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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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

Political Power Chastened By Scripture

“[The Advent story in Luke’s Gospel] also introduces the reader to some of the most powerful political powers of the time–and indeed, of all time.

Only then to ignore them.”

That’s how Rev. Bruce Clark begins his article at Mere Orthodoxy entitled “Advent and the Near Irrelevance of Political Power.” He points out that Luke – under the Holy Spirit – spends a great deal of time on shepherds, old fuddy-duddies like Simeon and Anna, but when Luke gets to Caesar:

Continue reading

A New Year Prayer

Aside

ALMIGHTY AND ETERNAL GOD, with Whom one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day; we bring Thee thanks and praise for Thy blessings, more than we can number, with which Thou hast crowned our lives during the year now past; and since Thy mercies are ever new, let the year which has now begun, be to us a year of grace and salvation. Have pity upon us in our misery, whose days are as the grass. Deliver us from the vanity of our old fallen nature; and establish us in the fellowship of that life which is the same yesterday and today and forever. Graciously protect and conduct us through the uncertainties of this new year of our earthly pilgrimage. Prepare us for its duties and trials, its joys and sorrows. Help us to watch and pray, and to be always ready like men that wait for their Lord; and grant that every change, whether it be of prosperity or adversity, of life or of death, may bring us nearer to Thee and to that great eternal year of joy and rest, which, after the years of this vain earthly life, awaits the faithful in Thy blissful presence; where we shall unite, from everlasting to everlasting, with angels and saints, in ascribing blessing, and honor, and glory, and power, unto Him who sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb, for ever and ever. Amen.


Order of Worship for the Reformed Church in the United States, p. 26. See more New Year’s prayers here.

Charles Murray On the Social Impact of Christianity

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Everything I’ve written about intelligence starting with The Bell Curve has said explicitly: do not confuse IQ with moral worth. It just, you know… One of the problems here is the decline of religiosity, and I’m thinking specifically of Christian theology, which has as its central tenant that God does not judge people by their good works nor by their IQ scores, that this is irrelevant to human worth. And, it also teaches you to be very humble about your own frailities, your own mistakes, your own sins and the rest of it. There was built into Christians, serious Christians, an understanding, a gut level understanding of that truth, about moral worth and IQ just being separate planets.

(source)

Bias In Bible Translation?

What if God’s Word is too much altered by the culture wars it finds itself within?

Beth Allison Bar writes (sidenote: Patheos is the worst coded website in the whole world, right?! Friends don’t let friends on the ad-clogged, slow, Patheos! Lookin’ at you, D.G.) in “Deconstructing the ESV“:

…Samuel Perry (co author with Andrew Whitehead of Taking America Back for God: Christian Nationalism in the United States) published a fascinating article in the Sociology of Religion Journal (Volume 81:1, pp. 68-92).  Titled The Bible as a Product of Cultural Power: The Case of Gender Ideology in the English Standard Version, Perry analyzed 16 biblical passages often used in the complementarian/egalitarian debates, comparing the ESV with the RSV.  He found that while 7 of the passages were mostly unchanged, the remaining 9 were altered in the ESV to support a complementarian reading. As Perry writes, “nine of these gender passages were changed and each was altered in the direction of favoring a more complementarian, traditional gender interpretation.” For example, the RSV describes Phoebe in Romans 16:1 as a deaconess of the church at Cenchrea; the ESV describes her as a servant.

That’s an interesting and important claim. Is it true that there is cultural bias that might affect the way we read the Word of God? Let’s look at several Bible translations of Rom 16:1 down through time.

King James Bible (1611)
I commend unto you Phebe our sister, which is a servant of the church which is at Cenchrea:

New King James Version (1982)
I commend to you Phoebe our sister, who is a servant of the church in Cenchrea,

American Standard Version (1901)
I commend unto you Phoebe our sister, who is a servant of the church that is at Cenchreae:

Revised Standard Version (1971)
I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a deaconess of the church at Cen′chre-ae,

English Standard Version (2001)
I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a servant of the church at Cenchreae,

Continue reading

Mozart and the Miserere

Here’s the ultimate “what’s so great about your fourteen year old?” challenge. As much as I enjoy the following story, the music itself is what slays me. I can’t imagine being prevented from hearing these harmonies! It makes me excited to think of celestial choirs. The below story is taken from here.

“Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart is widely considered to be one of the greatest musical geniuses to live. A child prodigy, who was excellent at playing music before even reaching the age of 10, Mozart has many interesting stories surrounding his life. One such story, being perhaps the most fascinating one, is the story of “Miserere Mei, Deus.” This song, translated as “Have Mercy on Me, O God,” was a song composed during the reign of Pope Urban VIII in the early 1600s. It was written by a man named Gregorio Allegri, for use exclusively in the Sistine Chapel. It was played as part of the exclusive Triduum services around Easter Time. Thus, no one could reproduce it or play it anywhere else, as only the Sistine Chapel had access to the song.* It was forbidden to transcribe or play the music anywhere else, and doing so would result in excommunication. It remained a secret for nearly 150 years.”

Here’s one of my favorite recordings of the Miserere. Listening will help you appreciate the power of this story, and if you can’t listen to the whole thing, listen to the first 45″ and from 3:10 to 4:10.

“This is the point where 14-year-old Mozart comes in. While visiting Rome, Mozart went to the Sistine Chapel and heard the song. He was enchanted by the beautiful music. Later that day, Mozart went home and, amazingly, wrote down the piece entirely from memory. You may be thinking, what is so impressive about this? However, this shows how much of a true musical genius Mozart was. Transcribing a song is incredibly difficult, especially hearing it only one time. It is very easy to mess up similar sounding notes, and remembering the song from only one listen is also incredibly challenging. However, what I just told you was the difficulty of transcribing a normal song. What Mozart transcribed was Miserere Mei, Deus, a 15 minute long, 9 part choral song. Essentially, Mozart transcribed 9 different lines of melody, playing all at once for 15 minutes straight, from his own memory after hearing the song only once. Not only was he able to transcribe the song, but he also did it nearly perfectly in one try.”

“Mozart would go back a few days later to make corrections to his transcription. Eventually, it was discovered that he had made this piece. However, Mozart was never punished. Instead, the Pope summoned him and commended him for his immense feat of musical genius.”


*I have seen other sources suggested two other copies were allowed outside of the Vatican: for the Holy Roman Emperor, and for the King of Spain. But the main idea stands!

Dordt’s Closing Bendiction

Aside

“May God’s Son Jesus Christ, who sits at the right hand of God and gives gifts to men, sanctify us in the truth, lead to the truth those who err, silence the mouths of those who lay false accusations against sound teaching, and equip faithful ministers of his Word with a spirit of wisdom and discretion, that all they say may be to the glory of God and the building up of their hearers. Amen.”

(HT: BL)

A Prayer For Study

Andreas Hyperius (1511 – 1564)

A prayer from Flemish theologian Andreas Hyperius:

Thou, most wise heavenly Father, art the fount and origin of all knowledge and wisdom: thou pourest into the minds of all men knowledge of thyself and of thy will, thou pourest understanding, weightiness of judgment, prudence, right counsel, and the other excellent gifts of the Holy Spirit, by which thou both unitest, in accordance with thy good pleasure, and teachest the minds not only of small children but even of babes and sucklings, and fashionest their mouths to exalt thee with praises. I therefore pray that thou wouldst render my natural disposition docile both to the discipline of piety and to all good arts, in order that, when, by means of the example and aid of thy Son Jesus Christ, I have made some progress in true wisdom and grace and age before thee and before men, I may continuously refer all my study and effort to magnifying and propagating the glory of thy name and of the same your Son and to the advantage of men, through the same our Lord Christ. Amen.

Thanks to Dr. Scott Swain for the notice, and Dr. E. Hutchinson for the translation.

Machen on Tyranny In Public Schools

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A public- school system, in itself, is indeed of enormous benefit to the race. But it is of benefit only if it is kept healthy at every moment by the absolutely free possibility of the competition of private schools. A public-school system, if it means the providing of free education for those who desire it, is a noteworthy and beneficent achievement of modern times; but when once it becomes monopolistic it is the most perfect instrument of tyranny which has yet been devised. Freedom of thought in the middle ages was combated by the Inquisition, but the modern method is far more effective. Place the lives of children in their formative years, despite the convictions of their parents, under the intimate control of experts appointed by the state, force them then to attend schools where the higher aspirations of humanity are crushed out, and where the mind is filled with the materialism of the day, and it is difficult to see how even the remnants of liberty can subsist. Such a tyranny, supported as it is by a perverse technique used as the instrument in destroying human souls, is certainly far more dangerous than the crude tyrannies of the past, which despite their weapons of fire and sword permitted thought at least to be free.

Machen, Christianity & Liberalism, p. 13 – 14.