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Lord's Day Liturgy

A Great Exchange

Some things are not interchangeable. It is impossible for men to give birth, labor and delivery belongs only with the glory of women. Other exchanges are necessary; our deliverance from sin’s penalty and power depend on it.

Therefore He had to be made like His brothers in every respect, so that He might become a merciful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. (Hebrews 2:17)

He who knew no sin became sin, the sinless exchanged Himself for the sinful. He who was strong died in place of the weak. The righteous took on our unrighteousness and made it so that the unrighteous might share His righteousness. The immortal took on mortality, and then died in order to destroy death.

The gospel is a great exchange. His sacrifice in our place is the purchase of salvation. He died the death we deserved that we might live in His life.

For salvation there is neither male nor female, all are welcome in fellowship with the Father by faith alone in Jesus Christ His Son.

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Lord's Day Liturgy

Trashing the House

God says a lot about women in the Bible. They have problems, they have powers. They can mature into distinguished and fruitful glory, they can destroy themselves and families and friendships. Women can trash their lives par excellence.

In the book of Proverbs, not only is wisdom personified as a lady, part of the king’s instruction to his son(s) is about recognizing and finding an excellent wife. That said, folly is also described as a female, and she ruins households from within and from without.

One succinct contrast comes in Proverbs 14:1.

The wisest of women builds her house,
but folly with her own hands tears it down.

This is more metaphorical than material; it’s not about laying bricks or removing load bearing walls. Her “house” is not the building, but she can build the household, the family, the relationships, the structure. She can also make everything a mess.

This assumes that women have power. We rightly observe that men do, too, and that they will use their strength either constructively or destructively. But Solomon credits women with similar capacity.

Don’t underestimate a woman because she’s not the “head” of the house.

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Lord's Day Liturgy

Unburdened Reverence

Just as being healthy in faith, in love, and in steadfastness is not limited to older men (Titus 2:2), so being reverent in demeanor is not limited as a good only for older women (Titus 2:3).

I think we learn much about the practice of reverence by the drip-drip-drip of weekly communion. It is inescapable; around the Table we learn one type of reverence or another.

We know that there is an unworthy manner of participation (1 Corinthians 11:27), with drastic consequences (1 Corinthians 11:29-30), so especially around the Lord’s Table we take care. How we take care, how we behave ourselves here, becomes a measuring stick for practicing reverence elsewhere.

Reverence has been boiled down to seriousness, on the solemn side, flirting even with isolation and self-focus. “I will be serious. How dare you not be serious, evidenced by that smile on your face.” We think we prove our seriousness by putting our heads down and closing our eyes, afraid to make any sounds.

And who would say that blurting out isn’t selfish, or that fools aren’t focused on themselves? Indeed. But…

The only Supper that should’ve been so cheerless was the only one eaten before Christ died, and so the only one eaten before Christ rose again. Every Supper since remembers the finished work, the forgiveness purchased, with the Son of God risen again to fulfill His intention for His Bride (Ephesians 5:25-27).

So let your reverence be relieved and unburdened, in shared and uniting supernatural joy, full of the peace of God that passes the understanding of men.

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Lord's Day Liturgy

Making – or Breaking – Households

We’ve started sorting different groups in Titus 2, which, regardless of particulars, making divisions at all offends some today who want to define all their identity all by themselves. But God made male and female, and for that matter, He made young to grow old. He knows our stock strengths, He knows our typical sins.

Like men, women can be stereotyped, because they are a class, and Scripture shows us how it’s done. There are virtues naturally embodied by women, there are snares naturally tempting to women.

Women, by God’s design, make or break households and generations. Yes, God made men heads of house, God holds husbands and fathers accountable first, but that doesn’t change Eve’s power, or the power of her daughters.

Everybody feels it. Solomon had wisdom—and courage—to write these proverbs.

  • “a wife’s quarreling is a continual dripping of rain” (Proverbs 19:13)
  • “it is better to live in a corner of a housetop than in a house shared with a quarrelsome wife” (Proverbs 21:9; 25:24)
  • “it is better to live in a desert land than with a quarrelsome and fretful woman” (Proverbs 21:19)

By the time we come to Proverbs 31, we see the queen mother warning and instructing her son about what will make his kingdom great. She says,

Do not give your strength to women, your ways to those who destroy kings. (Proverbs 31:3)

A sinful woman — through her discontent, her selfishness, her anxiety, her fault-finding, her trivial disagreements, her hammering words — destroys families, nations, even generations. Ladies, fear the Lord, and confess your sins.

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Lord's Day Liturgy

A Table for Our Health

While specifically written for older men (Titus 2:2), being “sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness” would be healthy for all Christians.

If your faith was fragile, if your love was out of shape, if your steadfastness was questionable, how would you increase them?

Among other things, our regular remembrance of Christ’s sacrifice at the Lord’s Supper should help.

Faith is personal, but in an accomplished fact, and even more, in a faithful Person. Trust Him who is the resurrection and the life.

Love is also personal, and when we wonder what it looks like, we look at the cross first. You are loved, nothing can separate you from the love of God in Christ. His Spirit dwells in You, so love as you’ve been loved.

As for endurance, none of us have resisted sin to the point of bloodshed. And the only man ever to finish His race without giving in to temptation is Jesus. Jesus, who is the “author and finisher of our faith” (KJV), “for the joy that was set before him endured the cross” (Hebrews 12:2). Remember Jesus, remember the joy He promises.

Here is a Table for our health, as believers and as the Body of Christ. Believe! Love! Hold on! Christ who is your life will return for you.

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Lord's Day Liturgy

June Life Jubilee

As God’s people we will gather in a public park in front of city hall to sing and fellowship because of abortion laws. It is quite a thing.

It is a sin not to care about the destruction of those who can’t protect themselves. We will give an account to the Lord, so says inspired wisdom.

Rescue those who are being taken away to death;
hold back those who are stumbling to the slaughter.
If you say, “Behold, we did not know this,”
does not he who weighs the heart perceive it?
Does not he who keeps watch over your soul know it,
and will he not repay man according to his work?
(Proverbs 24:11–12 ESV)

We can’t opt out of the responsibility. That doesn’t mean that we all have the same tasks to do, but there is blood on our collective hands as citizens of the United States and as citizens of Washington State.

It is not comfortable to see the sin, the selfishness that kills, the arrogance that argues for abortion as “privacy” or as a “right” or that calls it “health care.” But we must see it.

There are pro-life groups that argue online, the abolitionists and the incrementalists. I don’t get making enemies of those who disagree about how many steps it takes. The fight is with those who don’t care, the fight is with our own convenience, the fight is with our own fear.

Our thanks to God for the overturning of one wicked law does not mean we’re done, but “in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving [may our] requests be made known to God.”

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Lord's Day Liturgy

Thankful Opposites

Because we are holding to the trustworthy word as taught, because we are receiving instruction in sound doctrine, because we work to guard against those who contradict it, we should give thanks to the Lord Jesus Christ, our Savior, that we meet to share His Supper as the opposite of those described in Titus 1:10-16.

We are not insubordinate, but we submit to the Lord Jesus. We are not empty talkers, not windbags, but we know the eternal words that make wise for salvation. We are not deceivers, we have put off the old self and speak truth in love.

Our households are not upset, but they are set in order, sound in faith. We are not devoted to white space stories and human standards, but devoted to the truth. By God’s grace and Spirit and Word our minds and our consciences have been cleansed and are being renewed. We profess to know God and seek to honor Him with our works.

We are not detestable, but loved. We are not disobedient, but because Christ bore our sins in His body on the tree, we are dead to sin and living in righteousness. We are not unfit for any good work, but we’ve been qualified to share in the inheritance of the saints in light, walking in a manner worthy of the Lord.

This is our common faith, this is grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Savior. Eat the bread and drink the cup in remembrance of the Lord.

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Lord's Day Liturgy

Self-Contradiction

There are two similar and brutal phrases in the pastoral epistles, both coming from the observation of the apostle Paul, both sharing the idea of multi-level communication.

[people will be] having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. (2 Timothy 3:5)

They profess to know God, but they deny Him by their works. (Titus 1:16)

What does it mean to “deny” the power of godliness? It means to play at it, to pose when others are watching, but to collapse when the real decisions need to be made. All they have is “appearance” or “form” (NASB).

In the second case they “profess” with their mouths. It’s the same word as in 1 John 1:9 translated there as “confess” (homologeo). They’re saying they know, but not only do they show ignorance, their behavior is a refutation of their claim.

Both passages provide us with categories to recognize denial. There is form with power and form without it, there is confessing backed up by works and confessing that isn’t. The problem isn’t the appearance or the profession, the problem is the duplicity.

In his book The Reformed Pastor, which is an extended application of Acts 20:28, Richard Baxter wrote:

it will much more hinder your work, if you contradict yourselves, and if your actions give your tongue the lie, and if you build up an hour or two with your mouths, and all the week after pull down with your hands! This is the way to make men think that the Word of God is but an idle tale, and to make preaching seem no better than prating.

Self-contradiction is a danger for pastors, for parents, and for any who have only a partial profession.

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Lord's Day Liturgy

Obtained by Blood

Elders and overseers and pastors are all underworkers. Jesus Christ is the Chief Shepherd (1 Peter 5:4). He not only has the ultimate authority, He is the only one who has shed His blood for your sins.

The exhortation that Paul gave to the Ephesian elders was rooted in their recognition of whose sheep they were caring for.

Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which He obtained with His own blood. (Acts 20:28)

Christian, you are not your own, you were bought with a price. You do not belong to a group of under-shepherds, though they are given by the Chief Shepherd for your good.

Remember Jesus Christ. Remember the Good Shepherd who laid down His life for His sheep. Remember His blood that has covered all your sins, blood that has made you Christ’s own.

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Lord's Day Liturgy

Farmers Believe It

One thing that Bible people and farming people have in common is that both know the phrase: you reap what you sow. One big difference between Bible people and farming people is that farmers typically believe it.

Bible people are like, “but God is sovereign.” And, there is truth there. In fact, that’s how we can trust that we will reap what we sow. That’s how God made things to work, and that’s why His Word reveals the principle, along with page after page of example. Planting corn doesn’t turn into rows of bananas because “God is sovereign.”

One reason we plead, or hide behind, theology is because we don’t like what we see in the field. “That’s not what I wanted.” And, while we’re here for this minute, if you are ready to be honest, are you sure it’s not what you wanted a little more?

You wanted not to be uncomfortable — at least a little more, so you didn’t ask any hard questions to your kid, and after years of not upsetting them, they are more set in their ways. See how David “had never at any time displeased [his son Adonijah] by asking, ‘Why have you done thus and so?’” in 1 Kings 1:6. So when his dad was old, Adonijah decided he should be king. You say, “That’s not what I wanted for them,” except that you didn’t take the time to sow anything different.

You wanted not to be humble — at least a little more. You maintained your authority, so you thought, by your example of always being right, never repenting to them or in front of them. So you wanted some cushion, because your pride only looks good from a distance, and that’s what you got.

If you sow humility, you will reap stronger people. If you sow repentance, you will reap the rejoicing that comes with righteousness. If you sow taking responsibility, you will reap more who do likewise. If you sow patience, you will reap peace. If you sow peace, you will reap kids who learn how not to freak out.

Could there be a tornado? Are there things that are out of your control? Of course. But so is extra sun and the right amount of rain. The question still stands: what are you sowing? And if you can see that you’ve been sowing weeds, or allowing them to grow, repent and ask God to use your weeding, too.

It is very hard to plant—to pastor, to parent, to disciple—and grow a fruitful field. By God’s grace we will reap what we sow.