Preparing for Sunday

gotochurchWhat do Saturdays look like for you?  If you’re like me, you probably think of Saturday as a day of rest or a day to do something relaxing or enjoyable.  There’s nothing wrong with that and after a long productive work week, we should enjoy the fruits of our labor.  Rest and leisure are good gifts that we should appropriately enjoy.  But should Saturday only be thought of as a reward to a long work week? Or should we also think of Saturday as a day of preparation for our Sunday worship gathering?

I wonder how much thought is given to preparing for Sunday morning on Saturday. Sure we give some thought to preparation by getting our clothes ready, putting the children down to sleep, or deciding what to eat for breakfast, etc. But how do we and how should we prepare our hearts to commune with the living God and our brothers and sisters in a corporate worship gathering?

If we understand the gravity of that last sentence, we’ll give more thought and consideration to how we prepare our hearts for Sunday.  If we have an unhealthy view of our Sunday gathering, our preparation will reflect that.  Historically, the church met on the first day of the week to commemorate the resurrection of Christ (Matt. 28:1-7; Mark 16:2, 9; Luke 24:1; John 20:1).  So every time we gather, we are celebrating the resurrection of Christ. Not only that, but we also are coming together to be instructed how to live as sons and daughters of the kingdom, confessing our sins, making intercession for others, offering supplication, praising in song and pleading for the salvation of the lost.  Those things are not to be taken lightly, especially since the church is God’s means of displaying His glory in a unique way and is also the main institution for our growth.  Since all of this is true, how might we better prepare for the Sunday gathering? Here are a few simple suggestions that my wife and I are implementing, but by no means have perfected.

  1. Don’t make Saturday night a late night, whether you go out or stay home.
  2. Plan to designate a time to discuss the order of service or sermon text with your spouse or a fellow church member, if possible.
  3. Think about how you can be praying the point of the sermon text for yourself and for others.
  4.  Pray for every aspect of the Sunday service (praying, singing, preaching, and giving) and for your heart to be receptive to God’s Word.
  5. Consider whether or not if you have any unresolved conflict with anyone and seek to reconcile before attending the worship service.

As God’s graciously chosen ones, may we demonstrate the privilege and joy of being His children by being responsible church members who purposely prepare for Sunday.

Related Recommended Reading

Healthy Church Member What is A Healthy Church Member? by Thabiti Anyabwile

Grace & Peace,

d.

The Actual Factual

Christians are a people of truth. Our faith is based on the truth of God. One of the most important and characteristic truths about Christianity is the doctrine of the Trinity. Though you won’t find the word “trinity” in the Scriptures, you will see the attributes of deity ascribed and described of the Father, the Son (Jesus Christ) and the Holy Spirit. In other words, God is one, but exists in three persons. Much controversy has come as a result of  this teaching, but the Scriptures are clear in its proclamation of the deity of all three members of the Godhead.

Perhaps the most controversial teaching of the Godhead is the teaching about the nature of Jesus Christ. In the Scriptures, we find that Jesus was an actual human being 100% and that He was also 100% God. This is known as the doctrine of the hypostatic union.

Notice what the Apostle Paul says in Philippians 2:5-11 & Colossians 1:15-19

  • 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant,being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:5-11) 
  • 15 He (Jesus) is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by him (Jesus) all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent.19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell… (Colossians 1:15-19)

This is hugely significant as we consider the work of the gospel. For anyone to be saved, they must have the righteousness required by God that comes from obedience to the law. However, the Bible teaches that no one can perfectly obey the law of God because of his sinful nature. We’re all born rebels incapable of obeying the Lord, nor do we naturally have the desire to. This is why the doctrine of Christ or Christology is an essential doctrine.

As a man, Jesus perfectly obeyed the will/law of the Father (Matthew 5:17 & John 4:34). The law requires perfect obedience and it also demands death for disobedience.  Jesus lived as a human being, with its limitations, for 33 years perfectly submitted to the will of the Father, including dying on a cross as a ransom and a substitution for sinners. (Isaiah 53)

As God, Jesus exhibited the attributes of deity – authority over creation, received worship, immortality, His titles as Lord, and His claim to being I AM (John 8:58). What’s key is that only God can fulfill His own law and in this Jesus proved His deity as well.

The rejection of the nature and work of Jesus Christ is the birth of false religions. (i.e. Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormonism, etc.)

The nature and work of Jesus is one we must get right if we will fully appreciate the uniqueness, grace and mercy of the gospel and its security.

Check out the song, Hypostatic Union, by shai linne from his forthcoming album, Lyrical Theology Volume 1.

(see if you can decipher what the logo says)

Grace & Peace,

d.

 

50 Reasons Why Jesus Came to Die |intro|

Last night, my wife and I started going through John Piper’s Fifty Reasons Why Jesus Came to Die.  The main reason why I thought this book was worth reading, thinking about and discussing is that it focuses on the implications of the gospel.  When we hear the word “gospel” we probably tend to think of the good news that God has graciously, mercifully and lovingly reconciled sinners to Himself through Jesus Christ sparing us from His eternal wrath. We are right to think and rejoice over these truths. However, there is much more to the death of Christ than our justification. In other words, there is more to our salvation than our positional standing before God. There are practical results that flow from the Cross of Christ that are meant to be demonstrated in the life of each believer. In other words, the gospel is not only the power for salvation, but also for sanctification.  There is much more involved in the death of Christ than we often think of and Piper’s desire is to help us grasp that in these 2-3 page chapters. In his own words, Piper said,

“I have gathered from the New Testament fifty reasons why Jesus came to die. Not fifty causes, but fifty purposes. Infinitely more important than who killed Jesus is the question: What did God achieve for sinners like us in sending his Son to die?” (17).

That last sentence is the focus of the book.

I also think this book is fitting to read considering that the holiday season is near, which always poses the temptation to get us caught up into its commercialization and materialism traps.  It’s battle reading.  It’s also reading designed to increase our affections for our Savior as we consider the bounty of His work.

My aim is to provide thoughts about each chapter as they’re read.

Desiring God currently offers this book as a free downloadable PDFFree Book

Grace & Peace,

d.

Living Soli Deo Gloria Under Obama

Here’s a great article by Eric Redmond explaining how his biblical convictions and his cultural identity led him to vote the way he did.

Living Soli Deo Gloria Under Obama

Also as bonus material…

How Can Any Christian African American Vote for Obama? Throwing the Race Card on an All Black Table

Grace & Peace

d.

Resolve, Endure & Pray

As of the beginning of this writing the Electoral Vote stands at 194-124, Obama. I will admit that I am very intrigued by this Presidential race. One of my college buddies sent me a text message saying watching tonight’s results was like “watching a close basketball game in the 4th quarter.” I think that’s a fair assessment. Indeed these are interesting times and this is an interesting race. It will be a first in two important regards. Either the United States will have its first African-American President or its first female Vice President. The implications are huge! There is no doubt about that.

My goal here is not to voice my thoughts on either candidate. Many of you have already endured my thoughts. Instead, I want to address the issue of how the church should respond to tonight’s historical event. Christianity has endured all types of earthly government and leaders since its inception. The church (which was multicultural) was birthed in Jerusalem. The political climate of 1st Century Israel was very complex. While maintaining an extent of self-government, ultimately they were under the control of the Roman Empire under Roman Emperor Claudius. While Claudius wasn’t particularly hostile toward “religion” he was more interested in stabilizing and extending the Roman Empire keeping the church under close observation. Persecution would soon follow under the narcissistic reign of Emperor Nero.

Despite the various forms of government that have existed, as believers, ultimately we are citizens of heaven under Theocratic rule, yet called to submit to the government over us when it doesn’t negate God’s commands. So there’s this tautness of being a citizen of heaven and an alien on earth.

This election has caused excitement, stress, fear, anger, resentment, joy and at times I’ve wondered if believers have had misplaced affections. Daniel 2:21a reminds us that God sets up kings and deposes them. Let us not forget to praise and worship the Lord because He alone is sovereign holding everything together by the words of His mouth!

So how should we respond to our new President?

Resolve

Resolve to keep your eyes on the purpose of your life, which is to bring glory to God. Remember this life is temporary.

1Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. (Colossians 3:1-2)

Endure

Endure in walking out your faith by God’s grace, no matter which administration is in “control”.

9Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary. 10So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith. (Galatians 6:9-10)

Pray

Pray for our President and all leaders.

1 I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone— 2 for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. 3This is good, and pleases God our Savior,… (1 Timothy 2:1-2)

While our temporary earthly administration may change, our true King doesn’t. We have a divine fixed polity!

** And at the end of this writing, our next President is Senator Barack Obama.

Grace & Peace,

d.

Saved and Prejudiced?

As I type this, a certain emotion is rising in me. That emotion is frustration, probably leaning more toward anger. The root cause of my frustration is ethnocentrism and racism. More specifically, their presence in the church. Before I go on to tell you exactly why I am so frustrated, I think it would be worthy to have clear definitions of each.

Ethnocentrism is the tendency to look at the world primarily from the perspective of one’s own culture. Ethnocentrism often entails the belief that one’s own race or ethnic group is the most important and/or that some or all aspects of its culture are superior to those of other groups. Within this ideology, individuals will judge other groups in relation to their own particular ethnic group or culture, especially with concern to language, behavior, customs, and religion. These ethnic distinctions and sub-divisions serve to define each ethnicity and unique cultural identity.

Racism, by its simplest definition, is the belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race. People with racist beliefs might hate certain groups of people according to their racial groups.

Surprisingly, these are very similar in nature. The only difference listed is racism has hatred for other races.

Now that definitions have been provided, I will share with you why I am feeling the way I am. I feel this way due to several conversations I’ve had with people, who happen to be black and professing Christians, about the Presidential election and my stance against Barack Obama.

And because of my stance, on two separate occasions, my race and my “love” for my race has been called into question. Both instances were due to misunderstood comments I made about slavery, the history of the Republican Party and about how many ignorant votes are going to be cast for Obama by blacks simply because he’s black. By ignorant I mean people who are casting their votes for Obama without the slightest knowledge of his policies.

For the record, their comments toward me didn’t frustrate me.  Highly sensitive issues like politics tend to draw out comments rooted in emotionalism rather than objectivity, so I can overlook that.  However, what frustrates me is their attitude toward race concerning the election. Those attitudes are ethnocentric and racist. Need we be reminded of the horrendous fruits of these 2 sins? (i.e. Rwanda, slavery, Black Power, The Holocaust, etc.)

So it boils down to this : Is it right for professing Christians to be ethnocentric or racist?

The answer should seem obvious, but many believers are oblivious to either or both of these issues or are trying to justify these feelings.

Without going into unnecessary detail, the implications of ethnocentrism and racism does nothing to promote the true gospel. In fact, they are stumbling blocks to revealing the character of God and obeying the Great Commission.

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,…

(Matthew 28:19)

God has created all tribes, tongues, people and nations and as His diverse “man” (human race) created His image (Gen. 1:26-27), by virtue, all of humanity deserves to be treated with dignity. But even more so as redeemed sinners from every tribe, tongue, people and nation (Rev. 5:9) and part of a new race (Eph.2:14), we are to put away preferential or exclusionary attitudes in every aspect of our lives, even in the voting booth.

If you’re voting for or not voting for a particular candidate based on his skin color, you’re exhibiting traits of ethnocentrism or racism. Does any part of your life reflect ethnocentrism or racism? Does that point to the truth, beauty and love of Jesus Christ?

Grace & Peace,

d.