Prayer Book - Psalm 22

Art by Kris Anne Baker,
My God, my God, why have You turned Your back on me?
    Your ears are deaf to my groans.
O my God, I cry all day and You are silent;
    my tears in the night bring no relief.
Still, You are holy;
    You make Your home on the praises of Israel.
Our mothers and fathers trusted in You;
    they trusted, and You rescued them.
They cried out to You for help and were spared;
    they trusted in You and were vindicated.
But I am a worm and not a human being,
    a disgrace and an object of scorn.
Everyone who sees me laughs at me  
They whisper to one another I’m a loser; they sneer and mock me, saying,
“He relies on the Eternal; let the Eternal rescue him
    and keep him safe because He is happy with him.”
But You are the One who granted me life;
    You endowed me with trust as I nursed at my mother’s breast.
I was dedicated to You at birth;
    You’ve been my God from my mother’s womb.
Stay close to me—
    trouble is at my door;
    no one else can help me.
I’m surrounded by many tormenters;
    like strong bulls of Bashan, they circle around me with their taunts.
They open their mouths wide at me
    like ravenous, roaring lions.
My life is poured out like water,
    and all my bones have slipped out of joint.
My heart melts like wax inside me.
My strength is gone, dried up like shards of pottery;
    my dry tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth;
    You lay me in the dust of death.
A throng of evil ones has surrounded me
    like a pack of wild dogs;
They pierced my hands and ripped a hole in my feet.
I count all my bones;
    people gawk and stare at me.
They make a game out of dividing my clothes among themselves;
    they cast lots for the clothes on my back.
But You, O Eternal, stay close;
    O You, my help, hurry to my side.
Save my life from violence,
    my sweet life from the teeth of the wild dog.
Rescue me from the mouth of the lion.
    From the horns of the wild oxen, You responded to my plea.
I will speak Your Name to my brothers and sisters
    when I praise You in the midst of the community.
You who revere the Eternal, praise Him—
    descendants of Jacob, worship Him;
    be struck with wonder before Him, all you children of Israel.
He’s not put off
    by the suffering of the suffering one;
He doesn’t pretend He hasn’t seen him;
    when he pleaded for help, He listened.
You stir my praise in the great assembly;
    I will fulfill my vows before those who humble their hearts before Him.
Those who are suffering will eat and be nourished;
    those who seek Him will praise the Eternal.
    May your hearts beat strong forever!
Those from the farthest reaches of the earth will remember
    and turn back to look for the Eternal;
All the families of the nations
    will worship You.
The Eternal owns the world;
    He exercises His gentle rule over all the nations.
All the wealthy of the world will eat and worship;
    all those who fall in the dust will bow before Him,
    even the life that is headed to the grave.
Our children will serve Him;
    future generations will hear the story of how the Lord rescued us.
They will tell the generations to come
    of the righteousness of the Lord,
    of what He has done.
-Psalm 22 (VOICE)

Here is another Psalm to pray, for today.  The Voice adds italic words(1), for better understanding of the text.  The highest form of worship is lament.  Blessings.

The artwork above as found here, and is by Kris Anne Baker

1. "Italic type indicates words not directly tied to the dynamic translation of the original language. These words bring out the nuance of the original, assist in completing ideas, and often provide readers with information that would have been obvious to the original audience. These additions are meant to help the modern reader better understand the text without having to stop and read footnotes or a study guide."

Prayer Book - Psalm 16

Keep me safe, O mighty God, I run for dear life to you, my Safe Place.

So I say to the Lord God, You are my Maker, my Mediator, and my Master.  You don't need my "goodness," for I have none apart from you.

And he said to me, "My holy lovers are wonderful, my majestic ones, my glorious ones, fulfilling all my desires."

Yet, there are those who yield to their weakness, and they will have troubles and sorrows unending.  I will never gather with such ones, nor give them honor in any way.

Lord, I have chosen you alone as my inheritance.  You are my prize, my pleasure, and my portion.  I leave my destiny and its timing in your hands.

Your pleasant path leads me to pleasant places.  I'm overwhelmed by the privileges that come from following you, for you have given me the best!

The way you counsel and correct me makes me praise you more; for your whispers in the night give me wisdom, showing me what to do next.

Because you are close to me and always available, my confidence will never be shaken, for I experience your wrap-around presence every moment.

My heart and my soul explode with joy - full of glory!  Even my body will rest confident and secure.

For you will not abandon me to the realm of death, nor will you allow your holy one to experience corruption.

For you will bring me a continuous revelation of resurrection life, the path of bliss that brings me face-to-face with you.
-Psalm 16 (The Passion Translation)

The book of Psalms is the prayer book of the church. Psalm 16 is a prayer for today.  I hope that these words, translated in current English, by Brian Simmons, will touch your hearts and give you inspiration, as you pray today.

I believe that the artwork above is by Claude Monet.

Unless You Turn and Become Like Children

At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

“Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.

“Woe to the world for temptations to sin! For it is necessary that temptations come, but woe to the one by whom the temptation comes! And if your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life crippled or lame than with two hands or two feet to be thrown into the eternal fire. And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into the hell of fire.

“See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven. What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray? And if he finds it, truly, I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray. So it is not the will of my Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.
-Matthew 18:1-14 (ESV)

Insignificant.  Are you willing to be insignificant for Jesus?  Dependent.  Are you willing to be completely dependent on Jesus?  Humble.  Are you willing to humble yourself for Jesus?  If not, your citizenship in the kingdom is not going to work.  You can't enter it and play there without becoming like a child.

There is a difference between childlike and childish.(1)  We are supposed to give up childish things (1 Cor. 13:11), ways of acting and relating, and become men and women, become adults.  But men and women must become like children to enter the kingdom of heaven.

Jesus said that we must change and be like children.  A child had no status, was powerless, and was utterly dependent.  That is what Jesus is talking about.

The disciples looked over at the Roman kingdom and perhaps the ecclesiastical kingdom of the Temple and the priests and may have reflected about how they were going to be the bosses, to be the powerful, the famous, and the entitled ones in Jesus' kingdom.  And Jesus said, "No, it's not going to be like that".  All disciples have no special status.  

All authority and any fame, is mediated through Christ.  We make disciples of Christ and exhort others to follow him, not us.  Everything we do, in the kingdom, is to make Christ great, to lift him up.

We might think that to be great is not about fame, fortune, or power; but about knowledge and piety.  Knowledge of the Bible, theology, and spiritual things is wrong headed, unless it is mediated through the living Christ, who calls us to a radical reorientation of becoming little people first.  Holiness, devoutness, and religious duty or zeal are worthless unless they come through Christ and his call.
Unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.  
Jesus contradicts our idea of success.
Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me.
We can only receive other genuine disciples it we are one ourselves.  There is a disconnect in fellowship when there are those who have not or are not becoming like children, who try to interact with the child-like ones.  Jesus is the mediator of our fellowship.  To be together with people, we have to humble ourselves.

The person who only looks up at people or down at people is a worldly person who is not living in Christ.  The kingdom is flat.  No hierarchy.  We receive something from someone or give something to someone through Christ, the head and the King.  To receive someone in Christ's name, is to perceive Christ in them.
At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
In the kingdom, the focus is the king.  There is one king, one boss, one head.  We all can only enter and be citizens of the kingdom is we become like children.  We all get to play and we all have to play nice.

He calls us to this.  Then he calls us to see others as his children, as folks who are his children, whom he is one with.  How we treat others is how we treat him.  The context is the upside down kingdom and how disciples treat each other.
But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.
“Woe to the world for temptations to sin! For it is necessary that temptations come, but woe to the one by whom the temptation comes! And if your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life crippled or lame than with two hands or two feet to be thrown into the eternal fire. And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into the hell of fire.
These words of Jesus are a stern warning about guarding against being a vehicle of temptation for others to sin.  Satan and his team traffic in using the low roads in our lives to tempt other people in the community of faith to sin.  Jesus warns of a severe punishment for those who let themselves be pathways of temptation for his children.

Folks who cause others to stumble or fall, because they have not dealt with their own sins, are called to account, by God, in this life, and will pay a heavy price.  Jesus' word, is that if you have a problem with something, then cut it off.  Throw that away.  Completely stop it.  We have no choice but to take responsibility for our stuff.

Even though we are saved, have been born anew, and are on our way to heaven; when a pattern of temptation and sin emerge in our life and come to light, we need to act swiftly to repent and cut it off.  We might need to get some deep healing in our hearts, and, "get the garbage taken out", that we may not have even been aware of previously, that is feeding the temptation to sin.  If we do not, we will become a stumbling block to others, especially the babes in Christ, and get ourselves in severe trouble in our lives, like having a rock necklace.
“See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven. 
Again, this is a word from Jesus about how to play nice.  His original audience were the Apostles who would be the "boots on the ground", when the expansion of the community of Jesus' followers would explode, shortly. He both says, "You need to become like children", and, "Do not despise my children".  "The 'little ones have already emerged in the previous verses as ordinary Christians, who in their vulnerability need the care of their fellow-disciples."(France, p. 272-3)

Angels are real.  Every person has an angel, as Jesus attests to here.  When we see other people, we need to see them as Christ's child, Christ in them, and someone who has a holy angel assigned to them.  This all should give us pause before we treat people badly.  Jesus and His Father care immensely for each one, especially for the ones in the greatest danger.
What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray? And if he finds it, truly, I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray. So it is not the will of my Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.
When Jesus asks a question, he is engaging his listeners.  He really cares what you think and wants what you think to be put forward, out onto the table of discussion.  We engage the learner when we ask questions and ask for comments and discussion.  We are accustomed to reading our Bibles in silence or passively listening to a teacher, but Jesus' method, which is more effective, is to engage the disciple/learner, asking them to speak up.  When you learn it or get it, you speak it or do it and have been taught it, and have caught it.  And, he keeps asking us the questions until we get it in our hearts.

The point of the parable about the  one sheep that went astray, is that God's heart, and our hearts congruently, are to be going after the one, while risking the safety of the ninety-nine.  Note also that the word is 'astray'.  The one is not 'lost', but 'astray'.

The one who goes astray needs the pastoral care of fellow disciples.  The word 'pastor', means 'shepherd'.  In the modern church, we have called the senior leader, who preaches on Sundays, 'the pastor'.  You might read this story with him in mind, and get the idea that, even though he is so busy leading the local church, whether it is a regular church of a hundred people, or a 'mega' church of a thousand, that he is reminded to look after that one who goes astray.

That application is partially right, but not what Jesus was saying and not the application we should take away from Matthew 18.  The application or 'take away' is that all Christians, all disciples are responsible for the care of fellow disciples.  This responsibility falls upon all of us.  It is the heart of the Father that Jesus imparts to all of us.  Our savior is The Good Shepherd (John 10), who imparts his heart of care for people, to all of us.

It is a common story that pastors today run from the one to the 99, figuratively.  They are not sinning, but are exhausted from the weight of their jobs.  An interesting note is that when churches take spiritual gifts tests, usually 20% or more of a congregation will come out of the test with the gift of pastor.(2)
Unless you turn and become like little children.
Children are completely dependent.  Are you completely dependent on God for everything?  Children are insignificant, in the world, but loved and cared for by their fathers, mothers, and extended families.  Have you found your significance in the love of God, and that love reverberated through God's family?
Unless you turn and become like little children.  
Jesus calls us all to a reorientation of status.  In the kingdom, in the family of God, Jesus calls us all to a low status.  In the kingdom, Jesus calls us all to go down, not up, humbling ourselves.  We don't go up in status, so that people look up to us and we look down to them, as we teach or minister to them.  We do the opposite.

In the kingdom, we all go down, becoming like children; before God, and to each other.  We are as children and we see each other as children, through the eyes of Father.  Welcome to the community of Jesus.

We are all little people in the kingdom.  Little people, with a big God.  There is never a great man of God.  It is always the great God of man.

And this is all antithetical to ecclesiastical hierarchies.  Remember that gifts are functions and roles.  The authority of Christ might come with the gift, but the gifted one is still called to become like a child, or they will not be able to function in the kingdom of God.

That is the context of this "Unless" word.  Jesus was speaking to the men who would be the foundation of the church and write some of the New Testament.  These guys, we would call "heavy weights", had to be like children, or they would not make it; and neither will we.



W. D. Davies, Dale C. Allison, Jr.; Matthew 8-18, International Critical Commentary 
Craig S. Keener, The Gospel of Matthew: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary

1. Childishness, in a word, is selfish.  Childish people pout, are self-centered, and have a sense of entitlement.  Fussing, tantrums, and running away and folding the arms are childish reactions.  The passive-aggressive style is to cut people off and ignore them when the childish one is offended.  They want things done for them and want life handed or "spoon fed " to them.  Childish ones always want to be entertained.  If they don't get fed, entertained, or catered to, it's not worth doing. 

One way of defining the positive of child-likeness in contrast to the negative of childishness is that child-likeness are the positive traits of children and childish are the negative.  I just gave some examples of childishness.  Child-likeness is innocence, a sense of wonder, trusting, friendliness, curiosity, impartiality, purity, willingness to try new things and even fail, and a forgiving disposition.

2. In our Christian culture, we have called the man who preaches, 'pastor', when he probably has the gift of exhortation or teaching, evangelist, or prophet.  The person with the gift of pastor has the Father's heart for that one in a hundred person, 'in spades'.

All disciples are called to pastoral care (shepherding other disciples), while 20% or more might be very good at or passionate about it.  

Unless You Eat The Flesh of The Son of Man and Drink His Blood

So Jesus said to them, “I assure you: Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you do not have life in yourselves. Anyone who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day, because My flesh is real food and My blood is real drink. The one who eats My flesh and drinks My blood lives in Me, and I in him. Just as the living Father sent Me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on Me will live because of Me. This is the bread that came down from heaven; it is not like the manna your fathers ate—and they died. The one who eats this bread will live forever.”
-John 6:53-58

This is the original "hard saying" of Jesus.(1)  After saying this, some disciples remarked that this was a hard teaching, and, "many of his disciples turned back and no longer accompanied (followed) him."(vs. 66)  

Today, this saying is still a hard saying, because it is either hard to understand or is something we don't want to do.(2)  Obeying Jesus is hard and impossible, without God's help and our total surrender.

He is the bread of life.  We must take him into our lives and assimilate his life in ours.  This is another way of saying the same thing as, "You must be born again".  Eternal life comes from his life in our lives.

John 6 begins with the feeding of the five thousand, where Jesus miraculously multiplied the bread and fish.  People remembered the manna and quail that came from God, during Moses time, and perhaps expected the Messiah to feed them like that.

John 6 is not about the Eucharist, the Lord's Supper, or Communion.  The earliest exegetical interpreters, such as Clement, Origen, and Eusebius interpreted the whole Bread of Life Discourse (John 6:22-66) spiritually.(3)  

Here is what Jesus said just before he said, "Unless you eat":
“I assure you: Anyone who believes has eternal life.  I am the bread of life.  Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died.  This is the bread that comes down from heaven so that anyone may eat of it and not die.  I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread he will live forever. The bread that I will give for the life of the world is My flesh.”
-John 6:47-51
Jesus has been speaking about receiving eternal life from him by faith, in his words to the people, in John chapter 6.  His coming down, came down, is a single act.  When he states, "Anyone may eat", and, "If anyone eats", it is also a single act. (Morris, p. 331, explains the aoist tense in the Greek.)

Eating this bread causes one to not die, but to live forever.  This is the bread of everlasting life.  Once you eat it, you will never be hungry and the one who believes will never be thirsty again (vs. 35).  "The bread that I will give for the life of the world", looks to the gift that would soon be made at Calvary (Morris, p. 331).  "I will give", is a one time, single act.  We receive this gift of life, given through the cross, once.

The context of The Bread of Life discourse, in John 6, is Christ.  The bread that came down from heaven is Christ.  Eating and drinking Christ is the means of bringing eternal life.  We must assimilate and appropriate Christ.

Once we partake of him, we are forever changed.  Our hunger and thirst are taken away.  Now that we have him, we want more of him.  The unbeliever struggles with the whole concept of assimilating and appropriating Christ, because they have not done this and still have that unsatisfied hunger and thirst.

They can see Christ, but not believe (vs. 36).  When Jesus was on the cross, people looked at him and did not believe.  One of the men next to him looked at him and believed, while the second one did not.  It is the same way today.

At that, the Jews argued among themselves, “How can this man give us His flesh to eat?”
So Jesus said to them, “I assure you: Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you do not have life in yourselves. Anyone who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day,  because My flesh is real food and My blood is real drink. The one who eats My flesh and drinks My blood lives in Me, and I in him.  Just as the living Father sent Me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on Me will live because of Me.  This is the bread that came down from heaven; it is not like the manna your fathers ate—and they died. The one who eats this bread will live forever.”
-John 6:52-8
The people did not understand what Jesus said.  They argued, verbally fought.  They still took his words too literally.  "How can this man be incorporated into us?", they might have said.

Jesus is more direct here and it is interesting that he says "flesh", which calls attention to his physical, historical, human body.  Jesus was a real person, flesh and blood, who felt pain.  It was not all an illusion, but the incarnation really happened.  That, I think, is the idea encapsulated in the stark word "flesh":

"The Word became flesh", writes John (1:14).  "Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man", calls to mind the incarnation, and the fact that Jesus was born and lived as a man, in order to redeem mankind.  This is one of the glorious aspects of the gospel.

The flesh and blood of the Son is laid down (sacrificed) for the life of the world.  This is a repeated idea in John's Gospel (cf. 10:11, 15; 11:51-2, 15:13, 17:19, 18:14).  Jesus is the Suffering Servant that Isaiah wrote about (Is. 52:13-53:12, 49:6).

Jesus is both from heaven, "I am the bread that came down from heaven" (John 6:32, 33, 37, 41-42, 50-1, 58), and a man, the one man, the Son of Man.  "Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man", means that to gain eternal life we must eat, take in, assimilate, or appropriate the real flesh and blood (6:32, 55) of the Son, who is the one whom God sets his seal of approval on (6:27), who descended and ascends 'to where he was before' (6:62).  The Son of man is the man where God is supremely revealed.(4)
"The one who feeds on Me will live because of Me.  This is the bread that came down from heaven; it is not like the manna your fathers ate—and they died. The one who eats this bread will live forever.”
We never have spiritual life in ourselves, but only in Christ.  There is no genuine spiritual life outside of Jesus.(5)

Debunking The Notion That John 6 is About The Eucharist

First, some notes about The Lord's Supper.  There are several helpful articles on The Lord's Supper, at the bottom of this post.

The word Eucharist is not in the Bible.  It comes from the verb that means "give thanks" (1 Cor. 11:24)  The application of that thanksgiving is when we give thanks for our food or "say grace" before a meal.

The Apostle Paul identifies or describes the sharing of food, while calling attention to Jesus Christ as "The Lord's Supper" (1 Cor. 11:20), which is a meal (vs. 21).  The background of this meal is that of God enjoying fellowship with humans during meals.  God created Adam and Eve, "For fellowship with himself", so, "Then every meal that Adam and Eve ate would have been a meal or feast in the presence of the Lord".(Grudem, Systematic Theology, p. 989)

Is there a basis, found in the OT, for having a meal in the presence of God?  Yes.  For example, Exodus 24:9-11 reads,
"Then Moses went up with Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and 70 of Israel’s elders, and they saw the God of Israel. Beneath His feet was something like a pavement made of sapphire stone, as clear as the sky itself. God did not harm the Israelite nobles; they saw Him, and they ate and drank"
And, Deut. 12:7 & 14:26b,
"You will eat there in the presence of the LORD your God and rejoice with your household in everything you do, because the LORD your God has blessed you." & "You are to feast there in the presence of the Lord your God and rejoice with your family."
It is also interesting that Jesus said, at The Last Supper, that he looked forward to drinking with his disciples, in the future (Matt. 26:26) and also there will be a great feast of eating with God, called The Marriage Supper of Lamb (Rev. 19:9).  Wayne Grudem writes this in his, "Background in the History of Redemption", section on The Lord's Supper:
From genesis to Revelation, then, God's aim has been to bring his people into fellowship with himself, and one of the great joys of experiencing that fellowship is the fact that we can eat and drink in the presence of the Lord.  It would be healthy for the church today to recapture a more vivid sense of God's presence at the table of the Lord.

Jesus is not talking about the Eucharist, in John 6.

  • The setting is the synagogue in Capernaum.(John 6:59)  Jesus was speaking to a crowd that contained lukewarm opponents.  It would be absurd that Jesus would be speaking about (alluding to) something (Eucharist, communion) that would be only practiced later.  This would be completely mystifying.(6)

  • The strong language that Jesus uses ("Unless you eat") is absolute.  He cannot mean that you must take the Lord's Supper to be saved, because there is no repentance, no conversion, no believing.  It is absurd to think that he is saying you must take the Eucharist to have eternal life.  This cannot be about communion, because he is't saying that if you don't take communion, you cannot be saved.  To say that this verse (John 6:53) is about the Eucharist, and that in the Eucharist we are saved, is to be out of step with the whole NT, which teaches that salvation comes through faith (John 3:16 for example).(7)  

  • The consequences of the eating and drinking here are also spoken of by John in chapter 6, verse 35, "No one who comes to me will ever be hungry and no one who comes to me will ever be thirsty", verse 40, "Everyone who sees the Son and believes on Him may have eternal life , and I will raise him up on the last day", and verse 47, "Anyone who believes has eternal life".(8)  These are not the consequences of taking communion, but of taking Christ into your life.

  • These words, spoken from the first century would have had a metaphorical meaning: taking into one's innermost being.  The language here simply cannot refer to Holy Communion, or even a prophetic teaching about it.  The teaching stands alone, having its own full and consistent meaning in connection with the actual circumstances.(9)


The meaning of Jesus' words, 
"Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you do not have life in your selves", 
are, that eating Jesus' flesh and drinking his blood, point to the same central saving act, described in John 3:16.  Jesus speaks of giving his flesh (vs. 51), but we must appropriate this gift by faith (vs. 47). Eating his flesh and drinking his blood is an extraordinary way of saying this.  The Son of Man must be assimilated into the life (the spiritual organism) of the believer.(10)

As Jesus said to Nicodemus,(John 3:3-21) he says here, that we have to take him into our innermost beings to have the life he died to give us.  The emphasis that Jesus makes in these verses is that he himself is the source of eternal life: the incarnate Son "only as given up in death, who is the bread of life."(11)

To somehow misunderstand Jesus words about eating his flesh and drinking his blood, to mean the bread and wine of the Eucharist, is to be in the same place as Nicodemus, who's eyes, ears, and mind were on earthly things rather than, the spiritual revelation of Jesus' words.(12)

This verse, "Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood", "refers to the spiritual appropriation of Christ".(13)  It secondarily shows us how we should receive communion.  The exegete, F.D. Maurice wrote this in 1885:
If you ask me, then, whether he is speaking of the Eucharist here, I would say, 'No'.  If you ask me where I can learn the meaning of the Eucharist, I would say, 'No where so well as here'.(14)
This passage of scripture teaches and John intended it to teach that Christ is present in the everyday life of the believer.  In the ancient church, the bread and the wine, in communion, were not symbols of Jesus' body and blood, but joyful signs of his presence.  They celebrated the resurrection of Jesus and anticipated his return in glory without memorializing his passion and death.(15)  

1. F.F. Bruce, The Hard Sayings of The Bible, p. 498
2. ibid
3. Brown, The Spiritual Gospel, 1960, p. 52
4. D.A Carson, John, p. 296
5. idid, p. 299
6. Morris, John, pp. 312-3
7. ibid
8. ibid
9. Odeberg, The Fourth Gospel, p. 256
10. ibid, p. 239
11. D.G. Dunn, NTS, XVII, (1970-1), pp. 337-8
12. Odeberg, The Fourth Gospel, p. 256
13. Morris, John, pp. 312-3
15. John M. Perry, NTS, 39, (1993), p. 22

Not cited, but consulted:
C.K. Barrett, John

For more information on The Lord's Supper:

Some Considerations Regarding the Lord's Supper Today, by I. Howard Marshall
The Lord’s Supper — A Holy Meal, by Steve Atkerson
Observing The Lord’s Supper, By Brian Anderson

Unless The Lord Builds The House

By Helen Devenish,
Unless the Lord builds the house, its builders labor in vain...

Sons are indeed a heritage from the LORD, children, a reward. 
-Psalm 127:1a, 3

This psalm is a word of wisdom about God's sovereignty and a warning against self-sufficiency.(1)  It is interesting that the word builders in verse 1 is a pun (2) on the word Sons (Children) in verse 3.  The house is a metaphor for family.  The parents are the builders and they build their children.

"Unless the Lord builds the house", says that it simply is not going to turn out well, unless God is involved in your life.  There are only two paths in life; the Lord's path, and the other path.  It is a deception to think there are a variety of paths.  As Jesus said, there's the narrow way and the wide way (Matt. 7:13).

"Unless the Lord builds the house", is a reminder that the "One thing" that is important, is to dwell in the house of the Lord forever (Psalm 27:4).  Our whole lives are about building with God and dwelling with God.

When we pass away from our earthly lives, we only take with us our relationship with the Lord and our relationships in the Lord.  A life that rejects the Lord is meaningless, while a life in the Lord is full of meaning.

When he was preparing his disciples for his death on the cross, Jesus declared, "In my Father's house, there are many dwelling places", and, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word. My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him." (John 14:2, 23).  Jesus was not talking about heaven, but about believers, on earth, dwelling with or being indwelt by God.

We can rest assured that God builds families.  There are two kinds of building: the Lord's and vain.  There are places in the New Testament where Jesus declares that he will build.  He will rebuild his temple, his body that is destroyed; and he will build his church.

The way of building with God is to let God lead, then follow.  It seems to me that the vain building is when we don't follow God, as in God's building action.  The fact that God builds gives me hope.

The painting above is by Helen Devensih, found here.  

I previously wrote on Psalm 127: Building What God is Building Psalm 127

The Sovereignty of God:
A Non-Calvinist, Relational View of God’s Sovereignty; by Roger E. Olson
Ask an Open Theist (Greg Boyd)…Response (The 5th question: Stephen: How do you feel that open theism works in relation to the concept of the "Sovereignty" of God?

1. Word Biblical Commentary, Psalms 101-150. Leslie C. Allen, p.180
2.  College Press NIV Commentary, Psalms, S. Edward Tesh & Walter Zorn, p. 420

Unless Your Righteousness

For I tell you, unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.
-Matthew 5:20

The righteousness of the Christian is imputed by God, in Christ.  His righteousness gives us the ability to be faithful, to be good, and to be abundantly more righteous than any religious people who haven't been regenerated or born from above.  And Jesus is not saying that we will be more legalistic or observant of the laws than they are, but have his righteousness and life; obeying his commands, enabled by him.

Jesus does not make righteousness easier or make living a holy life obsolete, but makes it harder and says that his followers will be more righteous than the most religious, law-keeping people.  This word was shocking because the scribes and the Pharisees were seen as 'paragons' of righteousness.

Who were the scribes and Pharisees?  The scribes were professional students and teachers of the law.  The Pharisees were members of a largely lay movement devoted to scrupulous observance of both the Old Testament Law and the still developing legal traditions (France, p. 116).

D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones said this about the danger of external righteousness:
There is a real and terrible possibility of our deluding and fooling ourselves.  The Pharisees and the scribes were denounced by the Lord as being hypocrites.  Yes; but they were unconscious hypocrites.  They did not realize it, they thought all was well.  You cannot read your Bible without being reminded of that terrible danger.  There is the possibility of our relying upon the wrong thing, of resting upon things that appertain to true worship rather than being in the position of true worship. And, let me remind you, tenderly, in passing, that it is something of which those of us who not only claim to be evangelical, but are proud to call ourselves such, may be very easily guilty. (Jones, p. 203)
What is the righteousness of the scribes and the Pharisees that we want to avoid, that ours must vastly excel over?  Their righteousness was external rather than internal.  
And He told them: “You are the ones who justify yourselves in the sight of others, but God knows your hearts. For what is highly admired by people is revolting in God’s sight.               -Luke 16:15
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence! Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup, so the outside of it may also become clean.

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which appear beautiful on the outside, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and every impurity. In the same way, on the outside you seem righteous to people, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.
-Matthew 23:23-7
Jesus' warning about the Pharisees is that their righteousness was external, ceremonial, and deeds based.  They looked good, they did the ceremonies, and they tithed.  But inside, they were unregenerate.

The way Jesus works and the way God always has worked is to work inside out, changing hearts, which leads to changed lives.  What we say in our hearts is what God is looking at and wants to transform.  How is your self-talk?

Ceremonial righteousness is when you show up, but there has been no intimacy with God and no inner change.  The righteousness of the scribes and the Pharisees, that we are to surpass, was self-righteous.  Self-righteous folks are smug and glib (Lloyd-Jones, p. 206):
Smug: having or showing an excessive pride in oneself or one's achievements.
"he was feeling smug after his win"
synonyms: self-satisfied, self-congratulatory, complacent, superior, pleased with oneself, conceited.
Glib: fluent and voluble, but insincere and shallow.
"she was careful not to let the answer sound too glib"
synonyms: slick, pat, fast-talking, smooth-talking; disingenuous, insincere, facileshallow, superficial, flippant; smooth, silver-tongued, urbane.

In marked contrast to the self-congratulatory, self-righteous, self-centered religionist; the kingdom person lives their life in the beatitudes.  Beatitude means "blessed", "exalted happiness", or "bliss".  Jesus says that his disciples are blessed people:
  • Who are poor in spirit.
  • Who grieve or mourn.
  • Who are gentle, meek, or humbled.
  • Who hunger and thirst for justice or righteousness.
  • Who show mercy.
  • Who are pure in heart.
  • Who are peacemakers.
  • Who are persecuted for righteousness' sake.
-Matthew 5:5-10
These are descriptions of Jesus' righteousness in his disciples.  These are blessings to walk in that are the entry points for walking in the kingdom.  If these are not operating, you are not walking in his righteousness.

Martyn Llyod-Jones wrote this about the self-righteousness of the Pharisees (Lloyd-Jones, p. 207):
The trouble with the Pharisees is that they were interested in details rather than principles, they were interested in actions rather than motives, and that they were interested in doing rather than in being.  The remainder of The Sermon on the Mount is just an exposition of that.  Our Lord said to them in effect, 'You are pleased with yourselves because you do not commit adultery; but if you even look with lust in your eyes, that is adultery.'  It is the principle, not the action only, that matters; it is what you think and desire, the state of your heart that is important.  You do not become a Christian by just refraining from some actions and doing others; the Christian is a man who is in a particular relationship to God and whose supreme desire is to know Him better and to love Him more truly.  This is not a part-time job, if I may so put it, it is not achieved by the religious observance of a part of Sunday; it demands all the time and attention we have.  Read the lives of the great men of God and you will find that this is the principle that always emerges.
Jesus' statement that our righteousness must exceed the righteousness of the professionally religious ones, does not mean he is calling us to a salvation by works.  But, Jesus is not against obeying God's laws.  He is against legalism.  The lifestyle of the citizen of God's kingdom is "a deeper commitment to do the will of God" (France, p. 117).  To answer the charge that he came to destroy the law, he said, "no, I came to fulfill."
“Don’t assume that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill.
-Matthew 5:17
Fulfill means here, according to France: "to complete and bring to its destined end, by giving the final revelation of God's will to which the Old Testament pointed forward, and which now transcends it... Jesus is bringing that to which the Old Testament looked forward; his teaching will transcend the Old Testament revelation, but, far from abolishing it, is itself its intended culmination" (France, p. 113-4).
The fruit of the life infused with the grace of God, having been born anew, is a righteous life, inside out.  The grace of God comes upon the heart and flows out through a righteous life.

The new birth, brought about by the Father, in me; puts Christ in me and the Spirit of God in me, giving me the righteousness that surpasses any religiousness, good-deeds-doing, or Bible knowledge; exemplified in the scribes and Pharisees.  Selfishness, self-righteousness, and self-satisfaction are taken over by a love for God and others, lived out in intimacy as I walk and talk with Jesus.


Bibliography- Studies In The Sermon On The Mount, D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, 1959; Matthew, R.T. France, 1985; Matthew, Donald A. Hagner, 1993.

Sky Links 6-11-15

Photo: Spacebridge by longobord CC 2.0

And they were all together in one place...
-Acts 2:1

A Church For All Ages

Do you dream of a church where all ages are present?  I do.  J.R. Miller wrote some ideas about what his church has done to make this workable.  His church formulated, through a consensus of the adults, a list of expectations:

 Adults need to "Put on love" so we don't 'porcupine' each other!  But what about the kids?  J.R. Miller wrote a

This list of expectations would be like a fence around a playground; it would keep our kids feeling safe, yet not restricted. The list of expectations would be like a guardrail along a cliff; it would provide security without unnecessary restriction.

So here is what we did.

The adults sat down during one of our gatherings and each of us listed behaviors we felt acceptable or unacceptable. This was a great opportunity for us, as parents, to build trust in one another to be responsible for holding all the kids accountable to our shared expectations.
J.R. Miller, What can we do with all these kids

Kevin Brown just wrote about why the "family of God" should gather all together, with all ages:

This fact seems almost strange in our day and age when, in many churches, we send our children off to “Children’s Church” to eat snacks, color and watch videos. Yet, as we study the Scriptures, we can’t find any verses in the entire Bible where the children were pulled out of the meeting. It would have been completely unorthodox to do so. There is never a time or an instance in Scripture when the children were separated from the parents/family when the people of God met together. At this point, I’m reminded of Jesus and his rebuke of the disciples for not allowing the children to come to him recorded in Mark 10:13-14:

And they were bringing children to him that he might touch them, and the disciples rebuked them. But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God.”

I know for many churches, the idea of having young children in our services is very counter-cultural. Many church leaders and members say the children are too noisy and disruptive and people can’t worship the Lord. Yet, when we say these things, we are much like the disciples when they tried to shoo away the children. Consequently, in our day, we have lost the blessing of the full body being together in the meeting. Sadly, we have become comfortable with some of the body missing. How have we gotten to this point? The Church wasn’t this way in the New Testament or even 40 to 50 years ago. It has happened, because it’s convenient...

...Children are a blessing of a growing church, not a nuisance.

I am grateful for a church that is literally willing to suffer for the children. I’m grateful for my granddaughter’s church, Parkview Baptist, in Morehead City, NC. They allow Charlotte to be with them. Thank you Pastor David Mills!

Yes, a church should allow families to worship together as a part of the onefamily. Churches have the opportunity to tell the body, (a family of families), that all are welcome at the Lord’s Table, even our youngest. I know for many reading this, seeing church life in this way is a total paradigm shift and would be a significant change in philosophy, church culture and practice at your church. But, I promise you what I’ve described to you embodies biblical patterns that can successfully be integrated in the fabric of any church if we’ll take the risk of being biblical versus convenient. :)
D. Kevin Brown, Why Do We Have Babies and Small Children in Our Church Services?

The photo is from a story about a house church, from NPR- Swapping Steeples For Sofas.

Robert Stamps: "The supper of the Lord is a place where Christ is appointed for the church to meet him."

Dr. Robert Stamps teaches that what happens to us, by Christ, in communion, is the purpose of it.  Stamps has a PhD in Eucharistic Theology.  The emphasis of remembrance or memorializing Christ gets it wrong, says Stamps, because communion or The Eucharist is not about the past, but about the kingdom breaking in now.

Jesus said, "Do this in remembrance.", not, "Remember as you do this."  The "this" is Jesus working today in people's lives (together), delivering and saving them to be his disciples.  The "this" is not a hushed (memorial) moment.  Christ's life is celebrated in a meal with laughter and weeping, sharing life in his life.

The "table" is the table at your house, or in your "upper room", and not a special table, on a stage, or at an alter.  Your table might be a tv tray or a blanket spread on the floor or ground.  The table is the place between us where we experience the presence of Christ.  That's Holy Communion, The Lord's Supper, or The Eucharist.

The message of the Lord's Supper, Communion, or The Eucharist (and The Gospel); is that God comes to your house, to your table, into your world, in this world.  We've had it backwards.

Stamps said,

"We don't just reflect. Jesus Christ is a living presence. And when the church has communion, and 'remembers' him, we remember as an encounter... John Wesley said we believe in a real presence with a real encounter. Jesus Christ is not a distant savior back there in history. Jesus Christ is alive and present to us in the Holy Spirit... So, the question is not one of how he is present, but what his presence will do to us."
Robert Stamps- The Meaning of Communion

Dr. Stamps is a longtime friend of Wayne Jacobsen (Finding Church) and has been on Wayne's show recently and in the past:
"The supper of the Lord is a place where Christ is appointed for the church to meet him."

Broken 'People Pickers'

Many of us have trouble in our friendships.  Friendships are very unsatisfying when they are one-sided, when you do most of the giving, while the other person mostly takes.  We are all in the process of 'growing up'.  Donald Miller wrote, Do You Filter Your Friendships?  You Probably Should. :

Growing up as a Christian I was taught I should forgive and accept everybody. I still
believe that. But what forgiving and accepting has looked like over the years has changed.

One of the best pieces of advice I’ve received was given to me by my friend Ben. We were taking a break from a writing project, sitting out on my deck when I brought up some trouble I was having with a friend. I’d grown a little tired of this friend using me and I was losing trust.

Ben said something I’d never forget.

He said You know, Don, there are givers and takers in this life, I got rid of the takers years ago and I’ve been better for it. I’d recommend you do the same. To be sure, this was reductionistic but Ben was making a general point.

The point is this: Some people aren’t trustworthy. He’s right. And if we don’t believe that, I think we’re being naive.

Don Miller: Do You Filter Your Friendships?  You Probably Should

Don highly recommends the book, Safe People, by Henry Cloud & John Townsend.

The Biggest Mistake a Successful Church Planter Can Make 

Aaron Gloy is the pastor of a 5 year old church. He recently wrote about how church planting and

disciple making are two different things:

I was trained in all the conventional methods of planting a church. But what I wasn’t trained in and what I failed to think through entirely was how we were going to make disciples.

This is rather problematic when you consider that Jesus never commanded us to plant churches. He commanded us to make disciples. Now when you effectively make disciples I believe church planting becomes inevitable, but it is very possible to plant churches and never get around to actually making disciples.

I thought, studied and planned relentlessly when it came to planting our church, but disciple making wasn’t given nearly the same kind of attention. I assumed that if we moved people into small groups it would just sort of happen on its own. This is easily the biggest mistake I’ve made as a pastor and church planter...

Aaron Gloy- The Biggest Mistake I Made As A Church Planter.

NT Wright: "Jesus is the hinge on which the great door of history swings...  'As the Father has sent me, so I send you', is the key to the Church's mission."     

Shane Blackshear interviewed NT Wright on his show.  I was deeply impacted by his words on Jesus and the kingdom and the church.  I found this book and his chapter in it, where he speaks on this more.  He takes up the issue of holding together the kingdom, the cross, and the resurrection.

"He is the crucified, resurrected, kingdom-bringer, and Israel's Messiah.  His crucifixion established the kingdom, his resurrection established him as Messiah.  On the cross, he did the work of Messiah, defeating the powers of evil, conquering death.  His resurrection means new creation has come, now and here." -NT Wright

This is Wright, from the 2010 Wheaton Theology Conference, on his work, that became this book; Jesus, Paul and the People of God: A Theological Dialogue with N. T. Wright.  These words are from his address & chapter entitled, "Whence and Whither, Historical Jesus studies in The Life of the Church?":

"...What about fresh readings of the Gospels in the service if the church?

What is the "so what"? This, I believe, is not basically about apologetics... but about mission.

Somehow, the whole complex of kingdom, cross, and resurrection must play out into a full-orbed gospel-rooted mission which will be significantly unlike the social gospel mission that forgot about the cross, or the "Jesus died for you" mission that forgot about the kingdom.

One of the great breakthrough moments for me when I was first struggling with historical Jesus questions was John 20:21: "As the father has sent me, so I send you."

That derivative correspondence - the "as" and the "so", with Jesus' own mission the source and the template for that of his followers, as they receive the Spirit- suddenly opens up an entire hermeneutical world, demanding that the church again and again study the historical mission of Jesus not just to find out the back history of the crucified and risen One, but to realign itself with the shape and content of that mission in order to carry out its own.

Jesus' own mission becomes the template and the energizing force for all that the church has to do and be. We are to be for the world what Jesus was for Israel.

You will only understand the mission of the church in the world if, instead of using the canon as a closed story, a charmed circle in which it means what it means, but which you can't break into or out of, you go back to Jesus himself, which is what the canon is pleading with you to do, so that you can then see who he was and is and then discern, in the power of the Spirit, what (who?) we have to do and be.

If you want to know what it looks like, read the book of Acts: a story of doing the kingdom, bearing the kingdom, suffering for the kingdom, and eventually announcing the kingdom under the nose of Caesar himself. That is what it looks like when the church goes out, with the breath of Jesus in our lungs, to tell the world that he is its rightful Lord.

Sometimes people get hurt; sometimes a thousand people get converted ; sometimes all sorts of things in between take place; and somehow the Gospel gets to Rome, to the center of human power and authority, to announce there that Jesus is Lord and God is king, openly and unhindered.

To do this, however, the church needs constantly to reconnect with the real Jesus, who the canonical Gospels give us but whom we have so badly misunderstood. The world will pull these things apart again, will lure us into the smaller worlds of either social work or saving souls for a disembodied eternity.

Our various Western worldviews will force on us political agendas that are culled from elsewhere, which we can feel good about because they don't have the cross attached to them.

-NT Wright: "Jesus and the People of God: Whence and Whither Historical Jesus Studies and the Life of the Church."-Jesus, Paul and the People of God: A Theological Dialogue with N. T. Wright By Nicholas Perrin, Richard B. Hays (pp. 151-2).  The original audio of Wright's lecture is here.

Engaging The LGBTQ Community

I listened to Debra Hirsch's Seminar on "Enagaging The LGBTQ Community".  Debra Hirsch is the author of Redeeming Sex.  Here are some endorsements of her book:

"With lived experience, direct frankness and a pastoral heart, Deb Hirsch addresses the church on sexuality. In so doing, Redeeming Sex prepares the way for the places the church must go to be 'among' today's confused and strife-ridden world of sexuality. It is a vulnerable gift that moves us beyond faulty stereotypes and pre-set notions. I cannot think of a better book to start the conversation."
-David Fitch"

Debra Hirsch's own story—and what she learned about sex before and after meeting Jesus—is both convincing and convicting. But the book is more than testimony. Debra makes intelligent, faithful use of Scripture and of authors who have engaged with this topic. She also untangles key differences between sexuality and cultural roles. Noting the Bible's extensive 'sexual language and imagery,' Debra affirms that 'our sexuality lies close to our spirituality.' Her book can lead Christians to an integration of sex and sanctity that enriches both—and makes us more faithful and redemptive disciples of Jesus Christ." 
-Howard A. Snyder
"I'm so grateful to Deb Hirsch for writing the best book on this conversation I have read. It speaks to the heart of our identity in Christ. It addresses complex and sensitive realities and tensions with grace, love, compassion, truth, justice and mercy. It is prophetic, profound, candid, transparent and should be read by every Christian. It will challenge you to the core, but we can no longer stick our heads in the sand and ignore the fact that people are hurting and need real answers to real issues. I am giving a copy of this book to everyone I know. It's that important." 
-Christine Caine

Deb Hirsch: Engaging The LGBTQ Community - Exponential Podcast (you  might need to subscribe)
Redeeming Sex (Amazon link)
A 4 minute video primer from Deb Hirsch, on the topic in her book.