’s the occasion. And the occasion is not just getting the weekend off nor getting the family together. No, the occasion is the resurrection of the anointed Servant of Jehovah from the dead. He lives and we rejoice. We do it tomorrow with ham, family, and friends but we often do it with broken bread and a single cup also.  We remember not only that He died but that He lives and is coming again.  And then we will do it with Him in the Kingdom. And all these meals are merely prelude to that unforgettable feast in glory. A meal that will be eternally recalled by the perpetual union of bride and Groom. He loved us. He became one of us. He became sin for us. He rose for us. He is bread for us. Our souls will feast forever on this unforgettable meal.

P.S. Yes, she is my daughter but if I did not think it would do you good, I would not recommend her blog.  Her recollection of another unforgettable meal in the life of Christ got me thinking about these. Find it at . . .

http://annalisaphillipswilson.wordpress.com/2012/04/05/this-girl-got-it/

Friday’s Forgiveness

This morning I came across one of America’s favorite psychobabbles. There it was, right in the middle of an online “bio.” Speaking of recent changes for the good in their personal life, the person testified, “First, I had to learn to forgive myself.” This was the pivot point for them in their journey. The moment that “changed” them. It stands to reason, when most people say this, they simply mean that they have finally dealt with an issue of personal guilt. However, this post-modern mantra implies that being forgiven by myself matters more than being forgiven by God. On this Good Friday, as our Savior hung on the cross almost 2000 years ago, I find it ironic and tragic that our perception of forgiveness and reconciliation has become so self-centered. Ironic because this is not the gospel we believe – He died so we could be forgiven by God, not ourselves. And tragic because many, even believers, live in self-sufficiency and, therefore, without the true freedom of God’s forgiveness. Are we so unaware that we have offended God? As believers, are we so spiritually inside out that we fail to realize God’s opinion of our guilt matters more than ours? What a sharp contrast to my scripture reading this Good Friday morning and to what Christ said from the cross, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

Notice, Christ did not pray, “Father, help these men to forgive themselves.” It is clear from His statement that these men did not yet understand the wrong they had done. He did pray, “ . . . they know not what they do.” He knew they lacked any objective realization of what they had done and to Whom they had done it. Though somewhere down the road in life, they may come to grips with the reality of the immense crime committed in destroying the life of an innocent man, His prayer was not focused on their mental health. It was focused on their relationship with God. Knowing His Father was offended, He prayed that God would forgive them. Jesus, full of grace, prayed that the Father would not deal with them according to their crime and wrong. Jesus, full of truth, made his plea of the one who had been sinned against, the Father, and asked Him to forgive. They needed God to forgive them. They did not need to forgive themselves. These hardened and calloused soldiers of Rome were not moping around the foot of the cross  feeling bad about what they had done. Jesus was not afraid for their happiness – or lack of it. He was fearful of God’s judgment falling on them before they found the very grace He was busy providing sinners like them.

In our self-centeredness, we act as though self is the judge who must be feared. As though our “law” must be satisfied before our guilt can be resolved. When some rationalization for our actions is finally conjured up from the recesses of our imagination, we feel guilt-free. Now we “understand” and can “forgive” ourselves. The truth is, our guilt cannot be resolved until we know that God has forgiven us. Accepting His judgment (not ours) as the final pronouncement is what sets our souls free from guilt and despair. The truth is, you cannot sentence yourself to Hell nor can you save yourself from Hell. God is the Creator of your soul and the chief One against whom you have sinned.

Why repeat this mantra because we fail to discern the worth of Christ. Our trouble with guilt and shame is not a failure to forgive ourselves so much as it is a failure to grasp the immense worth of the work of Christ on the cross. Why do we assume that our guilt cannot be resolved until we say so? Isn’t His work enough? Must we now do some other “work?” The Almighty has already crushed his infinite, eternal, Holy Son who lived the only life worthy of being lived on this planet in all of its history and we look for forgiveness in our own small, finite, sin-soaked souls? Why do we cheapen the worth of His perfect obedience from manger to cross and perfect suffering submission on the cross by saying we cannot “feel” forgiven until we say so? This is all a matter of faith. “How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?” (Heb. 9:14)

Your conscience, and mine, cannot be assuaged by trivial psycho-mechanisms, a too busy life of service to others, a contrived self-righteousness, the ideas of therapy, a mind-numbing drug, another Bud-lite, or a new thrill. Only God can put our consciences at peace. When we refuse to believe His word – His Gospel – and accept phony alternatives, we suffer the consequences. We find ourselves rushing, like the rest of the world, to find some spigot to stop the drip, drip, drip of private shame. Burying the angst for wrongdoing beneath anything other than the blood of Jesus only provides soil in which it nurtures its toxic roots to one day rise again and poison the soul. Our only hope is the pure forgiveness and cleansing of the blood of Jesus on Calvary. The old puritan preacher John Flavel had it right years ago. (He did not speak in psychobabble.)

“Is Christ dead? And did he die the violent, painful, shameful, cursed, slow, and lonely death of the cross? Then surely there is forgiveness with God, plenteous redemption for the greatest of sinners, who by faith apply the blood of the cross to their poor guilty souls.

There is sufficient power in the blood of the cross to wash away the greatest sins. Before the efficacy of this blood, guilt vanishes and shrinks away as the shadow before the glorious sun. Every drop of it has a voice, and speaks to the soul that sits trembling under its guilt better things than the blood of Abel (Hebrews 10:24). For having enough in it to satisfy God, it must needs have enough in it to satisfy conscience.

Can God exact satisfaction from the blood and death of his own Son, the surety of believers, and yet still demand it from believers? It cannot be.”(The Fountain of Life; www.firstimportance.org)

Would God ask for some other effort on your part before you could be forgiven? “It cannot be.” You have been forgiven. Believe it! Why should we profane and cheapen the inestimable and costly treasure of such a rich offering as given by the bloodied second member of the Trinity? It seems profane to proclaim “I could not find forgiveness and freedom from guilt until I forgave myself?” Did I die for the sin or did I commit the sin? I did the sin, but praise God, He did the dying! May God bring back the day in our churches where we hear that lives were transformed when “Jesus forgave me!” rather than when “I forgave myself.” After all, we sing it. Our favorite lyrics speak of His forgiveness and His grace — not ours! If we would live what we sing, we could change the world. Repeating post-modern, emptied of truth mantras, does not shine light. My life changed when I accepted the forgiveness offered me by God through Jesus. How about you? Tell someone today. After all, it’s Good Friday!

“For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” (2 Cor. 5:21)