The End of Many Books

Fast Like a Girl

by Mindy Pelz

I know I’m not a girl. I don’t have any underlying “girl power” attitude. I don’t plan to fast like a girl. But for a variety of reasons I read this book, and I’m glad I did.

Previously I’d read a book about the benefits of fasting for spiritual purposes. This is about the physical gains. That’s important, as fasting driven more by what one is giving up rather than driven by what one is gaining are different, and the motivations probably matter for longterm success.

Anyway, I have some physical problems (ha!) and maybe fasting will enable some system resets. I do also like the spiritual discipline part of it. And fasting is an attempt that requires no extra money or time. I’ve not got a lot of extra of those, so this matches my calendar and budget.

Though I finished the book today, I’ve already completed 12 intermittent fasts, the longest being 24 hours. I aim to try some still longer fasts over the next few months.

The author is so positive about fasting it almost comes across as spin at times. Maybe we all need a little more positivity. But there’s some biology to learn, some explanation of how the body reacts to various stages of starvation (ha!, she doesn’t call it that, but, I mean, that’s what it is, right?), lists of foods that help complement fasting for helping different systems in the body, a bunch of recipes, and again a lot of encouragement to give the body a little hormetic stress so that it can adapt toward a little more health.

Lord's Day Liturgy

Baptized for Communion

Communion is for those who confess their faith in Jesus; His body and blood are their life. We welcome to the communion table those who are young in their faith, baptized to begin their life following Christ as His disciples.

It’s difficult to understand all the realities of our union with Christ. He is in us, we are in Him. He brings us to the Father, and the Spirit is the seal of our eternal inheritance from the Father. It takes a lifetime of learning from the Word to begin understanding the glories of our communion with God.

What strikes me in the Great Commission is the minimum level understanding at the beginning of discipleship with one’s confession of faith in baptism. A believer is baptized in “the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Spirit.” If the foolishness of the cross doesn’t get you, the ontology of the Trinity surely does. One God in three Persons belongs at the beginning.

Why? On one hand, it’s about identity. Which God do we worship? Not Ba’al, not Zeus. We’re not baptized as idolators. But isn’t it also about fellowship? From the start we’re brought into a society. We’re not alone, we’re never isolated.

This is part of the reason why regular communion as a church isn’t just good, it’s godly. It is the reason God saves sinners, to bring them to share His peace and joy.

Lord's Day Liturgy

Get Them Out

It takes wisdom to know how best to help others, for pastors, for parents, for teachers, even as Christian friends. We are not trying to be the boss. We know that our brothers have a Judge, and we’re not Him (see Romans 14:4). So depending on the situation we often give space, we pray, we try to show a better example. These strategies are right, and they are not the only rights.

In Genesis 19 Lot was in a bad situation. Lot was a righteous man said Peter (2 Peter 2:7), but it takes some special glasses to see that. On the day fire and brimstone rained, Moses described that the angels urged Lot to get up and get out, but “he lingered.” He showed no zeal for saving himself or his family.

“So the men (who were the angels in the form of men) seized him and his and wife and his two daughters by the hand, the LORD being merciful to him, and they brought him out and set him outside the city.” (Genesis 19:16)

Jude exhorts the beloved to rescue those in trouble.

“Have mercy on those who doubt, save others by snatching them out of the fire, to others show mercy with fear, hating the garment stained by the flesh” (Jude 22-23)

It’s mercy to get in there and to get your kids out of Harm’s Way, to get them out of the consuming fires of anger or temptation or lust.

“Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.” (Galatians 6:1)

You don’t have to be obnoxious, but do have to do more than let your people drown. For mercy’s sake go get them.

He Gives and Takes Away

David Egert, RIP

Many of us did not know Dave very well, nor for very long. What do know is that Dave wanted to be among us.

He started attending TEC services sometime in the later part of 2020, or maybe early 2021. He came with Jack Frazier, and then with David Powell, who fairly quickly and certainly affectionately became known as “The Old Guys.” Early on the three of them sat together, lunched together, and occasionally even wore coordinated t-shirts together. I had to ask Jack to remind me what the shirts referenced, and they were redshirts from Star Trek, characters who never made it long in the show. Since Jack, David, and David all had cancer, they talked about who was going to get to the pearly gates first.

For a while Dave was conspicuous for the jumbo flashlight he carried with him. And if you talked to him for very long, you usually found out that he was not a little opposed to modern flour and anything gluten.

There are, no doubt, many more things we didn’t get to know about him, from when he was a young man, or even about the healthier days of his life. But we prayed for him almost every Sunday in our corporate supplication for a couple years, not only related to his Leukemia and Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, but for various trips to the ER.

In addition to his eccentric rhetoric, I’ll remember Dave as a man who was a good neighbor (according to my oldest daughter), as a man who had great taste in friends (Jack, David P, Craig M), as a man who wanted to be among the saints at TEC (when it would have been much easier to stay home), and as a man who earnestly wanted others to pray for his daughter Allyson and her faith in Christ.

And so what are we supposed to do? We are Dave’s people, and that means we give thanks to God for Dave’s faith. And we give thanks to God that Dave no longer needs faith because he’s finished his race, and is in the presence of the Lord.

We remember that faith alone saves. None of us bring any good works to God that earn our salvation; “Christ died for the ungodly” (Romans 5:6). We have all disobeyed God, and a sinful person can’t even pay the cost for his own sin, let alone earn the privilege of eternal life.

To know forgiveness and to know fellowship with God depends on believing the gospel. It is of first importance: “that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). This comes in the same letter where we learn that the cross is foolish to some and a stumbling block for others, but for those who believe, it is the power of God and the wisdom of God (1 Corinthians 1:23-25).

The summary of good news is also in the same chapter where we’re encouraged that many witnesses saw the risen Christ (1 Corinthians 15:5-8). There are eye-witness reports, and so resurrection has happened in history, and this keeps us from having hope only in this life, it keeps us from being a people most to be pitied (1 Corinthians 15:19). Faith is not a crutch, faith is our access to light and life. In Christ, these perishable bodies will put on the imperishable, our weakness will be raised in power. In the resurrection our dishonor will be raised in glory (1 Corinthians 15:42-43).

So while death is not good in itself, and while we are saddened that a part of our church body is gone, we also know that the death of one of God’s saints is precious in the Lord’s sight (Psalm 116:15). We know that the timing is the Lord’s. We know we will see Dave again. He got there before us, but it is where we want to go. The sting of death is gone, “thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:57).

We don’t think Dave is with the Lord because of Dave’s life, but because Christ lives. None of us have anything to boast in except for the Lord. And even though salvation is only for those who confess that Jesus is Lord and believe that God raised Him from the dead (so a narrow gate), all it takes to go through is faith.

We have many reasons to thank God for Dave and for the few years he was among us. Even more, we thank God for the hope of eternal life we share with Dave, though it is no longer hope to him. Of course, if he could, he would urge those with faith in Christ to keep running the race, and he would plead with those who have not received Christ, today, if you hear His voice, turn to Him in faith.

Lord's Day Liturgy

Preach What You Practice

At our leaders meeting yesterday Chuck brought up a great observation from the book we’re reading for Men to Men. We usually are told to practice what we preach. Hypocrisy stinks. But Bahnsen argues, as good as it is to avoid hypocrisy, we shouldn’t be silent in our integrity. We should preach what we practice.

There’s reason for our confidence to draw near the throne of grace, “since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1). We enjoy that peace with God as we commune with Him and the church, so we also should preach peace. I don’t mean preach as in, every man should become a pastor, or that everyone needs to host a 10-week Bible study on it in their home.

But we are not preaching “peace, peace” when there is no peace. That is dangerous. It’s dangerous because false peace is in place of faith. But we should be ruled by the peace of Christ (Colossians 3:15). “He Himself is our peace” (Ephesians 2:14), because “upon Him was the chastisement that brought us peace” (Isaiah 53:5).

Preach the peace you practice, which functions as evangelism toward unbelievers but also functions as edification toward fellow believers. We live by faith, not only by what we see in front of us. We live in peace with God, so let that shape your vocabulary and your presence.

Lord's Day Liturgy

Unguarded Faith

One sentence from my sermon last Sunday that I had in my notes but that I skipped while in the moment of preaching was: Joyless faith is unguarded faith, susceptible to offers of joy elsewhere.

We were meditating on the purpose statement in Philippians 1:25, for progress and joy of faith. All three verbal nouns mix and match: progress of faith and joy of faith, but also faith that makes progress in joy, and joyful progress in faith.

Joy by itself could be fleeting or based on fiction rather than rooted in faith. Jesus told a story about the seed that fell on rocky ground; that man heard the word and immediately received it with joy, yet he fell away when things got hard (Matthew 13:20-21).

But a man with faith without joy, no matter how orthodox his creed, is like a man defending a field without any fence. Or, it’s like being told you have to defend the field, but you see people having a party at the edge of the woods. They look like they’re quite enjoying themselves, you’re stuck watching the grass grow, but you have a verse for it.

This is part of the reason why pastors run off with their secretary, or why theology professors vote for abortion protecting politicians, or why young Christian adults kiss and cuddle with idiots, because for as clear as their confession of faith may be, they haven’t made progress in the joy of their faith.

We confess our sins because it is right, and because it makes us happy to take off the clothes which smell of sin vomit. There are joys set before us by sight (though some, like the party at the edge of the woods, might be bait), but there are better joys set before us by faith.

Lord's Day Liturgy

Forgiven and Favored

There may be no greater burden I feel than that the flock would know that God is glad with them in Christ. Stated another way, I want believers to believe the gospel, to keep believing it into their bones and back out again. I pray for your progress and joy of faith.

We have been taught to be serious by half. It is right to take our sin seriously. God took our sin seriously. Our sin required the sacrifice of a spotless lamb, and God sent His own Son. But, not only has the Lamb died, the Lamb has taken away the sin of the world. And not only that, He stands now as having been slain. The Lamb lives, and we who believe will live forever with Him.

Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls. (1 Peter 1:8–9 ESV)

So for all those in Christ the Lord’s Table is only a table of guilt in so far as we’re reminded He’s dealt with our guilt. For all those in Christ this is a table of judgment in so far as we’re reminded our judgment for sin is done. In Christ we are His beloved, we are saints, we are brothers. In Christ we have bread and wine and peace and joy. In Christ, we are forgiven and favored.

Lord's Day Liturgy

The Easiest Person to Fool

The great enemy is sin. Sin leads to death. Sin robs joy. Sin ruins relationships. Sin provokes wars. Sin blinds from beauty, makes deaf to truth. Sin also deceives us about us, and this is why worshiping God is so meddlesome. In God’s Word we see His glory, and the more clearly we see His character, the more clear the mirror that shows us our true condition.

We would do almost anything not to get an accurate view on ourselves. Sin loves darkness, sin seeks ambiguity, sin tells lies.

Though he wasn’t a Christian, Richard Feynman was an American physicist well-known for his abilities to learn and to teach. He once said: “The first principle is that you must not fool yourself—and you are the easiest person to fool.”

With divine authority the prophet Jeremiah said, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9) And though as Christians we’ve been given new hearts, we are in the process of becoming less fooled by the flesh. We are in process of better seeing how foolish sin is. We are in process of becoming harder to fool.

The difficulty is not so much having eyes to see, but having the heart to deal with our hearts. When we worship God, we learn what He says, and when we confess, we say the same thing that He says, homologeo. One of the most courageous acts we do every week is to confess our sin. But courageous or not, it is the only way not to be a fool.

The End of Many Books

The Shepherd’s Life

by James Rebanks

I share a job title with James Rebanks and yet we do very different work. He’s a shepherd, but the sheep he tends have four legs, and he did not intend this book for metaphoric application. 

Nevertheless, I read it a second time. I’m maybe just a bit less smitten with it than eight years ago, but the earthy, seasonal, relentless, and generational work parts continue to have good effect on my affections. I read it only on Sunday mornings while I got my body and blood moving to be ready for ministry to our assembled flock. 

Here are his three rules of shepherding:

“First rule of shepherding: it’s not about you, it’s about the sheep and the land. Second rule: you can’t win sometimes. Third rule: shut up, and go and do the work.”

He wouldn’t say it this way, but, that’ll preach.

5 of 5 stars

Lord's Day Liturgy

A Dominion of Gift

All is gift.

The two greatest works of God are creation and redemption. Both are undeserved, unearned, and un-asked for. Both are givens. Both are gifts. Both gifts establish ways of life that had not previously existed.

More gift than the sun is the Son, and more than breath is His blood, and more than fruit is the indwelling Spirit, and all the good is gift. The central event in human history is gift, from Christ’s coming and through His crucifixion and resurrection. The nature of God is that of generous giver. Paul argues in Romans 8 that if the Father has given His Son, how will He not with the Son graciously give us all things (Romans 8:32)?

These past two-thousand years of church history are a record of how the gospel of Jesus Christ has been leavening the lump of the world. I am not a post-millennialist for a number of reasons, but this does not deny the greater work of God’s gift in Jesus Christ, in the gospel, that has been and is changing the world.

Gift reigns At least we can say that God reigns, who gifted His Son. We can say that Jesus reigns, who gave Himself and then gifts His people with the gift of justification, the gift of sanctification, the gift of His Spirit. Jesus Christ is Dominus, Lord, and His new dominion is a dominion of gift.

From Him and through Him and to Him are all gifts (per Romans 11:36). What do we do with this? We say, Amen! We believe. We receive the gift by faith (as we receive the gift of faith itself), eating and drinking and proclaiming His death until He advents again.