Lord's Day Liturgy

A Working Reputation

Paul had thankfulness syndrome. At least some people might think that. His thankfulness wasn’t really a problem, but it was profuse.

One of Paul’s first letters was to the church of the Thessalonians. He came out of the gate with his gratitude: “We give thanks to God always for all of you” (verse 2). The Thessalonians received the word of the gospel (verse 6), they imitated those who brought the gospel, and in doing so became examples to believers in their region (verse 7). They had a reputation “everywhere” (verse 8).

As one of your shepherds, I am thankful for similar signs among us and I’m devoted to this being even more true of our flock as well. What goes into it?

Last week I referred to reverence, repenting, and rejoicing. From 1 Thessalonians 1:3 let me add another trifecta. The two different threes aren’t competing; all are yours.

Paul was giving thanks as he remembered “before our God and Father [their] work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ” (verse 3).

The typical three virtues are faith, hope, and love (as written to the Corinthians, 1 Corinthians 13:13). Here these spiritual virtues are in a different order and they are attached to activity. Three verbal nouns: work, labor, steadfastness.

Truth turned them from idols to serve the living and true God (verse 9). Doing the word belongs with hearing the word, and then faith and love get to work, with hope giving strength and stamina. It leads to a working reputation.

You are doing these, and do these more and more (4:1, 10).

Lord's Day Liturgy

One Degree of Sacrifice to Another

When you are transformed from one degree of glory to another by beholding the glory of the Lord (2 Corinthians 3:18), what does that look like? What does it feel like? Awesome? Probably not. Instead this glorification will look and feel like sacrifice.

It is a profound, mysterious, radical, far-reaching, intense, and also obvious principle that Jesus told and then embodied for His disciples.

Some Greeks had come to worship in Jerusalem for the Passover feast and told Philip that they wished to see Jesus. Philip got Andrew and they told Jesus.

And Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. (John 12:23–24, ESV)

Jesus continued,

“Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But for this purpose I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven: “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” (John 12:27–28, ESV)

The hour of His glory was the hour of His loving death for His people.

That makes Lord’s Supper a meal of glory; our sharing and joy are part of the “much fruit” from Jesus’ sacrifice. So likewise we learn the way of glory, and we are being transformed from one degree of sacrifice to another.

Lord's Day Liturgy

The Three Rs

Some of you are old enough to remember when schools boiled down their mission not to letters such as LGBTQ or CRT or even to ABC, but to the three Rs: Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic. (Perhaps we should have seen the trouble coming earlier; that alliteration only sounds good to the illiterate.)

For the people of God who have their own assembly, a different three Rs would be a good start: Reverence, Repenting, and Rejoicing.

Reverence is another word for the fear of the Lord. We stand in awe of the Lord (Psalm 33:8). By God’s Word the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ shines in our hearts (2 Corinthians 4:6). We regard His glory.

In Proverbs “the fear of the Lord is a hatred of evil” (Proverbs 8:13). This applies to what we see around us; we cannot be apathetic. This applies to what we seen inside us, we cannot be hypocrites. We turn from sin.

Proper reverence leads to repentance, and with proper repentance is the promise of forgiveness and cleansing and joy. Worldly grief produces death, but “godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret” (2 Corinthians 7:10). In Christ we rejoice. “Rejoice in the Lord always” (Philippians 4:4).

The story of redemption is the story of reverence lost (the Fall) and then restored, of repentance needed and then granted, of false rejoicing made true. God sent His Son to redeem sinners and “to purify for himself a people for his own possession” (Titus 2:14).

Confessing our sins doesn’t add to the permanent record, like laying down yet another thick layer of asphalt, but removes the guilt and clears the way for reverence and righteousness and rejoicing to flow again.

Lord's Day Liturgy

Cross Views

We are Christ’s body. He is the head of the body, the church. Our union is a spiritual reality. Our connection is also a corporate responsibility.

[S]peaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. (Ephesians 4:15–16, ESV)

He is the head of the body, “the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent” (Colossians 1:18). The head is on top and the head brings us closer together.

We have communion with Him by the Spirit, and we have communion in the ordinance of the Lord’s Supper. As we commune with the head we do it as parts of the body, but also as the whole body. We’re reminded of our connections; look across the room. See the ones you’re working for.

For the first time in years we’re all together under the same roof on one level at the same time. One blessing of this room is that it’s less of a lecture hall, limited to seeing the back-of-many-heads portrait layout, and more landscape with cross views.

It’s not perfect, neither are we, or our communion. But it’s good, and our head gives us truth and love, and by His grace He will continue to build the body.

Lord's Day Liturgy

Rejoicing in Roe’s Reversal

I know it was announced over a week ago, but I want to profess my thanks to God for the overturning of Roe v. Wade. Praise the Lord! What an answer to prayer. This is the right decision and a cause for great rejoicing.

Maybe you’ve seen some of the Christian lamentation over the decision. I don’t mean the so-called pro-choice people who profess to be Christians, but rather the ostensible Christians urging other Christians not to celebrate so loudly because it might offend and upset others for whom killing babies is supposedly a complex issue. “Praise God, but for your neighbor’s sake, keep it down.”

Here’s an example:


Let me exhort us to beat our breast in humility (like the tax collector in Luke 18:13) and then raise the roof with rejoicing filled with compounding rejoicing. Any step that abates “legal” murder is a good step, a mercy from God that seems, if possible, extra undeserved by our nation in light of so-called PRIDE month.

Yes, we are not done with the work. Returning legislative responsibilities to each state is something, and Roe was a large legislative idol that is past due to be torn down. But our state is still committed to slaughter, and we must “rescue those who are being taken away to death” (Proverbs 24:11).

And yet also, how many have prayed for this day? How many have sacrificed? This is a kindness from our Lord Jesus Christ. His mercy be praised! Say His name. We cannot say it too loudly.

It is not at the same level, but our first day in our new assembly location doesn’t mean we’re done. Likewise, rejoicing in our forgiveness doesn’t mean we’re perfect. But the Lord and His grace deserve praise for every step.

Take the restrictor off your rejoicing in the Lord.

Lord's Day Liturgy

Behind the Wall

It directly applies to Timothy as one with spiritual responsibility for others, but it has spiritual encouragement for all.

I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that Day what has been entrusted to me. Follow the pattern of sound words that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. By the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, guard the good deposit entrusted to you. (2 Timothy 1:12-14, ESV)

We are being guarded and we are entrusted with guarding, the truth itself but also our purchase of the truth. We’ve been committed to the teaching and we’re to follow that pattern. We’ve been given the gifts of faith and love and we’re to continue believing and loving. We’ve been chosen by the Father, brought to the Son, and sealed with the Spirit. He is guarding us and will guard us to the end.

He guards us by supernatural means.

In The Pilgrim’s Progress John Bunyan paints the picture like oil in the lamp from behind the wall.

Then I saw in my dream, that the Interpreter took Christian by the hand, and let him into a place where was a fire, burning against a wall, and one standing by it, always casting much water upon it to quench it, yet did the fire burn higher and hotter.

Then said Christian, What means this?

The Interpreter answered, This fire is the work of grace that is wrought in the heart; he that casts water upon it, to extinguish and put it out, is the Devil: that in that thou seest the fire notwithstanding burn higher and hotter, thou shalt also see the reason of that: so he had him about to the backside of the wall, where he saw a man with a vessel of oil in his hand, of the which he did also continually cast (but secretly) into the fire.

Then said Christian, what means this?

The Interpreter answered, This is Christ, who continually with the oil of his grace, maintains the work already begun in the heart; by the means of which, notwithstanding what the Devil can do, the souls of his people prove gracious still. And in that thou sawest, that the man stood behind the wall to maintain the fire; this is to teach thee, that it is hard for the tempted to see how this work of grace is maintained in the soul.

Here in communion we are reminded of the teaching (Romans 6:17). Here in communion we are renewed in our minds and bodies. Here in communion the oil of God’s grace is poured on the fire of our faith.

Lord's Day Liturgy

Wherever You Go

Certain events in life require a lot of planning and preparation, and some of them trigger a desire for personal change. The wedding of one of your kids takes months to organize, and realizing that you’ll be in a bunch of pictures might motivate you to get a bit more fit.

Less often, it seems, does something such as buying a new house and moving trigger the need for individual change, let alone heart work. You might think that seeing (and packing up and picking up) your whole collection of stuff would provoke some personal reflection, but it’s not automatic. And that’s okay.

We are about to move locations after assembling for worship in the same place for over eleven years. A lot of things will be different; the parking and the chairs and lighting and the layout. The external alterations are very unlikely to provoke your own internal examination. Again, that’s fine, but I’ll remind you that whatever your problems are here will still be your problems there (including temptations to be impatient with and annoyed by others). If you aren’t repenting and learning to obey all that Jesus commanded now, don’t think that a different building will fix it.

For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing. (James 1:23–25, ESV)

Ancient wisdom teaches that wherever you go, there you are. Wherever you are looking into God’s Word and obeying, there you are blessed.

Bring Them Up

Stupidity Down

I read the following story for our school’s end of year assembly. It is inspired both by fiction and non-fiction.

“Where am I even supposed to put this? I can’t hold onto it much longer!” Ivan turned around and said to Helen, “It’s okay. Just set it down right there and we’ll get someone else to take it the rest of the way.” Sophie yelled from across the room, “I don’t know why you all didn’t just listen to me in the first place.”

This was part of a conversation that took place between three rabbits who lived in a nearby hill with a large tree on the top. The name of their burrow was Stupidity Down.

Our story actually tracks four rabbits as they helped the burrow move to a new home. These rabbits were a good representation of their classmates, all with long ears and fluffy tails and a different perspective on how to get along. Their names were Helen, Robert, Ivan, and Sophie.

Helen was the most beautiful doe in all the colony, but she also wasn’t very bright. Sometimes the young bucks would fight for her attention, and one of them named Troy actually lost everything he was growing for her when he accidentally left the garden gate open and a horse trampled the lettuce. That is a whole other story.

Robert was the sneaky one of the bunch. He would ask the other rabbits what they liked, and then he would snatch away as much of it as he could and then act sad with his friends when they couldn’t find their favorite things. In class he would also copy others’ work and then take credit as if it were his own idea.

Ivan, as you can probably tell from his name, was a Russian rabbit. Ivan had a lot of ideas, and most of them weren’t actually that terrible. He was always trying to organize others to do things with him so that they could get more done more quickly, and then they would all get to have more fun. He wasn’t necessarily the smartest rabbit you’ve ever met, but all his friends knew that he cared about them.

Then there was Sophie. She never had an opinion she could keep behind her two front bunny teeth. Sophie’s older siblings had really multiplied, and she had so many nieces and nephews that she was better known in the colony as Aunti-Sophie. Sophie stuck her nose through the fence into everyone else’s business, and the only thing she was really good at was making more work for everyone, including herself.

The burrow had been getting cozier and cozier and some of the bunnies’ fur had been getting rubbed the wrong way. The Council had found a place for them to move but they only had a few months to do it. When the fall came it would be time for harvest and the days would get filled up with gathering food for the long winter months. So summer was it.

One evening the four rabbits met to talk about their plan. Ivan said, “What if we divide up the rooms and each of us can take responsibility for a part?”

Robert replied, “Sure! But could I borrow your iPad, Helen? I want to make a really good list and it would be easier to type it out.” (These were Gen Z rabbits, after all.)

Helen said, “That’s fine with me, but my parents only give me an hour a day for screen time, so I’ll have to ask, then you can use it.”

Helen got permission and handed her iPad to Robert. All four of them put their heads down and started to work on which items needed to be moved. But Robert only appeared to be working. He used Helen’s screen time to play games.

Sophie kept asking Ivan a lot of questions. “How do you decide what to bring and what to leave behind? Am I going to have to carry all of this? Why don’t we just hire moving rabbits?” No matter how Ivan answered, Sophie just argued. “Try to identify the things that you know you’ll need or that you know you really like.” But Sophie said, “If I knew that already why would I be asking you? Which, now that I think about, why am I asking you?” It turns out that there are such things as “Sophie questions,” and all the talking kept all of them from getting very much done.

Later that week it was finally moving day. Ivan had collected all their lists and, after completing Helen’s for her and fixing Sophie’s, he color coded the rooms and the boxes each rabbit was responsible for. He had also hopped through all the tunnels to find the shortest path for each of the others to follow. He clapped his paws and said, “This is going to be a great day! Just follow the signs I put up for you.”

Helen kept having a hard time. She could only carry boxes that were very light, and even then, you could tell where she’d been because of the trail of things that had fallen out. Sophie kept telling Helen what to do. “You’re doing it wrong. Put your paws underneath the edge like this.” Helen tried to think of something to say back to Sophie but just collapsed into a a sad little puddle of hare.

The only thing Sophie herself was better at than Helen was complaining. For all the instructions she gave to the other rabbits, Sophie dropped a box that broke a few bottles of her own perfume. She also put more than a few boxes in the wrong rooms, and complained later that she couldn’t find what she was looking for.

While Sophie was criticizing Helen and Ivan was trying to help, Robert was helping himself by taking things he liked from others’ rooms. He’d grab little toys, or snacks and sweets he saw, and take them to a little hole he’d made in the bank of a nearby stream.

None of the other rabbits saw him. He avoided getting run over by cars as he went back and forth across a small street, but he didn’t avoid being seen by a local farmer. The farmer laid out a trail of baby carrots and caught Robert in a net and locked him in a hutch. Be sure your sneak will find you out.

Ivan wondered where Robert had gone, but he was worn out and glad that the burrow got moved; after a good night of sleep he was ready for more work. Sophie sat alone, but she blamed it on everyone else.

You may not be a rabbit, but you do have a summer, and it will be more blessed and more of a blessing if you learn from what happened in Stupidity Down.

Lord's Day Liturgy

At His Disposal

The body has many members. We are to present our individual members to God as instruments of righteousness (Romans 6:13), our whole bodies as a living sacrifice (Romans 12:1). This is every Christian’s call, and this is the entire assembly’s call.

Clearly in Romans 6:13 Paul refers to “members” as body parts, but if we connect that with the church as Christ’s body and church members as different body parts (1 Corinthians 12:12), we could relate that to our corporate (from the Latin corpus meaning “body,” so corporate is “body-formed“) worship, especially in communion.

When we eat the bread and drink the wine we are “proclaiming Christ’s death until He comes.” This is a corporate statement, all the parts combined into one voice.

For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. (1 Corinthians 11:26, ESV)

This belongs with the church’s statement to the spiritual forces about God’s wisdom.

so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. (Ephesians 3:10, ESV)

Together, the many parts, “as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved,” bear with one another, forgive each other, love each other, are ruled by the peace of Christ “to which indeed you were called in one body,” are thankful, are richly indwelt by the word of Christ in order to be thankful in communion (Colossians 3:12-17).

Because we are under grace we are one with our Head, one as His Body, and the whole church is at Christ’s disposal.

Lord's Day Liturgy

The Will of God and Buyer’s Remorse

As we get closer to our likely move into our own facility, these exhortations are hopefully setting us up to be ready.

I’ve exhorted us to consider how to make our move jealousable, I’ve exhorted us to make sure we stay focused on the living parts, and I’ve exhorted us to think about how we come to the same space for work and worship. This morning I want to exhort us regarding how to know the will of God.

Knowing the will of God will keep us from having buyer’s remorse.

I do not mean that God spoke to any of us to say that purchasing the Reclamation property is His will. We have prayed, we have counted the cost, we have pursued other options with obvious closed doors, we have opened up the discussion to hear from many voices, we have not been grabby but we have been dependent on the Lord. None of these are guarantees.

If and when the permits are approved and the sale is final and the seats are already full, will we be tempted toward buyer’s remorse? Not if we obey God’s will. Of all the things we know, we are to “give thanks in all circumstances.”

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (1 Thessalonians 5:16–18, ESV)

Is it the circumstances or how to respond to circumstances that is God’s will? Either of these two things have the same result.

What we know for sure is that God wants us to be thankful. It’s not just a reaction, it is the plan.