An Imperfect Reformer

Jehoshaphat was an imperfect reformer.

He did not seek the Baals as other kings before him had (1 Chronicles 17:3). Instead, he sought God. As a result, all kinds of good things come:
- he fortifies cities
- he sends out teachers and judges of the law to the cities of Judah
- he calls Israel to faith when they are threatened by war
- he sends a choir ahead of the army to praise God
- he brought Israel back to Yahweh, from idols (19:4)
And yet, Jehoshaphat allies with wicked Ahab. He goes into battle with him, and puts himself in danger for Ahab’s selfish scheme. God protects Jehoshaphat in spite of his foolishness, kills Ahab), but rebukes him through a prophet: “Should you help the wicked and love those who hate Yahweh?... Nevertheless, some good is found in you, for you destroyed the Asheroth out of the land, and have set your heart to seek God” (19:2-3).

In the next chapter, Jehoshaphat does great things, but then afterward, he allies with Ahab’s wicked son Ahaziah (20:35-37). He did the same thing with Ahab, and doesn’t seem to learn this lesson. God rebukes him again, and he loses the fleet he built.

Scripture shows the lives of saints as a mixture of faithfulness and sin. It isn’t always a simplistic bad to good, or good to bad. Solomon starts out faithful, falls into sin with his many wives, then at the end of his life writes the greatest wisdom literature ever. David is faithful in his dealings with Saul, but once he is king he is unfaithful in the matter of Uriah and Bathsheba.

If God were to write your spiritual biography in a paragraph or two, like He did with the kings of Israel, what would it look like?

The Best Rest

Hebrews 1:3-4
"who [Jesus] being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, 4 having become so much better than the angels, as He has by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they."

When Jesus Christ finished His work of atoning for our sins, He sat down to rest. One of the gifts He gives us reflects this, the gift of this sacrament. We sit down for this part of the service, just like you sit down to eat at home. God wants to provide you a restful home, something mothers do, by the way. Christ is the best rest; better than the promised land, better than a Friday night after a week of work. So in this sacrament you aren’t meant to be on pins and needles, wondering if God is going to strike you down. God wants you to relax and rest in Jesus. Just as a child relaxes her tension and fear in the arms of her mother, so must we all in the arms of Jesus. Get rid of those roadblocks to rest in your soul today, and come receive and rest on Him alone for your salvation.


Lower Yourself

Philippians 2:5-11

Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, 7 but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. 9 Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, 11 and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father."

Jesus Christ lowered Himself to suffer at our hands, to serve us. Jesus was lifted up by God; He did not glorify Himself. We in our sin lift ourselves up to serve ourselves and hurt others doing it. Isaiah 14:13 makes this very clear. There, the king of Babylon and Satan said in their heart: “I will ascend; I will exalt my throne.” So Jesus saw him fall like lightning. Let us confess our pride, our desire to be above others. Humble yourselves and God will lift you up.



On the Way

"A government that determines what is a religious ministry and what is not, what is the nature of an institution such as marriage, which predates both Church and state and is the creature of neither, when human life begins and when it can be taken without penal trial has exceeded the boundaries of limited government and is already on the road to totalitarianism."

Francis Cardinal George, "God in Action," quoted in First Things, Nov 2011, 70-71


See the Fruit of His Labor

Isaiah 53:11
    "He shall see the labor of His soul, and be satisfied. 
          By His knowledge My righteous Servant shall justify many, 
          For He shall bear their iniquities."

Jesus Christ was a faithful worker. He learned a trade of carpentry, or building from His earthly father Joseph. He was about His father’s business. Our Heavenly Father is in the business of providing grace, love, joy, and peace. We each have a different workload. Jesus leads the way, bearing all of our sins for us. His work finished, he sat down by His Father, saw what His work had done, and was satisfied. One place we find satisfaction after our work is at the dinner Table. And at this table of the Lord, we are invited, called to be satisfied in Christ’s work for us. The wealth flowing from this work is so great, you will never need any other food again.

And the retirement benefits are out of this world.


Do Your Work!

1 Corinthians 3:9-15
"For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, you are God’s building. 10 According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it. 11 For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, 13 each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is. 14 If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. 15 If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire."

Your work is meant to last. We see our work as just a necessary evil, something we have to get through to get money to live and do what we want. When we live for the weekend, we despise God’s calling in our work in these ways. The problem is we often work selfishly.

Let us be careful HOW we work, as unto the Lord, not men. Children, do you work harder when mom is watching, but goof off when she leaves the room? Do all of us lose sight of God’s purpose for our work, confused by selfish sloth? Let us cling to God’s promise in 1 Cor. 15:58 that your labor is not in vain.

Let us confess our sins of sloppy, slow and selfish work.



Pretty nice interview here with Larry Arnn, Hillsdale College president, on Abraham Lincoln and the Gettysburg/Vicksburg battles that turned the war, in early July.

It's the July 5 "Hillsdale Dialogues" edition.
A highlight at 19:30-21:10 is Lincoln's skillful debating with Douglas.

Apologies to my southern friends who think Lincoln was evil.
You will NOT like this.


No Cotton-Polyester Blend Shirts?

Deuteronomy 22:11:
“You shall not wear cloth of wool and linen mixed together."


And that would make this part of the ritual law, now abrogated since we are united with Christ our high priest.

Receive First

1 Cor 4:6b-7
"learn in us not to think beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up on behalf of one against the other. 7 For who makes you differ from another? And what do you have that you did not receive? Now if you did indeed receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?"

The Corinthian church had real trouble with factions. They loved to identify with Apollos, or Peter, or Paul, more than they loved Jesus. We can have the same problem today, if we love Reformed theology, or homeschooling, or the family integrated movement. We love those things as they bring us closer to Jesus, and walking in His ways, but not for their own sake, apart from Christ.

That’s why coming to this table every week is so important. This Supper binds all Christians everywhere together in unity. Repentance and faith are expressed here. We know we need food, we need fixing, and we can only get it in Jesus, so we eat, sacramentally speaking, His body and blood, to be united with Him in His death and resurrection. We must receive Jesus.

We are receivers. Our most fundamental act is to worship God. We do that by hearing or reading His Word, by taking bread and wine into our bodies. We act, we work, we do, we sing, we believe. But only because we first receive. We receive life and we live it. We receive faith and we believe. We receive the Word and we do it.

Let us be more receptive to the truth. Then we will differ from one antoher less. We will resemble Christ more.


Get Low before the High

Job 42:5-6
"I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear, 
          But now my eye sees You. 
    6      Therefore I abhor myself, 
          And repent in dust and ashes."

The church today trains us to think that coming near to God in worship leads to emotional ecstasy. We usually do this with a long session of intense music. And much of it is good, and it is true that fellowship with God brings joy and gladness. But Job reminds us that coming near to God in worship first brings abhorrence of yourself – not a pleasant experience but a painful one. Without confessing our sins to God, our joy in the Lord won’t run very deep.

So we take time to consider how we have sinned against God today, confessing with the words of Psalm 51...



Helping Your Pastor

I found these really useful.

For some I thought of certain people, thinking, "Yeah, don't do that to me."
For others I thought, "Ooh, I almost hope they won't do that to me, but I need it."



Happy, Constructive Warriors Needed

Brian Phillips points us to Gregory Wolfe, who has purposely dropped out of the culture wars.

Wolfe captures my take quite nicely.

"My objection to the culture wars does not mean that I have no principles or refuse to stand up for them: I have strong opinions on most of these conflicts, and am willing to give voice to them when appropriate. What bothers me is the manner in which these wars are conducted."

Phillips, reviewing Wolfe's book "Beauty Will Save the World": "The culture wars in which conservatives were firmly entrenched had become a kind of total warfare, resulting in a conservatism that conserved little and created less."

Close Covenant Communion with Christ

1 Corinthians 10:14-17
"Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry. 15 I speak as to wise men; judge for yourselves what I say. 16 The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? 17 For we, though many, are one bread and one body; for we all partake of that one bread."

Covenant is far more than contract in the Bible. Jesus says this cup is the new covenant in His blood. Paul says this cup is communion with Christ. Covenant cup. Communion cup. Covenant is communion.

You are sharing in the life of Christ, in covenant with Him. As you partake, Jesus is showing you that you share in His life, that You need Him like you need food and drink. We are part of the same body of Christ. If you share his life, you share this bread. But do not treat this as common, as Hebrews 10 says. Children this is not snack time if you’re hungry right now. Notice the Lord’s Body. That means Jesus’ body, dead on the cross to take your sins away. And that means His body alive, seated all around you, of which you are a member.

Give thanks for being given a seat, a place in His body, with His people.


Confessing Sin, after the Boston Bombing

When we consider the Boston bombing and the trial of abortionist Gosnell, we wonder, What is God doing?

It’s always dangerous to make specific pronouncements from the papers. There are two general principles to glean, though.

God is awakening us to a sense of evil, and of just punishment for evil. Callers to talk shows responding to the bombing say things like, “I hope the bombers suffer a long time for this.”

And the media guy searches for something traumatic in the bomber’s life that led to him doing this. Society considers this an aberration, something abnormal in the heart of man. But this evil lurks in every heart since Adam and Cain. Sin is insulting and defying God, and the sinner doesn’t care. Sin hurts other people, and doesn’t care. That’s what we saw the bombers do, in an extreme case. We just take what we want without regard for others. Without God’s grace restraining the sinful nature in my heart, I do that, too. We see pictures of Tsarnaev all over the news, and our reaction is aversion and isolation. Who is this freak of nature? He’s hardly human. But that’s exactly what sin does to people, and we are sinners like he. God is calling us to see fully the twistedness in our hearts, to repent of our sins and to see the catastrophic consequences they can bring.

God is calling to us to see that we reap what we sow. We have glorified fame and violence for decades now as a society. Why are we surprised when thrill seeking, glory seeking young men do what they’ve been taught?

The spirit of the age teaches us to hate the enemy, whether that is our enemy the Muslims or their enemy, America and the west. Do not forget our Lord’s teaching in Matt 5: ““You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.’ 22 But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment.” Of course bombing are more heinous sins, but the difference from your bitterness against your sibling or former friend is one of degree, not of kind. We are all sinners stamped with the image of Adam, and we all breathe this toxic cultural air, if we’re not careful.

Now, what sets us apart is that we acknowledge our sin and repent, and they don’t. They see it and laugh at the carnage. We see what we are and turn away in horror, resolving never to dishonor God or hurt our loved ones like that again. And that’s what makes this part of our worship service so critical.


From Decline, Opportunity

R.R. Reno, "After Establishment," First Things, Nov 2011: 5-6.

"The Church's power lies in her universal gospel message, not in whatever institutional power she temporarily manages to acquire and that she holds precariously at the permission of others....

"We live, as many have said, after Christendom. Our age is secular.... With the loss of the status and influence [of the church]... comes an opportunity to engage the city of man in a new way. ...

"It's not so much Christianity that will carry weight in the public square as Christians, faithful men and women whose moral and social ideals are shaped and formed by the Church. Today, it is what the churches bear witness to, what their pastors say from their pulpits and their people say in their lives, that will ensure Christianity's continued influence in modern secular society - and perhaps expand, deepen, and refine that influence."