Click on the picture to go to video.
Nov 18, 2021
Jun 21, 2021
Lots of people avoid rare beef because they don't like "bloody" meat. Guess what? It's not blood.
That's right, steak fans, the red liquid that is oozing out of the meat is not blood, but something called myoglobin. Even the reddest and rarest of steaks is actually bloodless. Blood is removed as the meat is processed; it never makes it to your table no matter how little or much you cook the meat. Myoglobin turns red when exposed to oxygen, and so it looks like blood. But looks can be deceiving.
Steak isn't the ONLY thing that can deceive us with its looks. Bleach looks like water, but isn't. Water hemlock looks like parsley, but it is actually the most toxic plant in North America. Kraft Parmesan cheese and Comet cleanser both come in round green containers. Making assumptions based upon outward appearances can lead to utterly wrong conclusions.
Jesus didn't look like God come in the flesh. He didn't fly in on a comet, wearing a bright blue suit with a red cape and a big "S" (for "Saviour") on His chest . He looked like a good rabbi. He looked like a wise and honest teacher. But He said He was the Messiah. He declared Himself to be God, and was almost stoned to death by the Jews when He did. (John 10:32) He was, as the creed declares, "God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God."
He was pierced for OUR rebellion, crushed for OUR sins. HE was beaten so WE could be made whole. He was whipped so we could be healed. He died and rose again to pay the price of death for OUR sins, and then offer us the gift of life. REAL life. ETERNAL LIFE with Him.
And, on the night He was betrayed, He took bread, broke it and gave it to His disciples. And when He did, He said, "This is My Body." Then, after supper, He took the cup that had been filled with wine, and gave it to His disciples and said, "This is My Blood."
Whenever a person turns to Christ and repents of their sin, He performs an instant miracle. He recreates them! If anyone is in Christ they are a new creation, His word says. Every person, every time. He repeats the miracle of new birth each and every time someone chooses to pray that prayer.
Whenever a believer asks the Father to pour out His Holy Spirit upon him or her, He performs an instant miracle. God repeats the miracle so that we can always "be being filled" with the Spirit. Jesus said, "if you who are evil know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!” Every person, every time.
Whenever the priest prays the prayer of consecration, He performs an instant miracle. The bread becomes the Body of Christ, and the wine becomes the Blood of Christ. Every time. He repeats the miracle and the real presence of Christ fills and transforms the substance.
It is a doctrine the Church universal has held unquestioned since its inception; except for the last few centuries when some have abandoned the understanding of His real presence and begun to teach that communion is not a miracle, it is only a memorial. This has led to fewer and fewer churches celebrating The Lord's Table, and those that do celebrating it less and less often. (That was, I believe, the enemy's plan all along.)
It IS His Body.
It IS His Blood.
Looks like wine, but looks can be deceiving.
Gordon Smith begins his book talking about the unity between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The church, whose design is by God, has this interwovenness to all that it does. Each aspect of the church points to the Father and causes itself to operate in wholeness before Him. Jesus' very call to us is to abide in Him, but it is also a trinitarian call where we are present to the work of the Father and Spirit in our lives as well. We can be in dynamic fellowship and union with Christ, who is one with the Father and the Spirit through three answers, three roads that all lead together as one. That is the evangelical, the sacramental, and the pentecostal.
The evangelical would say that Christ abides in us through His Word, and it is through the Word that we abide in Christ. Jesus is the word. In the beginning, was the Word and the word was not only with God but the Word was God. When we speak Word, the Word, we speak life as Christ is our life and it is in and through Him that we are sustained. A disciple of Christ is one who hears His Word, leans into and believes that Word and then obeys and lives in that Word. The faith of the church comes through the Word, everything we do as the church must be centered on what we see in God’s Word. When we stray from the Word we stray from Jesus and become an apostate church.
To the sacramental Christian, physical and tangible things are another way we are drawn into God. Through the Spirit, water is a way we are drawn into the life of God and rebirthed. It is a means of God’s grace. Through baptism, the old life is buried and we are raised to new life in Christ. We abide in and are sustained in Christ by the bread and cup, the eucharist. The Spirit meets us as we partake and Jesus said that unless we eat of His flesh and drink of His blood we have no part in Him. The sacramental life brings us together in fellowship with one another, it brings the church together as one. We are one body as we receive people into the church through their baptism, and we are one body as we come together at the table and partake.
The pentecostal focuses on the coming of the Holy Spirit and for them the whole point of Jesus coming is the outpouring of the Spirit. True Christian worship is Christ centered not Spirit centered. There was far more to Jesus coming than the sending of the Holy Spirit, it was in His ascension that the Holy Spirit became a vital part in the life of the church. The Spirit came to guide us into all truth. I’ve seen some teaching come from those who say they are filled with the Spirit that is as far off from the truth as you can get. So what spirit are they following? God’s Spirit is Holy and leads to truth. The Holy Spirit came to empower us, to teach us, and to give us a witness. I think we are in serious need of discovering what that is really like because much of the church is still lacking in power, lacking in truth, and lacking in witness.
Jesus Christ is present to the church through the Word, through the sacraments, and through the Holy Spirit. All three are intertwined as a vine, as a chord. If in fact all of these are at work in the church it is a chord that brings us together as true church and that is not easily broken. To be a Christian is to live in the Word and see how very remarkably alive and current it is. It is to walk in our baptismal vows before the Lord, to ever remember, or reconstruct the events at calvary afresh in our minds and hearts as we receive of the bread and cup, being to us the body and blood of our Lord through the work of the Holy Spirit in us. It is to walk in lock step with the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Not only this, but the Holy Spirit gives us gifts to operate in unity as the body of Christ. Through this concert of the life of the church, we can do more than experience grace in our lives. We can walk in that grace moment by moment. Word, Spirit, Sacrament, these all reinforce our witness in the earth as we live in them. The Word of God can not be neglected in our lives, the partaking of the sacraments centers our lives on the work of Christ and the Holy Spirit keeps us in step with Jesus. What a marvelous tapestry, keeping us in the presence of the Father.
As I read this book, at one point Gordon said that it was the preaching of the Word that sanctifies the sacrament. This caused me some frustration, he did go on to say that the Holy Spirit meets us and “overshadows” the elements as we partake. I had to stop myself in my line of thinking as I reminded myself that Jesus is the Word, and He did indeed institute this sacrament and sanctify it. I must agree with Gordon that we are not truly pentecostal unless we are sacramental and we are not people who live in the fullness of the Spirit unless we are walking in the Word. How dynamic we can be as the church when we realize how to constantly walk in all three of these expressions. They build on and support one another. As we disciple people into the life of the church we must be sure that they are taught the full gospel, that they walk in all the things that Jesus has taught us to. He taught us to be in the Word, to walk by the spirit, and to be sacramental.
I think that everyone should be reading this book so that they have an understanding of how vital all three of these parts of the church are. I would venture to say that these three make up the whole of the life of the church and the absence of any one of them would reveal an incomplete church.
Jun 10, 2021
On this day 80 years ago, C. S. Lewis climbed the steps to the canopied pulpit in Oxford’s historic Church of St. Mary the Virgin to deliver a sermon to one of the largest congregations ever assembled in the building. The result, according to Walter Hooper, who recently passed away after almost 50 years of faithfully serving as Lewis’s Boswell, was a sermon “so magnificent” that it is “worthy of a place with some of the Church Fathers” (The Weight of Glory [HarperOne, 1980], 17).
Eight decades later, Lewis’s sermon-turned-essay is a timely vaccine for our current cultural climate so divided by race, political party, sexuality, class, religion, and identity.
Clashing Identity Narratives
Lewis’s idea regarding glory addresses one of the main narratives of modernity: identity. In his sermon, Lewis said he initially believed that glory meant either fame, as in being better known than other people, or luminosity. Neither idea appealed to him, though it certainly appeals to us. Fame is measured by Twitter and Instagram followers; the accumulation of a certain number of them makes one a “social-media influencer.” Instead, Lewis found that eternal glory in heaven will come from God. In fact, the idea of this “weight or burden of glory” is almost beyond our capacity to understand, in that we could be “a real ingredient in the divine happiness . . . to be loved by God, not merely pitied, but delighted in as an artist delights in his work” (39). In the current identity narrative, people define themselves and others based on race, class, sexuality, religion, and political party. Innate to each of us, Lewis observes, is “a desire which no natural happiness will satisfy” (32). In our quest to fulfill this desire for affirmation, significance, or power, these classifications turn into golden calves, giving rise to idolatry. Of course, differences can be good, but it never ends well for those who make modern classifications of identity into gods. Fixating on these classifications makes us like the child who “wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea” (26).
Instead, Lewis encourages us to put an end to the temporal pursuit of this search for identity, because we have work to do. “A cleft has opened in the pitiless walls of the world, and we are invited to follow our great Captain inside.” The walls of our world are pitiless indeed. Spend a few minutes on social media and observe how people—Christians included—speak to each other as a reflection of our division. Like the dinosaur, grace is extinct, replaced with a collective anger simmering just below boil. Like all great writers, for emphasis Lewis can turn the ear into the eye and make the audible visual. Christians are to follow our great Captain, Jesus Christ, into the dark places and crevices of the world, bringing his light to these cultural fissures of identity.
Holiness, Now and Forever
It is just here, in perhaps the best-known phrase from The Weight of Glory, that Lewis’s words are most applicable for us today. In the penultimate sentence he writes, “Next to the Blessed Sacrament itself, your neighbor is the holiest object presented to your senses” (46).
Holiness, along with glory, will one day be perpetual and eternal for each of us. These will be our common denominators and our authentic identity in the great multitude, leaving all earthly identities to fade away.
Jun 4, 2021
One of my favorite things on the farm this time of year is the smell of honeysuckle and wild roses that permeate the air. Our property is surrounded by honeysuckle and full of wild rose vines. That got me thinking this morning about the fragrance of worship. When I get to thinking about something like this the first thing I do is Google what's on my mind. Today Google brought up this wonderful message:
Have you ever had anyone ask you what the name of the perfume or the cologne that you were wearing was, or tells you how good you smell? Sometimes we recognize someone who has entered the room that we are in without even seeing them merely by the fragrance that they are wearing or exuding. I would like to relate this to what happens in our lives when we become the ‘true worshipers’ that God is looking for. (John 4:23-24)
In the Word of God we can read about a woman named Esther, who spent a whole year of her life in preparation to meet her future husband, who was also the King. She was ‘anointed’ with scented oils every day. This entire seemingly exaggerated ordeal was to prepare her for an audience with the King, in order to gain favor with him in behalf of her people. If you read the account you will find out that it worked! The king was captivated by the fragrance of her grace and beauty. I am sure he loved the way she smelled too, as well as the way the oils had enhanced her skin. He granted her people safety from the wicked plots of those who were seeking their destruction. My point is this; the process of preparation led her to exaltation. This preparation process took time in order for her to exude the selected fragrant oils that were used to prepare her for that one audience with the king. As a result of her willingness to submit to the preparation and the time that it took, she was exalted from a place of obscurity and even life threatening danger to a place of favor and safety within royal sanctions. She actually became royalty.
In 2 Corinthians 2:15 we find that believers (in the truest sense of the word), are a fragrance of Christ. Another way of saying it would be that we are a pleasant aroma of Christ. When we worship Him within a lifestyle that has become a place of abiding in Him we exude His fragrance.
Have you ever wondered what Jesus smells like? In Psalm 45:7-8, a prophetic description of the Messiah is given. It says, “God has anointed Thee with the oil of joy above Thy fellows. All Thy garments are fragrant with myrrh and aloes, and cassia.” Myrrh is traditionally symbolic of His identification with us in His pain and sorrow, so that we could have the courage to seek and know Him intimately through the fellowship of suffering, (Hebrews 5:8). The aloe is traditionally symbolic of His bringing physical, emotional, and spiritual healing and restoration through His Redemptive work on the cross to the whole person, (1 Peter 2:24). The cassia is traditionally symbolic of humility and the complete surrender of our wills to Him, and because cassia has the ability to kill bacteria it also symbolizes His triumph over the devil and all the powers of darkness, (Colossians 2:15).
In the first chapter of The Song of Solomon, another prophetic description of the Messiah is given. It says, “Your oils have a pleasing fragrance; Your Name is like purified oil; Therefore the maidens (true worshipers) love You.” The oil spoken of here is referring to the anointing oil that was used ceremonially by the Old Testament priest. This oil represented the Holy Spirit of God being upon someone who was set apart for His purposes and plans. Kings and priest specifically. In Hebrews 1:9 we see that Jesus, the King of all Kings, was “anointed of God, with the oil of gladness (joy), above all of His fellows.” As a result of our worship of Him, of being in the Presence of our God and King Who was anointed above all… we will begin to exude the fragrance of His royalty. We are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people, who will show forth the praise of Him, Who has called us out of darkness, into His marvelous light, (1 Peter 2:9).
Galatians 5:22-23 says that “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” These nine attributes are essentially the very characteristics of God’s nature. They are the ingredients of His unique fragrance. Perfume is made up of many different ingredients. By combining precise measurements of these ingredients, fragrant scents are produced. Interestingly, in the process of Perfumery, the scent is allowed to mature for several weeks after it is mixed. During that time the different ingredients blend and mature. Any variance in a formula can change the scent completely. True worship produces the precise ingredients of God’s Character in us. By continually coming before Him in worship we are infused with His attributes over and over again. Eventually we will begin to mature, and the essence of His nature will exude from us. However, if we attempt to add anything to it, to draw attention to anyone other than Him, the scent of the flesh will contaminate the fragrance of ‘spirit and truth’ worship every time. It will become putrid and stink in the nostrils of our Holy God Who never changes… ever. We change… we must.
In Luke 4:16-21, Jesus Himself declared that He was the fulfillment of Isaiah 61:1-3. “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me…” People were drawn to Him because He exuded the fragrance of the Holy Spirit. He was anointed with the oil of joy. He was our model, and as our model, He showed us how to worship by example. He spent quality time alone with the Father. He worshiped Him in intimate fellowship and prayer. I believe that Jesus also sang and even danced in worship as well. In Luke 10:21 in the Amplified Bible it states that He (Jesus) ‘rejoiced and gloried in the Holy Spirit.’ The word rejoiced comes from the word exult. It is a verb that means to feel extreme joy; one synonym of this word is to jump or leap for joy! It says that He did this after His disciples had returned from ministering in His Name. They were ecstatic over the fact that even the demons were subject to them, but He told them not to rejoice over that, but instead to rejoice (ecstatically) over the fact that their names were written down or enrolled in heaven! I don’t know about you, but somehow I imagine they all joined in with Him as He worshiped and gave joyful praise to the Father.
As we worship God begins to inhabit our worship, and His Presence begins to manifest. In the Glory of His Presence we are changed. The fragrance of the Holy Spirit begins to exude from us. I also believe that worship plays a great part, if not the greatest part in the process of preparation that will lead to our exaltation as His eternal companion. As we worship Him we become like Him. As we worship Him we become one with Him. As we worship Him we grow up into His likeness, (Ephesians 4:13).
Worship that produces the sweet smelling fragrance of God’s nature in our lives is not just inclusive of singing our worship to God, though singing is a primary form of worship to Him, I believe it is an overflow of a life that is totally abandoned to Him in every aspect. It is also being filled with and led by the Holy Spirit. It is the renewing of our minds by meditating on the Word of God, as well as communing with Him in prayer. Worship is a lifestyle that seeks to bring glory to the Lord. This lifestyle of true worship will be evident in the maturing Bride of Christ who is making herself ready to rule and reign with her King. She will exude the true fragrance of Christ.
The more mature fruit and even many forms of flowers become, the stronger their fragrance is. When others encounter the true worshipers of God they may wonder, ‘what is that fragrance that they are wearing?’ Or better yet, they may desire for themselves the One whose fragrance is being exuded, Christ the King Himself!
The time and place of this royal consummation is coming, and is even at hand. True worshipers are rising up from all over the world, exuding the fragrance of His Presence. They are exuding their passionate love for Him, as well as their unrelenting loyalty to Him as their Bridegroom King. They are the true worshipers who are showing forth the praises of their King, the ones that the Father Himself is looking for. All hail the King of Love! The One Who will forever be worthy of all honor, and glory, and power!
Glorious Father, thank You for loving us and helping us to become the true worshipers that You seek. You alone discern the heart. Search our hearts and find those that love You and desire You above all others. We pledge our love and loyalty to You and to our Beloved King forever! Help us to become one with You and each other, even as You and He are One, until we the Bride exude the fragrance of her Beloved and cry out with the Holy Spirit, ‘Lord Jesus, come! Take Your rightful place as King of Heaven and Earth!’ Amen.
by Jann Ballard Patterson