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    ThuThursdayAugAugust31st2017 Take, Eat; This is My Body.

    If someone in front you in a cafeteria line reached over, picked up a loaf of bread, handed it to you, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body” (Matt 26:26), wouldn’t you think him a bit daft? I suspect two questions would immediately come to your mind: “Does he really believe that the bread really is his body?” and, “Why is he telling me this?”

    Our church teaches when Jesus broke bread with his disciples the night he was betrayed, the bread in his hands was not really his body and when we partake of the bread today at the Lord’s Supper, his body is not present in the bread, actually, really, or spiritually. The bread is a symbol of his body, broken for us.

    As for why Jesus is telling us that the bread is his body, Jesus himself supplies the answer: “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” (Luke 22:19).

    A third, very practical, question comes to mind: What exactly are we to remember? I can think of two initial answers. First, we are to remember that he died for us. His body was given for us. Second, he is coming again: “For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes.” (1 Cor 11:26) A third answer comes to mind but it will take a bit of explanation.

    Look closely at what he said: “This [the bread] is my body… take and eat it [the bread/his body]… Do this [the eating] in remembrance of me.” The eating itself is the remembrance. Of course, we should not just “go through the motions”, as if the eating itself has merit if our minds are elsewhere. But he didn’t say, “Eat something, whatever you want, and think about me.” He called the bread his body and then commanded us to eat it, not anything else, and eat it in remembrance of him, not eat it and remember him. But why would eating bread be a remembrance?

    The answer is right in front us: Eating the bread is a remembrance because the bread is a symbol of Jesus and especially his body broken for us. When we eat the bread, we are eating his body symbolically.” Dare I say that we are pretending to eat his body?

    This “pretending” is important: It’s not child’s play and, as long as everyone understands that we are pretending, it’s not lying. We watch people pretend every time we go to a play or movie. When a couple renews their vows, they are pretending they are getting married for the first time. Hobbyists and historians re-enact great battles or great speeches. The pretending helps strengthen our experience and our thinking. The point is this:  Jesus wants us to think “I am eating his body” when we partake of the bread.

    It’s a symbol, but what a potent symbol! “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.” (John 6:35) He nourishes us, he strengthens us, he refreshes us, we can’t go a day without him, we enjoy him. All that is symbolized when we eat the bread. Think about these things the next time and each time you partake of the Lord’s Supper: he died for us, he’s coming again, and he is our bread of life!

    Dan has written two previous Elder Blog posts about communion, you can read them here:
    ThuThursdayJulJuly7th2016 Miscellaneous Midsummer Musings
    byDan Dillon Tagged News Summer 0 comments Add comment

    We’re in the midst of the summer doldrums and my mind is a bit stuck for what to write. A few Connection Hour lessons are on my mind, but they’re too much for an Elder Blog. So, here’s a few short miscellaneous midsummer musings:

    Speaking of Connection Hour: Mikel Berger, me, and others are doing Psalms downstairs in the Ministry Center and the lessons aren’t particularly consecutive. Upstairs, Drew and Phil Mummert are doing “God and Government” and they are just about to get into some of the contemporary issues at the center of many political discussions. It’s a great time to join either.

    Speaking of politics: Did you miss what is perhaps one of the most important political events of the century (so far)? Britain is leaving the EU. Whatever your opinion was (leave or remain), let’s be happy that the people voted, the leaders are responding, and nobody is setting up an alternative government or ready to go to war. Our God is a God of order (1 Cor. 14:40) and Paul asks us to pray for peace (1 Tim. 2:1-2). Let’s pray for continued peace in UK, here at home, and around the world. Let’s praise God when rulers follow the rules.

    Speaking of rules: Praise God for the unanimous vote in favor of changing our Statement of Faith to more clearly address current cultural issues for marriage and family. Now the elders are working on developing policies to implement those changes in areas such as building use and weddings. It will take a few months, because we want to get it right.

    Speaking of getting it right: If you weren’t at KSBC on Father’s Day, listen to Will Peycke’s sermon online. God has blessed us with a remarkable Director of Family Ministry, but there’s more to Will than just family ministry. He hit a home run with his sermon; I look forward to hearing more from him in the pulpit.

    Speaking of baseball: We’ve had an eventful summer having two Lafayette Aviator baseball players in our home. Actually it’s been something of a non-event: they have been communicative, respectful, and have kept their room clean. But having raised two girls, do these guys eat! We’re happy to bless the community by supporting the players and it’s been good to get to know them.

    Speaking of our girls: Both of our daughters are completing their doctorates and starting their first jobs. They graduated high school same year, got married the same year, and now this. It’s been a blessing to see them finish off and work through the job search process. It’s been a blessing, too, to see their marriages start well. We pray for all four of them regularly. We really have gained two sons-in-laws.

    Finally: I have been at the same job for 10 years (longest yet), in the same location for 10 years (a few years shy of the longest), a member of this church for 8 years (also a few years shy of the longest), and an elder for little over a year. It’s great to feel settled after many years of changing jobs and locations. Along with the feeling of settledness, comes a feeling of connectedness: I know a lot of people, I care for a lot of people, and I can help a lot of people. It’s a bit overwhelming at times. Although I want to help, I can’t do everything I want to do. And I have a day job. I can only begin to imagine what it is like for Abraham, Drew, and Will to care for us “full time”. This is where God’s grace and providence comes in. He empowers us and he sets our limits. He keeps us focused on him and his agenda and not on us and our agenda. Let’s pray for our pastors.

    Did I say something about the summer doldrums? It seems that God is at work plenty.

    ThuThursdayMayMay5th2016 Honor Your Father and Mother
    byDan Dillon Tagged Aging Honor Parents 0 comments Add comment

    This blog is inspired by a nagging question, a possible answer, and a previous Elder Blog post from Drew.

    Drew’s article reminded us that our culture incessantly tells us, “Younger is better,” yet God praises growing old in the Lord. Drew encourages us, “Your old age will simply provide you with new opportunities to enjoy and declare God’s goodness.”

    But it brought back a question that has nagged me ever since I left my parents’ house: How do we honor these people that are older than us, especially our fathers and mothers? What does it mean to “honor your father and your mother” (Exodus 20:12), especially when you are no longer under their authority?

    Most of what I have heard and read has been along this vein: You honor your father and mother when you obey them. But you do not need to obey them after you have left the house, because you are no longer under their authority.

    That’s about it.

    But how do we honor our parents when we are no longer under their authority? Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, and Christmas presents are a small start. But “honor your father and your mother” is one of the Ten Commandments. Surely something more is required.

    Here’s a possible answer, from one of my former pastors: The root of the Hebrew word for “honor” is the concept of “heaviness” or “weightiness.” Something heavy, like gold, is more valuable than something light, like wood. To honor someone is to give them more weight, more impact, in your decision-making.

    Let’s see how that plays out:

    • It doesn’t mean that you must always obey your parents’ every request.
    • It doesn't mean that you give your parents greater weight in your decision-making than your spouse or children. Your immediate family members deserve the greater weight.
    • But it does mean that honoring our parents will require us to give them greater weight than other people in our decision-making.

    What was particularly convicting for me was this inference: I should give greater weight to my parents than to my friends and my own hobbies. If someone else looked at my life, would they be convinced that I gave greater weight to my parents than to my friends? That my parents impacted my life more than my friends and hobbies? Ouch.

    I have seen many of you show incredible honor to your parents. Your mother or father is in failing health and you have re-arranged your schedule or changed your house to show them honor. Some of you have moved closer to your parents in anticipation of their advancing age. Others have sought counsel on how to honor parents who are unreasonably demanding or overly critical. Praise God for such selflessness! It is humbling to behold.

    But not all of us face those situations. For the rest of us, let’s learn from their example and consider the challenge of giving greater weight, greater honor to our parents.

    ThuThursdayAprApril7th2016 Covenants and Their Signs
    byDan Dillon Tagged Church Covenant Lord's Supper 0 comments Add comment

    What does it mean when someone says, “You need to have a personal relationship with Jesus?” Do they mean we should have an emotional relationship with Jesus? An intimate relationship? A relationship from the heart and not just of external observance? Or is it is just another way to say, “You need to be saved”? It’s not always clear to me. Plus, the phrase “personal relationship” is not in the Bible. Is there a better way to talk about our relationship with Jesus?

    How about “You need to have a covenant relationship with Jesus”? God made a covenant with Abraham and his offspring (Gen. 17). When Israel was enslaved in Egypt, God remembered his covenant with Abraham (Ex. 2:24). When the future of Israel looked bleak, God promised that he would make a new covenant with his people (Jer. 31:31-34). And Jesus is the new covenant (Heb. 8:6-12)!

    But what is a covenant? Wayne Grudem defines it as, “An unchangeable, divinely imposed legal agreement between God and man that stipulates the conditions of their relationship.” “Legal” is not the best word, because a “covenant” is not just a contract, like buying your house or ordering parts for your business. Contracts are typically limited in scope and duration. A covenant is a comprehensive, continuous commitment. That commitment creates intimacy. When God creates a covenant and says, I will be your God, he is committing himself to us. In return, he expects us to commit ourselves to him: You will be my people (Heb. 8:10). What an awesome God we serve!

    Covenants have signs: ceremonies to initiate and remember the covenant. Married couples use rings as signs of the marriage covenant. Circumcision was the sign of initiating the Old Covenant. The various ceremonies, especially Passover, were ways to remember the Old Covenant. What are the New Covenant signs?

    In a previous blog post, we established that Baptism and Communion are ceremonies: things that we do as a church that do not fit neatly into a two-part theology of “Believe this; now demonstrate your belief by giving yourself over to good works”. Their significance lies in the fact that they are ceremonial signs of the covenant: Baptism is the initiating sign of the covenant; Communion is sign by which we remember the covenant. Jesus is quite explicit about the connection between Communion and covenant: “[F]or this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” (Matt 26:28)

    Let’s end with a practical question: How important is it to regularly participate in Communion? To answer the question, imagine this: What happens when a man forgets his anniversary? Does not his wife wonder, “Has he not been looking forward to this day, planning for it? Has his love grown cold?” When someone neglects the signs of the covenant, we begin to wonder about their commitment to the covenant.

    Do you get excited about participating in Communion? We occasionally offer it Sunday morning, but regularly offer it at Family Gathering. If you’re not in the habit of attending Family Gathering, one way that you can grow in your commitment to your covenant relationship with Jesus is by making this time a regular part of your monthly schedule. It breaks my heart that only about half the church attends Family Gathering when we offer Communion. Attending Family Gathering in the evening takes a bit of extra effort to attend, but not a great deal of strenuous effort. Participating in Communion is a God-ordained (God-commanded!) way of rejoicing, remembering and recommitting to our Lord as an assembled church. We should be eager to do that any time we have the opportunity.

    ThuThursdayMarMarch3rd2016 What Is Kossuth's Neighborhood?
    byDan Dillon Tagged Lafayette Neighbors Outreach 1 comments Add comment

    One of the goals of Kossuth’s five-year plan is to “scatter” by increasing our outreach to our neighborhood. But what is our neighborhood? If we don’t know who we’re trying to reach, how can we reach them?

    How about this for a first try? Our Lafayette City Voting District. If you look at "Map 1" to the right, you'll see the voting district with the church building signified by the red cross. The problem, however, is that this area is too big; it stretches all the way from Greenbush Avenue to Brady Lane.

    Perhaps we can narrow the scope by looking at the City of Lafayette’s “neighborhood” designations. You can see some of the nearby neighborhoods in "Map 2." Again, we’re at the red cross. As you can see, according to the City of Lafayette, we’re not even in a neighborhood. How sad! The closest neighborhoods are Columbian Park to the north and South Oakland to the west and south.

    Here's one more idea: Oakland Elementary School District ("Map 3"; we're at the yellow cross). Now this is encouraging: we’re in the district. How many people live there? Here’s my guess, based on Lafayette School Corporation and City of Lafayette information: about 4000 people.

    So, outreach to Oakland Elementary is great idea, because it’s our neighborhood. Or is it our neighborhood?

    How does one define a “neighborhood”? Even simpler, how does one define “neighbor”?

    A lawyer asked Jesus this same question. Jesus told him a story (Luke 10:30-37): A man was walking from Jericho to Jerusalem. He’s definitely out of his neighborhood. He gets robbed and left for dead. A priest and a Levite, perhaps coming the neighborhood, perhaps from far away, pass him by. A Samaritan – definitely far from any of these people’s neighborhoods – helps him. The one who shows mercy is the neighbor.

    So our neighbors are whoever God puts in front us. Some people we meet routinely: the person next door, the co-worker, the soccer coach. Some we see only every so often: the car mechanic, the storekeeper, the vet. But none of them are truly our neighbor until we show them mercy.

    Back to Oakland: Is it our neighborhood? It’s certainly the neighborhood of the KSBC building. Our location on Kossuth Street provides a great platform to reach many people. But if we take Jesus at his word, our neighborhood is much, much larger than the area near the church building. At a practical level, it probably is the entire county, and then some. But none of it will be our neighborhood unless we show mercy.

    And even though we're not technically part of a formal neighborhood association, we have an opportunity to create our own neighborhood. And we create that neighborhood by showing mercy. Wouldn’t it be great if 30 years from now, people talked about growing up in the KSBC neighborhood?

    Back to Oakland again: What a great opportunity to show mercy! So it is with Matrix Lifecare Pregnancy Centers and the Excel Center. I’m sure our neighborhood outreach team will be coming up with more ideas. These are the programs that the church leadership has decided to invest in, but if you have other ideas, go for it: a good church is more than the programs that the leaders have set up.

    Here’s one idea I heard about just last weekend. A young couple with children is planning to move closer to the church so that they can minister in the neighborhood. He’s a young professional with a bright future. They could easily have decided to move “up”, but instead they are moving sideways, seeking His kingdom instead of the world’s. I’m sure it will be difficult, but it is my prayer that it will be a joy and bear fruit. If you want to pray for them, their names are Drew and Elizabeth Humphrey.

    ThuThursdayOctOctober8th2015 Work in Progress
    byDan Dillon Tagged Church Leaders News 1 comments Add comment

    If you’ve ever worked in a manufacturing company, you’re familiar with term “Work in Progress” (WIP). It’s the stuff on the manufacturing floor, between parts in inventory and final product sitting in the warehouse. Most manufacturers have a lot of WIP. They try to keep it to a minimum, but the only way to get it to zero is…do nothing. The elders have quite a bit of WIP right now. We thought we’d share a few.

    Deacon Nominations. We’ve been looking for deacons to help the Technology and Welcome teams. Thank you, KSBC members for many nominations we received. The number of nominations shows that you care for the welfare of the church. For the men nominated, it’s certainly an encouragement to receive recognition of their commitment to the church. We contacted each one; some decided to not proceed further, citing other commitments. The next phase is the interview phase. Once that phase is complete, we’ll present one or more names to the congregation for feedback. The final decision is made by the elders. We hope to complete the process by the end of the year.

    Statement of Faith Changes. Per a previous blog post, the elders are working on revising our Statement of Faith in light of the recent Supreme Court decision and the culture changes associated with it. Besides addressing the immediate issue (whether marriage between two people of the same sex is biblical), we hope to address other related issues and present a positive statement of the biblical view of marriage and sexuality. Finally, knowing that such statement will place us in conflict with the world, we are developing additional changes concerning a Christian’s relationship to the world in the face of conflict.  

    We are almost done with our work. Before we present it to the entire congregation for your approval, we want to get some additional feedback from others who can give the revisions a fresh, objective review. When we present it to the congregation, we will also spend some time discussing some of the pastoral issues associated with same-sex attraction.

    Five Year Plan. We kicked off the plan this summer. The “immediate” items have already started: new service times, a revised Connection Hour, and the start of the Year of Grace. A few of the “ongoing” items have already started, too: neighborhood outreach efforts started even before the plan kick-off. This past Sunday night, we reviewed one aspect of corporate worship: engaging our minds and hearts during the sermon. Look for more to come in the area of corporate worship.

    What can you do?

    Pray. We prayed this past Sunday at Family Gathering about these and other things. Now continue in prayer.

    Ask. If you have questions, please feel free to ask. Some things are confidential (e.g., the number and names of deacon candidates). Many things are in progress and so we can’t always give definite answers. But we don’t mind if you ask: it shows you’re interested and you care. In God’s providence, your input may be exactly what we need to hear.

    Participate. When we present one or more deacons, if you don’t know them, get to know them. When the proposed revisions to the Statement of Faith are presented, read them, review them, and learn from them. Consider helping out in our neighborhood outreach.

    It is a privilege to be at work for the sake of the church!

    TueTuesdayAugAugust4th2015 Praying for Friends
    byDan Dillon Tagged Ministry Prayer 0 comments Add comment

    This is a blog entry about how Kossuth should relate to other churches, but first I’ll talk about personal friends.

    Even the shyest among us has friends. Only hermits don’t have friends. Of course, “friend” is a somewhat vague term. Some of us only reserve the word for deep, close friends. We may know some people very well because we’ve spent many hours with them, but we’d probably call them acquaintances, because they don’t know us deeply. Think about people from work or soccer club. For other people, everyone is a friend and they seem to have hundreds of them!

    Regardless of the terms we use, we all recognize that we have degrees of friendship. We also have degrees of trust and comfortableness. We can have lunch regularly with a group of friends, but we’re not convinced that we want to go into business with them. We can work side-by-side with someone, but not trust them to share a personal confidence. We can form an intense bond with someone over several classes and extra-curricular activities, but realize that we don’t want to be their roommate. Sometimes we learn that after spending a year being their roommate!

    I hope we all have Christian friends. But many of the same reservations still apply: we know them well, love them greatly, but don’t necessarily want to trust them with our money. A few more might apply because of differences in beliefs. For instances, you might trust some of your Christians friends with very deep, personal issues, but at the same time feel uncomfortable going to their church because of their style of worship (for instance, speaking in tongues or the use of robes). You’d easily give them hundreds of dollars and dozen of hours of help if they were stuck in a bad situation, but you know you couldn’t join their church because of some deeply-held doctrinal difference (for instance, views on baptism or female pastors).

    But there’s one thing you’d always be wiling to do for any of your friends. You’d pray for them. However much or little you know them, however much or little you would trust them, however much or little you would be willing to work with them or join their church, you’d pray for them.

    I hope you can see how this applies to churches, too. As part of our strategic plan efforts, we’ve committed to building relationships with other churches in the area and exploring joining one or more church networks (or associations, conferences, conventions, etc.: different names, same idea). Some of these groups may require a large commitment, some only a little commitment. The only thing we’ve decided is, yes, we should not be an isolated church. We need to be connected with other like-minded churches. Figuring out who to be connected to will take time, wisdom, and prayer.

    In the meantime, the least we can do is pray for other Bible-believing, gospel-preaching churches in the area. They are our friends, not our enemies. They may not be close friends, we may not be officially part of their denomination, conference, etc., we may have doctrinal or practical differences, but that doesn't mean we can’t pray that God would bless them or help them in a difficult situation.

    We’ve already done that twice in the past few weeks. Let’s continue to pray for Calvary Baptist Church as they struggle through a difficult situation. The elders are going to continue to pray publicly for other local churches. That doesn’t mean we endorse everything they do, believe everything they believe, or want to join forces with them in some deep, committed way, any more than praying for a friend means that you like everything they do, believe everything they believe, or want to go into business with them. Joining with them at a deeper level will take some thought, just as bigger commitments to friends takes some consideration. But we can still pray for them, including their growth in holiness, their advancement of the gospel, and their protection from the Evil One. Let us do so.


    ThuThursdayJunJune25th2015 Raising Children is a Money-Losing Proposition
    byDan Dillon Tagged Family Parenting 1 comments Add comment

    There’s a baby boom among church staff and Peggy and I are doing a fair amount of babysitting lately (but really, Peggy is doing the vast majority). So this question came to my mind rather easily: What impulses drive people to desire to raise children?

    It can’t be money. On a purely economic basis, raising children is a money-losing proposition. And it takes a lot of time and energy: at least two decades of constant effort. The sheer amount of time, money, and energy it takes to raise children shows how amazing it is that people do it in the first place. Of course, some are not called to marriage or cannot bear children. And some do a very poor job of raising children or are so self-absorbed that raising children is the farthest thing from their mind. Nevertheless, the desire to raise children is incredibly strong and it’s not just a “Christian” desire; non-Christians raise children, too!

    Let’s take a moment and look at a few reasons that you and I might have for raising children. Are we doing things for the right reasons? Are we letting our desires get out of hand and creating idols in our hearts?

    We desire to be with children. It was fun being with my kids when they were young. None of the serious responsibilities of church or work, just being in their small, relatively carefree world. But idolatry sets in when we won’t let them grow up! They turn into our toys, instead of independent adults. And we have to train them to be adults.

    We desire that someone else have it better than we did. It is certainly a good desire to want your children to have a better life than you did. But the idolatry of “it’s all about the kids” is an easy trap. It can lead to a spoiled child because they never experience loss or deprivation. Or it can lead to a bitter or controlling parent if the goal of parenting is to live (or relive) your life through your children.

    We desire to sacrifice ourselves to bring joy to someone else. A sacrificial life exemplifies Jesus and is absolutely required to raise children well. But do we define our relationship and self-worth in terms of our children’s appreciation of our sacrifice? Do we use guilt to get our way? Do we say or think, “After all I’ve done for you, why don’t you...”? That’s not sacrifice. That’s manipulation. That’s conditional love.

    We desire to feel like a “whole person.” In our culture, being a “whole person” means self-creation, self-pursuit, and self-fulfillment. If we’re raising children to feel like a "whole person,” we’re doing it for ultimately selfish reasons. And since we create our own fulfillment, we can abandon child-raising when it’s no longer fulfilling. The Church reacts against this by preaching the importance of sacrifice and commitment in raising children. But sometimes a church can overdo this emphasis and subtly imply that being married and raising children is the only way to be a “whole person.” Several sad idols are erected: First, if we’re not married, we’re not “fulfilled.” Second, marriage is better than singleness, so married people are automatically more mature than single people. Third, having a strong family becomes more important than have a strong relationship with Jesus.

    We desire to advance the kingdom of Christ. It is critically important to train up our children in the Lord, by teaching them the Bible, instilling Godly habits, etc. But even here, with this distinctly Christian desire, an idol can set in, when our love for our children or our own self-image is based on their godliness, their performance. We call our children to maturity and discipline them for their growth, but they are first of all souls that need our love. Oh how quickly your child can tell the difference between trained like a soldier and being loved like a son or daughter!

    Those are my thoughts. I can’t claim the infallibility of the Bible; these are just my observations. Can you think of other reasons? Feel free to comment.

    ThuThursdayMayMay7th2015 Baptism and Communion
    byDan Dillon Tagged Baptism Church Communion 1 comments Add comment

    If you only watched Baptism and Communion and didn’t hear what was being said, you’d probably be confused. Why is everyone excited about watching someone getting dunked into water? Why are these people drinking one ounce of grape juice and eating a mere smidgeon of a cracker? Many things we observe make sense “without the audio,” so to speak: someone taking a bath, eating a meal, driving to work. We understand what’s going on because they are so familiar to us. But without the audio, Baptism and Communion are just odd, even strange.

    Here’s another thing that’s odd about Baptism and Communion. If much of our preaching and teaching follows the form, “Believe this; now demonstrate your belief by giving yourself over to good works,” where do Baptism and Communion fit in? They aren’t things to be believed. One doesn’t believe Baptism or Communion; one gets baptized and partakes in Communion. But while they are something to do, they aren’t really “good works,” such as loving another, speaking truth, and helping the poor. Those commands are ethical, that is, commands to do things that, in and of themselves, are good and can be done by anyone, even non-Christians. But Baptism and Communion are to be done only by those who have faith in Christ, and one would hardly call them “good works.”

    So if they aren’t things to be believed or good works, what are they? They have been called many things, including “sacraments,” “ordinances,” and “rites”. But perhaps the simplest way to think about them is that they are ceremonies: formal events that have very specific meanings and are meant to celebrate, symbolize, and honor that meaning.

    Part of the “oddness” of Baptism and Communion is because they are ceremonies and our culture (and sometimes our own churches!) don't value ceremony. We don’t like the formality of ceremonies. We don’t like doing the same thing over and over again. We want to do something new and unique, not old and just like everyone else. Why do we need a ceremony? Let’s just get on with it. What matters is the reality, not the ceremony. All rituals are empty or, at least, not very important and certainly not required.

    The other part of the “oddness” is that, as ceremonies, they don’t make a whole lot of sense unless the “audio is on”: someone needs to explain to you the significance of the ceremony. Much more could be said about their significance. They are meant to be celebrated and enjoyed, and they are meant to be honored and obeyed. Even if they are not ethical acts or good works, “be baptized” (Acts 2:38) and “do this in remembrance of me” (Luke 22:19) are still required.

    If you have confessed Christ but not been baptized, follow his command and be baptized. If you have confessed Christ, do not neglect to participate in Communion, even if it takes extra effort (e.g., it is offered at Sunday evening Family Gathering). Do these things to celebrate and honor Christ.

    ThuThursdayMarMarch12th2015 When Life Is Pure Misery

    What would you say to a man who felt weak and near to death? Whose friends and loved ones had abandoned him? Who felt afflicted, assaulted, and terrorized, with the events of life overwhelming him like a flood?

    Would you tell him he needed to pray to God?

    What if he told you that he’s been praying day and night to God, crying out to him? What if he told you that, as far as he is concerned, it is God who has put him in this dark place, God who assaults and terrorizes him, God who is overwhelming him, God who casts him away?

    Would you say that his theology was wrong, that he needed to have a better concept of the love, mercy and grace of God?

    Let me introduce you to that man: Heman the Ezrahite. All of what I described in the past two paragraphs is packed into his psalm, Psalm 88. He is living in misery and finds no relief in God. Perhaps shockingly, the misery in the psalm is unremitting. It starts in misery (verse 3: “for my soul is full of troubles”), continues in misery (verse 7: “you overwhelm me with all your waves”), grows to more misery (verse 14: “O Lord, why do you cast my soul away?”), and ends in misery (verse 18: “You have caused my beloved and my friend to shun me”). Unlike so many psalms that start in misery, despair, or anger, it doesn’t end on a joyful, peaceful, or confident note. The psalm is an unfiltered prayer of someone living in pure misery.

    So what would you say to Heman? Here are a few ideas.

    1. Whatever you say, don’t condemn him. God has seen fit to take Heman’s prayer and include it in his Psalter. The Psalms are God’s words, but in a unique way, at their core, they are a series of prayers and meditations that God has written for us, as if to say, “Think like this about me, about yourself, and about the world around you. Talk to me this way.” So we dare not condemn Heman for not having “positive” thoughts.

    2. If you say something, maybe you should commend his faith. He is in misery, but he prays to God daily (verse 9), day and night (verse 1). He boldly pleads God’s honor and not his own (verses 10-12):

      Do you work wonders for the dead?
        Do the departed rise up to praise you? Selah
      Is your steadfast love declared in the grave,
        or your faithfulness in Abaddon [the place of destruction]?
      Are your wonders known in the darkness,
        or your righteousness in the land of forgetfulness?”

    3. Maybe you don’t say anything and just be with him. Maybe you can rectify some of his external problems, but maybe not. He feels cast aside by man and by God; maybe God is using you for his deliverance. Maybe it starts with joining him in his prayers.

    4. Maybe, very carefully, you tell him, “Jesus understands”. Jesus said on the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matt. 27:46). The Son knows what it means to be abandoned by God and man.

    Are you feeling like Heman or know someone who is? I hope this helps. I wish I could say something like, “Heman, you just need to do this thing or think this thought.” But I don't think that this psalm will allow that. At some point, you hope to tell them (or remind them) about the good news of Jesus Christ. But first, it’s enough to be with them and pray with them.

    ThuThursdaySepSeptember4th2014 I Lift Up My Hands
    byDan Dillon Tagged Prayer Worship 5 comments Add comment

    [Guest post by current elder candidate Dan Dillon]

    I’d like to share a bit of how God has convicted and is encouraging me in hopes that it encourages you.

    Psalms 120-134 are some of my favorite Psalms. They are labeled as “Songs of Ascents” and seem to be written for the worshiper who is traveling to the temple in Jerusalem, perhaps for one of the annual feasts. They follow a general pattern as the worshipper approaches Jerusalem, starting with distress and despair and ending with petitions, rejoicing, and praise. A few weeks ago, I read Psalm 134, the last (and shortest!) of the set:

    Come, bless the Lord, all you servants of the Lord,
    who stand by night in the house of the Lord!
    Lift up your hands to the holy place
    and bless the Lord!
    May the Lord bless you from Zion,
    he who made heaven and earth!

    So, after the long journey to Jerusalem, what are we to do in the temple? What does it all boil down to? Two things: bless the Lord and lift up your hands.

    No, no, no! I can bless the Lord, but “lift up your hands”? Couldn’t the Psalmist have picked something else for the second one? Maybe “praise him”? I can do that. Couldn’t the Psalmist have made the list longer, say five or ten items, so that I could conveniently ignore “lift up your hands” as I worked on the other items on the list?

    Oh, how the Spirit exposes and convicts! I was convicted that I needed to lift up my hands in worship: it’s commanded, not suggested, as one of the two things to do when you arrive at worship. In fact, “lifting up hands” shows up in Psalms 28, 63, 119, and 141, and several other places in the Bible (Lev. 9:22; Neh. 8:6; Lam. 2:19, 3:41; Hab. 3:10; 1 Tim. 2:8).  

    How often should we lift up our hands? I don't know. I don’t think we need to do it every second of singing and praying. But given that five of the 150 Psalms mention it, somehow “I lifted up my hands once, a few years ago, when the worship leader asked all of us to do it” doesn’t quite seem like a claim to full obedience.

    And, of course, “lifting hands” can turn into a rote act of obedience or a way of showing off. So, let’s counteract those trends by considering what “lifting hands” symbolizes:

    • We lift up our hands when we want to call attention to something: “Look up there!”
    • We lift up our hands when we, as a child, give something up: “Father, please take this.”
    • We lift up our hands when we, as a child, need something or someone: “Please, Father, can you help me?”
    • We lift up our hands when we, as a child, want someone’s attention: “Please, Father, love me.”

    “Let us lift up our hearts and hands to God in heaven” (Lamentations 3:41).

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