Monday, October 26, 2009

In awe of a stuttering and lisping God.

We have no idea how different He is than us, how much more He is than us, how absolute and incomprehensible His utter transcendence is. We are not capable of even beginning the intellectual, spiritual/mystical, or emotional act of conceiving of Him. When we quote, "'My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,' declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts,'" (Isaiah 55:8,9) we barely understand this divine confession. One of the most serious indictments in the Bible - to this rat - occurs in Psalm 50:21, where the LORD laments, "you thought I was just like you." May it never be, O great God! How far down do you have to stoop, to condescend, to speak to us? To surround us with your glory, how dumbed-down did You have to make Your "invisible attributes" to paint the inconceivable detail, joyous beauty, and humbling grandeur of this creation? O Christ, O eternal God the Son, how does an Infinite Beyond get poured out of Your Being so that it could be said of You: "...Christ Jesus...emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant...being made in the likeness of men" (Philippians 2:7)? Every day of eternity will bring a greater, unending, ever-satisfying measure of what has been lost in translation here on this earth. You, the all-sufficient pleasure of the soul, will have to bring us up that unimaginably lofty ladder between this sod we walk and Your throne. We cannot wait!

Let me quote the great Reformer of Geneva:

"For who is so devoid of intellect as not to understand that God...lisps with us as nurses are wont to do with little children?" (Institutes of the Christian Religion, I.13.1)

"If we heard God speaking to us in His majesty, it would be useless to us, for we would understand nothing. Therefore, since we are carnal, He has to stutter or otherwise He would not be understood by us" (Sermon on 1 John 1:1-5).

And so I journeyed with family from the rim of the Rio Grande Gorge to the river itself, descending 700 feet in less than a mile. Beautiful. Stunning. Awesome. This is the most basic, vague, and childish way He communicates Himself to us: His creation.

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If this is the lisp, if this the stutter, how beyond the most glorious descriptions of a million writers of human masterpiece, laboring for a billion years, is our great God and Savior?

Monday, October 5, 2009

Preaching Together at the Table

The Table. Yesterday morning the Spirit highlighted, like turning a crystal in the light, an aspect of the Table liturgy I don't think I'd noticed before: "This is My body, which is for you..." (1 Corinthians 11:24). Not for the world of the children of wrath, but for "the Church of God which He purchased with His own blood" (Acts 20:28). In the Lord's Table we proclaim not a general atonement, but a particular atonement. Curiously, there are many congregations who will go out of their way to exclude visitors from other congregations or denominations, repeat the "for you" aspect of the liturgy, yet spit and get pretty worked up about the issue of limited atonement. Interesting. This rat finds it calmly joyous that the truth of the doctrine of God's grace is proclaimed at His Table, whether or not the participants fully realize what they are saying...we are but little children gathered at the Table...pray we don't make too much of a mess.

I love the corporate preaching of the Table: " often as you eat this bread or drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until He comes" (1 Corinthians 11:26). Shouldn't we want to make this proclamation every time we gather? I love it, pray the Spirit will inflame greater love in me, and pray He will do so among the clay lanterns He inhabits. Paul, as he writes this to the Corinthians, is cognizant that there is a potential audience to this corporate preaching of the Table, for later (speaking of tongues and prophecy) he mentions "ungifted men or unbelievers" (I think this is a parallelism referring to one type of person) entering into the congregation's worship gathering (1 Corinthians 14:23,24). All that we do to reach out to visitors (from gimmicks to gift bags), when the sure prophecy of the Word and the corporate proclamation of the Table are the given tools to meet all the needs of the gathered congregation! Sunday after Sunday the Table is mute, lest "it stops becoming special," while we would sing "Amazing Grace" every Sunday if possible! The problem isn't the Table, but our hearts. The answer isn't quarterly observation tacked on to the end of the service, but repentant prayer for a reclamation of the hearts of God's people. Bind us to the Book, O eternal Spirit, and bind us to the Table. Should we stray, break us and bring us back. Teach us to love what You have given rather than seeking new thrills and emotional highs in things that are peripheral.

What about the music? It's not given to be a sacrament linking us to God, but a teaching tool to help us catechize each other through the expression of truth and a heart devoted to God (Ephesians 5:18-21; Colossians 3:14-17). I like how Matthew and Mark record the first Lord's Supper. It was not added as an afterthought to teaching and dynamic music. It took its place alongside the teaching, and a hymn was added at the very end (Matthew 26:30; Mark 14:26). I have nothing against music, especially good music that teaches deep doctrine (, but let's keep it in the perspective it belongs. Let's keep it tamed under doctrine. Let's keep it respectfully under the authority of the preaching of the Table and the preaching of the Word.

Pray God chains our hearts and our hands to the corporate preaching of the Table. Not as a window into revival, greater blessing, or "church growth," but because it is one of the three things we are to do when we gather, and it is the most neglected by the children.


Thursday, October 1, 2009


"The Bible is authoritative on everything on which it speaks - and it speaks on everything."

Cornelius Van Til, Defense of the Faith