Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Of Coarse

My Delaney is 13, and all girl. She is gentle, soft-spoken, beautiful. Yesterday, as she headed off to the field to play her last soccer game of the season I told her what I tell her before every game- “That’s your ball.” I want her to play more aggressively, to not wait for the ball, but to go to it. She hustles, works hard, and is learning that it is indeed her ball.

Later in the game, right in front of me, Delaney’s little girl cousins, and a set of parents, another little girl, playing aggressively for the other team, believing the ball to be hers, found herself on the ground, frustrated and without the ball. She stood, and announced, incredulous about one of Delaney’s teammates- “She f#*%@ing tripped me.”

I was, of course, aghast and appalled, speechless even. The mom next to me asked the girl if she kissed her mom with that mouth. Which got me to thinking about that mom. It’s absolutely true that we are all responsible for our own sins. It is likewise true that our sins tend to beget more sins. What kind of a mother raises a little girl that talks that way? I suspected the kind of mother who speaks that way herself.

After more consideration, however, I have come to suspect that this little girl’s mother may have a reasonably polite tongue, but whose discernment muscles have atrophied away. I suspect the little girl is actually being raised by pop culture. Movies, music, television, video games have all shaped the discourse of those who consume them. We speak what we hear. When what goes in our ears is a sneering, cynical, angry stew, what comes out of our mouths is sneering, cynical, angry words.

Someone once noted the hypocrisy of television executives who trudge down to Washington and appear before Congressional hearings, promising that all the sex and violence doesn’t impact people’s behavior. These same men then meet with advertisers and promise that commercials can change people’s behavior. The forty minutes of programming won’t change a thing. The twenty minutes of advertising will change everything. They can’t have it both ways.

The truth is we are responsible for what we do. No one can stand before God and declare, “NBC made me do it.” The truth is, however, that media matter, and even our most sophisticated worldview grids do not make sludge safe to drink. Our discourse has grown coarse because we drink from the sewers of pop culture.

We spiritualize our self-poisoning, because we are poisoned. We think we have to be hip to this new band, or play that video-game so that we can be relevant, so we can reach the lost. The truth is, the lost are reaching us. As Charles Swindoll once said, “If you drop a white glove in the mud, the mud doesn’t get all ‘glovey.’” The world doesn’t need us to become more like them. “Gritty, edgy, real” is just Christian for “geek who wants to fit it.”

We don’t need salty language to be salt, nor dark language in order to bring light. We need instead to speak the language of heaven. To learn to speak that language, we need to learn to hear it- to read God’s Word, to sing His Psalms, to meditate on His promises. Then grace will flow from our lips.

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Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Ask RC: Why are college and medical care so expensive?

Every year we can count on two costs outpacing the rate of inflation- medical insurance and college education. Some might think this is because of how important these two commodities are, but the cost of food does not rise as quickly year after year, and it stands even higher in anyone’s hierarchy of needs. Some might think it’s because both are labor intensive, and the labor must be highly trained. But the cost of a cab ride in New York doesn’t rise as quickly year after year, and there is precious little more labor intensive than having one person driving another around. And if you’ve been in New York traffic, you want a well-trained driver.

The real answer is much more fundamental. In both cases we are seeing government pouring more and more money into each. To understand why this drives costs up we need to first disabuse ourselves of a common bit of economic “wisdom.” We are told, by left and right both, that taxes on businesses are always passed along to the consumer. The government can’t, these folks argue, actually extract money from businesses. Utterly false. The truth is that the price a consumer is willing to pay for a good or service has nothing to do with where the money goes. The price is set by supply and demand. Raising prices, for whatever reason, reduces demand. Imagine, for instance, that Washington determines to impose a $15,000 luxury tax on all new cars. Can Detroit, or even Tokyo, just “pass that on” to the consumer. Would you spend $30,000 on a car you value at $15,000? The artificially high price reduces sales, hurting the business’s bottom line. This is not just an abstract suggestion. Check out what happened to the luxury boat business after the first President Bush broke his no new taxes pledge.

Now back to government subsidizing education and medicine. How much would you be willing to pay for a college education? If that number for most people is $15,000, a year and the state stayed out of the equation, then the cost of an education would stay around $15,000. But suppose the state comes in offering scholarships, grants, and guaranteed loans. Now how much are you willing to pay? Still $15,000. That’s how much you value the education, and so that is what the college can get you to pay. Nothing at all wrong with that- it’s a free trade. How much though, would you be willing to pay of other people’s money? The trouble is that they can charge others, taxpayers, another $15,000, and still get your $15,000.

Don’t believe me? Well, consider the difference in the rates the uninsured pay at the local walk-in clinic compared to the insured. Why are the uninsured given this break? Is it because of the altruism of the medical profession? No. If I am willing to pay $150 to have my son’s arm x-rayed, that is what they will charge. If they can get the state, however, to pay $150, they will seek to charge $300, the $150 I am willing to pay, and the $150 the state is willing to pay.

All of this, in both instances, involves people receiving goods and services that they aren’t paying for, which increases demand. Increasing demand increases prices. Increased prices increases demands for government to “do something.” More government money is poured in, increasing demand, which increases prices. This friends, is how bubbles are blown up. We’ve lived through a tech bubble. We have lived through a stock bubble. In both these instances it’s a more nuanced argument to lay the blame at the feet of the state. We are still recovering from a real estate bubble. The education and medical care bubbles, however, are here. What’s next is when those bubbles pop.

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Friday, November 18, 2011

Unknown Rock Stars

There are two things necessary to being known as a great man of God- being known, and having a reputation as being a great man of God. It is not in the least necessary that you actually be a great man of God. The same skill set by which one labors to become known works quite well in creating the illusion of godliness. This is not to suggest that all well-known men with a reputation for godliness are frauds. It is to suggest, however, that listening to a heartfelt Christian ballad, reading a winsome and insightful book, or being moved by a dramatic sermon is not sufficient evidence. In order to know if someone is a godly man you have to know the man. And in order to know the man, you have to know his family.

I am privileged to know, though most not well at all, many of the past and current rock stars of the evangelical and particularly Reformed world. The men who impress me the most, however, the ones I am quickest to give thanks for, typically are not so well known.

Lyndon Azcuna ministers to men in prison, not the clearest pathway to evangelical rock stardom. He teaches born again men how to fulfill their callings as fathers, even when their past sins separate the men from their children. Better still, however, Lyndon has a wife that clearly and joyfully loves him, and children who concur. Their ready smiles reflect his constant smile. He leads his family by being constrained by gospel joy.

Mark Dewey once had tens of thousands cheering him on, when he pitched in the major leagues. Now he is cheered on by fourteen, his twelve children, his glowing wife and me. Theirs is a household built on the rock of God’s Word, whose rafters shake from laughter. Were it not for his friendship with me I would say he had perfect judgment. Were it not for his frequent morning grumpiness, I could not think of a sin to lay at this man’s feet.

Marion Lovett, Robert Barnes and Laurence Windham all have something in common. They faithfully shepherd the Lord’s flock in small churches. They are not invited to sit on seminary boards or address large gatherings of pastors eager to know their secrets. But they have secrets, important and potent secrets. Each one of them loves his wife openly and clearly. Each one of them delights in his children. Each one of them showers his flocks and his friends with hesed, loyal love. These are men I can count on to do the right thing. And when they fail, they do the wrong thing for the right reasons.

Finally, I know two unknown rock stars who rightly should be rock stars. Randy Winton, whose songbook is covered with blue grass strains, and Nathan Clark George, who milieu is more blue like jazz, are wonderful musicians making God honoring music. But I know them personally. I know, enjoy, respect and admire their wives and quite literally, one by one, their children. I hope their music tops the charts one day. I know, however, that today their Father in heaven delights in them.

The kingdom of God does not come through fame and influence. It comes through believing the gospel, and loving our wives. It comes through giving thanks and laughter. It comes through humble service and simple friendships. I give thanks for these men, and many more just like them.

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Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Ask RC: Do all those who die in the womb go to heaven?

I don’t know. The Bible doesn’t say. It is certainly possible that they do. It is also possible that they don’t. It is, in turn, possible that some go to heaven when they die and some do not. Christians have, over the years dealt with this heart-wrenching question a number of different ways.

Some suggest that such children have no need to be saved from the wrath of God because they do not stand guilty before Him. While most of these would agree that even the youngest are tainted by sin (see Psalm 51:5), a few go so far as to suggest that the very young are without sin. Both positions suggest that the Bible leaves room for what they call the “age of accountability,” an unknown time (some suggest age 13 on the basis of the practice of bar mitzvah, when a Jewish boy becomes a man) when children do become responsible before God for their sin. The closest supportive text here is II Samuel 12:21-23.

Some suggest that the children of believers are welcomed to heaven, and leave open the question of the end of the children of unbelievers. The best text in defense of this position is I Corinthians 7:14, where the children of at least one believing parent are said to be “holy.”

Still others take the position that the elect among those dying in the womb go to heaven, and leave open the question of whether or not all or only some such children are elect. Finally, some take a mildly agnostic position, suggesting that “the God of heaven and earth will do rightly.”

I, though I agree that all and only the elect will enter into heaven, and that the judge of all the earth will do rightly, embrace none of these positions. In the end I believe that the texts cited do not warrant the conclusions drawn from them. Thus my bold response- I don’t know. What I am persuaded of is this. All humans, from conception, are sinners and stand guilty before a holy God. Their only hope is the work of Christ applied to them. That work is applied always and only through faith, and that only the faith of the one saved. Babies in heaven are there not by virtue of their age, nor their election, nor their parents. They are there by virtue of Christ, applied to them by their Spirit-given faith.

But can unborn babies believe? Not by themselves, just like you and me. It takes a supernatural work of the Holy Spirit to make that happen. Do we have reason to believe that He sometimes makes that happen? II Samuel 12:21-23 suggests He might. I Corinthians 7:14 suggests He might. Add to that John leaping in the womb at the presence of Christ (Luke 1:41) and we have reason to hope.

This could, of course, include all children dying in the womb. It could include none of them. Either way the Judge of all the earth would have done rightly. This is, clearly enough, an emotional issue. It is not, in my own life, merely abstract. My wife and I lost seven children to miscarriage, and have one precious 14 year old with the capacities of a one year old. Our emotions, however, should not lead us to add to the Bible, nor to muddy the precious saving waters of the work of Christ given to us by faith. Our hope for them is the same as our hope for anyone. We are all sinners, and all without hope save for the work of Christ. But praise be to His name, He came into this world to save sinners.

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Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Let My People Go

FROM THE ARCHIVES of Every Thought Captive magazine.

There are at least three different ways to despise the state, two of which are flat wrong. The first, I would guess, represents none of you. There are, nevertheless, in this world, people who hate the government precisely because from time to time they manage to be a terror to evil. That is, sometimes the state arrests thieves and murderers, and thieves and murderers don’t take too kindly to it. Commiserating with this crowd about the evils of the state probably isn’t the wisest thing to do.

The second group is by far the largest. These are the folks who hate the state because it all too often is a terror to good. Our service to others is hindered by their roadblocks, while our own comfort is hampered as well. When my move-in date to my new house is delayed because some building inspector determines that, in case of fire, I need to be able to turn off the electricity to my house from the outside (and who, pray tell, gave us this legislation, the State Association of Cat Burglars?) I get frustrated and angry. When I must pay this tax and that, rent on my own property, I get frustrated and angry. When the state seizes my wealth, hinders my travel, and gums up the operation of my life, I get frustrated and angry. When I am traveling down the road only to be stopped that I might show the state my “papers,” I get frustrated and angry. I’m not suggesting that the beefs aren’t legitimate. They are indeed. The problem with them, however legitimate they may be in themselves, is that they are selfish. God did not put me on this earth with this instruction, “Now, make sure, whatever else you do, that you keep 70% of your income.” Neither did He tell me not to pay Caesar when Caesar mistakes my land for his. Their foolishness is a real burden to me, about the equivalent of walking a mile or two.

The rarest group of state haters, however, have an altogether different motive. One such man prayed this way, “You shall break them with a rod of iron; you shall dash them to pieces like a potter’s vessel.” Here he speaks to God, about the state. That’s a rather more potent complaint than grumbling under your breath while writing a check to Internal Revenue. What drives this kind of righteous rage? A righteous complaint- “Why do the nations rage, and the people plot a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together against the Lord and against His Anointed, saying, ‘Let us break Their bonds in pieces and cast away Their cords from us.’”

The psalmist’s complaint isn’t that the state has done wrong to the psalmist. Rather he objects to the state’s rebellion against God and His lawful authority. What ought to concern us isn’t getting our toes stepped on, but seeing God dishonored. If we were consumed with God’s glory, and indifferent to our comfort, we would always get this right. To put it another way, the problem with the state isn’t so much what it does, but what it thinks it is. The evil thing about the state is that it seeks to sit upon God’s throne. It claims the power and authority of the state, an affront to the living God.

The problem with Pharaoh, in a manner of speaking then, wasn’t that he enslaved the children of Israel, but that he remembered not Joseph, nor in turn the God of Joseph. God, speaking through His servant Moses speaks what may be the most stirring words in all the Old Testament, “Let My people go.” Pharaoh’s response seals his doom, “Who is the Lord, that I should obey His voice to let Israel go? I do not know the Lord, nor will I let Israel go.” Here is the great evil, that he would not submit to the Word of God, and thereby would not submit to God Himself.

Moses shared the psalmist’s line of thinking. He stood before Pharaoh, he succeeded in his calling, precisely because his beef was neither personal nor earthly. This is what separates heroes who stand up to tyrants, and rebels who bring destruction on themselves. This is why, as the exodus drew to a close, that Joshua asked the wrong question of the captain of the Lord’s hosts. You remember as Joshua contemplates the challenge set before him, as he walks alone outside the city, only to discover he wasn’t alone. He approaches the warrior and asks, “Are You for us or for our adversaries?” Jesus answered rightly saying, “No, but as the Commander of the army of the Lord I have now come.” Our warrior king reminds His soldier whose war they are about to fight. The problem, as Achan forgot, wasn’t that the people of Jericho were sitting in the city that belonged to Israel. They were sitting on God’s city, the city He consumed first in defeating it, and then consumed again as a whole burnt offering. Those who aligned themselves with either Egypt or Jericho were destroyed. Those who fought for themselves were likewise destroyed. Those, however, who enrolled in the Lord’s army, tasted the victory.

Nothing has changed. Worse perhaps than both wrong versions of people who hate the state are those who love the state. These are they who beseech the state for their daily bread, who ask the state to lead them not into temptation, who cheer on a president who crosses land and sea to deliver us from evil. Their judgment will be the same. There is but one safe haven, one safe loyalty, and that is to Christ and His kingdom. All others are the broad path to destruction. It is not just kings but all of us who must learn to be wise, to be instructed, to serve the Lord with fear and rejoice with trembling. We too must kiss the Son, lest He be angry and we perish in the way, when His wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are those who put their trust in Him.

From Every Thought Captive magazine, a production of Highlands Ministries

Monday, November 7, 2011

Praying Like Crazy

A crazy person is one who has a break from reality. Those of us who have not embraced postmodernism understand that reality is something outside ourselves that exists, how it exists, quite apart from our agreement or understanding of it. If we think a tail is a leg, a dog still only has four legs. What we think has nothing to do with it.

Which is why I suspect that we are all as crazy as a spectacularly crazy thing. So much of our pathos, so much of our pain, so much of what we seek to escape isn’t about what is, but what we think is. Because we don’t believe in “the” reality, “our ““reality” becomes a place of sorrow and fear.

Imagine if you would, what would happen to your sorrows and fears if God Himself, the maker of heaven and earth, the Father of our Lord, the sovereign One, were to come to you, wrap you in His almighty arms and say to you, “I love you with a perfect love, exactly as I love My Son. I will never stop loving you, no matter what. I am completely, utterly for you. I promise, on My own life, that I will do you good every day of your life. And because I control all things, that means My good is all you will ever experience from this time forward.” What if the Holy Spirit were to say to you, “I am with you wherever you go. I will purify your heart, and fill you with my courage.” Suppose Jesus were to cup your chin in His scar stained hand, look you in the eye and say, “You are My beloved, and I will never forsake you.” Now, would you ever be afraid that He was displeased with you? Would you ever fear the world? Your own flesh? The devil?

Would you, if this had ever happened, ever be dissatisfied? Would you ever lose sleep? Would you ever be short with others? Would envy ever find a toe-hold in you? The truth, the objective, 2+2=4 truth, the “Squirrels have bushy tails” truth is that this is precisely what has happened. These are precisely the present day promises of the gospel of Jesus Christ. The only problem is that I’m just crazy enough not to believe these promises.

Which is why I pray. I do not ask that God would do more for me, save that He would help me grasp all that He has already done. I do not ask Him that He would allow me to see the future, but that He would allow me to believe the present. I don’t ask to be made super spiritual. I don’t ask to be a pillar of piety. I don’t ask become an icon of integrity. I only want to be sane, to submit to the blessed reality in which I already live. I only want to believe the One who is the Truth, whose Truth promises to set me free. Pray with, and for me.

Highlands Ministries

Friday, November 4, 2011

Tending Your Tongue

FROM THE ARCHIVES of Every Thought Captive magazine.

There are probably two reasons why some warnings against some sins are given more often in Scripture than others. First, it may have something to do with the power of a particular temptation. It is certainly a sin to, for instance, put scars all over your body. But God need only say that once in Scripture and that is enough. Not difficult to understand or resist doing, at least for most of us. (Of course, once is enough for any sin.) Conversely, God tells us often to beware the temptation to covet, because it seduces so many of us so often. I’m sure I don’t need to give examples here. The second reason some sins carry more warnings in scripture may be the damage that comes from those particular sins. Adultery isn’t simply a matter of hurting the feelings of the offended spouse (though surely there is nothing simple or light about that); it sprouts all manner of other evil. Therefore, God speaks about adultery often.

How often does God warn us against the sins of the tongue, especially us ladies, and especially referring to gossip? If we would beat this sin, we must face the truth that we are given to it. Perhaps it would help if we understand why. Women tend to be more relational, which means in part that we are interested in how other people are relating to each other. If, for instance, Mr. and Mrs. Jones are late for a dinner date with us, and we learn that they had a flat tire on the way, I would wonder how frustrated each of them must have been, since I already knew Mrs. Jones had had a difficult day at home. R.C., on the other hand, might wonder about what kind of jack the Joneses have in their car, and where they might get the best deal on a new tire. He’s like that.

This relational bent that we ladies have may be exacerbated (read: elevated to the nth degree) by our calling to be keepers at home. That is, because we are still somewhat worldly, we feel that we are missing out on what is happening out in the world (or in our friends’ kitchens and on their porches, etc.) What is happening, I hope, is that our children are being fed and directed in the ways of the Lord and that we are showing hospitality to family and God’s people. One of RC’s frustrations is that when he comes home tired and wanting rest, I can’t wait to hear what’s going on, "out there." Did you see so-and-so? What did they say? How is so and so feeling? Anything happening with their house?

The solution, as with much of our lives, is that we would learn to tend our gardens. That doesn’t mean we don’t care for and pray for others and their needs. We just don’t have our world revolving around ‘news.’ We don’t need to be the first one to share information with others, convincing ourselves it’s so that others can pray. Encouragement to pray is a good thing. Needing to be the one in the know that tells everyone else is not. And if that regularly describes us, I don’t see how we would have the time to be doing the things we should.

I need to know – do I need to know this information? This applies whether I am interrogating my husband for information or talking over the backyard fence with coffee cup in hand. I need to not only not start gossip, I need to know how to stop it. I hate the idea of embarrassing anyone, just as I hate the idea of being embarrassed. But might we not help each other beat this sin if we make it our habit to politely ask each other, “Do I need to know this?” “Is this my business or would it just be interesting to hear?” I’m not saying we can’t pass along happy news. Part of the question ought to be, “Would I say this in this way if the person involved were actually in the room listening?”

We need to remember, in this age of exalting information, that we don’t need information, we need sanctification. It’s not going to help me in having a gentle and quiet spirit to know that Suzy had her nails done yesterday or that Rachel’s new car cost how much?!! Insignificant information is not going to help me help my children pursue godliness. Also, I don’t know about you, but I believe that adage about losing brain cells with each pregnancy. I can’t afford anymore to fill my head with information that doesn’t concern me. Anytime I’m tempted to listen to something I shouldn’t, I should remember what we tell our children when they’re being nosy about their siblings’ business: it’s not your concern. We’ve taught them that so well that when one asks why another one was disciplined, at least one of them will say to the questioner, “Not your concern.” Period. End of story. I should strive to be that cut-and-dried about my own need to know. We need to hunger to grow in grace, not to grow in being in the know.

And as always, we need to remember that there is one who not only knows everything, but knows us as well. We need to rest in His sovereignty, knowing that He works all things for His good pleasure. He will tend those things that are not in our gardens, because everything is His garden. He may use our prayers as a means to certain ends, but He will do just fine without our meddling. The world won’t collapse if we don’t know certain things. And we need to know that He loves us, that there is our peace, our security and our adventure. Stop looking ‘out there’ for those things that only He can give. We need to learn and remember this over and over again until we know it in full. That’s one of the most important things we should seek to know.

By Denise Sproul

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Diagnosing Diagnostics

When you have a hammer, everything begins to look like a nail. In like manner, when you have a wrench everything looks like a bolt. Any given tool empowers us and tempts us. It makes easier the task for which the tool was designed, while tempting us to think that every problem will be solved by it, every question answered by it.

The computer is quite adept at, well, computing. The advent of the internet, while broadening radically how we use our computers, hasn’t changed its capacity for computing. Indeed some of the niftiest tricks our computers/web surfboards can do is compute our own surfing style, and the surfing habits of others. I suspect that blogs would never have taken off were it not for sundry attached diagnostic tools. Facebook, likewise, is powered more by the like button, and the size of our friends list than what it actually communicates. What fun is sharing our thoughts with the world unless we can know how many hits, how many “likes” we have had, or where we rank in the polls down at Wordpress? Are we prompted to get busy and save the world from errant teacher X through our Discernment Ministry blog when we see people are checking in from Montana, Monterey and Mozambique? Soon enough our message is being driven by the numbers, just like the message of that slick, worldly preacher we’re faithfully seeking to take down.

One need not, however, have the Grinch-sized heart of the attack blogger to fall into this fallacy. We are all tempted to measure our success by tangible numbers, both individually and corporately. Just today I read a headline that noted that Bible apps, in all their iterations, are now being downloaded more frequently than Angry Birds. I’m sure that’s a good thing. I’m just not sure how good a thing that is. It may well be that the best thing about it is that people are finally getting tired of Angry Birds. That the Bible has topped it, however, means about as much as the certain truth more homes have Bibles in them than Cabbage Patch dolls. It does tell us something about our spiritual state. But I’m not sure it’s good news.

First, the giddy celebration that “we” beat Angry Birds betrays a profoundly unhealthy and a-historical understanding of the church. We’re not in a race with any software, any technology, or any fad. To even acknowledge such a “competition” is to lose. We celebrate the faith once delivered. Jesus isn’t the newest kid on the block, here to topple Justin Bieber from his throne. He is the Ancient of Days.

Second, the progress of the kingdom, the progress of the sanctification of the church, of the nation, of my family or myself, cannot be measured electronically. Bible downloads isn’t a measure. Bible reading isn’t even a measure. The fruit of the Spirit, that’s the measure. Becoming more like Jesus, that’s the measure. Dying to self, that’s the measure. So far the geniuses down at Google have not come up with a string of algorithms to measure any of those.

Our desire is not that the Bible should topple Angry Birds. Our goal is not that our favorite rock star preacher would trend on twitter. Our hope is the sure and certain truth that our Lord is bringing all things under subjection, is conquering all His enemies, including all the folly that remains within His own. We don’t need diagnostics to know how the story ends- Jesus wins.


Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Ask RC: What is the Regulative Principle of Worship?

The Regulative Principle of Worship is simple enough. It affirms that Christians ought only to incorporate into their worship those things that God has expressly commanded. The locus classicus for this perspective is Leviticus 10, where Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Levi are struck dead by God for offering “strange fire” before the Lord. The principle is both historical and sound. Its application, however, has often proved to be problematic.

The Bible does indeed give a detailed explanation on exactly how God demands to be worshipped. The challenge is that this explanation is given in the Old Testament, prior to the coming of Christ. The Bible tells us what sacrifices should be brought, how they should be killed, how they should be cut up, how they should be cooked, and who should eat what. In the New Testament all we have are scattered mentions of what the saints actually did when they gathered together.

Because we rightly affirm that Jesus was the once for all sacrifice, and to go back to the shadows would be to deny His coming (see the book of Hebrews), we are left in something of a pickle. We can’t follow the Old Testament requirements, and the New Testament doesn’t contain a clear order of worship. Some solve the dilemma by building what might be called a Frankenstein model of worship. Like Dr. Frankenstein’s monster, a part of the service is taken from here (where the saints are said to take up a collection) another part from this other text (where they saints are said to celebrate the Lord’s Supper), and still another from this third place, where we see preaching going on.

This patchwork approach, for all there is to commend it, has a few disadvantages. First, like Frankenstein’s monster, it is clumsy. There can be precious little beauty and flow from a service of disparate parts forced together. Second, while it happily avoids the bloody shadows of old covenant worship, it lacks the unifying theme of the sacrifice. Old Testament worship was sacrificial. Though the once for all sacrifice has come, He left us with a fitting ways to remain sacrificial, while not going back to the shadows, while no longer spilling blood- we touch sacrifice when we praise, when we give, and most of all, at the Lord’s Table.

Just as in the Old Covenant, we come to worship because we are called, commanded to appear by the Lord of Hosts. Just as in the Old Covenant we come in ourselves still sinners, and so confess our sins. On this side, however, the sacrifice has already come, and so we who trust in that once for all sacrifice are assured of our pardon. Out of this flows a sacrifice of praise, as we sing the glory of the Redeemer. Having been redeemed, we are in need of direction, instruction from our commander. And so the Word is preached. Just as in the Old Covenant we respond with sacrifice, standing to return to God His tithe, not because the tenth is His, but because all that we have, and all that we are are His. We respond to the call of His sermon with “Here I am. Send me.”

And then He feeds us. Then we share the fellowship meal, wherein we are welcomed to His table, not as soldiers, but as friends. Not as servants, but as children. Finally, just as in the Old Covenant He pronounces His blessing on us, and we depart to make known His reign, until we can come again. Here then we dance, we feast, just as we will at the marriage feast of the lamb.

The Regulative Principle of Worship is a wonderful gift from our fathers. We need to remember, however, that our fathers include not just the Puritans, but Calvin and Luther, as well as Aaron and Levi.