Breaking Down Proud Towers of Boasting

Joel 3:18-21
    And it will come to pass in that day
    That the mountains shall drip with new wine,
    The hills shall flow with milk,
    And all the brooks of Judah shall be flooded with water;
    A fountain shall flow from the house of the LORD
    And water the Valley of Acacias.

    19      “Egypt shall be a desolation,
    And Edom a desolate wilderness,
    Because of violence against the people of Judah,
    For they have shed innocent blood in their land.
    20      But Judah shall abide forever,
    And Jerusalem from generation to generation.
    21      For I will acquit them of the guilt of bloodshed, whom I had not acquitted;
    For the LORD dwells in Zion.

If the point of the message was to avoid boasting in people, glorying in ways to Christ instead of in Christ the Way, the same is true here at the table.

It’s easy for us to boast in “the way we do it here.”  Unlike the rest of the church, our children are with us, we partake every week, etc.  There is more than a little boasting in our hearts.  Let the simple action of receiving and eating, holding a cup and drinking it, break that boasting down.

This banquet, this love, this provision, this is what will endure through the fire at the end.  Egypt and Edom will be desolate wilderness (vs. 19).  Not the nations as we know them today.  Egypt and Edom stand for those opposed to God.  Those who destroy God’s work will be destroyed, but Judah will stay forever, forgiven and full of festal food.

Receive and rest on Christ alone today.


Wits or the Wise

We have a hard time trusting God.  We find other defenses and glories to trust and boast in.  The Psalmist here points out the difference in the quality of men.  Some are of higher degree and others lower.  We know we are all equal in the eyes of God, but quality differs.  

This tempts us to put our trust in one or the other.  We tend to trust the elites, whether that is the Supreme Court or Rand Paul, or Mike Farris.  Or, we tend to trust the common man and away with all elites and their pretension.

God shoos us away from both.  When we acquire a little wealth, vs 10 says, we tend to think that’s the answer to most problems.  But Only God has power to save us, vs 11.  That doesn’t mean we slack off.  Vs 12 - He rewards us according to our work.  But he saves us by His mercy.

Let us confess our sins of trusting our wits, or trusting the wise.
Let us confess our impatience with God’s sovereign plan among the nations when we have our own hearts and homes to tend.



Point and Proper Purpose

The message of the Lord's table is the same as what Paul preached and the same we find in the written Word of God we now have.  It is Christ crucified, His death proclaimed, as the atonement for our sins.

The manner of the table is worthy partaking, and that means discerning the body.  In the context of 1 Cor 11 that meant sensitivity to the whole church, taking every one into account and not leaving some out.  It's deeply ironic that most of the church uses this very text to keep the littlest among us from this gift from God.  Recognize and thank God for one another while you chew and swallow.  We certainly do this in remembrance of Jesus, that's the message.  But the manner, the way we remember him is by remembering His whole body.

The motive for the Lord's table is later in the text.  We don't want to be judged and condemned by the Lord, we want his blessing.  We are here to be fed.  If you don't know that you are weak and sick and in need of the great physician then there is nothing for you here.  Receive and rest on Christ alone today.


Come Thou Fount - Opening Prayer

You are the fount of every blessing, and our hearts need tuning.  Teach us songs of your redemption and grace, your truth and your majesty.  We raise our ebenezer here, and tell one another and the world and you, that we have gotten this far only with your help.  You rescued and shielded us from danger with your precious blood.  We owe you our lives for the grace you've given us.  Bind and seal our hearts to you.  We ascend to the courts above now as we gather in your name.  The angels bless you as they do your will, and we join them, praising Father, Son and Holy Ghost.



Father's Day confession of sin

1 Cor 4:14-17
"I do not write these things to shame you, but as my beloved children I warn you. 15 For though you might have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet you do not have many fathers; for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel. 16 Therefore I urge you, imitate me. 17 For this reason I have sent Timothy to you, who is my beloved and faithful son in the Lord, who will remind you of my ways in Christ, as I teach everywhere in every church."

The church today has many teachers, but how many fathers do we see who we can imitate?  Timothy did not have one, but he found one in Paul.  Perhaps you have a faithful father, and if so, he is a gift from God.  Thank God for him today.  One thing the church needs to confess corporately these days is that we have so FEW faithful fathers.  A father raises children to walk with the Lord as he is walking.  Like Paul with Timothy, a father works hard to honor God and set a good example, and then He sends his children to their work, too.  A good father is first a faithful son, as Timothy was, submitting to God’s will and work.

Let us confess those times we do not give others a good example to follow.  Those times we do not follow our heavenly Father in faith.  Those times we neglect to disciple and train and remind others into godliness.


Opening Prayer for Father's Day

Psalm 68:4-5
    "Sing to God, sing praises to His name;
    Extol Him who rides on the clouds,
    By His name YAH,
    And rejoice before Him.
    5      A father of the fatherless, a defender of widows,
    Is God in His holy habitation."

It is a joyful sound to hear your people gather and sing. We keep this festal day, the Lord’s Day, when Your Son emerged from the tomb victorious over death.  We extol Him who has ridden on the clouds up to your throne.  On this Father’s Day we remember that You are a father of the fatherless and a defender of widows.  You bring us from loss to fellowship, from weeping to joy, from despair to peace.  

So we are here to proclaim the praises of Him who called us out of darkness into Your marvelous light.  We glory in Your irresistible calling of us, Lord, to Yourself.  Help us as we answer Your call and worship You now.  Grant us patience to listen, eagerness to hear you.


Foolish to Think It?

What a strange thing for a bit of bread and wine to point to Jesus Christ.  How does this ritual of Eucharist proclaim the death of the Lord?  Here is more of God’s wisdom, which doesn’t fit with worldly wisdom.

After His resurrection, Jesus showed Thomas the scars and holes in His hands and side.  They were still there.  We would think all thought of crucifixion would be wiped away in a glorified body, but it is not.  When the saints sing a new song in glory to the Lamb, the first thing they say is that He is worthy because He was slain.

Until we get there, we have this Supper to say the same thing.

Here we worship the Lamb.  Here God feeds us and calls us His children, on the basis of the cross.  Here we preach Christ crucified.  We don’t leave the cross behind to get to victory in Jesus.  The cross IS God’s victory.  Here we boast in it, glory in it and in God.

The cross really does something.  Worldly wisdom finds that absurd.

This Lord’s Supper also really does something.  That can be hard to believe, too.  But it’s true.  This bread and wine, by the Spirit giving faith and uniting us to Jesus, eating this bread and wine proclaims Christ, feeds and strengthens and shapes our lives, confirms our faith, marks out the body of Christ.


Strolling the links

Does God view the efforts of Christians as filthy rags, as Isaiah 64:6 seems to say?  NO.  Michael Kruger gives an encouraging clarification.  Only 3 screens long, on my computer.

Continuing the "IS Courtship Flawed" discussion, Aimee Byrd chimes in with a helpful distinction between casual and formal dating, advocating the latter.  I'm still more of a courtship guy, but if parents allow dates while shepherding their kids carefully (which can be done), I'm not going to raise an outcry.

Since these courtship discussions tend to come across as judging those who are still waiting to court, or are courting now, here is an article that encourages young ladies who desire marriage, and have been waiting... and waiting... and waiting.  Really good toward the end.

This was good for my soul and convicting, after a few facebook disagreements with friends.

Helpful arguments here against dipping the bread in the wine, when celebrating the Lord's Supper.  It's called intinction, but I love the slogan here: "Sip it, don't dip it!"

Brad Pitt warns us that success is a dead end.  "I’m telling you, once you get everything, then you’re just left with yourself."


Review: Freedom and Boundaries: A Pastoral Primer on the Role of Women in the Church

Freedom and Boundaries: A Pastoral Primer on the Role of Women in the Church
Freedom and Boundaries: A Pastoral Primer on the Role of Women in the Church by Kevin DeYoung

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


This book was written for congregations and their leaders who are asking whether women should be in leadership positions of the church.

With his characteristic grace and clarity, DeYoung backs up his "no" answer with biblical support. Looking to Genesis, Jesus, 1 Corinthians and 1 Timothy he makes a solid case. The part on slavery in the Bible is probably controversial, but I thought very well done.

Main strength: DeYoung knows the opposing argument well, answering most objections I've heard from those who support women in church leadership roles.

Weakness: I'm not sure the head covering section was needed, though it is okay. I disagreed with his take on deacons in 1 Timothy 3:11.

It still gets 5 stars, mainly because several churches where I grew up are asking this very question right now. Why SHOULDN'T women preach and be elders in the church? This book lays out the Biblical answer.

Unfortunately, it is out of print! I got my copy by writing University Reformed Church in Lansing, MI, and explaining why I wanted it. They had some copies and sent me one. Ask, and you shall receive!

View all my reviews


An Undivided Catch

When Jesus appears to the disciples after His resurrection in Galilee, they are following Peter back to fishing.  Jesus calls to them to try the other side of the boat for fish.  They catch so many that they can’t lift it into the boat, but the net isn’t torn. Torn is the word schism. Jesus makes Peter and the apostles fishers of men, and the net doesn’t break.  This is a prediction and an exhortation to the future church.  The number of believers, now in the billions, won’t divide the church, but our divisive hearts may.  This table is one place to mend the nets.  Set things right with your brother or sister before coming here, or resolve to start that process today.

The disciples had no food, they could catch nothing with Jesus’ power.  And so it is with us.  Jesus invites us to eat and refresh ourselves here, regardless how much or how little we have worked for Him.  Some of us have worked our tails off this week for others.  Some of us have enjoyed that work as honored guests.  Remember that we all receive grace and honor because of the work of Christ.  We don’t deserve it, but He gives it anyway, to feed and heal and strengthen the body.  Mend the nets.


Raised up, Then Raised Higher

Today is Ascension Sunday, it has been just over 40 days since Resurrection Day.  Many of the Reformers in reforming the church calendar threw out all Rome’s saints days, but those same Reformers kept 5 holy days.  Christmas, Good Friday, Easter, Ascension day, and Pentecost.  We celebrate Pentecost next Sunday morning with others from our presbytery.

For today, Ascension day is on par with Christmas and Easter, notice, because it is part of Christ’s work for us.  

Christ's ascension shows us three things. First, Jesus has a unique position, at the right hand of the Father.  He alone is head of the church, and we look more at that in the sermon later.  Second, it shows His inauguration as our king.  When the apostles consider the resurrection and ascension of Jesus, they quote Psalms 2 and 110, where Jesus is installed as king and invited to rule.  And third, it shows His intercession for us.  The cross showed Jesus’ sacrifice for us; the resurrection showed God’s pleasure with Jesus.  If Jesus has atoned for us and He pleases the Father, and now has /returned/ to the Father, how can God be against us anymore?

Let us confess craving to know the times of restoring Christ’s kingdom, Let us confess setting our mind on earthly things, instead of things above where Christ is.


Acts 1:6-11
Therefore, when they had come together, they asked Him, saying, “Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” 7 And He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority. 8 But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

9 Now when He had spoken these things, while they watched, He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. 10 And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel, 11 who also said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven.”


When You Commune

What is it we should be doing during communion?  The rest of the service is pretty self explanatory. You confess your sins to God when we kneel. You listen to God's Word during the sermon.  But how does eating bread and drinking a thimble of wine relate to God?

1 Corinthians 1 gives us a few clues. From vs 2, we are being called Christians.  Paul tells the Corinthians they are called saints.  We let God name us and claim us as His own.  We do this when we let Him feed us as His own children.

Second, also vs 2, we also call on the name of the Lord Jesus, believing He is God's appointed sacrifice to take away our sins.  This is the faith part of the equation that is crucial for the sacraments to work as they are supposed to, and feed us.

Third, from vs 3-4, we thank God for His grace to us in Christ. we are grateful He has put His name, His grace and peace upon us and within us.  We show that thanks by lifting the cup of salvation, eating the bread He gives us.

Fourth, from vs 7-8, we wait for the return of Christ, proclaiming His death until He comes.  Eating and drinking here is one big lean to the future, to the marriage supper of the lamb, when we will be confirmed blameless and received by God.

And finally vs 9, we are enjoying fellowship with Him now.  Jesus communicates Himself to us in this meal.  He relates to us here through His spirit.  So God is calling you His own holy child. You are calling on God to save you in Christ. You are thanking God for saving you already.  You are waiting for Him to complete His work in you. You are enjoying time with Him now.


Calling to God

Jeremiah 33:3
"Call to Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know."

Lord God, there is so much about you that we do not know.  Your ways and thoughts are higher than ours. Yet You call us to call to You, for You show us great things about Yourself. Let our worship follow what You have shown us in Your word.  Remind us Lord of all we do not know, all we cannot comprehend, and the future You have not opened to us, so that we may worship You humbly.  Remind us of the truth You have given us, that we may worship you boldly as redeemed servants, as adopted children, brought into Your household of faith.  As we kneel and confess our sin, keep us sincere and fervent in fighting the good fight. As we hear Your word, keep us attentive and eager to learn, change and act for You.  As we commune with You in sacrament and in prayer, make Your Son sweetness to our souls, and our fellowship in Him and with each other a true delight.  As You send us out to serve You, let us go with conviction and with joy, knowing we are Your people, bought and paid for by the blood of Jesus into the freedom of Your spirit.


Forgetting to Thank Him

Romans 1:18-21
"For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19 because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, 21 because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened."

We often look to this chapter as we consider the immorality of our culture around us, and that is certainly part of the intent.  But Paul points to the root of that immorality, and it is something common to the sinful hearts of unbeliever and believer alike.  We are prone to not give glory to God, not just those on the other side of the culture war, we are. We naturally do not give thanks to God.  When Paul begins his letter to the Corinthians, a messed up group, he begins with thanksgiving.

We have a hard time remembering to thank God for good things, much less things or people that frustrate us. parents tend to criticize their children more than thanking god for them. Employees grumble about their bosses.  Most of all, we forget the giver as we enjoy the gifts.

Let us confess our sins of neglecting to glorify and praise god as we should for his bountiful gifts to us.



Uninterrupted listening

Sometimes people have the idea that sitting quietly and listening to an uninterrupted sermon is a modern invention foreign to Scripture and the ancient church.

Comes Eusebius, describing the gatherings of a heretic con artist Paul of Samosata.

"Some fail to applaud or wave their handkerchiefs as in a theater or shout and jump up as do the disorderly men and women who are his partisans, listening instead in orderly reverence, as in God's house."  (Church History, 7:30)

Here we see that the way we listen to sermons today is not overly academic traditionalism, or just the way some too-conservative churches worship, but reverence for the Word which the church had from the beginning.