Those years wherein we are set…

Yet it is not our part to master all the tides of the world, but to do what is in us for the succour of those years wherein we are set, uprooting the evil in the fields that we know, so that those who live after may have clean earth to till. What weather they shall have is not ours to rule.

Tolkien, J.R.R.. The Lord of the Rings: One Volume (p. 879). HMH Books. Kindle Edition.

No Record of Wrongs

For the last few weeks, I’ve tried to give practical instructions for seasons of busyness. What are the practical Christian disciplines that are easily forgotten when things get busy?

In 1 Corinthians 13, the Apostle Paul says that love keeps no record of wrongs. This means that true love doesn’t calculate. It doesn’t keep ledgers of debts owed and dents paid.

With school in full swing, sports games scheduled, and your company making a big push for the end of the year, families can become exhausted not because they sin against one another (we all do that), but because they hold onto grievances. They keep hidden mental file drawers of all the things done against them.

Consider one example:

Knowing you are out of half-n-half for the morning coffee can frustrate you, but if you add to that thought the frustration of why you are the only one who remembers to buy the half-n-half, you’ll be frustrated and bitter and weary in no time. But think of how much lighter your mental load will be if you chose not to document your grievance.

We are to overlook small offenses. We are not to keep records of wrong. This isn’t belittling the reality of sin. It’s not being a pushover. But it is choosing to not see yourself as the judge and executioner. God is the judge. He keeps a record of all wrongs. And those which are confessed in Christ receive pardon.

Practical Wisdom Pt. 1 – Ecclesiastes 9-10

Practical Wisdom Pt. 1 – Ecclesiastes 9-10

God is the God of Fortune 500 companies and he is the God of cleaning the dryer lint. Joy in work isn’t calibrated towards the size of the work, but the size of the Lord who has called you to the task.


The text for the sermon today is Ecclesiastes chapters 9 & 10. Our reading will begin in 9:17. These are the words of God:

17 The words of the wise heard in quiet are better than the shouting of a ruler among fools. 18 Wisdom is better than weapons of war, but one sinner destroys much good.

Dead flies make the perfumer’s ointment give off a stench;
so a little folly outweighs wisdom and honor.
2 A wise man’s heart inclines him to the right,
but a fool’s heart to the left.
3 Even when the fool walks on the road, he lacks sense,
and he says to everyone that he is a fool.


King Solomon’s reign marked the high point of ancient Israelite culture. It also marked the turn of the tide into decline and eventual exile. The wisest man who ever lived acted like a fool and the nation suffered. We’ve said that Ecclesiastes was written in Solomon’s old age as a repentant statement on his youthful apostasy. And we’ve broken the book into three sections:

First, if you pursue joy without pursuing God, then despair is what awaits you. (ch. 1-2) Second, God is sovereign over all things and wrestling with that reality is the key to joy. (ch. 3-8) Today, we enter the final section of Solomon’s book in which he peppers us with various practical exhortations. (ch. 9-12)

This life is filled with frustration: family, financial, governmental, health. And God’s people are not immune to those frustrations. If you feel frustrated, you are normal. Yet, at the same time, we know that everything we have is a gift from God. Therefore, we can enjoy all of it as divine blessing. We can’t know all the ways of God, but we can know the God who directs all our ways, and that is enough.


Chapter 9 begins by recapping Solomon’s overall teaching: death comes to everyone; rich and poor, wise and simple, strong and weak. Nevertheless, it’s better to be a living dog than a dead lion. (9:1-6) So, pursue joy in everything you do. Eat meals and drink wine with a merry heart. Enjoy your spouse and stop to smell the roses. This can only happen if you exert effort. So, do these things will all your might. (9:7-10) Chapter 9 concludes with a transition: wisdom is better than foolishness and chapter 10 is begins a litany of practical wise sayings. (9:11-10:7)

Fools dig holes and fall into them. Morons tear down old walls without testing for asbestos. There’s a way to do your work that results in productivity and a way to do work that results in more work. Wise workers sharpen the iron before they swing the ax. (10:8-11) Fools love talking about the work. Wise workers work. Laziness is a destroyer. But how? It destroys time that could be spent working. (10:12-15) Foolish nations are led by juveniles. They enjoy the products of their labor before the labor has been done. Wise nations are led by those who have learned and worked. They feast after exerting hard labor. (10:16-17) The nation crumbles because people are lazy. The roof didn’t sink in because of the rain. It sank because no one was minding the structural integrity of the rafters. (10:18) To those who labor, God gives the good gifts of bread, wine, and money. (10:19) When you look around and see sloth, entitlement, and laziness, don’t lose your head. Outrage, by itself, is only another timewaster when you could have been working. (10:20)


When God formed the man out of the dust of the earth and breathed life into him, he gave him a job. Adam was to maintain and improve what God had made in creation. He was to name and care for the other living creatures God made. This means that work was part of paradise, not a punishment for sin. As Sayers once said:

work is not, primarily, a thing one does to live, but the thing one lives to do. It is, or it should be, the full expression of the worker’s faculties … the medium in which he offers himself to God.

The ancient people didn’t refer to jobs, but to vocations, from the Latin: vocare – or “calling”. God calls into the home, the garage, the field, or to the desk to take his creation and glorify it.

While our culture despises the wife who oversees the home, or the man who herds cattle we know that in Genesis 1 God was a gardener and Christ was a carpenter. This means no calling is too small or insignificant to be dignified.

Choosing a vocation ought to include at least three tests:

FIRST: Will this work bring glory to God? Smuggling cocaine doesn’t meet this test. SECOND: What duties has God placed upon me? A single guy can live off ramen noodles and tap water. A family of 5 requires you earn more. If your parents are aging, you may need to take a job closer to them so you can obey the 5th commandment. THIRD: What natural gifts and passions has God given me? We’ve taught a generation that this is the only criteria for choosing a career. If you love it, you should be able to do it as a career. But in the real world some jobs are less than marketable, and there’s no shame in digging ditches to pay bills.


Assuming we’ve found a calling that passes the three tests, how then ought we to work?

First, open your eyes and see the opportunity. We live in the wealthiest nation on the planet. We live in the land of greatest opportunity. So, any who can’t find something to do simply doesn’t want to. As Cotton Mather once said:

Faithfulness begat prosperity, and then the daughter devoured the mother.

Second, Christians ought to be the hardest workers in the world. Note that I didn’t say we should work the most hours. Work is not God. But when we’re on the clock, we ought to be serving the work. And, the way you know you aren’t worshipping work is by keeping the Sabbath. You rest one day a week from your labors.

Third, take responsibility for the quality of the work. Lazy people are good talkers because they have to be ready with an excuse. If you are going to miss a deadline, say so. Set fair prices. Set fair expectations for employees and hold them accountable. Laziness is visible.

Fourth, recognize that authority and responsibility flows toward those who are diligent. God has designed this world to reward good work. So, if God advances you, receive it with joy and humility. Our town, our schools, our nation is in critical need of Christians who work hard occupying places of power.


Work isn’t everything. And it isn’t nothing. God is everything, and he has given us work. None of us have honored him sufficiently in our work, and for that God has given us the grace of Christ.

As we hold all those pieces together, we realize something: the finitude of our work keeps us humble and knowing that our smallest labors come from God keep us from devaluing even the slightest task. God is the God of Fortune 500 companies and he is the God of cleaning the dryer lint. Joy in work isn’t calibrated towards the size of the work, but the size of the Lord who has called you to the task.

Hoofs of wrath…

For morning came, morning and a wind from the sea; and darkness was removed, and the hosts of Mordor wailed, and terror took them, and they fled, and died, and the hoofs of wrath rode over them. And then all the host of Rohan burst into song, and they sang as they slew, for the joy of battle was on them, and the sound of their singing that was fair and terrible came even to the City.

Tolkien, J.R.R.. The Lord of the Rings: One Volume (p. 838). HMH Books. Kindle Edition.

Dead Liturgies

Each week we confess the faith together and we confess our sins to the Lord and ask his forgiveness. Each week we hear the Word of God preached and we regularly eat at the Lord’s Table. All of that is well and good because God commands us to do all these in our gathered worship.

But in any church which observes a Biblically rich liturgy, there’s a beguiling temptation to believe that having said the words of the Creed, you actually believe them, or having heard a prayer of confession, that you’ve actually confessed your sins, or that having eaten the bread and drank the cup that you are in fellowship with Christ.

While it is true that you cannot be in close fellowship with the Lord apart from these practices, it is also true that perfunctory observance of a ritual is worthless. Unless you have done all these things by faith you haven’t actually done any of them. Without faith, our liturgy is a list of dead works.

And, it must be said, your faith must not be in the saying of the Creed—it must be in the Christ of the Creed. Your faith must not be in the praying of the confession—but in the Christ who hears your prayer and who alone has the power to forgive sins. At the Lord’s Table, we feast on Christ not by our mouths and stomachs, but by faith; trusting that his body was broken and his blood was shed as the punishment for our evil doing.

Church, do not look to these things: a pulpit, a Creed, or a Table. Look through them and see the Lamb of God slain, buried, and risen in power. Believe in him, there is salvation in nothing else.

Prayer of Adoration: We Are Yours

Father Almighty,

To you we lift up our hearts, our eyes, and our hands. We’ve come to seek your face and glorify your name.

You are the Most High over all the earth. All of the idols of the nations, be they carved stone or the idols of money and power, are vanity and a lie. You alone are the true and everlasting God.

Father, we rejoice in knowing that, through Christ, we are yours forever; yours in trials and yours in death, yours in resurrection, and yours in the life to come. You knew all of our days before we took our first breath, and you count the number of hairs on our heads. Not a care or sigh in our hearts goes unnoticed by your all-seeing eye. Our hearts rejoice in your Fatherly love and compassion for us.

So, we do not worship you from a sense of terror or pressure—but as an overflow of our joy. We wish we could offer you something in return for all you have given us—but we know that we cannot add a single thing to you, nor can anyone take away from your glory. In you, there is no need, but only fullness which gives abundantly to your children.

So, Father, we’ve come to ascribe to you the glory you deserve on earth. Be exalted today in the songs and prayers of your people. We worship you, through Jesus Christ the Son who rules and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit. One God. World without end. And Amen!

God’s Sovereignty in the Halls of Power – Ecclesiastes 8

God’s Sovereignty in the Halls of Power – Ecclesiastes 8

We live in a world of complexities and conundrums, so must resist falling into an “all or nothing” mentality. The kings of the Bible aren’t neatly divided between good and bad. It’s filled with great kings who are adulterers (David) and evil kings who bless the people of God (Cyrus).


The text for the sermon today is Ecclesiastes 8. These are the words of God:

2 I say: Keep the king’s command, because of God’s oath to him. 3 Be not hasty to go from his presence. Do not take your stand in an evil cause, for he does whatever he pleases. 4 For the word of the king is supreme, and who may say to him, “What are you doing?” 5 Whoever keeps a command will know no evil thing, and the wise heart will know the proper time and the just way. 6 For there is a time and a way for everything, although man’s trouble lies heavy on him. 7 For he does not know what is to be, for who can tell him how it will be? 8 No man has power to retain the spirit, or power over the day of death. There is no discharge from war, nor will wickedness deliver those who are given to it. 9 All this I observed while applying my heart to all that is done under the sun, when man had power over man to his hurt.


Throughout this study we’ve said one of the two dominant themes in Ecclesiastes is divine sovereignty. And many times, discussions of this nature tend to wind themselves up in esoteric and metaphysical knots. But we must remember that Ecclesiastes isn’t an esoteric book. It’s divine sovereignty for the mechanic who wants to understand why cylinder heads crack and the gardener who can’t understand how weeds got back into that bed.

So, instead of defining divine sovereignty as if we just ate a theological dictionary, let’s define it as such: God is God; and however big you think he is, he’s bigger. His bigness isn’t so much a quantitative leap as it is a qualitative leap. God isn’t bigger than us the way that the Earth is bigger than a pinhead. He’s bigger than us the way Beethoven’s 5th is bigger than a pinhead. And, as Solomon teaches us about God’s power and sovereignty, in chapter 8 he applies the doctrine to politics. This is sovereignty in the halls of power.


Kings are only as good as the counsel they receive; therefore, a wise man offers the king the truth he needs in the way that he needs it. (v. 1) Generally speaking, we are to obey governmental officials, because they are installed by God. (v. 2) Wisdom doesn’t make every political hill an Iwo Jima. This isn’t an ideal world, and some issues aren’t worth shedding your blood for. (v. 3-4) The key is to walk in obedience to God. When you are doing this, God will order your thoughts, actions, and tell you the proper time to draw a line in the sand. (v. 5-8) One of the insanities of this life is when evil men are celebrated, like embalming Lenin and building him a museum. (v. 9-10) The way to make sure this doesn’t happen is to bring swift justice against wrong doers. When this doesn’t happen, and evil prevails, the righteous must remember that the Lord will bring perfect justice in the end. (v. 11-13) If you are seeing justice mishandled by governmental leaders who are either criminally incompetent or simply criminal, don’t forget to take joy where you can. (v. 15) You are not omniscient, God is. Even the wise do not see all ends. God does. No matter how hard you try, you can’t possibly understand all that he is up to. (v. 16-17)


All governmental authority comes from God. (Rom. 13) In his goodness to human beings God has instituted various governments. The first is self-government. There can be no government of groups without self-government. God also established three other governments: family (Gen. 2), civil (Gen. 9), and ecclesiastical, or church (Matt. 16).

Because each of these governments were established directly by God, God has defined them, set their boundaries, and Scripture frequently calls us to obey them “in the Lord.” “In the Lord” is important because it limits the authority of each of those governments. We are to give allegiance to our national leaders, but it is not absolute allegiance. We render unto Caesar his due, but no more. The rest belongs to God.


Because we are people who claim an objective divine authority, we have a tendency towards political inflexibility. But we live in a world of complexities and conundrums, so must resist falling into an “all or nothing” mentality. The kings of the Bible aren’t neatly divided between good and bad. It’s filled with great kings who are adulterers (David) and evil kings who bless the people of God (Cyrus). This means that political battles must be kept in perspective. Flexibility and prudence are not the same thing as cowardice. Voting for a less than saintly candidate is not the same thing as worshipping vice.

King Ahab was a wicked man who had a cabinet member who feared the Lord. Many faithful Christians might wonder how a godly man could work in the administration of an ungodly king, but the Bible doesn’t. And Ahab called Obadiah, which was the governor of his house… Now Obadiah feared the Lord greatly: For it was so, when Jezebel cut off the prophets of the Lord, that Obadiah took an hundred prophets, and hid them by fifty in a cave, and fed them with bread and water. (1 Kgs. 18:3–4)

It is not our part to master all the tides of the world but to do what is in us for the succour of those years wherein we are set, uprooting evil in the fields that we know, so that those who live after us may have clean earth to till. – Tolkien


So, what does it look like to follow Christ in a godless nation led by godless leaders? Solomon had seen sinners do evil a hundred times with impunity. They lived long and when they died, everyone built memorials for them. But the memorials of tyrants are a mist, just as the tyrants were a mist, and those who build the memorials are a mist. They have no power to prolong their days (v. 13)

So, be joyful. Our nation is in the mess it’s in because it has forgotten the God who gives everything. And while we certainly need better leaders, we also need God’s people receiving God’s gifts with joy. Tyrants are not just fought with ballots or muskets; they are fought as families and friends gather around the table and thank God for their food. And our enjoyment of those meals isn’t a cheat. We can truly enjoy them because the true king has conquered the grave. He isn’t a mist. (Isa. 53:10) He has been given the throne of his father, David. He is ruling and reigning in the church. We are preaching the gospel to every creature and baptizing them. And one day, every knee will bow: the knees of the faithful will fall in love and the knees of tyrants will bend in submission.

As We Approach Midterm Elections

A famous quote has been (falsely?) attributed to Leon Trotsky: “You may not be interested in war, but war is interested in you.” I’m not here to debate the attribution of the quote. Instead, I want to put a spin on it. You may not be interested in politics, but politics is interested in you. If you are like me, you wish that everything wasn’t so politicized. Why must everything be dragged into politics and politics dragged into everything? It’s infuriating, I know. It’s exhausting! Yes, it is. But we cannot walk away from it. Politics is interested in us.

Our nation is running from Christ in high-handed rebellion. We have denied the existence of the Creator. We have denied his authority over his creation. And, as a consequence, we are now denying creation as well. I repeat, our nation is a rebellious nation, and those who are hungry for power are trying their best to coerce all of us to deny what is plain and clear. You cannot run from this. You cannot turn it off. Every Christian in every city of America will be faced with choosing Christ or rebellion. Every church in every town will be forced to obey Christ or man. There is no middle ground. That being said, I want to share several principles I believe help us navigate these times of inescapable politics. I will briefly sketch out the principles here and hope to elaborate on them more in the future. Also, these are in no particular order of significance.

1. The Church is Political.

Every week we gather and proclaim that “Jesus Christ is Lord.” That statement has political ramifications. If Christ is Lord, the President cannot be Lord. City Councils cannot be Lord. Christians need to stop saying that churches aren’t political. Of course, they are. There is a reason that the Christian church is not allowed to worship freely in totalitarian states. It’s because they will not bow to “Dear Leader.” Totalitarian leaders know better than anyone that the church is political.

2. The Church Should Not Be Partisan.

It’s not the job of the church, as the church, to stump for candidates. We don’t have an American flag on our stage. We don’t put red, white, and blue bunting on the pulpit on July 4th. That’s because the church speaks for and represents a King and Kingdom which transcends all others. We love our nation because this is where the Lord has providentially placed us. But we never want to conflate the church and our nation. The church calls every tribe tongue and nation to bow the knee to Christ. And we must be careful to protect our ability to speak prophetically to every politician and platform. We are not the errand boy for any political party. I do not publicly endorse candidates in my official role as Pastor. If you want my opinions on who to vote for, I’ll be glad to tell you as a concerned citizen.

3. The Real Political Power of the Church is Spirit-Empowered Word and Ordinance, Not Voting.

The Church doesn’t expand through raw political force. Big Pharma may rely on lobbyists, but we rely on the Word of God. Our power, as Christians, is a “thus sayeth the Lord,” kind of power and against that weapon, there is no defense. We proclaim that Christ is King. We proclaim that abortion is evil. We proclaim that inflation is theft. We proclaim that marriage is between only a man and a woman. And, we ground all of that in the Word of the eternal God. The true power of the church is in the weapons of the Word, Baptism, and the Lord’s Table.

4. Voting Matters.

If we don’t like the way our town is being run, we have no one to blame but ourselves. In God’s kind providence, we live in a nation that calls upon citizens to elect representatives. Who you vote for matters. Not voting matters. You have been entrusted with an opportunity to make your will as a citizen known. Do you want Drag Queens telling stories to little children at the library? I don’t. God hates it. So, vote.

5. Voting Ought to be Strategic, Not Emotional.

It’s not my job to tell you who to vote for. It is my job to tell you not to worship candidates. Your vote needs to be made on strategic, rather than emotional terms. If the candidate you vote for wins, count it as a strategic victory, not an emotional one. It goes without saying that no candidate is perfect. And there may truly be elections in which you cannot in good conscience vote for either candidate. Obey your conscience. But make sure that you aren’t attaching too much emotional weight to your vote. Is one candidate a more Christ-honoring choice? Pick that one, pray and ask the Lord to bless your vote.

6. Read the Word.

You may not be able to draw a straight line from a Bible verse to a tax structure. But you can certainly draw a straight line from the Scripture to a pro-life stance. Where the Word is clear, our political stances ought to be crystal.

7. Prioritize Local Elections.

When kings overreach and become tyrants, it is the responsibility of lesser magistrates to oppose tyranny. Governors, Mayors, and City Councils are all intermediary officials who can stand up to federal overreach. Too many people wrongly believe the only elections that matter are the national elections. In fact, the election of Godly lesser magistrates matters more. Do not ignore local elections. For more info on this subject read The Doctrine of the Lesser Magistrates by Matthew Trewhella. If you want, you may borrow my copy.

8. Politics is a Battle of Competing Worldviews.

There’s no neutral ground in politics. There’s no such thing as private religion. Everyone’s fundamental beliefs shape the way they live which in turn shapes cultures and nations. It’s not “whether” religious beliefs will shape our governance, it’s “which” ones will shape it. Someone’s view of human beings will shape our laws. Someone’s views of marriage will shape our culture.


Even as I write these principles, I realize that I am summarizing, generalizing, and omitting various thoughts, applications, etc. I haven’t sought to address every concern or question these principles raise. As I said, I plan to continue explaining these ideas to our church in the days ahead. If you have questions, feel free to ask. We need more healthy dialogue about politics in our congregation. We need Christians who take these matters seriously. And, as we dialogue we must seek to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. (Eph. 4) Ultimately, our unity is in the risen Christ, not a political platform. Many will stand beside us in the coming age who politically opposed us at points in this age. Christ will sort us all out on that day. Until then, we are duty-bound to represent his kingship to our nation.

In Christ,

Pastor Jonathan