Lord's Day Liturgy

Favorite Infections

There is no true jealousability without repentance from sin. Jealousability, as Paul talks about it in Romans 11, belongs with salvation blessings, and salvation begins with repenting.

Repentance is required for true jealousability for at least two reasons: systemic and apologetic.

You cannot try both to keep a favorite infection and pursue a healthy body. Your whole life is connected no matter how much you try to compartmentalize. And while one angle might look jealousable, it can’t be maintained. For that matter, our lives as a church body are connected no matter how much time you spend alone. If you love your sin, defend it, feed it, refuse to turn from it, you are affecting the rest of our health. But also if you confess it, repent from it, there is benefit for us all.

The apologetic reason is because part of the work of jealousability is magnifying God’s blessings, and it shouldn’t surprise you if someone says, “So you think you’re better than me.” You are pointing out what looks like privileges, and they are. But your privilege starts by knowing you aren’t precious. This is what glorifies God not you. You have nothing that you didn’t receive, and everything you did receive isn’t because you are worth it.

You aren’t perfect, but unlike that watching neighbor, you’ve repented, and God promises salvation for those who repent and believe in His Son (Acts 2:38).

Lord's Day Liturgy

Jealousable Moms

There is jealousability as an idea and ideal, there is jealousability on the ground. There are jealousable cultures, there are jealousable kitchen tables, with clean floors underneath them, even though the “olive plants” around it (Psalm 128:3) haven’t mastered their hand-mouth coordination.

Wiping faces (joyfully in Jesus’ name) is jealousable. Making cookies for class parties is jealousable (or buying them at Walmart because your 3rd grader told you about it at breakfast). Disciplining bad attitudes, with patience and consistency, is jealousable. A lot of kids would be a lot better off if they had that.

Everyone has a mom, and these are common tasks (though not commonly done). What makes them jealousable? What gives a woman a jealousable reputation, even after her kids are gone, even when she’s a widow (1 Timothy 5:10)?

A jealousable woman, and especially a mom, ironically makes others look good. That’s why her husband is known in the gates; she does him good. That’s why her children rise up and call her blessed; she fed and clothed and cleaned her little people. She brings them up (1 Timothy 5:10) in love (Titus 2:4).

Turns out, this is one of the reasons that truly jealousable moms often make other moms jealous of the kids, as if the mothering didn’t have anything to do with the kids’ good behavior.

It’s possible for a man to recognize a jealousable mom, in fact, sons should intentionally be taught how to do it. Proverbs 31 is quite a jealousable list, given by a mom to a son, who was a king, who would know the qualities of an excellent queen, not just for the nation, but for his home.

So we’re thankful for ladies who make being a mom look good, as they confess their sins and manage their households and set their hope on God (1 Timothy 5:5).

Lord's Day Liturgy

Jealousable Salt

The word jealousable may not get past the dictionary gatekeepers but it gets to the point. There are other serviceable words we could use, but we want the punchy ones, the ones that provoke a response. Jesus didn’t use the word, but He had a potent verbal picture that should flavor our thinking.

The second main heading in His sermon on the mount was about salt. “You are the salt of the earth” (Matthew 5:13). This verse is among my top five rants about bad Bible reading. Somehow preachers have been successful at ruining the entire point by saying that salt is a preservative. Sure, salt was used in the first century to cure/preserve meat. But Jesus doesn’t even finish His sentence before explaining what He means by salt. “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored?”

There’s no denying that when disciples of Christ obey in a pack they keep the level of group morality from downgrading. But again, what Jesus actually says is that disciples are a savor, an appetite maker, a tongue pleaser. What a disciple of Christ should not be is tasteless, forgettable.

So what kind of person is salty? What characterizes a person that provokes interest?

I can’t recall if I’ve ever made this connection before. It also comes from better Bible reading. Salt is the second main heading, right after the first main heading: the blesseds. There are nine blesseds, the so-called beatitudes. The blesseds include those who mourn their sin, who hunger for righteousness, they show mercy, they make peace, they are persecuted and have lies told about them and they rejoice because their reward is great in heaven. More blessed, less bland.

The way to be tasteless is to be like those who have nothing other than what’s on earth, to love your sin, to act entitled, to fight with others, to complain, like every boring person apart from Christ.

Lord's Day Liturgy

Jealousable Adorning

Most discussions on modesty are like a drive-thru covid test: obnoxiously uncomfortable, mostly useless, and leaving a bitter memory. But as with respiratory viruses, we do need to build up our immunity, not an immunity to immodesty, but against always being offended when hearing someone talking about modesty.

Warm weather is not the problem, though it does have its own set of temptations. I’m bringing up the subject not just because we’re on the cusp of summer, but also because it’s a great, practical test case for jealousability.

The Bible has a good amount to say about what we wear, and actually, a whole bunch of New Testament specifics are about what women should and should not wear (for example, 1 Timothy 2:9-10 – includes the word κοσμέω – adorn; 1 Peter 3:3-4 – includes the related noun κόσμος – adornment). It’s also of note that God gave the instructions about it through men, even if older women taught younger women in practice.

Which brings me to the first problem: the men. It’s not men in their lust for pleasure, it’s men in their lust for (superficial) peace. Because we’re thinking about this at a high level, the ones who are responsible for modesty first are husbands and fathers, as instructed by pastors. Shoulder to shoulder with the patriarchy is the pastorarchy.

When you’re out shopping you can rank outfits on the scale of father hunger. “Modest is hottest” is a contemporary Kraft cheese jingle like only Christians can create, except that a person who is loved is more attractive. Our clothes should show that we’re receiving attention already, not that we’re desperate for attention. A whole community of loved people are a beautiful people, and what is desirable is not just the beauty, but the stability and intention that went into it. That is jealousable.

There are a myriad of adorning decisions, each and every day. If you wonder where you can make a difference, let there be a difference in what you wear. Let others lust over the love you obviously received that adorns your heart and covers your parts.

Lord's Day Liturgy

Impatient over Misery

Paul told the Romans that “whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction” (Romans 15:4). “Former days” in this case refer to Old Testament stories. We don’t have to think that the church has replaced Israel to learn from Israel.

In Judges 10 the “people of Israel again did what was evil in the sight of the LORD.” They served the gods of their neighbors and not the Lord. The Lord’s anger was kindled against them and “He sold them into the hand” of their enemies, who “crushed and oppressed” the people for eighteen years so that Israel was “severely distressed” (Judges 10:6-9).

At the end of the paragraph, not only was the Lord’s anger no longer hot, the ESV translates that the Lord “became impatient over the misery of Israel” (10:16). “He could bear the misery of Israel no longer” (NASB), “His soul was short with the misery” (NASB note). He “grew tired of seeing Israel suffer so much” (NET).

The Lord went from being provoked by their behavior to being provoked by behavior toward them. Don’t you want that? Don’t we long for Him to be more tired of how we’re being treated than we are?

What changed? It’s not hard to find. By the Lord’s mercy the people started seeing their sin as the problem. They turned to the Lord. “We have sinned; do to us whatever seems good to you.” They put way their gods and served the Lord; there was fruit of repentance. God does not despise a broken and contrite heart, He sends deliverance.

Lord's Day Liturgy

Pastoral Attention

We’re at the time of year again when our elders/pastors (and our deacons) review their qualifications as overseers. We must answer if we think we are still meeting the character requirements (1 Timothy 3:1-7, Titus 1:6-9), if we still hold to or have developed new hesitations regarding “What We Believe,” if we are making progress in our spiritual lives that others can see, and if we can see fruit of God’s grace through our ministry work.

That’s just the first part of our annual affirmation process; it’s not biblical in that there is no explicit verse that provides a standard operating procedure for pastoral affirmation, but it is part of our attempt to apply the exhortation Paul gave to Timothy:

Keep a close watch (take heed – KJV, pay close attention – NASB) on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers. (1 Timothy 4:16 ESV)

It is hard to be honest, not because you want to put on a show, but because “close attention” always shows shortcomings, weaknesses, sins remaining to be killed, Christlike attributes needing to be pursued. It is a cause for humble rejoicing when someone says, “You’ve really grown in that area!” It is a cause for humble learning when someone says, “You really need to grow in that area.”

I bring this up for three reasons. First, Dave and Jim and Jonathan and Ryan and I are not satisfied, we do not think we’ve arrived, we press on (see Philippians 3:12-14). Second, please pray for Dave and Jim and Jonathan and Ryan and I as we seek to shepherd you for your progress and joy in the faith (Philippians 1:25). And third, shepherds are to be examples to the flock (1 Peter 5:3), and though your “teaching” may look different, you can still pay attention to yourselves. All believes ought to be able to answer similar questions as they pursue greater Christlikeness by faith.

Lord's Day Liturgy

Buried Grudges

Easter is the day (though it’s true every seven days, and for that matter all 365 days) that we remember that God accepted the sacrifice of His Son for all our sin. Jesus died for our anger, lust, adultery, unfaithfulness, and retaliation (think the categories Jesus referenced in the Sermon on the Mount). He died for our grumbling and our envy. He died for our pride, our worries, our self-preciousness. He died for our willful failure to remember and rejoice in what is true.

We have hewn out broken cisterns of bitterness thinking that drinking the bitter cup might at least numb the pain, but of course it makes us more sick. Jesus drank the bitter cup so that we do not need to be sour. We have tried to hide in the darkness of lies and deceit thinking that we could escape trouble, but of course it increases the burden of guilt. Jesus exposed the real nature of lies and bore the wrath of deceivers. We have withheld forgiveness thinking that it would make us feel like we had the upper hand, only to find ourselves locked up in grudges. Jesus died that our grudges might be buried, that we might be forgiven and free from resistance to forgive others.

In Him we have been raised to walk in newness of life. We do not love the darkness, but we come to the light that it might be seen that any patience, humility, faithfulness, joy, love, courage, self-denial, and goodness in us are fruits of Christ’s work, fruits of union with Christ, fruit of Christ’s Spirit in us. Let us walk in the light as He is in the light for sake of fellowship with one another, and remember that the blood Jesus God’s Son cleanses us from all sin (1 John 1:7).

Lord's Day Liturgy

Not Far Away

For the entirety of my life going to church, attending missionary conferences, listening to prayers and preaching, I’ve heard that our Christian brothers and sisters around the world endure persecution like we do not experience. We pray to the Lord of all for Christians in difficult places, for Him to establish their faithfulness, increase their witness, bless their endurance. We compare our challenges as believers—being mocked or left out—and we know that we do not have it as bad.

Of course that has been largely true. And also, there are Christian martyrs in the United States of America in the year of our Lord, 2023. These were Christians in our country, they spoke our language, they were not far away.

Three nine-year-old students and three adult staff at a Christian school in Nashville were shot and killed last Monday by a young woman given over to lies and murderous hatred of her spiritual father the devil. Her sin drove her darkened mind to target for death those that stood for the light of truth as God’s image-bearers, male and female.

No murder is better than another. Every school shooting is painful and horrific. But this school was singled-out because of its Christian beliefs.

Others who have given themselves up to sensuality (borrowing Paul’s language in Ephesians 4:19), who are greedy to practice very kind of impurity, are treating the murderer as the victim. Many who have the microphone, who have their own columns in national news outlets, are blaming Christians for causing their own woes. If Christians didn’t believe what Christians believe, if Christians weren’t such haters of the trans community, then Christians wouldn’t have gotten what came to them.

To whatever degree we thought we were on the sidelines, far away from the people who are really being persecuted, it’s harder to argue that these days. More than that, do we really want the Lord’s blessing? Jesus said, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:10).

In the second verse of “The Son of God Goes Forth to War” we sing about Stephen (from Acts 6:8-7:60). We sing this:

The martyr first, whose eagle eye
Could pierce beyond the grave,
Who saw his Master in the sky
And called on Him to save.
Like him, with pardon on his tongue,
In midst of mortal pain,
He prayed for them that did the wrong—
Who follows in his train?

It is a song of battle, of spiritual warfare, to follow in the train of those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake.

Christians, thank the Lord for those brave police officers who ran toward danger to kill the murderer before she could take even more lives. Weep with those who weep, and rejoice that those families will have great reward in heaven. And as we prepare for whatever the Lord sends us, let us mourn over our own sin, hunger and thirst for righteousness, and long to be pure in heart. “O God, to us may grace be given, to follow in their train.”

Lord's Day Liturgy

A Cosmic Portfolio

One of the Lord’s favorite things is to be called on. We’re not like that. We don’t want to be interrupted. Only the least pleasant kind of mom needs to be needed forever. When someone’s knocking on the door at midnight, we tell them that we’re already in bed, take care of their own issues.

We are going to talk more about “Jesus is Lord” in the message from Romans 10 this morning. As Lord, Jesus is identified as the Lord in the Old Testament, as Yahweh. He is the Lord who owns the cattle on a thousand hills (Psalm 50:10). He’s got no end of riches and resources (Psalm 50:12).

But in Psalm 50 this review of the Lord’s cosmic portfolio is a rebuke, with two horns. He doesn’t want their ceremonies, which they were presenting ad nauseam (“your offerings are continually before me” verse 8), instead He wanted their calls, which they were not presenting in prayer.

Addressed to “The Mighty One, God the LORD” (verse 1), who claims ownership of every beast, who knows all the birds, everything that moves (verses 10-11), He lacks nothing.

If I were hungry, I would not tell you, for the world and all its fullness are mine. (verse 12)

So what does the Lord want?

call on me in the day of trouble, and I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me. (Psalm 50:15)

Not depending on Him is not worship; self-effort is for self-glory, not His glory. If you need more trouble to remind you to call on Him, He has many trials in His arsenal. The real problem with desperate times is not depending on Him for deliverance.

Lord's Day Liturgy

A Cardboard Mirror of Self-Flattery

One reason that people are weird is because they don’t have any good friends. We usually think it’s the other way around; it’s hard to be friends with weird people. And sure, but one way you become less weird is by trying to get along with people.

This isn’t just a lesson for junior high students, this is a reality for humans and a benefit for fellow worshippers in the church.

I remember in my heady days of Bible college, probably still in the cage-stage of Calvinism, days filled with new interest in reading about the glories of doctrine from dead-but-helpful theologians, and full of “important thoughts” to get past small talk with church people. One evening I was at the house of the pastor of the church I was attending, Old Forrest Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg, VA, and after the Bible study I was waxing eloquent in my foolishness about not really being sure I was going to get married. I was going to be a pastor. I had “important work” to do.

The pastor said to me, “You need to get married to know how big of a sinner you are.”

There’s no verse that says that. You need God’s Word and God’s Spirit, not a nagging wife. But that’s not what he meant. He meant that when you’re trying to be in fellowship, you find out how much your own sin makes you hard to get along with.

When people say they don’t want to go to church because there are too many hypocrites there, what they mean is that they don’t want to have to deal with their own lack of love, patience, wisdom, and joy toward others. They don’t want to be in fellowship, they want no threat to their cardboard mirror of self-flattery. It’s easy to think higher of yourself if no one else is around to provide a different picture.

If you don’t want to be lonely, confess your sins; if we walk in the light we have fellowship with one another and the blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sin (1 John 1:7).