Friday, May 28, 2010

Constructing Corporate Worship

Now comes the real do we design, build, and dwell in church gatherings which are pleasing to the Lord? We'll do a little building this Lord's Day, so come prepared to serve!

Just as I Am (#332)
Not What These Hands Have Done (#347)
And Can It Be? (#335)
Salvation! O My Soul Rejoice! (#291)
Hark! The Gospel News Is Sounding (#293)
Faith Is the Victory (#596)

Scripture Reading
Psalm 105

The Architecture of Our Worship: Rejoicing in Our Covenant Relationship

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Why I Love Jesus Christ

I love Jesus Christ because he is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Heb 13:8)!

A Principled Administration

The United States has had, and still has, its share of agnostics and unbelievers. But it has never known organized militant atheism on the Jacobin, doctrinaire Socialist, or Communist model; it has rejected parties and theories which erect atheism into a political principle.

So wrote John Courtney Murray, one of America's preeminent Roman Catholic thinkers, in 1960. Whether or not that was true in 1960, it is certainly not true today. We are witnessing an executive administration which does erect atheism - or better, paganism - into a political principle. This is a very principled administration, in that sense, much more so than the Clinton administration, which was willing to be a bit more pragmatic. Virtually every item on the agenda over the past year and a half has been perfectly consistent with pagan principles, such as, most recently, the push to approve sodomy in our military and to seat thoroughly pagan thinkers on our highest court.

In his day, Murray foresaw such a possibility. "Perhaps," he wrote, "the dissolution, long since begun, may one day be consummated." I'm not convinced that the dissolution of Christian principles in American government is consummated, but I am convinced that pagan principles rule the day.

I remind you of this simply to challenge you to be thoroughly principled Christians. We face a very principled opposition, an opposition which is consistent with its own pagan principles to a high degree. They are not afraid to act upon their core commitments. We must not be afraid to act upon ours.
Source: We Hold These Truths by John Courtney Murray

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The London Confession, 1644 (Part 10)

We now come to the end of the First London Baptist Confession, dealing with civil government.

XLVIII. That a civil magistracy is an ordinance of God, set up by God for the punishment of evil doers, and for the praise of them that do well; and that in all lawful things commanded by them, subjection ought to be given by us in the Lord: and that we are to make supplication and prayer for kings, and all that are in authority, that under them we may live a peaceable and quiet life in all godliness and honesty.
Rom.13:1,2, etc.; 1 Pet.2:13,14; 1 Tim.2:1,2,3.

XLIX. The supreme magistracy of this kingdom we acknowledge to be the king and parliament freely chosen by the kingdom, and that in all those civil laws which have been acted by them, or for the present is or shall be ordained, we are bound to yield subjection and obedience unto in the Lord, as conceiving our selves bound to defend both the persons of those thus chosen, and all civil laws made by them, with our person, liberties, and estates, with all that is called ours, although we should suffer never so much from them in not actively submitting to some ecclesiastical laws, which might be conceived by them to be their duties to establish which we for the present could not see, nor our consciences could submit unto; yet are we bound to yield our persons to their pleasures.

L. And if God should provide such a mercy for us, as to incline the magistrates hearts so far to tender our consciences, as that we might be protected by them from wrong, injury, oppression and molestation, which long we formerly have groaned under by the tyranny and oppression of the Prelatical Hierarchy, which God through mercy hath made this present King and Parliament wonderful honorable, as an instrument in his hand,to throw down; and we thereby have had some breathing time, we shall, we hope, look at it as a mercy beyond our expectation, and conceive ourselves further engaged forever to bless God for it.

LI. But if God withhold the magistrates allowance and furtherance herein; yet we must notwithstanding proceed together in Christian communion, not daring to give place to suspend our practice, but to walk in obedience to Christ in the profession and holding forth this faith before mentioned, even in the midst of all trials and afflictions, not accounting our goods, lands, wives, children, fathers, mothers, brethren, sisters, yea, and our own lives dear unto us, so we may finish our course with joy: remembering always that we ought to obey God rather than men....

LII. And likewise unto all men is to be given whatsoever is their due; tributes, customs, and all such lawful duties, ought willingly to be by us paid and performed, our lands, goods, and bodies, to submit to the magistrate in the Lord, and the magistrate every way to be acknowledged, reverenced, and obeyed, according to godliness; not because of wrath only but for conscience sake. And finally, all men so to be esteemed and regarded, as in due and meet for their place, age, estate, and condition.

LII [sic]. And thus we desire to give unto God that which is God's, and unto Caesar that which is Caesar's, and unto all men that which belongeth unto them, endeavoring ourselves to have always a clear conscience void of offence towards God, and towards man. And if any take this that we have said to be heresy, then do we with the Apostle freely confess, that after the way which they call heresy, worship we the God of our Fathers, believing all things which are written in the Law and in the Prophets and Apostles, desiring from our souls to disclaim all heresy and opinions which are not after Christ, and to be steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, as knowing our labor shall not be in vain in the Lord.

Though brief, I find this political statement by the early Baptist to be fascinating. As I read it, I noticed how they affirmed many important principles in the great tradition of Christian political thinking. Although they pushed the boundaries of accepted practices at times, these Baptists considered themselves to be carrying on the biblical and traditional principles of ordered liberty.

For example, the confession states that men ought to submit to the rulers "in all lawful things commanded by them." Christian political thinking has always maintained that rulers are under law, not above it. Kings are not a law unto themselves, nor can they do whatever they please. Rulers are subject to the same laws as everyone else in the land. But not only must rulers obey the same laws as everyone else, they must also enact laws which are subject to (and ought to be an expression of) a higher law which comes from God alone and not from man.

Another example of the Christian tradition carried on by this confession comes out in the phrase "the king and parliament freely chosen by the kingdom" (Art. XLIX). Sometimes as Americans we think that we are the first nation to incorporate the principle of consent of the governed in our political system. That is not the case. God revealed this principle long ago in the nation of Israel, and Christian theologians have always maintained that, even in a hereditary monarchy, the principle of the consent of the governed must be maintained.

A further evidence of the continuity of this confession with Christian thinking is the expressed submission to human government even when that same government makes us suffer for conscience sake. Christians have never been anarchists. There are godly ways to go about opposing an unjust government, but it has never been the Christian position to simply refuse to obey a government because it violates justice at some points.

And so the conversation continues. On this blog we have been listening carefully to those who have gone before us in the faith, so that we might gain much wisdom, and so that we might not think of ourselves more highly than we ought to think. Furthermore, if we are to rightly understand our place in the world today as Christians, we need to understand what has come before. May God make us men who understand the times and what we ought to do.

Friday, May 21, 2010

On Mt Zion at Last

"Our feet have been standing within your gates, O Jerusalem" (Psa 122:2)!

In the Old Covenant era, the people of God delighted to come to Jerusalem and to stand on Mt Zion, for that was where God lived with his people. Yet everything about their worship was temporary. It could be (and it was) taken away. But now that Jesus has come and inaugurated the New Covenant, we can come to the heavenly Jerusalem which will never pass away. All of our worship today looks forward to the full and final dwelling of God with us in the New Jerusalem. Every Lord's Day there is within us, not only a deep joy in all that Christ has provided for us, but also a longing for the full worship of heaven where we will see him face to face. This Lord's Day we will look at the heavenly worship revealed in Revelation.

Holy, Holy, Holy (#3)
Praise Ye the Lord (#42)
Mighty God, While Angels Bless Thee (#27)
Behold the Glories of the Lamb (#653)
Jesus, in His Heavenly Glory (#170)
All Creatures of Our God and King (#59)

Scripture Reading
Heavenly Worship - Revelation 4-5

On Mt. Zion at Last: The End Times Goal of Our Worship - Revelation 21:9-22:5

Why I Love Jesus Christ

I love Jesus Christ because he brings us a kingdom that cannot be shaken (Heb 12:28).

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Members of One Body

This past Lord's Day, we covered in our seminar the biblical evidences for practicing formal church membership. Here they are in bullet points.

· Practical or historical evidences

o Numbers were known (Acts 2:41; 4:4)

o Special rolls were kept (1 Tim 5:9)

o Officers were chosen from the group (Acts 6:2-5)

o Descriptions in the book of Acts indicate a very close relationship (cf. the use of the verb kolla,w in Acts 5:13; 9:26; 10:28; 17:34. It means to join closely together, to unite, to associate with. It is used of the marriage relationship in Matthew 19:5 and of the hired servant relationship in Luke 15:15. It was anything but a casual relationship.)

· Theological evidences

o Church discipline necessitates a clear demarcation between who is in and who is out (1 Cor 5:13)

o Elders’ responsibilities necessitates known membership (Heb 13:17)

o Biblical body life – the responsibilities of members one to another – necessitates known membership.

o Conversion includes baptism which necessitates church membership in a particular manifestation of the body of Christ.

o The Lord’s Supper requires some discernment of who may be admitted to the table and who may not (1 Cor 5:11; 11:27-32), of who participates in the body and who does not (1 Cor 10:16-17).

o If, as we have argued, the local assembly is a manifestation of the heavenly, then Hebrews 12:23 may provide a theological argument by analogy for “enrolling” church members (avpogra,fw – register, record, write; as in Luke 2:1-5).

I believe the evidence is irrefutable. If the gospel is to be clear, church membership must be practiced in a clear and public manner.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The London Confession, 1644 (Part 9)

I would encourage you to compare and contrast the teaching on the church given in this confession with teaching prevalent in our day. How is it similar? How is it different? Why do you think there might be these differences? How does the Scripture help us to discern what is correct or incorrect?

XXXIX. THAT Baptism is an ordinance of the New Testament, given by Christ, to be dispensed only upon persons professing faith, or that are disciples, or taught, who upon a profession of faith, ought to be baptized. [Later editions add, "and after to partake of the Lord's Supper."]
Matt.28:18,19; John 4:1; Mark 16:15,16; Acts 2:37.38, 8:36,37,etc.

XL. THAT the way and manner of dispensing this ordinance the Scripture holds out to be dipping or plunging the whole body under water; it being a sign, must answer the things signified, which are these: first, the washing the whole soul in the blood of Christ: Secondly, that interest the saints have in the death, burial, and resurrection; thirdly, together with a confirmation of our faith, that as certainly as the body is buried under water, and rises again, so certainly shall the bodies of the saints be raised by the power of Christ, in the day of the resurrection, to reign with Christ.
Matt.3:16; John 3:23; Acts 8:38; Rev.1:5, 7:14; Heb.10:22; Rom.6:3,4,5.6; 1 Cor.15:28.29. The word baptizo signifies to dip under water, yet so as convenient garments be both upon the administrator and subject with all modesty. [Later editions add "which is our practice, as many eye witnesses can testify." While reinstituting the practice of baptism by immersion, the Baptists specifically rejected another early church practice which went along with immersion - the practice of baptizing naked. The Baptists wanted to make sure that nobody thought they were doing that!]

XLI. THE person designed by Christ to dispense baptism, the Scripture holds forth to be a preaching disciple; it being no where tied to a particular church officer, or person extraordinarily sent, the commission enjoining the administration, being given to them under no other consideration, but as considered disciples.
Isa.8:16; Eph.2:7; Matt.28:16-19; John 4:2; Acts 20:7; Matt. 26:26.

XLII. CHRIST hath likewise given power to his whole Church to receive in and cast out, by way of excommunication, any member; and this power is given to every particular congregation, and not one particular person, either member or officer, but the whole.
Rom.16:2; Matt.18:17; 1 Cor.5:4,11,13;12:6;2:3; 2 Cor.2:6,7.

XLIII. AND every particular member of each church, how excellent, great, or learned soever, ought to be subject to this censure and judgment of Christ; and the church ought with great care and tenderness, with due advice, to proceed against her members.
Matt.18:16, 17:18; Acts 11:2,3; 1 Tim.5:19, etc.

XLIV. AND as Christ for the keeping of this church in holy and orderly communion, placeth some special men over the church, who by their office, are to govern, oversee, visit, watch; so likewise for the better keeping thereof, in all places by the members, He hath given authority, and laid duty upon all to watch over one another.
Acts 20:27.28; Heb.13:17,24; Matt.24:45; 1 Thess.5:2,14; Jude 3.20: Heb.10:34.35 [cf. 24,25], 12:15.

XLV. THAT also such to whom God hath given gifts in the church, being tried in the church, may and ought by the appointment of the congregation to prophecy according to the proportion of faith, and so teach publicly the Word of God, for the edification, exhortation, and comfort of the church.
1 Cor.14:3, etc.; Rom.12:6; 1 Pet.4:10,11.; 1 Cor.12:7; 1 Thess. 5:19, etc.

XLVI. THUS being rightly gathered, established, and still proceeding in the Christian communion, and obedience of the Gospel of Christ, none ought to separate for faults and corruptions which may, and as long as the Church consists of men subject to failings, will fall out and arise among them, until they have in due order sought redress thereof.
Rev.2,3; Acts 15:12; 1 Cor.1:10; Heb.10:25; Jude 19, Rev. 2:20,21,27; Acts 15:1,2; Rom.14:1, 15:1,2,3.

XLVII. AND although the particular congregations be distinct and several bodies, every one a compact and knit city within itself; yet are they all to walk by one and the same rule, and by all means convenient to have the counsel and help one of another in all needful affairs of the Church, as members of one body in the common faith under Christ their only head.
1 Cor.4:17, 14:33,36,16:1; Ps.122:3; Eph.2:12,19: Rev.2:1; 1 Tim.3:15, 6:13,14; 1 Cor.4:17; Acts 15:2,3; Song of Sol.8:8.9; 2 Cor.8:1.4, 13:14.

Friday, May 14, 2010

True Worship

God the Father seeks people to worship him, and this Lord's Day we will press into what it means to worship him in spirit and truth. Join us!

O Come, All Ye Faithful (#88)
Joy to the World (#92)
What Child Is This? (#103)
The Savior of the World (#127)
Alas! and Did My Savior Bleed? (#141)
Christ, the Lord, Is Risen Today (#156)

Scripture Reading
Isaiah 55

Worship in Spirit and Truth - John 4:1-26

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The London Confession, 1644 (Part 8)

The confession now moves on to speak of the church. It is interesting to note the emphasis upon the visible nature of the church.

XXXIII JESUS Christ hath here on earth a spiritual kingdom, which is His Church, whom He hath purchased and redeemed to Himself as a peculiar inheritance; which Church is a company of visible saints, called and separated from the world by the word and Spirit of God, to the visible profession of faith of the gospel, being baptized into that faith, and joined to the Lord, and each other, by mutual agreement in the practical enjoyment of the ordinances commanded by Christ their head and king.
Matt.11:11; 2 Thess.1:1; 1 Cor.1:2; Eph.1:1; Rom.1:7; Acts 19:8,9,26:18; 2 Cor.6:17; Rev.18:4; Acts 2:37,10:37; Rom.10:10; Matt.18:19.20; Acts 2:42, 9:26; 1 Pet.2:5.

XXXIV TO this Church He hath made His promises, and giveth the signs of His covenant, presence, acceptation, love, blessing, and protection. Here are the fountains and springs of His heavenly graces continually flowing forth; thither ought all men to come, of all estates, that acknowledge him to be their Prophet, Priest, and Kingdom, to be inrolled amongst his household servants, to be under his heavenly conduct and government, to lead their lives in his walled sheepfold, and watered garden, to have communion here with the Saints, that they may be made to be partakers of their inheritance in the Kingdom of God.
Matt.28:18, etc.; 1 Cor.11:24. 3:21; 2 Cor.6:18; Rom.9:4.5; Ps.133:3; Rom.3:7,10; Ezek.47:2.

XXXV AND all His servants are called thither to present their bodies and souls, and to bring their gifts God hath given them; so being come, they are here by Himself bestowed in their several order, peculiar place, due use, being fitly compact and knit together according to the effectual working of every part, to the edifying of itself in love.
1 Cor.12:6,7,12,18; Rom 12:4,5,6; 1 Pet.4:10; Eph.4:16; Col. 2:5,6,19; 1 Cor.12:12 to the end.

XXXVI BEING thus joined, every church hath power given them from Christ for their better well-being, to choose to themselves meet persons into the office of Pastors, Teachers ["pastors" and "teachers" were omitted in later editions], Elders, Deacons, being qualified according to the word, as those which Christ hath appointed in His testament, for the feeding, governing, serving, and building up of His Church; and that none have any power to impose them, either these or any other.
Acts 1:23,26,6:3,15:22.25; Rom.12:7,8; 1 Tim.3:2,6.7; 1 Cor. 12:8,28; Heb.13:7,17; 1 Pet.5:1,2,3, 4:15.

XXXVII THAT the ministers lawfully called, as aforesaid, ought to continue in their calling and place according to God's ordinance, and carefully to feed the flock of God committed to them, not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind.
Heb.5:4; John 10:3,4; Acts 20:28,29; Rom.12:7,8; Heb.13:7.17; 1 Pet.5: 1.2,3.

XXXVIII THAT the due maintenance of the Officers aforesaid, should be the free and voluntary communication of the Church, that according to Christ's ordinance they that preach the Gospel should live on the gospel and not by constraint to be compelled from the people by a forced Law.
1 Cor.9:7,14; Ga1.6:8; Phil.4:15,16; 2 Cor.10:4; 1 Tim.1:2; Ps.110:3.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The Pill

The simple fact that I can write "the pill" and expect everyone to know what I am talking about demonstrates the cultural impact of this invention. Since the 50th anniversary of the pill has just come and gone, there has been some commentary on it, as illustrated by this Time magazine article. Some have recognized the negative impact of the pill (such as in this commentary), but sadly most Christians have been like sheep following the wolves when it comes to the pill and the larger contraceptive culture of which it is a part. For a helpful timeline concerning the contraceptive mindset, I appreciated this post at The Brave Lass.

I want to take this opportunity to urge you once again to see how antithetical the contraceptive culture and biblical Christianity are. Christians must realize that human sexuality is directly in the sights of the pagan attack on Christianity and all things biblical. Don't get duped into the culture of death.

Update: We dealt with the pill a couple years ago in our series of sermons on the Ten Commandments, specifically under the sixth commandment. If you are interested in hearing those sermons, contact me or comment on this post and I can send you an mp3 recording.

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Time Pointing to Eternity

In this post Tim Challies culls some excellent suggestions from Ken Ramey on planning for the Lord's Day. Here are some bullet points.

  • Make it a habit to be home on Saturday night.
  • Be careful not to do, watch, or read anything that will cause lingering distractions in your mind the next day.
  • Get things ready on Saturday night to alleviate the typical Sunday morning rush (lay out clothes, set the table, write the offering check, stock the diaper bag, etc).
  • Get a good night's sleep so you can be sharp and energetic to worship and serve God. It's hard to listen when you're nodding off.
  • Eat a simple but adequate breakfast that will hold you until lunch. It's difficult to hear over the grumbling of your stomach.
  • Work together with the other members of your family to get ready, and to establish and maintain a godly atmosphere on the way to church. Listen to music, sing, and pray together.
  • Arrive at church ten minutes early instead of ten minutes late so you have enough time to find a parking spot, drop the kids off in the nursery or their Sunday school classes, get a cup of coffee, visit with your friends, and find a seat.

You Have Come to Mount Zion

"I want to worship the Lord with all my heart. How do I do that?"

If this is your question, then come prepared to learn how we can respond to God's revelation of himself with joy that is inexpressible and full of glory. This Lord's Day, we will consider from the Scriptures the OT precedents for NT worship.

All Hail the Power of Jesus' Name (#36)
Ye Servants of God, Your Master Proclaim (#44)
Fairest Lord Jesus! (#21)
Hallelujah! What a Savior (#128)
When I Survey the Wondrous Cross (#137)
O Worship the King (#46)

Scripture Reading
Psalm 132

You Have Come to Mount Zion: OT Precedents for NT Worship - Hebrews 12:22

Give Thanks for Mothers

Last night I read this poem to my children, and I thought it appropriate to post here in honor of faithful mothers who willingly give their lives for their families. The words here are different than other versions of this poem I have seen. I am reproducing them as found in A Child's Treasury of Poems, edited by Mark Daniel.

All Through the Night

Sleep, my babe, lie still and slumber,
All through the night;
Guardian angels God will lend thee,
All through the night;
Soft and drowsy hours are creeping,
Mother dear her watch is keeping,
All through the night.

God is here, thou'lt not be lonely,
All through the night;
'Tis not I who guards thee only,
All through the night.
Night's dark shades will soon be over,
Still my watchful care shall hover,
God with me His watch is keeping,
All through the night.

On the topic of motherhood, I appreciated the thoughts in this new poem for mother's day by Pastor David Doran. Please read it.