Here is a simple tool (designed by Shana) for coaching our families during the Three Days (Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter Sunday).
As I write these words, the sun is out, the birds are singing, and we have officially entered our annual commemoration of the final week of Christ’s first ministry. Multiple things will be happening this week, and I am very excited about this year’s worship!
Maundy Thursday. We will be celebrating a unique Lord’s Supper this year. I will post a video Thursday morning containing a short message and the liturgy of the Lord’s Supper. You are free to partake of the meal at home, using your own elements. If you would like me to deliver sealed elements to your home on Thursday morning, contact me through email, phone, or a comment on this post. I will bring individual cup-and-wafer packets to you!
Good Friday. The EPC leadership has requested that we make this year’s Good Friday into a time of prayer and fasting, joining together with believers from other Presbyterian denominations, as well as the Anglican Church in North America. I will post a short meditation and time of prayer on Friday morning. The attached document contains a list of twenty-one prayer requests, coming from our Office of the General Assembly.
Easter Sunday. A special Easter broadcast will play on WCSR 92.1 FM at 7:30 AM. Please spend thirty minutes after the service in personal or family prayer and worship. From 10 AM to Noon, our cross will be on display on the front lawn of the church building. Feel free to stop by and add a flower or two, as a testimony of the hope that blooms eternal because of what Jesus did in his death and resurrection.
As we enter into Holy Week, there are many ways in which we can stay connected with one another.
First, Dean and I have recorded short Palm Sunday and Easter services for broadcast on WCSR 92.1 FM. Tune in at 7:30 AM on Sunday mornings to listen, and don’t forget to extend an invitation to someone else!
Second, a new video devotional and worship resources will be posted for the weekend. These resources include a kids’ Sunday school lesson put together by Shana. I’m sure adults could make use of it as well.
Third, we will have a “virtual” Holy Week. On Maundy Thursday I will invite you to take the elements of the Lord’s Supper at home while viewing a short service on this site. On Good Friday, we will be joining together with other Christians from the Evangelical Presbyterian Church, the Presbyterian Church in America, and the Anglican Church in North America for a time of prayer and fasting. Stay tuned for more information.
Lastly, just as there is no true substitute for the actions of corporate worship, there are no real substitutes for the actions of personal interaction and conversation. Take the time to check in with someone every day!
The events of the last two weeks have made it more challenging to regularly post on my interactions with Jerry Bridges’s fine book Respectable Sins. But I will continue to do so, even as we move out of the Lenten season. In fact, we are just getting to the most practical chapters!
Is there a sin that lies at the root of all other sins? One of the classic answers to that question is pride. But Bridges wants us to consider another option: ungodliness. And what exactly is ungodliness? Bridges kicks things off with two important claims. First, all Christians are ungodly to some extent. Second, ungodliness is different than wickedness. Perfectly respectable people who do not engage in obviously vile things can still be ungodly in some ways. If this is true, then how is this ungodliness (present in all of us) manifested in our lives?
The first mark of ungodliness is to “live our daily lives with little or no thought of God.” We can wake up and have a “quiet time”, go to church on Sunday mornings, and tick a box that says we are practicing Christians and still basically move throughout life without thinking about God’s will or God’s glory. We do our jobs and raise our families and worry about our money in the exact same way as everyone else, with little specific thought about how our faith changes every element of our lives. The second mark of ungodliness is a “meager desire to develop an intimate relationship with God.” One cannot read the Psalms or the letters of Paul without a sense that the authors are passionate about being on intimate terms with God. Again, it is perfectly possible to live our Christian lives with little of the longing exhibited by someone like David: “As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God?” (Psalm 42:1-2).
It is with this understanding that Bridges builds his case that ungodliness is the sin before other sins. “To use a tree as an illustration, we can think of all our sins, big and small, growing out of the trunk of pride. But that which sustains the life of the tree is the root system, in this case the root of ungodliness. It is ungodliness that ultimately gives life to our more visible sins.”
How do we battle this sin? First, we must intentionally train ourselves to take it on (in the power of the Holy Spirit, of course). Second, “…it will help to identify specific areas of life where [we] tend to live without regard to God.” Finally, we must fill our minds up with Scripture verses which teaches us about godliness. For example, we could meditate on Colossians 3:23 (“Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men…”) or Psalm 27:4 (“One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in his temple”). Such texts ground us in the abiding presence of God and in the intimate pursuit of God.
What areas in your life demonstrate this basic sin of ungodliness? In what situations do you repeatedly fail to consider the Lord’s presence or will? Are you comfortable with the language of intimacy with God? Why or why not?
Another round of worship materials has been posted for your weekend worship hour. The message for the week is “Joy in the Battle.” If possible, set aside the 10-11 AM hour for worship and supplement the message with favorite hymns and small group prayer. Here are some other sites to check out for more devotional material:
God bless you all and don’t hesitate to reach out to me!
Spending more time at home? Not sure how to spend your evenings now that the meetings are canceled and the restaurants closed? Don’t worry! This is a great time to take a few more walks, tackle a few more projects, and read a few more books. On our new page – Small Books, Big Impact – you will find book recommendations from Pastor Scott and others. The page will be updated at least once a week. Enjoy!
God, in his all-wise providence and love, has given us what is certainly an unforgettable Lenten season. The ideas and actions of wilderness, hunger, prayer, repentance, and longing have been brought into sharp focus. In our journey through Jerry Bridges’ Respectable Sins we have come to a very practical chapter laying out a general plan for dealing with all instances of sin in our lives. I will simply reproduce Bridges’ list with minimal commentary.
1. Address your sin in the context of the gospel. “As we struggle to put to death our subtle sins, we must keep in mind this twofold truth: Our sins are forgiven and we are accepted as righteous by God because of both the sinless life and sin-bearing death of our Lord Jesus Christ. There is no greater motivation for dealing with sin in our lives than the realization of these two glorious truths of the gospel.”
2. Learn to rely on the enabling power of the Holy Spirit. The promise of the New Testament is that the Spirit is working within his people. So we must constantly seek to rely on him, even if we don’t always understand the way that the Spirit is working.
3. Recognize responsibility to take practical steps. To fight sin you must be prepared to engage in practical actions, while you trust in the power of the Spirit to change you.
4. Identify specific areas of “acceptable” sin. Humbly ask God to show you patterns and triggers.
5. Memorize verses of Scripture that address your specific sins. Memorizing the Bible is like storing up resources for an emergency.
6. Cultivate the practice of prayer over the sins you tolerate. Pray both in a disciplined and in a spontaneous manner.
7. Involve other, trusted people in your struggle. “We need the mutual vulnerability with and accountability to one another, as well as the praying for one another and encouraging one another, if we want to make progress in dealing with sin.”
What kinds of teaching have you received in the past concerning your battle with sin? Did you find it helpful? Do you believe that it is possible to grow in these areas of “respectable” sin? Why or why not?