Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Amazed by Scripture

I’m supposed to be doing something else right now, but saw this passage while looking something up. It’s a great passage, and I am filled with the sudden urge to preach it to someone. Instead, I’ll write this up quickly and get back to what I should be working on.

“Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them a question: ‘What do you think about the Christ, whose son is He?’ They said to Him, ‘The son of David.’ He said to them, ‘Then how does David in the Spirit call Him “Lord,” saying [in Psalm 110:1],
“The Lord said to my Lord,
‘Sit at My right hand,
Until I put Your enemies beneath Your feet’”?
If David then calls Him “Lord,” how is He his son?’  No one was able to answer Him a word, nor did anyone dare from that day on to ask Him another question” (Matthew 22:41-46).

When introducing David’s Spirit-inspired words, Jesus uses the present active participle “saying” (λέγων). Even though Jesus is quoting text almost 1,000 years old at that point, He uses the present tense. The Holy Spirit never speaks in the past tense. The Scripture, no matter when it was inspired in redemption history, is always present tense to us because the Person Who inspired it is ever-Now to us when we read His Word. He speaks. Now.

Second, part of the genius in Jesus’ confounding of the Pharisees is His implicit presupposition: a Trinitarian reality (and Jesus’ presupposition is the only reality).

It is the Holy Spirit Who speaks these words through David:
“The LORD [the Father] says to my Lord [the Son]: ‘Sit at My right hand until I make Your enemies a footstool for Your feet’” (Psalm 110:1).

David’s “Lord” is David’s “Son” – this can only be Jesus. The Father calls the Son to reign with Him on His throne (Revelation 3:21) during this Gospel Age between the first and second Advents until all enemies are conquered (1 Corinthian 15:25). This calling is revealed to us by the Holy Spirit (right now through words almost 3,000 years old). One God, three Persons.

Things like this move me to rejoice. Our God is amazing.

Okay. Thanks for listening. Back to it.

Thursday, March 1, 2018


Today is the first of the month, so I was reading the first chapter of the Proverbs this morning over coffee. I focused on the verb “hear.”

“A wise man will hear [יִשְׁמַע] and increase in learning,
And a man of understanding will acquire wise counsel…
hear [שְׁמַע], my son, your father’s instruction
And do not forsake your mother’s teaching…
…he who listens [וְשֹׁמֵעַֽ] to me shall live securely
And will be at ease from the dread of evil”

When we move into the New Testament, it’s interesting how many times the letters build upon teaching that was verbally given in the gathering of the congregation. Let’s use 1 John as an example:
“…the old commandment is the word which you have heard (2:7).
“…Children, it is the last hour; and just as you heard that antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have appeared; from this we know that it is the last hour…who is the liar but the one who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, the one who denies the Father and the Son” (2:18,22).
“…let that abide in you which you heard from the beginning. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, you also will abide in the Son and in the Father” (2:24).
“…this is the message which you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another” (3:11).
“…every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God; this is the spirit of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming, and now it is already in the world” (4:3).

John assumes those reading his letter have been in the congregation hearing the “apostles’ teaching” (Acts 2:42), as all congregations should.

The reading is built upon a foundation of hearing. This has implications for the effectiveness of your personal devotion time in the Word. The benefits of your individual study of the Bible will be gained only in conjunction with your careful attendance to the proclamation of biblical truth in the gathering of the saints.

There is relationship implied in the act of hearing. In Proverbs, it is cast as the relationship between parents and child, or Wisdom personified and those who would seek, treasure, and love her. In 1 John it is between the ones who proclaim apostolic truth and those who hear within the local congregation. The apostolic truth itself is received through the hearing (1 John 1:1-4) and is given to the congregation. The congregation is made up of Christ-given proclaimers of that truth (Ephesians 4:7-13) and members who are placed in those specific congregations by the work of Christ through the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:18). The receiving and writing of the apostles is the work of God. The gifting and assembly of the congregation is also the work of God. God paves the way in these relationships to prepare you to open your Bibles over that cup of coffee every morning.

How carefully we should speak and listen in the gathering of the Church! Careful hearing becomes fruitful reading. The dedicated receiving of the spoken Word bears fruit in the personal reading of the written Word.


Saturday, February 24, 2018

That River Flows

“Out of the ground the Lord God caused to grow every tree that is pleasing to the sight and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden…now a river flowed out of Eden to water the garden; and from there it divided and became four rivers. The name of the first is Pishon; it flows around the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold. The gold of that land is good; the bdellium and the onyx stone are there. The name of the second river is Gihon; it flows around the whole land of Cush. The name of the third river is Tigris; it flows east of Assyria. And the fourth river is the Euphrates” (Genesis 2:9-14; the four place names give us the same sense as our phrase, “the four corners of the earth”).

“By the river on its bank, on one side and on the other, will grow all kinds of trees for food. Their leaves will not wither and their fruit will not fail. They will bear every month because their water flows from the sanctuary, and their fruit will be for food and their leaves for healing” (Ezekiel 47:12).

“Then he showed me a river of the water of life, clear as crystal, coming from the throne of God and of the Lamb, in the middle of its street. On either side of the river was the tree of life, bearing twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit every month; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations [τῶν ἐθνῶν](Revelation 22:1,2).

There’s a River Flood Warning for a town about ten miles north of where I live. I don’t know whether it’s that or the fact that I’ve been thinking about the Holy Spirit a lot lately, but I woke up with this biblical river on my mind.

I have lived in the desert; I know that sometimes fruit-bearing takes time, and that you celebrate the harvest no matter what.

Still, I long for the harvest from the shores of this biblical river. I desire “they will bear every month” and “yielding its fruit every month.” I pray for “the healing of the nations” – and not the counterfeit that comes through the intentions, devices, and efforts of humanity.

I earnestly hope to see “the healing of the nations.” I wish our English translations would render τῶν ἐθνῶν as “peoples.”

The lower levels of the auditorium in my congregation’s building are below ground level. When it rains like this we are concerned with flooding. I’ve been told that the creek which runs by the front of the building used to run through the auditorium. The man who built it moved the creek to its present location, but it used to run right through where the stage is now. God put it where it was originally, and it ran there for millennia. I guess it still hasn’t fully accepted the new arrangement.

I have a vision for a river, not in our auditorium (please, Lord!), but for this biblical river that heals the souls of all sorts of peoples from all sorts of backgrounds, ethnicities, and cultures.

Ezekiel said the fruit of those trees was continual and healing “because their water flows from the sanctuary” (it comes after the sacrifice of the Prince in Ezekiel 46, but that’s a different post!). The “sanctuary” that provides this river isn’t an earthly building. I know this because Jesus gives us the understanding of Ezekiel’s “visions of God” (40:2).

Jesus, at that well in Samaria so long ago, told the outcast woman, “whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life” (John 4:14). It wasn’t about an earthly sanctuary (“Woman, believe Me, an hour is coming when neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father,” 4:21). It was about a gift from Jesus that turns the recipient into a sanctuary.

Jesus says the same later in Jerusalem: “Now on the last day, the great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, ‘If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, “From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.”’ But this He spoke of the Spirit, Whom those who believed in Him were to receive; for the Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified” (John 7:37-39). What we receive from Jesus causes us to be the sanctuary (compare with Isaiah 8:11-14; Ezekiel 11:16) from which flows the river that gives life, that is instrumental in continual, healing fruit. I want this. Not just for me, but for Jesus’ disciples. I want us to be the means by which the Spirit brings eternal healing to all sorts of people.

It will come when we become a people (by His grace) who are passionate about His Word more than worldliness (Psalm 1:1-3). It will flow when we, by the power and authority of that indwelling Spirit, call on the world to “come, and drink” (Revelation 22:17).

Beloved Church, bear this desire with me. Let us desperately beg the Father to do this, through His Son, by His Spirit, drowning our self-centeredness, fear, pride, worldliness, and neglect of His Word in continual, healing, eternal life for many, many peoples.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

One Calming Word

I’ve been reading Sinclair Ferguson’s Some Pastors and Teachers (Banner of Truth Trust, 2017). If you love historical theology, you’d love this book. It is a rich collection of Ferguson’s own meditations on John Calvin, John Owen, and John Murray.

John Owen (1616-1683) came to assurance of his salvation in Christ during a sermon by an unknown guest preacher at Aldermanbury Chapel. The text was Matthew 8:25-27 (Jesus’ stilling of the stormy sea). Owen, meditating later on the assurance he found in that sermon, wrote, “when the Holy Ghost by one word stills the tumults and storms that are raised in the soul, giving it an immediate calm and security, it knows his divine power, and rejoices in his presence” (Works, II:242; Ferguson quotes on pg. 260).

Speaks of the Holy Spirit’s “one word,” analogous to Jesus’ word calming the storm. While the great Puritan may have used this merely as a figure of speech to make a comparison (he never specifies a particular word in his meditation), the Scripture tells us there is a single word the Spirit speaks in us to calm our souls.


It is by the indwelling Holy Spirit that we are able to call upon the Father using the same Name the Son has used for all eternity.

“…all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, ‘Abba! Father!’ The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ” (Romans 8:14-17a).

“…when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!’ Therefore you are no longer a slave, but a son; and if a son, then an heir through God” (Galatians 4:4-7).

When we trust Jesus alone for a right relationship with God now and forever, we are mystically united to Him by faith through the work of the Holy Spirit He gives to us. All that is the Son’s is ours through the Holy Spirit, including the right to call on the first Person of the Trinity as “Father.” We do not call Him this because we have earned it through our character or actions. This right is ours because it is the Son’s right, and we are united to Him. The right to have this relationship with the first Person of the Trinity does not change, for it is immutably and eternally the relationship between Father and Son as the one true God. The Person of the Spirit, Who dwells in us, speaks out the call upon God as Father because of Who the Son is, not because of how good we are or anything we do. In the storm of our souls, this is the one calming word.

Rest in this.

Friday, February 2, 2018

Be Careful with Those Quotes

I was providing a reference for a ministry student this week to a Bible college. Out of curiosity, I checked the institution’s statement of faith. All seemed well until I got to the section on final things. It appears like this:

We believe in and accept the sacred Scriptures upon these subjects at their face and full value. Of the Resurrection, we believe that Christ rose bodily “The third day according to the Scriptures”; that He ascended “to the right hand of the throne of God”; that He alone is our “merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God”; “that this same Jesus which is taken up from you into heaven shall so come in like manner as ye have seen Him go into heaven,” bodily, personally, and visibly; that the “dead in Christ shall rise first”; that the living saints “shall all be changed in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump”; “that the Lord God shall give unto Him the throne of His father David”; and that “Christ shall reign a thousand years in righteousness until He hath put all enemies under His feet.”
Psalm 72:8;
Isaiah 11:4-5;
Matthew 24:27,42;
Matthew 28:6-7;
Mark 16:6,19;
Luke 1:32; 24:2,4-6,39,51;
John 14:3;
John 20:27;
Acts 1:9,11;
1 Corinthians 15:4;
Philippians 4:20;
1 Thessalonians 4:16;
1 Timothy 2:5;
Hebrews 2:17; 5:9; 8:1; 9:28; 12:2

Do you see it? Every statement in quotes can be connected to a verse in Scripture. Except one. The last phrase, in quotes like the seven Scripture verses before, is not a single passage of Scripture. It is a paraphrased conglomeration of Revelation 20:4,6 (well, close anyway), Psalm 9:8; 96:13; Acts 17:31; Revelation 19:11 (if we replace “judge” with “reign”), and 1 Corinthians 15:25 (this one’s the most accurate). I don’t mind summary statements of biblical doctrine, but don’t put it in quotes like your summary is Scripture, especially when it’s the eighth phrase in quotes and all the others are clearly Scripture! Further, none of the proof-texts for the statement match the final phrase. I can almost ascribe to the phrase: I believe it is happening now (that Jesus is reigning during this Gospel Age, putting His enemies under His feet). Right or not, though, don’t put it in quotes like you are referencing a single verse (as in the case of the previous seven quoted phrases).

I know oversights happen. I also know many people don’t seem to know how to use quotation marks properly. This could be a harmless thing, and I have no trouble granting that.

Here’s the point I want to make about it, though: I believe doctrinal statements/confessions are good things, but don’t equate them with Scripture. Don’t give the impression that your interpretation has even close to equal standing with the Bible itself – especially in areas like eschatology.

Mildly-concerned rant over. Thanks.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Three Practices of False Prophets

A few days ago I had a brief moment of stillness in the middle of this time of transition in our lives, so I picked up my wife’s reading Bible and opened it to Ezekiel.

“Then this message came to me from the LORD: ‘Son of man, prophesy against the false prophets of Israel who are inventing their own prophecies. Say to them, “Listen to the word of the LORD. This is what the Sovereign LORD says: What sorrow awaits the false prophets who are following their own imaginations and have seen nothing at all!” O people of Israel, these prophets of yours are like jackals digging in the ruins. They have done nothing to repair the breaks in the walls around the nation. They have not helped it to stand firm in battle on the day of the LORD. Instead, they have told lies and made false predictions. They say, “This message is from the LORD,” even though the LORD never sent them. And yet they expect Him to fulfill their prophecies! Can your visions be anything but false if you claim, “This message is from the LORD,” when I have not even spoken to you?’” (Ezekiel 13:1-6, New Living Translation).

As a preacher, passages like this grab my attention. What are some warnings concerning false prophets in this Word?

They Follow Their Imaginations

We don’t need a new word tailored for this particular moment. The Bible remains all-sufficient and relevant. Let it speak. We don’t need messages crafted to political or personal circumstances. God’s covenant people live in a world of innumerable false messages, and sit under the preaching/teaching of the Word for just a moment in the week. Just do the math: how much time do you spend hearing and reading the Word in comparison to watching the television, being on the internet, listening to the radio, hearing unbelievers speak, etc. The little time we have together in the Word needs to be a time of devotion to a Jesus-centered, Gospel-faith message to keep us grounded in the truth. We live in a world of vain imaginations; and I do not believe we are discerning enough to tell the difference between “sanctified” imagination and the much more common vanity. Let’s just let God’s Word speak and leave the “new words” to those outside the covenant community. I grieve, because so many faithful Bible expositors waste time with imaginations.

They Don’t Stand in the Gap

Drawing comparisons/applications from the Old Testament to the New Testament requires more than just word-to-word comparison. 13:5, for example, speaks of “the nation.” One of my hermeneutical/theological pet peeves is when modern American believers take O.T. references to “nation” or “land” and apply it to the U.S.A. Examples are legion. The N.T. (and therefore contemporary) equivalent to O.T. Israel is not the U.S.A. (or even the modern State of Israel); it is the Church, the new covenant people of God in Christ. In 1 Peter, “God’s chosen people who are living as foreigners in the provinces of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia” (1:1) are called “a holy nation” (2:9). I would make the same assertion concerning the O.T. concept of “land.” Since even the O.T. patriarchs were looking by faith to a “heavenly homeland” (Hebrews 11:16), even while living in the earthly Promised Land, we who live in the new covenant in Christ should have the same perspective. When Ezekiel condemns false prophets, for “they have done nothing to repair the breaks in the walls around the nation,” it’s about the covenant people for us. It was even this way in the O.T.; sometimes this language of “standing in the gap” refers to literal walls in a city (1 Kings 11:27; Nehemiah 6:1), but other times it reflects intercession (Psalm 106:23; Ezekiel 22:30). Isaiah 30:13; 58:12 are probably referring to both at the same time (physical and spiritual walls being breached and repaired). Amos 9:11 is important to our right new covenant application of this O.T. principle because it is quoted in Acts 15:13-18. The “repair” of “damaged walls” is not the restoration of a literal nation Israel, or any kind of wall-building (figurative or literal) in the U.S.A. The apostle James applies Amos’ prophecy to a spiritual building up of the covenant people of God, fulfilled in the “conversion of Gentiles” by the Seed of David (Jesus Christ).

False prophets don’t stand in the broken-down boundaries of the covenant people. One application: true men of God point out those boundaries between truth and lie (in confession and practice), lead the people to rebuild them, and intercede for the failure/judgment those gaps represent. Another application: (re)building means evangelism/missions, church planting, and continual discipleships.

They Don’t Help God’s People Stand

False prophets don’t help God’s people stand in the day. They give feel-good messages of worldly peace “by saying, ‘All is peaceful’ when there is no peace at all!” (Ezekiel 13:10). You just need preferable circumstances in this life to have peace (again, this could be political or personal). In contrast, the apostle Paul admonishes the people to “make the most of every opportunity in these evil days” (Ephesians 5:16). He warns them of spiritual enemies: “Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil…put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm” (Ephesians 6:11,13). By faith we stand in Christ, a place of true peace – peace with God (Romans 5:1,2). It is a standing in the Gospel (1 Corinthians 15:1-4). Believers need to hear this today, for they are constantly tempted to stand in lesser things against worldly/fleshly/temporary enemies. They do not stand in spiritual, eternal reality against spiritual enemies. True prophets help them stand by revealing God’s truth, not their own carnal imaginations. I become more and more convinced that most believers are fighting with all they have in battles that take them far from the simplicity of faithfulness to Christ and proclamation of the Gospel. We need true prophets to lift up a scriptural reality.

That’s what I’ve been meditating upon for the last few days. We need these warnings, saints. Paul gives us a helpful principle for applying O.T. Scripture in 1 Corinthians 10. He’s speaking of the Exodus and book of Numbers, but the concept is the same: “These things happened to them as examples for us. They were written down to warn us who live at the end of the age. If you think you are standing strong, be careful not to fall. The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure. So, my dear friends, flee from the worship of idols” (1 Corinthians 10:11-14).

True prophets (I understand new covenant prophecy to be ordinary prophecy, that is, preaching the Bible) proclaim an Old Testament rightly contextualized for the New Testament people, and keep the focus on Jesus and His Gospel. This is the prophecy we must have today as the Church, beloved.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

A Song for Twenty Days Out

I love Advent. Today, 20 days from Christmas, I have one of my favorite hymns (year-round) on my mind.

“Hymn for Christmas-Day,” by Charles Wesley (1739)

HARK how all the Welkin [an old word for “heaven”] rings:
“Glory to the Kings of Kings,
Peace on Earth, and Mercy mild,
GOD and Sinners reconcil’d!
Joyful all ye Nations rise,
Join the Triumph of the Skies,
Universal Nature say,
‘CHRIST the LORD is born to Day!’”

CHRIST, by highest Heav’n ador’d,
CHRIST, the Everlasting Lord,
Late in Time behold Him come,
Offspring of a Virgin’s Womb.
Veil’d in Flesh, the Godhead see,
Hail th’ Incarnate Deity!
Pleas’d as Man with Men t’ appear
JESUS, our Immanuel here!

Hail the Heav’nly Prince of Peace!
Hail the Sun of Righteousness!
Light and Life to All He brings,
Ris’n with Healing in His Wings.
Mild He lays his Glory by,
Born - that Man no more may die,
Born - to raise the Sons of Earth,
Born - to give them Second Birth.

Come, Desire of Nations, come,
Fix in Us Thy humble Home,
Rise, the Woman's Conqu’ring Seed,
Bruise in Us the Serpent’s Head.
Now display Thy saving Pow’r,
Ruin’d Nature now restore,
Now in Mystic Union join
Thine to Ours, and Ours to Thine.

Adam’s Likeness, LORD, efface,
Stamp Thy Image in its Place,
Second Adam from above,
Reinstate us in Thy Love.
Let us Thee, tho’ lost, regain,
Thee, the Life, the Inner Man:
O! to All Thyself impart,
Form’d in each Believing Heart.

George Whitefield made most of the changes which made the hymn the one we sing today (“Hark! The Herald Angels Sing”). I like that variation, too, but there’s a richness to the old verses. Sing them all!

Thursday, November 23, 2017

God's Self-Identification and His Love

“Then God spoke all these words, saying,
‘I am the LORD your God, Who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.
You shall have no other gods before Me.
You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing lovingkindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments’” (Exodus 20:1-6).

We’ve been in Heidelberg Catechism, questions 92-95, these last two weeks in our family devotion. Q.95 in particular has had my attention because of a conversation I had this week:
“95. Q. What is idolatry? A. Idolatry is having or inventing something in which to put our trust instead of, or in addition to, the only true God Who has revealed Himself in His Word.”

A church member asked me what Scripture I’d read to an unbeliever if I had a chance. My initial response was John 3 (verse 16 in particular). Her husband had suggested the same verse, but she was concerned that there was no clear call to repentance in the verse (repentance being the command of the Gospel, Matthew 3:2; 4:17; Mark 1:15; 6:12; Luke 13:3,5; 24:47; Acts 2:38; 3:19; 17:30; 20:21; 26:20). Further, she had an unbelieving co-worker who used the first phrase of the verse (“God so loved the world”) to claim she was loved of God and was good enough to go to heaven because of her works.

I advised her to ask one question about John 3:16. We must ask why God had to give His Son. The scriptural answer is, of course, because there had to be a sacrifice in our place so that those who believe could inherit eternal life. Quite the opposite of affirming our worth or goodness, John 3:16 logically requires we realize just how sinful we are – it took God the Father punishing His willing Son in our place to save us. Only the most extreme, radical act could save us. That’s how dire our situation is outside of repentant trust in Jesus Christ alone for our salvation.

The first two commandments and Heidelberg Catechism Q.95 identify the problem: authority. This unbeliever’s misuse of John 3:16 makes her guilty of violating the first two commandments. It’s ironic that, in this age where individuals all think themselves gods who speak reality into being, we ignore God’s own self-revelation. We think God is as we imagine and speak Him to be, regardless of what He has said about Himself. Our society would not tolerate that in any other context. Only God loses His right to self-identify.

Heidelberg Catechism Q.95 ends with the all-important phrase “the only true God Who has revealed Himself in His Word.” It doesn’t matter what you think or imagine Him to be. He has explicitly told us Who He is “to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways [the Old Testament], in these last days has spoken to us in His Son [revealed in the apostolic witness of the New Testament], Whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world. And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power” (Hebrews 1:1-3).

We imagine a god who looks just like us, thinks just like us, and is in whatever image we speak him to be. We make ourselves authority over his being. This is a violation of the first commandments, and this transgression is enough to make us guilty forever.

Unbelievers know this to be true, and I can prove they know it. A twisting of this reality is manifesting itself in a culture where the greatest sin is to not accept what someone says about themselves in their self-identifying. Unbelievers, as part of creation, inherently have knowledge of the Creator. In their sin and rebellion, however, they take this knowledge and twist it, replacing God with their own fantasy: “…since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures” (Romans 1:20-23). It doesn’t matter how “good” a person is, they are violating the first two commandments. It is impossible to have a right relationship with God (or to enter into His eternal presence of bliss) if you are ignoring His self-identification and have replaced Him with a god of your own imagination. He has identified Himself, His character, His works, and His will clearly in His Word. What gives you the right to ignore Him and reimagine Him in your own image?

In this day, it is a cultural sin to deny someone’s self-identification – you become rejected, labelled, and often unemployable. The first commands, given by God concerning Himself, have been reallocated by our society to its preferred god: the absolute individual.

“…You thought that I was just like you; I will reprove you and state the case in order before your eyes” (Psalm 50:21).

Repent of this, dear friends. His mercy is unending and free to those who turn from their rebellion against His Word and come to Him through faith in His Son. Yes, “God so loved the world” (John 3:16). Why did this necessitate Him giving “His only-begotten Son”? I suggested to the church member that she share from Romans 5 with this unbeliever if she got the chance: “…while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly…God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. And not only this, but we also exult in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through Whom we have now received the reconciliation” (Romans 5:6-11). Of course, there are a lot of other places to further explain the love of God rightly (I’m always stunned by the title “Him Who justifies the ungodly,” Romans 4:5); each passage about God’s love, when read in context, requires us to see our own unloveliness. His love toward us is all of grace, grace, God’s sweet grace. A view of the love of God that ignores your sins and centrally posits your beauty or worth will always ignore God’s revelation of Himself and ultimately be a religion whereby you cheat Him of the glory and thanks He alone deserves.

He has revealed Himself to us; believe this revelation for His glory and your eternal joy. He alone is worthy.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Balance in the Offices of the Church

“Paul and Timothy, bond-servants of Christ Jesus, to all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, including the overseers and deacons: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:1,2).

In this post, I’m not out to defend the plurality of overseers/elders/pastors in the local church (these different New Testament titles describing a singular office). I’m writing assuming you’re with me on the need for an office of men who lead, model, and meet the spiritual needs of the membership of the local congregation (overseers/elders/pastors); similarly, if you keep with this post past this sentence, I assume you’re with me on the biblical mandate for an office of men who lead, model, and meet the physical needs of the membership of the local congregation (deacons, a title that means “servant”). Presupposing these principles, I want to make an appeal for balance in the relationship between these offices and how that balance is a witness to the biblical calling on all believers.

First, there is no exclusivity to the actions carried out by the offices. “Overseers” can (and should) serve others. Why? Because service is a call for all believers, and holding an office exempts you from no requirements given to all believers (Matthew 25:41-46; James 2:15-17; 1 John 3:16,17). Yes, the focus of the office should be on “prayer and to the ministry [τῇ διακονίᾳ] of the Word” (Acts 6:4), and working “hard at preaching and teaching” (1 Timothy 5:17) – I would add that mentoring other teachers is a primary activity, as well (2 Timothy 2:2). This emphasis, however, doesn’t mean that an elder can’t mow a widow’s lawn or help wash dishes after the potluck. “Deacons” can (and should) be involved in the ministry of the Word when appropriate. Of the “seven” in Acts 6, two go on to dominate the next chapters with their preaching (Stephen in chapter 7 and Philip in chapter 8). Further, all believers have a responsibility to devotion “to the apostles’ teaching” (Acts 2:42), that is, the New Testament and its interpretive authority over the Old Testament. “Deacons” are no exception. All believers are filled with the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit speaks Jesus through all believers. Read Acts 2:16-18. On the day of Pentecost, the apostle Peter proclaims that the promise of Joel 2:28,29 (and the desire of Moses in Numbers 11:29) has been fulfilled in the Church. All of God’s people in Christ have His Spirit, and are called upon to speak a Christ-centered Scripture to all situations (a fulfillment of Deuteronomy 6:6-9). Office, to repeat, is not an exemption from normal Christian experience and calling.

Second, the offices display the two key elements to Christian life. True faith bears the fruit of good works (Ephesians 2:8-10; Philippians 2:12,13; Hebrews 13:20,21; James 2:14-26). In the offices we see these elements represented. “Overseers” lead and serve as examples to a dedication to the truth of the faith, as revealed in the Scriptures and witnessed to by the Church through history. “Deacons” lead and serve as examples to the living out of that truth in loving service to those who have needs (especially and primarily within the local congregation). Faith and works cannot exist apart from each other. Faith without works is dead. Works without faith is legalism that cannot save; or, to put it another way, works without faith in Jesus Christ alone is the model of every non-biblical religion/philosophy in the world. It is an effort to achieve a goal (be it spiritual or physical, temporal or eternal) apart from faith in Jesus’ all-sufficient saving work. The offices of the Church display both faith in Jesus Christ alone (and the body of truth that is part of that faith) and Spirit-wrought works as the fruit of that faith, and both are indispensable.

Third, in the single body of the local congregation, the offices serve as a model of balance that is to be lived out by the individual members. While Paul doesn’t single out the “overseers and deacons” in the rest of the letter, Philippians does have unity and mutual submission within the local congregation as a significant theme (1:27; 2:1-18; 4:2). The offices, since they witness to required elements of a true Christian life, must complement and balance each other. In a congregationalist (democratic) polity, individual office holders have one vote – just as the non-officer holder (as a Southern Baptist, I confess that “each congregation operates under the Lordship of Christ through democratic processes,” Baptist Faith & Message [2000], VI). They do not wield any greater decision-making power. “Overseers” lead by modeling a life dedicated to the truth of Scripture, teaching, equipping, correcting, and encouraging themselves and the congregation to greater understanding, knowledge, and faithfulness to the Bible. “Deacons” lead by modeling a life living that truth out in loving service to the congregation and by organizing efforts in the whole faith community to serve members in need. Neither office has greater power; the idea of power, in fact, is antithetical to the offices as Jesus embodied them. It is together that they display a biblically-balanced Christian life. If they are not displaying that balance in their harmony and mutual submission, they are giving witness to a twisted and imbalanced Christianity – which is no Christianity at all.

This humility, mutual submission, and balance has to be purposefully pursued. In our sin and pride we will tend toward exerting our will and elevating our status within and between the offices. Office-holders must continually remind each other of the true nature of the offices. They must pray for each other, and pray together (1 Timothy 2:8). They must speak well of each other, publicly and privately giving thanks for the wisdom of Christ and work of the Spirit in and through these offices. They must seek out ways of helping one another. “Overseers” must participate in the service of “deacons,” submitting to them and following their lead in service projects or individual acts of mercy. “Deacons” must participate in the teaching opportunities offered within the congregational schedule, especially when they are led by “overseers.” “Deacons,” pursue growth in the truth under the leadership of the “overseers.” “Overseers,” live out that truth under the servant-leadership of the “deacons.”

In the mutual submission and balance of the offices, these two groups offer even more to the congregation than they ever could apart from each other or – God forbid – in competition with each other. Officers living in biblical balance show a rich and whole Christian community and life to the congregation as a whole and as individuals. This is the will and plan of Christ, the only Lord of His Church.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Jesus Prays Psalm 6

In the Gospels we often read about Jesus’ prayer life – passages that describe His all-night prayers (Luke 6:12) catch our attention, especially in a time when our attention spans are decreasing at an exponential rate. How did He pray? Remember that the Psalms (the Bible’s prayer/song book) are about Jesus (Luke 24:44). Let me suggest that the Psalms are an insight into Jesus’ extensive prayer life on earth and as He intercedes for us in heaven (Romans 8:34; Hebrews 7:25). Reading Psalm 6 this morning, let’s briefly explore how this is a Jesus-prayer.

“O Lord, do not rebuke me in Your anger,
Nor chasten me in Your wrath.
Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am pining away;
Heal me, O Lord, for my bones are dismayed.
And my soul is greatly dismayed;
But You, O Lord—how long?
Return, O Lord, rescue my soul;
Save me because of Your lovingkindness.
For there is no mention of You in death;
In Sheol who will give You thanks?
I am weary with my sighing;
Every night I make my bed swim,
I dissolve my couch with my tears.
My eye has wasted away with grief;
It has become old because of all my adversaries.
Depart from me, all you who do iniquity,
For the Lord has heard the voice of my weeping.
The Lord has heard my supplication,
The Lord receives my prayer.
All my enemies will be ashamed and greatly dismayed;
They shall turn back, they will suddenly be ashamed”
(Psalm 6:1-10).

How is this Jesus’ prayer? The Lord Himself gives us the interpretive key to understanding this plea in His context.

He quotes verse 8a in Matthew 7 when He speaks of false confessors/teachers: “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves.  You will know them by their fruits.  Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they?  So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit.  A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit.  Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.  So then, you will know them by their fruits. Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father Who is in heaven will enter.  Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’  And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness’” (Matthew 7:15-23).

 They may fool many people, but they do not fool Jesus the Judge. Jesus, in quoting Psalm 6:8a in this Sermon on the Mount teaching, reveals to us the greater context of His judgment of false confessors/teachers. In Psalm 6, we see that the damage they do within the covenant family (the Church) is taken personally by the Lord of the Jesus. What these liars and hypocrites do to the Church, they do to Him. Before Paul was apostle, he was Saul of Tarsus, chief among the persecutors of the Church. When Jesus knocked the man off his horse, the glorified Lord of the Church asked this question: “Why are you persecuting Me?” (Acts 9:4; 22:7,8; 26:14). To hurt the Church is to attack the Lord of the Church. He prays on behalf of His Church to His Father (even now).

The answer to the prayer is the resurrection of Jesus Christ. In Psalm 6, the Lord points out that God’s wrath and death itself must be conquered by God Himself before the adversaries of God’s beloved can truly be conquered. We often associate Jesus' prayer concerning His death with the Garden of Gethsemane alone. This is not necessarily true: “In the days of His flesh, He offered up both prayers and supplications with loud crying and tears to the One able to save Him from death, and He was heard because of His piety” (Hebrews 5:7). Psalm 6 was one of those prayers, prayed long before the Garden. The prayer was "heard," and answered. This, of course, happened in the saving work of Jesus on the cross, in His resurrection, and in His coronation seating at the right hand of the Father in heaven. The enemies were placed into the judging hand of the Lord Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:25). Prayer answered.

Yes, false confessors/teachers are a deadly threat to the Church in every age. They sneak in to the Church from the outside, and rise up from the inside. Unless we are diligent, we step into that role ourselves.

We should read this Psalm as the answered prayer of Jesus to the Father on behalf of His Church, which in His Body – in union with Him by faith, sealed by the Spirit. To hurt His Church with lies (in practice or doctrine) is to attack Him. Judgment is assured.

This is how Jesus prayed Psalm 6.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Modeling the Truth

I recently wrote this: “Purposefully showing the relationship of Christ and Church in the worship gathering on the Lord’s Day should be a regular part of that disciplined pursuit of each other. This isn’t hypocrisy; this is disciplining yourselves to show the ideal of the Gospel. Again, if there are problems, get help. Modeling the goal of Christian marriage (the Gospel relationship between Christ and the Church) in the gathering of the Church is appropriate and a good reminder to you and the rest of the congregation.”

Today I’d like to say a little more about the principle behind this statement. This is advice I’ve given to a lot of people in many different contexts over the years.

We should purposefully discipline ourselves to think, speak, and live out the truth of the Bible, even when we don’t feel like it.

If I wait until I feel like praying, I won’t pray. If I wait until I feel like telling others about Jesus, fear will win. If I wait until I feel like showing my brothers and sisters in Christ the love commanded by Scripture, I will choose being “authentic” over obeying God’s commands.

There it is. The popular buzzword among believers today: “authentic.”

I suspect it’s a barely-Christianized version of the world’s advice to “follow your heart.” But I should not be led by how I feel. I don’t have that option as a believer, for I have been bought with a price, and I am not my own (I am only speaking to those who are believers – non-believers should not imitate the behavior of believers). The command to love (to use one example) is not conditional on whether I feel like loving or not.

I am not to follow my heart, but to lead it in the truth: “Listen, my son, and be wise, and direct your heart in the way…he who trusts in his own heart is a fool, but he who walks wisely will be delivered” (Proverbs 23:19; 28:26). Truth and wisdom come to the heart from the outside – from Scripture alone. It must be actively applied to the heart, which resists in its sin and selfishness.

The Psalmist often commands his soul into action; this command is usually accompanied by a proclamation of truth to self.

“Why are you in despair, O my soul?
And why have you become disturbed within me?
Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him
For the help of His presence.
O my God, my soul is in despair within me;
Therefore I remember You from the land of the Jordan
And the peaks of Hermon, from Mount Mizar.
Deep calls to deep at the sound of Your waterfalls;
All Your breakers and Your waves have rolled over me.
The Lord will command His lovingkindness in the daytime;
And His song will be with me in the night,
A prayer to the God of my life…
…why are you in despair, O my soul?
And why have you become disturbed within me?
Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him,
The help of my countenance and my God…
…why are you in despair, O my soul?
And why are you disturbed within me?
Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him,
The help of my countenance and my God”
(Psalm 42:5-8,11; 43:5).

“My soul, wait in silence for God only,
For my hope is from Him.
He only is my rock and my salvation,
My stronghold; I shall not be shaken.
On God my salvation and my glory rest;
The rock of my strength, my refuge is in God”
(Psalm 62:5-7).

“Bless the Lord, O my soul,
And all that is within me, bless His holy name.
Bless the Lord, O my soul,
And forget none of His benefits;
Who pardons all your iniquities,
Who heals all your diseases;
Who redeems your life from the pit,
Who crowns you with lovingkindness and compassion;
Who satisfies your years with good things,
So that your youth is renewed like the eagle…
…bless the Lord, O my soul…
…bless the Lord, O my soul…
…bless the Lord, O my soul.
Praise the Lord!”
(Psalm 103:1-5,22c; 104:1,35b).

“Gracious is the Lord, and righteous;
Yes, our God is compassionate.
The Lord preserves the simple;
I was brought low, and He saved me.
Return to your rest, O my soul,
For the Lord has dealt bountifully with you”
(Psalm 116:5-7).

“Praise the Lord!
Praise the Lord, O my soul!”
(Psalm 146:1).

The Psalmist commands himself to praise, shepherding his own heart with truth.

As believers, we are called to obey, whether we feel like it or not.

We are called to keep the commandments of God, whether we are in a good place in our Christian walk or not.

We are called to apostolic imitation (1 Corinthians 11:1; Hebrews 13:7), even when we want to do something else.

God in Christ is not worthy of our love, praise, and obedience only when it’s “real” for us.

The Father purposes for us to be conformed to the image of His Son. In faith-union with the Son we are growing into His likeness, righteousness, and obedience. By the power of the Holy Spirit we are to die to the “authentic” self (which is a sin-loving idolater) and live unto God in obedience to His commands.

This is not hypocrisy, saints. This is discipleship. Hypocrisy would be someone outside of Christ pretending to be in Christ; what I'm advocating is a believer in Christ disciplining herself to be as the Scripture describes she is in Christ.

Live individually and corporately in the truth of the Word. Remind yourself of this truth constantly.

“I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:1,2).

“We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5).

“…be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth” (Ephesians 5:23,24).

Crisis moments in our minds, character, and discipleship are usually built not on the sudden, but on the habitual neglect of being saturated in the truth in the gathering of the Church and the self-discipline of being in the Word.

When we don’t feel like it,
Lord, hold us in the truth
That we may preach it to ourselves
And live out our self-sermons
Until they become eternal life,
And not just a struggling self-discipline.
Help us to rest not the earthly
Under the excuse of “authentic” or “honest,”
But, Holy Spirit,
remind us of the truth of Scripture
As it is in Jesus.
Take us to what we are in Him,
Away from what we are as sinners.
Help us to think rightly and stand faithfully
By Your grace in Christ.
Without it we have nothing.

Amen and amen.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Married Couples, Show the Gospel in Worship

“Now I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions even as I delivered them to you. But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God. Every man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonors his head, but every wife who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head, since it is the same as if her head were shaven. For if a wife will not cover her head, then she should cut her hair short. But since it is disgraceful for a wife to cut off her hair or shave her head, let her cover her head. For a man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God, but woman is the glory of man. For man was not made from woman, but woman from man. Neither was man created for woman, but woman for man. That is why a wife ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels. Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man nor man of woman; for as woman was made from man, so man is now born of woman. And all things are from God. Judge for yourselves: is it proper for a wife to pray to God with her head uncovered? Does not nature itself teach you that if a man wears long hair it is a disgrace for him, but if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? For her hair is given to her for a covering. If anyone is inclined to be contentious, we have no such practice, nor do the churches of God” (1 Corinthians 11:2-16, E.S.V.).

Before I comment on the text above, let me explain why I used the English Standard Version for this post. As far as translations go, I’m a New American Standard guy (I’ll be using it in the rest of this post). It was the translation given to me when I was baptized in 1984, and I’ve stayed with it (and its update in 1995). Occasionally I’ll try another translation; I’ve used the English Standard Version and Holman Christian Standard for sermon series through books of the Bible. I like the New King James Version and New Living Translation a lot (the N.K.J.V. is my favorite alternate translation). I recently quoted the New International Version in my sermon notes; that was the only time in 10 years, to my recollection.

I’ve been preaching through 1 Corinthians in our evening Lord’s Day service for a year now. Recently I taught on chapter 11, which begins an extended discussion of Christian worship (chapters 11-14). I believe the interpretive challenges in 11:2-16 (and 14:34,35) could be eased if we consistently translated γυνή as “wife” instead of “woman” (and ἀνήρ as “husband” instead of “man”). The E.S.V., in the passage above, does this, but not consistently. Still, the use of “husband” (11:3; 14:35) and “wife” (11:3,5,6,10,13) in the E.S.V. is a step in the right direction.

Well, the other night, when I was teaching through 11:2-16, I did a verse-by-verse explanation of the passage for about twenty minutes. There are several challenging aspects to this section, and I suspect it’s easy to get bogged down in them. The reason I’m writing this post, though, is not to rehash those interpretive hurtles with you. Instead, I want to sum up the passage for you with one sentence: husbands and wives are to display the Gospel in their relationship when the Church is gathered for worship.

Paul’s all about the Gospel. As far as his preaching when he was with the Corinthians, he wrote, “I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2). When I was teaching a preaching class several years ago, I told the men that the first step was to imagine a big cross on the empty sheet of paper that would become their sermon notes. Remember Spurgeon’s famous wisdom: “The motto of all true servants of God must be, ‘We preach Christ; and him crucified.’ A sermon without Christ in it is like a loaf of bread without any flour in it. No Christ in your sermon, sir? Then go home, and never preach again until you have something worth preaching” (07/09/1876; sermon #2899).

The Lord’s Supper is given by the Lord of the Church so that the membership can proclaim the cross of Christ together: “…as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes” (1 Corinthians 11:26).

The Gospel is primary: “Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He appeared” (1 Corinthians 15:1-5). We need the Gospel often. I have told our congregation for years that they need to preach the Gospel to themselves every day. And it certainly needs to be proclaimed every Lord’s Day. As Martin Luther wrote at the beginning of his commentary on Galatians, “I must hearken to the gospel, which teacheth me, not what I ought to do (for that is the proper office of the law), but what Jesus Christ the Son of God hath done for me: to wit, that He suffered and died to deliver me from sin and death. The gospel willeth me to receive this, and to believe it. And this is the truth of the gospel. It is also the principal article of all Christian doctrine, wherein the knowledge of all godliness consisteth. Most necessary it is, therefore, that we should know this article well, teach it unto others, and beat it into their heads continually.”

In the same way, husbands and wives are to display the Gospel in their relationship in the gathering of the Church. When you read 1 Corinthians 11:2-16 (and 14:34,35), read “husband” and “wife” for “man” and “woman.” Don’t get distracted by hair/head coverings and the public prayer/prophesying of women (those are legitimate issues to discover, but it’s issue to miss the big picture while wrestling with them). Read this passage in light of Ephesians 5:22-33.

While there are definitely unique cultural elements to this, don’t buy the argument that the whole passage should be jettisoned from application because of those issues found in A.D. 1st century Corinth. Paul doesn’t base his reasoning on cultural conditions which are irrelevant today. He bases his argument on Genesis 2 in 1 Corinthians 11:8,9. He does the same thing in 1 Timothy 2:13-15. Jesus does the same thing in Matthew 19:3-9 and its parallels in Mark and Luke. The historicity of Genesis 2-3 matters because of the Gospel.

How does the marriage relationship display the Gospel in worship? I can’t answer that question comprehensively, but here are a few thoughts:

Show you actually love each other. Don’t complain about each other in the times around gathered worship. I’m not saying be hypocritical if there are problems, but we don’t gather for the primary purpose of displaying ourselves. We gather to display and remind ourselves of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Need help? Please seek it out. In worship, however, practice displaying love by respecting each other, smiling at each other, sitting close, singing together, and receiving the Word together (I know our roles in service sometimes make this impractical, but make time away from those roles to worship together with the gathered congregation). Do you remember the 40-day Love Dare devotional? Purposefully showing the relationship of Christ and Church in the worship gathering on the Lord’s Day should be a regular part of that disciplined pursuit of each other. This isn’t hypocrisy; this is disciplining yourselves to show the ideal of the Gospel. Again, if there are problems, get help. Modeling the goal of Christian marriage (the Gospel relationship between Christ and the Church) in the gathering of the Church is appropriate and a good reminder to you and the rest of the congregation.

It can be funny to put each other down teasingly and to make little jokes at each other’s expense, but think about saving that for other times. Husbands, have eyes for your bride. Wives, be thankful he’s at gathering with you. Smile at each other. Husbands, put your arm around her shoulders. Do you have little ones with you in worship? Shepherd them as a team, serving one another by engaging in worship-parenting together. Display the Gospel in your relating to one another in worship. I think you know to keep the affection appropriate; hear the heart of what I’m saying.

There is an increased sensitivity and consideration of single people in the life of the Church; that’s a good thing. We want to be inclusive and edifying to all believers. This doesn’t mean we minimize the biblically-mandated witness the married contribute to the worship gathering.

Husbands and wives, remember: you should be showing the Gospel story by your relationship in the gathering of the Church.