Lord's Day Liturgy

Making Eye Contact with the Judge

Presumptuous sins are sins of undue liberty, of going beyond the bounds. They are willful, understood, and so directly culpable. It’s still breaking the law even when you don’t know the law, but with presumptuous sins we make eye contact with the judge to make sure he’s watching.

David was especially concerned about the enslaving nature of presumptuous sins. When we sin knowing full well what our will is doing, we actually give our wills over to bondage. That’s why David asked, “let them not have dominion over me!” He was concerned that he would be overtaken. Being under the dominion of sin increases our responsibility, ironically.

As believers, the way to deal with this is to submit to the law, the testimony, the precepts, the commandment, the fear, the rules of the Lord. When we submit to His Word we also learn to submit to His righteousness altogether, and we demonstrate that submission by eating His body and drinking His blood by faith. We war against taking unrighteous liberties when we receive the liberties of righteousness in Christ.

Lord's Day Liturgy

Give Me Understanding

We live in the Information Age. We have data and statistics and algorithms and pages and podcasts. More information will be posted on the internet today than you could consume the rest of your life; you don’t have the time. We have all of this info, and not a lot of understanding to prove it.

Along with many of you, I’m continuing on the #samepagesummer Bible reading plan, and we’re more than halfway to finished. In studying Psalm 19 for the sermon this morning, I also read through Psalm 119 which is the longest love song of the Word in the Word. There are a lot of good names for Scripture in the long song, and a lot of prayers for God’s help. “Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law” (Psalm 119:18).

But one line that turns up four times, the line that I think best embodies the psalmist’s cry, is “give me understanding.”

Give me understanding, that I may keep your law (34)

give me understanding that I may learn your commandments (73)

give me understanding that I may live (144)

give me understanding according to your word! (169)

Pray like David, yes. And beware. Understanding does not mean merely collecting information about God’s Word. Understanding means you will see how you are not keeping His law, how you have not known His commandments, how you have not been living right, and how you have not been actually paying attention to His Word.

True understanding can be painful. It’s humbling. It is why many Christians prefer to read or study their Bible like students rather than as servants. They would prefer to have their eyes opened to it rather than to have their eyes opened by it.

Every Thumb's Width

A Kuyperian-Sized Blind Spot

The Effeminacy of Silence is a mettlesome post by Douglas Wilson. It’s sad, and it’s a needed kick in the man pants.

I don’t have any complaints about or disagreements with it at all, though I do want to add an observation.

When I think of “Big Eva,” a dozen plus names come easily to my mind. And when all those names come forward what does not come anywhere near my mind is cosmological Calvinism.

God has greatly blessed me through the ministries of many of the men who occupy prime bookshelf space in Reformed circles. I’ve attended many conferences of shepherds and been together with many Christians who really do love Jesus, the Gospel, and reading the Bible verse by verse. We’re already cut down to a sliver of the Evangelical pie when using the shibboleths of “Calvin,“ or Solas, and our kind of Evas eagerly embrace all of the above in fives.

However, if one of the characteristics of manliness is taking responsibility, many preaching men (and those who listen to and become like them) are limited, by principle, to responsibility in two dimensions. We are Men of the Page, not men of the public square. Our commitment to the truth doesn’t mean that we only talk about truth in private, but the way we hold that commitment means we only know how to swing the sword of truth when it relates to things that are Bible Proper.

The Bible, though, reveals that God is concerned about more things than just the things that are in the Bible. This was an obvious, biblical conclusion that brought me to repentance some years ago after too many years of blindness. Jesus made the world, and He is interested in, and has standards for, all that He made. That includes nations, governments, laws, and courts, as well as cultures, flags, relationships, genders, libraries, and dictionaries. But a certain type of Bible-defended dualism paints over much of the Evangelical scene I’ve seen, and that creates a Kuyperian-sized blind spot. Instead of seeing all the thumb’s-widths of Christ’s domain, we’ve got our thumb covering the lens on the camera.

This isn’t to say that the Big Eva preachers don’t know better. But I’m not sure they know what they don’t know. They should. It’s written in neat serif font in the Bibles they read, teach, and defend. Yet our manliness can only mature so much because we’re taught that we should only take responsibility for so much, which is basically a responsibility for reading the Bible (which, as I’m arguing, is something we’re ironically not even doing well).

So there is an existing effeminacy of silence about all the things the Bible is good for before there is a silence on drag queens in the libraries. I agree with all of Wilson’s “reasons for such silence,” I’m just adding this one. Much of the silence about, for example, the sexual revolution comes from a myopic doctrine of God’s sovereignty. I know that most of my Reformed, baptistic brother-preachers, along with the Big Eva squad, fully believe that they are engaged in the “fight,” but their chosen field of battle has the same size footprint of their calfskin leather Bibles.

The End of Many Books

The Warden and the Wolf King

by Andrew Peterson


I really enjoyed the whole Saga, and this fourth book did not disappoint. I already look forward, if the Maker wills, to reading it again.

5 of 5 stars

Lord's Day Liturgy

Praise Among the Nations

When we think about world missions and reaching the unreached people with the gospel, when we think about being salt and light to our city, when we think about loving our neighbors in a way that benefits their souls, we should not underestimate the centrality of the Lord’s Supper.

Communion is a meal of victory and harmony. When we eat the bread and drink the wine by faith, we remember the Lord’s death, and victory over sin, until He returns, and His final victory over ever enemy. Also, when we eat and drink together, we share as one body of Christ and in one cup of blessing.

Paul quoted Psalm 18:49 in Romans 15:9. It is the first of four quotations in a row (two Psalms, one Deuteronomy, one Isaiah), all making the point that the hope of the Gentiles is in Christ.

But before and after those verses, Paul refers to our receiving one another.

May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. (verses 5-6)

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope. (verse 13)

When we receive one another as Christ receives us (Romans 15:7), when we live in harmony with each other, and have hope that God Himself will make us one, we are giving reason for the Gentiles to glorify God for His mercy.

Lord's Day Liturgy

Partial Fide

There are at least four different expectations when it comes to good works.

A man could expect that his good works will please the wrong god. Or, a man could expect that his good works, by themselves, will please the right God. Or, a man could expect that his good works mean nothing to God and that God only cares about faith. Or, a man could expect that His good works will be blessed by God because he has faith that God said so.

We know that idolatry is wrong; offering costly sacrifices in a ritual context don’t matter if those sacrifices are to a false god; prepaying for $80 worth of gas doesn’t matter if you pump the gas into the trash can. We also know that without faith it’s impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6), and that the best a man can do on his own is nothing noteworthy to God (Isaiah 64:6). We are not saved by works (Titus 3:5).

But, how often do sola fide kind of people not actually have fide that God blesses obedience? We believe that God wants us to believe, but we don’t believe that God uses believing obedience as a means to His ends of giving us good.

Wisdom speaks in Proverbs 8 about the life and honor and value and enduring wealth and fruit that comes from finding wisdom.

And now, O sons, listen to me:
blessed are those who keep my ways.
Hear instruction and be wise,
and do not neglect it.
Blessed is the one who listens to me,
watching daily at my gates,
waiting beside my doors. (Proverbs 8:32-34)

The place of blessed, happy good is obedience by faith. Do you believe God about that? And then to you commit to keep His ways? What do you expect?

Lord's Day Liturgy

Cutting the Cords

Things were desperate for David in Psalm 18. His situation was deathly.

The cords of death encompassed me;
The torrents of destruction assailed me;
the cords of Sheol entangled me;
The snares of death confronted me.
(Psalm 18:4-5)

In David’s case, the cords and snares were reaching up from below the ground trying to drag him down. His song praises God for delivering him, for cutting the cords and keeping him alive.

In another psalm David wrote about someone else who would defeat death by going through it. Peter preached this connection on the day of Pentecost.

this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it. For David says concerning him, … you will not abandon my soul to Hades, or let your Holy One see corruption. (Acts 2:23-25, 27)

The word translated “pangs” in “pangs of death” usually refers to birth pains, to the anguish pre-accomplishment. But in the Septuagint the Greek word translates “cords,” and “cords of death/pangs of death” is only found in Psalm 18 and Acts 2. Peter’s actual quote, “For David says,” is from Psalm 16.

This is the marrow of our meal: it was not possible for Jesus to be tied down by death. God is not just the one who delivers from death, God is the one who defeats death. And for all of us in Christ, the same is true for us.

Lord's Day Liturgy

Garrulous Talk

Because men sin, men hide. We are bent to find hiding places because being exposed often hurts. We prefer not to remember, and prefer others not to see. The first thing Adam did after his disobedience was hide. Men hide behind isolation, they hide behind lies. They can even hide behind liturgy, and they can hide behind, rather than in, the gospel.

Consider this observation about Christian hiding that hits close to home.

“The Christians have never practiced the actions Jesus prescribed them; and the impudent garrulous talk about the ‘justification by faith’ and its supreme and sole significance is only the consequence of the Church’s lack of courage and will to profess the works Jesus demanded.”

Ouch. We hide our failure as disciples to observe “all that I have commanded you” behind the doctrine of sola fide. It is wanting deliverance but not wanting to be delivered, or being willing to acknowledge what we needed to be delivered from. It is wanting forgiveness, but not wanting faithfulness that comes from faith.

The above quote was written by Friedrich Nietzsche, no sympathizer to the religious, let alone to Christians. But he could see our Christian hiding better than a lot of Christians. We justify our disobedience rather than dealing with what it means to be justified by God though we were disobedient.

It’s another reason why worship shapes us. We do need to hide in the gospel of Jesus, by faith, from the legal, righteous requirements of God’s law, because Christ fulfilled the law. We do need to hide in Jesus, by grace, from the accusations of satan and the guilt of our flesh. This is not a game of words, it is a life of confession, faith, and reverent, obedient worship of our God who is a consuming fire.

The End of Many Books

Wisdom and Wonder

by Abraham Kuyper

2019: This was my second read through the book, and it is as good as I remember. The church is most definitely not the boss of science and art, but the church should most definitely encourage Christians both to work in the spheres of science and art and also to appreciate where God’s common grace has allowed unbelievers (even though often inconsistent with their stated worldview) to contribute to humanity.

2013: More deep and wide application of Christ’s lordship over every thumb’s width in the universe.

It convicts me even more concerning my narrow, dualistic, wrong-headed Christian thinking. I cannot be little-zealed in helping to enculturate the next disciples.

There is so much work to do, just to expand the imaginations of men for the work they can do. Business and products wait to be created. Medical and governing solutions sit unconsidered. Music and media thresholds are far from being crossed.

As Christians we do not have the imagination, the ambition, the objective restraints, or the readiness to give ourselves to it. These come from grace, and we need that most of all.

5 of 5 stars

Lord's Day Liturgy

The Idea Was More Than Ideas

The Lord’s Supper is a great place to get perspective.

The Table has two elements on it: bread and wine. The bread was baked and brought by someone, not dropped out of the seventh celestial sphere. The wine was bottled, and bought and brought by someone, also not delivered via a special Holy Spirit spigot. Anyone, with faith or without faith, could eat this bread, and anyone could drink this cup (though they might move on to another table if they see the portion size).

As believers in Christ we know that the ordinary bread signifies the bread of Christ’s flesh. We receive the wine as the emblem of His blood which atones for our sins. When we eat and drink by faith we do something particular, not common.

And remember, it was God’s idea to give us more than ideas. If all He wanted was for us to have the idea of bread, He could have given us a brochure of visualizing techniques. If all He wanted was for us to have the idea of wine, He could have told us to work on our pretending abilities. But, He doesn’t want us just to have the idea of bread and wine any more than He wants us to have only the idea of a Savior. He sent His Son to take on flesh and to die on a tree. He wants us to have more than just the idea of fellowship, He wants us to be together, around a Table, and share communion with Him and each other.

At the Supper God reminds us that He is much bigger than this life, and also that this is where He meets us.