Not Ready for Church – J. Thorn

The title above heads a weekend devotional written by pastor Joe Thorn and published in the June 2016 issue of Tabletalk.

churchatsunriseThe following is taken from this profitable article and contains Thorn’s counsel for those times when we do not feel ready to go to church and worship. His thoughts are based on Psalm 73:16-17:

When I thought to know this, it was too painful for me; Until I went into the sanctuary of God; then understood I their end.

Here are some of thoughts:

…There are those Sundays when we feel as though we are not ready for worship. Our hearts are cold, our week was fraught with failure, and the idea of ‘going to church’ seems to be an exercise in futility if not an act of hypocrisy. Somehow, we believe the lie that it is better to stay home and try again next week when our hearts will be right. But the troubled soul is meant for corporate worship, and that is exactly where we need to be [At this point Thorn quotes Ps.73:16-17).

…The person who is slow to draw near to God because of sin or doubt is the person who will not find hope. Such is the man whose faith only continues to wither and whose strength continues to weaken, for in pulling back from the Lord and the means of grace, we deny ourselves access to the primary way in which God speaks to our hearts and lives. Staying home and licking our wounds does not heal but callouses the soul, making us increasingly less sensitive to the truth we need to hear.

The local church assembled for worshiping our triune God is the place where God’s Word and Spirit are at work to move us to repentance, revive our hearts, instruct our minds, and reveal to us the plan and purpose of God in all things.

…When we are not ready for church, we must remember that the church is ready for us. Jesus is ready for us. And grace abounds for the sinner who is willing to come to Christ (p.57).

Seriousness in Worship – J. Helopolous

TT-May-2016This month’s issue of Tabletalk (May 2016) centers on the theme of the Reformed theology of John 3:16, with eight articles devoted to explaining the glorious gospel of that text. We hope to reference a few of these articles yet this month (for now, you may read editor Burk Parsons’ introduction).

In the back of this issue is a hidden gem on the subject of worship written by Rev. Jason Helopolous, assistant pastor to Rev. Kevin DeYoung at University Reformed Church in Lansing, MI. The title, as you will see above and below, is “Seriousness in Worship”, and on this Lord’s Day when we are participating in this holy activity of worship, it is good to read some of this thoughts.

I encourage you to read the entire article at the link below, but this is how Helopolous ends:

Remind Yourself

Third, in worship, tend to your heart. As your mind drifts in the service (which happens to the best of us), remind yourself of the great privilege of corporate worship. My friends, we are meeting with the triune God of the universe—never lose sight of this. The Lord of glory is speaking to us and the grace of Christ is being extended to us. Nothing in all the earth is more significant, monumental, and remarkable than the reality that God chooses to meet with us week in and week out.

Reflect

Finally, reflect on the worship service afterward. Ask each family member on the drive home to explain what they heard in the service, how the Lord convicted them, and what delighted their soul. Use the Lord’s Day afternoon to reread and pray through the passage preached. Plead with the Lord to reveal your own sin, teach you new truths, uncover your weaknesses, increase your faith, and bind your wounds.

Worship is one of the greatest gifts we enjoy. Attending to it with seriousness is paramount. That does not mean moroseness or in some kind of stiff formality, but rather with intention, attention, and delight. God chooses to meet with us. That reality should rattle the Christian’s soul with joy.

Source: Seriousness in Worship by Jason Helopolous

Top Ten Reasons to Attend Evening Worship – D.Hyde

Psalm122The Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals has a new aspect to its Internet witness and that is “Meet the Puritans,” a brief daily article highlighting Puritan teaching and practice. In a recent post, pastor Danny Hyde (a URC minister whose name many of you may be familiar with) wrote about the importance of having and attending BOTH services on the Lord’s Day.

After a quote from John Owen, one of the great Puritan preachers and writers, Hyde points to a recent note he gave his congregation about being faithful in attendance at the evening service. While not everything he communicates matches our own (PRC) experience, we can certainly appreciate his ten practical reasons for maintaining our own attendance at the second service on Sunday.

A while back in my weekly email to my congregation, I gave my people my “Top Ten Reasons to Attend Evening Worship” in an ongoing effort to educate, encourage, and exhort. They are not exhaustive and they apply to my context, in particular, but the principles should be applicable to any who reads this. May God move his people in our time to sanctify the Christian Sabbath, leading to a renewal of evening worship.

  1. God promises to be present in our midst unlike anywhere else in public worship.
  2. This is a practical help for us to sanctify the Lord’s Day with morning and evening bookends.
  3. This lays a foundation for our children to be evening attenders as well when they grow up (and not what the Dutch call a “oncer”).
  4. Since the Word of God is the food for our souls, we get “breakfast” and “dinner” every Lord’s Day with two sermons.
  5. We also read through the Old and New Testaments in evening worship with a chapter from each.
  6. We sing through the biblical Psalms together with two Psalms a week [we’ve done this 10+ times in 15 years].
  7. Our evening service is based on the historic form of evening prayer from the Protestant Reformation, thus giving us a sense of the communion of the saints through the ages.
  8. We pray biblically-saturated, ancient prayers together at evening worship, thus giving us a sense of transcendence.
  9. We get to bear each other’s burdens as we lift up prayer requests in each other’s midst.
  10. Since there is no Sunday school after, we have more time to fellowship and enjoy each other’s presence after the evening service.

Source: Top Ten Reasons to Attend Evening Worship – Meet the Puritans

The Gift of the Lord’s Day – Derek Thomas

Sunday-well-spentTwo of my readings yesterday touched on the blessedness of the Lord’s Day when properly observed as the day of rest fulfilled in Jesus Christ.

The first was the weekend devotional by Derek W.H. Thomas for this past weekend, titled “The Weekend and the Lord’s Day.” His final point was this:

     Third, the Lord’s Day is a gift. Each week we are provided with an opportunity to gather together as a fellowship, a family, with Jesus our Elder Brother. Our Father calls us together for worship – to sing, to pray, to read Scripture and hear it expounded, and to baptize and share a meal together – signs and seals of all the blessings and privileges of the gospel and of the covenant of grace that lies behind it. Sundays are fitness enhancing, ensuring the health of our souls. It is a time of spiritual nourishment, to be used wisely and with discipline – profiting from the Lord’s Day does require effort and resolve on our part, including preparation and expectation. Here, as elsewhere in the Christian life, the saying is true that ‘you do not have, because you do no ask’ (James 4:2).

The Puritans referred to the Lord’s Day as ‘the market Day of the soul’ – viewing a well-spent Lord’s Day as preparation for the working week that would follow. And here’s a thought: Is the reason why our work is viewed with dread and foreboding that we do not utilize the gift of the Lord’s Day to the full? (p.58)

The second reading was from the Fall 2015 issue of the Free Grace Broadcaster (www.ChapelLibrary.org), which is devoted to the theme of “The Lord’s Day.” The second article in this magazine is a selection from J.C. Ryle’s essay “The Sabbath”, titled “Biblical Thoughts about the Lord’s Day” in this issue.

In laying out seven points concerning what the Bible teaches on the sabbath, Ryle has this to say in his fourth point:

4. I turn to the teaching of our Lord Jesus Christ when He was upon earth. I cannot discover that our Savior ever let a word fall in discredit of any one of the Ten Commandments. On the contrary, I find Him declaring at the outset of His ministry that He came not to ‘destroy the law… but to fulfil,’ and the context of the passage where He uses these words satisfies me that He was not speaking of the ceremonial law, but the moral (Mat.5:17). I find Him speaking of the Ten Commandments as a recognized standard of moral right and wrong: ‘Thou knowest the commandments’ (Mar 10:19). i find Him speaking eleven times on the subject of the Sabbath, but it is always to correct the superstitious additions that the Pharisees had made to the Law of Moses about observing it and never to deny the holiness of the day. He no more abolishes the Sabbath than a man destroys a house when he cleans off the moss or weeds from its roof. Above all, I find our Savior taking for granted the continuance of the Sabbath when He foretells the destruction of Jerusalem. ‘Pray ye,’ He says to the disciples, ‘that your flight be not in winter, neither on the sabbath day’ (Mat 24:20). I am utterly unable to believe, when I see all this, that our Lord did not mean the Fourth Commandment to be as binding on Christians as the other nine (p.8).

Published in: on September 28, 2015 at 7:03 AM  Leave a Comment  

Remembering the Sabbath, to Keep It Holy ~ Sean M. Lucas

Remember the Sabbath, to Keep It Holy by Sean Michael Lucas | Reformed Theology Articles at Ligonier.org.

TT-June 2015This month’s issue of Tabletalk (Ligonier Ministries devotional magazine) is devoted to the theme of keeping the law of God (ten commandments).

The fourth featured article by Dr. Sean M. Lucas (linked above) treats the fourth commandment, which is part of the first table of the law, defining our relationship of love to our loving, redeeming Father in Christ Jesus. In this fourth word to us, His redeemed and renewed people, God calls us to keep the sabbath day holy – for His glory and for our good.

What follows is a part of how Dr. Lucas explains this commandment, specifically joining it to its fulfillment in our Lord Jesus Christ, so that we may truly find rest for our weary souls. Find the full article at the Ligonier link above.

Jesus does these things [worships in the synagogue and heals the sick] because He is the Lord of the Sabbath (Mark 2:23–28). He is the giver of the Sabbath as the Creator. He is the One about whom the Sabbath testifies. And, as Redeemer, He has started time anew through the resurrection. Indeed, on the Sunday of His resurrection, time began again; the first day of the new creation started. The Sabbath rest secures its meaning on Resurrection Sunday, setting the day for Christian worship (1 Cor. 16:2Rev. 1:10). We remember this day to the Lord’s service in worship and mercy, in response to God’s good command and Christ’s gracious gift.

We who trust in Jesus not only find rest for our souls Sunday by Sunday, but we also have the promise of entering into the final Sabbath rest (Heb. 4:9–10). We testify each week that we have rested from our works—from our attempts to placate God or earn His favor, even in how we “remember the Sabbath.” Instead, we “rest in and receive” Jesus. In Him, we find rest for our souls (Matt. 11:28–30).

That’s why the Sabbath day brings real rest and refreshment. We aren’t in a frenzy trying to earn God’s favor. Rather, the Lord of the Sabbath Himself has raised us and will raise us from the dead (Eph. 2:4–6).

Because I did not as yet introduce this June issue of Tabletalk, I include here the introduction to the theme of God’s law as found in Editor Burk Parsons’ opening article “Gospel Religion” (please read the entire article – brief and profitable).

Christianity is not a religion of moralism, it is a gospel religion of grace. It is a religion established on a relationship. It’s not either/or, it’s both—a relationship and a religion. They are not mutually exclusive, and we do well not to pit one against the other. Our gospel relationship with Jesus Christ, by grace alone through faith alone, is the foundation for our all-of-life-encompassing gospel religion. Our relationship with Christ naturally leads to pure and undefiled religion (James 1:26-27). Religionis a helpful word we use to describe our Christian faith, which encompasses every aspect of our Christian lives, rooted in and flowing out of our spiritually regenerated new hearts and minds, and founded on the relationship that God has established with us by uniting us to Christ.

Our religion is established on Jesus Christ, who did not come to abolish the law but to fulfill it (Matt. 5:17). Christ fulfilled all the righteous demands of the law in His life so that His death would be a perfect atonement for our sins. Indeed, we are justified by works—His works, not ours. Christ perfectly kept His Father’s list of do’s and don’ts for us. And He did so not so that we might ignore God’s commands, but so that we might no longer be slaves of sin but slaves of righteousness. Christ frees us by faith that we might bear fruit. To be sure, we are saved by faith, not fruit, but we won’t be saved by fruitless faith. God’s grace enables us and His Spirit sustains us, helping us in our weakness to pursue holiness as we rest in the holiness of Jesus Christ. For, as Martin Luther said, “Faith cannot help doing good works constantly. It doesn’t stop to ask if good works ought to be done, but before anyone asks, it already has done them and continues to do them without ceasing.”

“Sunday is ‘Father’s Day,’ and we have an appointment to meet Him.” -S.Ferguson

In Christ Alone - SFergusonFittingly, the final chapter in Sinclair Ferguson’s fine book In Christ Alone (Reformation Trust, 2007) is titled “Sabbath Rest”. In it he traces the four stages the sabbath has for man in the history of redemption, following the Word of God in Hebrews 4 (creation, fall, salvation, glory).

On this Sunday-sabbath night, I post Ferguson’s treatment of that last stage, realizing it also ties in well with my previous quote today. May these words also serve to strengthen us to run our race in this week, with all its toils and troubles, knowing the perfect rest that awaits us.

But we have not yet reached the goal. We still struggle to rest from the labors of the flesh; we still must ‘be diligent to enter that rest’ (Heb.4:11). That is why the weekly nature of the Sabbath continues as a reminder that we are not yet home with the Father. And since this rest is ours only through union with Christ in His death and resurrection, our struggles to refuse the old life and enjoy the new will continue until glory.

But one may ask, ‘How does this impact my Sundays as a Christian?’

For one thing, this view of the Sabbath helps us regulate the whole week. Sunday is ‘Father’s Day,’ and we have an appointment to meet Him. The child who asks, ‘How short can the meeting be?’ has a dysfunctional relationship problem – not an intellectual, theological problem. Something is amiss in his fellowship with God.

This view of the Lord’s Day also usually helps us deal in a non-legalistic way with the questions that ask, ‘Is it ok to do_____ on Sunday since I don’t have any time to do it in the rest of the week? If this is the way we phrase the question, the problem is not how we use Sunday, it is how we are misusing the rest of the week.

This view of the Lord’s Day also helps us see it as a foretaste of heaven. And it teaches us that if the worship, fellowship, ministry, and outreach of our churches do not give expression to that, something is seriously amiss.

Hebrews teaches us that eternal glory is a Sabbath rest. Every day, all day, will be ‘Father’s Day’! Thus, if here and now we learn the pleasures of a God-given weekly rhythm, it will no longer seem strange to us that the eternal glory can be described as a prolonged Sabbath! (Kindle ed.)

Published in: on May 31, 2015 at 11:11 PM  Leave a Comment  

Resting on God – “The Valley of Vision”

ValleyofVisionBookToday is the Lord’s Day, the day we mark the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ by worshiping our great and glorious God in His house with His people. It is the day of rest, as we rest in the finished work of our Savior Who has fulfilled the rest of the OT sabbath and given us perfect peace and rest.

As we begin this day of rest, this Puritan devotional from The Valley of Vision (ed. by A.Bennett,; Banner of Truth, 1975) is certainly appropriate. May it remind us, as Augustine stated long ago, that our hearts are restless until they rest in God.

Resting on God

O God, most high, most glorious, the thought of Thine infinite serenity cheers me, for I am toiling and moiling, troubled and distressed, but Thou art for ever at perfect peace.

Thy designs cause thee no fear or care of unfulfilment, they stand fast as the eternal hills.

Thy power knows no bond, Thy goodness no stint.

Thou bringest order out of confusion, and my defeats are Thy victories: The Lord God omnipotent reigneth.

I come to Thee as a sinner with cares and sorrows, to leave every concern entirely to Thee, every sin calling for Christ’s precious blood; revive deep spirituality in my heart; let me live near to the great Shepherd, hear His voice, know its tones, follow its calls.

Keep me from deception by causing me to abide in the truth, from harm by helping me to walk in the power of the Spirit.

Give me intenser faith in the eternal verities, burning into me by experience the things I know; Let me never be ashamed of the truth of the gospel, that I may bear its reproach, vindicate it, see Jesus as its essence, know in it the power of the Spirit.

Lord, help me, for I am often lukewarm and chill; unbelief mars my confidence, sin makes me forget Thee. Let the weeds that grow in my soul be cut at their roots; grant me to know that I truly live only when I live to Thee, that all else is trifling.

Thy presence alone can make me holy, devout, strong and happy. Abide in me, gracious God.

If you prefer to listen this devotional read, you may find it here on YouTube.

Rest Indeed – R.C. Sproul Jr.

Rest Indeed by R.C. Sproul Jr. | Reformed Theology Articles at Ligonier.org.

TT - Feb 2015As we close out this busy week of labor and anticipate our risen Lord’s day of rest tomorrow, R.C.Sproul, Jr. reminds us in the above-linked article from this month’s Tabletalk (on the theme of “Labor and Rest”) that our rest is not only related to our labor but also to the great battle in which we are engaged as God’s soldiers from day to day.

It is good to also be reminded of this spiritual aspect of our labor in this life, so that we may also be refreshed in the knowledge of our Lord’s victory over our spiritual foes. I appreciated what “R.C.” writes here, and I pray it is an encouragement to you too as we get ready to rest in our Savior.

Find the full article at the link above; here is a part of it (keep in mind he takes his thoughts from Psalm 23):

When we turn the Sabbath into a set of rules of what we are allowed and forbidden to do, I fear we miss the whole spirit of the day. The rest to which we are called is less resting from our day-to-day jobs than it is rest from the battle. We are able to rest because we know He has already won. Sabbath is the good cheer to which we are called, knowing He has already overcome the world (John 16:33).

When we enter more fully into our rest, when we sit at His table, untouchable, victorious, are we not overcome with joy? Is it not true that our heads are anointed with oil, that our cups runneth over? Like soldiers who come home for rest and relaxation, we soldiers of the King are invited to go home, so that when we return to battle, we know where we are going. We drink deeply of His goodness so that we know that His goodness and mercy will follow us all the days of our lives. We go back into the battle knowing, having been to and tasted the end of all things, that we will indeed dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

This is rest indeed because for six days a week we are at war indeed. The great irony, however, is that the more we rest, the more we battle. For it is our worship, our rest, our joy, and our peace that are the very weapons of our warfare. By joy, towers are toppled. By peace, ramparts are ruined. By singing forth the glory of His name, by heralding His glory, walls come tumbling down. We fight in peace because the war has already been won. We die in war because the peace has already been won. This is His kingdom that we seek.

The Right Balance (in Work and Rest) – Scott Redd

The Right Balance by Scott Redd | Reformed Theology Articles at Ligonier.org.

TT - Feb 2015The third feature article on this month’s “TT” theme (“Labor and Rest: Finding the Right Balance”) is the one linked above.

Penned by Dr. Scott Redd, president and associate professor of OT at Reformed Theological Seminary in Washington, D.C., the article points us to the way to find the “right balance” in our labor and rest by helping us see the two extremes to be avoided – what he calls “work idolatry” (workaholism) and “rest idolatry” (sloth or laziness).

I found much profit in Redd’s thoughts and share a portion of them here. The quotation below is from the part of his article where he is describing the extreme of work idolatry, and showing us the importance of the rest God built into our lives by His own work and rest in the beginning.

The life that is marked by extended restlessness does not merely indicate a lack of wisdom; it indicates rebellion. We can see the weight of Sabbath-keeping in the way that humanity is called to care for the land throughout the Old Testament. In the Genesis account, God forms the man adam from the ground adamah (Gen. 2:7), closely connecting the two. He charges man to care for and rule over the ground, a charge that is often referred to as the “cultural mandate” (Gen. 1:28). Moses taught that such a charge over the land in Israel included the responsibility to set aside certain seasons of rest when the land ceased from the difficult work of producing food for God’s people (Lev. 25:1-7). Rest for the land was so significant that the failure of the Israelites in this regard is the trigger that Moses (Lev. 26:34) and the Chronicler (2 Chron. 36:20-21) give for the exile—the land had not been allowed its proper Sabbaths. Such passages should sober us since they indicate that a personal rejection of rest may result in a divine imposition of it.

We resist rest to our own detriment because it is through rest that we find rejuvenation and renewal for the work to come. More primarily, it is through rest that we acknowledge the Lord who calls us to this life of work and rest. Therefore, we ought to work and rest to His glory (1 Cor. 10:31).

Our Best Work: Gospel-Driven Productivity

Whats Best Next -PermanAs we finish out another work week and look forward to the Lord’s day of rest tomorrow, let’s take another look at the new book I am reading at present: Matt Perman’s What’s Best Next: How the Gospel Transforms the Way You Get Things Done (Zondervan 2014).

I completed the introduction and chapter one this week, and in his introduction Perman defines the theme of this book, which was also the result of his search for a distinctively Christian approach to getting work done (productivity). He calls it “Gospel-Driven Productivity”, or “GDP” for short.

This is how he explains it:

Gospel-Driven Productivity (GDP) is centered on what the Bible has to say about getting things done while at the same time learning from the best secular thinking out there [Peter Drucker, Scott Belsky, David Allen are referenced early on.] – and seeking to do this with excellence and original thought, rather than simply taking over secular ideas and adding out-of-context Bibles verses. This is what, I believe, God calls us to do.

And then Perman defines what gospel-driven productivity is:

The essence of GDP is this: We are to use all that we have, in all areas of life, for the good of others, to the glory of God – and that this is the most exciting life. To be a gospel-driven Christian means to be on the lookout to do good for others to the glory of God, in all areas of life, and to do this with creativity and competence. Further, being gospel-driven also means knowing how to get things done so that we can serve others in a way that really helps, in all areas of life, without making ourselves miserable in the process through overload, overwhelm, and hard-to-keep-up systems.

In other words, we are to put productivity practices and tools in the service of God’s purpose for us, which is that we do good for others, in all areas of life, to his glory (28).

Through Perman’s repetition of key ideas here, one gets the point of what it means to be a productive believer in our daily work.

Good things to think about as we conclude the week. And now tomorrow (Sunday) we get to be refreshed by and re-grounded in the gospel of sovereign grace, so that we may be “driven” to be the best productive and best motivated Christians in the workplace, wherever that is and whatever that involves.

May God bless our work and our rest, for Christ’s sake.