God’s Playlist The World Needs to Hear

I live with three teenage daughters. It is quite the experience. Much of the time I feel like a very dumb Dad, and this is mainly to do with music. They listen to music that I have never even heard of, and when I do eventually and inevitably hear it around the house, it does not resemble what I would define as ‘music’.

For example, the other day one of my daughters was in the kitchen and in that croaky whiny voice that pop-stars call singing sang:

“I’m a bad guy”!

My daughter’s head went straight up and with wide eyes filled with shock said to me,  “Dad, how do you know that song”?

So I am not that dumb after all?

Singing is part of our culture, though it seems to me that much of what people sing about in Western culture is not that profound, not in the pop genré anyway.

The Bible is filled with songs, and they are songs I think our culture would do well to listen to because they answer a very important question, How are we to worship God?

Our culture says, “Well you can worship God however you want. In fact, you can define God to be whatever you want him/her/it to be or not to be.  However, God is not silent on the subject. The Psalms also remind us of how we are to worship God and what the Psalms do is that they take the basic themes of Scripture (the OT) and turns them into songs.

I think Psalm 1 is the key Psalm. The big idea of Psalm is that there is one God and that every human being is made to love, know and worship this one God.  And Psalm 1 sets this tone for the entire book of Psalms.  It is a song that our world needs to listen to for it sets forth the claim that there are only two types of people in this world.

This clashes with our culture straight away, for our world says there are many types of people. Think about all the different types of people you know; the foodies, those who are into sport, those who love the beach, those who love the bush; cat people, dog people. Rich people, poor people, those who are in between. We have the Baby Boomers, Gen X, Gen Y, the Millenials, Post Millenials. Those who are pro-Brexit, those are are anti. There are anti-vaxers, vegetarians, and there are those people who identify with a nomenclature that twenty years ago would have had a very different connotation, ‘extinction activists’.

Psalm 1 cuts through all the confusion, all the nomenclatures, all the labels, all the social categories, and says there are two types of people, with contrasting values, with contrasting lifestyles that lead to very different futures.

The first type of person is a truly happy or blessed person. And the source of their happiness is God.

1 Blessed is the man
    who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
    nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
but his delight is in the law of the Lord,
    and on his law he meditates day and night.

The truly happy or blessed person is one whose life is guided by God’s law, God’s Word rather than being guided by those who reject God’s instruction.  The contrast is massive. Do you notice it? The first person is happy, delights in the law God, meditates on it day and night. God’s Word is that at the forefront of their mind. Whereas those who don’t are described as scoffers.

I remember years when I worked in the Bible Society bookshop in Bathurst St in Sydney, and these two young guys came in and they were trying to steal things, and when they realised that we knew what they were doing,   one of them said, “Do you really think I would want to steal a Bible?” He almost spat out the word ‘Bible’. To him the Bible was to be scoffed at, it was not a delightful book, it was not something to be treasured, nor even read. Not so with the truly happy person, whom this song says:

3 He is like a tree
    planted by streams of water
that yields its fruit in its season,
    and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers.

They are like a fruitful tree that is well nourished that blossoms and bears fruit in season.  It has a constant supply of water. Those who delight in God and his word they prosper. This does not mean that they will be healthy, wealthy and wise as some churches teach. But they will bear fruit that benefits others.

That is the first type of person delights in God’s Word, in his instruction and will have a fruitfulness. Not so the wicked.

I have been called lots of things in my life, but never have I been called wicked. It is not a word that we use often in modern-day parlance. It has a number of meanings in English, none are positive. It can mean evil, wrong, immoral or sinful.

What shocked me about the Christian faith when I first encountered it in high school, was just how ego-shattering it was. Before then I did not think that I was immoral or sinful. I thought I was basically a good person who simply talked too much. To discover that compared to God and his standards that I was sinful was a big shock, but when I was honest about it, I knew deep down that it was true. God was not my delight. My values were not the same as those who delighted in God. Looking back, it was this song being played out.

In Psalm 1 we see that the wicked have contrasting values and as a consequence, they are the opposite of fruitful – they are barren:

4The wicked are not so,
    but are like chaff that the wind drives away.

In the old days, the farmers would harvest the wheat. They would thresh it and so when the wheat is tossed into the air, the husk, being lighter than the wheat kernels is driven away by the wind – the chaff. Chaff is the opposite of fruit. Fruit from a tree is beneficial to everyone, everyone gains from a fruit tree. But no-one benefits from the chaff. This is why no-one keeps it, no one sells it and no-one uses it.  It is good for nothing.

The Lord Jesus, whom our culture loves to depict being a lover of lambs and flowers says something rather confronting and it is very similar to what this song says:

 If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. (John 15:6)

So much for gentle Jesus meek and mild.

What confronts me about this son is that the person who abides in Christ and the person who delights in God and his Word are one and the same. It is impossible to abide in Christ and not delight in God’s Word. How can we delight in the Word of God incarnate – the Lord Jesus and not take delight in the Word of God written?  It is impossible.

As I wrote earlier, there are many types of people. I am Australian. I am male. I love cats. I love winter, the cold and the rain. Faced with the choice of tea or coffee, I choose tea (“Earl Grey, Hot”).  I know people who are not Australian, who are not male,  don’t like cats and love summer, the heat and the sun who drink coffee. Humanity is diverse. Different shapes, sizes, colours, languages, tastes, interests, likes, dislikes. But the Psalmist tells us that there are two types of people. The blessed person and the wicked. They have contrasting values; they have contrasting fruitfulness and thirdly they have contrasting destinations.

Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
    nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;
for the Lord knows the way of the righteous,
    but the way of the wicked will perish.

These two lives are on different trajectories, they have different destinations. The fruitfulness reveals where one’s values lie and reveal where one’s allegiance, either to God or themselves. All of which is revealed by one’s life. And God will make this contrast between them permanent. Those who reject God’s rule will not be part of the congregation of the righteous. They will not stand in the judgment.

The Lord Jesus loved this song, he believed and this song like all the songs that we call Psalms are actually all ultimately about him he says the same thing again and again. There are two types of people, there are two ways to live.  He uses the imagery of two types of animals, sheep and goats, two types of fish. In Matthew’s Gospel he says the same thing as the song but uses the image of two types of builders:

24 “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. (Matt. 7:24-25)

Our TV is filled with building shows, most of them are from the USA, there is one from Texas, one from Mississippi, even one from Alaska. They are all the same in the end, and the principle is true with every house that is ever built.  One can build the best house ever, with the greatest fittings, stovetops, a lovely backsplash (or backsplash, you can have your luxuriant ensuite, and  7 bedrooms. But if the house is built on sand, the house will crumble and it will end in destruction. You could have two builders build the same house, with the same tools, with the same luxuriance, but the foundations will make all the difference. Two builders, two very different foundations, and two very different results.

Psalm 1 reminds us there are two types of people. One who is blessed, the one who delights in God and his Word, and the one who doesn’t. There are only two types of people because when it comes to life, there are only two ways to live.

We can live our way, where we delight in our own laws, worship God (however we define him/her/it to be or not to be) our way, or we worship God his way, and the way God wants us to worship him, is by trusting, following and obeying the one whom He sent in order that we can be blessed – and that is the Lord Jesus Christ.  It is through Jesus Christ that all blessings come.

So I am not that up there when it comes to the latest songs, I don’t recognise nor listen to my teenage daughters’ playlists, but God’s playlist is worth listening to. The songs are three thousand years old, and even though they may not have a huge following on Spotify nor be recognised by Shazam they are songs that our world needs to hear. They are songs I desperately need to keep on hearing.

 

 

More than Crackers & Grape Juice

Francis Chan has recently been the focus of much Evangelical ire due to a recent sermon where he appears to be not only decrying the memorialist position of the Lord’s Supper (also known as The Holy Communion) but also makes a rather spurious claim that over a millennium the church’s normative view of the Sacrament was that the bread and wine were the actual body and blood of Christ (Transubstantiation).

(Here is the link to the clip also)

Evangelicals were critical of Chan, concerned that he is about to cross the Tiber, Roman Catholics were excited that is about to cross the Tiber. However, Chan has touched on a subject that I think Evangelicals do well to consider; that the Sacrament of Holy Communion is more than merely “have crackers and grape juice and remember Jesus”.

I remember last year visiting an Anglican church in another diocese and attending a Holy Communion Service. When it came to the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, the clergy did the right things, they said the right things, but they came across almost apologetic about it, as if this was something they had to do and worked hard to get it over and done with as quickly as possible. Their hearts were not in it.

Where they embarrassed? Why did they seem to treat the command of the Lord Jesus as perfunctory? I could not work it out at the time. But a question that comes to mind when reflecting on the Lord’s Supper is this:

Why do many of us Protestants dumb-down the supper of the Lord? Why do we take it for granted as we seem to, that it appears to be of secondary and/or of minor importance? Why do we appear to treat the Lord’s Supper as mere preliminaries to the main event (which of course is preaching)?

Don’t get me wrong, without the faithful proclaiming and expounding of the Holy Scriptures, the Sacrament loses its meaning, for it is on the platform of the Word of God that the Sacraments stand. Or to put it another way, the Lord’s Supper (like the sacrament of Baptism) is an enacted form of the Word of God itself. However, the Lord’s Supper, should it be treated as an appendix that we apologise for? Should our expectations be higher than what they appear to be in some Evangelical Anglican circles?

Bishop Julian Dobbs (who is a Conservative Reformed Evangelical Bishop of the Diocese of the Living Word) states:

The trouble is that we have been shaped more than we know by a superficial and reactionary tradition that there is wisdom in not making too much of the Lord’s Supper. The idea that in Christian worship that this sacrament is of secondary importance is more wrong than right.

I believe that Bishop Dobb’s is onto something here.

The Anglican view is that the Lord’s Supper is a little more than a memorial, (for the RCC it is a lot more than a memorial). The Reformers deny transubstantiation as seeing it as being not scriptural however they saw that Lord’s Supper is not just about drinking juice, eating crackers and thinking about Jesus. In the Lord’s Supper, something is going on spiritually – sanctification, growth.

A Sanctifying Sacrament: The Lord’s Supper sanctifies God’s people. Contrary to the Roman Catholic position (which views the Lord’s Supper as a Justifying sacrament), Justification has been granted by grace through faith in Christ (which we have already have received). But we are works in progress, we need to grow in Christ, and become more like him, we need to be sanctified. The Lord’s Supper sanctifies us. Article XXV states:

Article XXV 

Of the Sacraments

The Sacraments were not ordained by Christ to be gazed upon or to be carried about, but that we should duly use them. And in such only as worthily receive the same they have a wholesome effect and operation…”

The Lord’s Supper is a memorial but more than a mere memorial, perhaps the term Effectual Memorial is an apt descriptor.

Article 28 of the 39 Articles:

Article XXVIII

Of the Lord’s Supper

The Supper of the Lord is not only a sign of the love that Christians ought to have among themselves one to another; but rather it is a Sacrament of our Redemption by Christ’s death: insomuch that to such as rightly, worthily, and with faith, receive the same, the Bread which we break is a partaking of the Body of Christ; and likewise the Cup of Blessing is a partaking of the Blood of Christ.

Transubstantiation (or the change of the substance of Bread and Wine) in the Supper of the Lord, cannot be proved by holy Writ; but is repugnant to the plain words of Scripture, overthroweth the nature of a Sacrament, and hath given occasion to many superstitions.

The Body of Christ is given, taken, and eaten, in the Supper, only after an heavenly and spiritual manner. And the mean whereby the Body of Christ is received and eaten in the Supper is Faith.

The Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper was not by Christ’s ordinance reserved, carried about, lifted up, or worshipped.

The Lord’s Supper is a sign and a memorial but it is also more. There is a two-fold action that takes place when a person receives the Lord’s Supper; with both aspects being defined by faith and knowledge in Christ:

1 – Our action – deliberate remembering, calling him to mind, joyfully contemplating him, praising him, praying to him.

2 –  God’s action – renewing our gratitude for grace, our confidence in forgiveness by grace, our hope for glory, and our strength for service, all by the Holy Spirit. Christ is alive and with us now in resurrection power by the Holy Spirit, he is the true minister each time the supper is celebrated. The Supper is about Him.

We should think of the bread and wine as coming to us by the hand of Christ himself and his guarantee to us in love, he will nourish us spiritually forever.

This distinguishes the Anglican position from the Memorialist position (the position of Zwingli) and from the Roman Catholic transubstantiation position.

Why taking the Lord’s Supper is always good for God’s people

The symbolic routine of repeatedly sharing bread and wine made significant by Jesus’ words witnesses to the two most far-reaching events in world history; both past and future:

The Past –  Jesus’ self-sacrifice on the cross, which opened the gate of eternal life for all who believe.

The Future –  Jesus return (for universal judgment) and the remaking of the entire cosmos at which time sacramental rites will be no more “With this bread and wine, we proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes”.

Just as everyday eating and drinking brings physical nourishment to our bodies, the ritual eating and drinking that Christ prescribed brings spiritual nourishment to us.

Bishop Dobbs again states:

From this union, through the Holy Spirit, spiritual vitality flows into each one of us; health and strength for devotion and service; inner resources of love, ability and power that we continue to discover in our lives by the power of God the Holy Spirit.

The author of the Book of Common Prayer, Archbishop Cranmer knew this and he was also cognisant of the Apostolic warning given by Paul in 1 Corinthians 11: 27-29:

[27] Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. [28] Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. [29] For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. [30] That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died.

The issue is what Paul says in v.29 – Without discerning the body.

My take is that it is usually understood in one of two ways.

  1. Without discerning the body: “not understanding that the bread represents the body of Christ that was sacrificed for us,” with the result that such people do not act in a Christlike, self-sacrificial way.
  2. Without discerning the body: “not recognising the spiritual reality of what is happening at the Lord’s Supper, and therefore they are acting in a way that dishonours Christ.

Whatever one’s view is, the warning from Paul are words not to forget in a hurry nor dismiss easily. We take our lives into our hands when we come to the table. That is why we examine our hearts, why we repent of our wickedness, why we don’t participate in this sacrament if we are not repentant and if we have not come before the Lord to turn our lives from sin towards Christ.

The Lord’s Supper is a sacrament of the Gospel given to us by Christ himself, an outward visible sign, (the bread and wine), of an inward and spiritual grace given to us by Christ himself. While we must remember the Lord Jesus Christ, (what He has done, and what He is going to do), it is much much more than remembering. For coming to the table you have a meal not only with one another but with the Lord Jesus. Yes the Lord Jesus is not physically present (for He has ascended to the Father) but He is present by His Holy Spirit.

So much more than Crackers and grape juice.

Ten Most Read Posts in 2019

My blog really serves as a writing journal of sorts and so I am always amazed that anyone would read anything I have written as there are so many others who write about the things I write about and do it better. So I find it interesting to see what people have read and where they have come from.

Below are the top ten most-read articles:

10 – From the Archives – Marcion’s Preaching Roster

This is a seven-year-old article that I reposted (from my old blog). It is about the weaknesses of the Lectionary (namely the Lectionary for the APBA -which is the A Prayer Book for Australia – 95).

9 – Smoke…and…Mirrors 

A response to the now-retired Bishop of Wangaratta attempts to appear Biblically faithful while not being Biblically faithful.

8 – The Fallacy of the Three Streams

A critique of the attempted fusion of Evangelical, Catholic, Pentecostal theologies under the auspices of Anglican Church in North America.

7 – What is the go with the term ‘Priest’

A piece I wrote to clear up the confusion about words, one word, the word priest and whether or not Anglicans should use it.

6- “There Can Be Only One”

A response to an article written for Anglican Pastor about why a priest celebrates communion facing the ‘altar’ and not the people. Anglican churches don’t have altars, there is only one – the Cross at Calvary.

5 -” The Same Old Anglican Problem

The Anglican Church consists of two religions, this piece is putting forth that this problem is nothing new.

4 – ‘A Commination Service’ – A Forgotten Jewel in the Anglican Crown

A small piece about the merits of using a service in the Book of Common Prayer that is largely forgotten.

3 – The Anglican Volcano in the Land of Oz

Australia is far away from many nations, but the Anglican Church in Australia is far from being immune to the anti-gospel forces that have erupted in those nations. It is coming here.

2-  Anglican Priests – Ontological? Functional? Or Something else?

Amazing that I wrote this published this piece over three years ago and it still receives hits. This is about the role of Anglican clergy.

1 – The Swanson Diocese

This article by far had the biggest hits, not just this year, but in all the years that I have had a blog. It is a response to the Anglican Diocese of Newcastle’s recent passing of two bills that enable clergy to bless what God in His Word deems to be sinful, to bless what the Bible says is an expression of an anti-God state of mind (see Romans 1:18ff), to declare holy what God states keeps people out of the Kingdom of God, and redefined the doctrine of marriage. The Anglican Diocese of Newcastle was where I was Deaconed, Priested and completed my curacy, thus it was the hardest piece I have ever written and one that I agonised over whether to publish or not.

Top Ten Countries

People visited from 76 countries.

  1. Australia
  2. USA
  3. UK
  4. Canada
  5. Philippines
  6. Nigeria
  7. Malaysia
  8. New Zealand
  9. South Africa
  10. Ireland

The only surprise for me is that Australia made the top spot. This is the first time this has happened as last year (and every previous year) the top country was the USA. For some reason, American Anglicans seem to like Convictional Anglican. It would have been the same this year but the Swanson Diocese article saw a massive surge from Australia.

Back in 2020.