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.

Lord's Day Liturgy

Food that Fixes

Do we eat to live or live to eat? Food is necessary to sustain the body’s health and activity, and active bodies benefit from slowing down to eat, sometimes even to give thanks in an extended feast. So as is often the case, the answer is both. Sitting around the table for dinner as a family is a great blessing, and never getting up from the table to do anything is not.

This is true with spiritual food as well, with the bread and water of God’s Word. It is bread, it is light, it is strength, it is profit, and so we ought to crave it, read it, hear it, meditate on it. This can be done throughout the day, but it is also reasonable to have a set meal time, so to speak, to get a good helping.

As we start these summer months, many will have a different schedule, with at least different work and different schedule if not actually a break from school work. It’s wise to make a plan to eat well. Maybe it’s the #SamePageSummer plan. Maybe it’s just a few verses a day. But the “word of His grace…is able to build you up and give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified” (Acts 20:32). Delighting in and meditating on the law of the Lord makes a man fruitful and blessed.

Redeem the time, receive the implanted word (James 1:21), put away your sin and taste that the Lord is good (1 Peter 2:1-2). Reading the word fixes a lot of things.

And check out this new Substack newsletter by Patrick Moore on being a Christian Bible Reader. Perfect timing.

Lord's Day Liturgy

Checked-Out Loves

On Friday evening we had our school’s graduation ceremony. One of the things I observed about this year’s seniors is the aroma they elevated on campus by deciding to play hard in the final innings. They didn’t quit in the bottom of the seventh, so to speak, but by God’s grace they decided to love where they were, through which they became even more lovely as a class and left the school more lovely.

It’s common among men to excuse our checked-out loves. We tell ourselves stories about how much more loving (and effective and happy) we would be if – if our circumstances were better or the people around us were less annoying or if we could just get more sleep. But we are not told to love in greener pastures, we can fertilize the field we’re in by our loving deaths.

Love is part of the fruit His Spirit grows in us (Galatians 5:22). We love one another as we are loved (John 13:34). “We love because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19).

Perhaps we should be surprised not that God had His Son die so young, but that He had His Son stay so long, just being with His disciples and loving His own and loving them to the end (John 13:1). That sort of love in the flesh can change a class, a school, a home, a city, a generation.

Lord's Day Liturgy

Jerks and Jealousy

Fire can be life-sustaining, useful for a variety of applications, plus beautiful. It can also kill you. Jealousability has some fire-like similarities.

There is a kind of forest-firey jealousability that can jump the road into insufferable arrogance. While I’d argue that this is actually just arrogance and not true jealousability, a man using jealousable vocabulary might still try to argue that it’s virtuous even if a bunch of others get burned. Blessings must be a reason we boast in the Lord, not ourselves.

And since we’re not boasting in ourselves, we also ought to be able to rejoice when others are blessed by the Lord. This is part of diverse jealousability. You will be called to boast in the Lord in various ways, and those might be different than how others are called by the Lord. This connects us in a way that makes the body jealousable not just an individual member.

Let me sum up both of these dangers: 1) Don’t be a jerk. 2) Don’t be jealous.

Being jealous that someone else got something you think you deserved is not jealousable on the individual level and spoils things at the assembly level. Acting better than others and being bitter against others are provocative, but not for good. Constantly keeping score with others on your team shows that you aren’t playing for the team. “Love does not envy or boast” (1 Corinthians 13:4). Jealousy goes with quarreling (2 Corinthians 12:20), strife and rivalries (Galatians 5:20), and disorder (James 3:14).

I have temptations toward being jealous, less about possessions and recognition and more about productivity energy/time to accomplish things. But then I think about how many emails the ones I look at must get, and give thanks for what I have and for their fruitfulness. I think about how many more criticisms they face, and give thanks that mine are limited.

Keep jealousy out of your jealousability.

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.