Song of the Drunkards


The Blessings of Riches & of Poverty

November 5, 2023 in Bible - OT - Proverbs, Meditations

Proverbs 13:8 (NKJV) 

8The ransom of a man’s life is his riches, But the poor does not hear rebuke. 

Paul writes in Romans 8:29 that God has predestined His people to be conformed to the image of His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. The Proverbs assist us in that process, directing us in the way of wisdom and teaching us what it is to imitate our Lord’s character. Today we are reminded not to set our heart on uncertain riches.

Recall that the Proverbs of Solomon are given to instruct us in wisdom and inform us about the nature of the world in which we live. While we often wish that we lived in a perfect world, we are daily reminded that such is not the case. And while idealism would guide us to live in a utopia, wisdom prepares us to face the fallen world in which we actually live. And in the real world, riches and poverty both have their advantages. 

On the one hand, the ransom of a man’s life is his riches. In other words, riches often protect their owners from facing the consequences of their actions. Do we not see daily proof of Solomon’s observation? Whether it is Republican complaints about the favorable treatment of Hunter Biden or Democratic complaints about the evils of the 1% and the need to “tax the rich”, the reality is that every society has its rich folks who are able to use their riches to protect themselves from harm. And isn’t this what you would do if you were rich? Wouldn’t you use your wealth to try to protect yourself and your loved ones? So if the wicked become rich, don’t fret. Remember that God is the Lord, not the rich:

7Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him; Do not fret because of him who prospers in his way, Because of the man who brings wicked schemes to pass. 8Cease from anger, and forsake wrath; Do not fret—it only causes harm. (Ps 37:7-8)

But there is another sense in which riches are not a blessing – and it is this that the second half of our proverb addresses: the poor does not hear rebuke or threats. In other words, poverty protects the poor from the criticisms and threats that rich people face. It’s not so much that the poor doesn’t listen to rebuke but that he doesn’t even hear rebukes – no one bothers to threaten him because he doesn’t have much to take or give. You may think that riches are a blessing – but consider what happens to those who win the lottery or to those who are rich. If you’re poor, do you have to worry about heart wrenching pleas for financial help? Do you have to worry about poor relatives draining your substance? Do you have to worry about frivolous lawsuits? Do you have to worry about the paparazzi? In other words, while there are certainly blessings that accompany wealth, there are also blessings that accompany poverty. 

Solomon’s observation, therefore, reminds us to be content with what we have and to place our trust in the Lord, not in uncertain riches. As Paul wrote to Timothy:

17Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy. 18Let them do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share, 19storing up for themselves a good foundation for the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life. (1 Tim. 6:17-19)

So what of you? Where is your hope? Is your hope in uncertain riches or in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy and to share? Reminded of the uncertainty of this world and the mixed blessing of both wealth and poverty, let us confess that we are often consumed with a lust for wealth. And as we confess our sins, let us kneel as we are able.

Jesus’ Transformation of the Family

October 29, 2023 in Baptism, Bible - NT - Acts, Children, Meditations

Acts 16:31–34 (NKJV) 

31So they said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.” 32Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. 33And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their stripes. And immediately he and all his family were baptized. 34Now when he had brought them into his house, he set food before them; and he rejoiced, having believed in God with all his household. 

Later in the service we have the privilege of welcoming numerous folks into membership in our flock and of baptizing several of their children. These baptisms serve as reminders that Jesus works not just with individuals but with whole families. When He saves us, His salvation transforms our individual lives and our homes. Jesus’ salvation of these parents has radically transformed their homes and the lives of their children.

This is no surprise. Malachi promised that one of the chief fruits of the Messiah’s coming would be a renewal of family life, particularly a restoration of fatherhood. “He will turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers” (Mal 4:6). It is Jesus’ transformative work in families that is on display in the life of the Philippian jailer in our text today. After the jailer heard the Word of the Lord preached by Paul and Silas he believed in Jesus, acknowledged Him to be Lord of all, and so was baptized with “all his family.” Jesus began His transformative work in this home.

Because the Gospel is not just for individuals but for families, the Scriptures are filled with promises and commands for both parents and children. The Lord includes both parents and children in His kingdom and is often pleased to use the discipleship of parents to bring their children to a living faith in Jesus. “Train up a child in the way he should go,” Proverbs 22:6 observes, “And when he is old, he will not depart from it.” 

During the reign of Marcus Aurelius, the famous Stoic emperor of Rome, a notable Christian teacher named Justin was arrested along with several of his students. They were interrogated for their faith and told that they must renounce Christ if they were to preserve their lives. Justin and his companions refused – and so Justin the Philosopher is more commonly known as Justin Martyr. The account of their martyrdom testifies of the power of parental discipleship:

The Roman prefect Rusticus said, “To come to the point then, are you a Christian?” Justin said, “Yes, I am a Christian.” The prefect said to Chariton, “Are you also a Christian?” Chariton replied, “I am a Christian by God’s command.” The prefect then asked another, “What do you say, Charito?” Charito said, “I am a Christian by God’s gift.” “And what are you, Eulpistus?” Eulpistus, a slave of Caesar, answered, “I also am a Christian, freed by Christ, and share by the grace of Christ in the same hope.” The prefect said to Hierax, “Are you also a Christian?” Hierax said, “Yes, I am a Christian, for I worship and adore the same God.” The prefect Rusticus asked them all, “Did Justin make you Christians?” Hierax replied, “I was, and shall ever be, a Christian.” A man called Paeon stood up and said, “I also am a Christian.” The prefect said, “Who taught you?” Paeon replied, “I received from my parents this good confession.” Eulpistus agreed, “I listened indeed gladly to the teaching of Justin, but I too received Christianity from my parents.”

Those being baptized today stand in this good company – the company of those whose lives have been transformed by the grace of God through the witness of their parents. 

So what does this mean for us? Parents, it means that your children are not your own. They belong, body and soul, to the Lord Jesus, and have been entrusted by Him to your care. So you are called, in Paul’s words, “to bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord” (Eph 6:4). As our baptismal oaths will emphasize later, we parents are to do all in our power to bring up our children to know and serve Jesus. Children, it means that you are not your own but that you belong, body and soul, to your faithful Savior, Jesus Christ. So you are called, with your parents, to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength,” (Dt 6:5) and you are called, in the words of the 5th commandment, to “honor your father and mother that it may go well with you and you may live long on the earth” (Ex 20:12).

And so reminded this morning that God deals not just with individuals but also with families, let us confess that we have often neglected our responsibilities as parents and children alike – we parents have neglected to love and train our children as we ought and we children have neglected to love and honor the Lord and our parents as we ought. And as you are able, let us kneel together before the Lord as we confess our sins.

Honoring God with Our Bodies

October 22, 2023 in Bible - OT - Psalms, Meditations, Worship

Psalm 95:6 (NKJV) 

6Oh come, let us worship and bow down; Let us kneel before the Lord our Maker. 

Psalm 134:1–2 (NKJV) 

1Behold, bless the Lord, All you servants of the Lord, Who by night stand in the house of the Lord! 2Lift up your hands in the sanctuary, And bless the Lord. 

One of the most frequent questions visitors have about our service of worship, one of the questions that you may also have, is this: What’s with all the different postures? We sit, we stand, we kneel, we bow heads, we lift hands – why all the variety?

The answer to these questions is threefold: first, God did not create us as mere spirits but as bodily creatures. Hence, God expects us to use our bodies for His honor. Paul writes, “…you were bought at a price; therefore, glorify God in your body” (1 Cor 6:20). Our bodies belong to God and so what we do with them matters. Our actions should reflect our reverence for Him and our knowledge that one day Christ will return in glory and raise these very bodies from the grave. Our bodies matter.

So this leads us to the second answer to our question: why all the variety? The answer is that in worship there are a variety of things we do. We praise and thank the Lord; we confess our sins; we hear the assurance of forgiveness; we listen to the reading of God’s Word; we confess the creeds; we present our tithes and offerings; we pray; we learn from the Scriptures; we feast with God at His Table. This wonderful variety demands a variety of responses – both verbally and bodily. There is no “one size fits all” bodily posture.

And this is why, third, the Scriptures invite us to worship God with a variety of postures – standing, kneeling, sitting, lifting hands, etc. So consider the texts I have read from the psalms – “Oh come, let us worship and bow down; Let us kneel before the LORD our Maker.” And again, “Behold, bless the LORD, All you servants of the LORD, Who by night stand in the house of the LORD! Lift up your hands in the sanctuary, And bless the LORD.” These are just a couple examples of bodily invitations given in the psalter, different bodily actions we are to perform in worship.

As we consider this threefold rationale, however, we must beware lest we merely go through the motions. For the ultimate reason that our posture changes is that we have gathered to worship in God’s very presence. He is here with us and we dare not treat Him lightly. He calls us to worship; we respond by standing to praise Him. He thunders at our sin; we respond by kneeling to confess it. He assures us of pardon; we stand to listen and enter boldly into His presence through the blood of Christ. He instructs us from His Word; we stand to give our attention to its reading. This is the drama of the Divine Service – but it is a drama that is only meaningful when accompanied by hearts that love and fear Him.

So what of you? Why do you stand? Why do you kneel? Why do you sit? Do you do it just because that’s what you’re being told to do? Do you kneel so you won’t appear out of place? Do you sit so you can take a nap? Or do you do all these things because you recognize with awe and wonder that the God we worship this Day has invited you into His very presence to worship? 

So today as we have entered into God’s presence He has thundered at our sin – let us confess that we have often just gone through the motions of worship; and, as you are able, let us kneel as we confess together.