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.

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.

Lord's Day Liturgy

Anywhere We Meet

One great blessing of the gospel of Jesus Christ is that acceptable worship isn’t limited to one location. We are not required to worship in Jerusalem or on one mount instead of another. As Jesus told the Samaritan woman, “the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth” (John 4:23), and this can be anywhere.

If I’m counting correctly, our church has assembled for corporate worship in five different locations (our house, the Reclamation property in Lakewood, the previous Weinberg basketball court, the Pakinas yard, and here at the MSDA). We are of a size that allows for more mobility, and our focus hasn’t really ever been on the space.

If the Lord wills, we will soon have our “own” place, and it will be as permanent as anything ever is on earth. It will also be, for many in the body, a place where they might spend 4o or more hours during the week. Of course this doesn’t apply to everyone, but as usual, the blessing of a dependable place will bring its own temptations. For the teachers and students especially, will their place of business/work distract them from their time of worship?

Perhaps you will have to do some preparation, some recalibration on Sunday mornings. But there are always distractions, difficulties, and most of them come from within, not from without. The call to worship signals that it’s time, but that there will be a call to worship shouldn’t be surprising. You can get ready to present your body to Him as a living sacrifice, and that should be anywhere we meet.

Lord's Day Liturgy

Trellis and Transplants

Charles Spurgeon once said that illustrations are like windows, they let light into the understanding. I’d add that like windows, illustrations are also easy to throw bricks through.

One of our favorite illustrations for church priorities is trellis and vine. It comes from a book by that name, and we employ the analogy. The church is the Christians is the vine, the living part, and the trellis is the programs and activities for the church, the visible parts that are passing away (see 2 Corinthians 4:18). Trellis is helpful as it serves the growth and health and fruitfulness of the vine. Trellis is a distraction when it becomes the focus, and in the worst case could cause damage to the vine.

Buying and owning (and fixing and maintaining) our own building is not really trellis, it’s like the plot of garden, or maybe the wall the trellis leans on. But especially during the days of preparation and the early days of transplanting, it’s easy to imagine how the vine itself could be neglected.

There’s no reason to throw out all the things we’ve learned. We’re not planning a return to dualism or pietism. If Jesus is Lord of it, then He cares about it, and if He cares about, then we can care about it. Jesus is Lord of loans and lighting, of parking lots and pews and paint colors, of sidewalks and sprinkler systems that cover every square inch. Jesus is also Head of the Body, and His provisions are for the building up of the body, and He has arranged the body so that it builds itself up in love (Ephesians 4:16).

As the Sabbath was made for man, and home improvement projects are made for our people, so let us not lose sight of what the trellis is for: one another.

Lord's Day Liturgy

A Jealousable Move

Paul used the language of purposefully provoking others to jealousy in Romans (10:19; 11:11; 11:13-14). I’ve talked about it as an adjective: we want the saved to be jealousable. You don’t need to use the language, the point is about having the life. A jealousable Christian recognizes God’s blessings and rejoices in those blessings in such a way that others would want them. At the college we schedule “jealousable events.” It reminds us that by God’s grace, from salvation on out, we have it good. Thankfulness is right and it is strategic. Joy is a gift of God that has gravity.

In practice it’s not always a smooth experience. As Christians we are not glorified yet so we don’t always rejoice with rejoicers. Comparison can compel us to go to God for blessing and it can also create conflict, provoking a sort of jealousy that annoys and irritates rather than attracts.

What blessings to another might we get bent out of shape about? It could be any blessing. Maybe they worked their field and saw a sixtyfold return and you only saw thirtyfold (think Matthew ). Maybe they’ve taken more responsibility and more authority has flowed to them because of it. Maybe they’ve been given a greater measure of faith and giftedness (Romans 12:3-8). Maybe they are being used like a clay pot and all sorts of life is growing up around the grace spilled from their pot (2 Corinthians 4:7-15). “Death is at work in us, but life in you” (verse 12). Maybe you want to see similar glorious life growing around you but aren’t willing to put in the deaths.

It appears that God is blessing our assembly with property and building. More than that, He is blessing us with an opportunity of increased responsibilities—there is more to do, not less—and a way to love a place into greater loveliness. It is a way to increase the footprint of the assembly’s jealousability.

This exhortation is going to be on the nose: don’t be wrongfully jealous. We will not be jealousable if we are jealous of one another. If we envy or boast, if we insist on our own way, if we are irritable or resentful, if we are suspicious and discontent and competitive over drawer space, this is not love (see 1 Corinthians 13:4-7). One way or another we will be a witness to Marysville. We’ll either do it in a way that makes others want in, or that provides confirmation to them about how petty church people can be.

Husbands, pay attention to the complaints of your wives. Many of our ladies are around more because they aren’t committed to another place for employment. Maybe the men are less involved, less concerned about the ways the space is used or the colors on the walls; you have your own responsibilities and property. Don’t let your household tear down the house (Proverbs 14:1), spiritual (1 Peter 2:5) or physical.

We are clearly being jostled, hearts and the assembly. But this is an opportunity to be more jealousable, and it has to start with thanks in our hearts for the eternal and tangible blessings.

Lord's Day Liturgy

Building Concerns

We recently had our annual church leaders’ retreat, and in addition to giving thanks for signs of God’s grace among us, we usually spend at least a session discussing any existing or expected challenges. One crossover item, a reason for thanks and for planning, relates to the increase in the number of persons that have been joining us for our corporate worship.

Where to seat everyone is not the biggest question (though those watching in the basement would probably rather not be). How to transmit the heartbeat of this church body, and the lifeblood of our liturgy, these are more important “building” concerns (1 Corinthians 14:12; Ephesians 4:12; 1 Thessalonians 5:11).

Our church is almost 10 years old. All of the men who decided to start it are still attending, and I think more excited about how God has grown us. Because we started it, we gave it a name: Trinity Evangel Church. We named it on purpose.

Every Christian must agree to the doctrine of the Trinity. We are baptized into “the name,” singular, “of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19), one God in three Persons. Each Person of the Trinity is fully, simultaneously, and eternally God, united in one purpose. God has never been alone. That is key. There has never been a moment of existence with only one person. This is why we can say that God has power and wisdom but that He is love.

When God made Adam, He assigned Adam to name all the animals before pointing out to Adam that it was not good for him to be alone (Genesis 2:18). Male and female are made in the image of God (Genesis 1:27), which means that human beings are made for relationship.

This holds true between God and men as well. This is the problem with sin. Sin separates our fellowship. God sent His Son to die on the cross not primarily so that we could be correct, but so that we could share communion with the Trinity. Our worship on Sundays requires the truth, but the end of our worship is not knowledge, it is love and identity and reconciliation, being made one in Him (John 17:3, 20-21).

The End of Many Books

The Trellis and the Vine

by Colin Marshall and Tony Payne

Very good. I hope it becomes a standard reading and EVALUATING tool for all disciple-making centers/churches and disciple-making trainers/pastors.

I’m rereading this, especially since TEC is wanting this imagery to stay central.

4 of 5 stars