We Must Take This More Seriously!

I just sat on my couch in Snyder, TX, USA and watched a live (and powerful) sermon streamed over YouTube from Australia. I got to watch and hear the same message preached that my brothers and sisters in Christ are hearing on the other side of the world at the same time they were hearing it. What a time we live in that the Word of God can be transmitted in such a way.

And yet it worries me that we don’t take the Word of God as seriously as we should. We have more opportunity to interact with the Word than any other time in human history. Our access to Scripture is unprecedented, the resources we have to study Scripture and access to quality teaching us seemingly unending. And I think therein lies the problem.

Can you imagine living in a world where every sermon you ever heard was in a language you didn’t understand? And there was no copy of the Bible in your own language? I’m reading a biography on William Tyndale and it’s reminding me of the immense blessing God has given us through having the Bible in our own native language. Tyndale died because he dared to translate the Bible into English, and yet we often find it a bother to carry a Bible around. It’s “inconvenient.”

Can you imagine for the first time in your life hearing these words in your own language for the first time:

“For God so loved the world that he hath given his only son that none that believe in him should perish, but should have everlasting life.” (Tyndale New Testament)

Friends, don’t ever let interacting with the Word of God become routine. Don’t ever let it become so “common” that we don’t take it seriously. About 10 hours from now I’ll gather with brothers and sisters and we’ll open God’s Word once again. I pray you do the same, wherever you are, whatever is going on in your life. I pray you stop and open God’s Word again with the same excitement and passion as if you were hearing it for the very first time. Because for some of you reading this, the Word just might come alive as though it were the very first time.

May God bless you as you gather with the saints and as you dwell in His Word.

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Connections: The Passover and the Lord’s Supper – Part 6

Last time we explored the significance of the cups of wine used in the Passover celebration. This article will examine a reference that Jesus and Paul make to one of theses cups.

The third cup comes right after supper. This cup is mentioned specifically in Luke 22:20 – In the same way he also took the cup after supper and said, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.” This third Passover cup is known as the Geulah which means redemption, and is sometimes called the cup of blessing. As mentioned previously, the phrase “new covenant in my blood” is an allusion by Jesus to Jeremiah 31:31-34. “Look, the days are coming”—this is the Lord’s declaration—“when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah…”  The passage ends with the words: “For I will forgive their iniquity and never again remember their sin.”

It is a powerful statement Jesus is making by taking the cup of redemption, or cup of blessing, and interpreting it as God’s new covenant with humankind. The third cup reminded the Jews of God’s blessing by redeeming them out of slavery in Egypt on the very night of the original Passover. In a similar, but far greater way, God will redeem his people once, for all time through the events that would begin the very night that Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper. This was to be a new feast to commemorate God’s eternal redemption of his people.

The apostle Paul alludes to this third cup in his letter to Corinth. The church in Corinth was apparently involved in consuming food that had been sacrificed by pagans to their idols. Some saw nothing wrong with eating the food, while others were deeply offended by this claiming the Christians were worshipping idols in eating these feasts.

1 Corinthians 10:16-17 – The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a sharing in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a sharing in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, since all of us share the one bread.

Barclay offers the following commentary on Paul’s teaching to the Corinthians. “…a man who has sat at the table of Jesus Christ cannot go on to sit at the table which is the instrument of demons. If a man has handled the body and blood of Christ there are things he cannot touch.”

Those of us who have entered into “the new covenant in [Christ’s] blood” have pledged our faithfulness to him. Eating this feast is worship, and when we eat the bread and drink from the cup, we are not only reminding ourselves of his sacrifice, we are recommitting ourselves to this new covenant in Christ which excludes worshipping any other god.

All Christians who eat the Lord’s Supper are “one body” in doing so. Unfortunately we still allow idol sacrifices to divide us today. We often place our allegiance to our denominations, our worship preferences, our schedules, our convenience, as well as other idols before our allegiance to unity in Christ. In many ways, we fail to remember the body (church) of Jesus when we eat this feast.  May God forgive us for our lack of unity, and may God strengthen our bond to him and each other through the body and blood of Christ.

Did you notice Him?

How was church this morning? Was the music the way you wanted? Was the sermon interesting? Did the Bible class topic pique your interest?

Was the coffee right? Were the right donuts and pastries available? Did you find the seat you wanted? Did you even go?

So often when we talk about church we think in these terms, and these issues. We are concerned with if we enjoyed church. We are living in the age of ‘me.’ We are so focused on our individual wants and desires throughout the week that often we carry those same feelings and actions right into our worship services on Sunday.

But I want you to imagine with me for a minute. What if Jesus was there Sunday morning?Would it make any difference to you?

If Jesus was at your church this Sunday morning, sitting in worship…how would your experience have been different? Would you have been as concerned with music, sermon, other stuff…or would you have focused more on having your heart and mind focused on Him?

Matthew 18:20 – For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”

If you went to church Sunday in order to worship our risen Savior, He was there! He was available to connect with you in a way that just can’t happen when you are away from the ekklesia. It’s a promise He has made to his followers, and continues to keep every time we gather in His name.

So…did you see Him? Did you experience worshipping in the very presence of our risen Savior, or were you too busy focusing on other things?

This week as you gather together with other believers for whatever reason, take the time to seek out Christ in those moments. Those moments can be special, uplifting, and refreshing if we will acknowledge His presence in our lives.

Radical Disrupts Place of Worship

No this isn’t a recent headline from the New York Times. It’s likely what the Jerusalem Daily Gazette would have published the morning after Jesus cleared the Temple.

There is so much we can learn from this passage, but it so rarely gets brought up in churches. Questions about this passage always pop up. “Why would Jesus do such a thing?” or “Doesn’t Jesus love everyone? Why would he cause such a scene in a place of worship?”

There are two accounts of this happening in the Bible. One recorded by Matthew, the other by John. Today we’ll look at John’s account of this event.

John 2:13-17 New Living Translation (NLT)
Jesus Clears the Temple
13 It was nearly time for the Jewish Passover celebration, so Jesus went to Jerusalem. 14 In the Temple area he saw merchants selling cattle, sheep, and doves for sacrifices; he also saw dealers at tables exchanging foreign money.15 Jesus made a whip from some ropes and chased them all out of the Temple. He drove out the sheep and cattle, scattered the money changers’ coins over the floor, and turned over their tables. 16 Then, going over to the people who sold doves, he told them, “Get these things out of here. Stop turning my Father’s house into a marketplace!”
17 Then his disciples remembered this prophecy from the Scriptures: “Passion for God’s house will consume me.”
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

When I was growing up, I would hear someone reference this passage the moment a fundraising catalog entered the church building. But that’s just not the context for what Jesus is reacting to here. So if you don’t want to buy that stale popcorn, you may have just lost your scriptural basis for doing so. To fully understand what Jesus was so outraged about, we have to look back into history and take a look at what it took to worship at the temple.

Ever since the temple was rebuilt by Ezra and Nehemiah, it was the national place of worship for all Jewish people. As many as 2.5 million Jews would travel vast distances to worship God in His temple on holy days! And as we all know, there’s always cost involved when traveling.

Besides the cost of travel, a Jew wishing to worship would also have other monetary demands put upon them as they arrived at the temple. The “Temple Tax” offset the cost of maintaining the temple, and was equal to 1 day’s wage. If you were traveling with a foreign currency, you must exchange your money at a rate of 2 days wages. If you brought your own animal to offer as a sacrifice, there was a fee of 1/2 days wage for someone to inspect the animal. If you failed inspection, or couldn’t afford to travel with your animal sacrifice in tow, you could normally purchase doves at the cost of 2 days wage. But in the temple courts prices had been raised to nearly 40 days wages!

If you calculate the cost in modern day figures, it would cost anywhere from $3,000 to $5,000 just to worship at the temple!

These services that Jew’s had set up as a convenience to traveling worshippers had instead become a roadblock preventing the poor from being able to worship God in his temple, all the while lining the pockets of the religious leaders. No wonder Jesus was upset!

It’s stunning to think that something which started out so noble by aiding God’s people in worship turned out to be just the opposite. God’s people lots sight of what they were doing, and what they were causing to happen around them.

Question: What sort of things stand in the way of worshippers today, and what can we do as the Church to remove those obstacles?