Communion: Past, Present & Future Significance

communionFor I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.”  In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

So then, 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. Everyone ought to examine themselves before they eat of the bread and drink from the cup.  For those who eat and drink without discerning the body of Christ eat and drink judgment on themselves.”

1 Corinthians 11:23-29

 

When the Apostle Paul wrote these words to the church in Corinth, he described the significance of communion with past, present and future language, and every time that we come to the Lord’s Table, we proclaim its three-fold significance.

We see the past significance of the Lord’s Supper clearly by the Lord’s double usage of the phrase, “Do this in remembrance of me.” As we take the bread and the cup we remember His substitutionary death on our behalf. The broken bread symbolizing the Lord’s broken body and the juice representing His blood. As we hold these material elements we remember that God became a man, willingly went to the Cross in our place, for our sin, where His body was broken and His blood was spilt so that our sins can be forgiven and we can be reconciled to God.

Communion also has a present significance. Paul writes, “Everyone ought to examine themselves before they eat of the bread and drink from the cup.  For those who eat and drink without discerning the body of Christ eat and drink judgment on themselves” (1 Cor. 11:28-29). Therefore, communion is an occasion for examining our lives and hearts before God in light of our profession of His death and resurrection. This examination is crucial, because it would be sheer hypocrisy to pretend we are in communion with God while actually harboring and cherishing known sin in our hearts and lives.

Lastly, communion has a future significance. The Apostle Paul said, “For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes (1 Cor. 11:26; emphasis added). During the last meal Jesus shared with His disciples He said to them, “Truly I tell you, I will not drink again from the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God” (Mark 14:25). So every time we take communion we are proclaiming our belief in Christ’s resurrection, and at the same time proclaiming our belief in our future physical resurrection, and still yet, proclaiming our belief in the resurrection of the entire material universe at which time we will see Jesus face to face and partake in God’s great banquet (Is. 25:6-9; Rev. 21:1-7). This future significance of communion should cause us to live our lives in light of this future reality and to long for the day when we will be in God’s presence!

So communion anchors us in the past work of God, stabilizes us in the present love of God, and focuses us on the future glory of God. What an honor to share this table!

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Baptism: How Should It Be Done?

After His resurrection, Jesus and the Eleven were in Galilee when Jesus commanded baptism in His commission of the disciples:  “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” (Matt. 28:19-20).  Therefore, all evangelical churches that take Jesus’ words seriously baptize their people, but how it gets done is where the differences are.  Some (especially Lutheran, Episcopalian, Methodist, and Presbyterian churches) believe that all infants of believing parents ought to be baptized as they are part of the “covenant community” of God’s people.  Some baptize by immersion, others by the sprinkling of water; one group (the Greek Orthodox Church) baptizes their folks three times forward while naked!  Don’t worry; we’re not ever going to switch to that practice!

At Mid Valley, we immerse people in water after they have made a conscious decision to repent of their sin, trust in the finished work of Christ (His death and resurrection) and pledge love and loyalty to Jesus Christ as the risen Lord, their Savior (Rom. 10:9-10)!

We practice this mode of baptism for several reasons:

First, the Greek word βαπτίζω (baptizo) literally means to plunge, submerge or immerse.  This is the commonly recognized meaning of the term in ancient Greek literature, both inside and outside of the Bible.[1]

Second, the representation of our union in Christ’s death and resurrection is best expressed through immersion.  The Apostle Paul writes, “Don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?   We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life” (Rom. 6:3-4).   As one theologian wrote, “One can hardly deny that baptism carried out as immersion—as it was in the West until well into the Middle Ages—showed what was represented in far more expressive fashion than did the affusion (pouring water on those getting baptized) which later became customary, especially when this affusion was reduced from a real wetting to a sprinkling and eventually in practice to a mere moistening with as little water as possible.”[2]

Lastly, we immerse people in water because the Scriptures suggest that baptism by immersion was the practice of the early church.  John the Baptizer baptized people at Aenon “because there was plenty of water (Jn. 3:23).  When Jesus was baptized by John he “came up out of the water” (Mark 1:10, emphasis added). In Philip’s encounter with the Ethiopian eunuch they went down into the water and came up out of the water (Acts 8:36-39).  In light of these considerations, immersion seems to be the most adequate and faithful mode of baptism.  While it’s not the only valid form of baptism, it is the mode which reflects the meaning of baptism the fullest, and therefore at Mid Valley, it’s the model we practice.

We must remember that baptism is more than a simple rite that believers undergo.  As a sacrament it is a symbol of something far bigger.  Baptism is a declaration of the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Being baptized in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit expresses our death to sin, burial of the old life, and resurrection to a new life in Christ Jesus!


[1] Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology, pg. 967

[2] Karl Barth, Teaching, pg. 9-10

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100 Days

100 Days at Mid Valley

 

As I was sitting at Mucho Gusto, my favorite Mexican restaurant in southern Oregon, the thought first entered my mind: I have been the pastor at Mid Valley for 100 days now.  At first, I thought that couldn’t be true. So I got out my calendar and counted the days. 100 days! At one level that’s such a small amount of time it seems rather insignificant. At another level, however, those 100 days have had a huge impact, at least upon me and my family.

 

When we left southern Oregon and the Rogue Valley to move to North-Central Washington and the Wenatchee Valley we sensed that we would enjoy the community and the people who make up Mid Valley. But what we did not know, nor were we prepared for, was just how quickly we would fall in love with the folks of Mid Valley and the community of Cashmere! I absolutely love being the pastor at Mid Valley and count it a great honor and responsibility to get to shepherd the people of God, bringing forth His Word each Sunday and Trea loves the friendships she is developing with many of the ladies of Mid Valley! Truly, we marvel at God’s goodness to bring us here and are in awe of the many faith stories that we have been able to hear about and participate in.

 

What’s ahead in the next 100 days? Only the Lord knows, but here’s a couple of things we’re working on:

  • Vacation Bible School
  • Baptism on June 22nd.
  • Finish the sanctuary remodel.
  • Father-Son Backpack trips (details coming soon).
  • Give a fresh look to the classrooms downstairs.
  • Expand our Children’s Church up through age 8.
  • Fellowship of Friends on Sunday, September 7th.
  • Sunday School and Youth Ministry Teacher Training on September 13th.

 

As you can see, there’s a lot going on! If you’re interested in serving in any of these areas above, please let me know.

Love to you all; see you Sunday,

Travis

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The Shaping of Timothy

Within the pages of the New Testament a young man appears, who quickly grows into a mature Believer, a valued co-laborer alongside the Apostle Paul, and a respected pastor.  His name is Timothy.  As we read through the book that bears his name, and we read brief accounts of Timothy’s life from the book of Acts, we see a picture of a young man who loves the Lord, and is growing in Christ-likeness.

How did Timothy grow into this type of a man?  Let me bring out a couple of things about Timothy’s life that are good for us to think about.  Timothy’s life is a challenge and an encouragement for every generation of Believers.

His grandmother, Lois imparted the knowledge of Scripture to Timothy from a young age (2 Timothy 1:5).  This reminds us of the power and influence believing grandparents can have on their grandkids. I have seen this firsthand with Trea’s grandparents, Jay and Pat and Leo and Polly and now I witness it on an almost daily basis with Mike and Cyndi as they impart Godly wisdom as the grandparents of my two young daughters.  If you have grandkids, take the time to teach your grandkids the Scriptures, spend time with them modeling Christ-like behavior, teaching them to pray and to worship and to trust Christ through difficult seasons as well as good seasons.

Timothy’s mother, Eunice, was a Jewess married to a non-believing husband, but Paul writes in 2 Timothy that she has passed the faith onto Timothy.  It’s a good reminder for women who are married to unbelieving husbands that by your faith, by your constant prayer for your kiddos, and by your modeling of Christ-likeness to your kids, you will have a huge impact on their souls for eternity.  Continue to trust the Lord with your kids.

For young women the encouragement is that there are young men likeTimothy in the world.  Young guys who love the Lord and want to serve Him with their life.  Maybe not in pastoral ministry, but with their business, with their hands, and with their life they want to bring honor and glory to the Lord Jesus.  There are young guys like this, I know them! Look for this type of a guy.

For older men the challenge and the encouragement is this…Timothy was mentored and shaped by an older man, the Apostle Paul.  And his impact on Timothy was profound, and shaped his life.  This is the call to older men to invest some of your time into the lives of young men, who have all sorts of questions about faith, life, love, and about marriage.  If you’re an older guy with some time on your hands, pray about mentoring a young guy. Your impact will be felt for generations to come.

Lastly, for young guys the challenge is to imitate Timothy’s devotion and faithfulness to the Lord Jesus, and to continue to grow in the knowledge and grace of our Lord. Notice, Timothy’s growth was the by-product of spending time with older, wiser Believers, who had experienced tremendous hardship and trusted the Lord through it!  If you’re a young guy who want so grow in your knowledge of the Lord and the grace of the Lord, it’s essential that you invest in relationships with older, wiser brothers and sisters in the Lord!

 

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When “Father” Is A Bad Thing

This afternoon, I was working on a study for the Essential Jesus class I’ve been teaching on Sunday mornings and in this particular lesson I wanted to highlight one of the major themes that Jesus taught was that God is a loving Father. Jesus often spoke of God as, Abba, which was an intimate, family word that a Hebrew child used of his or her dad and nowhere in the history of Israel had it been used by anyone of God.

Jesus said His relationship with God was like a son’s to a Father—and that we can approach God as a young child approaches a good daddy, with a full measure of trust, confidence, dependence, and love, which also means we can approach Him without pretense, worry, fear, shame, or having your act together.  Jesus said God’s not a impersonal force that must be feared and appeased, but rather, a personal, loving Father that  wants to love, protect, guide and share life with you. What an amazing difference and it dynamically changes out we relate, live with and pray to our Father. 

However, as I was thinking thinking through those implications, I also knew when I mention that God is a Father, to some that would hit them like a ton of bricks and not bring them joy but consternation. I found a short article by Michael Reeves in his fantastic book, Delighting in the Trinity: An Introduction to the Christian Faith and I wanted to share it with those of you who may have grown up in a home with a difficult father or know someone who struggles with the concept of God as a Father based upon their childhood experiences.

 

When “Father” Is A Bad Thing

 

Not everyone instinctively warms to the idea that God is Father. There are many for whom their own experiences of overbearing, indifferent or abusive fathers make their very guts squirm when they hear God spoken of as a Father. The twentieth-century French philosopher Michel Foucault had very much that sort of issue. The bulk of his life’s work was about the evils of authority, and it seems to have all started with the first figure of authority in his life: his father. Fearful of having some namby-pamby for a son, Foucault Senior—who was a surgeon—did what he could to “toughen up” the little mite. That meant, for example, ghoulishly forcing him to witness an amputation. “The image, certainly, has all the ingredients of a recurrent nightmare: the sadistic father, the impotent child, the knife slicing into flesh, the body cut to the bone, the demand to acknowledge the sovereign power of the patriarch, and the inexpressible humiliation of the son, having his manliness put to the test.”[i]

For Foucault, paternal power had not been used to care, to nurture and to bless, and so for him the word father came to be associated with a host of dark images.

One’s heart goes out to children of such fathers, and those of us who are fathers ourselves know that we too are far from perfect. But God the Father is not called Father because he copies earthly fathers. He is not some pumped-up version of your dad. To transfer the failings of earthly fathers to him is, quite simply, a misstep.  Instead, things are the other way around: it is that all human fathers are supposed to reflect him—only where some do that well, others do a better job of reflecting the devil.


[i] James Miller, The Passion of Michel Foucault (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1993), p. 366

 

            

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The Centrality of Scripture

One of the major developments of the Protestant Reformation was the return to Scripture as supreme authority.  The Reformers coined the phrase sola Scriptura (Scripture alone) to summarize this conviction.  To rightly understand the Reformers conviction that Scripture is our highest authority, we need to understand what the Scriptures are, how God authored the Scriptures, and what Jesus said in regard to them.

The Scriptures are the expression of God’s mind given to us in written form.  The term Scripture means sacred writing and the word Bible comes from the Greek word meaning book. Therefore the Scriptures are a book of God’s sacred writing.  It’s a collection of 66 books, written in three different languages (Hebrew, Greek, Aramaic) written from 3 different continents (Asia, Africa, Europe) over a span of fifteen hundred years (from about 1450 B.C. to about A.D. 90) by over forty different authors.  These people were not alike.  They came from various levels of society and from very diverse backgrounds.  Some were kings; others were statesmen, priests, prophets. There was a fisherman, a tax-collector, a tentmaker and a physician.  Their opinions on any other subject would have been as wide and diverse as ours is today.  Yet together they produced a volume that is uniquely unified in its message.  The message is, in short, a single story regarding the restoration and renovation of the entire material and immaterial universe through Jesus Christ!

Before His death and resurrection, Jesus told the disciples that a day would come when He would no longer be in their presence but that the Holy Spirit would come and would remind them of His life and teachings so that they could write and teach accurately that which Christ accomplished (Jn. 14:25-26; 16:12-15).  The Scripture, unlike any other book, is a book written by both God and man.  There was a partnership between the Holy Spirit and the human authors as the Spirit guided them in the process. God was working with their unique personalities, their unique backgrounds, unique life experiences, their education, to enable, or to inspire the writing of Scripture in such a way that they wrote all that God wanted them to say without excess or error (2 Pet. 1:20-21, 1 Cor. 14:37).  We call this divine inspiration.  As one theologian wrote, “The belief that God wrote Scripture in concert with human authors whom he inspired to perfectly record his words is called verbal (the very words of the Bible) plenary (every part of the Bible) inspiration (are God-breathed revelation).  Very simply, this means that God the Holy Spirit inspired not just the thoughts of Scripture but also the very details and exact words that were perfectly recorded for us as Scripture.”[1]  As Evangelical Christians, we value and love the Scripture; we cannot simply ignore parts of the Bible as primitive, dismiss other sections as culturally irrelevant, or explain them away by human reasoning.  Paul tells us, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16-17, emphasis added).

The most important reason for believing the Scripture to be the Word of God and the sole authority for Christians in all matters of faith and practice is that this is what the Lord Jesus taught.  Jesus highly esteemed the Old Testament; He continually quoted it (Mt. 4:1-11), saw His life as a fulfillment of it (Lk. 4:16-21), and declared, “I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished” (Matt. 5:18).  An iota is the smallest letter of the Hebrew alphabet, so what Jesus was saying was that even the most minute parts of the Mosaic Law are authoritative. Because our Lord Jesus trusted the Scriptures as the Word of God and submitted to it as an authoritative revelation, we do the same.

Scripture is the expression of God’s mind, therefore, we encourage all Believers to memorize, meditate, study and share His truth.  We trust the Holy Spirit to use the Scriptures to make us more like Jesus, both individually and corporately as the church.


[1] Gerry Breshears, Doctrine:  What Christians Should Believe, pg. 48. Crossway, 2010

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Working 9 To 5: A Theological Reflection on Work

Here’s a short ten page paper on God’s design for work, the dignity of work, the purpose of work and some practical steps to discern what our work should be.

Working Nine To Five-A Theological Reflection on Work

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