Lord's Day Liturgy

A Rusty Nail in the Foot Would Be Better

I mentioned last week that since we’ve been seeing a number of new families, not just over the last few months, but even over the last year, we want to communicate some of the core things we care about. Even for those who’ve been here many years, well-placed reminders can be edifying.

The name of our local church has reminders built in. The Trinity reminds us that God is the God of love and fellowship. While the realities of Father, Son, and Spirit, co-equal and co-eternal, can be hard to wrap our minds around, it does explain what God wants with us and for us. He wants our fellowship, not just our collection of facts.

At first I planned to spend one week on each of the three parts of our name, but there really is more about the Trinity that is important to apply.

The doctrine of the Trinity is an antidote to idolatry (we learn to exalt the true God), and to the Pharisaism of religious correctness (we learn that the true God wants our love that comes from knowing the truth). It is also the place to start to pull down the errors of identity politics, bigotry, intolerance, and envy.

Identity politics is a new name for an old sin: hating our brother, hating our neighbor, and justifying ourselves by asking, “Who is my neighbor?” (Luke 10:29). We need to be “woke” as much as we need a rusty nail to pierce the arch of our left foot, except the nail might be better. Our job is not to find the most oppressed people group, even less to make our case that we are the most oppressed people group. We ought not look for the most superficial things about us and divide up into respective tribes. Our need is to worship the Triune God.

Each Person of the Trinity has a different role, and they don’t compete or complain about it. The Spirit doesn’t envy the Son’s incarnation, the Son doesn’t chaff against the Father’s authority to delegate, the Father neither wishes that He could be another person or that He’s better than the Son and the Spirit.

Because the world was made and is sustained by the Trinity, male and female don’t need to complete, they complement one another. Because of Him, the eyes and the hands have crucial jobs for sake of the body. Because of Him, we know that “different” isn’t an enemy by default, whether the person has more money or darker skin. Because of Him we know that unity does not require conformity. Because of Him, we know that none of it works if we don’t start by submitting ourselves to what He’s elected.

Lord's Day Liturgy

An Hebdomadal Schedule

Why do we have communion every week?

The majority of us do not come from churches where communion was every Lord’s Day, and the majority of us came from churches where you probably wouldn’t want to partake in communion on an hebdomadal schedule. The Lord’s Table was set once a month, or once a quarter, and it usually involved a serious talking-to, about the dangers of unworthy eating and drinking, and how you probably could take it, but only after major effort to jackhammer your heart and take a backhoe to your sin.

Of course, and yes, it is possible to partake unworthily, so said God through Paul in 1 Corinthians 11:27. But the Corinthians were in danger of selfish feasting as fellow brothers went hungry. Their “communion” was a lie.

But the selfish party attitude is not the only way to lie about communion. It is also a lie to act like joy is sin.

Jesus did not institute this Supper on the night He was betrayed, so that we could remember Him and what He did, and then go digging the depths for sake of bringing up as sad feels as we can find. He died for us and rose on the third day so that we would have a reason not to be so sad.

He gave His body for our food, and His blood for our drink, so that we might be nourished. This is not a fast. This is not where Jesus asks you to starve your soul. This is a place where He feeds your faith, as He fed the Israelites in the wilderness (John 6:31-33). It is a supernatural meal, a thanksgiving meal, a meal of peace.

Rejoicing is as much a necessary condition for communion as repentance. Rejoice in the Lord, always, and again I say, rejoice!

Lord's Day Liturgy

Building Concerns

We recently had our annual church leaders’ retreat, and in addition to giving thanks for signs of God’s grace among us, we usually spend at least a session discussing any existing or expected challenges. One crossover item, a reason for thanks and for planning, relates to the increase in the number of persons that have been joining us for our corporate worship.

Where to seat everyone is not the biggest question (though those watching in the basement would probably rather not be). How to transmit the heartbeat of this church body, and the lifeblood of our liturgy, these are more important “building” concerns (1 Corinthians 14:12; Ephesians 4:12; 1 Thessalonians 5:11).

Our church is almost 10 years old. All of the men who decided to start it are still attending, and I think more excited about how God has grown us. Because we started it, we gave it a name: Trinity Evangel Church. We named it on purpose.

Every Christian must agree to the doctrine of the Trinity. We are baptized into “the name,” singular, “of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19), one God in three Persons. Each Person of the Trinity is fully, simultaneously, and eternally God, united in one purpose. God has never been alone. That is key. There has never been a moment of existence with only one person. This is why we can say that God has power and wisdom but that He is love.

When God made Adam, He assigned Adam to name all the animals before pointing out to Adam that it was not good for him to be alone (Genesis 2:18). Male and female are made in the image of God (Genesis 1:27), which means that human beings are made for relationship.

This holds true between God and men as well. This is the problem with sin. Sin separates our fellowship. God sent His Son to die on the cross not primarily so that we could be correct, but so that we could share communion with the Trinity. Our worship on Sundays requires the truth, but the end of our worship is not knowledge, it is love and identity and reconciliation, being made one in Him (John 17:3, 20-21).

Every Thumb's Width

Trump Is Not Teflon

In the summer of 2016 the four elders at our church had a public discussion about the presidential election. I was an unswerving #NeverTrumper. This was not because I found Mrs. Clinton more appealing; both were appalling. I planned to (and did) write in my vote that November.

Nothing tempted me to appreciate Mr. Trump. I believe that good leadership requires good character, and, at that time, there were as many reasons to trust Trump as there were reasons to keep watching The Apprentice, meaning, none. His brash, 3rd grade playground vocabulary, his boasting in immorality and adulteries, combined with his lack of understanding of various policies shown in the Republican debates and his willingness to mock and berate his competition gave me quite enough evidence to commit to not give him any support.

Now, four years later, I have been very surprised by, and grateful for, God’s use of President Trump. While I think Trump has promoted noxious patterns of political discourse (and tweeting) that are likely to be tolerated for generations, he has also turned out to be the most pro-life president we’ve had, in public and by policy. He appears to have rolled back more government regulations with his power and provided a little more breathing room for free-ish capitalism. He’s come out in favor of school choices, and even talked about churches as essential.

He has also survived, if not thrived, through virtually every accusation thrown at him. It is not because he’s teflon.

A teflon coating makes it harder for the egg-guts to stick. A leader with integrity may be likened to a teflon pan; slander doesn’t cling, at least not as easily. Some accusations against some men are just hard to believe. Charges against them slide off into the draining dishwater. Vice President Mike Pence seems to be more like this.

But, if Mr. Pence was trying to accomplish something, would he be able to survive the relentless rotten scum that our modern media is committed to pitch? The Kavanaugh hearing gave a picture of the skeletons that reporters and politicians are diligent to invent. These stories/lies cause damage because they gain traction, they gain traction because they are interesting, and they are interesting because men who care about not being canceled have to fight.

Trump is much more like a cast-iron skillet: the more grease the better. He seems to like the grease. He almost begs for it.

Who cares any more about his personal scandals? It’s not because there aren’t any, Trump just doesn’t seem bothered, and where’s the fun in that? Fake news has upped their fiction levels to international intrigue, but Trump just thanks them for providing another reason for him to talk into the microphone.

Here is a serious question for my Christian friends: what person in a “high position” (1 Timothy 2:2) has been used by God to bring about this many common grace blessings for a “Christian” nation, while appearing to turn more conservative amidst the accusations? Who do we know that could handle not just the scrutiny, but the slander of the liberal media, and still keep cooking the bacon?

Maybe, and I mean maybe, Kanye? Ha.

This is very humbling for Christians. God is protecting the remnants of our liberties through a man that is happy to lie and cheat, or at least BS, his way to whatever he wants, and we keep being blessed.

Rightly Dividing

On the Wings of a Great Eagle

The last time I shared a diagram was at the end of February, which was right before all the COVID-19 lockdown-pandemonium broke loose. Does this post mean things are back to normal? Well, is the dragon, that ancient serpent, any more happy?

So as we wait for the return of the King and His rewarding of the small and great saints who fear His name (Revelation 11:17-18), here’s my diagram for Revelation 12:13-18 (note: most English translations include verse 18 as part of verse 17).

A Shot of Encouragement

MacArthur Out of the Corner

I am very grateful for how John MacArthur has come out of the corner on behalf of his flock, for the sake of religious liberty, and in service to all the other churches that will benefit from his stand.

Dr. MacArthur is a truth-lover. He’s been preaching the truth longer than I’ve been alive. God has used his teaching and his example in my own life. My convictions about the Word would not be as dear to me or as deep without MacArthur’s persistence and faithfulness.

I’d also say that his defenses of the truth sometime comes across like a truth quarantine. There have been times when the attitude has been more, “Join us in our corner. Here is where the biblically faithful are.” There is a way that guarding the faith can become insular.

But as GCC has returned to normal church services, Dr. MacArthur is in his lane, but out of his corner.

I started by saying that I am thankful. This is a difficult position, not only as a target of L.A. County officials and the CA governor, but also as MacArthur is getting significant criticism from many he’s trying to help.

It reminds me of the scene in Moneyball when the owner of the Red Sox said to Billy Beane, “I know you’re taking it in the teeth out there, but the first guy through the wall, he always gets bloody. Always.” (Watch the clip here, with the quote at the 2:35 mark.)

I am grateful for Phil Johnson and his (return to writing and) explanations of the changes at the PyroManiacs site. Phil is undoubtedly a major influence to the thinking behind, and change in, the GCC position.

So here we see MacArthur, Johnson, and GCC going first rather than circling the wagons. They are using their God-given platform to take a beating on behalf of others. Again, it’s not that this is the first time they’ve been criticized, even severely. But perhaps more than ever it is clear that this is an offensive rather than defensive move, and it is a move on behalf of their own church that, Lord willing, will benefit churches in CA legally as well as churches around the world by example. I am praying that they win.

The End of Many Books

Rich Dad, Poor Dad

I had heard about this book from multiple people for a number of years. Too bad I didn’t read/listen to it earlier. I appreciated how Kiyosaki challenges the typical “get a good education so you can get a good job so you can get nice things” mindset, and instead promotes getting financial intelligence and working up the nerve to try something else. I’ve still got a lot of work to do to become a better steward of money things as a Kuyperian, and to be a “good man” (Proverbs 13:22). I’m not sure what it’s going to look like for our household, but I’d recommend adding this book, especially for young people (and parents of young people), to one’s mental hopper.

4 of 5 stars

Lord's Day Liturgy

Most Apoplectic

Which part of our corporate, Lord’s Day liturgy makes the devil most apoplectic? Is there some element of worship that makes him more furious than the rest?

I assume he doesn’t appreciate any of our service, starting at the start. It does him no good for us to answer God’s call to worship. The devil would much rather that, if we must worship, we worship how and when we want. Or if we do submit to the call, maybe he can get us to be satisfied with the externals.

Presumably he also has no interest in our confession of sin, though if he can’t distract us from our sin, or get us to rationalize it, he can stir up worldly grief through accusation. True confession and repentance cuts at his strength, but maybe he can get us just to be proud of how authentic we say we are.

As for consecration, that’s a part where he likes to make us lazy. It’s a lot of listening. Someone reading Scripture to us isn’t our preferred mode of input, the corporate prayer is long, and the sermon even longer. It’s not that the Word is the devil’s friend, but he knows it, and likes to twist it, or get us to ask, “Did God actually say?”

The benediction, blessing, and charge to obey is unappreciated by him, though he knows that when we leave it’s like a coal separated from the pile, easier to cool off than hot when we’re all together.

And that’s the thing. I mean, I’m asking the question during the communion meditation, so it shouldn’t surprise you that I’m suggesting that communion, at least when combined with the other elements, must be something that disgusts the devil.

He hates unity among brothers (Psalm 133:1). He hates harmony (Romans 15:5). He hates the patience. He hates one anothers. He hates love. And most of all, He hates that we remember Christ who died and rose again so that we might have this communion with God and each other.

Lord's Day Liturgy

Accusing the Brothers

In Revelation 12 we learn that the dragon is an accuser, that he criticizes and condemns the brothers day and night before God (Revelation 12:10).

On one hand, it seems brash. Imagine the chutzpah it takes to come into God’s presence and start charging God’s chosen people with fault before God.

On the other hand, Satan accuses based on God’s own standards. Satan is a liar, but his accusations have an appearance of legitimacy based on God’s law. The “brothers” aren’t guilty of disobeying the devil, they are guilty of disobeying the holy One, and the devil knows it.

Satan doesn’t have to make up things about us. Since he isn’t omniscient, we probably know more than he does about our guilt. Since God is omniscient, He certainly does. What can we do?

If you, O LORD, should mark iniquities,
O Lord, who could stand? (Psalm 130:3)

None is righteous, no, not one. (Romans 3:10)

But no accusation is more powerful than Christ’s atonement. Every so often I talk with someone who thinks that his or her sin is too much for Christ to forgive. They believe their sin is too wicked or that they’ve sinned too repeatedly. Whether or not the devil himself is at work directly, or working through his spirit in the world, or even working through someone else taking on that spirit, it’s easy to listen to the accusations.

The good news is that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1). The law convicts us, the Spirit points out our disobedience, but the gospel announces justification and reconciliation. “In Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses again them…. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:19, 21).

Lord's Day Liturgy

Get Blessed and Bold

We are always under threat of being devoured. Peter told his readers that the devil prowls around looking for prey (1 Peter 5:8). He is our ancient foe who seeks to work us woe (Martin Luther). In this spiritual battle, remember that being devoured can happen in small bites, and it always starts in the soul.

Being conformed to this world is a way of being devoured (Romans 12:1-2). Taking on the feelings and the envy in the name of “good” will eat a woman to death. Instead, be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Fill your head with truth.

Learning to scoff is also a way of being devoured (Psalm 1:1). You don’t have have to leave the comforts of your own house for these classes anymore. You can tune in, subscribe, follow, and hit like on a steady stream of wicked counsel, including fearful panic. It’s not CHAZ, it’s CHAFF (Psalm 1:4). Men are consumed by their own complaints which they call “wisdom.”

Fight back, in and from your heart. This is why we should meditate day and night on God’s law (Psalm 1:2). Those who prosper are not the ones who are caught up on their social media feeds, but those who drink from the fountain of God’s Word. Let it wash you. Let it satisfy your thirst. Let it work you you green leaves and fruit in season (Psalm 1:3). Let it work in you courage.

This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:8–9)

We’re 2/3rds through the #SamePageSummer Bible reading plan, and almost 2/3rds through the calendar year. But who knows how far along we are in the spiritual battle. Fasten on the belt of truth by reading Scripture (Ephesians 6:14). Get blessed and bold by getting the Bible into you.