Exhortation: Clean the House

One of the secrets to having a loving and peaceful family is regular repentance. Regular admission and confession of sins. Regular forgiveness.

Imagine two identical families. In each family, there’s a father and a mother. Both families have two children. Now imagine that these identical families live in two identical houses. Same square footage. Same layout. In both houses, you have the same number of dirty dishes, the same number of dirty clothes, and the same rooms to clean. But one of these houses is constantly in disarray while the other is relatively clean and put together. But it’s not because one family uses more cups, or changes clothes more often.

The difference is that in the clean house, whenever someone uses a cup they put it in the dishwasher, and whenever someone sees clothes in the hamper they run a load of laundry. In the other family, the father uses a cup, but he leaves it on the counter. The daughter changes clothes, but instead of putting her dirty clothes in the wash, she kicks them under the bed.

What’s the secret to the first family’s clean house? It’s not that they have fewer messes. It’s that they are constantly putting dirty things where they need to go, and they’re doing it right away. They don’t let filth build up.

Every family commits sin. Father’s sin against daughters. Son’s against mothers. But what is your family doing with its sin? Are you putting dirty sins where they belong? Don’t leave them sitting on the counter overnight. Don’t kick them under the bed. When you sin, tell it to the person you sinned against. Turn away from it and ask for forgiveness. Don’t just say, “I’m sorry.” Say, “I sinned against you. Will you forgive me?” If your family member has sinned and is asking for forgiveness, give it right away. Don’t just say, “It’s ok.” Say, “Yes, I forgive you.” Then, when sin is confessed and forgiven, the dish is cleaned—you can’t pull it back out to look at the dirt again.

“Confess your sins one to another and pray for one another, that you may be healed.” 

Husbands, keep short accounts with your wives. Wives, keep short accounts with your husbands. Parents, keep short accounts with your children. Children, keep short accounts with your parents and your siblings. Clean your house.

(This exhortation is based on an illustration I once heard from Pastor Doug Wilson at Christ Kirk in Moscow, ID)

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Stop Explaining the Liturgy!​

Most of you know that liturgy is a favorite topic of mine. Over the past few years, I’ve read numerous books, engaged in hundreds of conversations, and worked hard to craft Christ-centered liturgies for the church I pastor, Lake Wylie Baptist.

It may come as a shock, then, to see a blog post exhorting you to stop explaining the liturgy, but let me explain. By the title, I do not imply that ministers ought not to talk with one another about liturgy. Here’s what I mean:

Stop explaining what’s happening while the liturgy is happening. Stop acting as the narrator or expositor of the liturgy when it’s in progress. Stop MC’ing the service every single week. Nothing bores a congregation more than to be treated like toddlers and have a minister give a comprehensive explanation of every element of the worship service.

  • Instead of saying, “Now we will sing…” just sing.
  • Stop saying, “We will now observe the public reading of Scripture,” and just read the passage in power.

I know what you’re thinking. “But I want the congregation to understand what we’re doing!” Yes, yes. I do too. This is why I do the hard work of making sure the liturgy is Christ-centered, thoughtful, and sincere (to the best of my ability) so that they can come in and simply put their feet on the pedals and ride.

In his philosophy of worship for Bethlehem, John Piper placed the highest priority on the vertical focus of Lord’s Day worship. In describing that priority, Dr. Piper sought to remove horizontal intrusions between vertical acts.”

Piper encourages pastors to cut out anything that disrupts the “flow [of the people] in a sustained godwardness and vertical attentiveness.”

Worship is about movement. God > Man > Christ > Response. Move. Move. Move. Every time you interject exposition of an element of the service movement stops. When Isaiah caught a vision of the Lord on the throne, the seraphim didn’t stop their antiphonal chant to exposit the meaning of “holy” for Isaiah. That would have broken his gaze upon the Lord. He was in the temple. He could see it. There’s a time and place to explain holiness. Do it in a sermon. But be very selective of when to interrupt the vertical gaze of the congregation

Imagine having your best friends over for a meal. You prep the meal with intensity, care, and an eye towards the beauty of the presentation. The friends gather around the table, grab a fork, but before they take the first bite of salad, you stop and begin explaining why you arranged the tomatoes next to the peppers. Then, as the fork moves to the chicken, you give them a small lecture on why the chicken is the centerpiece of the salad.  Do you see where this is going? None of us want meals explained. We just want to eat them. We just want to taste and see.

This is not to say that you should never explain the liturgy to the church. You should. I’m simply advocating that you don’t do it every Sunday between every element. Work for sustained vertical attention.

This post is being filed under “If I Were a Pastor.” I intend these posts to speak to brother pastors who are seeking to reform their church. Whether it’s liturgy, ecclesiological practices, preaching or some other topic, these posts will be fairly unfiltered comments about how we’ve done things at LWBC. Feel free to dialogue with me, I’d love to share my foolishness and maybe even some wisdom.

Exhortation: Disruptive Silence

EXHORTATION

Psalm 62:5 says:

For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, 

for my hope is from him. 

As Christians in America, our faith runs the risk of being colored and shaded by the values of the culture we inhabit. If culture loves excess, the unconscious church will value self-indulgence. If culture worships success, a blind church will begin promoting growth and numbers more than holiness and true proclamation.

Our culture is obsessed with noise and busyness. The apps on our phones constantly ding, flash notifications, and vibrate. The watch on our wrist begs to show us texts, our heart rate, and the current state of the Dow Jones. We scroll down the social media rabbit hole flicking from a political article to pictures of our cousins, to a viral video about why Pineapple doesn’t belong on pizza. It doesn’t, by the way. Yesterday was National Ice Cream Sunday day, today is National Mac N Cheese Day and tomorrow will be National Tapioca Pudding day.

Our culture has gladly given up the ability and responsibility to sit in silence and deeply reflect on what matters most. Everything in our culture seeks to distract us. It seeks to prevent us from giving our full attention to what matters most.

And into this distracted world, Psalm 62 commands: For God alone, O my soul, wait… in… silence.

Christians, and the churches they belong to combat distraction through cultivating disruptive silence. We bring our phones under the mastery of Jesus Christ and his gospel. We submit our smartwatches and surrender our social media addictions to the Creator King.

In our gathered worship we limit the use of our screens and videos. We obey Psalm 62 several times through scheduled silence. We force our hearts, which are so terrified of the emptiness silence might reveal to come to grips with who we really are so that God can remake us in the gospel of Jesus.

In this age of noise, one of the greatest ways you can take a stand is by cultivating moments of silence before your God.

This reminds us of our need to confess our sin, so let’s bow in prayer now.

CONFESSION

Our Father,

You are great, and your throne is exalted. In your hands are the depths of the earth, and the mountain peaks are yours as well. You made the sea and you formed the dry land with your hand. In response to your majesty, we come and worship. We bow down. We kneel before the Lord, our God, our maker. 

We know that your majesty demands silence, yet we live in a world of noise. Your beauty commands our gaze, but our eyes wander. Father, we live in a distracted world. We rarely break away from our digital routines to enjoy silence before you. We impulsively open our phones, but we neglect your Word. We fill up our days with busyness and crowd out prayer. Indeed, Father, we suppress the truth in unrighteous distractions.

Lord God, we are sinners. And you know all of our sin. Nothing is hidden from you. We know that you are the forgiving God and so we ask that you would bring to mind anything we have not yet made right with you so that we might do so. 

We confess our individual sin to you now. Hear our prayers.

We ask all this in the mighty name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Please rise for the assurance of pardon.

ASSURANCE OF PARDON

The Lord is merciful and gracious,

slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.

He will not always chide,

nor will he keep his anger forever.

He does not deal with us according to our sins,

nor repay us according to our iniquities.

For as high as the heavens are above the earth,

so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;

as far as the east is from the west,

so far does he remove our transgressions from us.

Psalm 103:8-12

If you have placed your faith in Christ, then in Christ your transgressions have been removed from you, and your sin is forgiven.