Chick-fil-A And the Lord’s Day: Rare Light in the Darkness

SabbathRest

“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates. Exodus 20

Remembering in a Forgetful World

Chick-fil-A keeps its doors closed on Sundays so that its employees have a day of rest and are able, if they wish, to go to church. Years ago, a lonely voice in Christianity Today, noted the complaint of a friend of hers who had to work on Sunday: ‘I have to work to serve all these Christians who are busy buying after church.’

The ubiquitous Sabbath-breaking of our own day is nothing new. During the revival that swept England, John Wesley noted a rare exception: “I suppose three such towns are scarce to be found again…There is no cursing, no Sabbath-breaking…”

He exhorted Christians, “Spend this day as thou hopest to spend that day which shall never end.”

On the Ten Commandments, Martin Luther told parents, “Exhort your household to learn them word for word, that they should obey God…For if you teach and urge your families things will go forward.”

The president of a denomination began his sermon at our local church with an offer of a ten dollar bill to any child who could cite the Ten Commandments in any order or form. As he put it back in his billfold he lamented that he had never been able to give it away in any church where he had preached.

Most Christians not only cannot cite the Ten Commandments in any order or form, we seem to be left with only eight or less these days.  [Original essay on Teaching Children Ten Commandments–‘Your Child’s Endangered Heart’]

In A Word to a Sabbath-Breaker, Wesley wrote, “Never more disappoint the design of his love, either by worldly business or idle diversions….You have lived many years in folly and sin; now, live one day unto the Lord.”

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[Please learn to share these posts. They do little good hidden in the corner.]

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Remarkable Maundy Thursday!

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A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another. –John 13:34, 35.

“Maundy” refers to the Latin text of verse 34, mandatum, from which we get the word mandate—an authoritative command.

In the Liturgy, it refers to the foot washing ceremony, the example which Jesus set for us before the new command.

The Gospel of John, which does not mention the institution of the Lord’s Supper, repeats this new mandatum three times! Peter refers to it three times in his First Epistle; John references it five times, it being one of the tests he gives to discern true Christians. Paul refers directly to ‘love one another’ in four of his letters.

An amazing feature of our American culture stares us in the face—many Christians do not even know that in the New Testament, (link)“one another” refers exclusively to our fellow believers.

In John, Holy Week begins with the anointing of Jesus’ feet by Mary along with her wiping them with her hair. And Jesus’ last physical act, before the events of the arrest and trial, consists of his washing his disciples’ feet.

Then follows the new commandment.

“The new thing appears to be the mutual affection that Christians have for one another on account of Christ’s great love for them.”–Leon Morris, NICNT

“The standard of love which the disciples are to have for one another is that which their Lord has lavished on them.”–F. F. Bruce, John

In the early church, Tertullian remarked that pagans noted, “See how they love one another.”

Tennyson penned these lines:

Love your enemies, bless your haters, said the

greatest of the great;

Christian love among the churches, look’d the

twin of heathen hate.

Peter wrote:

Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart,…

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[Anniversary–This blog began during Holy Week, seven years ago]

Where are the disciples?

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Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you…”–Matt. 28

We must first be a disciple before we can make a disciple. 

Disciple: a learner; a follower and student of a teacher; …actively imitating both the life and teaching of the master.

Back to the Word.  Read and Learn

Obedience is the key to all doors… –C.S. Lewis

The Resurrection: Hope and Consequences

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Here in Romania, on the second day of celebrating the Resurrection, our pastor’s text from Luke 24 concerned two perplexed disciples on the Road to Emmaus. Their state of mind is best summed up in their words, “We had hoped…”

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In their encounter with the resurrected Jesus, that dashed hope blooms as he breaks bread with them and they recognize him. Rushing back to Jerusalem, they find the other disciples also rejoicing. The worst moment in their lives, the Crucifixion, has now been transformed into the most hope filled day of their lives. “The Lord has risen indeed.”

Hope abounds and persists. Years later Peter wrote, 3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,…” (1 Peter 1).

Our hope is rooted in, and confirmed by, the Resurrection. But the Resurrection also has consequences. As Paul told those who worshiped other gods,

Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, 31 because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead.” Acts 17

And the responsibility for conveying that message is given to us. “Ye will be my witnesses.”

It’s a PARABLE ! Part Two

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The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant

22 Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven. 23 Therefore the kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. 24 And when he had begun to settle accounts, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents25 But as he was not able to pay, his master commanded that he be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and that payment be made. 26 The servant therefore fell down before him, saying, ‘Master, have patience with me, and I will pay you all.’ 27 Then the master of that servant was moved with compassion, released him, and forgave him the debt. . . . –Matthew 18

Part One (link) sought to show how our American minds can be derailed by details: “How do we account for this huge debt?” But the “shock and awe” of 10,000 Talents in Jesus’ day serves to grab the attention of Jesus’ listeners.

If we stay on track with this parable, we come to the clear lesson at the end: “We are in no position to repay our debt to God or to ever be able to work off that debt. We can only beg for mercy. And in the face of our outlandish debt which has been forgiven, it is equally outlandish that we servants should spurn God’s mercy by demanding the full payment of a pittance owed to us by any fellow servants as we close our ears to their pleas for forgiveness.”*

In our day when self-centered therapeutic forgiveness bumps Christ-centered Biblical forgiveness off of the tracks, we need to clearly look at the context.

Leading up to this parable, Jesus teaches about sin and forgiveness. Verse 15, If your brother sins against you,go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother…”

This prompts Peter’s question in verse 21,Then Peter came to Him and said, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?”

Which leads into this parable of the unforgiving servant.

A parallel teaching in Luke 17 brings clarity to what we, in our day, often miss about Jesus’ instruction:

Verse 3f, So watch what you do!If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him. If he sins against you seven times in one day, and each time he comes to you saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.”

It is this plea for mercy, the repentance, that is often left out of this picture by confused Christians in our depraved world. As Jesus clearly teaches, repentance precedes forgiveness, both ours before God, and our brother’s before us.

And whether seven times or seventy times, the forgiveness is unlimited, BUT not unconditional. Jesus: “…if he repents.” (If he does not, we are commanded to take additional steps to regain our brother.)

Also, take note that Jesus is teaching about relationships between ‘brothers,’ between fellow Christians. When it comes to enemies, Jesus never says anything about forgiveness. He says to love them. And that love may lead to their repentance.

This topic of forgiveness has become more confused among many Christians than today’s confusion about love. 

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We need Christian disciples (i.e. learners) who will go back to the Bible and be taught the basics, and then disciple others. For a fuller discussion of this topic which focuses on the Text and draws on the best of key evangelical resources, see {*Quote from}Chapter Three of: lovecover

(link to reviews,  details, kindle, nook, etc., ebook $3) “…an excellent piece…one that many Christians need to hear”–R.C. Sproul 

 

Here is a Sermon on the text by R. C. Sproul. He sets the example for preaching in context. (It was a letter from R. C. Sproul that encouraged me to expand on the theme of love becoming heresy which prompted the writing of this book.)

Mustard: The Smallest of Seeds?

An old, American, distorted view of Holy Scripture can cause confusion for some. This is another failure to understand context. This troubles some modern, technical minds. We all find it hard to make the paradigm shift to appreciate the Semitic mind.

The problem: “a mustard seed which…is smaller than all seeds on earth…”

This tiny seed is less than half the size of a poppy seed. Still, a botanist or flower gardener can show us smaller seeds, but that is entirely irrelevant. Jesus is not speaking as a botanist. Mark tells us at the start (Mark 4:2) that these are parables, here. In parables we find hyperbole, e.g. the camel (or rope?) that cannot pass through the eye of a sewing needle [forget the ‘urban legend’ of the gate] but may be swallowed instead of a gnat!

Understanding context keeps us from focusing on gnats.

For the technical mind, “all” must mean “all.” But for the literary mind of the writer, it is a device to convey the point, as in the opening of Mark: “Then all the land of Judea, and those from Jerusalem, went out to him [John] and were all baptized…”

No one thinks that if we had the exact census numbers for Judea and Jerusalem of that day, that they would equal the number of all those  who went out to hear John or the number of baptisms.

Back to the mustard seed, this extended simile, a parable, makes a vivid point. And the Jewish proverb (Plummer), “Small as a mustard-seed,” is used by Jesus in comparison with the resulting bush to emphasize “the sheer miracle of the growth of the Kingdom” (Albright).

30 And he said, “With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable shall we use for it? 31 It is like a grain of mustard seed, which, when sown on the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth, 32 yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes larger than all the garden plants and puts out large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.”

33 With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it. 34 He did not speak to them without a parable, but privately to his own disciples he explained everything.–Mark 4 ESV

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The Holy Conjunction

Broken chain

“And”

…One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

Jesus replied: “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” –Matthew 22

In my lifetime, I have been blessed to hear or learn under several noted Christian teachers. The one lesson, which has made the most difference, is centered on the word “and.” D. Elton Trueblood called this “the holy conjunction.” He emphasized this in key areas like Christ’s humanity and divinity; roots and fruits; the inner life of devotion and the outer life of service.

From the beginning of the Church, there were always those who failed in the struggle to hold these key essentials together. We see this in John’s first epistle. The church to which he wrote had divided. Under the strong influence of the spirit of the times, some Christians rejected the idea that the Messiah came in flesh and blood. They saw the world through dualistic lenses: In its essence, matter (e.g. flesh; that which is created) was evil; spirit was good.

One such contemporary of John’s was Cerinthus who distinguished between Jesus, the man of flesh and blood, and the Christ, the spiritual being who, he claimed, descended upon Jesus at his baptism and departed before the crucifixion. Cerinthus’ dualistic view did not allow suffering for spiritual beings….

When Jesus was asked which was the foremost commandment, he replied, “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.”

“…And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’”(Matt. 22:37, 39).

Again, we have the holy conjunction–“and.” To claim to love God but to not love our neighbor, or to try to get around Jesus description of a neighbor as illustrated in the parable of the Good Samaritan, is to enter into a sort of heresy.

First John states it thus: “He who says, ‘I know him’ and does not keep his commandments is a liar and the truth is not in him…

“He who says he is in the light [divine], and hates his brother [flesh], is in the darkness until now” (2:4, 9). (Keep in mind the dualistic view of those like Cerinthus.)

Love of God and love of neighbor make up the whole counsel of God, so that Jesus said, “On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets” (Matt. 22:40).

We need to keep alert here and heed a warning: while “and” holds together different aspects within Christian teaching, we need to beware that it can become the “unholy conjunction” when we try to combine Christian and non-Christian worldviews. C. S. Lewis illustrated this through the mouth of his diabolical character, Screwtape. In Letter XXV to his underling demon, Screwtape advises Wormwood about his strategy which he has devised against Christians:

What we want, if men become Christians at all, is to keep them in the state of mind I call “Christianity And.” You know—Christianity and the Crisis, Christianity and the New Psychology, Christianity and the New Order, Christianity and Faith Healing, Christianity and Psychical Research, Christianity and Vegetarianism, Christianity and Spelling Reform. If they must Be Christians, let them at least be Christians with a difference. Substitute for the faith itself some Fashion with a Christian colouring. Work on their horror of the Same Old Thing.

The horror of the Same Old Thing is one of the most valuable passions we have produced in the human heart—an endless source of heresies.2

From Introduction to Love, Prayer, and Forgiveness: When Basics Become Heresies