Someone to Thank

This week most people in our country will celebrate Thanksgiving, a holiday that has been with us in some shape or form for almost 400 years.

Some people will note that we don’t have a lot of information about the first American Thanksgiving in 1621, just a brief account from Edward Winslow, the assistant of William Bradford who founded Plymouth Colony: “Our harvest being gotten in, our governor sent four men on fowling, that so we might after a more special manner rejoice together after we had gathered the fruit of our labors…many of the Indians coming amongst us, and among the rest of their greatest king Massasoit, with some ninety men, whom for three days we entertained with a feast.”

They had birds, but we’re not sure about the turkeys. They had a party, but no official holiday. They certainly had no parade. And all of this makes no difference. The point of Thanksgiving should not be lost on us. We’re not primarily celebrating the fact that they had a feast, nor are we celebrating thanksgiving or gratitude itself. We are in fact saying thank you, that is, giving thanks to God for all of His gifts, and the greatest gift, Jesus Christ. Thanksgiving is holiday named after a verb, and that verb has an object.

You can’t say thank you to no one. If there is no one above us, there is no one to thank. If harvest is the random product of time and chance, if our bodies and families and friends and jobs and freedoms and fridges full of food are nothing more than happen-stance pleasant circumstances, then someone might throw a party, but it wouldn’t be called Thanksgiving.

But there is Someone above us, and thanking Him turns out to be another one of His gifts to us. The Bible describes the condition of the human race this way, in Romans 1:20-21: “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened.”

We see God revealed in the world He made and sustains. This is His artistry. Rather than refusing to glorify Him and thank Him, we are invited to turn and give thanks, to seek forgiveness for our darkened hearts and the sins we commit, and trust in Jesus who came to put everything right.

Because God is the object of our gratitude, and because we deserve nothing from Him, we can be grateful for everything. This is why you should love Thanksgiving. You get to go be with family who would otherwise drive you crazy, and might still a little anyway, and be thankful for them. You have another reason for gratitude. You see what God has given you in Christ and everything that flows from that, and you get to party because of it and invite people to join in. This holiday was established when enough people knew this. As a culture, we don’t anymore, which is another reason for us to get on it.

Defund Planned Parenthood

These are my comments made at a Defund Planned Parenthood Rally.

Good Morning. Thank you for the opportunity to speak to you today. Thank you to the organizers and to all who have come out to support the cause of life: the lives of children, lives of children in the womb, the lives of mothers facing crisis pregnancies, and the lives of fathers of those children. Also I want to thank those who are listening now or who will hear or read who are not pro-life yet but are open-minded to hearing why we think everyone must be, and why now is the time to defund Planned Parenthood. Why are we here? Continue reading

The Right Transformation

One of the ways Christians have gotten themselves into trouble at the Lord’s Supper is by thinking wrongly about the elements, the bread and the wine. Jesus didn’t say “This is my body, broken for you” so that we could ignore what He is doing and instead wonder “How are the bread particles undergoing molecular transformation into Jesus’ body?” Continue reading

Pick Your Battles

In Matthew 17 the disciples came into Capernaum and the tax collectors asked Peter, “Does you Teacher not pay the tax?” Peter said “Yes.” And then we they were in the house Jesus asked him, “What do you think, Simon? From whom do the kings of the earth take customs or taxes, from their sons or from strangers?” 26 Peter said to Him, “From strangers.” Jesus said to him, “Then the sons are free. 27 Nevertheless, lest we offend them, go to the sea, cast in a hook, and take the fish that comes up first. And when you have opened its mouth, you will find a piece of money; take that and give it to them for Me and you.”

The kings of earth ought to take customs and taxes from strangers rather than squeezing their own people, thereby treating sons like strangers. The first century tax code was unjust, but what was Jesus’ point? Why are we told this?

“Nevertheless, lest we offend them…go pay the tax.” Jesus taught his disciples to know that there are some injustices worth fighting for, and some not. And there are some central injustices that when they are defeated, the lesser ones will be worked out. Jesus took this conversation indoors to his apostles, those who would listen, and taught them. He said pay the tax, it’s not worth offending them.

There are many applications from this story, but here are two.

Speaking of injustices, the political presidential season is upon on us and we must remember there are some issues that are bigger than others. There are many injustices but which ones are important, worth praying about, worth talking about? The right to life is important because human beings bear the image of God. This issue is front and center and should stay there. As you think about issues and candidates, let God’s Word inform your priorities.

And a second application on more personal level, there are many sins in the lives of those around us, and God tells us that love covers a multitude of sins. Most things are not worth bringing up, but worth covering in love just like God does for us. Where would we be if He didn’t? So let go of what isn’t important, challenge graciously what is important for the other person’s sake, and forgive as you have been forgiven.

Word with Sacrament

Throughout much of the Church’s history Word and sacrament have not gone together. During the Middle Ages Mass would occur with Lord’s Supper being offered in part (bread not wine) but without preaching.

You’ve no doubt been to many worship services, in fact most Protestant worship services, where the Word is taught, but the sacrament, the Lord’s Supper, isn’t offered.

Many Reformers in the sixteenth century wanted Word and sacrament to go together the way they do in Scripture. Martin Bucer tried to get the whole Christian community into the cathedral in Strasbourg to hear the Word and receive communion every week, and so did Calvin in Geneva, but it didn’t happen.

They wanted this because the Supper is the sign and seal of God’s Word, assurance that it’s really offered to us. It is put in our hands and in our mouths showing His fatherly care and hospitality to us. We eat and drink acknowledging that we accept His grace. If nothing is said, if there’s no Word, then what are we receiving? And if we hear the Word, it says “Taste and see that the Lord is good.” Jesus said “Do this in remembrance of me.”

No Chance

Christians “are never in the grip of blind force (fortune, chance, luck, fate); all that happens to them is divinely planned, and each event comes as a new summons to trust, obey, and rejoice.”

–J.I. Packer

New Identity

On front page of one of our nation’s leading newspapers this past week were two articles, one praising someone for being transgender, and another scolding someone else for being transracial.

For some reason right now it’s okay to pretend you are someone of a different gender, but not okay to pretend that you are someone of a different race. It’s okay to artificially make yourself look like a woman, but not okay to artificially make yourself look like an African American.

These identify crises are bizarre in one sense, but at the same time we shouldn’t be surprised. Everyone needs an identity, and everyone has to face their flawed identity and the desire to be remade. In his letter to church in Ephesus, Paul says we are all by nature children of wrath. Every individual in the human race is born fallen, sinful, sinning, and under the judgment of God. This is not an identity of confidence and security.

We all need to be transformed, to be remade and renewed in every way, to take part of what Jesus calls the regeneration. He told one teacher in Israel, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God” (Jn. 3:3). Regeneration is the sovereign work of the Holy Spirit. Bruce Jenner and Rachel Dolezal are not wrong to seek a new identity, but they’re not going to find it with surgery and skin color.

God the Father offers us a new birth, a new heart, a new hope through a new and living way directly into the His presence through the blood of Christ. Without this renewal we are stuck with our own manufactured ones that only make us more broken and confused.

But the way out is simple. The good news that Jesus died for our sin, rose from the dead on the third day according the Scriptures in order to give us new life and transform the world is plain. Christ died and rose. That offer was made with power 2000 years ago and continues today as you are invited to repent of your sin and believe in Jesus, that times of refreshing—fulfillment, peace, joy, acceptance, confidence, love—would come to you from your Lord and God.

The Gospel is simple good news, and it is the power unto salvation. Receive and rest in it, and take it out in humble confidence to a world in need of a new identity.

The Conquered Dragon

The victory over the Dragon, according to St. John, does not take place by means of a cataclysmic event at the end of history, but by means of the cataclysmic event that took place in the middle of history: the sacrifice of the Lamb. The language used to describe the basis of Michael’s conquest has nothing to do with the Second Coming, but it has everything to do with the First Coming… When, therefore, did Satan fall from heaven? He fell, definitively, during the ministry of Christ, culminating in the atonement, the resurrection, and the ascension of the Lord to His heavenly throne.”  –David Chilton, The Days of Vengeance, pp. 315-16, on Revelation 12:10-11


Drew & Becky

Every wedding between a man and a woman is a picture, a metaphor, of the ultimate marriage between Jesus and the Church.

Ephesians 5:29-33:

29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, 30 because we are members of his body. 31 “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” 32 This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. 33 However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.

It’s important, especially now, to remember that though I’m officiating, I’m not creating a marriage. Marriage is not something the Church made up or instituted, nor is it something the state established. Marriage was created by God at the beginning of the human race to be an image of the covenantal, sacrificial, loving relationship between Jesus and the Church. The covenant of marriage therefore can’t be created or altered by anyone, but it can be received, enjoyed, honored to our blessing and God’s glory, or ignored and despised at our peril.

The Church and state don’t create marriages, but they witness them. The state enforces laws so they’re represented. The Church upholds the law of Christ and wants to see your marriage flourish as you keep your vows and thrive in your love for God and one another. And all of us here as friends and family are also witnesses. You’re not here just for the cake or the sweet train ride, although these are appreciated, but weddings have witnesses for a reason. We witness the vows Drew and Becky make because we love them and pledge to support them. We commit to care, encourage, and pray for them, and as they are united in marriage, they’re a blessing to us, to the Church, and to the world. So don’t lock your knees and pass out, or leave this place in your mind. This matters.

Becky, ladies first, so I’ll speak to you. Here is Paul in Ephesians 5:22-24:

22 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.

Many people bristle at these words both in the Church and the world today because they don’t understand who God is. Jesus is equal to the Father, and yet the Father is the head of Jesus. He does the Father’s will; He glorifies the Father. Far from making Jesus lesser, servile or despised, the Father has put the name of Jesus above every name. In the Godhead, we have equality and submission, hierarchy and glory.

Proverbs 12:4 says “An excellent wife is the crown of her husband, but she who brings shame is like rottenness in his bones.” Submitting to your husband, honoring and respecting him even when he isn’t respectable, is one of the most powerful ways God has given you to make him more honorable and respectable. When you follow and build him up, you’re not becoming a doormat, but you are making a noble head upon which you are the crown.

Crowns are beautiful, but they are not merely beautiful. By them, kings rule. The excellent wife in Proverbs 31 is more precious than jewels. Her husband trusts her; she does him good all her days. She provides for her people, bringing food from far. She runs the household, clearly her priority, but not her confined place. She considers a field and buys it. She plants a vineyard. She makes her arms strong. She opens her hand to the poor and reaches out to the needy. She makes garments and sells them.

You are taking on the noble role of wife today, following in the steps of Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel, Jael, Hannah, and Mary, matriarchs God used to change the world as they were devoted to their husbands. Be Drew’s devoted friend and most edifying counselor. Steep yourself in Scripture and surround yourself with wise people who spur you on to faith, hope and love. Embrace your role and the wonderful responsibilities that come with it. You are the glory of your husband, his most trusted counselor, his sister and friend. Charm is deceitful, and beauty vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. May your hands be full of good things and your works praise you in the gates.

And for Drew. Paul again in Ephesians 5:

25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. 28 In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.

Drew, you are an interested and interesting person, passionate about your calling and hobbies. This is wonderful, and all of it is be a gift to your bride. Jesus gave everything up for His bride the Church, all the way to death, and you’re called in everything you do to bless and sacrifice for Becky. Your interests should never compete with your interest in her, but always be a connection and expression of it.

You provide for her, and she takes what you provide and makes it better. You initiate, sacrificially leading, and she follows, sacrificing herself as well. Every job you take and cool thing you build is not done apart from considering how to serve and love her as best as you possibly can.

Jesus washes His bride with the Word, so you have the wonderful task of loving Becky as you learn the Bible. You can’t be the right kind of student of her, knowing her better and more deeply year after year and decade after decade, without being a student, a disciple, of Christ first. Be regular and devoted in the means of grace: reading the Bible, praying, and worshiping with God’s people. Lead Becky in these ways, making your home a place God is loved first, and therefore people are as well. Give yourself in these ways and watch God bless you more than you could have imagined through her—“He who loves his wife, loves himself.”

In name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen.

Tell Them

1 Give ear, O my people, to my teaching;
    incline your ears to the words of my mouth!
I will open my mouth in a parable;
    I will utter dark sayings from of old,
things that we have heard and known,
    that our fathers have told us.
We will not hide them from their children,
    but tell to the coming generation
the glorious deeds of the Lord, and his might,
    and the wonders that he has done.

Psalm 78:1-4