Thursday, March 31, 2016

The Blessing of an Intergenerational Church Worshiping together

With the birth of Redeemer's first great grand baby, I marveled at the grace of God for making us an intergenerational church before our 25th year of existence.  This little covenant child has the blessing of her parents, grand parents, and great grand parents worshiping with her at Redeemer. I think it is rare to be a suburban church and have all the generations represented in our congregation.  I love and cherish this feature of our fellowship.    

Our worship "style" is often pegged as "traditional", which I can't stand. I much rather prefer calling it what it is: Historic Christian worship with a quasi-liturgical and clearly Reformed bent but also an appreciation for new, solid, congregational worship songs. We even have a few of our members writing and composing new congregational music for us to sing- you can't get more contemporary than that!  We have selected a style that we trust is both Bible-based and accessible for multiple generations. 

In recent months I have been both amazed and blessed at the sophistication displayed by so many of our Redeemer children related to their comprehension of what happens in the worship service. Parents have shared sermon notes taken by children just ten or eleven years old that show they really get what is being taught.  Children have given me notes and letters thanking me for some aspect of the worship service, sometimes with a picture or quote that reveals they are tracking wonderfully. On many occasions the observations of young people have given me an insight about Scripture I didn’t previously have. God teaches us by His Word and He is constantly using the insights of others, no matter what age, to do so. 

Redeemer’s worship service is simple but purposeful.  It is intended to follow a process that is plain to understand and Scripturally derived. Furthermore, there is intentionally lots of Scripture integrated in the readings, prayers, songs, and sermon.  We are a “Word and Sacrament” church, so these things should be front and center.  Children and teens get the point. We shouldn’t underestimate their ability to see the reasoning behind what we do. Furthermore, we shouldn’t assume it’s too old fashioned for them or in some way antiquated.  If we are careful about what we do and take the time to explain the elements, worshipers of all ages will appreciate our approach and be blessed.  

To be clear, by celebrating our worship style I am not intending to criticize other approaches to  worship.  There are many Biblically faithful, God-centered, Christ-exalting worship orders and styles.  As long as believers are asking the right questions when they plan times of worship, a God-honoring result is likely.  What does God say in His Word about worship?  What does God say is the purpose of our gatherings? According to the Bible, what elements should be included in a worship service?  What does God get out of our worship?  When these questions are asked, a worship service that exalts God and edifies the saints (no matter what age) follows, and this is what we are constantly striving for at Redeemer.  Hearing from young people in our congregation who are tracking and appreciative of the intentionality of our worship approach is truly one of my greatest joys.  

A caution for us relates to how we speak of other styles of worship.  If we are careful to speak of the legitimacy of multiple forms of Christian worship, we’ll cultivate a humble attitude. If we are condescending and critical of other forms and styles, we will nurture a pharisaical attitude that is not becoming of the humility we should have as worshipers.  Also, acting as though we do it right and everyone else is wrong or somehow less mature, will set our young people up to either become joyless, judgmental critics or leave a bad taste in their mouth about what we do and cause them to want no part of it as they grow up.  We do what we do for a reason, but we are not saying we are right about everything or that everyone else has an inferior approach to how they worship.   

The broad spectrum of engaged worshipers at Redeemer is a blessing I hope we all cherish. Seeing our young people participating, taking notes, and discussing the sermon or other aspects of worship should encourage every member of our church. For church leadership’s part, we are committed to provide Biblically guided, practically ordered, understandable, God-centered, and Christ-exalting corporate worship meetings.  For your part, our members of all ages, be prayerful and humble about our approach to God in worship and be sure to engage your children in discussion about everything we’re doing.  It is such a joy to serve a unified, intergenerational congregation of people who love to worship their God in the splendor of His holiness and in the joy of Christ our gracious savior.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien on this day in 1944

C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien often met at Oxford's Eastgate Hotel to discuss their latest literary efforts over a drink or a meal.

In a letter dated March 30, 1944, Tolkien noted that Lewis was pestering him to complete his unfinished manuscript, "The Lord of the Rings".

He wrote- "Lunch with C.S.L, quite an outing for me."

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Penal substitution in personal terms

If you ever hear a "pastor" or teacher denying the doctrine of penal substitution, get as far away from that wolf as you can.  Jesus satisfied the wrath of God for our sin by His work on the cross. Period.  Jesus' prime purpose for dying on the cross wasn't to be an example of sacrifice or to send a message of love, he died to satisfy the divine justice of God and endure the righteous wrath of the Almighty in order to save us.  

J.I. Packer quantifies the bible's teaching on penal substitution in personal terms-

(1) God 'condones nothing’, but judges all sin as it deserves: which Scripture affirms, and my conscience confirms, to be right.

(2) My sins merit ultimate penal suffering and rejection from God’s presence (conscience also confirms this), and nothing I do can blot them out.

(3) The penalty due to me for my sins, whatever it was, was paid for me by Jesus Christ, the Son of God, in his death on the cross.

(4) Because this is so, I through faith in him am made ‘the righteousness of God in him’, i.e. I am justified; pardon, acceptance and sonship become mine.

(5) Christ’s death for me is my sole ground of hope before God. ‘If he fulfilled not justice, I must; if he underwent not wrath, I must to eternity.’

(6) My faith in Christ is God’s own gift to me, given in virtue of Christ’s death for me: i.e. the cross procured it.

(7) Christ’s death for me guarantees my preservation to glory.

(8) Christ’s death for me is the measure and pledge of the love of the Father and the Son to me.

(9) Christ’s death for me calls and constrains me to trust, to worship, to love and to serve.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

A.A. Dropped the Mic in 1880...might as well have been 2016

Who is responsible for the unholy laws and customs of divorce which have been in late years growing rapidly, like a constitutional cancer, through all our social fabric? Who is responsible for the rapidly-increasing, almost universal, desecration of our ancestral Sabbath? Who is responsible for the prevalent corruptions in trade which loosen the bands of faith and transform the halls of the honest trader into the gambler's den? Who is responsible for the new doctrines of secular education which hand over the very baptized children of the Church to a monstrous propagandism of Naturalism and Atheism? Who is responsible for the new doctrine that the State is not a creature of God and owes him no allegiance, thus making the mediatorial Headship of Christ an unsubstantial shadow and his kingdom an unreal dream?

Whence come these portentous upheavals of the ancient primitive rock upon which society has always rested? Whence comes this socialistic earthquake, arraying capital and labor in irreconcilable conflict like oxygen and fire? Whence come these mad nihilistic, anarchical ravings, the wild presages of a universal deluge, which will blot out at once the family, the school, the church, the home, all civilization and religion, in one sea of ruin?

In the name of your own interests I plead with you; in the name of your treasure-houses and barns, of your rich farms and cities, of your accumulations in the past and your hopes in the future,—I charge you, you never will be secure if you do not faithfully maintain all the crown-rights of Jesus the King of men. In the name of your children and their inheritance of the precious Christian civilization you in turn have received from your sires; in the name of the Christian Church,—I charge you that its sacred franchise, religious liberty, cannot be retained by men who in civil matters deny their allegiance to the King. In the name of your own soul and its salvation; in the name of the adorable Victim of that bloody and agonizing sacrifice whence you draw all your hopes of salvation; by Gethsemane and Calvary,—I charge you, citizens of the United States, afloat on your wide wild sea of politics, THERE IS ANOTHER KING, ONE JESUS: THE SAFETY OF THE STATE CAN BE SECURED ONLY IN THE WAY OF HUMBLE AND WHOLE-SOULED LOYALTY TO HIS PERSON AND OF OBEDIENCE TO HIS LAW.

- A.A. Hodge

A.A. Hodge's advice for standing against Romanism

A.A. Hodge offered this helpful advice when dealing with Roman Catholicism-

Dear friends, take my advice in this. In maintaining our evangelical position against Romanists, Ritualists and exclusive Churchmen, do not waste your force by laying emphasis upon any subordinate question as to church government, liturgies or parity of the clergy. Stand up only for essentials. Strike right at the heart of error. 

The three central dangerous errors of Romanism and Ritualism are these: 

(1) The perpetuity of the apostolate (which is the basis for the Papacy and Papal authority).

(2) the priestly character and offices of Christian ministers (the idea that human mediators are necessary to perform ongoing sacrifices or "mass" on behalf of the people). 

(3) the sacramental principle, or the depending upon the sacraments as the essential, initial and ordinary channels of grace. (salvation is based in whole or in part on the grace transferred by the sacraments)

These are three radical heresies which exclude the truth, derogate from the honor of Christ and betray souls by inducing them to build upon false foundations. But if these three pestiferous roots of error are excluded, there can be no difference of radical importance between bodies of Christians who hold to the historic faith of "the holy catholic Church.

Monday, March 14, 2016

A.W. Tozer on Golden-Calf Christianity (circa 1960)

It is now common practice in most evangelical churches to offer the people, especially the young people, a maximum of entertainment and a minimum of serious instruction. It is scarcely possible in most places to get anyone to attend a meeting where the only attraction is God. One can only conclude that God's professed children are bored with Him, for they must be wooed to meeting with a stick of striped candy in the form of religious movies, games and refreshments.

This has influenced the whole pattern of church life, and even brought into being a new type of church architecture, designed to house the golden calf.

So we have the strange anomaly of orthodoxy in creed and heterodoxy in practice. The striped-candy technique has been so fully integrated into our present religious thinking that it is simply taken for granted. Its victims never dream that it is not a part of the teachings of Christ and His apostles.

Any objection to the carryings on of our present golden-calf Christianity is met with the triumphant reply, "But we are winning them!" And winning them to what? To true discipleship? To cross-carrying? To self-denial? To separation from the world? To crucifixion of the flesh? To holy living? To nobility of character? To a despising of the world's treasures? To hard self-discipline? To love for God? To total committal to Christ? Of course the answer to all these questions is no."

From chapter 30 of "Man - The Dwelling Place of God" by A.W. Tozer (1960)