Category: liturgy

Though understandable that men want to hide from the face of Him who is seated on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb, it is ultimately impossible to get away from His face. Let us also not forget that apart from His sovereign grace, we would all be in that position.

There is a veil that covers men from being able to know the good news that a way has been made both to fear and love God. This is “the gospel of the glory of Christ” as Paul put it. He also wrote that “the god of this world has blinded the minds of unbelievers.” So the good news is obscured to them. They are perishing and so they can’t see, and they can’t see that they are perishing. When it comes time for the end, they will understand who they’ve hated, but too late.

How did we get out of our blindness? Why do we pray for the end to come and for the wrath of the Lamb to come without fear that His wrath will fall on us? It is not because we weren’t blind, it is because God chose to show us His glory.

“For God who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” (2 Corinthians 4:6)

The Father, the Son, and the Spirit elected to reveal God’s glory to us. It is a comfort to us, it is good news, it is a message of life and freedom. Those who cannot commune with God because they are outside of Christ still have a veil, and will wish they could keep that veil when the Lamb comes to judge. For us, we know He took our judgment, and so we do not lose heart.

liturgy

As I mentioned last week, I have more to say about our hearts through a case study of new-little-life parties, a.k.a., baby showers.

The plethora of new life among us is nothing but blessing to Marysville, to TEC, to our families. There is no way that all this fruit is a judgment, though we can fail to handle the fruit in a Christian way, both in our parenting and even in our partying.

We are potentially on the cusp of having even more newborns expected and arriving. In the future, when there are 30 babies born among us in a year, which ones are special? Ha. They are all special, as in they are all gifts from God.

Let me switch the subject just for a moment. What is the most special part of our corporate worship? Jesus is the most special, yes, but what piece of the liturgy recognizes Him the most? While we don’t have Jesus apart from His Word, it is the Word that both enables and leads us to fellowship with Jesus in communion. Communion is both what Christ accomplished for us and the eternal aim of our salvation. It is special.

But in our liturgy, the celebration of communion does not take up very much time. We have small pieces of unadorned, though slightly sweetened, bread, (which is better than the typical fingernail clipping sized cardboard crackers), with cups for the wine that aren’t even kiddie size. Can we make a big deal out of our glorious eternal life, through the atoning blood of Jesus, in a few minutes with miniature elements?

We do.

The principle applies to family traditions, too, say for birthday celebrations. How the Joneses do birthdays is not how the Jeffersons do them, and either family would be foolish to say that theirs is the only way to make it special. “How dare you not serve your child chocolate sheet cake! What do you mean that you didn’t celebrate on their actual birthdate? What kind of a heartless monster-mother are you?!”

The principle is to show honor, and that can be done in a variety of ways. Those ways do not necessarily need to be in a particular order, or at a high expense, or done excatly like everyone else.

liturgy

The Lord keeps books of various kinds. He is a numbers God, Three in One. He does not go with partial percentages. His eye test matches specific totals in His mind.

He told Abram that Abram’s descendants would come back to the land of promise when “the iniquity of the Amorites is … complete” (Genesis 15:16). The Amorites would be judged according to a full list of sins.

He has statistics on the number of hairs on every head (Matthew 10:30), and the days of our lives (Job 14:5, see also Psalm 90:12).

There is a complete roll of nations, as the Lord counts people groups, and the gospel will be preached to all of them before the end (Matthew 24:14).

There is a full of amount of Gentiles who not only will hear the good news, but who will come to Christ. Then the Lord will re-graft all Israel back in (Romans 11:25-26).

There is a total number of martyrs to be killed for the Word of God and the testimony borne for Christ. I believe this is true for all the martyrs of all time (A-Z, Matthew 23:35), but especially said of those under the fifth seal (Revelation 6:9-11).

The Lord is in the heavens and He does all that He pleases. He does all the fulness of His pleasure. It is not just generalizations, it is not guesswork or good enough for government work.

Be encouraged that when Jesus said, “It is finished,” He knew how many sins He was paying for, including how many you would commit. They are all accounted for. This does not give you permission to choose sin, it gives you a reason to reckon yourself dead to sin and completely forgiven. Jesus paid it all. Your advocate with the Father knows His case.

liturgy

Once upon a time in a small town of orchard farmers there was a great plague. The plague did not affect the fruit. In fact, there had never been such an abundant harvest in living memory. Fruit just kept coming, and grew so much that people started to wonder what was in the water.

The fruit kept coming, but because of the bounty, some methods of picking it and carrying it and storing it became more pronounced. Whether because the people were so much more busy that they lost time for patience, or because they were that much more proud of their produce, conflicts started to grow like invisible weeds. Rather than a cause for rejoicing, the plenty turned into a crop of resentment and suspicion and hurt feelings.

Laws were considered, along with possible enforcements, but none of those would deal with the heart plague. When the harvest is plentiful and the laborers are many, it is a time to give thanks, not to complain about laborers laboring a different way.

This short anecdote has many applications, but in this particular season of our church, I’m squeezing the juice to talk about the fruit of babies, and especially baby showers.

Over the last few months I have heard some surprising, and terrible reports about the preferences of some, and pettiness of others, when it comes to the “proper” procedures for new-little-life parties. So I’m going to take a few exhortations to talk about it, with an eye both to the particular and broad applications of how we love one another in a community full of blessings.

Husbands, this is just as much an area for you to be involved in, even if you are not asked to knit a onesie or to pull shots for the latte punch.

Loving life, and loving the fruit of the womb, is terrifically counter-cultural. Envy and pettiness in how we celebrate is not counter-cultural, and when we find sin, we need to pluck it up from the roots.

liturgy

We had a good discussion at our small group last Friday night regarding how parents thank, or shouldn’t thank, their kids for doing what is right for them to do anyway. I thought of C.S. Lewis’ comment in Mere Christianity about our heavenly Father.

Every father is pleased at the baby’s first attempt to walk: no father would be satisfied with anything less than a firm, free, manly walk in grown-up son. In the same way, he [George MacDonald] said, ‘God is easy to please, but hard to satisfy’”

We, as God’s children, bring what we have (that He gave us in the first place), and He receives it from us with joy and in the fellowship.

So in one respect He is easily pleased with us as His children, but He was not so easily “peaced” with us when we were His enemies. Paul wrote to the Romans that “Since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1). We do have peace, but no greater pain could have been paid to bring it about.

“Christ died for the ungodly” (Romans 5:6). “We have now been justified by His blood” (Romans 5:9). The prophet Isaiah said, “He was wounded for our transgressions; He was crushed for our iniquities; upon Him was the chastisement that brought us peace” (Isaiah 53:5).

Though it was not easy, it is finished.

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world. (John 16:33)

So eat the bread and drink the cup as those with “peace through Jesus Christ (he is Lord of all)” (Acts 10:36).

liturgy

In a sermon a few weeks ago I said that joyful people are hard to manipulate. If they are already full of rejoicing, then you either have to convince them that their rejoicing is wrong (which is a hard word) or that they are rejoicing in something lesser than they could be (which is an uphill effort).

It is also very hard to manipulate a repented people. Manipulation grabs onto guilt like chains wrapped around the rudder of a ship, but repentance cuts the chains and the ship steers clear.

Do you need to be an example of this? I finished reading Seeing Green a couple days ago. The author of the book is very honest; she exposes things in her heart to such a degree that it could make others uncomfortable (which she acknowledges). She also gave some qualifications about how to open up about heart-sins, how to know when it is a blessing to confess to another person, or in front of people, or just to the Lord.

But what are you going to do to a person who is honest? And what are you going to do with an entire group of people, a church, that is being honest? What a glorious chain of cleansed consciences and freely worshipping people we would be.

The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. (1 Timothy 1:5)

You may not need to write a book of your Confessions, but maybe you need to write a note, or have a conversation, or kneel before the Lord.

liturgy

Not long after Pentecost Peter and John were annoying the religious and political leaders in Jerusalem as they preached the gospel. The chief priests and elders charged them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus (Acts 4:18), but still released both men because of the crowds.

When Peter and John went to their friends to report what happened, their friends thought of Psalm 2.

When they heard it, they lifted their voices together to God and said, ‘Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and everything in them, who through the mouth of our father David, your servant, said by the Holy Spirit,
‘Why did the Gentiles rage,
And the people plot in vain?
The kings of the earth set themselves,
And the rulers were gathered together,
Against the Lord and against his Anointed’ —
for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever you hand and plan had predestined to take place. (Acts 4:24-28)

The believers saw Christ’s death as an initial fulfillment of Psalm 2. But they did not see it as the end, because Christ’s resurrection guaranteed the remaining part of the psalm as well. So they prayed for boldness to keep speaking the word of God (verses 29, 31).

When we eat the Lord’s Supper we are remembering how His death at the hands of those who raged against Him purchased our salvation, and how His return will put a final end to those who continue rage against Him. Let us eat and drink in His name with faith and unity and boldness.

The Word of God will come, and He will end the rage.

From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords. (Revelation 19:15–16)

liturgy

It is not cute when a two year-old tells his mom, No! Whether the theater is around the dinner table with only family to watch, or in Walmart with all the other customers in the frozen food aisle, resistance to his mom is wrong.

It is also not cute when a parent won’t say, No! I don’t necessarily mean when a mom won’t say no to her toddler, or teenager, but when mom won’t say no to herself, her bitterness or her gossip. I don’t necessarily mean when a husband won’t say no to his wife, though all these things are connected. I am mainly referring to when the man of the house barely controls himself, his lusts or his anger, let alone his dependents.

Though it comes at the end of the list, self-control is part of the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). Self-control is required to run in order to receive the prize (1 Corinthians 9:24-27). Without self-denial there is no way to follow Christ.

We are talking on this Lord’s day about our Christian responsibilities when it comes to our civil neighbors (with a sermon from Psalm 2 and a seminar on politics in the afternoon). We need maturity and wisdom, for sure. There are large problems that challenge simplistic solutions. But we will not be capable of policy decisions and laws until we can say No to our own flesh. We must say no to our lusts, no to our envy, no to our greed, no to our discontent.

[T]hose who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. (Galatians 5:24)

In 1798 John Adams said that “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” Those morals include knowing when to say yes and when, and to whom, to say no. Only those kind of people know when to make a law, when to laugh at one and get rid of it.

liturgy

One of the reasons that our worship runs against hellish fortresses on earth (think 2 Corinthians 10:3-5) is because God Himself has torn down the hellish ways of our own hearts. God saves sinners. God delivers us from the clutching, defensive power of sin.

The Father elected us for eternal life. The Son took on a body to be pierced for our transgressions and crushed for our iniquities. His Spirit He caused us to be born again to a living hope.

Think of the contrasts of His work in us. We who were far off He has brought near. We who were dead He has raised to walk in newness of life. We were rebels that He adopted as sons. We were at enmity with us and He reconciled us. We did not believe and He granted repentance in order that we might have a knowledge of the truth. We were not humble, we deserved to be opposed by Him, but now He promises to exalt us with Himself in glory.

He broke down the wall. He softened the hard. He illuminated the dark.

Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God (1 Peter 3:18)

What a day for rejoicing.

liturgy

I said last Sunday that one of my aims as a minister of the Word is to make the assembly more jealous-able. That is, I want for our flock to have the sort of lives that make others a certain sort of jealous. More should be said about this, because it is possible to get it wrong.

My desire is informed by Romans 11 where Paul told the Romans that he magnified his ministry in order to make his brother Israelites jealous (verses 13-14). In the grace and wisdom of God, some of Paul’s kinsmen had rejected salvation in Jesus so that others would receive salvation so that some in the first group would be made jealous and return to receive Jesus themselves. When God blesses some, even in surprising and unexpected ways, those blessings may be part of His means to provoke others to want the God of blessings.

But this is a competition that provokes one another to blessing, not bitterness. Be jealous-able in such a way that includes others rather than excludes them. The jealous-ability I’m referring to is not a zero-sum economics game; it is not more for me means neener-neener for you. Blessed jealous-ability has room and wants others to join and have joy and be jealous-able, too.

So here are two reminders/exhortations. First, if you are trying to win the prize (think 1 Corinthians 9:24) in a way that a spiritual person cannot give thanks for, you may just be trying to be better, not blessed. That is standard issue rivalry, available in any store. Second, if you are unable to give thanks for the blessings given by God to another spiritual person, you may just be standard issue resentful, not even name brand, just the generic.

We are not all given an equal amount (of height, of paycheck, of hair, of gifts at the baby shower, of et cetera), but we are given equal commands to give thanks and to rejoice when others rejoice.

liturgy