The Importance of the Lord’s Supper

solascriptura.jpgThis Sunday we will have the joy, opportunity, and responsibility to come to the Lord’s table to celebrate the Lord’s Supper, or Communion. It is a time to be taken seriously and thoughtfully. We are to reflect on what Christ has done in our place, for us, and where we are spiritually in our walk with Him. The Apostle Paul gave these instructions to the church at Corinth as to the importance of the meal:

26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes. 27 Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner, shall be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord. 28 But a man must examine himself, and in so doing he is to eat of the bread and drink of the cup. 29 For he who eats and drinks, eats and drinks judgment to himself if he does not judge the body rightly. 30 For this reason many among you are weak and sick, and a number sleep. 31 But if we judged ourselves rightly, we would not be judged. 32 But when we are judged, we are disciplined by the Lord so that we will not be condemned along with the world. 33 So then, my brethren, when you come together to eat, wait for one another. 34 If anyone is hungry, let him eat at home, so that you will not come together for judgment.

In one of the Puritan prayers in Valley of Vision, offers this for us to pray as we come to the Lord’s Supper:

By Your Spirit enliven my faith to rightly discern
and spiritually to apprehend the Savior.

While I gaze upon the emblems of my Savior’s death,
may I ponder why He died, and hear Him say,
“I gave My life to purchase yours ,
presented Myself an offering to propitiate your sin,
shed My blood to blot out your guilt,
endured your curses to set you free,
bore your condemnation to satisfy divine justice.”

May we reflect upon both of these as we come . . . and may we be prepared for sweet worship and communion this Sunday morning.

By His Grace, And For His Glory, Pastor Bill

 

Puritan Prayer — Faith and The World

We have been in the 11th chapter of Hebrews for the past seven weeks, looking at what faith is and what it looks like.  This prayer from The Valley of Vision, collection of Puritan prayers, is a good guide to how we need to be thinking about faith.

O LORD,

The world is artful to entrap,

approaches in fascinating guise, extends many a gilded bait,
presents many a charming face.

Let my faith scan every painted bauble,
and escape every bewitching snare
in a victory that overcomes all things.

In my duties give me firmness, energy, zeal,
devotion to Your cause,
courage in Your name,
love as a working grace,
and all commensurate with my trust.

Let faith stride forth in giant power,
and love respond with energy in every act.

I often mourn the absence of my beloved Lord
whose smile makes earth a paradise,
whose voice is sweetest music,
whose presence gives all graces strength.

But by unbelief I often keep Him outside my door.

Let faith give entrance that He may abide with me forever.

Your Word is full of promises,
flowers of sweet fragrance,
fruit of refreshing flavor when culled by faith.

May I be made rich in its riches,
be strong in its power,
be happy in its joy,
abide in its sweetness,
feast on its preciousness,
draw vigor from its manna.

Lord, increase my faith!

She’s Having a Fetus

Last year on August 3, 2010,  Joe Carter wrote the following at the First Things Journal blog.  It is an imaginary conversation over heard at the local shopping mall but it certainly shows the idiocy, inconsistency and hypocrisy of the pro-death, pro-abortion advocates.  The irony says it all:

She’s Having a Fetus

Tuesday, August 3, 2010, 12:47 AM

Joe Carter

Overheard at a local shopping mall:

Jan: “Marsha! How are you girl? I haven’t seen you in ages.”

Marsha: “Hey Jan, you’re looking great. How’ve you been?”

Jan: “Just peachy. Hey, guess what? I’m going to have a fetus!

Marsha (excited): “That’s wonderful! Oh, I’m so happy for you. Isn’t it a blessing having parasites growing in us?”

Jan: “Yes, but I have to confess—I’m jealous. I wanted to have twins too.”

Marsha: “Oh, I only have one now. Greg didn’t get his promotion so we decided to selectively reduce one of them.”

Jan: “Aww . . . well, that’s a valid choice. I was hoping to have two fetuses because this one is going to be used to harvest donor tissue for Alice. It took us forever to find an IVF facility that would help us with a designer fetus

Marsha: “I’m glad everything worked out. So when is it due?”

Jan: “My doctor says I’ll be delivering sometime in October.”

Marsha: “No, I mean when’s it due to become a human.”

Jan: “Oh, well, Bobby and I draw the line sometime within the first few weeks after birth.”

Marsha: “Hmm, Greg and I think it occurs in the third trimester but I can respect that. It’s a valid choice.”

Jan: “Hey, what happened to Cindy? I heard she was having complications with her pregnancy. Did she ever deliver her fetus?”

Marsha: “She did. Back in September. But the baby was born retarded so, you know, she did the right thing and took a trip to Holland.”

Jan: “That is so like Cindy. She has always been so compassionate.”

Marsha: “Oh, I know. She was really thinking about the child. I mean, what kind of quality of life would it have?”

Jan: “Exactly. It’s just a shame that she has to go all the way to Europe.”

Marsha: “Tell me about it.  At least Cindy has the money to travel. Just think about the poor women that have to resort to back-alley euthanasia.”

Jan: “Oh, I completely lost track of the time. I gotta get going.”

Marsha: “Where’re you headed off too?”

Jan: “My local chapter of PETA is holding a protest to stop the clubbing of baby seals.

Marsha (shocked): “Oh my goodness, I didn’t even know that horrible practice was still going on, that’s just. . . wait, we’re in California, where is the protest located?”

Jan: “Online. In World of Warcraft some of the characters bash baby seals with clubs. Activists from across the Eastern Kingdoms and Kalimdor are banding together to put a stop to the atrocious seal slaughter.”

Marsha: “Oh. Okay. I see.”

Jan: “All life is sacred, Marsha. Even virtual life. If we don’t stop it there who knows where the culture of death will lead.”

Marsha: “So true. Well, kisses. Give Bobby my love.”

Jan: “Bye dear, and don’t forget. September 14th. Margaret Sanger Day. Margaritas at my house—virgin margaritas, of course.” (pats belly)


Prayer of Thanksgiving & Praise

Thanksgiving is only a few weeks away.  It is for some people no more than an extra-long weekend.  A time to over-eat and watch football games. For far too many, even for too many Christians, there is very little focus on how God has blessed through His provision and providence.

I want to give you something to think about and meditate on for the next few weeks as we move toward this important holiday.  It is a Puritan prayer from The Valley of Vision.  Pray though it over the next several weeks. See if God does not make you more aware of all that He has provided:

Oh, my God,
You are the fairest, greatest, first of all things,
my heart admires, adores, loves You,
for my little vessel (life) is as full as it can be,
and I would pour out all that fullness before You
in ceaseless flow.

When I think upon and converse with You
ten thousand delightful thoughts spring up,
ten thousand sources of pleasure are unsealed,
the thousand refreshing joys spread over my heart,
crowding into every moment of happiness

I bless You for the soul You have created,
for adorning it, sanctifying it,
though it is fixed in barren soil;
for the body You have given me,
for preserving its strength and vigor,
for providing senses to enjoy delights,
for the ease and freedom of my limbs,
for hands, eyes, ears that do Your bidding,
for Your royal bounty providing my daily support,
for a full table and overflowing cup,
for appetite, taste, sweetness,
for social joys of relatives and friends,
for ability to serve others,
for a heart that feels sorrows and necessities,
for a mind to care for my fellow-men (and women),
for opportunities of spreading happiness around,
for loved ones in the joys of heaven,
for my own expectation of seeing You clearly.

I love You above the powers of language to express,
for what You are to Your creatures.

Increase my love, O my God, through time and eternity.

Are there things in this prayer that you tend to simply take for granted?  I know there are in my case.  I pray that God will give us a greater sensitivity of all that He has provided for us; and that we will never take Him for granted!!

Important Discussion of the Second Coming of Christ

An “internet” friend of mine, Dalton Lifsey, who serves as Associate Director of the Tauranga House of Prayer Missions Base in Tauranga, New Zealand has written a three part blog series on “Three Reasons to Abandon the Expectation of a Secret Rapture.” This is very well done and I encourage serious consideration of what Dalton says.

Reason #1: It’s Not Taught in the Bible

There are only four verses in the New Testament that speak explicitly about the rapture. Four. And all four are very straightforward. They’re extremely easy to understand. Here’s a brief look at the passages with this idea in view: All four teach that it occurs AFTER specific events on God’s end-time calendar. It’s important we understand the order of these events.

2 Thessalonians 2:1-3

Now concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him, we ask you, brothers, not to be quickly shaken in mind or alarmed, either by a spirit or a spoken word, or a letter seeming to be from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come. Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will not come, unless the falling away comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed…

There are two take-away points here: First, Paul declares the second coming and the rapture to be one synonymous event; that is, when Jesus “comes,” we are “gathered.” Second, he says that the rapture occurs AFTER a time of great apostasy and AFTER the Antichrist is revealed. In fact, he says that the Day of the Lord (which he defines as the second coming and the rapture) CANNOT come until specific events take place first. There is no secret rapture in view here.

Matthew 24:29-31

Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.

The take away point here is that the rapture (or the “gathering together of the elect”) occurs “AFTER” the tribulation explained in verses 15-28. There is no secret rapture in view here.

1 Corinthians 15:51-52

Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed.

The take away point here is that the rapture (being “changed in a twinkling of an eye”) takes place AFTER the “last trumpet.”

1 Thessalonians 4:16-17

For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left,will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.

The take away point here is that the rapture occurs AFTER the sound of a “trumpet.”

Conclusion

If we put these passages together we learn that we are raptured: when the Lord “comes” (2 Thess. 2) “after the tribulation” (Mt. 24), after the great falling away and the revealing of the Antichrist (2 Thess 2), after the last trumpet (1 Cor. 15) and after the sound of a trumpet (1 Thess. 4); which is the same trumpet.

[For an explanation of what the “last trumpet” is, read Revelation 10:7 and 11:15-19]

These are the only verses in the Bible from which we can draw a conclusive teaching on the rapture. And all four emphatically  declare that it occursAFTER the Great Tribulation at the second coming of Jesus.

Reason #2: It’s Not Taught in Church History

There are three ways we ought to view any doctrine, and in this order:

1. Biblically – Is it taught in the Bible?

2. Historically – What does church history have to say about it?

3. Subjectively – How does it make you feel?

The error many make is by inverting this order and starting with “Does it feel good?” This should be our final method of vetting. There are many Biblical concepts that don’t “feel” good.

In our last post we dealt with the only four passages in the Bible that speak explicitly about the rapture. In this post we’re briefly going to deal with the issue of the historicity of the doctrine of a secret rapture; that is “Can we find anyone in church history teaching it?”

Second to being Biblically bankrupt, the Pre-Tribulation Rapture theory has been assailed by critics for being absent from the preaching of the church through history before the 1800’s. Over the years a handful of writers who hold to the Pre-Tribulation Rapture theory have attempted to address this claim to debunk it (a small few). The indictment against the theory is that no one taught it until John Darby presented in between 1827 and 1830. In 1857 Darby claims that he came to his end-time doctrine “30 years ago.” But contemporaries of Darby (such as Tregelles) claim that he began declaring it in 1830 when he adopted it from supernatural experiences of a young woman from Glascow named Margaret MacDonald.

The debate still rages as to whether or not Darby came up with the idea of a secret rapture of if he adopted after hearing it presented by another. At the end of the day, it’s inconsequential WHERE he got it from, because one thing is sure: before 1827 (or 1830 if you take the view that he adopted it from MacDonald) the idea of a secret rapture occurring before the “Great Tribulation” cannot be found on the pages of church history.

The most recent contribution to the controversy over the historicity of the Pre-Trib doctrine is the book entitled “The Truth Behind Left Behind” written by Mark Hitchcock and Thomas Ice who are staunchly in favor of the eschatology taught in the “Left Behind” series. The final chapter of the book is given to tackling the claim that “all attempts to find a Pre-Tribulation Rapture any earlier than around 1830 do not hold up to historical scrutiny” (a verbatim accusation rightly leveled by Gary DeMar and quoted in the book). Hitchcock and Ice give 15 pages to survey church history to ward off the critics and round out their apologetic on this issue.

In those 15 pages we find only MORE glaring problems with the Pre-Trib view. First, the chapter begins with a quote from Ryrie saying that just because a doctrine hasn’t been taught throughout church history doesn’t mean that it’s not true. The quote revealed the trajectory of their broader argument (i.e. They have nothing substantial to show from church history that points to a historical belief in a Pre-Tribulation rapture). The fact of the matter is, church history is in agreement: there is no secret rapture. The only examples that the authors could conjure up are about a dozen quotations of modern writers explaining why THEY BELIEVE certain church fathers taught a secret rapture and a single quotation from a church father about a secret rapture. The problem with these two pieces of evidence is that (1) modern subjective opinions without historical documentation don’t carry any weight and (2) the meaning of the only quotation they could muster is widely debated.

In other words, the weight of the argument rests upon a dozen biased opinions and one nebulous historical quotation. It would’ve better served the purpose of the book if they avoided the issue altogether. Instead they just exposed the weakness of their view historically.

To their credit, they rightly pointed out that church fathers through history have expected an imminent return of Jesus (i.e. Jesus can come any minute). To their shame though, they allude to the idea that Jesus coming “imminently” is equivalent with Jesus coming “secretly.” And our fathers would take great offense at that idea as the two are far from congruent as far as historical theology is concerned.

Jesus cannot and will not come “at any minute;” nor will He come secretly to relocate believers to heaven for the greatest hour of human history. Paul made it very clear:

Now concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him…Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will not come, unless the falling away comes FIRST, and the man of lawlessness is revealed… (2 Thessalonians 2:1-3)

Reason #3: It’s Not Taught Outside the Western World

Apart from not being taught in the Bible and not being taught throughout the majority of church history, the fact that the Pre-Tribulation Rapture theory is not taught outside of the western world (by and large) is one of the more convincing reasons why it should be examined with skeptical eyes.

Between 1830 and 1833 the Irish John Darby began going public with his newly discovered doctrine. Prior to this, no one anywhere on the globe had heard a teaching on a secret rapture. After fierce opposition from many within the UK (from great men such as George Mueller and Tregelles) Darby’s ministry shifted to the US where his teaching would gain the most renown. His influence on American born C.I. Scofield resulted in the Scofield Study Bible (published in 1909) being one of the primary ways the doctrine was promoted in the last century. Darby and Scofield gained prominence and notoriety in those decades – almost entirely in the western world. But outside of the west, the church was living under the assumption that the second coming and the rapture were synonymous in the mind of the apostles; as it remains today.

Between 1909 and now, the Pre-Tribulation theory has become a pillar in American Christianity. And with the publishing of the now famous “Left Behind” novels, that pillar was strengthened. Interestingly though, the doctrine remained (by and large) an American doctrine. Even in the UK – where it was first formulated – it was seen (again, by and large) as a deviation from Biblical orthodoxy. Try as they may, proponents of this new theory can’t avoid the fact that outside of America, there is a staunch opposition to their views.

What follows, are two stories (one from history, and one that’s personal) that show how this teaching is loathed outside of America.

CORRIE TEN BOOM

In 1974 Corrie Ten Boom (the famous woman whose family hid Jews during the Holocaust and who spent time herself in a Nazi concentration camp as a consequence) wrote these words in a letter:

“There are some among us teaching there will be no tribulation, that the Christians will be able to escape all this. These are the false teachers that Jesus was warning us to expect in the latter days. Most of them have little knowledge of what is already going on across the world. I have been in countries where the saints are already suffering terrible persecution.

In China, the Christians were told [by American Bible teachers], “Don’t worry, before the tribulation comes you will be translated – raptured.” Then came a terrible persecution. Millions of Christians were tortured to death. Later I heard a Bishop from China say, sadly,

“We have failed.
We should have made the people strong for persecution,
rather than telling them Jesus would come first.
Tell the people how to be strong in times of persecution,
how to stand when the tribulation comes,
– to stand and not faint.”

I feel I have a divine mandate to go and tell the people of this world that it is possible to be strong in the Lord Jesus Christ. We are in training for the tribulation, but more than sixty percent of the Body of Christ across the world has already entered into the tribulation. There is no way to escape it.

We are next.

Since I have already gone through prison for Jesus’ sake, and since I met the Bishop in China, now every time I read a good Bible text I think, “Hey, I can use that in the time of tribulation.” Then I write it down and learn it by heart.”

This letter is an indictment against American Bible teachers who brought the doctrine of a secret rapture into China. Her words point to the painful reality that where ever this doctrine is taught, it undermines the saints ability so suffer well according to the teaching of the apostles.

MY ENCOUNTER WITH THE PERSECUTED CHURCH OF SOUTH-EAST ASIA

In 2005 I was in Indonesia engaging in evangelistic ministry. One Sunday I spoke at a local church service. Before it was time for me to preach the pastor approached me and said words that deeply impacted me:

“Sir, I don’t want to offend you by what I’m about to say. But it must be said. You are an American. And we welcome you in our community. However, when preaching, please do not mention the Pre-Tribulation Rapture. Your Bible teachers in America teach this. But this community is experiencing much affliction and suffering. And that doctrine will do great damage to these people.”

I won’t add to these words except to say this: All who hold the belief that we will be secretly raptured any moment must understand and recognize that this conviction is largely an American conviction. Moreover, I have met people outside of the western world who hold the doctrine – but it’s only because they have been influenced by the ministries of American ministries who teach it through their books and TV shows.

A secret, imminent rapture isn’t found in the Bible, in church history or outside the western world. These are strong reasons to abandon it and to fill our minds and hearts with what the Bible says about the generation of the Lord’s return.

Confession — Good for the Soul

In our day of “happy church” and trying to always look on the “bright side” we many times miss what is vitally important in the Christian life.  We are so busy trying to look like we have it all together that we forget that most of the time (at least this is my case) we don’t.

One of the elements that is missing in many of our lives is a vital bowing before the Lord in confession of sin.  John, in his first epistle, indicates that one of the marks of a true believer in Jesus Christ is that he/she is a person who takes confession seriously.  In the day of tolerance driven media, many times we find ourselves being too tolerant of our sin.  Yes, if we are in Christ it is already forgiven and dealt with through His sacrifice, but scripture indicates that it is imperative that we see sin as it truly is in our own lives — an enemy that must be killed (the Puritans, and Bible, like to call it mortification, which is a great word) in a practical way and on a daily basis.

Confession is not going to a priest, or pastor, in order to gain forgiveness.  It is going to the Great High Priest we have been studying about in Hebrews, and agreeing with Him about what He says about our sin.  It is liberating and joy creating when we go to Him in confession on a regular basis.

Last Sunday during the Pastoral Prayer we used a responsive reading of confession. I cannot tell you the number of people who indicated that that time was especially spiritually refreshing to them.  I agree!  It was to me too.

I want to encourage you to use it in your private devotions with our Lord each day. It will grow and grow in meaning, I assure you:*

Most merciful Father, we have sinned against you. We realize that we are guilty before you. Forgive us the sins of our tongues—
For deception and untruthfulness in our dealings with
others; for resentment, coldness, impatience, and tempers out of control.

Forgive us for the sins of our eyes—
For impurity in our glances and imagination; for pining
after more beauty, comfort, status, and wealth than you have given us.

Forgive us the sins of our hearts—
For hard-heartedness toward you and our neighbors; for pride, self-absorption, self-pity; and above all, for rebelling against your Lordship and doubting your love.

If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1: 8-9)

* Thanks to my friends at Clifton Baptist Church

The Gospel — thank you John Calvin

I realize that some people have an “allergy” to John Calvin.  Usually it is based on half-truths or outright falsehoods about him and his teaching. But some of his statements about the Gospel are simply “priceless” and to avoid them would be a tragedy, if not a sin.  A good example of this is something that Calvin wrote as a preface to a 1534 French translation of the New Testament.  This is worthy of meditation along side your Bible.  I hope you will do just that!!  Calvin said:

Without the gospel
everything is useless and vain;

without the gospel
we are not Christians;

without the gospel
all riches is poverty,
all wisdom folly before God;
strength is weakness,
and all the justice of man is under the condemnation of God.

But by the knowledge of the gospel we are made
children of God,
brothers of Jesus Christ,
fellow townsmen with the saints,
citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven,
heirs of God with Jesus Christ, by whom
the poor are made rich,
the weak strong,
the fools wise,
the sinner justified,
the desolate comforted,
the doubting sure,
and slaves free.

It is the power of God for the salvation of all those who believe.

It follows that every good thing we could think or desire is to be found in this same Jesus Christ alone.

For, he was
sold, to buy us back;
captive, to deliver us;
condemned, to absolve us;

he was
made a curse for our blessing,
[a] sin offering for our righteousness;
marred that we may be made fair;

he died for our life; so that by him
fury is made gentle,
wrath appeased,
darkness turned into light,
fear reassured,
despisal despised,
debt canceled,
labor lightened,
sadness made merry,
misfortune made fortunate,
difficulty easy,
disorder ordered,
division united,
ignominy ennobled,
rebellion subjected,
intimidation intimidated,
ambush uncovered,
assaults assailed,
force forced back,
combat combated,
war warred against,
vengeance avenged,
torment tormented,
damnation damned,
the abyss sunk into the abyss,
hell transfixed,
death dead,
mortality made immortal.

In short,
mercy has swallowed up all misery,
and goodness all misfortune.

For all these things which were to be the weapons of the devil in his battle against us, and the sting of death to pierce us, are turned for us into exercises which we can turn to our profit.

If we are able to boast with the apostle, saying, O hell, where is thy victory? O death, where is thy sting? it is because by the Spirit of Christ promised to the elect, we live no longer, but Christ lives in us; and we are by the same Spirit seated among those who are in heaven, so that for us the world is no more, even while our conversation is in it; but we are content in all things, whether country, place, condition, clothing, meat, and all such things.

And we are
comforted in tribulation,
joyful in sorrow,
glorying under vituperation,
abounding in poverty,
warmed in our nakedness,
patient amongst evils,
living in death.

This is what we should in short seek in the whole of Scripture: truly to know Jesus Christ, and the infinite riches that are comprised in him and are offered to us by him from God the Father.

Do your soul a favor and read this over and over and over. It just doesn’t get more nutritious than this!

(HT: TULLIAN TCHIVIDJIAN)

(NOTE: I am sorry that the line breaks did not do the indention as I put it in here.  But the content is still the same.)