Lord's Day Liturgy

The Essential Cup of Blessing

We do not know what tomorrow will bring (James 4:14), profit or persecution. Our plans must be put in perspective before God’s purpose and providence, so we ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” Amen.

And, if the Lord wills, we will not be submitting to rulers who say we cannot assemble as the church, and/or who say we cannot gather around the Lord’s Table and share the body and blood of Christ.

We listened to them and followed their directions in 2020 (not as long as others, but—knowing what we know now—also still too long). Thankfully they made their own hypocrisies known publicly and somewhat quickly. They said wine stores were essential, but they said believers were not allowed to participate in “the cup of blessing” (1 Corinthians 10:16). Our governors gathered without masks or distancing for their parties, posting pictures of themselves, while prohibiting us from gathering together for worship of God the Father in the name of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

There are rumors of renewed (medically useless against coronaviruses) mask mandates and possible (authoritarian, as in anti-legislated) lockdown orders. And when we hear of wars and rumors of wars, we must not be alarmed (Matthew 24:6). We “do not know what a day may bring” (Proverbs 27:1), and so we do not want to boast about tomorrow, nor boast about disobedience.

But as we’ve considered the purpose of government in Romans 13, and as we’ve tested and attempted to distinguish the solid food, we cannot submit on this point and agree to forsake our assembling according to their threats and brainwashing about viruses. They might try to shut us down, but we will not do it for them. Our Lord Jesus Christ has ordained the Supper, and we will eat and drink in obedience to Him.

Lord's Day Liturgy

Political Firsts

Benjamin Warfield once wrote:

“Sometimes we hear it said that ten minutes on your knees will give you a truer, deeper, more operative knowledge of God than ten hours over your books. ‘What!’ Is the appropriate response, ‘than ten hours over your books, on your knees?’”

Yes, pray. Yes, read, study, meditate, while praying.

Let me apply this across spheres, and exhort us that prayer must not be assumed. We must be devoted to prayer while doing politics.

We’ve been spending time in Romans 13 for the last month. Does the Lord care about earthly authorities? Does He care about government, about rulers and rules, about how nations run and citizens are protected? He most definitely does. While we consider the laws of our land, we see that the Lord has been gracious to give us at least some liberty to choose our representatives and to make our voice known on some decisions. Are we allowed by the Lord to care about how we are governed? He expects it.

Our interest and involvement as Christians is not idolatry, nor is it necessarily worldly, as in, done with sinful motives. And yet it is easy to slip into ten hours over news reading/scrolling/watching, or even political activism, without praying.

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. (1 Timothy 2:1–2 ESV)

This is not an exhortation to pietism, a private retreat to “thoughts and prayers” instead of work. But it is an exhortation: why would God bless our efforts if we don’t even ask Him to? We can do a lot of things with prayer, but we ought to do no thing without it. “First of all, then,” pray.

Lord's Day Liturgy

Louder Than the Law

Liturgy is a way we learn through what we see not just through what is said. There doesn’t need to be competition or conflict between what is declared and what is done, though our consistent behavior is harder to ignore than our repeated words.

A civil authority is called a liturgos in Romans 13:6, a “minister” who performs public service. He teaches by what he does, or doesn’t, more than by what is on the books. So Solomon said, “Because the sentence against an evil deed is not executed speedily, the heart of the children of man is fully set to do evil” (Ecclesiastes 8:11 ESV). The failure of the executive branch was louder than the verdict from the judicial branch (so to speak), and the public got the point. The liturgy was louder than the law.

Among the saints there are ministers (Paul used liturgos of himself in Romans 15:16 as a “minister of Jesus Christ”), we have religious services, and these services follow a liturgy. There is always a liturgy, a pattern and form, whether or not we’re conscious of it or consistent in it.

And if I were to put a spin on Solomon’s observation, I might say, “Because the Table of the Lord is not celebrated joyfully, the hearts of the children of God are left discouraged and anxious.” It doesn’t matter what merry language we use if our actual practice is to eat, drink, and be mournful. May the joy of the Lord be your strength, and may you truly, and loudly, rejoice in the Lord, O you righteous, having been justified by the blood of Christ.

Lord's Day Liturgy

Appearances vs. Actuals

Things are not always what they appear to be at first.

Jesus told a parable about obedience in Matthew 21:28-32. A man had two sons, he told them both to go work in the vineyard. The first son said no at first, but then went and did it. The second son said yes at first, but then blew it off. The chief priests and the elders answered correctly that it was the first son who did the father’s will.

Jesus applied it to the talkers, the ones who appeared and proclaimed their obedience, but who weren’t actually obeying. They seemed to be in the right, to themselves and to others. But it was the unexpected—tax collectors and prostitutes—who actually believed, and obeyed.

This has application for a variety of Appearances vs. Actuals, and I’d urge you to apply it to our submission to authorities. This is any lawful authority, especially in civil, church, or home spheres.

There are two ways to be under authority: in pretense or in truth. It’s possible to be submissive to authority and have others question it or accuse you of arrogance/defiance, it’s also possible to not be under authority and yet beyond the group’s suspicion. Subversive dissent is still insubordination no matter how much one proclaims his loyalty. Passionate arguments for intricate systems of hierarchy and procedures does not a submissive man make.

So the question is: are you actually obeying who/what you’re supposed to, all the way? Or are you holding back, and hiding behind reams of policy?

Lord's Day Liturgy


Maybe you’ve heard of doomscrolling. It refers to the act of repeatedly, even compulsively, scrolling through news and social media feeds and seeing negative or distressing information. Many of these scrolling cycles never get to the bottom, it’s never ending bad news or predictions of nightmares to come. A constant diet of this woe can increase feelings of stress and helplessness.

The term doomscrolling seems to have gained traction during the 2020 lockdowns, but there has been a regular source of anxiety-producing negativity long before that. It’s come, sadly and inappropriately, from the church. Let’s call it doomcommuning.

This is just another way to remind us of the purpose of the Lord’s Supper. Jesus did not institute this ordinance to increase anxiety. For sure, the Corinthians weren’t even paying attention, and Paul exhorted them to examine themselves (1 Corinthians 11:25). The Table is not a place for selfishness and division; the stakes of the Supper are serious.

But the whole point of the supper is the seriousness of salvation, not damnation. “Since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God” (Romans 5:1), not panic before God.

Brothers, this is a meal of life, of joy, of hope. Now is not the time for for brooding, for glooming. Here is where God feeds our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. We do not commune in doom. “God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thessalonians 5:9).

Come, eat your bread with joy, and drink your wine with a merry heart, for God has already atoned for what you’ve done through His Son (compare Ecclesiastes 9:7).

Lord's Day Liturgy

THIQ Obedience – the verses edition

Especially when our kids were younger we talked about THIQ obedience. I worked through the acronym in an exhortation to confession in 2012, and as we start the household series tonight, as many head back to school this week, and especially as we think about what God wants with all His children, it seemed like a good time to revisit it, this time with some verses.

Two qualifications. First, most of these passages refer to our obedience to God. Second, no human authority is above God, so if we cannot obey God while obeying a lesser authority then we cannot obey the human authority. But how we obey the Lord, and the fact that the Lord is the one who established human authorities, should teach us how obedience obeys under most conditions.

THIQ obedience is Total, Happy, Immediate, and Quick.

Obedience ought to be total, as in, all parts of all the instructions completed. Before God, “whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it” (James 2:10). Obedient children must “be holy in all (their) conduct” (1 Peter 1:15). Children are to obey their parents “in all things” (Colossians 3:20).

Obedience ought to be happy, as in, not begrudgingly or with annoyance, no sighs or rolling of eyes. “Serve the LORD with gladness!” (Psalm 100:2). “Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God” (Philippians 2:14-15). Moses said judgment was coming upon God’s people who “did not serve the LORD your God with joyfulness and gladness of heart” (Deuteronomy 28:47).

Obedience ought to be immediate, as in, not delayed, not put off. “I hasten and do not delay to keep your commandments” (Psalm 119:60). “Today if you hear his voice” don’t wait (Psalm 95:7). Obey, right away.

And obedience ought to be quick, as in, not slow. “Do not be slothful in zeal” (Romans 12:11). Laziness is not just seen in delay but dawdling, by drawing-out the task. The one who is “slack/sluggish in his work is a brother to him who destroys” (Proverbs 18:9).

Our works don’t save us. None have perfect obedience before God anyway. But He forgives us in Christ, and by His Spirit works from the inside out to give us a love of His standard.

Lord's Day Liturgy

Ordained to Overcome

I really do get the huge and tangled implications for Christians as we think about God and government. I also really do think it’s important, relevant, and encouraging, for Christians to think about how God saved us. Jesus was “delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God” and was “killed by the hands of lawless men” (Acts 2:23). When Jesus told Pilate, “You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above” (John 19:11) Jesus was acknowledging His Father’s sovereignty in/through the abuse of human authority and His own unjust treatment.

Peter wrote “this is gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly” (1 Peter 2:19). And then Peter gave us the WWJD passage:

For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. (1 Peter 2:21–24 ESV)

We would have no atonement for our sins, no Lord’s Supper, no celebration of our hope of glory, if Jesus had not suffered unjustly without sinning. Praise God that He ordains to overcome evil with good.

Lord's Day Liturgy

Thankful on Their Way

This will be the last exhortation based on the beginning of Ephesians 5, and one final reminder that thanksgiving is not just a sign of health, it is a medicine that works healing. Thanksgiving is not the completion of holiness, like splashing into the pool at the end of a water slide, the arms of thanksgiving swim against the stream of lusts and discontent and idolatry.

Certain things “must not even be named” among saints, certain things are “out of place.” Paul says in Ephesians 5:4, “but instead let there be thanksgiving.” And if the sexually immoral and impure and covetous are the sons of disobedience and have no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God (5:5-6), then sons of obedience are also known as sons of gratitude. They are thankful on their way to get their inheritance.

At our L2L leaders retreat a couple weeks ago Ian Lugg talked about wanting to be known as “the gratitude guy.” It wasn’t in this context of opposing these sins, but it fits. It’s for his family, for the aroma of his home, for showing his kids not just what to say but how to say it. What an epitaph to pursue: “the gratitude guy.”

Thankfulness doesn’t mean every desire is eliminated, it does mean that desires don’t panic and get in front of their skis, or point off the trail toward the woods which God has declared off limits.

Fight filth with thanks. Thank God that you’re in the fight. Thank God for good desires, and for the opportunity to obey Him while you wait for Him to provide. So even later in Ephesians 5:20, those filled with His Spirit are “giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Lord's Day Liturgy

Let There Be…

We’ve been talking about sexual immorality and inappropriate speech for a few Lord’s Days now. Lusts and lewd words, heart and mouth corruptions, things unrighteous and gross, ought not even be named among saints, they are out of place. In Ephesians 5 Paul is talking to Christians, and he says what we should do instead. It has stuck out and stuck with me since the first time I saw it.

But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not eve be named among you, as is proper among saints. Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be…

What do you expect to finish that line? Let there be repentance. Let there be killing of that sin or putting off of that sin. Let there be holiness. Those are relevant, but not what he says.

And immediately following what he says we should do instead, he reminds us of the identity consequences.

For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.

So he repeats the trifecta from verse 3 in verse 5, giving the reason that such sins need to be replaced. And what do we do instead?

Instead let there be thanksgiving. In this passage, the primary weapon in sanctification is thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is not the clearing on the other side of the woods, thanksgiving is the machete that does the clearing. Tempted to treat a sister in Christ impurely? You are not thankful for what the Lord has given you now. Tempted to tell a crude joke? You are not thankful for the good reasons to laugh by God’s grace.

Lord's Day Liturgy

Not Laissez Faire Fare

Ironic or not, disappointing and yet divinely appointed, a lot of fellowship has been broken over communion. And really, don’t be surprised. Christ gave two ordinances, baptism and the Lord’s Supper, both of which identify His Body, the Church. So men ought to care, and while we ought to be more patient than some in church history have been, today we could probably use more of the type of conviction they had. The bread and the wine are not laissez faire fare, take-it-or-leave-it stuff.

One part that Christians have argued about is the presence of Christ. Transubstantiation claims that when the priest prays, the substance of the bread physically turns into Jesus’ flesh and the wine turns into Jesus’ blood, even if the elements still appear as bread and wine. Consubstantiation claims that both substances are together, physical bread and physical body. Others claim a spiritual presence.

Beyond philosophical and metaphysical speculation, we should give most attention to what Paul says. As often as we eat the bread and drink the cup we proclaim the Lord’s death “until He comes” (1 Corinthians 11:26). That means that the Lord is not physically here.

In His body He ascended to the Father. He sent His Spirit, and so He can say that He is with us until the end of the age, but that is a supernatural presence, not a physical one. In communion we remember our spiritual union with Him and with one another. And as good as it is, our very participation here proclaims that there is more than the present. He is coming again in His resurrected body and will give us the same.