Open Communion? Are you sure?


    UPDATE:   Some of your comments went into moderation and I had to approve them (I don’t know why it does that sometimes).  I just got back from a quick trip and have approved those comments now. Sorry for the delay! And the devil is messing with the coloration of some of the letters in this text. Why? Who knows?

Who Really Practices Closed Communion?

The irony of a great many “non-presence” churches that practice open communion and rail against those who practice closed communion that do give the true body and blood of Jesus Christ , is that they themselves practice the ultimate closed communion which even exceeds that of Rome, who refused to offer the cup to the laity; and that is utterly denying the body and blood of Jesus Christ to their people.

In the words of their own doctrine, “This is not the body and this is not the blood of Jesus Christ?”

How can communion be more closed than that? 

                                        -Larry Hughes

What kind on communion does your church practice?  Do you know why?


What is a “backslider“?

Are they easy to spot?

Have you ever been one?

How does one stop being a “backslider“?

The ‘Old Adam’…what to do with him?

Most of us agree that this scoundrel the ‘old Adam’, or ‘old Eve’, needs to be dealt with in some fashion or other.

What should we do with him/her?

Should we work to clean him up? Should we try and improve how she acts in public and smooth off  her sharp edges?

Should we forget about him, ignore him, and hope he won’t cause too much trouble?

Or should we kill her/him off?   If so, then how?

It’s a matter of EmPhaSis

Which is correct…emphasis…or emPhaSis?

You could say that they both are. They both use th e same letters, and they both are the same word.

But they do sound different. And if someone spoke that way, putting stronger emPhaSis on certain sylLaBles…it might be tough trying to make out what they were really saying.

Because the Bible is not self-evident, it must be interpreted. The interpretive grid, or prism, that one decides to use will determine the emphasis of the interpretation.

When one uses the grid of “free will” , “decision theology“…one will emphasize the self  much more prominently than an interpreter who uses the interpretive grid of a “bound will“, where God has to make the choice for the sinner.

The words may be the same but the emPhaSis will defintely skew the understanding of those words.

 When Christian traditions (or non-traditions) emphasize the start of the Christian life with the sinner (even unwittingly) they will get a Christianity that is self- focused.

You can often end up with a Christianity that places a large emphasis on personal Christian growth, personal spirituality (however you would define that), moral living (biblical principles for living), and trying to get others to do the same.

This is a formula for self-righteousness, phoniness, and or uncertainty and despair.

This is why many of us are so interested in attempting to get others to change their grid of interpretation to one that asserts the centrality of Christ..and His work for us,  rather than shifting Christ to the edges a little more and empasizing the things that we should, ought, or must be doing.

If you have a proBlem with this…pLease let me know.

Is God really free?

Is God, the Creator and Sustainor of the universe and everything in it, really free to be God?The Mad Potter.. by cilinia powell

Can He speak worlds, and things in those worlds, and people in those worlds into and out of existence ?

Is He really free to give new life to sinners? Real sinners with no redeeming qualities in God’s eyes? Sinners who don’t clean up their acts? Sinners who are left with absolutely nothing at all to point to except to the One who has promised to  forgive them and save them?

Or is God obliged to listen to those who have may have some reasonable expectations of those who are saved and forgiven?

Are there certain prerequisites in the text of Holy Scripture that must be met by those who are hoping to receive God’s grace and mercy?

Is He free to save whom He will?

Brotherly Advice

Here is a bit of brotherly advice for my Christian brothers and sisters who might just be a bit too zealous in the Law concerning their unbelieving family or friends.

Please don’t use your Christianity as a club (a weapon) to beat God into them.

I’m not trying to be high and mighty here, for I have made the mistake of doing that exact same thing a time or two. I pray that the Lord will forgive me of that sin (self-righteousness), and that He would prevent their hearts from being hardened to Him because of my over-zealous, and under compassionate desire to force belief upon them.

I received a phone call yesterday from a friend of mine who told me that she is, and has been, in the crosshairs of her husband’s family, who are all doing their utmost to “lead” her to Jesus.

It’s constant. It’s always right beneath the surface when it manages to stay hidden, and it’s grinding effects are destroying any decent view of Christians and Christianity that she may at one time had.

It is a constant barrage of super-sticky piety coupled with a heavy handed beating with the law. All designed to make her make a “decision for Jesus”.

I wouldn’t be suprised if she never wanted anything at all to do with Jesus… ever again. She’s already told me that she hates Christianity, and her phoney, self -righteous family (in-laws) members.

And now, she cannot trust her little ones (ages 1-7) with them, either. They are hammering the little ones and putting pressure on them as well!

All of this stems from that deadly false doctrine known as “free will”.

The misguided (at best) thinking that one has the ability to choose to be a Christian. This warped view of the Christian faith is absolutely just as deadly when it’s aimed at others as it is when it’s embraced by the self.

It (“free will”) produces self-righteous, arrogant, super-pious, phoney, law entrenched Christians who act on the basis of fear…and not love of the neighbor.

It produces Christians who begin their “Christian walk” with something that ‘they have done’.  It starts with them… it continues with them…. and it ends with them. And they do it all quoting the scriptures… left and right…right or wrong.

I say this; love them (the unbeliever).  Let the law that is already working on them in their lives do the dirty work. Don’t make Jesus into just ‘another law’. Empathize with them. Tell them you know how it is. Tell them that many of these same things have had or are having their way with you as well.  And then, when the law has sufficiently crushed them, slip in a word or two about the One who has done something about it. Speak to them of Jesus and what he has done for you and for them. Ask them if they’ve ever been baptised and remind them of the promises that God has made to them in their baptisms. It is a great opportunity to speak the gospel to them, that God may go to work in them in that Word. You can tell them that you’d love for them to come with you sometime to church, to hear more about Christ Jesus who will someday make all things new again…including themselves. And when you leave them pray for them.

But turning the whole thing into a formula whereupon the right answer is obtained by their making the right choice of  A) Accepting Jesus….or B) going to hell  …is not the gospel. It is the law. “Do this and you will be saved”.  Jesus told Niccodemus that “it doesn’t work like that. It has to come from above.”

It is the gospel that frees and makes alive…not the law.

What would you say to these well-meaning Christians?    Keep pouring it on! (?)…  or ease up and take another tact.(?)

Graven Images

 Exodus 20:3,4
3 “You shall have no other gods before me.
4 “You shall not make for yourself any graven image, or any likenes of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them or serve them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generation of those that hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.


So is it alright to use graven images in a devotional way in our worship of the One True God, or is it a sin and expressly forbidden by God?

Is the cross itself, a graven image representing our Lord and Savior Christ Jesus?

‘Yeah but’, Luther… just hold on a minute!

Luther said to Erasmus in his response, Bondage of the Will, concerning the fear of some form of societal and individual moral rMartin Luther by kimberlyfaye.eform, “Who, you say, will take pains to correct his life?  I answer:  No man will and no man can, for God cares nothing for your correctors without the Spirit, since they are hypocrites.  But the elect and the godly will be corrected by the Holy Spirit, while the rest perish uncorrected.”


Some interesting highlights in history seem to show that this is the greatest temptation of the church as a whole and Christians individually in changing the message of the Gospel to another gospel.  This temptation is greater even than a sword to the neck.


As opposed to the theology of the Cross, all theologies of glory wet the finger and stick it in the air of time and space to measure for a doctrines ability to bring about change (for the good, a good fruit or works producer so to speak).  This comes in many forms for example, “numbers and church growth, moral improvements both individual and societal, etc…”.  Even Melancthon fell for this in the end and almost overthrew what Luther left after his death.  History seems to repeat this.  Example, a 50,000  foot survey of the Thirty Year War from 1618-1648 seems to indicate that what brought about pietism in the Lutheran bodies themselves was the view that “if this is what the doctrine of Luther brings about, forensic justification unconditionally, something is wrong with the message and Spener is the rest of the story.  Can such an assessment be called Christian at all, when it is a rather pagan “finger wetting in the air”.  It seems that under the stress of great persecution, the worries of this world, this faith dwindled and died in this moment in this specific situation.  Yet, both Luther and Calvin in as much as they agreed on the pure forensic nature of the Gospel basically said, ‘let all hell break loose and the world go up into one conflagration, we cannot ever allow the Word of God to be changed on this.’


Repeatedly this seems to be the greatest of temptation for both the church as a whole and Christians in general.  If some visible peace or change is not measurable, but in fact the opposite appears everywhere, then the Gospel cannot be the gospel, goes the thinking of the theology of glory, and something needs be added to the message to ‘get it right’ and produce the desired change.  Yet, in fact shortly after Pentecost when the Gospel was highest all hell broke out in the Roman Empire.  Not to forget to mention before Pentecost that all hell broke out pretty much every where and every time Jesus opened His mouth, culminating at the Cross itself (the heartbeat of the Gospel).  The Roman Emperors, by the way, blamed the Christians, which is to say the 200 proof Gospel for the fall of society in their time.  Again, Stephen, when preaching a 200 proof totally unconditional Gospel, and what arose around him?  Peace and love?  Hardly, stones to the head as the fruit police and inspectors and good works merit- mongers gnashed their teeth at him.  Not all that different than the Lutheran pietist, Anabaptist and other enthusiasts of the time of the 30 Year War, and not all that different from the message changing – fruit inspectors of our day and age.  After all if the forensic unconditional message isn’t producing the desired affect surely we must change its forensic/unconditional explosion, should we not, goes the rational Aristotelian thinking.  This was the great temptation of the Puritans, Wesley, Conservative and Liberal Christians alike today.


Luther’s response to Erasmus is proved all the more and comes back to haunt us: “Who, you say, will take pains to correct his life?  I answer:  No man will and no man can, for God cares nothing for your correctors without the Spirit, since they are hypocrites.  But the elect and the godly will be corrected by the Holy Spirit, while the rest perish uncorrected.”


If the Gospel doesn’t work in any given time or place, either corporately to a society, to a church or group of churches or individually does that give license to change its unconditional message?  Does this ever give us right to so, “Free grace yes, but…”.  The ‘but’ is always the “tuck tail and run” sign of the fear of the persecution against the Gospel proclamation.  I’ve felt and tucked my tail and ran more times than I care to remember. 


Here is the GREAT temptation of the “seed sewn amongst the weeds and the cares of this world” that falls away. Here we are greatly tempted to tuck our tails and run for it is always easy to get a good, “Amen”, in affirming the “yea but…”.  Indeed if no man comes to faith by the 200 proof Gospel as far as we can tell our entire lives does that give us license to say, “hath God really said”, by altering the message?  Is not a pastor called to preach the Gospel even if everybody walks out of the church forever?


We like to say, “bear your/our cross”, when we mean fruit and law, which is no cross at all but self appointed good works and fruits that are actually quite easy to perform in our own strength.  However, we really don’t like that Cross very much when we have a cross laid upon us by the Word that is a Gospel Cross linked to Calvary itself?  We are like the first thief all too often, “Jesus if you are the Son of God, get us down off of these crosses”.  Or likewise, “Jesus if you are really God and have power get me to producing some fruit so I can get down off of this cross and not be so nakedly dependant upon you.”


Does such EVER allow us to change the Gospel’s utter unconditional forensic message the least bit in order to ‘firm up the fruit production’?  I ask a question that expects, obviously a resounding “no” answer.  Is it not the greatest sin of all to call God a liar and use men who are liars to prove the point?  


Larry Hughes

wimpy god?

How wimpy is your god?

Does he need your decision for him in order to act?

Does he need to have this guy touch that guy, and that guy touch this guy,  and this guy touch you… in order that you be saved?

Does he need to have perfect documents written by entranced individuals acting as automotons putting down everything  ‘just so’ with no possibility of error or human interaction, in order for him to act?

Does he need you ‘to do anything’ , anything at all…in order for him to act on your behalf?

If so…you have a wimpy god.

If God is actually free to act on His own without being hampered by any conditions , or prerequisites…then you have a real God.

God is free. He needs nothing in order to speak things into and out of existence. He needs nothing from us sinful creatures that do not desire Him in the first place.

He has told us who He is, what and who we are, what He expects from us, and what He has done for us…in the Bible.   We either trust that Word…or not.  If we trust it, it is because He has made us trust it (given us faith).  If we don’t, it is beacuse we are still dead in our sins and trespasses.

We don’t need to trust in our “free will”, and we don’t need to trust in perfect holy people, and we don’t need to trust in a perfect book.

We need to trust in a Perfect God who has given us His Perfect Son expressed in His Perfect Word (which includes preaching and teaching and sacraments).

When you believe this, you no longer have a wimpy god.

Is your god a mendicant at your door pleading with you to make a decision for him?  Pleading with you to believe in a book?  Pleading with you to be more obedient? Pleading with you to believe in a pope?

Or is your God the God of the Bible, who acts freely, in His Word, to save sinners who need only what He can give?

The Law

God’s Law is more than the 10 Commandments. Way more.

God’s Law is every demand that your existence places upon you. It is the total demand that you fulfill your humanity. That you do all that you are supossed to do, and that you do it in the manner that God has intended for you to do it. And that is, ‘perfectly’.

“You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:48)

Are there any pressures in your life? Do you have to eat? Do you have to pay the rent or the mortgage? (no bailout jokes) Do you have to be a good employee so that you can bring home the paycheck? Do you have to pay your taxes  . Do you have to be a good parent, or a good son or daughter? Do you have to stay healthy and take care of your body?

All these things and much, much more are manifestations of God’s perfect Law.

No one, absolutely no one, from the villager in Papua New Guinea to the cabbie in Cleveland,  is exempt from these laws of nature which are given by God for our existence in the world which He created.

Do we live under the law?  You betcha we do. Every last cotton pickin’ one of us.

We all do our best to manage under the sheer weight of it. Although some do a much better job of it than others, it isn’t easy to handle for any of us. The demand of the law is relentless. It never quits demanding from us. Day after day, week after week, year after year…it is always upon us…always demanding …never ceasing.

We can escape it here and there, for short periods. We call these holidays, or vacations. A week, or two…maybe three or four. It ‘s great!  But then it is over and we must again be good  for something. The bills just keep coming and the world keeps nipping at our heels.

I saw a friend of mine yesterday. He’s 45 years old and is in the hospital, a victim of a couple of strokes. The last one severely affected his brain stem and the chances are good that he may not make it. He is dying, and there is a good chance that he may not be alive yet as I write this.

He was a very bright man with a wonderful creative mind and a sense of humor that was infectious.

That is all gone now, unless God decides that Jerry should be healed to continue the fight in this world.

Jerry had an awfully tough life in so many ways. The law started in on Jerry when he lost his Mom when he was only ten…and it never let up on him from there.

But He did the best that he could.

His pastor, who is also my pastor, went to see Jerry the other day to remind him that he has a Savior. To remind him, no…it was more than a reminder…to hand Christ over to Jerry, once again. To tell Jerry that he belonged to Jesus and that Jesus would not fail him. That Jesus will always take care of him, and that if he were not to make it, then Jesus would be right there for him… to raise him from the dead.

When I saw Jerry yesterday, he could not speak to me. I didn’t know if he could hear me. I whispered into his ear and told him that I loved him and that he could count on Jesus to give him life again. It was a promise on the cross, it was a promise in his baptism, and it is a promise that God loves to keep.

While I stood there beside his hospital bed, with all the machinery and the beeps and buzzes, and activity of people engaged in trying to save the lives of people being crushed by the weight of the law and facing the ultimate expression of that law, death…the thought struck me that soon I would be there too. The law would eventually put me down. Death would have me soon, as well.

But Christ really did defeat death on that cross. He really did come out of that grave. He really did everything for me that I could never even dream about doing for myself.

He did it for me.   He did it for Jerry.   And He did it for you.