Lord's Day Liturgy

The Word of Protest

Jesus told His disciples, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away” (Matthew 25:34). He had just finished giving some signs of His coming, and said that the generation who sees the signs will see all of them. His words are true, firm, inerrant, infallible, indestructible, and eternal.

The Word is living and abiding, and this is the word that was preached in the first century, it is the word that was recovered in the 16th century, it is the word that continues to regenerate and reform.

Sola scriptura was the material cause of the Protest. We Protestants are made by this Word. Scripture is the thread and pattern of our worship and worldview. Obviously it’s possible for men to have it and twist it and turn it for their own advantage; such is the work of Medieval Popes and Cardinals and modern televangelists and so-called critical scholars. But when plough-boys and milk maids get their own copies, and when the Spirit opens the eyes of our hearts, Christians are born and churches are built.

When God gives men understanding of the Word they summarize it into creeds and confessions. Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion is a systematic theology that helps us in ways that complement his commentaries. Luther’s recovery of justification by faith alone was the instrumental cause of the 16th Century Reformation, and needed particular definition and defense. And while we thank God for those who sacrificed to translate and preserve and teach us God’s Word through their words, we honor their work best by reading and hearing and preaching and memorizing the Word most.

Let the pastors boldly dare all things by the word of God. Let them constrain all the power, glory, and excellence of the world to give place to the divine majesty of the word. (—John Calvin)

When we suffer, Scripture gives us hope. When we walk in darkness, Scripture is a light. When we groan, we learn from God’s Word our lines.

For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. (Romans 15:4 ESV)

Lord's Day Liturgy

Are We There Yet?

The difference between rookie parents and pro parents is not how old their kids are or how many kids they have. The difference is that a rookie parent keeps being surprised by what their kids don’t know, can’t do, or are having a bad attitude about. The “pro,” so to speak, is almost glad about it.

God made the world in such a way that expected development. After the fall, developing didn’t stop, but it became a lot more sweaty. God loves growth, apparently. He loves seeds and babies, He loves seasons and progressive sanctification. Even in our glorified, resurrected state, it seems that we won’t be done learning, we’ll just be done with the limitations and frustrations of sin.

Why does a teacher have a job? It isn’t to coordinate better trophies for what the students already know. Even the dumbest questions, including the repeated dumb questions because a student didn’t hear the first time it was asked, are an opportunity. Is it a different lesson than the one you had on your paper? Maybe. Is it a different lesson than expected? What did you expect? The curriculum is a tool, not the telos.

Everyone has to grow, every kid, every Christian. God made it that way. When parents get frustrated, let alone blindsided, that our kids are “there” yet, it’s because they’ve been ignoring what is as obvious as gravity. Even the best self-starters and independent kids can’t change their own diapers.

Is it surprising that you have to teach them how to pronounce words, how to deal with feelings for a boy, how to handle conflict or criticism? Who did you want them to learn it from? Who did you expect to parent them? Give your kids hope by bringing “them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4).

Lord's Day Liturgy

Girding Your Mental Loins

A few weeks ago in my Greek class we were working through 1 Peter 1:13. The ESV translates it:

“Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”

I have a translation objection (which applies to the NASB and NIV as well as the ESV, and the new LSB is only half-right) and then an exhortation for the women and another for the men.

“Preparing your minds for action” is, well, weak. It’s actually a bad rendition. The ESV at leasts provides the correction in the footnote. The phrase should be “girding up the loins of your mind.” Not only are those the words in Greek, that picture is much more concrete, even though it’s a metaphor.

To gird up the loins is a pre-pants expression, when the robe or skirt or tunic was long enough to keep your legs warm when you’re sitting around but too obstructive for quickly moving around. To gird up was to wrap up, tie up, and so free up the legs. Girding was not the fighting, but if you didn’t do it, you’d be fighting through layers of fabric as through water.

Peter says—and I can’t find that anyone else ever said it like this, which would be why one dictionary calls this an “extraordinary imagistic use” (BAGD)—that God’s children should be girding up the loins of their minds. They should take care to pull in the loose ends, get their thoughts in order. This action anticipates the command, which in verse 13 is the command: hope.

Ladies, you tend to think that your mind is either ready or it isn’t, and that if it isn’t you shouldn’t be expected to hope. But when the sink is full of water and dishes, don’t throw your hands up, roll up your sleeves. When your anxieties are deep and distracting, get to girding up the loins of your mind.

Men, we tend just not to hope, which is disobedience. We think we have our heads on straight, and criticize those we think are too emotional. But we may be whipping our mental belts around, smacking others in the face, not actually anticipating great grace when Jesus returns.

We are not victims, we’ve been ransomed from futile ways that we might be holy, and hopeful, in all our conduct.

Lord's Day Liturgy

Interconnecting Gears

On more than one occasion the apostle Paul wrote about the triad of faith, hope, and love. These three don’t just belong together, like complementary colors on a wall, they work together, like interconnecting gears in an engine.

As Paul gave thanks for the Colossians (whom he had not met in person), he remarked that he had heard of their faith “and of the love that you have for all the saints, because of the hope laid up for you in heaven.”

We know that love is the great commandment. Loving the saints is right, both the strong and the weak. Loving our neighbors and seeking their salvation is also right. God is love, God commands love, in Jesus we know love, the fruit of the Spirit includes love. So why don’t we love?

We don’t love, or perhaps better said we love the wrong things, for a variety of reasons. But if we reverse engineer this description in Colossians 1:4-5, at least one of the reasons we don’t love is because our hope is broken.

The problem may be because our hope is in things on earth. It could be because our hope is not informed. It could be because our hope is in the present not in the promises.

If we are uncertain about our future then we will be more cautious about today. If we don’t hope in God’s reward, reserved for us with faith but not currently visible, then why sacrifice our current position? Love has its own momentum, but has even more thrust when driven by hope.

Are you building up your hope?

A Shot of Encouragement

The Day of Refreshing

The following encouragement came in a letter from Robert Cushman to the William Bradford recorded in Of Plymouth Plantation: 1620-1647 (page 108):

I pray you not be discouraged, but gather up yourself, to go through these difficulties cheerfully and with courage in that place wherein God hath set you, until the day of refreshing come.