Citizens of the Coming Kingdom

Dear Zion,

One of the main themes of Jesus’ teaching during His earthly ministry was the Kingdom of God. As soon as He began His ministry, “Jesus came proclaiming the gospel of God… ‘the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel'” (Mark 1:15). When He sent out His disciples, their message was similar: “These twelve Jesus sent out, instructing them to proclaim as you go, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand‘” (Matthew 10:5). After Jesus ascended into heaven, the disciples continued to “preach the good news of the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ” (Acts 8:12), and even at the end of the apostolic age we see the apostle Paul basing his teaching on the Kingdom (Acts 28:30 – 31). But what is the Kingdom, and how can we be servants of the Kingdom in this world?

The first concept to understand is that the Kingdom is God’s realm where He rules as almighty sovereign. Continue reading

Slavery in the New Testament

roman-slave-masterDear Zion,
In our sermon series looking at God’s transforming grace in the book of Colossians, we note in chapter three, verse twenty-two: “Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything… Masters, treat your slaves justly and fairly…” (Colossians 3:22; 4:1). Slaves?! Reading along about how the Lord wants us to live in the power of Christ’s resurrection (Col. 3:1-4), and how that power should transform our families (Col. 3:18-21), it can be jarring to come to these verses and hear the Apostle Paul talk about slavery. Why doesn’t Paul scream out against slavery? Is he condoning it? Why does Scripture speak this way? Continue reading

Godliness In Selecting Worship Music

Dear Zion,

As we seek to obey God’s Word in the realm of music in worship, we must remember that there are several commands in God’s Word that do not speak directly to music, but nevertheless apply to how we treat one another. In this article, we will look at some of these biblical principles. Continue reading

Finding Tunes for the Text

Dear Zion,

Last time we saw that what we sing to God in our lyrics and musical text is the most important thing for selecting music in worship services. In fact, what we sing even takes precedence over how we sing, or in other words, the tune, arrangement, and harmony. We can all agree that the music should reflect the mood and substance of our songs, but what other guidelines should churches consider when thinking about the musical tune of the text?
Continue reading

Garner Community Services for Spring 2011

Garner Community Spring Services 2011
“Behold the Lamb of God!”

The following is a list of the special services held in Garner during the Lenten season. All special services will be held on Sunday evenings at 7:00 p.m., except the Maundy Thursday and Good Friday services. Any freewill donations go to supporting God’s Pantry, Meals on Wheels, and the Ambulance Fund. Questions? Contact the church office.

March 13 Zion E&R Church (alone)
March 20 No special service
March 27 Garner United Methodist Church
April 3 Zion E&R Church
April 10 Garner Ev. Free Church
April 17 Peace Reformed Church
April 21 – Maundy Thursday Zion E&R Church (alone)
April 22 – Good Friday Garner United Presbyterian Church
April 24 – Easter Sunday SonRise Service – 8:00 a.m.
Worship Service

Sounds of Christmas

For those of you who are into cantatas, Zion Ev. & Reformed Church recently presented their 51st annual cantata, “Sounds of Christmas.” Perhaps the following may be of interest for any looking for structuring their own cantata presentation.

Narrator
It seems like the Christmas season gets busier every year! More presents to buy, cookies to bake, decorations to be hung… in all the hustle and bustle, there is no time to wait – Christmas is coming! Where did the time go?! When we were children, Christmas couldn’t come fast enough; we couldn’t wait for it! So what has changed? What are we waiting for now?

We are all waiting… some are waiting for Christmas, some are waiting for their families to be healed; others are waiting for their health to be restored. We are all waiting for that angelic promise so long ago: “peace on earth, good will toward men.” But how long must we wait? And Who are we waiting for?

When Emmanuel Has Come

Narrator
Emmanuel has come, and we will never be the same. So how did this King come to earth? When Heaven was opened, what glorious procession did Emmanuel take to display His regal majesty? All the heavenly host of God’s angels held their breath as they awaited the sudden appearance of the King of Glory.

But what’s this? Where are the heavenly trumpets, sounding forth their royal fanfare? Where are the angelic voices shouting as a roar of the ocean, that the King is coming? It is a silent night, with only the blue-white of stars twinkling over a quiet village in Israel. Here there is no shining palace, no golden throne; only a solitary man and pregnant wife who are plodding their way to a small dusty inn and cramped stable.

A Simple Stable

Narrator
“For unto you is born this day in the city of David, a Savior, who is Christ the Lord… you will find a babe wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”

O, Tiny Babe of Bethlehem

Narrator
And so, the Babe was born. In the quiet of that holy night, salvation was created. And all was still on earth.

High above that lowly manger, the heavens were not quiet. Though the earth lay wrapped in silence, all of Heaven was exploding for joy in the birth of the King. The heavens were telling the glory of God, and galaxies were spinning in their celestial orbits to the praise of the newborn King. Comets and meteors, stars and nebulae reverberated with angelic praise. But one star, one special, little star, was given an extraordinary assignment. As the starry hosts gave glory to God, this little star cast its heavenly light on little Bethlehem, the holy manger awash in its glow. Like a beacon of grace, this little star shone out in the darkness, proclaiming the Light of the World!

One Star

How Quietly, How Quietly

Narrator (Choir of Children reciting in unison)
Within a crib my Savior lay / a wooden manger filled with hay /
Come down for love on Christmas Day

Now Holy Babe rest in Your bed / But on the Cross His blood He’ll shed /
O Jesus, Jesus, rest your head

Jesus, Jesus, Rest Your Head

Narrator
As shepherds watched their flocks by night, suddenly the glory of the Lord shone about them, and the heavenly host appeared to them, saying “Glory to God in the highest! The Savior is born in Bethlehem!”

Can it be true? Is this midnight vision to be believed? Is the King whom we have all been waiting for been born this silent night? Come, let us see Jesus! Come with the Magi – those kings of the East – see their royal array in a majestic procession. Come with the shepherds – fresh from the fields – still smelling of sheep and the goats and the grass – with the radiance of the heavenly host flickering on their faces. Come with the angels, and give glory to God – Hallelujah!

Hurry, Hurry to Bethlehem

Narrator
“Let us, like these good shepherds, then employ
Our grateful voices to proclaim the joy
Look now! the Babe, who has retrieved our loss
From His poor manger to His bitter cross
Trusting His pow’r, assisted by His grace
Till man’s restored to His glorious place.
Then may we hope, the angelic thrones among
To sing, redeemed, a glad triumphal song
He that was born upon this joyful day
Around us all His glory shall display
Saved by His grace, incessant we shall sing
Eternal praise to Christ, almighty King.”

A Christmas Proclamation

Narrator
Christmas is here! And the Christ child is born! Salvation is created! Sin, death and darkness are conquered- so joy the world! And glory to God in the highest. May you and your loved ones have a happy – and holy – Christmas!

A Carol Festival

Merry Christmas!

Looking Ahead for 2011

Dear Zion,

It seems like the New Year has snuck up on us again, and with 2011 comes all sorts of new experiences: new hopes and new fears for what the new year may bring, new possibilities, as well as the feelings of regret and loss that can come as time marches on. Many people spend the New Year thinking about new resolutions to make and ways to change. But how should Christians think about the inauguration of 2011? How are we to “redeem the time” (Ephesians 5:16)? While there are surely many ways to think about these issues, here are some especially pertinent, biblical concepts to consider.

The Sovereignty of God in 2011
No matter what the new year brings, we can be sure of this: God is in control of 2011. All times are in His hand, and since He is the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last (Revelation 1:8), we know that He makes the ends known from the beginning (Isaiah 46:10). Every day that we live in 2011 has already been written in His book (Psalm 139:16), and nothing that happens to us can happen apart from His will. Life and death, health and sickness are in His hands (Deuteronomy 32:39). Neither a sparrow (Matthew 10:39 – 31) nor a hair from your head (Luke 21:16 – 18) can fall apart from God’s will. So for those who love God and are called according to His purpose, the future of the new year doesn’t need to be a scary thing, because He has promised that all things will work together for our good (Romans 8:28). As we make our plans for 2011, we should recognize God’s absolute power and control over all the decisions we make, and ultimately entrust ourselves and our plans to Him (James 4:13 – 17).

The Second Coming and Missions
It could be that 2011 is the year in which Jesus Christ returns “to judge the quick and the dead,” and to bring His people home to God. I can’t think of a more glorious idea! We pray with the saints down through the ages, “Come quickly, O Lord!” (I Corinthians 16:22; Revelation 22:20). When the date is written out 2011 A.D., that stands for anno domini, or “the year of our Lord,” and it reminds us that time is waiting for Christ to return. The Second Coming of Jesus is the blessed hope for all Christians, and one we eagerly await. As we wait, we are to strive to live in a manner worthy of His calling.

But we are also to spread the Good News of God. If Jesus doesn’t return in 2011, may the Lord use this season for the advancement of His Kingdom! Jesus reminds us that in every age “the fields are white for the harvest,” and so we should “pray the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest” (Luke 10:2; John 4:35). How may God be calling you to support missionaries and evangelistic efforts through prayer, finances, and your own time?

Personal Holiness and Spiritual Growth
No matter what God’s will for 2011 may include, you can be sure of this, that part of God’s will for you is for you to grow in holiness (I Thessalonians 4:3). That is true in all times and all places. Many New Year’s Resolutions include weight loss and stopping bad habits, but how many of us take time to plan how to grow in our faith? How many of us purposefully seek deeper discipleship and richer communion with the Triune God? If it would help you, notice the Bible reading plan included in this newsletter[1]. Perhaps you would like to join or start a prayer meeting. May God grant us all a zeal to be holy, even as He is holy, in 2011 (I Peter 1:16).

Praying with you for faithfulness in 2011,
Pastor Brian
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[1] This is referring to M’Cheyne’s Bible Reading Plan.

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 and look forward to His Second. We live by faith based on the First coming, by hope looking forward to the Second, and the fruit of love in the mean time. We receive grace from the Cross, which leads to good works of gratitude for the Bema Seat. We worship the risen Christ, listening to Him through ordained servants because He is ascended, but praying “Marana tha!” because He has promised to come again.

See Lehigh Valley PCA’s Advent Liturgy for another take on how to conduct Covenant Renewal during the advent season.

Divine Service of Worship

Preparation for Worship
Prelude
Welcome & Announcements
Introit
Scripture Reading and Lighting of the Advent Candle[1]
Passing of the Peace

Call to Worship[2]
Call to Worship
Prayer of Invocation
Votum
Hymn of Praise

First Advent
Scripture Reading[3]
Christological Creed[4]
Congregational Prayer[5]

Charter of Faith
Choral Exhortation
Children’s Sermon
Giving in Tithes & Offering
Gloria Patri
Prayer of Thanksgiving
Singing of a Psalm
Pastoral Prayer & Lord’s Prayer

Ministry of the Word
Scripture Reading
Prayer of Illumination
Sermon
Prayer of Application
Hymn

Communion
Exhortation & Excommunication
Words of Institution
Holy Eucharist

Second Advent
Scripture Reading[6]
Congregational Prayer[7]

Commission
Song of Response
Benediction

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[1] The lighting of the Advent candle is not a circumstance of Scripture reading or any other aspect of worship, and is certainly not an element, and therefore does not belong to the service of worship proper. Our tradition is to have different families come forward, with the head of the household reading select Scripture passages highlighting the advent of Christ, while his wife or child lights the appropriate candle.
[2] Our Call, Charter, Word, Communion, and Commission sections of the liturgy follow our common Covenant Renewal liturgy, and so won’t be explained in detail. Some of the order is changed due to the nature of flow in the historia salutis.
[3] These Scripture readings, spoken by a Ruling Elder, will focus on one of the facets of Christ’s first coming. For example, the First Sunday in Advent includes Genesis 3:15, Isaiah 27:1-6, and Luke 10:17-24 to focus on Christ’s destruction of the Evil One.
[4] Jesus asked Peter to confess His identity in Matthew 16:15-16, and just as Christ gave a good confession, so His disciples are to confess His name before men (I Timothy 6:12-13). These corporate confessions of faith will feature the historic Christian and Reformed creeds, confessions and catechisms. Our Advent Sundays will employ the Nicene and Athanasian creeds, the Definition of Chalcedon, the Belgic Confession, and the Heidelberg Catechism.
[5] We pray for Christ’s coming to forgive our sins, transform us, and use us for His glory. A sample prayer is as follows:

Almighty God, give us grace that we may cast off the works of darkness, and put upon us the armor of light, now in the time of this mortal life, in which Your Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when He shall come again in his glorious Majesty, to judge both the quick and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal; through him who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Ghost, now and ever. Amen. 

[6] This Scripture reading focuses us on Christ’s Second coming. For example, II Thessalonians 1:7-12 directs us to Christ’s coming in judgment but also salvation.
[7] A concluding, congregational prayer for us to direct our pleas and petitions to our coming King.