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Lord's Day Liturgy

Raising a Flag

Paul told Timothy:

Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. (1 Timothy 6:12 ESV)

This “good confession” wasn’t when Timothy admitted his guilt, but it isn’t disconnected from owning up to his sin either. “Confession” is ὁμολογία, related to the verb in 1 John 1:9 about confessing sin. While it could be, and often is, broken down into parts, homo = same and logo = word/logic so something like “be of the same mind,” it is more positive. A confession is perhaps less an admission and more a profession, it’s a statement of allegiance. It’s less getting something off one’s chest and more raising a flag.

Both parts belong with worship. Both belong with the gospel. For twelve years (to the day tomorrow) we’ve been making this confession.

When John Newton (pastor in the late 18th century, who wrote “Amazing Grace”) was dying, a friend visited him, and some of Newton’s last words were:

“My memory is nearly gone; but I remember two things: that I am a great sinner, and that Christ is a great Saviour.” (quoted in Wise Counsel: John Newton’s Letters to John Ryland Jr., 401.)

When we confess our sins to Christ and believe that our sins are atoned for and forgiven by Christ, we are making both confessions. We are denying any allegiance to sin and declaring allegiance to Jesus. Turning our back toward sin we tune our hearts to sing of His salvation.

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Lord's Day Liturgy

Love Practice

Liturgy shapes how we live. The Lord’s Supper is a reminder of truth that we think about and that we practice. This practice reminds us of other ways we must hold and embody the truth.

In John 15, after the message about abiding in the vine for sake of fruitfulness, Jesus told His disciples, “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:12-13). Jesus said this the night before He laid down His life, so we’re both surprised and not surprised when Jesus said in the next verse, “You are my friends if you do what I command you” (John 15:14). What did He command? Love. What does love look like? He was about to put it all out on the table.

This is also why John 13:1 opens his record of Jesus’ last evening: “when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.” He took up a towel to wash their feet. Then He took up His cross to forgive their sins.

At the Lord’s Table we eat and drink in remembrance of Him. The bread and the wine are tokens of His flesh and blood, and it is a feast of love. Jude referred to “love feasts” (Jude 1:12), and while a communal meal, it is the ordinance of communion. We commune because of and in Christ’s love. There is no greater love, which shapes our liturgy and our love for one another.

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Lord's Day Liturgy

As a Man Scrolleth

What are you thinking about? There’s an old saying that a man is what he thinks. It’s not just old, it’s Solomonic, it’s scriptural. The context in Proverbs 23:6-7 counsels the wise to be careful what they consume from the hand of an apparently generous person. Watch out for the stingy man, the one with an “evil eye.” “‘Eat and drink!’ he says to you, but his heart is not with you.” The ESV starts verse 7 with “he is like one who is inwardly calculating,” but the KJV makes it more general, “As he thinketh in his heart, so is he.” Your thoughts are your character, stingy or not, regardless of what you spread on the table.

This exhortation isn’t about stinginess, but about Scripture. We are what we think, what we do and say comes out of the heart (Matthew 15:18-19), at least eventually. What are you thinking about? What mental marinade are you soaking your soul in?

There are so many goads in God’s Word about the profit of consuming God’s Word. Psalm 1 pronounces blessing on the one who delights in and meditates on the law of the LORD. Big tech has an evil eye, “Scroll and scroll,” Elark Zuckermusk says to you, but his heart is not with you. So many free things aren’t free, the price is our attention/minds, our affections/delights.

On New Year’s Day you’re not too late to start a Bible reading plan; a verse a day, a chapter a day; listen, read, both. In addition to another Bible-in-a-year reading plan, I am budgeting minutes for myself to memorize the Pastoral Epistles.

You are what you think about, and you are like a green and fruitful and blessed tree planted by streams of water when you think about whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable (Philippians 4:8). Think on the Word, and the Lord will give you understanding and success (2 Timothy 2:7; Joshua 1:8),

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The End of Many Books

Essentialism

by Greg McKeown

I’ve read a lot of books in this genre, so many, in fact, that I committed to not ready any new (to me) books about GTD/productivity in 2022. Instead I chose my top twelve to review, one for each month, which I did, more or less.

The one exception was Essentialism which I started on December 29 of 2021; I made allowance to finish it. Which I did in January, and which I decided would be my book to review in December. Here’s my actual review.

McKeown gives good reminders. Though by a different guy, it relates to this tweet:

It also really relates to The ONE Thing, which I had just finished reading before McKeown’s book. It is sort of KonMari for your calendar not just your closet.

What is required is courage for decisions about what is important. “[T]he deeper I have looked at the subject of Essentialism the more clearly I have seen courage as key to the process of elimination” (Loc. 1659, emphasis mine). And I didn’t know this, but I’ve been thinking about it a lot. “The Latin root of the word decision—cis or cid—literally means ‘to cut’ or ‘to kill.’…You can seen this in words like scissors, homicide, or fratricide” (Loc. 2036). So when we decide, we are deciding what to cut. There must be cuts. Something(s) will be cut. Will we cut what is not essential?

We need to eliminate multiple meaningless activities and replace them with one very meaningful activity. (Loc. 2058)

You probably don’t need to read the whole book, but we all need to decide what to do with our four thousand weeks. It turns out that I chose as my theme for 2023: BUDGET, applied not only to money but also to minutes (and meals and Mo), and it’s impossible to avoid decisions. So GET WISDOM (Proverbs 4:5, 7). And GET CUTTING.

3/5 stars

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Every Thumb's Width

Recapping the Sun

I haven’t written about the Marysville Sun here for a while, but today the final issue of the year went out.

Thirteen months ago I made my first public comments about the idea of starting a local newspaper. I’d been thinking about it enough that it seemed better to make something rather than just keep thinking about it, and on the thirteenth of May the first issue came out.

Today’s Sun has some year-end numbers about current subscribers and a recap of some first-year highlights. I still think it’s a good project for loving Marysville and making it a destination.

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Lord's Day Liturgy

Born to Reign

Early in the morning on the day of His death Pilate questioned Jesus, “Are you the king of the Jews?” Jesus was disrupting things already, but not in the typical way. He said, “My kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36).

His kingdom is not of this world, it’s not worldly, but that doesn’t mean that His kingdom is not in the world or for the world. If His kingdom had nothing to do with the world, then why did He come into it? What was He doing here in the world?

Pilate replied, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth” (John 18:37). The particular truth He’s talking about with Pilate, the truth for which He was born, is that He is King.

This was the question of the wise men. “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews?” This is why Herod the king was troubled so much that it boiled over onto all Jerusalem (Matthew 2:2-3).

Mild he lays his glory by
Born that man no more may die
Born to raise the sons of earth
Born to give them second birth
Hark, the herald angels sing
Glory to the newborn king

Jesus has grown up. He’s fought and won His greatest battle, defeating sin and death and the dragon. Now He invites us to eat and this outpost table of His kingdom until He returns to reign on earth.

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Lord's Day Liturgy

Waiting for Perfection

I’m sure you’ve been waiting to find out this fourth and final part of Defeated Devil December. Actually, you didn’t have a choice to wait (I didn’t even give any hints), though you did have a choice how to wait. In fact, the fourth virtue of Defeated Devil December is waiting patiently. Not panicked, not agitated, not hotfooting it toward the path to immediate gratification. Be patient, the devil hates to see it.

The Seed of the woman has already come once and settled His battle with the ancient dragon (see Colossians 2:15). Because the serpent fights on in his bruised position, there are ways for us to demonstrate the glory of The Offspring’s win. We are to be content, to love truth, and to be generous without a show. We also know how to wait when the Lord says, “No,” or at least “Not yet.”

Eve and Adam swallowed what the devil said was the shortcut to God-like glory. Satan tempted Jesus the same way, showing Jesus how all the kingdoms of the world could be His just by submitting (Matthew 4:8-9). But the nations were already promised to Jesus, He was the Anointed (Psalm 2:8). His inheritance would come after obedience, glory after sacrifice.

God reveals that endurance, long-suffering, patience is the final piece of perfection that He’s planned for His people.

the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing. (James 1:3, KJV)

So count it all joy when you have to wait, whether to open presents, or to get relief from pain, or for the Son of God to advent again.

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Lord's Day Liturgy

Second Advent Caring

In the Son’s first advent, He was hardly recognized as a King, more recognized Him as a servant, and He self-proclaimed Himself to be a shepherd. “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (John 10:11). His office is identified by His sacrifice. Then He says the same thing a couple sentences later, with a different emphasis.

He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. (John 10:12–15 ESV)

He sacrificed because, unlike the hireling who runs because he cares nothing, Jesus came because cares entirely for the sheep. Unlike a stranger, Jesus as shepherd knows His sheep and the sheep know and follow His voice. “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me” (John 10:27, also John 10:4).

He is making “one flock” and He is the “one shepherd” (John 10:16). And, church, will this care of the Shepherd, this affection between Shepherd and us His sheep, not also continue after His second advent when He is recognized as King “to the ends of the earth” (Micah 5:4)? Is this not why He says, “I give them eternal life” (John 10:27), abundant life (John 10:11)? This is why He came, it is why He is coming again.

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Lord's Day Liturgy

The Lex Talionis Gift List

It’s not found explicitly in the Gospels, but when Paul spoke to the Ephesians (in Acts 20:35) he mentioned that the Lord Jesus “Himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.” That provides another virtue for Defeated Devil December.

We’ve considered that the ancient serpent would rather have us discontent and dishonest. Jesus called Satan the father of lies, so he lies about God’s goodness to man and gets men to lie about their goodness to others. Satan also gets men to lie about their generosity.

Ananias sold some property and claimed that he was Mr. Altruism when he laid the money at the apostles feet. He did everything he could to make it look like he’d given it all; of course he hadn’t. Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit…?” (Acts 5:3). A man convinces himself that it is more blessed to look like he’s given.

There is another angle to this devil-ish conceit. It’s giving, but with brown-paper bitterness tied up with strings. It’s giving, what you see is what you get unlike with Ananias, but what you don’t see is the internal spreadsheet keeping score in columns. Maybe it’s the Lex Talionis Gift List, expecting a gift of equal (or better) in return. Maybe, even more prevalent, is the Honor System Gift List, where the second column is for thank-you cards received (and not received)[1]. Such accounting acts as if it’s more blessed to be recognized for giving.

Be generous. Don’t give anything you can’t afford in your soul not to get credit for. Count it all joy to be generous, not counting appreciation. Don’t join Satan as an accuser of the brethren.


[1] YES. Writing thank you notes is great, appropriate, fitting, right, and something that parents should model and teach their children. The point of this exhortation, though, is about one of the ways we mess up on the giving side, while obviously it’s also possible to mess up on the receiving side.

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Lord's Day Liturgy

Anticipation Proper

Maybe the word advent is a little new to you. You’re familiar with Christmas, and even the building anticipation toward the 25th, but “advent” almost sounds like a separate holiday (compare to Acts 17:18 and those who thought “Jesus” and “the resurrection” were separate “divinities”). It’s possible that a few others of you are very familiar with Advent, capital A, from a religious/church context with all the formal tradition and stuff.

Advent proper is the four Sundays prior to Christmas, usually represented by four purple and pink candles, each one referring to a different element (Hope, Love, Joy, Peace) with a different reference (Prophecy Candle, Bethlehem Candle, Shepherd’s Candle, Angel’s Candle), and as Christmas gets closer the combined light gets brighter. A fifth, white candle usually gets lit for the day itself (Christ’s Candle).

We don’t have candles for our liturgy, though some have them at home, whatever colors and whatever you call them. Our community doesn’t talk about Advent like a narrow, let alone biblical, necessity. All are yours, and so parts of it are strategic without defining your righteousness by it.

The feast that we’ve been given and required to celebrate is the Lord’s Supper. And we remember Christ our Savior, not only in facts, but with the bread and wine.

The rule is that it shouldn’t be done alone, in isolation. It’s an activity for the body, for all the parts together. The rule is that it shouldn’t be done in the abstract, in the intellect only. It’s an activity for the body, chewing and sipping and swallowing. The rule is that it shouldn’t be done in MISERY, but in rejoicing and hope for His return.

In that sense our worship of the Lord in communion does exercise our feasting muscles, and prepares us for Anticipation proper.