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.
“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.
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 →
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
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” →
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.”
“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.”
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 →
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. Continue reading →
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…
Clear Lake Classical recently ran the fall edition of their newsletter, and I was honored they would accept an excerpt from one of my articles on classical education. Want to see the full newsletter?! Sign up here!
Another painful conversation. Another hurting set of parents.
The mother of a bright 6th grader looked at me, mournfully. “We just want school to make sense for where their lives are going,” she said. “If they come on [the family farm],” her husband added, “I don’t want [my child] to have spent years in school learning something different than who we are every day in our home.”
Education should “make sense.” Learning ought to help our kids “be who we are every day.” I’ve heard these concerns voiced, emailed, and prayed for many, many times.
Yet for many families, there is a growing concern that education has been disconnected from what we want for the next generation. Do the hours spent in various classes actually prepare young minds for the skills they will need? Do the values they pick up – on the playground, in the lunch line, or on the bus – shape them into the godly adults we pray they will become? Growing up in Minnesota, and now living in Iowa, it is easy to see that Midwest families value education that integrates knowledge and values that will be practical for our children’s future. Continue reading →
Sometimes you run out of room or time in your Lord’s Day sermon, and so “Monday Morning Pulpit” is a chance to expand upon or reinforce ideas you didn’t have a chance to finish during the sermon.
On Resurrection Sunday, I preached from Hebrews 2:14 – 15; “that through death Christ might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.” The following Athanasius quote is MONEY for the sanctification of the fear of death, but I wasn’t able to read the whole quote in the sermon. Enjoy!
“For that death is destroyed, and that the Cross is become the victory over it, and that it has no more power but is verily dead, this is no small proof, or rather an evident warrant, that it is despised by all Christ’s disciples, and that they all take the aggressive against it and no longer fear it; but by the sign of the Cross and by faith in Christ tread it down as dead. For of old, before the divine sojourn of the Saviour took place, even to the saints death was terrible, and all wept for the dead as though they perished. But now that the Saviour has raised His body, death is no longer terrible; for all who believe in Christ tread him under as no naught, and choose rather to die than to deny their faith in Christ. For they verily know that when they die they are not destroyed, but actually [begin to] live, and become incorruptible through the Resurrection. And that devil that once maliciously exulted in death, now that its pains were loosed, remained the only one truly dead. Continue reading →
Samuel Rutherford (1600-1661) was an important Reformed theologian and pastor. Here’s an accessible biography. Known for his help on the Westminster Assembly’s shorter catechism, Rutherford also penned his own. I have tried to clarify the spelling and make it available in searchable text. Continuing sections will be set out in the future.
Rutherford’s Catechism, or, The Sum of Christian Religion
Q. #1 What is the way to life eternal?
A. To know God and him whom he has sent, Jesus Christ.
Q. #2 Wherein stands this knowledge?
A. In faith and good works, that are the fruits of faith.
Titus 1:16; I Timothy 1:5; Psalms 37:3
Q. #3 Where may we learn the doctrine of faith?
A. In God’s wisdom (I Cor 2:6) in the Old and New Testaments, containing all things to make us wise to salvation.
II Tim 3:16
Q. #4 Then this Word of God is a perfect rule of faith and manners
A. Yes, it is so perfect that they are under a curse that add to it or take from it.
Ps 29:7; I Tim 3:18; Luke 16:29; John 22:31; I Cor 2:6; Rev 22:19; Deut 12:31; Prov 30:6
Q. #5 Who should expound the Word?
A. It is plain, and a light to those who have eyes (Psalm 119:105; II Pet 1:19; Deut 30:11), and in material needful to salvation it expounds itself and those that have the Spirit of God (II Cor 2:11; Psalm 25:9; John 12:12) should expound the Word by the light of the Word.
Q. #6 For what cause should we believe the Word to be the Word of God?
A. Not because men or the Kirk say so, but because God who cannot lie says it.
John 5:33 – 35; Matt 16:17 Continue reading →
The recent tragedy at the Florida high school has once again left Americans in agony to deal with the violence within our culture. Christians are often forced to deal with these headlines in a mix of their faith, the latest claims screaming for their attention on social media, their own cultural biases, and more.
I’ve found the following links helpful for thinking about the recent tragedy.
Careful studies that cut past stereotypes are incredibly useful today, and G.H. Milne’s The Westminster Confession of Faith and Cessation of Special Revelation: The Majority Puritan Viewpoint on Whether Extra-Biblical Prophecy Is Still Possible (Wipf & Stock: Eugene, OR, 2007) is of terrific use on the cessationist issue. As I’m preaching through the Jacob toledot on Joseph and the dreams God gives him, Milne’s points about how the Puritans saw dreams have been very useful. I might be able to post more on this topic in the future, but here is some raw data from the pages of Milne’s monograph for general use. Pick up his book! Tolle lege!
More commonly, as [James] Usher highlighted, God divulged his mind through dreams and visions, such as those granted to Joseph and Daniel, which were instances of “Revelations whereby God signified his will”. Yet, just as with the Urim and Thummim, those divine revelatory dreams which were given to pagans or non-Israelites had a “temporal” salvific significance for the people of God. The dream given to the pagan soldier in the camp of Midian, for example, made Gideon confident of victory, inviting the comment from the Annotations, “Divine dreams are always either clear and evident of themselves, or else opportunity interprised for the benefit of God’s people.” Continue reading →
Sometimes you run out of room or time in your Lord’s Day sermon, and so “Monday Morning Pulpit” is a chance to expand upon or reinforce ideas you didn’t have a chance to finish during the sermon.
George Mueller (1805 – 1898) was a remarkable man of God who ministered to people, proclaimed the Gospel as an evangelist, shepherded thousands of orphans through his orphanages that he built and sustained, and did it all without ever fundraising or asking for a dime. Most importantly, for our faith, he did it all through an ardent and vibrant prayer life. Mueller experienced living by faith for real world difference.
“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 →
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 →
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”
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.
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.
What 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 →