Communion Sunday …

Communion Elements

Or as I prefer to call it, Communion Lord’s Day.

Please forgive me if this comes across as a rant; I assure you it isn’t, as you’ll see if you read to the end. And it’s not a passive-aggressive attack on a brother I love and respect, so please read this in the spirit with which it is intended.

Regarding what we call the day of the week we choose to celebrate our Lord’s resurrection, call me a fundamentalist if you wish, but I don’t worship on a day devoted to the Sun god. I celebrate on the Lord’s Day, not Sunday. And every day we gather as the church we join in the communion of the saints, maybe not using the communion “elements,” but with fellowship in God’s Word and His Spirit.

And the “elements” are another bugaboo of mine; the first century church celebrated the Lord’s supper with unleavened bread, not with little cardboard wafers—okay, they’re not cardboard, but they might as well be. And the “wine” we Evangelicals serve as celebrating our Lord’s shed blood isn’t wine in the traditional sense, but grape juice. True, it’s “fruit of the vine,” but not the dilute, mildly fermented kind the Lord used during His Last Supper. But I tend to nit-pick.

My purpose here—believe it or not—is not to rail on today’s practice of the Lord’s Supper, but on a mistake our associate pastor made, and his thoughtless attempt to correct it. Though I have the greatest respect for him, he really put his foot in it this Lord’s Day. Yes, he was on the spot, as our lead Pastor couldn’t make it to preach today. No doubt I would have folded worse than he did, having to get creative to fill the void. But in so doing he forgot this was Communion Sunday, and dismissed the body without the Lord’s Supper service.

That wouldn’t have been so bad, just a waste of the communion elements, but he tried to save an unfortunate situation by having everyone grab the wafers and juice on the way out, without a time of reflection and, if needs be, confession and repentance. As I walked out of the auditorium I passed right by the good folks holding the elements and headed straight to the exit.

Here again, maybe I’m nit-picking, but I felt like the formality had taken over the Spirit on this one. I personally held conversations with two visitors before our meeting, and both were brothers looking for a church home. If I were in their place I wouldn’t be back, based on today’s unfortunate gaffe. But I will be back, because I love the family of God, and God’s word tells me:

And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching. (Hebrews 10:24-25 NKJV)

So, because I call these folks my home church I must forgive the occasional mistake; Lord knows I’ve made more than enough for three people. And I must commend our associate pastor for his normally godly attitudes and practices. If only I had been as mature at his age.

If I were to focus only on the negatives, I would be grossly disregarding Hebrews 10:24, as well as the balance of Scripture. And that would be sin. Then I’d have to examine my conscience and repent before taking the Lord’s Supper, regardless what “elements” the leadership chooses to dispense on Communion Lord’s Day.

Promises, Promises

2 Peter 1:3-4 NKJV as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, (4) by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.

I believe God’s Word! When God tells me something through His Word, I know I can, “take it to the bank.” Unfortunately, actual banks don’t see it that way, but that’s their problem. If something in God’s Word seems out of whack, I know either the translation, or my interpretation, is in error, and not His revealed Word.


Daniel B. Wallace Ph.D. sets the record straight about alleged New Testament errors in his article, The Number of Textual Variants: An Evangelical Miscalculation. Though most Christ-followers would rather simply accept the Bible’s reliability, and that is certainly warranted, some knowledge of textual criticism helps greatly when trying to deal with skeptic’s challenges. Indeed, one of the major reasons for Christians loosing their faith is ignorance of apologetics (That branch of theology which defends the Holy Scriptures, and sets forth the evidence of their divine authority.1).

Human Promises

2 Peter 1 should give us great hope in God’s promises. Unlike Him, we mortals are quick with promises. Someone expresses a need and, with the best of intentions, we offer help.

A promise as simple as, “I’ll pray for you,” carries with it an obligation to actually pray for that person. Instead, it usually includes the unstated qualifier, “… when and if I get the chance.” And, yes, I’m as guilty as the next brother.

Those of us who have been reborn in the Spirit have no excuse for such laxity, as we are to always seek to become more like Christ. When we the church grow to where we can live by our promises, thereby completing Christ’s love in us, we will truly turn the world upside down.2

Father of all mercy, I am grieved that we who claim Jesus’ Name are so flippant about our word. By Your Holy Spirit’s power and through Jesus Name, empower us so we can complete our mission of turning the world upside down.

1 Webster’s 1913 dictionary entry for “apologetics” (Yes, Noah Webster was a Christian.)

2 Reference to Acts 17:6

I’m Not Dying

Oh sure, the world is quieter than it used to be. I glance down at my hands and they look like I forgot to iron them. I lack energy to get out of my own way. I have to be careful what I eat; everything I enjoy is off my diet and likely to come back to haunt me. I have CRS, but can’t remember what it means. People say these dreaded words to me: “Can I help you with that sir?”

But I’m not dying—I’m transitioning! And it’s about time; seventy years on this blue-and-green marble is long enough in my book. What about God’s Book, though?

God’s Word doesn’t tell me, “Let your light shine before men, until you get old, then hang up the spent lantern.” I can’t find the word, “retire,” anywhere in the Bible. Even the Levites, when they completed their twenty-five years of temple service, were assigned other duties.

No, my thinning skin should just allow Christ’s light within me to shine through all the brighter. These words of Jesus changed my life when I realized He was talking to me:

Matthew 5:14-16 NKJV “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. (15) Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. (16) Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.

Without the Christians who held up their light before me, I’d be a goner. And without me and millions of other Christ-followers holding up His light, the world is full of goners.

“Getting saved,” isn’t our final game play, it’s just the starting gun’s report, the kickoff, the tip off, throwing out the first ball, and there’s no timer on the game board. In fact, there’s no game board, ‘cause keeping score is God’s job, and notching our Bibles for every “decision for Christ” is pure presumption, an act of pride that should alert us to the probability that our motivation is not to glorify our heavenly Father, but to glorify ourselves.

Now I need to examine my own life’s priorities; is influencing others to live for God numero uno? Or do I just want to sit back and enjoy the view of others marching straight into perdition? If the second option is true of me … or you … we may as well be dying, ‘cause we’re no earthly good.


St. Paul’s Thorn in the Flesh

Apostle Paul wrote of several aspects of his life that could cause him to be proud:

2 Corinthians 12:1-4
(1) It is doubtless not profitable for me to boast. I will come to visions and revelations of the Lord:
(2) I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago–whether in the body I do not know, or whether out of the body I do not know, God knows–such a one was caught up to the third heaven.
(3) And I know such a man–whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows–
(4) how he was caught up into Paradise and heard inexpressible words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter.

(Romans 11:13) For I speak to you Gentiles; inasmuch as I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I magnify my ministry,

(2 Corinthians 12:12) Truly the signs of an apostle were accomplished among you with all perseverance, in signs and wonders and mighty deeds.

Most scholars believe Paul spoke of himself regarding these wonderful claims. Yet, in all these, he glorified God rather than himself, and for one reason:

2 Corinthians 12:7-10
(7) And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure.
(8) Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me.
(9) And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
(10) Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

What a truth! The eminent apostle recognized a fundamental spiritual law: that everything we naturally think we know is completely backward compared to God’s eternal truth.

My Thorn

I have a few physical issues, but none so deep or painful as to be compared to Paul’s thorn in the flesh. For that I thank my Creator, God’s eternal Word, the Lord Jesus Christ. My thorn is entirely different from anything physical; it is a thorn in my heart.

God’s Word calls the seat of our emotions, faith, mind, will, and temperament, the heart. Of course, God doesn’t mean that muscular blood-pump in our chest, but the in-most home of our nonphysical functions.

My personal thorn pierces a number of my heart’s functions, and my born again life’s work has been dealing positively with it. Here’s a litany of my heart’s bleedings: my emotions are too tender, my faith is too weak, my mind is too loud, my will is too weak, and my temperament is too fearful. Just ask any women who have been in my life.

I praise God, though, for the way He’s used that thorn, and the incorporeal blood that drips from it. My tender emotions give me empathy for others’ suffering. My weak faith makes me skeptical of anything that is not of God and His Word. My loud mind is also analytical, giving me a sensitive bovine manure-detector.

Let’s see, what possible redeeming value could my weak will and fearful temperament have? They work together, feeding off of each other, and have always been the cause of my deepest regrets, so I must dig deep to find the answer. For one thing, weak will prevents me from overpowering those around me. Even though some really need overpowering (that’s where the fear flattens my resolve), apparently God wants me to leave that job to someone else. Or is that a cop out? There are times when I realize that God has placed me where I should assert myself, such as sharing my faith and dealing with others’ wrong demands, and I pray constantly for the assertiveness to overcome such resistance when needed.

God’s Solution

And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

Jesus bore that cruel crown of thorns to tell me that my sins pierced His divine soul. How trivial my personal thorns are in comparison.

Though we sometimes must seemingly dig to China to find God’s richest blessings, those gold nuggets give us unrivaled cause for grateful rejoicing. Join me in praising Him for the hard things!

If I Were Truly Christlike

Folks say I’m a nice person. I’ve even heard that I’m Christlike. But don’t worry, I’m not in danger of getting a big head — my gourd already is quite big enough.

If I were truly Christlike, I would stand firm against those liars who slander my Lord, instead of remaining dumb as a board during their tirades. It’s easy to be agreeable when you avoid confronting evil, but Jesus didn’t let it slide. The evil he dealt with most forcibly was the most insidious of evils: the religious guys’ hypocrisy, and that’s what got Him murdered. Like I’d ever dispute with high-powered preachers and theologians; that’s laughable.

Unlike many of today’s Christian conservatives, He never came down hard on the world’s sinners, the prostitutes, the tax collectors and the adulterers. Oh, He told the “sinners” to repent, but He also forgave their sins and associated with them when it wasn’t cool at all.

If I were truly Christlike, I’d stand in harm’s way to defend the preborn innocents who are being slaughtered in droves. Just thinking about it makes me angry, but not angry enough to confront the abortion industry profiteers and the women who think they are taking the easy out of an inconvenient situation.

Jesus embraced the little children that His followers thought were too much of a bother. He even loved and made Himself real to me before I had the sense to love Him in return.

If I were truly Christlike, I’d spend my retirement hours, days and years immersed in His Word and in passionate prayer. Yet, I’d still get out of my room to love those who need His love, I’d refute those who teach error, I’d confront hypocrisy in the church, I’d defend the innocents, and I’d do it all in His love, without name-calling and a bitter spirit.

If I were truly Christlike, I’d change the world as He commanded.

My Old Shoes

Yesterday I bought new shoes at Famous Footwear. Of course, as I had worn my old shoes into the store and removed them to try on some fresh footwear, my impression of all the samples was jaded by my old shoes’ relative comfort. Despite the new shoes’ foreign feeling, however, I knew they would supply the improved support that I badly needed.

Thing is, my feet are my body’s structural foundation, and even though the old, loose shoes felt more comfortable than new shoes ever could, they didn’t contribute to the stable posture needed to prevent aches and pains throughout.

Today’s Sermon

You may wonder how buying new shoes could apply to Pastor Ona’s sermon this morning, so I’ll tell you. He preached about our core values as Spirit-filled Christians, which includes walking as Jesus walked, and sharing His love for God’s word and His creation. Pastor Bob spoke of going to church to get blessed by worshiping God in Spirit and Truth, then reverting to our customary entertainments and worldly patterns of life as soon as we walk out of the church building.

It seems we’re creatures of habit, or at least those of us who are or were fallen human beings are that way. As such, the old ways feel more comfortable than the new behaviors that our faith dictates. Apostle Paul said it best:

Romans 7:14-24  For we know that the Law is spiritual, but I am of flesh, sold into bondage to sin.  (15)  For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate.  (16)  But if I do the very thing I do not want to do, I agree with the Law, confessing that the Law is good.  (17)  So now, no longer am I the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me.  (18)  For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not.  (19)  For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want.  (20)  But if I am doing the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me.  (21)  I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good.  (22)  For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man,  (23)  but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members.  (24)  Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death?

Sound familiar?

Yeah, yeah, I know you’ve heard it all before, but if it does not align rather closely with your testimony; if you don’t struggle with the comfortable habits of your “old man,” you are either a saint waiting to be canonized by the Catholic Church, or you’re lying to yourself and to God. Apostle John said:

1 John 1:8,10  If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us.
(10)  If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us.

But neatly inserted between those two rather dismal statements is the hope of verse 9:

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Does that mean we can get away with presuming upon God’s grace by willfully transgressing His standards and principles? Here’s what Apostle Paul said about that:

Romans 6:1-2  What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase?  (2)  May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it?

Honestly, this piece could go on to become an encyclopedia of Scriptural admonitions for Christlike living, but to alleviate your eye strain I’ll just refer back to my shoe-shopping experience; resist the temptation to continue enjoying those old-shoe-habits simply because they are comfortable. If your activities don’t lead you to godliness, they won’t lead you to heaven.

My Problem With Prayer

I have a hard time praying, not because I don’t believe God can answer prayer, but because I overthink the process. So I try to pray because God’s Word quite clearly directs us to pray constantly (Ephesians 6:18; 1 Thessalonians 5:17) even though I fail miserably.

Christ-followers of different stripes profess all sorts of beliefs about prayer. The brethren I truly admire simply obey God’s Word from a simple, childlike faith, without cognitive conflicts. They are the ones who pray for miracles and watch God provide those miracles. Unlike some believers who demand God’s obedience to their prayers, they don’t just pray in Jesus’ Name; they live in Jesus’ Name.

My problem with praying is the opposite of those who demand answers to their prayers, and it’s because of one Scripture passage:

The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much. (James 5:16b)

While I correctly claim for myself the righteousness of Jesus, there is no way I can consider my life righteous in the sense of living without fault. Though I must claim God’s grace over my faults, I can’t ignore other Scripture passages that instruct us to be righteous:

If you know that He is righteous, you know that everyone also who practices righteousness is born of Him. (1 John 2:29)
Little children, make sure no one deceives you; the one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous. (1 John 3:7)
For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “BUT THE RIGHTEOUS man SHALL LIVE BY FAITH.” (Romans 1:17)

Where are my answers to prayer?

I’ve prayed for the same things over the years, things that would make me more Christlike, such as greater self-control, more active love, more intimacy with my Father God. I want to remember Scripture passages so I can recall them when needed for meditation or encouraging others. I want holy boldness to confront sin with love as my Savior did. I want to be remembered as a man after God’s own heart, and holy, because God is holy. And that’s all I want.

I ask, Is that too much, Lord?

His answer doesn’t satisfy, even though I know it’s true. “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!”

I ask, Why, then, do I not see godliness in my life?

He answers, So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight.

I ask, But I’m a mess, Lord. How can you use me like this?

He answers, Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use?

I am humbled by His truth. Why couldn’t I see it before. Father, use me however you wish. As messed up as I am, I trust Your perfect judgment. Thank you, Lord, for all my faults and my strengths, for they are Yours.

This World Is Not My Home …

… I’m just a passin’ through.

I love the old country gospel songs, even the twang that goes with them. I thought of this one at Walmart this afternoon, when I couldn’t bring myself to leave my trash in the shopping cart after using it.

You may wonder why that’s such a big thang. Man, I was tempted most fiercely to do it. I mean, the afternoon sun was hot and I was sweating bullets already; I didn’t need that walk over to the garbage can with a few pieces of plastic wrap. They have “associates” who need the job security, don’t they?

If you’re wondering what plastic wrap in a shopping cart has to do with that old gospel song, I’ll tell you with a question. If you were visiting someone, would you leave your garbage in their car, or on their couch or table? Would you leave it laying around at church? Only if you were an absolute clod would you do that.

What is this world to you? If it were your own home you could fill it with waist-deep trash and nobody could say a thing, though what others would think of you is another story. But it’s not your home. According to God’s Word you and I are only sojourners:

2 Corinthians 5:6-9 ESV (6) So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, (7) for we walk by faith, not by sight. (8) Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. (9) So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him.

Assuming you were a Christ-professing clod showing disrespect of others’ homes or your workplace, or even your local Walmart, what would that say about your Savior? Say, you pick up a product here, find a better buy over there, and just leave your first choice where you picked up the second. Why, that’s great! You’ve just ensured someone’s job security, but please keep your mouth shut about your faith while doing it.

Better yet, think carefully about what you do, whether or not it glorifies your Savior. Even in private, think about what you do, as what you do in private tells who, and whose, you really are.

Read, Carefully!

Of course, you must start with God’s Word. But beyond that, godly men and women author godly works that don’t add to, but simply clarify God’s Word, relating it to new audiences.

Then, there are the Christian authors of generations past, whose works the Holy Spirit has used powerfully for revival in those times. Click here for a great—and short—article about Chesterton, Muggeridge, Boreham, Sayers, and MacDonald (C.S. Lewis’ mentor). Click here for a glimpse at Christian authors from even further back, such as Augustine, Calvin, Clarke, and so on down the alphabet. Though many of them had great things to say, they are, of course, no substitute for God’s Word.

Now I must reveal my motivation for this post; my e-mail in box offered me a brief excerpt from Lewis’ The Problem of Pain. Upon a careful reading of said excerpt (thus, the title for this piece), I decided to share it with my vast audience. In it, Lewis explains why we must prostrate ourselves before our great, Creator God, and His seemingly unfair demands upon us. This is a profound read, so I dare ya to dive in—carefully.

Perhaps by now you’ve noticed my harping on reading carefully. Our media-saturated culture has desensitized us to the nuances of the written word. If it isn’t dramatized and animated, it isn’t worthy of our attention, and I’m one of the worst offenders of classical literature. With all of my entertainments, I haven’t the time for serious reading, though I prefer to rest heavily upon my dyslexia as my old, reliable excuse. Even now, at the close of this post, Netflix attempts to seduce my attention away from godly pursuits. Of course, all work and no play makes Jim … a liar.

BTW: During my pitiful attempt at researching for this post, I happened upon this compelling excerpt from WARRANTED CHRISTIAN BELIEF by Alvin Plantigna, and you don’t even need a doctorate in theology to understand it. You’re welcome.

Be Careful What You Say


Zack Locklear posted an excellent statement about Christians judging those of the world, and it describes a general principle to which all who claim Christ’s name must adhere: Jesus died to save sinners, not to condemn them (John 12:47-48). The most telling part of that passage is verse 48, “The one who rejects me and does not receive my words has a judge; the word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day.” Jesus’ statement here couldn’t be more clear; it tells who will be judged, and by what standard.

So, who will be judged? Not adulterers. Nor thieves. Nor liars. Nor murderers. Not even homosexuals or pedophiles. On the last day, God’s Word will judge all who reject Jesus and refuse to receive His words. All other sins are only symptoms of that damning sin.

But, what of those who claim to belong to God through our Lord Jesus Christ? Can they get away with sinning, “that grace may increase?” Apostle Paul emphatically answered (Romans 6), “May it never be!” Then, in Romans 8:29, the apostle wrote, “For those He foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, in order that He might be the firstborn of many brothers.” Predestination and eternal security controversies aside, those who prefer habitually sinning to seeking Christlikeness are not God’s chosen people.

Finally, Apostle Paul told us what attitude we are to display toward non-believers: Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity. Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person. (Colossians 4:5-6) If you don’t have anything redemptive to say, don’t say anything at all (apologies to Disney’s Thumper character).