The Problem with Most Bible Studies

You know that feeling you get when someone perfectly describes something you have witnessed or seen dozens of times, but never been able to articulate yourself? I had that feeling as I listened to Christian Smith describe the average, American Evangelical Bible study. The following quote is taken from an interview at The White Horse Inn:

Basically, what gets reported [by anthropologists studying evangelical Bible studies], and what I think I agree with, is:
The text is read, umm… what the text actually says is not all that much paid attention to. People, rather, sort of search around in their heads and their memories and their feelings for something that seems to connect to the text. And then, they conclude, “Oh yeah, well that makes me feel like this…” or, “What I think is that…” or, “In my opinion what it means is this…” And usually, the text is serving as a pretext to affirm something they already believe, rather than as an authoritative text to challenge what they already believe.

Nailed it.

Reformation Day Lesson 2011: Standing Firm in the Faith to the End

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
1. And Moses said to the people, “Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the LORD, which he will work for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall never see again. (Exodus 14:13)
2. For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. (Galatians 5:1)
3. Therefore, my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved. (Philippians 4:1)
4. But we ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the first fruits1 to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth. To this he called you through our gospel, so that you may obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by our spoken word or by our letter. Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father, who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace, comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word. (2 Thessalonians 2:13-17)
5. I have written briefly to you, exhorting and declaring that this is the true grace of God. Stand firm in it. (1 Peter 5:12)

B. How the Reformation Exhorts Us to Stand Firm

II. The Uniqueness of the Protestant Reformation
A. The General Consensus on the Need for Reforming the Church
B. Previous Reformation Attempts
C. What Was Unique About the Protestant Reformation

  1. Creeds vs Deeds
  2. Reformation vs Revolution
  3. New Technology – the Gutenberg Press
  4. Continue reading

Update: New Reformed Church in Twin Cities

Getting biblically solid, confessionally Reformed churches in the Midwest is not easy, and St. Paul & Minneapolis MN prove no exception. So it is exciting to see that fellow WSCal grad Rev. Ryan Kron is starting a church plant in the Minneapolis and Eden Prairie area. So if you’re in the southwest Metro area, give Emmaus Road Reformed Fellowship a look.

Update: “Fellowship” no more! Emmaus Road Reformed Church is officially up and running online, and you can join them for corporate worship this Sunday at:
Eden Lake Elementary School
12000 Anderson Lakes Parkway
Eden Prairie, MN 55347
(Google maps & directions)

Emmaus Road pastor Rev. Kron says: Continue reading

Headline: Reformation Day 2011

Featured

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.”

Calvin’s Ecclesiastical Ordinances

The Genevan Book of Order

The Form of Prayers and Ministration of the Sacraments, etc.
Used in the English Congregation at Geneva (1556)

Of Ministers and Their Election
What Things are Chiefly Required in the Pastors and Ministers

First, let the church diligently consider that the minister which is to be chosen[a] be not found culpable of any such faults which St. Paul reprehends in a man of that vocation,[b] but contrariwise endowed with such virtues, that he may be able to undertake his charge, and diligently execute the same. Secondly, that he distribute faithfully the word of God, and minister the sacraments sincerely,[c] ever careful not only to teach his flock publicly, but also privately to admonish them;[d] remembering always, that if any thing perish through his default, the Lord will require it at his hands.[e]

a. Acts 1:21-23; 13:2-3; 14:23 Continue reading

Bumper Sticker Theology

“There was; when He was not” – Arius
“As soon as a coin in the coffer rings / the soul from purgatory springs.” – John Tetzel
semper eadem” (always the same) – Romish Counter-Reformation
“I can write the Gospel on a dime.” Dwight L. Moody
“Once saved always saved.” (large swaths of) American Evangelicalism
“Let go and let God.” Am. Evangelicalism
et cetera ad nauseum

Clearly, there have been some less than helpful slogans running through the corridors of church history. However, aren’t the solas more or less slogans? Reformed churchmen have utilized pithy sayings as well. So how should we think about sloganeering? Useful if it has the right theology (pragmatic)? Fight fire with fire? Or is there another means for addressing this phenomenon?

Ancient Hymns for A Future Faith

Why Young People Are Returning To Old Hymn Texts

by Kevin Twit

Not too long ago I saw a sign in an antique store: “My grandmother saved it, my mother threw it away, and now I’m buying it back!” That little sign captures the story of church music in the last fifty years… For many, the church’s hymn tradition has become a treasured resource; students around the country are scouting out used bookstores for antique hymnals, searching for gems that have fallen out of use and yet resonate with their faith and longing to connect with God in a deeper way… we still need hymns in a postmodern world! Here are several reasons why: Continue reading

God’s Attributes and Poverty in Ethiopia

Pastor,
Why do we see starving people in countries like Ethiopia? More or less; why does God allow things like this if he is love?

Dear [redacted],
Those are great questions. And difficult ones. I think the place to start is to remember God’s sovereignty over all things as Creator and Sustainer. He is sovereign over the sparrows (Matthew 10:29), the rolling of dice (Proverbs 16:33), the decisions of kings (Proverbs 21:1), the rise and fall of governments and kingdoms (Daniel 4:34-37) and traveling and business plans (James 4:15).
Continue reading

New Reformed Church in Twin Cities

Getting biblically solid, confessionally Reformed churches in the Midwest is not easy, and St. Paul & Minneapolis MN prove no exception. So it is exciting to see that fellow WSC grad Rev. Ryan Kron is starting a church plant in the Minneapolis and Eden Prairie area. So if you’re in the southwest Metro area, give Emmaus Road Reformed Fellowship a look.

The Glory of God for Worship

Dear Zion,

One of the things I enjoy doing most with you is spending time in worship to give glory to God. Thinking about what we do in worship helps us to realize how important it is to bring glory to God in all that we do.

The activity of bringing glory to God is something that we learn chiefly from God Himself. Everything our Triune Lord does brings praise, honor, and glory to Himself. Scripture is replete with the fact that everything God does is glorious, and it is all “from Him, and through Him, and for Him forever” (Romans 11:36). Even our existence falls into this category, as we are those “whom I created for My glory” (Isaiah 43:6-7). “God chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world” and the purpose of this was “to the praise of the glory of His grace” (Ephesians 1:4-6). More specifically, He called Israel “in whom I will be glorified” (Isaiah 49:3). When He brought Israel through the Red Sea in the Exodus, it was for His glory (Psalm 106:7-8), and it was this same reason He never forsook them in their later rebellions (I Samuel 12:22). For the glory of His Name’s sake, God forgives our sins (Psalm 25:11; Isaiah 43:25), He welcomes us (Romans 15:7), He gives us the Holy Spirit (John 16:14), and brings us to our heavenly home (John 17:24) – all for His glory! When God tells us in Isaiah 48:9-11 “I will not share My glory with another,” John Piper reminds us in his book Let the Nations Be Glad that God’s ultimate goal is His glory, and that “the most passionate heart for the glorification of God is God’s [own] heart.”[1]

So when we live our lives for God’s glory, we are joining with the Almighty Jehovah in the most important activity in the universe: glorifying our glorious God! We pray for God’s glory in the Lord’s Prayer: “Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory!” Even our sin is primarily about God’s glory: “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Our obedience and evangelical service is for God’s glory (Philippians 1:9, 11; I Peter 4:11). We are to do everything for God’s glory: “whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (I Corinthians 10:31).

Reformed Christians have emphasized this important truth for centuries. Over four hundred years ago, the Westminster Catechism started Question #1 by asking, “What is the chief end of man?” The answer? “The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” The most important thing we can do as human beings is to glorify and enjoy God.

So not only do Christians give their every living, breathing moment for the glory of God, but we explicitly set apart time on the Lord’s Day – Sunday – to worship Him in the beauty of His holiness (I Chronicles 16:28). This worship that we render to God is subtly different from how we glorify God throughout the week. During the week, we glorify God at our jobs and vocations individually by faithful obedience. But in worship, we gather corporately as the Body of Christ, called out of the world as His washed people in the name of our Triune God. In corporate worship, we do not worship God as we choose, but as He has commanded us. As the First and Second Commandments remind us, we must not only worship the true God (First Commandment), but we must worship Him in the way that He prescribes (Second Commandment). We are commanded to be very careful to do only what God has commanded us to do, and not to turn aside to our own ideas or desires (Deuteronomy 12:28).
As we worship our Lord together on Sunday, may we be a people who glorify God throughout the week, and then gather to glorify His Name together as the Family of God. He is glorious!, and it is our privilege to worship Him in the beauty of His holiness.

Praying with you to worship our glorious God,
Pastor Brian