He Who Has Ears: Listening to Sermons

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One of the things a pastor and a congregation spend a lot of time on together is the sermon that is preached every Lord’s Day in the worship service. The minister spends time preparing and delivering the message, and the congregation spends time hearing it and living their lives based off of it. But have you ever thought about how to hear a sermon? How can we obey Jesus’ command to “be careful how you hear” (Luke 8:18)? Consider a few ideas with me:

  • Believers should prepare themselves to hear. The Apostle Peter commands that we “desire the sincere milk of the Word like newborn babies,” and that one of the ways we prepare that spiritual “thirst” within us for God’s Word is by laying aside all sin (I Peter 2:1 – 2). Sin acts like wax in our ears, and keeps us from hearing the life-giving words we so desperately need. Do not allow Saturday night – or the week before Sunday – as an opportunity for sin, but instead lay aside sin by faith and focus on “thirsting” to hear from the Lord in the sermon.
  • Believers should prepare through prayer. One of the best ways to create this spiritual thirst in preparing is through prayer. We say with the psalmist, “Lord, open my eyes, that I would behold wondrous things out of Your Law in the sermon this Sunday” (cf. Psalm 119:18). Ask God to reveal to you His will for your life in the sermon; do it every Sunday! The Apostle Paul asked the Ephesians to pray for him as he preached, and to do so constantly (Ephesians 6:18 – 19). We should pray this way for our Sunday school teachers, Bible study leaders, and especially our ministers and elders.
  • Believers should test the sermon against God’s Word. Paul praised the Bereans because they “searched the Scriptures daily” to see if Paul’s message lined up with Scripture (Acts 17:11). As Christians, we are to “test everything; hold fast what is good” (I Thessalonians 5:21). Ministers must not preach on their favorite topics, heart-warming stories, practical advice for better living, politics, or anything else – but only what the Lord says in Holy Scripture. A congregation can hold their minister accountable by carefully testing what he says.
  • Believers should receive the sermon in a godly attitude. Continue reading

Latest Headline | Advent 2011

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“For unto you is born this day…” Salvation is created. The majesty and mystery of the Messiah come as our Emmanuel is a time for rejoicing and worship. Use the following for your own edification as you reflect on the Incarnation.

Advent Liturgy

The purpose of this liturgy is to direct the people of God as they are served by their Covenant God who condescends to our weakness in the Incarnation, and who visits us with perfect justice in the Final Judgment. These two advents frame the experience of New Covenant believers: we look back to Christ’s first coming… Continue reading Advent Liturgy →

Lehigh Valley PCA: Advent Liturgy

Celebrating Advent

Dear Zion, You’ve probably noticed that we have begun a special season at church called “Advent.” This word comes from the Latin, adventus, which means “coming,” but both of these words help us understand the biblical word parousia, a word we see in I Thessalonians 3:13, “the coming of our Lord Jesus.” Advent is an opportunity… Continue reading “Celebraing Advent” →

Honoring One Day Over Another… to the Lord

Coming Soon!

Resources for Preaching from Galatians

For the weeks leading up to December 25 (what the un-RPW world calls otherwise known as “Christmas” & “Advent”), we’re taking a 30,000 ft aerial flyover of the book of Galatians. Thinking especially that God sent His Son “in the fullness of time,” we’ll be using Galatians as a foil for considering Christ – and His benefits – that have come to us… Continue reading “Resources for Preaching from Galatians” →

Zion Cantata 2011

Coming soon!

Further Advent Resources

Headline: Reformation Day 2011

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Reformation Day Worship Service

As a congregation that stands proudly in the tradition of the Protestant Reformation, we are grateful for an opportunity to remember God’s gracious kindness to His Church around the anniversary of the Reformation. On the Sunday closest to October 31, the day history tells us Martin Luther nailed his famous 95 Theses to a church door in Wittenburg, Germany, we pay special attention the details of the Reformation.

Our worship service will take special care to reflect the liturgies of the Reformed tradition of Christianity, especially in the songs and arrangement of psalms that came out of this historical era. Then, be sure to join us later… Continue reading at Zion Ev & Reformed Church…

Reformation Day Liturgy

Order for the Divine Service on Reformation Sunday While the entire liturgy is largely based off of Calvin’s post-Strasbourg order, especially the Call to Worship from Psalm 121 reflects this influence. For more on how Calvin was affected by Bucer and Strasbourg, see Charles Baird The Presbyterian Liturgies. Continue reading Reformation Day Liturgy…

Reformation Day Sermon

I John 4:7 – 21 “The Effects of God’s Love”

Reformation Day Lesson: Standing Firm with Luther, Zwingli and Calvin

Things have been pretty busy for myself, my church, and my family lately, so I doubt I’ll put up the whole text from our Reformation Day festivities at church, but what follows is the outline for Reformation Day conference that encouraged us to stand firm in the faith. May we all stand firm in the power He provides. “Our hope is in no other save in Thee / Our faith is built upon Thy promise free / Oh grant to us such stronger help and sure / That we can boldly conquer and endure.”

Standing Firm in the Faith
I. Introduction
A. How Scripture Exhorts Us to Stand Firm Continue Reading “Standing Firm in the Faith to the End…”

 

Robert Farrar Capon:

“The Reformation was a time when men went blind, staggering drunk because they had discovered, in the dusty basement of late medievalism, a whole cellar of 1500-year-old, 200 proof grace—a bottle after bottle of pure distillate of Scripture, one sip of which would convince anyone that God saves us single-handedly. The word of the gospel—after all these centuries of trying to lift yourself into heaven by worrying about the perfection of your own bootstraps—suddenly turned out to be a flat announcement that the saved were home-free before they started. Grace was to be drunk neat: no water, no ice, and certainly no ginger ale.”

Headline | Ames on Chastity

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William Ames (1576 – 1633) was one of the important figures of the Reformation both in England and on the Continent. His Medulla Theologica (Marrow of Theology) was an important work for training ministers both in Puritan Britain as well as the Nadere Continent, and in this way his teaching connects early lights such as William Perkins with successive generations.

Ames is noted for his employment of Ramist divisions, which is a methodology that carefully considers a dialectic logic (though this claim should be carefully qualified as not embracing all accents which are associated with Ramism). Its especially helpful to see this when Ames considers “chastity.”

By carefully considering chastity in Scripture, Ames brings many qualities to light that seem all but forgotten by Christians (not to mention the world) today. Continue reading

Headline: The Marks of the Church

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The Marks of the Church. Notes on the Notae to Distinguish the Bride of Christ.

Tertullian: “Those are the true churches that adhere to what they have received from the apostles.”

I was recently preparing for a Consistory meeting and we were going to talk about the third mark of the Church, and as I was preparing I started noticing diversity amongst some of our Reformed fathers. Wanting to understand a bit better the exegetical basis for some of the different decisions, I began to catalog various confessional documents and theologians on the matter. I thought others might find it useful to see these findings placed side by side, and so you will find them below in chronological order. No doubt, others ought to be added to this list, and if there is anyone of particular importance that ought to be cataloged, either for their uniqueness or influence, leave a note in the comments and I’ll try to track them down and add them to the list.
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head·line /ˈhedˌlīn/ Noun: A heading or caption
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So was I speaking and weeping in the most bitter contrition of my heart, when, lo! I heard from a neighbouring house a voice, as of boy or girl, I know not, chanting, and oft repeating. ‘Take up and read; Take up and read.’ [Tolle, lege! Tolle, lege!] Instantly, my countenance altered…

Aurelius Augustine Confessions VII.1

Society’s Need For Hell

“In the fifth place, that endless punishment is rational is proved by the history of morals. In the records of human civilization and morality, it is found that that age which is most reckless of law and most vicious in practice is the age that has the loosest conception of penalty and is the most inimical to the doctrine of endless retribution. A virtuous and religious generation adopts sound ethics and reverently believes that “the judge of all the earth will do right” (Gen. 18:25); that God will not “call evil good and good evil nor put darkness for light and light for darkness” (Isa. 5:20); and that it is a deadly error to assert with the sated and worn-out sensualist: “All things come alike to all; there is one event to the righteous and the wicked” (Eccles. 9:2).

The French people, at the close of the eighteenth century, were a very demoralized and vicious generation, and there was a very general disbelief and denial of the doctrines of divine existence, immortality of the soul, freedom of the will, and future retribution. And upon a smaller scale, the same fact is continually repeating itself. Any little circle of businessmen who are known to deny future rewards and punishments are shunned by those who desire safe investments. Continue reading

Justification Already: How Reformed Eschatology Helps Us In Current Controversies

Even our standing at the Final Judgment is by faith alone, since in Christ we have already received all that we will need for that Day which is not yet here.

The debate over faith and works at the Final Judgment has been steadily brewing for awhile now. Launched by John Piper’s controversial “Does God Really Save Us By Faith Alone?“, the article has received a steady back and forth from Mark Jones (The Calvinist International) and Scott Clark (Heidelblog), as well as important contributions from other confessional voices (see here [With Heart and Mouth] and here [Kyle Borg | Gentle Reformation]). Now that the heat of these articles has died down some (I saw too much personality and not enough careful reading), I think one more observation is worth making. I bring this up not because it is original to myself (the rest of this post merely elaborates others’ ideas), but simply because I haven’t seen much of the eschatological nature of Reformed soteriology brought up.

Eschatology of Justification
Many New Testament scholars have pointed to the “already/not yet” pattern in Scripture, where God’s future blessings are already experienced by believers now, even though the fullness is not yet experienced. A classic example of this in Scripture in Jesus’ work with the Kingdom of God. In Christ’s first coming, the Kingdom has already been inaugurated among us (“the kingdom is in your midst,” Luke 17:21), but we await the day when the Kingdom will come in its fullness (“Your Kingdom come,” Matthew 6:10). Scripture repeatedly points to an eschatological fulfillment of present realities.

What if this eschatological fulfillment was also applicable to justification? Throughout Scripture, we often see the third person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit, as being responsible for this eschatological character. So we should not be surprised when “justifying” language and the Spirit come together in Scripture to point to an eschatological character, even for justification. We see I Timothy 3:16 stating that Jesus was “justified” or “vindicated in the Spirit” (ἐδικαιώθη ἐν πνεύματι). Clearly Jesus did not have a need to be justified like sinful humanity does, so understanding the eschatological role the Spirit plays in Christ’s vindication/justification is important for understanding this passage. Continue reading

Principles of Giving

Treasure Principle Keys
You can’t take it all with you, but you can prepare for the glory that awaits.

God owns everything; I’m His money manager.
We are the managers of the assets God hasentrusted—not given—to us.

My heart always goes where I put God’s money.
Watch what happens when you reallocate your money
from temporal things to eternal things.
Heaven—the New Earth, not the present one—is my home.
We are citizens of “a better country—a heavenly one”
(Hebrews 11:16).
I should live today not for the dot, but for the line.
From the dot—our present life on earth—extends a line
that goes on forever, which is eternity in Heaven.
Giving is the only antidote to materialism.
Giving is a joyful surrender to a greater person and a greater agenda. It
dethrones me and exalts Him.
God prospers me not to raise my standard
of living, but to raise my standard of giving.
God gives us more money than we need
so we can give—generously.
Ecclesiastes 5:10-15
on money and happiness
paraphrases by Randy Alcorn
“Whoever loves money never has money enough.”
The more you have, the more you want.
“Whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income.”
The more you have, the less you’re satisfied.
“As goods increase, so do those who consume them.”
The more you have, the more people (including the government) come after it.
“And what benefit are they to the owner except to feast his eyes on them?”
The more you have, the more you realize it doesn’t meet your real needs.
“The sleep of a laborer is sweet, whether he eats little or much,
but the abundance of a rich man permits him no sleep.”
The more you have, the more you have to worry about.
“I have seen a grievous evil under the sun: wealth hoarded to the harm of its owner.”
The more you have, the more you can hurt yourself by holding onto it.
“…or wealth lost through some misfortune.”
The more you have, the more you have to lose.
“Naked a man comes from his mother’s womb, and as he comes,
so he departs. He takes nothing from his labor that he can carry in his hand.”
The more you have, the more you have to leave behind.

Understanding Baptism From Evangelism

green (evangelism early church)-wrk01.inddWhat does the early Church’s experience of evangelism and discipleship have to say to us about baptizing infants?

Michael Green’s Evangelism In The Early Church (Eerdmans, 1970) is a stimulating read that has always rekindled a personal zeal for evangelism. Many churches and ministry contexts can actually work to numb Christians to the pressing need of evangelism. Reading realistic accounts of God’s triumphs in the early church helps stir us to remember Paul’s exhortation to “do the work of an evangelist” (II Timothy 4:5).

In the wake of evangelism, when the Spirit brought regenerating grace, how did the early Church handle baptism of new converts’ children? Green points out that this is not his main point, but his research sheds some light on the topic. Continue reading

Washington: Resolved, Resolute, In Pursuing The Goal

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Washington had finally hit upon a way to win this seemingly unwinnable war – not through military brilliance but by slowly and relentlessly wearing the enemy down. Throughout the month of June, Washington displayed a cool resolve that was in stark contrast to the fiery pugnacity of just a few months before. Not everyone was sure they approved of Washington’s unwillingness to engage the enemy. Some in his own army dismissed what they called Washington’s “Fabian” strategy (in reference to Fabius Maximus, the Roman leader who defeated Hannibal through a war of attrition) as unnecessarily cautious. But Washington remained resolute. “We have some among us, and I dare say generals,” he wrote to Joseph Reed on June 23, “who… think the cause is not to be advanced otherwise than by fighting…But as I have one great end in view, I shall maugre all the strokes of this kind, steadily pursue the means which, in my judgment, leads to the accomplishment of it, not doubting but that the candid part of mankind, if they are convinced of my integrity, will make proper allowances for my inexperience and frailties.
Book cover: “Valiant Ambition: George Washington, Benedict Arnold, and the Fate of the American Revolution”, by Nathaniel Philbrick. (Viking via AP)Valiant Ambition, p. 104

Godfrey On the Puritans

I’ve loved this series by one of my favorite historians, Dr. W. Robert Godfrey. He will surely be missed at WSCal! Thanks to Ligonier for having these resources! (Click the image for the video)

Puritan Piety

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Inward apathy toward the Lord masked by outward obedience is a real and constant threat in any church. Keenly aware of this danger, the Puritans zealously proclaimed the importance of heart-felt affection for the Lord. They sought to nourish genuine faith and piety especially through passionate preaching, Bible studies, and conscientious Sabbath observance. Though frequently portrayed as joyless legalists, we will see in this lesson that in reality, Puritans were more frequently characterized by their pursuit of joyful, sincere devotion to the Lord.

Puritan Politics

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During the mid-seventeenth century, England was embroiled in a civil war between the king’s forces and those of parliament. The aftermath of this conflict saw political change and much theological reflection. It was during this time period that the Westminster Assembly met to reform doctrine, church government, and worship. In this lecture, you will study this tumultuous time period, focusing on the connection between the Puritans and politics. You will also come to a better understanding of the climate within which the Westminster Assembly took place. Continue reading

Same Essence For All Subsistences: Ames On Trinitarian Controversy

amesiusWilliam Ames (1576 – 1633) was used by the Lord to influence Puritan thinking and beyond in England, on the Continent, and (through his writing) in the New World. One of his most important works is The Marrow of Theology (Amazon), the translated version of Medulla theologica (1623) from his lectures. Ames’ clear thinking can help us in our current discussions regarding Trinitarian relations.

See more on William Ames

As the debate regarding the Eternal Subordination of the Son (ESS) has continued, Ames’ reminder that how we speak of subsistences and essence in the Godhead is so important. Withholding further comment, here is the raw data from Marrow I.v.i-xv. Tolle lege

*    *   *

1. This subsistence, or manner of being [subsistentia] of God is his one essence so far as it has personal properties.

2. The essence is common to the three subsistences. As far as essence is concerned, therefore, the single subsistence is are rightly said to exist of themselves.

3. Nothing is attributed to the essence which cannot be attributed to each subsistence in the matter of essence.

4. But what is attributed properly to each subsistence in the matter of subsistence cannot be attributed to the essence

5. The subsistences are distinguished from the essence, because the mode of subsistence, though consolidated with the essence, are distinguished from it considered by itself. Continue reading

Grace For Burned Out Christians

GraceBurnedChristian2_800Last night we had a great start to our church seminar for when we face burn out or spiritual exhaustion; or get burned by a pastor, another Christian, or a church. Some of the resources we used are presented here. Here are some other Diakonos lectures from the past.

BrentHowlandOne of our main speakers, Brent Howland of International Messengers, was unable to be present last night due to his missions schedule. He will be presenting his material at a later date, Dv. We look forward to his teaching on “A Gospel Primer For Burn Out.”

Our first active session was “Withering: A Biblical Theology of Burn Out.” Exploring the word נָבֵל, navel, as well as various biblical instances of this spiritual drought, the following passages were surveyed:

Moses | Exodus 18:14 – 23

Israel | Deuteronomy 8:1 – 10

Elijah | I Kings 19:1 – 8

Solomon | Ecclesiastes 2:9 – 11

Disciples | Matthew 14:22 – 27; John 6:60 – 69

Solutions to this nabol tibol were desiring God’s Word (Ps 19:7 – 11), covenant prayer (Ps 120:1), communion with the risen Christ (Matt 11:25 – 30), evangelical obedience (Deut 8:1 – 2), and meditating on our eschatological rest (Heb 4:8 – 11).

Our second presentation was by Dr. Rod Rosenbladt, professor and minister in the Missouri Synod Lutheran Church, via the magic of the internets. His seminal talk, “The Gospel For Those Broken By the Church,” is below. Continue reading

A Perspective Of The Heart

perspectiveDear Zion
As you look at the year so far, what do you see? Wisdom and experience tell us that “perspective is everything.” Abraham Lincoln expressed that when he said, “We can complain because rose bushes have thorns, or we can rejoice because thorn bushes grow roses.” How you look at things determines so much. How does Jesus want us to look at things? Few things in Scripture are as important as keeping in perspective the heart. The heart – that center of your emotions, desires, and will – that is where God is calling you and me to look.

From the Heart

It is so easy for us to underestimate the importance of the heart. When Jesus was questioned about the Greatest Commandment in Mark 12, He reminds us that true obedience begins with a heart response: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart…” (v. 29). In fact, all of our behavior begins with our heart: “Keep your heart with all vigilance, because from it flows the springs of life” (Proverbs 4:23). Jesus echoes this same idea when he said, “The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks” (Luke 6:45).

Who you are will determine what you do. So that raises the greatest question of all – who has Jesus made you? Where does your heart sit in relation to His commands? There would be nothing better than to stop reading this article and spend some time prayerfully asking God where your heart is at. Continue reading