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I did a very non-scientific study recently, of love songs on the radio. After removing all the Oooooohs and Babys and Yeahs, I was left with these three themes:

  • I will always love you
  • I will never leave you
  • We’ll be together forever

Now I’m not a scientist. I don’t even play one on television. But I see a common thread in those. And I know the reason why. Believe it or not, it’s God.

Laugh if you want, and considering some of the stuff they play on the radio, God doesn’t seem to enter the picture. But Ecclesiastes 3:11 says “He has put eternity in their hearts“. These people are trying to replace God with something that won’t last. Human love is wonderful – it’s a gift from God! – but it isn’t eternal, regardless of what the songs say.

But Godly love is eternal, because it doesn’t depend on humans. It depends on God, who never fails. In Romans 5:8, it says

But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

That’s true love, eternal love. It says “I will always love you, I will never leave you, and We’ll be together forever”. That love, that sacrifice, is what we are celebrating with the wafer and the cup. Let’s pray.

Lord God, I sometimes imagine you up in heaven, looking down at our silly efforts to fill that God-shaped hole in our lives with something besides You. Thank You for providing for that need, in the person of Jesus. It’s in His name that I pray, amen.

(communion meditation for January 8, 2017)

Jesus Christ was a rebel.

In reading through the Bible, I find three places where he defied what people thought He was “supposed” to do.

When Jesus was twelve years old, he skipped out on going home to Nazareth after His parents brought Him to celebrate Passover in Jerusalem.  They looked for three days to find Him.

Later in His life, He was at the temple again, and instead of worshiping and singing hymns, He made a whip out of what was available and started beating up on some businessmen.

Right at the end of His life, he prayed to His Heavenly Father, saying that He didn’t want to do what was next.

Rebellion, pure and simple.  And the events are true – but they are also a lie, because they don’t tell the whole truth.  They don’t go far enough.  They don’t include the spiritual. Let’s look at these events from a spiritual perspective.

As a boy at the temple, Jesus wasn’t being disobedient – He was being obedient to His Heavenly Father.  He told His earthly parents “Didn’t you know I had to be about My Father’s business?”.

At the temple, when he drove out the money changers and sellers of sacrificial animals, He said “Get your things out of here!  Stop turning My Father’s house into a shopping mall!”  And the disciples remembered the scripture “Zeal for Your house consumes Me”.

And there, at the end of His life, He did ask for that cup to be taken away from Him – and He continued, “not My will, but Thine be done”.

Jesus was not rebelling.  Jesus was being obedient to His Heavenly Father – and that led to His death and resurrection.  That’s what we are remembering now, with the wafer and the juice, which all Christians are invited to partake in.  Let’s pray.

Lord God, Jesus didn’t do anything at all that was outside of Your will.  We have all sinned and fall short of Your glory.  With Jesus’ sacrificial death, the price for those sins has been paid.  Jesus’ body and blood, represented by the elements of communion, are the price of obedience.  That infinite cost, that priceless gift for us – thank You.  In Jesus’ name, amen.

 

(communion meditation from November 20, 2016)

My communion meditation for today.

I was happy, then I was sad, then I was very happy.

First, I thought I found a new proof for God’s holiness and perfection. I was praying through the Lord’s Prayer – not just repeating the words, but praying it, chewing on it, meditating on it. “Our Father, who art in Heaven“ – and that’s where I stopped to think. God the Father is in Heaven – that’s what it says. And we know Heaven is perfect, so therefore God must be perfect.

I was pretty proud of myself for a few days. A new proof that God is perfect, from little old me. Pretty proud of myself, yep.

Until I started thinking of the implications of that. If God needs Heaven to make Himself perfect, then God must not be perfect on His own, and I know that’s not right. So therefore it must be God’s perfection that makes Heaven perfect.

BOOM – there goes my brand new proof, my shot at being included in theology books going forward. So I was sad.

But as I kept on thinking about it, rolling it over and looking at different perspectives, I was really happy. Because when I bring it down to a personal level, I don’t have to be perfect for God to come live in my heart. In fact, I can’t be that perfect. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God“.

It isn’t my perfection that spills onto God. It’s His perfection that fills me, that spills into every part of my life, that overflows onto others.

There was only one perfect man, and that was Jesus. His perfect and sinless life, His death on the cross, and His resurrection – that is what we are celebrating now with the wafers and the juice. My imperfection covered by His perfection.  That makes me very happy.

Let’s pray.

Lord God, it’s all about You. If you had not sent Jesus to die for me, I wouldn’t be here today. Thank You for creating a perfect plan, carried out by a perfect man – a plan that does not depend on my own unachievable perfection. Thank you for Jesus. It’s in His name I pray. Amen.

(My communion meditation for today.)

A few weeks ago, I got sick on a Friday. Head cold. Rough weekend. By Tuesday I was really tired of it, and declared myself well. Wednesday I declared myself completely cured. Thursday I said I was in the best health in decades.

Friday I went to the doctor, who told me I was sick. Bronchitis. Bummer.

He gave me a prescription, I took it, and I got better.

At one level, this can be seen as a guy who wouldn’t face reality about being sick. At a spiritual level, this applies to all of us. We all think we’re strong, think we can do it on our own, think we can declare ourselves spiritually well. But the Great Physician knows our disease – sin – and He is the cure.

As we take the wafer and the juice, symbolizing His broken body and spilled blood, let us remember that He is the cure, and he paid the complete cost, now and forever.

Let’s pray.

Lord, Jesus died for us while we were yet sinners. We didn’t even know we were sick. Remind us, now and always, of the terrible price Jesus paid for our sins. Thank you for His precious blood that cleanses us from that sin. In Jesus’ name I pray, amen.

(another communion meditation)

In case you hadn’t noticed, it’s a new year.  This is the first Sunday of the new year, the third day into the year, and all of two thousand sixteen is bright and shiny.

So what?  Isn’t this the same way we saw last year, and the same way we’ll see next year?  In Ecclesiastes 1:9, Solomon says

What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done; there is nothing new under the sun.

But that isn’t the end of everything.  Lamentations 3:22-23 says

Because of the Lord’s faithful love we do not perish, for His mercies never end. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness!

So is everything changing every day?  Yes and no. James 1:17 says

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.

So things do change – we get gifts, perfect ones, from God, and He doesn’t change.  And what is the best gift?  Something new, of course.  1 Corinthians 11:23-26 says

For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: On the night when He was betrayed, the Lord Jesus took bread, gave thanks, broke it, and said, “This is My body, which is for you. Do this in remembrance of Me.” In the same way, after supper He also took the cup and said, “This cup is the new covenant established by My blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.

Let’s pray.

Lord, in Your wisdom you made the earth to rotate around the sun, marking days and seasons and years. In Your wisdom, You made a way for us to change from darkness to light, through the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross.  And in Revelation, the One who sits on the throne says “Behold, I am making everything new.”  Thank You for Jesus’ perfect life and atoning death.  Thank You for our new life. In Jesus’ name, amen.

My communion meditation for November 22, 2015.

I was in a city I hadn’t been to in a long time, walking along a sidewalk, when I saw a sign.  It had been put up by the city fathers, and seemed like it would have good advice.  I read the sign and followed the advice.  It said “DON’T WALK”, and I didn’t walk.  That saved me from a lot of harm and pain.

In I Corinthians 11:23-26, Paul says

“For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus in the night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “This is My body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” In the same way He took the cup also after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.”

That’s what we are doing now as we celebrate communion.  The Heavenly Father put up the sign.  We read it, and we are following the instructions.  And unlike the traffic light, these instructions never change.  Let’s pray.

Lord, you have made it so simple for us – see the sign, do the sign.  Hear the message, do the message.  And yet without Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, without the Holy Spirit’s power, we couldn’t do this at all.  Thank you for the reminder, for the call to remember.  In Jesus’ name, amen.

Ice cream is good.  Ice cream in itself is not sinful – it can be a blessing.  But not always.

Let’s look at three different reactions to wanting a bowl of ice cream

One friend tells you “I want a bowl of ice cream, but I’m going to a birthday party tomorrow.”  You think to yourself, “Fifty-fifty chance they’re having ice cream tonight, maybe sixty-forty.”

Another friend tells you “I want a bowl of ice cream.  However, I’m trying to lose ten pounds for the holidays.”  You recognize there’s different motivation, and think there’s a decent chance your friend will go without ice cream.

A third friend tells you “I want a bowl of ice cream.  Nevertheless, I’m diabetic, and I ran out of the medication, and I don’t want to die.”  There’s motivation, and conviction, and strong willpower. No ice cream for that friend.  No way.

But.    However.    Nevertheless.   Three words, all in the same group, with different intensities.

Jesus, on the night before He was crucified, had a talk with His Father.  In Mark 14:36, He prays, “Abba, Father! All things are possible for You. Take this cup away from Me. Nevertheless, not what I will, but what You will.

Abba means Daddy – that’s very intimate.  The cup is not a glass, not the wine from the Last Supper – it is the cup of pain, suffering, and dying on the cross.  Nevertheless means that God the Father makes the decision.  Jesus carries it out.

And that’s what we’re celebrating here – the grape juice that symbolizes Jesus’ blood, the wafer that symbolizes His body.  Because regardless of what Jesus wanted, He did what He had to. All who have said “The world pulls me.  Nevertheless, I choose Jesus” are invited to partake.  Let’s pray.

Father God, the pull of ice cream, the pull of the world is strong.  You are stronger.  Thank you for the Holy Spirit strengthening Jesus, and us, in times of testing.  In Jesus’ name, amen.

My communion meditation on Sunday, Feb 1.

I have a confession to make.  I am a crybaby.

It’s true.  If I don’t get my way, I can get mad and sulk.  God is helping me overcome this childish trait, but one of my regular internal messages is “That’s not fair!”.

A few weeks ago I had to carry the Production Support phone for my company, for a week.  It’s not bad – there’s a guy who works into second shift to cover then, and a guy who works third shift so I can sleep.  Except the second shift guy worked only two days, and the third shift guy was on vacation the whole time.  “That’s not fair!”

A week or so ago, in our small group here at the church on Thursday nights, we were talking about how God had a problem.  He created us and loves us, and wants to be gracious to us.  But we are sinners, and God hates sin.  His sense of justice demands that the penalty for sin be paid.  The solution, as you know, was to have Jesus come to earth, live a perfect and sinless life, and to die on the cross.  Randy said “God in effect treated Christ as if He were a sinner so that He can now treat real sinners as if they were righteous saints.”  And I thought to myself – “That’s not fair!”.

The injustice, in this case, is real and not imagined.  Jesus did nothing to deserve to die – I did, and you did.  And yet it was Jesus on the cross, not you, not me.  Romans 5:8 says “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”  It isn’t fair – it is sacrificial love.  And that is what we are celebrating with communion.  Let’s pray.

Heavenly Father, you love us.  It’s not fair – we don’t deserve it.  And yet it is ours if we accept it.  Thank you for making it available, at a great cost.  In Jesus’ name, amen.

Communion meditation from July 13, 2014

Charles Dickens started off his novel, A Tale Of Two Cities, with these famous words: It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

I was considering the Last Supper, and what Jesus was thinking and feeling. It was the best of times – He had been waiting His whole life (well, forever, really) for this time, when He was going to become the Savior of all mankind through His death and resurrection. He kept Himself sinless, carrying out the Father’s work. And yet it was the worst of times. One of His disciples, who He had been mentoring, teaching and leading for three years, was going to betray Him for thirty pieces of silver. As a result of that, Jesus was going to die a shameful death on the cross. Worst of all, He was going to be separated from God the Father as Jesus went to Hell with our burden of sins. Total separation from God, with whom He had spent eternity past with. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

Now we come to the time of communion, when we take the bread and the cup and remember that sacrifice. For us, also, it is the best of times. We celebrate the freedom from sin. We joyously remember the risen Savior, who was the firstborn from the dead, whom we will meet in Heaven. And yet it is the worst of times. It was for our sin – my sin, your sin – that Jesus had to die. When we do this in remembrance of Jesus, we have to examine ourselves to be sure that we are partaking in a worthy manner. And we can be.

Because this is the best of times. Jesus has paid the price. We are free in Christ. Like Him, we will rise again. Hallelujah!

Let’s pray.

Father God, I come before Your throne in the name of Jesus, the perfect Lamb of God. You gave the best, even when we deserve the worst. Thank you for that infinite love, that infinite sacrifice. Thank you for making us part of Your family. Amen.

My communion meditation for February 2, 2014.

I got a new phone a couple weeks ago.  It was everything the old phone wasn’t – small, light, fast.  It was cool.  My phone made me happy.

Over time, it became less cool.  The phone wasn’t perfect.  I still had to charge the battery, and buy a case, and put a screen protector on.  I wasn’t as happy.

Then I thought about Jeff’s sermon on worship, and the small group study on Gods at War, and turning things into idols, and I realized that I might be going down a path that I shouldn’t.  So I did what I knew I needed to do.  I built a shrine at home for my phone, with a little cell-phone throne, and a spare battery, and got my car wrapped with a sticker that says “I worship Verizon”, and I’m thinking about getting a tattoo . . .

No, that isn’t true.  Not even the tattoo part.  Yes, my old phone was a bother.  Yes, the new phone is nice.  It’s not perfect.  And I don’t worship it.

Let me quote from the book of Jonah, chapter 2, verse 8, just before God caused the fish to spit him up.  In his prayer, Jonah said

Those who cling to worthless idols
turn away from God’s love for them.

What we are here to do is to be like Jonah, to turn from idols, whether they are a phone or a car, a friend or an attitude, a bank account or a job, and turn to Jesus, who suffered and died on a cross, and was resurrected to provide for our salvation.  That is what we are celebrating now – Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection.

A cell phone can’t provide salvation to us.  Nothing other than Jesus can do that.  Nothing.