Communion

Communion
[Originally posted 17/4/2017]
Christianity is a very un-ritualistic religion. In fact it has only two official rituals. One is that of Baptism: at the beginning of the Christian journey a new believer is encouraged to be baptised, symbolising the death of their old self, and their rebirth in Christ. But after that singular event, there is only one ritual that Jesus commanded his followers to engage in as a continuing life practice. It is known as The Lord’s Supper, or Communion.
The ritual reenacts something that took place during Jesus’ final supper with his disciples before he was crucified – Jesus took bread and wine and gave it to his disciples, instructing them to take, eat his “body”, and drink his “blood”, which he said were given for us. Jesus told his disciples to retain this tradition in remembrance of him, and indeed the tradition continues today in churches across the world and is naturally a central part of Easter services with its intrinsic connection to Jesus’ death and resurrection.
Reflecting on it this year, something struck me all of a sudden: Isn’t it amazing that of all the activities Jesus might choose as the single ritual his followers would have by which to remember him, he gave us the act of eating and drinking. That it is an act that nourishes us. An act not of giving, but receiving.
What an incredible God, who would have us remember and honour him not by performing some activity like walking a mile, or bowing down seven times or waving our hands in the air. Not an activity that expends our body’s energy, but one that provides our body with energy. Eating and drinking are the way that we humans receive what our body needs to live, to walk, to work. It is not an activity that represents giving something to God, but one that represents receiving him.
Could any ritual better encapsulate God’s heart for humanity?
What is the main thing God wants from us? How can we honour God? We might think that the way we can honour God most is by giving everything of ourselves to him. But while I wholeheartedly believe we must do that, I suspect that the most significant and important way we honour God is by receiving him. I suspect that the man who takes everything God offers him pleases God more than the man who merely endeavours to give everything to God. Because I don’t think God wants to possess quite us as much as he wants us to experience the joy of possessing him. As C.S. Lewis said: “God created us not primarily so that we could love him, but so that he could love us.”
By instituting the tradition of Communion, Jesus was saying, “You need me. So take, eat and drink. Nourish yourself with me.” And there is nothing we can do that exalts him more than taking.
“Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food.”
– Isaiah 55:1-2

God the Blasphemer: the Death of Jesus

Why did Jesus die? To take the punishment for our sins, of course. But did you ever wonder: how did God plan to achieve this death? What strategy did he need in order to make it happen?

If it was God’s wrath that was poured out on Jesus on the cross, why were any humans involved in his execution at all? Could Jesus not have called all of Israel to gather atop a hill for God himself to reign down a purely divine, public execution?

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It’s hard. It’s complicated to reconcile a God who works through pain. It’s tough to trust in a Lord who allows suffering and inconvenience. It’d be a whole lot easier to mindlessly promise myself that Jesus always wants to make life easy, but I don’t think that’s how He works.
If anything, Jesus uses dark colors when He paints. He’s into streams in the desert and life out of death. Just take one good look at the cross and that ought to convince you that the God the Bibles speaks of is a God who uses horror and injustice to His advantage.
The cross is evidence to our minds, and balm for our souls that our God is a God who brings beauty out of pain. Art out of chaos. Beauty out of ugliness. Or as some of the poets have said, He conquers death by death itself. Our Redeemer beat Death at his own game.
Hope rises.
When we trust Christ, and the mysterious work on Calvary, we trust that He’s always up to something good even in the darkest days. In fact, that’s probably when He’s up to the most good, because that’s when the most good grows in me.
So hey, I’m delayed, I’m uncomfortable, but if this is the path the Lord has brought me down, then I say, “Don’t stop it Lord.” Redemption was born on a far darker day than this one, so bring the chaos. Bring the madness. Do whatever you’ve got to do to recreate my heart. After all, it’s me that needs to change, not my circumstances.

Mike Donehey (via glorythief)

Wow.

Psalm 77

I cry aloud to God,

aloud to God, and he will hear me.

In the day of my trouble I seek the Lord;

in the night my hand is stretched out without wearying;

my soul refuses to be comforted.

When I remember God, I moan;

when I meditate, my spirit faints.

Selah

You hold my eyelids open;

I am so troubled that I cannot speak.

I consider the days of old,

the years long ago.

I said, Let me remember my song in the night;

let me meditate in my heart.

Then my spirit made a diligent search:

Will the Lord spurn forever,

and never again be favorable?

Has his steadfast love forever ceased?

Are his promises at an end for all time?

Has God forgotten to be gracious?

Has he in anger shut up his compassion?

Selah

Then I said, I will appeal to this,

to the years of the right hand of the Most High.

I will remember the deeds of the Lord;

yes, I will remember your wonders of old.

Where is God’s love?

Sometimes you come to a point in life where, unlike other times, you truly struggle to see evidence that God is at work in your life. You go through a season that really doesn’t make sense, where things truly go wrong, and everything is in chaos and ruins. You pray for certain things to happen and they don’t come to pass; you ask God to defeat obstacles, but instead more obstacles come.

You look back to times in the past where you could see God’s answers to prayer. You remember times when your life was a testimony to God’s providence and protection. But now you can’t see it. You look everywhere for the trails of God’s miracle-working power, his sovereignty and order over your life. But everything you see seems chaotic and un-orchestrated – if not orchestrated against you. Your suffering comes from all sides and feels completely senseless.

And you say “God, where are you? Why don’t you show yourself? Don’t you love me?

It is at this point that you learn something about God’s love. If the evidence I look to to show whether God loves me is that I can see his hand at work in my present life and circumstances, then I am looking in the wrong place.

God showed me more love than I could have asked for when he gave up his Son for me, to die on a cross, to bring me from death to life. God’s present acts of deliverance merely hint towards a truth that was proven once and for all, two thousand years ago. The love God shows me through his answers to my prayers in the present pales in comparison to the extravagance of the love that my Jesus expressed to me when his body was pierced, and crushed, for my sins. How could I question God’s love?

The Cross is how I know that God loves me.

Tozer – Removing the ‘veil’ between us and God’s presence

“Let us remember that when we talk of the rending of the veil we are speaking in a figure, and the thought of it is poetical, almost pleasant, but in actuality there is nothing pleasant about it. In human experience that veil is made of living spiritual tissue; it is composed of the sentient, quivering stuff of which our whole being consists, and to touch it is to touch us where we feel pain. To tear it away is to injure us, to hurt us and make us bleed. To say otherwise is to make the cross no cross and death no death at all. It is never fun to die. To rip through the dear and tender stuff of which life is made can never be anything but deeply painful. Yet that is what the cross did to Jesus and it is what the cross would do to every man to set him free.”

– Tozer, The Pursuit of God, Ch.3

A wretch like me.

A few months before the Hillsong album “Beautiful Exchange” was recorded, we started singing a song in church called “Believe”. I loved the song from the beginning. Originally the song had a bridge section in it, and for some reason that is beyond me, in the album version the bridge was removed.

But one night in church we were singing the song, and in the bridge we came to a line that said “Your love is stronger than my shame.” And out of nowhere, God floored me with that line. With that line he spoke to me so powerfully that I had to find a seat, sit down and weep and weep and weep.

With those words the Lord broke through to me; he broke through and arrested my attention, shaking the very depths of my being; he pierced through everything that I ever thought I was, and he showed me my true heart. And it was wretched. It was shameful. It was full of deceit, and malice, and failure, and sin.

And to my heart he said, “I love you,” and I cried, “My God… how can you love me?”

So many times before that day, I sat through alter calls where the preacher would say to the crowd, “Maybe you don’t feel like God could love a person like you after all the bad things you’ve done in your life – but trust me when I say that he loves you and wants to forgive you.” And I would never identify with those people. I thought the preacher was even making stuff up – conceiving of imaginary people with feelings that no-one ever genuinely felt. I didn’t understand why anyone would feel that way because I’d always known that God loves everybody.

But on this night I understood. Until that night I really hadn’t had a deep revelation of the pitiful condition of my heart, of just how desperately I needed mercy. I was confronted with my heart that night and I was devastated and ashamed. For the first time, I genuinely struggled to understand how a good God could love me. How could he love something that is not good?

But I knew he did. Because he told me right there and then. And I was astounded by it. And in some strange way I felt that he was holding me and covering me in that moment; he was so close. And amidst such powerful shame I had never felt more joy, because I knew that his love was stronger than all of it.