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The End of Many Books

The Care of Souls

I am glad I read this. I did also get tired of reading it numerous times. Some of the fatigue was due to repetition, some of it was all the Lutherany lingo. The author is Lutheran, so, it wasn’t unexpected, and there are ways in which hearing from different than usual perspective can be beneficial, sure. I appreciated the habitus emphasis, certainly over more technique and tips. I appreciated the concept of “baptismal therapy,” as in, a way of referring to our identity in Christ as crucial for our sanctification and consciences and comfort. And yet, I probably wouldn’t include this high on a list for new or old pastors to read. I’m thankful for it, and thankful I’m done.

3 of 5 stars

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Lord's Day Liturgy

Local Fruit

Maybe you’ve been waiting for the nine-weeks of word study to begin. There are nine attributes of the fruit of the Spirit, and they could all get individual attention, but I don’t plan to go one-by-one, week-by-week. Keep them all in mind: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.

Peeling back the fruit metaphor is constructive, and some of the contrasts are as helpful as anything. Unlike physical fruit, we look for continual harvest from Spirit. Consider, though, an ironic resemblance: like physical fruit we should look for physical Spirit-fruit. Let the fruit of the Spirit be embodied and earthy.

It’s ironic, right? The Spirit’s work affects our internals and our externals. The Spirit starts in the heart, but what’s in the heart always eventually comes out. In Galatians 5, the fleshly bite and devour one another. Immorality and strife and anger and envy and drunkenness are not only personal, they are relational, cultural.

So love isn’t just for me. Self-control is of self for the benefit of more than one-self. Patience, kindness, gentleness are only as good as they are not private. The fruit of the Spirit isn’t limited like a little plant in a terra-cotta pot on the kitchen window shelf.

This series of exhortations isn’t only so that you will think about being spiritual, but so that you will think about being spiritual in Marysville, and her Snohomish suburbs, being a destination for others to see a spiritual field. I get that red states have an appeal, but we are committed to a spiritual community. Such a spiritual state is embodied by families, businesses, schools. The fruit of the Spirit is local, tangible, jealousable. Let us double-down on living by the Spirit, not relocating.

Categories
The End of Many Books

Trust Me, I’m Lying

by Ryan Holiday

This book is full of bad news, and I mean that in a couple ways. So much news is no good, as in fake, and I certainly have even less trust in the headlines than ever. Holiday also offers little more than heightened awareness of digital conmen and their schemes, he doesn’t really provide an antidote.

It gave me more reason to appreciate Dorothy Sayers’ question from 1947:

Has it ever struck you as odd, or unfortunate, that today, when the proportion of literacy throughout Western Europe is higher than it has ever been, people should have become susceptible to the influence of advertisement and mass propaganda to an extent hitherto unheard of and unimagined?

The Lost Tools of Learning

Holiday points out that we are a culture of fools, fooling others and being fooled by them.

3 of 5 stars

Categories
Rightly Dividing

Out of Their Minds

I haven’t posted any of my line diagramming in a while. In fact, since the previous one, I’ve finished studying/preaching through Revelation and am now into Romans. But this is still more unveiling, not of God’s eschatological/telos wrath, but of abandoning/trajectory wrath.

Here is the final paragraph of Romans 1, showing not only the cognitive bias men have against acknowledging God, but also the cultural disobedience that He gives them over to.

Here is a block diagram in English that attempts to show some of the same dependencies and relationships.

Categories
Lord's Day Liturgy

Blessed Forever

God is “blessed forever.” He is praised unendingly. The Lord is good.

In the middle of a brutal section about delusional and disgraceful God-deniers, Paul can’t shut his worshiping mouth. Is culture collapsing? God isn’t. Men choose the lie, but God is “the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.” (Romans 1:25)

Later in the same letter, Paul acknowledges that even the people who had the covenants, the law, the promises, the patriarchs, and even the Messiah, did not all receive Him. Paul hated their rejection, and yet, he wrote about “the Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen.” (Romans 9:5)

In another letter, after listing his resume of suffering and weakness (including imprisonments, beatings, shipwrecks, sleeplessness, hunger, cold), his boast was in “the God and Father of the Lord Jesus, he who is blessed forever” (2 Corinthians 11:31).

So maybe you don’t feel the blessing in this moment. Fine. The God you know and believe and glorify and thank has not lost any of His blessing, and He does not lose any of His blessing when He shares it.

This cup is the “cup of blessing” (1 Corinthians 10:16). You drink it not as a magic potion that adds lives to your avatar, but you do drink it in remembrance of the God who gives you eternal life. Those who believe in Him will be blessed to share in resurrection, blessed to share in the marriage supper of the Lamb, blessed as they remain steadfast (James 5:11) for the God who is blessed forever.

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Lord's Day Liturgy

Quicker Than Tomatoes

Love. Joy. Peace. Patience. Kindness. Goodness. Faithfulness. Gentleness. Self-control. These are all attributes of one fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). When should you expect the harvest?

Fruit, as we usually think about it, is not an immediate product; fruit takes time to ripen. Fruit is seasonal. Fruit starts as a seed, buried in the ground, watered and sunned and grown, and then, depending on what kind of plant or tree, the first harvest might be a few years away. At best, your tomato takes the whole summer.

The farmer must wait; no techniques or tips trump his need for patience. The Christian, though, does not wait like a farmer when it comes to the fruit of the Spirit. This isn’t to say that we don’t grow, it isn’t to say that the fruit doesn’t increase. But when the desires of the flesh get grabby, we don’t have to wait a few months for the Spirit to show up.

The Spirit already indwells every Christian (Ephesians 1:13). We do not replant a seed every time we’re tempted or see an obedience opportunity.

When it comes to the fruit of the Spirit, expect to find fulness on the vine every time you go into the field. When your brother irritates you, you don’t need him to go away, you need the Spirit of love. When your burdens weigh you down, you don’t need time to pass, you need the Spirit of joy. When your future alarms you, you need the Spirit of peace.

Spiritual fruit is not about waiting for, but walking in the Spirit (Galatians 5:16).

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Lord's Day Liturgy

Can’t Help It

As often as you watch the Tube, as often as you check the news or seek entertainment, as often as you drive past stores, you are being invited to consider how discontent you probably should be. Propaganda tells you how everything around you is bad, advertisements tell you about everything you don’t have. Those who suppress the truth about God can’t help but be agitated.

There is a place of peace, in but not of this world. It’s the Table before us.

In 1 Corinthians 11:24, Jesus took bread and “when He had given thanks” (εὐχαριστέω), then “in the same way also He took the cup,” which we know from Matthew 26:27 included “when He had given thanks” (εὐχαριστέω). This is why communion is called the eucharist, the meal of thanks.

It is the Supper of God’s glory. It is not a table focused on our guilt but for our gratitude. Giving God glory and thanks is what the world will not do (Romans 1:21). Those who believe the gospel of God can’t help but praise Him.

Let Him be glorified for His righteousness, His love, His grace, His sacrifice. Let Him be thanked for gifts of repentance, faith, and fellowship. Let Him be glorified for His eternal nature and divine power, let Him be thanked for giving us eternal life by the power of the gospel. Let the Son of God be glorified for His obedience, let us give thanks for the Son of God who spent His body and shed His blood for us. Let us glorify the Spirit who points to the Son, let us give thanks for the Spirit who dwells in us as the guarantee of our inheritance. Let us glorify God who created grain and grapes, let us give thanks for the bread and the wine that remind us of our Savior.

Categories
Lord's Day Liturgy

The Great Pneuma

We continue with a short series of exhortations around the theme of the fruit of the Spirit. It started with Paul’s contrast between the Spirit and the flesh. These are the two want-producing sources, and they are opposed to each other in Christians (unbelievers don’t have the Spirit so they don’t have the conflict described in Galatians 5:17).

Another point of contrast is between “works” and “fruit”; works are what the flesh does and fruit is what the Spirit produces. The terminology is interesting, but so is the number. Works are plural, fruit is not.

Perhaps we could riff off the “great shema” in Deuteronomy 6:4, “The LORD our God, the LORD is one.” We could call this the “great pneuma” (since pneuma transliterates the Greek word for Spirit): “the fruit of the Spirit, the fruit is one.”

There are nine attributes of the fruit, but life in the Spirit is unified. This is different from the gifts of the Spirit. A spiritual gift may have a unique mix, or be one not the other; think Peter’s distinction between serving gifts and speaking gifts (1 Peter 4:10-11). Spiritual fruit, though, doesn’t come separately.

The Spirit doesn’t produce love without self-control, there isn’t joy without goodness, there isn’t peace without faithfulness. Patience is not a spur of the moment fruit, separate from the rest. Kindness and gentleness may often apply together, but never in a way that indulges the flesh.

Spiritual fruit is integrated and thorough, just as godliness.

“Godliness is an extensive thing. It is a sacred leaven that spreads itself into the whole soul.”

Thomas Watson, The Godly Man’s Picture, 13

Don’t excuse a lack of joy because you’re patient about it. Don’t say you have peace about your lack of self-control. Don’t say that your gift is goodness, but you couldn’t possibly be expected to love.

Categories
The End of Many Books

Last Stands

I heard about this book on the Canon Calls podcast. Through these pages I learned a lot of history, I learned some military strategy, and I was reminded of some fundamentals of manhood in a fallen world.

The primary lessons are not new. Some battles cannot be avoided, and attempts to avoid fighting end in greater loss, not peace. Once the fighting has started, the cost has already been decided: whatever it takes; winners must be willing to endure not only unpleasantries but danger and privation. Today’s crushing loss at least be an effective inspiration for future fighters. There are worse things than death.

As the author said about the Spartans at Thermopylae: “With the outcome decided, all that was left was the glory.”

The only reason I’m not giving it 5 of 5 stars is because I don’t want to immediately start rereading it. But there is no good reason for you not to read it.

4 of 5 stars

Categories
Lord's Day Liturgy

Fleshly Esse

When people ask me what it’s like living with my in-laws, I’ve given the same answer for the almost twenty years we’ve shared a roof. When we are all walking in the Spirit it’s great, when one of us isn’t, there are other, more applicable words than “great.” My point today isn’t to argue for generational living, my point is to remind myself, and all of us, to be walking in the Spirit.

The parts of our Lord’s Day liturgy are regularly woven together with some thread, and the color of the thread typically comes from the passage to be preached. Occasionally, though, I’ve done a short series of confession exhortations or communion meditations on another theme, and I’m starting another series again right now. I want to work through some important ideas in Galatians 5, mostly on the fruit of the Spirit, but it begins with the contrast: the works of the flesh.

The flesh has its wants. Paul refers to “the desires of the flesh” a few times, the flesh as contrasted with the desires of the Holy Spirit, and the flesh with its own set of characteristics. Those who are driven by natural desires give evidence of their fleshly esse in sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and “things like these” (Galatians 5:19-21).

The opposite is walking by the Spirit, letting the Spirit control our hearts and hands and voices. But even for Christians, where does the flesh go? It must be put to death. In Christ, we are dead to sin (Romans 6:11), and in Christ, we must kill sin.

Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. (verse 24)

As he told the Colossians, “put to death what is earthly in you…on account of these the wrath of God is coming” (Colossians 3:5-6). Because Jesus has died for your sin, spare not your sin. Be ruthless with the desires, the affections, the wants of your flesh.