Liberty to Serve

Leviticus 25:8-10
"And you shall count seven sabbaths of years for yourself, seven times seven years; and the time of the seven sabbaths of years shall be to you forty-nine years. 9 Then you shall cause the trumpet of the Jubilee to sound on the tenth day of the seventh month; on the Day of Atonement you shall make the trumpet to sound throughout all your land. 10 And you shall consecrate the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout all the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a Jubilee for you; and each of you shall return to his possession, and each of you shall return to his family."

Matthew 20.28
"the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”

Jesus used His freedom to serve us, and what service it was! He gave His life a ransom for many.  Ransom means freedom from bondage and servitude. Whatever debt and slavery you found yourself in, the Jubilee reset it all. Land restored, debts forgiven, freedom regained.  The Passover meal was founded as Israel left the bondage of Egypt. They walked through the blood-marked door to a new life of liberty, guided by the law at Sinai, with God’s house in their midst.  

This new Passover meal was founded as Jesus proclaimed and bought liberty for all His people captives to sin. We walk through the bloody veil of His body, in repentance and conversion, baptism and bread and wine. But now we don’t just walk out of a house of bondage. God’s house isn’t just near ours. We walk freely into the house of God. Jesus is the door and the cornerstone. We are adopted children. He takes us to our place at the table. Your place to serve.


Use Your Gifts

Romans 12:6-8
"Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, let us prophesy in proportion to our faith; 7 or ministry, let us use it in our ministering; he who teaches, in teaching; 8 he who exhorts, in exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness."

We have received spiritual gifts by God’s grace. This means you are better at some things than other people are. We tend to notice and think it is our own hard work or insight. We enjoy comparing and finding ourselves better. But we forget it is according to the grace given us. You don’t have any gift or ability because you’ve earned it or deserved it. Husbands, mothers, elders or congressmen are not worthy of their callings. Who is sufficient for such things, Paul asks? By the grace of God we are what we are.

So, first we should confess pride about the gifts we have or think we have. And second, we should confess not using our gifts. Out of humility, let us use our gifts and serve the body.

3 or 4 of the gifts mentioned here use words to help others, so I’d like to remind you of the next head of household training, this Thursday night at our house, where you will be equipped to give and seek counsel from others.

Until then, let us confess our lack of reliance on God’s grace, and the small effort we put into showing mercy, leading, giving to, and teaching others.

Oh come, let us worship & bow down, let us kneel before the Lord our maker.



Notice Each Other

1 Corinthians 11:33-34
"Therefore, my brethren, when you come together to eat, wait for one another. 34 But if anyone is hungry, let him eat at home, lest you come together for judgment."

The problem in 1 Corinthians 11 that calls for self-examination is not that the Corinthains don’t know enough to take the supper yet. It isn’t that Paul is unsure if they really know the Lord. The problem is that they are not pursuing holiness together. They were pursuing their desires, ignoring each other, while physically in the same room. They had to learn to wait for each other, and adjust their actions based on the group. They had to act not out of their hunger, but in a way that would convey the love of Christ to others.

We proclaim the Lord’s death as we do this together.


Members of one another

Romans 12:4-5
"For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, 5 so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another."

We have gathered together and begun to praise God as one body, as these remind us. Here are some thgings to remember as we proceed.

1. You are not complete on your own. You are a member of a body bigger than your individual self. One thing to confess is a fierce, over-independence of self, afraid to rely on others.

2. Each member is not the same as the others. You contribute something unique, but we tend to force others to be like ourselves. Where have you done this to others in your life?

3. We are members of Christ. Are we going to join ourselves with sin when we are already joined with Christ? What you do with your time and body isn’t all up to you.

4. We are members of one another. Our union together is more than having a common savior, all believing the same thing. We are being put together into one building, one body. The ear has to pay attention to the eye and the foot. If we each just do our own thing, then we won’t do our own thing well. Instead of taking our cues from each other, we usually follow our own desires.



Love and Enjoy the Lord

John 14:23
"Jesus answered and said to him, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him."

Let us love the Lord Jesus Christ with all our heart. As you commune with Him here and now, tell Him of your love, seek out His commandments in His Word, consider how He is leading you by His Spirit to follow Him. Love those around you as He loved you.

Remember that Christ’s yoke is easy, His commandments are not burdensome. He calls you to obedience that you may have His full joy in you. Enjoy the pardon, peace and purity that union with Christ brings.


Thinking too highly

Romans 12:3
"For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith."

Do not conform to the world. The worldly pattern is the pride of life. Thinking you’re the center of the world. Our call to worship pointed us to seek the Lord. Are we praising Him or positioning ourselves? Are we preparing to confess our sin to Him? What do you have to confess, really?

We compare ourselves to others and are prepared to preen more than ready to repent. We think we deserve more than the 11th hour worker. WE have born the big load while others have slacked off. We’re convinced we’re getting at least an 85% on God’s test. But what about that offense you just can’t forgive, that keeps slipping out to others in gossip? What about that point of pride you just can’t get over, where you know you are right, you are best? That constant fear and anxiety that exposes your lack of faith?

Oh come, let us worship & bow down, let us kneel before the Lord our maker.


Geneva or Rome?


Should we avoid worship externals that look or feel Roman, simply for that reason?

I've started reading Tim Challies' blog a lot, and his links are usually very good. So I was interested to see him link to Rachel Miller's article, "If It Looks Like Rome..."

Her contention is that Reformed folks are adopting worship practices that are more Roman than Reformed.
Three of her six targets I'll fire away at with her: Intinction, monastic retreats, and contemplative prayer.

The other three seemed off base. Maybe just because I take part in them at some level, or advocate them.
1. Eucharistic liturgy
2. Vestments
3. Observing Lent

Here, the logic seems off to me. These things are done or required by Rome, so we should avoid them. For example, because Roman mass involves transubstantiation, we should not use certain sentences they use. Sounds obvious, but what Ms. Miller objects to is this: "Minister: Let us proclaim the mystery of faith:
All: Christ has died.
Christ is risen.
Christ will come again."

Huh? She admits there is nothing false about the words, but we still shouldn't use them, because Rome does. The same could be said of the Apostles' Creed!

On vestments, people are sorely ignorant of the long presbyterian history of wearing vestments. It isn't just for Rome. Presbyterians stopped wearing them when their theology became more baptist in the last 100-150 years.

On Lent, Miller argues that since Lent is obligatory to work off your salvation to the Roman church, we should avoid it. I agree we want to avoid an extra-biblical obligation and the appearance or feel of doing something penitentially to earn brownie points with the Lord. But Lent is an opportunity (like Advent, Christmas, Easter, and Ascension Day) to observe an important aspect of the life of Christ and its implications for our own life in Him. Namely, His faithful self-denial, obedience to the Father, and suffering for us. Churches need not shame folks into observing it, but they can observe Lent liturgically on Sundays and in others ways without "going to Rome."

Calvin wore vestments and baptized babies. Both look and feel Roman to most evangelicals. But both were (are) Reformed and Lutheran practices, too. When you realize you're west or north of Geneva, and you starting heading that way, it can look to others like you're on your way to Rome.

Calvin and Luther certainly simplified the cluttered calendar and elaborate rituals of Rome. But they also largely rejected the "strip-it-bare" mentality. Simple, yes. But not "non-liturgical."

If You're Holy, You're Happy

Happiness is an essential part of holiness, says David Murray.

This is part of Tim Challies' 31 days of purity - great stuff.


Review: The Last Days of Socrates

The Last Days of Socrates
The Last Days of Socrates by Plato

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

It was very jarring to read Plato, after 10 years or so of self-consciously affirming the goodness of God's physical world. The material and sensory is not something to flee as a hindrance to the soul, though it can be that.

For all his careful argumentation, Socrates asserts some whoppers. How do you get from the essence of the soul being life, to the soul must be immortally alive? Faced with his own death, one would think it's possible to believe that a thing can be alive now, yet not be everlastingly so. Do all animals also have immortal souls, since they are alive and their bodies expire? I think they would by Socrates' logic.

His is a stoic worldview. Send the family away and let's discuss philosophy for the last hour of my life. I don't want a nice dinner, just give me the poison and don't cry. Total detachment from the material world is the goal. It's almost Buddhist.

There are some big questions put out for consideration, of course. Is something right because the gods like it, or do the gods like it because it is right? This dilemma from Euthyphro is false, and Socrates seems to do this a lot. Leading questions and false choices can lead you to some strange conclusions.

View all my reviews


Don't Conform

Romans 12:2
"And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God."

Do not conform to the world. It is easy to love the world, to let its cares choke out the Word planted in us. Many things about the world are not wrong in themselves, but they just get in the way of serving God. Step out of the mold. This doesn’t mean have a different schedule and live completely differently from others. The worldly way is the lust of the flesh, of the eyes, and the pride of life. Don’t conform to that.

Instead be transformed, from the mind out. I always think of Apple Computer’s ad, “Think Different” when I read this verse. We are to think differently than the worldly way. If you want to be first, then serve. The meek will inherit the earth. Love your enemies, bless those who persecute you. Our brains, our thought patterns need a complete re-wiring by the Spirit of Christ.

And the point of that reprogramming, that thinking different isn’t for everyone to see how cool you are when you stand out from the crowd. It’s to prove what is right and godly. To do it, and show it, so people see how we are meant to live, by God’s design.

We must confess, the world seeps into our thoughts and desires and actions.
Oh come, let us worship & bow down, let us kneel before the Lord our maker.



Strolling the Links - Mar 13

1. Ed Welch "counsels," then confronts an ornery old man.

2. Jeff Meyers argues in "The Lord's Service" that the worshiper is represented in the Old Testament by the sacrifice. This can be hard for many to grasp or accept. Isn't Jesus the sacrificial Lamb? Well, yes. And aren't we united with Jesus Christ?  John Calvin puts it this way:
"We must become sacrifices to [God]. Now a sacrifice presupposes death. True, there is no sword to kill us, but the word of God must be the sword to pierce us (Eph 6:17). So we must be put to death in that way.... The kind of fear that leads us to God."
Sermons on Genesis, page 260.

3. Coke applies the cone of shame to you and your cell-phone.
Great music and concept. 90 seconds.

Feasting Instead of Accounting

Luke 15:20-24
“And he arose and came to his father. But when he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him. 21 And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight, and am no longer worthy to be called your son.’
22 “But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet. 23 And bring the fatted calf here and kill it, and let us eat and be merry; 24 for this my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ And they began to be merry."

This communion ritual shows us this story every week. We have come home to the great, good God. Come to our senses. Confessed our sin. We are welcomed as loved children. Named as His son, His daughter. God makes us family members, and throws a huge feast for us. Where we often expect to work as servants to pay off the debt we’ve racked up, God shoves that thinking away. No, you once were lost but now are found. You were dead, but are alive again. This calls for a party, not an accounting. Of course we aren’t worthy to be called God’s children.

We renew God’s covenant of grace with us here. It’s His idea, and He wants to remind us week by week of the forgiving Father’s lavish feast for prodigals. Every one of us is a prodigal in some sense. We don’t have to rebelliously leave home and party with the wild crowd to sin against God and incur deserved condemnation. But in Christ, there is no condemnation. Instead there is a crown.


A Living Sacrifice

Romans 12:1
"I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service."

Paul has explained the gospel, the mercies of God, in the first 11 chpaters. He now urges the Romans because of those mercies to offer themselves to God. But he borrows sacrificial language. Bodies were presented for sacrifice at the temple for several reasons. One was to atone for sins. Another was to devote yourself to God. Another was to celebrate God’s peace with you. The idea here is devotion, consecration, an expected response to God’s grace.

Notice two things. First, we present our bodies. This isn’t just about our heart or our soul, our service to God involves our bodies. The first and great commandment is to love God with all your heart, soul, yes, but go on, and with all your strength. Your bodies can be holy and acceptable to God. What have you done with your body this week that pleased or displeased God?

Second, this is your reasonable service. Thanksgiving and living the holy life He saved you for. We are called into service, drafted if you will, into the most just war you can imagine. Will you serve or dodge? Have you been aiding and abetting the enemy by living contrary to the kingdom of God?



Strolling the Links - Mar 12

A new feature here - strolling the links. Weblinks, that is.

“When we view homeschooling as the answer instead of a tool, we enslave ourselves and our children to a life of performance and a level of expectation which can never be met…
We desire outstanding behavior and academic excellence from our children, not firstly to please the Lord, but so people will look favorably on our abilities as a homeschooling Mom....
This is pride. It is ugly, dangerous, sinful, divisive, and it will kill the homeschool movement if we let it live among us. Sooner or later, destruction will come and the fall of ourselves and our children is inevitable if we teach them to believe that success is found in the sand of methodology instead of the Rock of Ages.”

Mrs. Bush: “Did you read about the man who died and his obituary … said, ‘Don’t send flowers, don’t send donations to anything, cancel your New York Times subscription.’ So I did.”

The end of the obit for the veteran reads: “In lieu of flowers, the family asks that you cancel your subscription to The New York Times.”

Peter Jones reviews a fascinating book: “Courtship, Engagement, & Marriage in Calvin's Geneva”
An excerpt: “Sexual immorality was just as big a problem then as it is now. Fornication, adultery, rape, multiple wives, incest, sex for money,  prostitution, men leaving their wives, men beating their wives, etc. It is all there. But they did address it all publicly and privately. They also worked to create better social structures that dampened the enthusiasm for immorality or cut it off at the source. Two examples will show this effort. First, one man was running a brothel. He and his wife were kicked out of town and told that if they came back they would be whipped. Second, once you were engaged you had six weeks to marry. If you were slower than that the Consistory would call you in and ask why. If you had no legitimate reason they would force you to get married. This was designed to shorten the time when fornication between an engaged couple would be most likely.”

19:00-20:30 – The Supreme Court says we must determine truth for ourselves, booting God off the throne.
24:10-25:30 – on judging others versus judging actions. Love the sinner, hate the sin. Who denies this distinction today? Hint: it's not Christians.

The culture is now applying a double standard in rejecting Christian values while insisting on acceptance of homosexual behavior. Eric Metaxas tells us not to complain in this 4 minute commentary.

Deferred Curses and our Course

Genesis 9:25
   Cursed be Canaan;
    A servant of servants
    He shall be to his brethren.”

When God curses Canaan through Noah, He defers His judgment taking effect for several generations. Canaan the son of Ham does not actually become a servant until Joshua conquers the Canaanites. Until then, they roam free in fertile territory, enjoying a lush land. Abraham is subject to them and he and Isaac have to fight for well water with the Canaanites.

God often waits to execute His judgments, even for generations.

Two lessons come from this for believers.

1. Be vigilant.
When you fall into sin, do not get careless about it if God doesn't bring you up short in some way right away. As with David who remains in his sin for a while, covering it up with various devices, God waits a while to show you your depravity and give you opportunity to repent. Do not take advantage of His forbearance.

2. Be patient.
When you see wickedness go unpunished, don't fret. This is God's way, to allow them their moment. He is giving them a chance to stop it, too. I heard today of a Supreme Court opinion in Casey v. Planned Parenthood by Justice Kennedy that "at the heart of liberty is the right to define for one's self the meaning of life and the mystery of existence." This is wicked, but it rules our land. God will judge it in various ways, even if He does not use the direct form (impeachment?) we might want to see. Be patient. God knows what to do and what He is doing with this nation of His and His world in general better than we know to do.


Review: The Oedipus Cycle: Oedipus Rex / Oedipus at Colonus / Antigone

The Oedipus Cycle: Oedipus Rex / Oedipus at Colonus / Antigone
The Oedipus Cycle: Oedipus Rex / Oedipus at Colonus / Antigone by Sophocles

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Really depressing.

The major theme is that you can't avoid the fate of the gods, even if you try. The upside is, even if you draw a short straw, you can still be pious and reverent toward the gods, and wise and loving to your family.

Oedipus definitely drew a short straw. That doesn't mean his life was short, though. He lives a long life, and the last decade or so is all agony over his bizarre circumstance.

In part one we learn about that craziness. Key theme is the truth. The truth will come out. You need to seek it, even if it hurts.

In part two we see how Oedipus handles the sad truth, and how one tragedy leads on to another. His sons' rejection of him leads to his rejecting his sons.

In part three, the theme is wisdom and judgment needed in rulers. Creon doesn't have it, and it desolates his dearest loved ones. Ironically, in the tug-of-war between state and family interests, lack of judgment in state can wreak havoc in your family.

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Review: Lives, Vol 1

Lives, Vol 1
Lives, Vol 1 by Plutarch

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I only read the first six or so lives, not the whole thing.

Plutarch, a Greek living in Roman times, compares famous Greeks and Romans. His focus is political and military. How does one shape the state best? Where lies wisdom and prosperity as a city-state?

We find a mixture of virtue and vice upheld as worthy of pursuit. By gods grace granted even to pagan unbelievers, Plutarch extols moderation and courage and self-restraint.

- "Neither ships nor riches and ornaments nor boasting shouts, nor barbarous songs of victory, were any way terrible to men that knew how to fight and were resolved to come hand to hand with their enemies.... The first step towards victory undoubtedly is to gain courage."

- "By this moderation of his [Themistocles yielding his command to a Spartan in the war with Persia] he was the chief means of the deliverance of Greece."

- "Of two who courted his daughter, he preferred the man of worth to the one who was rich, saying he desired a man without riches, rather than riches without a man."

Plutarch has a unique insight into the human condition.
- "At length the Athenians banished him.... not so much to punish the offender as to mitigate and pacify the violence of the envious."

Then again, he also delights in ambition, glory, and barbarism. They are willing to make human sacrifice before a battle to appease the common folk.
- Themistocles finds refuge with Xerxes, years after tricking him in battle! Xerxes never learned of the deception, and Themistocles continues to take advantage of him for his own self-preservation when his own city turns against him.

- When Xerxes asks him to fight against the Greeks years later, he kills himself, at age 65. This is considered honorable.

Overall, Plutarch's worldview exalts the state beyond proportion, often to the denigration of the family. His political and human insight is often helpful, but set to the purpose of immortalizing heroes and cities of man, rather than the living God.

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Great Communion Song/Poem

1. Welcome, all ye noble saints of old,
As now before your very eyes unfold
The wonders all so long ago foretold:
God and man at table are sat down;
God and man at table are sat down!

2. Elders, martyrs all are falling down;
Prophets, patriarchs are gath’ring round;
What angels longed to see now man has found:
God and man at table are sat down;
God and man at table are sat down!

3. Who is this who spreads the vict’ry feast?
Who is this who makes our warring cease?
Jesus, Risen Savior, Prince of Peace!
God and man at table are sat down;
God and man at table are sat down!

4. Beggars, lame, and harlots also here;
Repentant publicans are drawing near.
Wayward sons come home without a fear;
God and man at table are sat down;
God and man at table are sat down!

5. When at last this earth shall pass away;
When Jesus and His bride are one to stay;
The feast of love is just begun that day;
God and man at table are sat down;
God and man at table are sat down!


Insight into History makers and our current president


Interesting short piece on a handful of important but less remembered historical figures.

It ends with some insight into Obama I thought was dead on.