Baby Spit-Up – Really?

1 Corinthians 11

1 Corinthians 11 26

Transubstantiation.  It’s a big word that means the belief that when communion bread and wine are taken, they literally become the body and blood of Christ.  The Catholic church holds this view.

A friend of mine was sharing a story recently of a visit to a Catholic church in which he discussed this with the priest.  The priest explained how it was because of this belief that the Catholic church began the tradition of priests placing the communion wafers directly into the mouths of parishioners.

You see, if the bread literally is the body of Christ, how awful if it were to fall and break on the floor.  The lay people of the church did not want to bear this responsibility.  They felt more secure in only having priests handle such a precious treasure.  And thus began this now common tradition.

My friend went on to share how he had asked the priest how this played out when they administer the tiny morsel of communion bread to babies upon baptism.  What if the baby spits the bread up?

The priest has to eat it.

Yup.  Let’s just leave that there and read a couple of verses from our chapter in Corinthians.

1 Corinthians 11: 27-28

Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord.  A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup.

Have you ever felt that taking communion can become rote?  Something you do without really thinking?

Clearly God cares that we take this exercise seriously.  But can we agree that we should find a happy medium between mindlessly consuming the bread and the cup and having to eat baby spit-up?

What this passage encourages me to do, and I encourage you to do, is to be mindful during the communion service.  How?

  • Always always always take a moment to pray and examine your heart before the Great God of the universe.
  • Humble yourself.
  • Be quiet.
  • Look around your church and ask God how you can build unity among the body (this instruction from Paul comes, after all, in a section of his letter instructing the Corinthian church on getting along at church).
  • Think about the fact that the last time Jesus participated in this it was the night before he died for you. Maybe thank him for that.
  • Realize that the next time Jesus participates in this he will have come again. Wow!  Maybe ask him how you can get ready for that.

 

-Susan Landry

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The Cliffhanger

JPEG image-5457EAF908AB-1 (1)

Acts 28

Starting with the arrest of Paul in chapter 21, Luke has been steering his readers to a grand finale, where Paul will finally stand in front of the most powerful man in the world to give his testimony. The Apostle endured conspiracies against his life, corruption in government, and finally storms at sea to make it to Rome. Paul was willing to go through all this because he had a clear vision and purpose for his life and knew Rome was where God wanted him to be and the Emperor was who God wanted him to see.

But the conclusion Luke had been building towards is suddenly cut short with Paul under house arrest. We’re not told if he ever got the chance to defend his case before the Emperor, but we can be confident that he did since God said he would. Though exactly how it came about or what happened after is a mystery. There are traditions that say he was acquitted and then brought the Gospel to Spain, but Luke doesn’t confirm or deny it. He just closes his book with a cliffhanger.
So what are we to take away from this saga with the abrupt and unresolved ending and why would Luke decide to leave it the way he did?
Luke began the Book of Acts by reporting the last interactions Jesus had with his disciples before he ascended. He told them that they would be his witnesses in their local regions and then throughout the world. Luke then proceeded to show his readers how the disciples went about doing this. But he left his story open-ended, and he did all this for a reason.
The Acts of the Apostles is about how the disciples carried out the Great Commission and it is left unresolved because the story wasn’t supposed to end with Paul in Rome, it was supposed to progress with disciples continuing to fulfill the final instructions of Jesus. And it did. The reason you’re reading this now is that the witnessing has endured to this day. And it will continue so long as people like you and me keep spreading the Good News of the Kingdom of God.
So don’t worry about this cliffhanger. The final resolution will come when Jesus himself returns to see the fruit of his disciples’ labor and to establish the Kingdom they represent. Until then, we must maintain the work that was started in Christ and continued with his disciples. May the perseverance and commitment of Paul and the rest of the Apostles act as an example for you on your journey and encourage you to remain faithful in the advancement of the Great Commission.
-Joel Fletcher

Investment 101

investment 101

Matthew 25

Jesus just finished telling his disciples to expect His return. Now he tells parables about how we should prepare for the return. It’s always nice to have concrete instructions. These ones are in the form of parables, but they aren’t terribly cryptic.

The first parable is about a wedding. There are a bunch of people waiting to meet up with the groom so that they can go to a feast with him. Initially, there are ten of these people patiently waiting. They were expecting him to arrive during the day, but on his way, he was delayed. Once the sun fell, only five of them stayed to wait for the groom because they were prepared for darkness. They thought ahead and brought extra supplies.

In this parable, Jesus is the groom and we are the virgins or bridesmaids waiting for his arrival. Notice that initially there were many who expected his coming. Most of us reading this believe that Jesus will come back. There have been times in the past when a biblical scholar has declared that he deduced the time at which Jesus would return (you can find a nice list of these occurrences on Wikipedia). I imagine many of the people who ended up believing these claims were disappointed when the proclaimed date rolled by without ushering the Kingdom of God. Many of them probably fell away from faith because they had expected their groom to show up during the day, yet they failed to wait through the night. The same is true now. Even if we don’t see an exact date for His return, we must continue to wait. We must be especially aware that soon the sun will set. Darkness will fall. But that doesn’t mean that the groom has forgotten his people and his feast. In fact, darkness will certainly precede His coming.

The second parable is about a hedge fund manager. This man gives his underlings various amounts of seed money and expects them to use it wisely. More precisely, he expects huge returns out of them. Two of his employees manage to achieve returns of 100%. The final employee merely broke even. Of course, the manager is happy with the first two. The returns that they managed are nearly unheard of. For example, to get a 100% return on your investment today, you would have had to invest in Apple stock 5 years ago (more precisely, April 17, 2014). The parable doesn’t tell us how long the manager was away, just that it was a long time. Long-term investment is one of the safer ways to grow your money and short-term investments are considerably riskier. Perhaps the third employee knew this and said, “Rather than take a loss on my boss’s money, I’ll just sit on it.” Perhaps this employee thought his manager would only be gone for 3 months. If he had invested in Apple stock three months ago, then he would have lost 27% of what he invested. That wouldn’t make the manager terribly happy, but the 0% gains that he presented still provoked the manager’s anger. The manager said that he would be gone for a long time, but the third employee didn’t take that to heart and decided to do nothing.

Shortly after Jesus ascended into heaven, the Holy Spirit was poured out on believers. The Holy Spirit is the investment that Jesus gives us. The Spirit gives us each special gifts. In Romans 12:6-8, Paul lists a few of them: prophecy, service, teaching, encouragement, giving, leading, showing mercy. These are the talents that Jesus gives to us. He expects us to invest these gifts for the long-term. This might mean pursuing one person for years to show them the Love and Truth of Jesus. In can be risky to try to convert someone in a day, like a short-term investment. You win that person over, but you could also completely ostracize them forever. This short-term investment is certainly not ideal compared to the safer returns of long-term investment in people. Jesus wants to get returns on the gifts that he gives to you. So put them to use for the long-term.

The final parable is like the first two. Some will claim to know Jesus, and some will serve Jesus. Those who serve will be like the sheep, separated from the goats and placed at the right hand of the King. Those who never believed, or who believed but refused to serve, refused to make a return on the investment that Jesus gave them, will be tossed out. They will be tossed out just as the devil himself will be tossed out. But the righteous, those who invest wisely, will receive eternal life.

-Nathaniel Johnson

The Summer Is Near

summer is near

Matthew 24

We are in the middle of the winter right now. I live in Minnesota and we are supposed to see the coldest air temperatures since the year that I was born. We have a predicted high of -13F and a low of -29F. I think I’m just going to throw away all of my shorts and short-sleeved shirts. I’m going to get rid of my swimsuits and sunglasses, too. It will probably be winter for the rest of my life, after all.

Can you imagine how ridiculous it would be for me to do that? Of course, summer is coming, and I’m ready for it. The second coming of Jesus is the same.

Prophecy

“Do you see all these buildings? I tell you the truth, they will be completely demolished. Not one stone will be left on top of another.” Jesus tells this to his disciples when they point out the buildings to him. They were probably trying to say how beautiful the architecture is with its gates, porticos and cupolas. Jesus had just said in Chapter 23 that Jerusalem is abandoned and desolate, so his disciples were trying to prove him wrong. Imagine that. Jesus had just gone through the tests and traps of the pharisees. He proceeded to tear them apart and use their behavior as a lesson for everyone else. And then His disciples decided to question Him too. He had to set them straight. He said “I tell you the truth.” He knew that Jerusalem was beautiful but he also knew that it would be destroyed. About 40 years later, the Romans laid siege to Jerusalem and that city was razed in the process. Josephus, a first-century Jewish scholar, said that over 1 million Jews were killed in that siege. Jerusalem truly did become abandoned and desolate. After this, Jesus’ disciples make another error; they assume that the temple will be destroyed at the end of the world and the return of Jesus. Jesus didn’t go back to the discussion of Jerusalem, but rather discussed the signs of the end of the age, as his disciples asked rather than as they intended.

Signs

There will be many false messiahs. There will be wars, famines and earthquakes. This is the beginning. We can see all of these things already. Just google “man claims to be Jesus.” You’ll find countless examples. There have been many wars, famines and earthquakes even in my short lifetime, but Jesus said that this is just the beginning of birth pains.

Christians will be persecuted, arrested, killed and hated all over the world. Sin will be rampant. We are starting to see this too. In some places more than others, Christians are being persecuted. According to Open Door USA, the worst countries to live in for Christians are North Korea, Afghanistan, Somalia, Sudan and Pakistan. In North Korea, if it is discovered that you are a Christian, you can be deported to a labor camp or even killed on the spot. In China, if churches become too large, the government will raid the church and arrest member and leaders alike. In December 2018, a house church was raided by the Chinese police and pastor Wang Yi was arrested. He is a well-known pastor of the Early Rain Convent Church. Thank God that the United States is still largely free of Christian persecution.

But certainly, we are not in the worst of it yet. Jesus says that the anguish seen at the end will be greater than any the world has ever seen. We can think of many times when the world was in anguish greater than now. In the previous century there were multiple wars covering the surface of the Earth, causing widespread anguish.

The final sign will signify Jesus return. People all over the world will be able to see it and then Jesus will gather his people.

Exhortation

This final sign will be so obvious that you don’t need to believe in any of the false prophets coming before Jesus. It will be seen in the east and the west. But you must not be caught off Guard. Jesus uses multiple examples here to try to get that point across. No one expected the sky to open up and to flood the world. Neither will most expect the coming of Jesus. Live righteous lives. Love your neighbor. Repent. Await his return.

-Nathaniel Johnson

“O Holy Night”

O Holy Night

 

The Christmas carol, “O Holy Night” has a fascinating history.  It was first written as a French poem in 1847 by Placide de Roquemaure, and was set to music by Adolphe Charles Adams that same year.  In 1855, the Unitarian minister, John Sullivan Dwight translated the song into English.  The song was made popular in the United States by abolitionist during the American Civil War.  According to tradition, “O Holy Night” played a significant role in causing a Christmas day cease fire during the Franco-Prussian War.  And in 1906 it was the first song ever played over the radio.  You can read more details about the history of the song here, https://www.beliefnet.com/entertainment/movies/the-nativity-story/the-amazing-story-of-o-holy-night.aspx, a reprint from “Stories Behind the Best-Loved Songs of Christmas” by Zondervan.

O Holy Night!

The stars are brightly shining.
It is the night of our dear Savior’s birth!
Long lay the world in sin and error pining
Till He appeared and the soul felt its worth.

A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn!
Fall on your knees!

O hear the angels’ voices!
O night divine,

Oh night when Christ was born,
O night divine
O night divine.

            One of my favorite lines in the carol is, “A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices.”  Jesus came to bring us hope. Paul, in I Timothy 1:1, states that Christ Jesus is our hope.  Peter explains that hope further in I Peter.  “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade” (I Peter 1:3-4). “Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming” (I Peter 1:13).  Our hope is in the fact that Jesus died for our sins, was raised back to life, and is coming back to Earth to live with us eternally.

Today, we are accustomed to talking about hope as wishful thinking.  I hope for a large, year-end bonus.  I hope one day the Lions will win the Super Bowl.  I hope to win a new car.  Each of these statements are just my desires or my wishes; they do not foretell the future. However, Jesus came to bring us an entirely certain hope.  A definite hope that cannot change.  The hope talked of in the Bible is not wishful thinking, but rather an absolutely true promise of things to come.  A hope that will never fail us, never disappoint.  We can choose to put our hope in our church, our job, our spouse, or other earthly things.  However, over the course of time all of those options will bring disappointment. On the other hand, living for the promise of the kingdom will bring us perfect, eternal life.

Everyone puts their hope in something.  Kyle Idleman suggests you can tell what you have put your hope in, by observing what you spend your time and money on, or what makes you worried or mad.  So what about you?  What are you putting your hope in?

 

-Jill McClain

You Died

Col 3 3

Colossians 3:1-3

3 Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3 For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

I wonder how those believers in Jesus understood those words when Paul first penned that letter to them. “you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God”. He told them that they died. What would it have meant to them to hear that they had died? Obviously they were still physically alive and breathing. They were not zombies or vampires or other popular dead, but not fully dead creatures. What part of them was dead.

Sometimes today we speak metaphorically about death. “I’m brain dead” means that I did something without thinking it through, it was silly or stupid. “I’m dead tired” means that I need some sleep.

I think that Paul was telling the believers in Christ at Colossi that when they were baptized into Jesus Christ, that part of their nature that was under the control of “the flesh” or their brokenness and alienation from God had died. Apart from Christ, that which drives us or controls us is sin living within us. When we come to Christ, that part that controls us is put to death. Our focus is no longer to satisfy our sinful desires. We live by the spirit of God, our life is now found in God. It has not yet been fully revealed. We are still living under the influence of sin, and the new nature has not yet been fully realized in our daily living. That process, known as sanctification, is ongoing. It requires, as Paul goes on to say, a daily putting to death of things like “immorality, evil desires, greed, rage, malice, slander”.

We’re baptized into Christ, then you died, and rose again. Your new nature has not yet been fully revealed and won’t be until the coming of Jesus, but as you live as a follower of Jesus in this present age, you die to your old self a little more each day as you live by the spirit of God in practical ways.

-Jeff Fletcher

Labor Pains

1 Thess 5 3 (1)

I Thessalonians 5:1-3

Now, brothers and sisters, about times and dates we do not need to write to you, 2 for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. 3 While people are saying, “Peace and safety,” destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.

While I’ve never been a pregnant woman, I’ve been married to one who gave birth eleven times… so I’m pretty well acquainted with the whole “sudden labor pains” phenomena. Fun fact… my youngest son, James, came so quickly that I acted as his midwife. We were at home… no midwife in sight…. And she said “I need to push”…and I tried to persuade her to wait. (Don’t ever tell a woman in labor about to push a baby out to wait, if you know what’s good for you). She did NOT wait. She had reached the point of no return.

Paul uses this analogy to help us understand both the suddenness and inevitability of the return of Jesus. His return will happen suddenly.

It’s been a nearly 2000 year long labor… but it’s getting close. Jesus is coming soon. Are you ready?

-Jeff Fletcher