Lord's Day Liturgy

The Good Old News

I heard something like this recently: there is freedom that comes from reading and remembering old things. Forgetting (the good things) makes us cultists of the new.

The news is a blessing in that it informs us about recent and (possibly) important events. That information isn’t always encouraging (or true), but making informed decisions is preferable to ignorant decisions.

Of course there is a liturgy to the “breaking” news, a bias we learn to put on what is up to the minute. But there should be a balance, holding what is recent in context with what we remember.

The liturgy of the Lord’s Table helps. When Paul remembered what he had received from the Lord, and reminded the Corinthians about it, he repeats that the Lord Jesus Himself repeated the act of remembering.

For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when 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 also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” (1 Corinthians 11:23–25 ESV)

“In remembrance” is fine, it could also be understood as do this for or unto remembrance. We eat and drink not only because of what’s in mind, but the bread and wine get it into our mind. We have all we need because the Lord Jesus died and rose again for our salvation. “Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead” (2 Timothy 2:8).

Lord's Day Liturgy

Killing Without Contact

I’ve been urging you to put off anger for four exhortations, and there will be a few more, Lord willing.

When we read God’s Word we try to pay attention to order and proportion. In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus started with the Beatitudes, moved to how the blessed are the salt of the earth and the light of the world, and then He taught about how He fulfilled the law. The ones who thought they were the law-informed, the law-instructors, the law-keepers were not. Jesus said, “I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:20).

Then under the longest heading in His sermon Jesus gives six examples of “you have heard that it was said…but I say to you.” He addresses lust, divorce, covenant-breaking, retaliation, and low-level love. But do you remember His first correction?

“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder: and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment. (Matthew 5:21-22)

Here are three surprises to the “righteous” guys:

  • anger is a heart issue
  • anger is like killing
  • anger is enough to make a man guilty

Anger is the first one on the list, the worst one. Anger is like murder. Anger KILLS without a weapon. Anger will keep a man out of the kingdom of heaven. And unlike murder, you don’t necessarily even have to come in contact with the other person. In that case the victim is one’s self, one’s own soul. Give anger no place in your heart.

The End of Many Books

The Winter King

by Christine Cohen

My first story by Cohen. How did I like it? Well I started her second book (The Sinking City) as soon as I finished.

Why did I read it? Mrs. Cohen is the keynote speaker for our upcoming Raggant Fiction Festival. I mean, I should read her stuff, right?

Why did I like it?

I enjoyed being repeatedly surprised that the heroine, Cora, chose the wrong thing. It’s not that she was mistaken and bumbled into bad things (like a young, female Inspector Clouseau), she consistently did the unrighteous thing. Turns out that her final wrong action was the right wrong action, which really did bring light after darkness, but most of her wrongs were bad.

I also enjoyed the power of “the Book,” and the foreshadowed twist in the ruined feast to the healing medicine. The truth will set you free.

If you haven’t read it, I don’t really think I’ve given too much away. What I really hope to have done is give you a reason to read it. Start before the winter’s over.

4 of 5 stars

The End of Many Books

Till We Have Faces

by C.S. Lewis

This was my second read-through, bumped up in my queue in preparation for our next Raggant Fiction Festival. As is usual for me with good books, my delight increased. Or maybe rather than delight, my gratitude grew. I’m raising my rating, adding it to my Fives.

The guy can write. Ha!

I’ve heard it argued that Lewis was not big on introspection. It may be true. But even if he wouldn’t encourage a man to look into his heart for too long, Lewis makes you look into someone else’s ugly heart. Mirrors hang on every page of this myth retold.

One guy said Lewis encouraged “imaginative glimpses” rather than a self-examination that bogs a man down in the slough of despond. We ought to hate proud self-love when we see it, yes, and then we ought to get into serving others for sake of the joy in obedience.

Till We Have Faces puts a face on that sort of narrative arc, for those who have ears to hear that they may not be the victim after all. Great story, and brutal, to the final page.

Should you read this? The better question is, why haven’t you already read this?!

5 of 5 stars

Lord's Day Liturgy

Blessings with Taste

Is communion a spiritual thing/blessing, or a material/bodily thing/blessing?

Part of the point is that it’s material; this ordinance requires the use of our mouths as much as our minds. But Sacramentalists assert that grace in the sacraments (baptism and communion) is inherently efficacious and necessary for salvation. They locate power to be present in the bread and wine regardless of whether faith is present in the eater. That’s not right.

Our kind of Spirit-and-truth Christians have been tempted to run the other way, as if blessings have no taste. If it’s not spiritual, we better make it spiritual, and what better way to do that than to ignore the material? That’s also not right.

The Word became flesh (John 1:14). His flesh and blood were given for eternal life (John 6:54). His resurrection was physical (1 Corinthians 15:4), not mystical. So also among the blessings of our salvation by faith we anticipate better bodies, immortal but not immaterial (1 Corinthians 15:53).

I think we would classify communion as a material meal of blessing that only spiritual men are truly blessed by. Our koinonia is a sharing of Christ who we do not currently see, but we share Him as part of His body, the church, who we do see. We are blessed.

Lord's Day Liturgy

Anger by Another Name

It’s an urban legend that Eskimos have fifty words for different types of snow. Even so, that’s nothing compared to how many different words a man will use to claim he’s not angry.

Can you be annoyed, irritated, frustrated, aggravated, upset, and not be mad/angry? Can you be any of those and not be sinning? Maybe. It’s not impossible, it is highly improbable.

Rather than parse feelings and draw thin lines between nuanced definitions, let’s ask some questions.

Is your increasing fellowship with your people? If your vibe is creating distance, doing damage, does it matter how you’re defining it?

Is your accomplishing the righteousness of God? The anger of man does not according to James 1:20, and while you can not be righteous of lot of ways other than being angry, is your response setting the room right?

Is your a good work? In Ephesians 2:8-10 we know we’re saved by grace through faith as God’s workmanship for good works that He’s prepared beforehand for us to walk in. So is your a beauty spot in God’s painting of your life? Can you honestly say, “This was written by God for me to perform as a glory for His gracious salvation”?

We want to save face by making sure that the person we’ve sinned against knows what we only sinned at Anger Level One instead of Nine, like it could have been, and maybe they should be a bit more appreciative. We weren’t angry, just frustrated. Well, yeah, good, but ones add up, and joy breaks down, no matter what you call it. Beloved, stop pleading the dictionary. Put away anger.

Lord's Day Liturgy

Mission Communion

Not everyone is called to be a teacher, but those who are richly indwelt by the word of Christ do teach and admonish one another. Not everyone is called to be a missionary to unreached tribes, to be an Evangelist, but we are to make disciples as we’re going, wherever it is God has us going.

We need wisdom, and maturity, and love, and the right sort of burden here. If we do not love God’s name and desire God’s worship among all the peoples we do not really grasp God’s authority, or glory, or grace. And yet most Christians in the body of Christ are not called/gifted by God to be vocational missionaries, regardless of the “guilt” that has been easy for furloughing missionaries to heap on at missions conferences.

More burden for the lost to hear the good news, and more blessing for our lives because of the good news. More light and salt in our good works before men, and more encouragement of those who are given gifts and desire to GO.

Our communion at the Lord’s Table is part of this process. This meal ought not give us an excuse to be lazy, it is food for our joy in the good news. And this meal, while only celebrated by believers, is a declaration of good news to those who don’t believe.

The Supper isn’t capital E Evangelism, and yet “as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes” (1 Corinthians 11:26). The Supper belongs with God’s own mission to make a people for Himself.

Lord's Day Liturgy

What It Really Means to Be Right

Put off anger. That’s a command (Colossians 3:8). The imperative follows a perspective adjustment, seeking the things above (Colossians 3:1), and those “things above” certainly include fellowship. Want true fellowship. Like reverse and forward, so anger and fellowship work in opposite directions.

Desire true communion more than a quiet room. Among other anger “hacks,” desire the better control. Raise your standard of what it means to be right.

We get mad when something happens that we don’t like. We get irritated when someone doesn’t do what we wanted them to do. It helps to see how our responses of anger, wrath, and malice reveal that we want to be in control.

Such a desire would be silly if it weren’t so destructive. And also, it is a foolish want because it’s lesser.

A man without self-control
is like a city broken into and left without walls.
(Proverbs 25:28 ESV)

One of my favorite illustrations EVAR is from Doug Wilson on this passage.

“self-control is a wall, a bulwark, and you should want walls like Babylon had, where four chariots could drive abreast around the top of them. Now that’s a wall.”

What’s the standard? What is truly glorious? My self-control. My acting right. My repentance. My example. Self-control is not selfish; self-control is true and better control.

How many rounds can you go with your spouse, your kid, your boss, before you blow up? That is the measure of thickness of your “wall.” Is it stronger than the butcher paper held up by the cheerleaders that the team runs right through?

Identify your triggers, and ask yourself not only what response would strengthen the relationship, but also what response would make me really right?

Bring Them Up

Disturbing the Lives of Others

The following are notes from my talk at the 2024 Information Night for Evangel Classical School.

As we’ve been preparing for this evening, our thirteenth Information Night, Mr. Sarr has tongue-in-cheek penciled me in to speak something “mind-blowing.” I’m not prepared to deliver that, but I am prepared to tell you something disturbing. In fact have no reluctance in trying to disturb you.

ECS has been disturbing my life since before the school even had a name. My schedule, my wife’s schedule, my kids’ schedules, my reading plans, my comfort zone, my understanding of what matters, my vision for the next twenty years, my bank account, my summer breaks, my sleeping, my coffee consumption, my level of laughter have all been disturbed. ECS has been, and keeps on, messing with how I previously had arranged all my stuff. And I love it.

Not only that, I keep trying to disturb the lives of people I care about. Some of the people I love the most are more tired than they’ve ever been, feel more overwhelmed now than before, have had a bunch of their stuff interrupted or interfered with, and I think they would say that they absolutely wouldn’t have it any other way.

When I say disturbing, I mean disturbing like we are living in a barn with a metal roof and the BLESSINGS keep falling like jumbo, Honeycrisp apples; bang, bang, bang! Imagine blessings falling not like our typical lazy Western Washington sprinkles, but a Midwest sky-dump. We can’t walk outside comfortably in all the raining blessings; we need kevlar umbrellas.

Blessings are good, but often disrupting. If you got an unanticipated ten-million dollar inheritance (after taxes), it would disturb your week. God gives first time parents nine-months of low-level disruption before the major blessing of the kid’s birth, and BANG. Then we eventually get to the point where we realize we’ve got to educate this little blessing. That’s going to require rearranging whatever you had on the calendar.

And without trying to be dramatic, a good education will barge in on anyone trying to make sure their blessings never spill over their easy-to-carry mini-basket. There are a LOT of things to learn. If Jesus cares about it, we can care about it.

  • If He created it, He cares. “All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made” (John 1:3 ESV).
  • If He controls it, He cares. “[H]e upholds the universe by the word of his power” (Hebrews 1:3 ESV).
  • If He commands it, duh. Among the commands, we can go all the way back to the mandate for divine image-bearers: with His blessing, men are to fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion on it (Genesis 1:28).

Christ’s interests are comprehensive, which more than permits our increase of interests, it ought to provoke our increase (incrementally even though finitely) as we pursue Christlikeness. Our mission as a school is to commend all the works of the Lord to the next generation, educating them and laughing and laboring in order to carry and advance Christ-honoring culture.

And we are most certainly not living in broader culture that has any interest in honoring Christ. At best they are willfully negligent about honoring Jesus as Lord, and more so these days they express open rebellion against His exclusive preeminence and righteous standards. The nations rage and rulers take counsel together against the LORD and His anointed. As much as it’s ever been in our lifetimes, the division between two ways of life glares at us. It’s not a Red and Blue thing, but a God is God or men are wannabe-God thing.

Humanism has gotten us to the point where we think being a human being is a harmful-privilege that requires self-condemnation for how all us people are The Problem™️ on the planet. Humanism has gotten us to the point where we sacrifice the most vulnerable, unborn humans by redefining what it means to be a human; “Sorry, you must be on a different side of that muscle wall.” Humanism has gotten us to the point where our doctors won’t dare to identify male or female, our politicians create days and fly flags to celebrate perversity, and our government school (so-called) “teachers” teach students fictions as feasible (changing genders would just be one example).

Friends, that’s not only crazy, it’s disturbing. And that really points out that we’re in a battle for disturbing. Either Jesus is Lord and living for Him is worth having our lives disrupted by His blessings, or Jesus is not Lord and we can go about fiddling with distractions and trying to survive the insanity.

One of my favorite talks of all time was given by Abraham Kuyper in 1880 at the inauguration of the Free University in Amsterdam, “Sphere Sovereignty.” There will be Sovereignty, either of God or of man. If we recognize that God is sovereign, then our life is built on truth, our convictions resonate with truth. If we act like men are sovereign, whether represented by intellectuals or bureaucrats, then our lives are built on a “denial of the facts of life.”

“[T]he only two mighty antagonists that plumb life down to the root [are God’s sovereignty or man’s sovereignty]. And so they are worth people risking their own lives for and disturbing the lives of others.”

This is it. Our faith is in the living God or in fake news. And note that those living in their fantasy will risk their lives and make no apologies for disturbing the lives of others. What energy and endurance and dollars they devote to their cause! But those who live by faith in the Messiah, who are surrendered to Christ the King, will most certainly risk their own lives and make no apologies for disturbing the lives of others. Only one can be, only one is, the place of disruptive blessings.

Blessings are in the basics — phonograms and reading drills and math facts and Bible history — emphasized in the GRAMMAR stage. Blessings are in categories and distinguishing — practiced in the LOGIC stage. Blessings are in adornment — speeches and singing — embodied in the RHETORIC stage. The Trivium (Grammar, Logic, Rhetoric) are some of the tools of classical education. Blessings at ECS also come in laughter, especially when we laugh while trying to fix things rather than only laugh when the project/challenge is finished. Blessings most certainly come in sacrifices, offered out of love, for the life of others.

With Kuyper we say:

“To put it mildly, our undertaking bears a protest against the present environment and suggests that something better is possible.” (“Sphere Sovereignty”, 463)

The blessings are better at ECS, and they are too big for a reluctant person to pick up. The blessings here are disturbing like walking over a dune in the desert to find an orchard of fruit trees, planted by a stream of water, where leaves don’t wither, and blessings prosper. These blessings are worth your life, and lives of those you love, being disturbed.

Lord's Day Liturgy

What Is Like Our Communion?

Who is like our God? This repeated, rhetorical question expects obvious honor for only One. And, as an implication of His glorious work, who are like the people that God is making for Himself?

God does whatever He pleases. He pleases to fulfill His Word to His covenant people, and He pleases to fulfill His Word showing mercy to those who knew no mercy so that even the Gentiles might glorify God for His great mercy (Romans 15:9). As Isaiah said, the Lord has shown Himself to those who did not ask for Him (Romans 10:20). How gracious!

We who confess that Jesus is Lord and that God has raised Him from the dead are part of the offering created by the gospel of God, a sanctified offering to be acceptable to God.

And as a local church, we affirm the work of the gospel in our members. We receive their confession of faith in Christ, their profession of faith in baptism, and their participation with us around the Lord’s Table. We commit to care for them and to urge them to use their gifts, given to them by God’s grace, for the building up of the body (Romans 12:6).

What a great privilege to be the Lord’s. What is like our communion with Him and each other?