Tag: confession

You are at home, but you are not home alone. We are at a distance, but we are not disconnected.

I am not trying to play loose with words, I’m trying to emphasize the spiritual, even if invisible, reality of our union in Christ.

You cannot do something that doesn’t affect the rest of us. You can do, and regularly do, a lot of things that we don’t know about. Perhaps most of the time we won’t notice any immediate consequences. But that doesn’t change what’s true.

The current “Stay home, save lives” context has changed how we contact each other, but it has not changed that we are connected.

This is true for our household units, but in reverse. Just because your kids can see you work from home now doesn’t mean that how you did your work at the office didn’t matter to them before, it just means that a lack of integrity takes more work to hide.

Some of you may be compromised; what would we see if you forgot to turn off your webcam? Rust on the bottom of the chair isn’t as obvious, but it is just as damaging.

So how are you helping the health of the church body? How are you making us stronger? You cannot use your spiritual gifts in all the same ways as before, but that doesn’t mean that we are any less dependent on you doing your part for our fellowship.

David’s “private” sin with Bathsheba didn’t stay private. He was Israel’s king, so he had a different level of responsibility as the governing head, and that’s why the Lord punished the nation not just the man. In a similar way, the body has many members, but it is still one body (1 Corinthians 12:20, 26).

We will be stronger or weaker the next time we come together in person, and it will be a result of how we killed sin or coddled sin while we’re not.

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I had no idea just a few weeks ago that the coronavirus would give me such a great angle on baby showers. But here we are.

What I have been trying to do is get us to consider some of the principles and priorities of living together and rejoicing with others who rejoice. Baby showers are a good case study, and they are an actual thing that many of the ladies at our church are working through, but the application is not limited to new-little-life parties, or even just to moms and future moms.

So far I have tried to point out that while every new life is special, the celebrations for special things do not have to be the same, and the guts of celebration are pulled out if we look at how someone else got celebrated with envy. “She had a three cake party, I only got one cake.”

I’ve also pointed out that trying to make something “perfect,” or worse, expecting to be made much of perfectly, is a set up for post-party depression; it’s like post-partum, but after all the labor all you have to cuddle with is your bundle of complaints.

Last in this series, for now, is a question that the coronavirus puts into relief: is there a bad time to have a baby? Jesus said yes. “Alas for women who are pregnant and for those who are nursing infants in those days” (Matthew 24:19). The Great Tribulation will be rough on motherhood.

Otherwise, are there bad times? It depends on how much honor you require, right? It’s tougher to party when an unanticipated global pandemic causes governments to shut down meetings of more than 10 people. It is also tougher when 10 (or more) women are due within a month of each other. Is less party-blessing per mother better or worse for the blessing of the church and community?

These questions remind us to be careful in what we pray for. I pray that Marysville will become a destination, and I have to remember that while I’m sitting in traffic that didn’t used to be. Will I regret having my #blessed bumper sticker not yelling at the other drivers, or will I realize that what I really want doesn’t always look like how I thought I wanted it, and it’s even better?

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There is a surprising amount to say about baby showers. Today I’m going to connect them with the coronavirus, and baptism. Just watch.

Previously I illustrated the principle that special things do not necessarily require a certain amount of time or expense to celebrate. Think of our celebration of the Lord’s Supper; it’s meaningfulness isn’t measured in minutes. Likewise, special celebrations do not need to be the same in every way. Think of family traditions for holidays and birthdays. Such diversity in the world created by our Triune God is glorious, not injustice.

It is also true that seeking a “perfect” celebration is almost certain to spoil it as a “joyful” celebration. God expects us to obey perfectly, but we don’t, which is why we need His grace. He also sets us up to be not perfect in a thousand non-sinful ways. We all must learn, grow, mature, physically and mentally.

Take a believer’s testimony in baptism as an example. Being baptizied is commanded by God through Christ and His Spirit. An obedient disciple is a baptized disciple. But baptism is one and (most of the time) done. You get one shot. And based on the commands to believe and be baptized, infering that a long duration between the two is not expected, one’s profession will never be as perfect as it could have been. You will not give God the most knowledgable, most theological, most mature expression of glory. If you wait for those things, you’ve not been perfect because you’ve delayed in disobedience. God is pleased with humble faith, publicly professed, in various circumstances.

Is your baby shower, or that of your closest friend, or that of the lady on the fringe that you care about, required to be more “perfect” than the ordinance of baptism?

This does not argue for carelessness. It argues for not freaking out. If 20 people wanted to be baptized, we would, for practicality, encourage them not to give 20 minute testimonies each. And if there comes a time when we have 20 pregnant moms due in a short window, let’s say, around nine months from our current in-home quarantine, each mom may not get two exclusive hours in the spotlight. Is it because we have too many baptism candidates? Ha, no! Is it a problem pressing a standard of “perfection” that makes it easier to judge than rejoice? That is a different infectious disease.

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As I mentioned last week, I have more to say about our hearts through a case study of new-little-life parties, a.k.a., baby showers.

The plethora of new life among us is nothing but blessing to Marysville, to TEC, to our families. There is no way that all this fruit is a judgment, though we can fail to handle the fruit in a Christian way, both in our parenting and even in our partying.

We are potentially on the cusp of having even more newborns expected and arriving. In the future, when there are 30 babies born among us in a year, which ones are special? Ha. They are all special, as in they are all gifts from God.

Let me switch the subject just for a moment. What is the most special part of our corporate worship? Jesus is the most special, yes, but what piece of the liturgy recognizes Him the most? While we don’t have Jesus apart from His Word, it is the Word that both enables and leads us to fellowship with Jesus in communion. Communion is both what Christ accomplished for us and the eternal aim of our salvation. It is special.

But in our liturgy, the celebration of communion does not take up very much time. We have small pieces of unadorned, though slightly sweetened, bread, (which is better than the typical fingernail clipping sized cardboard crackers), with cups for the wine that aren’t even kiddie size. Can we make a big deal out of our glorious eternal life, through the atoning blood of Jesus, in a few minutes with miniature elements?

We do.

The principle applies to family traditions, too, say for birthday celebrations. How the Joneses do birthdays is not how the Jeffersons do them, and either family would be foolish to say that theirs is the only way to make it special. “How dare you not serve your child chocolate sheet cake! What do you mean that you didn’t celebrate on their actual birthdate? What kind of a heartless monster-mother are you?!”

The principle is to show honor, and that can be done in a variety of ways. Those ways do not necessarily need to be in a particular order, or at a high expense, or done excatly like everyone else.

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Once upon a time in a small town of orchard farmers there was a great plague. The plague did not affect the fruit. In fact, there had never been such an abundant harvest in living memory. Fruit just kept coming, and grew so much that people started to wonder what was in the water.

The fruit kept coming, but because of the bounty, some methods of picking it and carrying it and storing it became more pronounced. Whether because the people were so much more busy that they lost time for patience, or because they were that much more proud of their produce, conflicts started to grow like invisible weeds. Rather than a cause for rejoicing, the plenty turned into a crop of resentment and suspicion and hurt feelings.

Laws were considered, along with possible enforcements, but none of those would deal with the heart plague. When the harvest is plentiful and the laborers are many, it is a time to give thanks, not to complain about laborers laboring a different way.

This short anecdote has many applications, but in this particular season of our church, I’m squeezing the juice to talk about the fruit of babies, and especially baby showers.

Over the last few months I have heard some surprising, and terrible reports about the preferences of some, and pettiness of others, when it comes to the “proper” procedures for new-little-life parties. So I’m going to take a few exhortations to talk about it, with an eye both to the particular and broad applications of how we love one another in a community full of blessings.

Husbands, this is just as much an area for you to be involved in, even if you are not asked to knit a onesie or to pull shots for the latte punch.

Loving life, and loving the fruit of the womb, is terrifically counter-cultural. Envy and pettiness in how we celebrate is not counter-cultural, and when we find sin, we need to pluck it up from the roots.

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In a sermon a few weeks ago I said that joyful people are hard to manipulate. If they are already full of rejoicing, then you either have to convince them that their rejoicing is wrong (which is a hard word) or that they are rejoicing in something lesser than they could be (which is an uphill effort).

It is also very hard to manipulate a repented people. Manipulation grabs onto guilt like chains wrapped around the rudder of a ship, but repentance cuts the chains and the ship steers clear.

Do you need to be an example of this? I finished reading Seeing Green a couple days ago. The author of the book is very honest; she exposes things in her heart to such a degree that it could make others uncomfortable (which she acknowledges). She also gave some qualifications about how to open up about heart-sins, how to know when it is a blessing to confess to another person, or in front of people, or just to the Lord.

But what are you going to do to a person who is honest? And what are you going to do with an entire group of people, a church, that is being honest? What a glorious chain of cleansed consciences and freely worshipping people we would be.

The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. (1 Timothy 1:5)

You may not need to write a book of your Confessions, but maybe you need to write a note, or have a conversation, or kneel before the Lord.

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It is not cute when a two year-old tells his mom, No! Whether the theater is around the dinner table with only family to watch, or in Walmart with all the other customers in the frozen food aisle, resistance to his mom is wrong.

It is also not cute when a parent won’t say, No! I don’t necessarily mean when a mom won’t say no to her toddler, or teenager, but when mom won’t say no to herself, her bitterness or her gossip. I don’t necessarily mean when a husband won’t say no to his wife, though all these things are connected. I am mainly referring to when the man of the house barely controls himself, his lusts or his anger, let alone his dependents.

Though it comes at the end of the list, self-control is part of the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). Self-control is required to run in order to receive the prize (1 Corinthians 9:24-27). Without self-denial there is no way to follow Christ.

We are talking on this Lord’s day about our Christian responsibilities when it comes to our civil neighbors (with a sermon from Psalm 2 and a seminar on politics in the afternoon). We need maturity and wisdom, for sure. There are large problems that challenge simplistic solutions. But we will not be capable of policy decisions and laws until we can say No to our own flesh. We must say no to our lusts, no to our envy, no to our greed, no to our discontent.

[T]hose who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. (Galatians 5:24)

In 1798 John Adams said that “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” Those morals include knowing when to say yes and when, and to whom, to say no. Only those kind of people know when to make a law, when to laugh at one and get rid of it.

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I said last Sunday that one of my aims as a minister of the Word is to make the assembly more jealous-able. That is, I want for our flock to have the sort of lives that make others a certain sort of jealous. More should be said about this, because it is possible to get it wrong.

My desire is informed by Romans 11 where Paul told the Romans that he magnified his ministry in order to make his brother Israelites jealous (verses 13-14). In the grace and wisdom of God, some of Paul’s kinsmen had rejected salvation in Jesus so that others would receive salvation so that some in the first group would be made jealous and return to receive Jesus themselves. When God blesses some, even in surprising and unexpected ways, those blessings may be part of His means to provoke others to want the God of blessings.

But this is a competition that provokes one another to blessing, not bitterness. Be jealous-able in such a way that includes others rather than excludes them. The jealous-ability I’m referring to is not a zero-sum economics game; it is not more for me means neener-neener for you. Blessed jealous-ability has room and wants others to join and have joy and be jealous-able, too.

So here are two reminders/exhortations. First, if you are trying to win the prize (think 1 Corinthians 9:24) in a way that a spiritual person cannot give thanks for, you may just be trying to be better, not blessed. That is standard issue rivalry, available in any store. Second, if you are unable to give thanks for the blessings given by God to another spiritual person, you may just be standard issue resentful, not even name brand, just the generic.

We are not all given an equal amount (of height, of paycheck, of hair, of gifts at the baby shower, of et cetera), but we are given equal commands to give thanks and to rejoice when others rejoice.

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In the ongoing effort of growing and reforming as a church, we’ve decided that we should change the confession part of our liturgy. It turns out, that with all of you praying silently, we don’t know what all your problems are, which means that we can’t tell you how to fix your problems, or fix how you talk to God about your sins, since He is very demanding. It obviously will take a little longer, but if we set up four chairs up front, one for each pastor, we should be able to get through everyone’s confession in a timely fashion.

Now, I am being quite serious, and I needed to make the description long enough to increase your appropriate response of revulsion to such a proposal. Of course we are not going to do confession that way. That would be deformation, not reformation. It would be wrong. James speaks of confessing our sins to one another, but that’s when we’ve sinned against one another. We do not confess our sins through another person to God, priest or pastor. Through Christ each one of us, whatever gender or age or occupation or level of doctrinal learning, come directly to God’s throne of grace (Hebrews 4:16).

Isn’t this amazing? Who are we, in our lack of certification, our lack of seriousness, our lack of holiness, to address Him without a mediator? We do have a Mediator, an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous (1 John 2:2). But He is the only Mediator we need.

Isn’t this humbling? If you had to confess to a priest, he might presume you weren’t lying, but he couldn’t prove your intentions. It’s true that a pastor can’t help what he doesn’t know is wrong, but God doesn’t demand the information of your confession, just your honesty.

And so, what are you waiting for? He’s here, you’re here. He is the one with whom we have to do (Hebrews 4:13). With Him there is forgiveness. Pray to Him.

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I am still thinking about some of the implications of what I’m about to say, and I understand that two things can correlate without meaning that one causes the other, but is there a connection between pastors devouring their own flocks and mothers aborting their own children?

Last week, on January 22, was 46 years since the Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade. There have been almost 62 million abortions and counting in the United States since then. How could this be in a nation with more Christian values than pagan ones? Don’t Christian problems start with Christian leaders?

I do not mean mostly that preachers have been quiet about abortion or soft and weak if they do speak about it, though those are failures. I’m mostly asking if society has learned how to treat others by watching how shepherds walk their fields.

Certainly some of the motives are the same. It is selfishness, pride, and especially insecurity that cause pastors to preach against the sheep, that cause pastors to demean and demand sacrifice from their sheep rather than give and sacrifice for them.

Husbands and fathers ought to find examples for sacrificial and leading love in their elders. Wives and mothers ought to do likewise, in addition to watching how their own husbands nurture them. We should learn from our parents, and the wise will learn from good and bad examples, wherever the examples come from.

But pastors/preachers/elders/overseers have been guilty of direct abuse of kids, direct neglect of the abortion issue, and too much ego. Preachers lie for their own benefit, and little wonder that our politicians can claim with a straight face that “Abortion is health care.”

God judges us with His abandoning wrath in the legal murder of 62 million babies, and in His judgment of unloving shepherds for His sheep. Who will fight off the wolves when we are they? Even if disobedient Christian leaders are not the cause of a cultural mindset that accepts abortion, it is a reason for confessing our sin.

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