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Archive | Worship

Is The Lid About To Come Off?

The last week has seen a progressively deepening crisis in Hollywood on both sides of the Atlantic. Celebrities, stars and Oscar Nominations Committees have disowned Harvey Weinstein with an air of disbelief and disgust. Prosecutions may follow for this most successful producer.

Now, today, on the BBC’s ‘Victoria Derbyshire’ program, new allegations, concerning the UK music industry have emerged. Sarah Bowden, a music manager, has spoken about a scale of endemic sexual harassment, abuse and rape which is “as bad if not worse” as anything Hollywood has to offer.

Perhaps, we might wonder, if guilty complicity of promotion-seeking stars, has led to a backlash – those who are ashamed are now seeking their revenge. That still does not excuse the advances of these males. All godly, right-thinking, Christians, if not entirely surprised, should nevertheless be sickened by these criminal events.

These revelation, of course, may only be the first – we may well be about to witness the lifting the lid on a proverbial ‘can of worms!’ Can we really have expected anything else from the industry that was born and lauded by Jolson under the rubric of ‘Sex, drugs, rock ‘n’ roll’? The best we can say is that we all have […]

Christian Competence

Time is pressing on in sermon preparation, so on this Saturday afternoon I thought I’d share my morning thoughts.

Introduction

Perhaps your feeling tired or jaded in the work. Maybe you feel the burden of the responsibility to preach. “Who” you may wonder “is sufficient for these things?”

Context

In 2 Corinthians 1-2 Paul has been wrestling with this question. He clearly had detractors who were running down his credentials. After laying out his defense, in 1.12-2.11, he asserts that his change of plans was neither whimsical or selfish. Instead he delayed his visit to spare pain to God’s flock.

In 2.14-17 he deals with Christian conquest, for Christ has called them, as ministers, to diffuse fragrance around the globe in Christ’s Gospel victory march.

Next in 3.1-3 he shows that in exercising his powerful, successful mission, through God’s means of grace, he needs no other, human, Christian commendation, for results speak for themselves: Corinthian conversion and church planting is proof enough of divine power at work in Paul’s apostolic efforts. The fruit of New Covenant ministry is seen in the regeneration of the ‘living letters’ that Christ, through Gospel ministry, has written on living ‘fleshy’ human hearts

Then, in 3.4-6, he insists that such apostolic boasting […]

Sinners at the Sacrament?

Let a man examine himself. These words of the Apostle Paul weigh heavily upon the hearts and minds of so many believers as we prepare to the come to the Lord’s Supper. These are weighty and heavy words that can nag at us at times as we consider the struggles with sin and the enemy within. Let a man examine himself.

But what if I am unworthy? What if I continue to sin against God’s mercy? What if I am weak in my convictions? Surely then I ought not to go to the Supper!

Thomas Watson, a 17th century English Puritan, pastors the questioning saint as to why he or she ought to go to the Table in each of these instances. May reflection on these questions and answers lead you to Christ–and lead to you to his Table to receive the grace and mercy that you seek.

OBJECTION 1. But I am sinful and unworthy, and why should I meddle with such holy things?

ANSWER. Who did Christ die for but such? “He came into the world to save sinners,” 1 Timothy 1:15. He took our sins upon Him as well as our nature. “He bare our grief’s,” Isaiah 53:4. In the Hebrew […]

Corporate Prayer: An Example

How might we improve corporate prayer? Last month, I suggested that we replicate a practice of the early church in which worshipers are given time to take petitions to the Lord in silent prayer simultaneously.

Some readers have inquired as to what this might look like in practice. Below, I’ve published Second Reformed Presbyterian Church’s whole order of service from last Lord’s Day morning. You can see our developing practice of corporate prayer. We’re not saying we’re praying the best way, or the only way, or the way that we will always pray; we’re just trying to grow in our love for the Lord and in our prayer life.

Members have provided enthusiastic feedback as we have experimented with different forms of the same basic method over the last few weeks and months. They note that this method calls them to be more engaged in prayer in worship (and less drowsy), leads them to greater communion with God and others, and teaches them to pray by example and by practice. The net result is that we lift up far more requests to the Lord than if the voice of one leader vocalizes prayer during the entire time of corporate prayer. Saints have time to […]

Some Encouragments To Frequent Prayer

Out walking our beautiful Bernese Mountain Dog this evening on a lovely summer’s evening.

Here are some thoughts from a conversation that I had with my wife, on the stroll, as to reasons we should delight to pray often.

First God’s Open Access Policy. Round the clock, day and night, the Father’s door is open to hear His children’s prayers.

Second Our Great High Priest. Christ is engaged in continual everlasting intercession for His people in order that their persons and prayers may find acceptance with the Father – Hebrew 4.14-16.

Third Believers Sin Frequently. More than we know, we are in constant need of ongoing confession, cleansing of conscience, and assurance of pardon, so keeping our list short and confession up to date is best – 1 John 1.5-10.

Fourth Saints Need Much Grace. To keep our vows, fulfill our duties, know God’s will, meditate on truth, enjoy Christian fellowship, cherish our relationships, obey the commandments with joy, thanksgiving, devotion, sacrifice and kindness requires more faith than we have and more grace than we seek.

Fifth Prayer Lists Are Long. Luther did not always pray 3 hours a day. Sometimes, he said, that his dog was keener on eating dinner than his master was eager […]

Corporate Worship: The Lord’s House of Prayer

When you go to corporate worship, do you have the sense that you are talking to God in a more personal and vibrant way than in your individual devotions each day?

When you think of corporate worship, do you think of it more as “calling on the name of the Lord” or going to “hear from God”?

Strikingly, the most common nomenclature for worship in Scripture is that of prayer and calling on God. The first corporate worship is mentioned in Genesis 4:26 with Seth and Enosh: “At that time people began to call upon the name of the LORD.”

We rightly celebrate the recovery of preaching in the Reformation. But, if we have erred in recent centuries in reformed circles, it is probably in over-emphasizing God’s house as a place of preaching (which it is, e.g. Isaiah 2:3) while under-emphasizing God’s declaration that his house is a house of prayer for all nations (Isaiah 56:7 and Mark 11:17).

Sometimes, looking at examples of worship practices in past ages can give us ideas of ways to pray that would better engage worshipers.

A fourth century text from Egypt provides such an example. It is recorded for us by S. Sarapion (c. A.D. 340).  In the […]

A Call To Closeness

O Soul Are You Weary And Troubled

Perhaps like me, at this time in the year, you’re getting rather jaded. Rest and relaxation is usually ‘what the doctor ordered’. Even more important you need to recharge your batteries and get spiritually refreshed. So, as I blog tonight, I want to encourage you not just to take a time out, but to spend more time with God, to draw closer in your walk.

A Prompt to Closeness

As providence would have it, I’ve just been asked this week to write a short series of four articles on prayer. This is one occasion when I can honestly ask ‘Why me?’. It is true that a closer walk with God has been on my heart for years. Yes it’s been my deep desire for months to devote myself to prayer. I suspect many of us feel mere novices in prayer. I trust that this series will not go directly from head to pen but, en route, will traverse the deep wells of my soul!

Finally Unpacking Book Boxes

About the middle of the week I finally got around to putting up more shelves and unpacking long-boxed books. We moved in the Fall and I’m down to the final thousand […]

Prayer that Cheers

Introduction
Do you feel down in the dumps? Do you struggle with yourself? Does life ever overwhelm you? Has your faith become a drudgery? Are the storms of life upsetting? Is your service for Christ costly? If you take advice from James you’ll certainly get help.

Context
The theme that runs through James is ‘You need a faith that works!’ He’s given some spiritual litmus to see how faith is firing: like how you handle treasures, endure trials and control tongues. His closing comments focus on the need for fervent prayer. To have a faith that works you’ll be often on your knees.

Text
Chapter 5.13 is where I want to take your heart. “Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise.” Don’t think prayer a chore! God gives it for your cheer. Prayer brings some cheer in your tears. Prayer adds more cheer by your songs.

Subjects of Cheering Prayer
James gives no exemptions. Anyone is all-inclusive. All believers are beneficiaries in the bending of their knees. Husbands, wives, elders, deacons, men, women, parents, children, young, old, princes, citizens may receive this cheering help. Did my list exclude you? Cheer up Christ includes you!

Examples of Cheering Prayer
The apostle stops […]

Christ’s Help for Sabbath-Keeping

I’m getting geared up to preach on Genesis 2.1-3 tomorrow morning, so I thought I would share with you a few thoughts on how Christ helps us keep the Sabbath.

First by His Example

Along with Father and Spirit, the Pre-Incarnate Word, the Logos or Eternal Son, rested on the seventh day, as the climax of Creation. The Agent of Creation did not press the pause button. The term that is used indicates total completion and fulfillment of His task. The ‘work’ mentioned twice is also a slightly unusual choice: it has been suggested this term, which is usually otherwise reserved for human employment, was chosen by the Spirit to remind human beings of the need to down tools on the Sabbath; this expression ‘work’ is a close relative of the Hebrew word for ‘angel’ or ‘messenger.’ The key thing to note, in connection with an angel, is neither a shining body nor flapping wings, but the duty to complete the messenger’s God-given commission or task. Is it hard to prove that this is the reason the term ‘work’ was used in this instance? It still remains true that, as in the work of Redemption, so also in the work of Creation, […]

Hezekiah My Hero

I’ve just finished reading through 1 & 2 Kings, in Hebrew, last Friday. For the sins of King Manasseh, the nation of Judah was finally thrust out into the judgment of Exile to Babylon.

Hezekianic Analysis

Some weeks ago I did a blog entitled ‘Humbling Hezekiahs’. I had been reminded at that time about the danger of pride in leaders, particularly after times of successes. Re-reading the life and times of Hezekiah has given me a fresh more positive take on his reign – I’ve recently declared in church ‘Hezekiah is my new hero!’

Hezekianic Text

The bit of the text by which I was struck like a thunderbolt was 2 Kings 18.3:

“And he did what was right in the eyes of the LORD, according to all that David, his father, had done. He removed the high places and broke down the pillars and cut down the Asherah. And he broke in pieces the bronze serpent that Moses had made, for until those days the people of Israel had made offerings to it (it was called Nehushtan).”

There is far more to Hezekiah than initially meets the gaze. His reign concluded in a downfall caused by pride, when self-interest finally trumped and eclipsed a career […]