Lord's Day Liturgy

No Measure to His Endowments

When Paul wrote about the many members making up one body in his first letter to the Corinthians, he started that instruction immediately after his admonitions about the Lord’s Supper. Communion implies sharing something in common, which implies that there is more than one to do the sharing.

We learn along with the Corinthians and with the Romans that not any individual has all the spiritual gifts/functions in himself. One part does not make a body (1 Corinthians 12:19), we are a body all together, and God has given us a measure, a portion, so that we can do our part.

This is not like Christ.

Commentators have properly called attention to the difference in respect of measure between Christ and the members of His body. He is “full of grace and truth” (John 1:14), it pleased the Father that “all the fulness should dwell in Him” (Col. 1:19), “in Him are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge”. There is no measure to His endowments. (John Murray, on Romans 12:3-5)

We cannot think more highly of Christ than we ought to think. He is the Head, and from Him all our nourishment comes (Ephesians 5:29-30). He is the fullness of God who fills all in all (Ephesians 1:23). And He is the one we share.

The cup of blessing is a participation in the blood of Christ, we who are many are one body who partake of the one bread, the bread of life Himself (1 Corinthians 10:16-17).

Lord's Day Liturgy

Just Hit Like

It seems to be one of the hardest things in the world to see accurately the person you spend the most time with, and I’m referring to yourself. It is the Ego, the I, the Me, that not only is evasive and preferring hiding spots, but other times is a very pushy liar. The number of half-truths and shady observations I have told me over the years is quite a piece of work.

There are a number of ways that such illusions can go, but one the Bible often talks about relates to having opinions, especially high opinions about our own importance. For as many wise guys as there are in the world, there are even more wise-in-their-own-eyes guys. Just hit like and subscribe to their channel.

One of my favorite progressions of Proverbs is in chapter 26, which begins with 10 of the first 11 verses describing the damage done by the fool—he deserves a beating, he can’t be trusted with a message, his “wise” words jab others like thorns, he repeats his folly like a dog to vomit—and then verse 12: “Do you see a man who is wise in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him.”

Paul exhorted the Romans not to think more highly of themselves than they ought to think (Romans 12:3). How can you not be “that guy”? Look into the mirror of God’s Word, remember that you have nothing that you weren’t given by grace, and refuse to believe that you don’t need anyone else; you need the rest of the Body (Romans 12:4-5).

The End of Many Books

A Swiftly Tilting Planet

by Madeleine L’Engle

I was told by @hobbsandbean that I would like this book. It is why I read the first two books in the series: A Wrinkle in Time and A Wind in the Door. I did not really enjoy either of those (it’s also true I listened to those as audiobooks, which rarely make the story better for me). I did like this one. The “Might-Have Been”s didn’t get me freaked out about Open Theism, though I suppose it could if I really wanted something to be OUTRAGED about.

I liked it even though the Higgins family wasn’t helpful. I liked it even though Pastor Mortmain was one of the worst characters. I liked it even though it was sometimes hard to distinguish all the similar sounding names who were living in a different When. I liked it when the unicorn said that being sent to our planet is “considered a hardship assignment.” Ha!

4 of 5 stars

The End of Many Books

Strangely Bright

by Joe Rigney

Great stuff. In my ongoing efforts not only to love Christ but to love (all) the things Christ loves, this brief book is only profitable.

The categories Rigney provides are crucial for living on earth as God-fearing image-bearers that are not either idolators or ingrates. He points out totalizing passages in God’s Word that provide a comparative approach; God must be more valuable to us than any and all other things. Rigney also points out things-of-earth passages that show an integrated approach; God is valuable to us in/through His gifts, such as bodies and time and relationships and responsibilities and pleasures.

If you haven’t read The Things of Earth, do that, too. Read both. They cover some similar ground, but Strangely Bright also has a complete chapter on the goodness of baseball. Can’t beat that.

My only reason for not giving full stars is that Rigney can appear to give a little bit too much credit to natural revelation, for example, in stating that mountains reveal God’s righteousness. From my reading in Psalm 19 and Romans 1, the attributes of God revealed in creation do not include God’s mercy, holiness, and goodness which Rigney does state as being learned outside of Scripture. That said, there are a few explicit sentences where Rigney gives priority to Special Revelation and how “Scripture is the grammar textbook for [the] language” of nature. So, okay, I can work with that.

4 of 5 stars

Lord's Day Liturgy

Pleasing at Present

Of course the only way we can present our bodies as a living sacrifice is because Christ took on a body, in which He lived without sin and with the humility of a servant, and in which He gave Himself as a substitute for sinners. So our offering to God does not save us, it is only because we are saved. We do not atone for our sins, we do not redeem anyone else, but because we are united to Christ in His death and resurrection we present our members for righteousness as part of our worship.

This pleases God.

Jesus is the Son in whom the Father is pleased, and we come as those united to Christ, those who are “in Christ.” We remember and rejoice that God has highly exalted Christ Jesus and bestowed on Him the name that is above every other name, and with our tongues we confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. With this God is pleased.

Though the ESV translates Romans 12:1 as “acceptable to God,” the word acceptable could be translated as pleasing to God. Living and holy sacrifices please God. So Paul prayed for the Colossians that they would be filled with the knowledge of God’s will so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, “fully pleasing to Him.”

This is not just some future status, it is the present process of believing and bearing fruit, of giving thanks to the Father for redemption in His Son and for transferring us into the kingdom of His beloved Son. Come, eat and drink in fellowship with God who is pleased to welcome you.

Lord's Day Liturgy

Delete the App*

When I was a young man my elders used to talk about “Garbage in, Garbage out.” We didn’t know about FoMo yet, mostly because there wasn’t that much happening to miss out on. But though the Internet and smart phones weren’t around yet, GiGo was still a thing. While Jesus taught that it’s what comes out of a man’s heart that defiles him, it’s still possible to give your heart more foul material to work with.

What a blessing it is to have so much virtuous content available to us, for learning, for encouragement, for equipping, with help for this present life and also for the life to come (1 Timothy 4:8). While it takes a little keyword knowledge to search for the right “how to” video, it has become more difficult to turn off the stream. The next episode starts playing automatically, the sidebar scrolls endlessly with related videos. With the stream comes debris, and sometimes the filth.

Paul prayed that the Colossians would be filled with the knowledge of God’s will. He prayed that the Philippians would have affections that abounded still more and more in all knowledge and discernment so that they could approve what is excellent. He urged the Romans to be transformed by the renewing of their minds.

Watch your content diet, stop filling your soul with garbage. It is not good for you. Pluck out your eye (Matthew 5:29), set a screen time limit, delete the app. You may be a target of shrewd advertisers, but you are not a helpless victim.

And pray to desire the Scripture more than much fine gold. You are not of the world, you are Christ’s, and He prays that you would be sanctified in truth.

*as necessary

Lord's Day Liturgy

Quite an Earful

When Paul said that as often as you eat and drink the Lord’s Supper we “proclaim” the Lord’s death until He comes (1 Corinthians 11:26), who hears that proclamation?

We do. That is, believers in Christ continue to feed on the body and blood of Christ, and we don’t get past the edifying work of the gospel that Christ died for our sins according to Scripture. It is finished, and every member of Christ’s body around the Table hears it again.

But Paul probably didn’t limit the hearers of the Supper to Christians. Near the end of chapter 14 he acknowledged times when “an unbeliever or outsider enters” corporate worship, and should be able to “declare that God is really among you” (1 Corinthians 14:24-25). That’s connected with clear words of prophesy instead of uninterpreted tongues, and the clear love of each member of the body for the Head and for each other would also be “heard” through the proclamation in communion.

But even that doesn’t seem to be the extent of it. When the church gathers, and I’d think especially when she shares the bread and wine, she “proclaims” the love of Christ in His death and the “manifold wisdom of God…to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 3:10). There are “unsearchable riches of Christ” proclaimed in the gospel, and preaching brings to light God’s plan, “God who created all things, so that through the church” the cosmic powers might sit up and “hear” – so to speak – that in God’s wisdom they are doomed to pass away (1 Corinthians 2:6).

Jesus Christ and Him crucified is the end of fear for all who believe, the end of death for Christ’s people, and signals the end of rebellion at the proper time. We proclaim the power of His death when we eat the bread and drink the cup together.

Lord's Day Liturgy

Rich in Mercy

We love God’s sovereignty for it’s certainty; He is powerful to do the pleasure of His will. We love God’s wisdom for it’s breadth and length and depth; He works and weaves all the threads in perfect purpose. And in God’s omnipotence and omniscience He loves to display His mercy.

The great doxology–perhaps the greatest in all Scripture–at the end of Romans 11 ties a bow on the revelation of God’s work among Israel and the nations, and especially how God shows mercy to the disobedient. Many Jews disobeyed in order that the gospel mercies might go to the Gentiles, and the mercy shown to the Gentiles works toward future mercy to Jews. “For God has consigned all to disobedience, that He may have mercy on all” (Romans 11:32).

Remember back to Romans 9, and Paul’s explanation about God’s glory in election. “For (the LORD) says to Moses, ‘I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.’ So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy” (Romans 9:15-16). God is rich in mercy (see Ephesians 2:4).

So two exhortations to confession:

1) Any failure to praise God’s mercy is disobedience. Confess your failure to praise the fulness of His kindness.

2) Any disobedience is a reason to confess your disobedience and pray to God for His mercy. Confess your sin as part of your worship; seeking His mercy honors Him.

And then by the mercies of God present your bodies as a living sacrifice (Romans 12:1). To Him be glory for His mercy forever.

Enjoying the Process


It seems like Twenty was just five years ago. (And our actual anniversary is the 19th, but we were traveling.)

Since then the Lord has given both of us many more pains and many many more blessings, including a son-in-law and two grandsons. We’ve been given grace to get through the global insanity of lockdowns and too many physical hurts/breakdowns to list. We’ve also been given grace to keep learning, and grace that has kept increasing our love for each other. I have no greater earthly gift from the Lord than Mo.

“Many women have done excellently,
but you surpass them all.”

Bring Them Up

What the Music Says

I wrote and read the following story for our school’s end of year assembly. It was inspired by one buttock playing.

Once upon a time—well, it was actually a week ago Wednesday—I was walking past the piano in our living room. In all her life this instrumental furniture has not once attempted to put the piano in pianissimo; she always sits upright and takes delight in high decibel play.

That afternoon no girls sat at her keys, but still, when I walked by, I heard noises. It sounded sort of like talking. From where I stood it sounded like secrets sound.

This was not the first time I’ve heard conversations in odd places around my house. Years ago I heard pinto beans in a bucket in our pantry, but if there are any other such little kingdoms, they have been living below my notice. Until that one Wednesday.

The words were coming out of the piano bench. I slowly bent down and took a knee beside the bench so that my left ear was at the level of the crack where the lid sat over the walls of the storage compartment. I’ve looked in that space a hundred times, usually when we were expecting visitors and I was putting away pages with titles like “Hot Cross Buns” and “Skidamarink” and “Let It Go.” But I’d never heard any talking.

I cautiously lifted the lid just enough to peek inside. On top, one of the books was open, and every good treble clef note was not fine. The notes were flustered! In my piano bench!

The notes had more than tone, they had voices. Each note had a life, an incomplete todo list, its own mission.

The note in the middle of it all was B. His full name, I regret to tell you, was Bruno. In this story, we do talk about Bruno, we can’t not talk about Bruno, and in this story Bruno was talking. Bruno had apparently gone out shoppin’ and gotten separated from his brother, Eric. The song they were in required Bruno and Eric to be together with their friend Gus, and though the chord they made was minor, their parting was no minor problem.

Imagine the scene: London, foggy and dim, drops of rain water falling off canopies in a haunting rhythm, so somber that even Mary Poppins would be sad. That’s exactly what it was like, except it was happening on a sheet of music in my piano bench.

Bruno called out. He looked down where he expected to see Eric, but Eric was gone, and Bruno’s heart started to beat so fast it would make a metronome sweat.

Then it got bad. The trouble alternated with a gang known as the 4/4 Cs: Carlos, Colton, Cody, and Cade. Bruno knew them well. At school they surrounded him in every class since the notes sat in alphabetical order and they only had first names because, after all, they were just musical notes.

Playing by themselves the Four Cs were harmless, but when they were around other notes they tried to discourage them, especially Bs like Bruno. They noticed that Bruno and Eric weren’t together and decided that they would have a little fun by making it no fun for Bruno, and try to knock him flat.

Carlos came up to him first. “Hey, Bruno, what are you doing?”

“I’m looking for my brother. Have you seen him?”

Carlos replied, “No, and you’re dumb to think you’re going to find him now that it’s so dark.”

“Well,” Bruno said, “Eric is a note, so I don’t necessarily need more light to see him, as long as I can hear him.”

“You know you stink at playing by ear,” Carlos said, “you should just quit.”

About that time Colton approached and asked if there was a problem. Carlos said, “Bruno here says the dark is making him sad.”

“It’s not the dark,” Bruno blurted, “it’s that I’m trying to get to Eric, and we got separated a few measures back.”

Colton mocked, “You’re always so pitchy and blue. Besides, it’s been too long, Eric has to be on a completely different line by now. Don’t worry about it. No one wants to be in a chord with you anyway.”

Carlos and Colton laughed like Dodos, but Bruno shook his head and took off running. The other two Cs, Cody and Cade, were waiting for him on the corner Picardy and 3rd. Bruno thought he could relax, but it was just for a moment, as Cody grabbed Bruno and Cade started striking at Bruno with staccato punches. Bruno tried to break free but Cody was too strong.

Then Bruno saw his friend from the A family, Augmon, in the distance. He cried out, “Augmon, help me! Get me away from the Cs!” Augmon rushed over and got between Bruno and Cody and Cade, providing at least a brief rest from the depressing Cs. But the second verse was about to begin, worse than the first.

Bruno and Augmon moved forward a couple bars. They hoped to find their friend Gus. “Do you think Gus will know where Eric is?” Bruno asked.

Augmon replied, “I don’t know, but he’s a key note that we need to find anyway.”

Then the sound exploded, escalated, increased, crescendoed. Note after note was running up and down, halves and eighth and sixteenths, no time for whole notes at this point. As they went faster the volume kept getting louder, and Bruno in particular felt not just that he was getting further and further away from Eric, he thought for a second that he was going to get pushed off the page and out of the song altogether.

It’s not that Bruno needed to be in every song. He had been written into many melodies. His cousin Bs up and down the octaves sounded different but familial, and he was always happy when they got to play. But this particular prelude was his story. His tone began to be worn out.

Bruno held on as best as he could to his line, trying to avoid being shaken off the sheet altogether.

Augmon led Bruno down a step as they turned off Picardy to and they found Gus just in time.

Augmon handed Bruno off to Gus, and they sustained their energy for one final stretch toward the end where they all hoped Bruno would be united with Eric. “Reach out!” cried Gus, “If you don’t do it now we’ll never finish.”

Bruno saw his moment. All along Gus had been working his signature move and had been tilting the whole sheet of music to bring Eric within sight. Everyone could feel that the end was near. Bruno and Gus stretched, but they didn’t quite make it. They stretched again, and though they were very close, something was still off. So they extended one more time and landed right where they belonged, right at home on the bottom line, B-G-E together at last. The song was resolved.

I carefully closed the lid to the piano bench, feeling glad for Bruno, and thinking about how much better it is when notes play their part, especially when they do it in harmony with one another. It also made me think, maybe we should listen better to what the music is saying, even from piano benches.