Family worship – Joshua and his house

family-worship-whitney-2016A recent publication of Crossway that I asked to review is Donald S. Whitney’s little book Family Worship (2016, 80 pp.). It came in the mail Friday and I thought I would share an excerpt from the first chapter this evening.

The chapter is titled “As for Me and My House, We Will Serve the Lord” (with the sub-title, “Family Worship in the Bible”), taken from the familiar verse in Joshua 24:15. After treating the family worship of Abraham and Moses (and subsequently Job, Asaph, Paul, and Peter), Whitney gets to Joshua, where he has the following to say:

     Have you ever considered how infrequently people gathered for congregational worship in the centuries comprising nearly the entire Old Testament? Even after the tabernacle and temple were built believers did not gather in large groups to worship God as often as is sometimes assumed. Only after the Babylonian exile, late in Old Testament history and hundreds of years after Solomon built the temple, did the local synagogues develop and people begin to worship God congregationally on a weekly basis. Of course, with the coming of Jesus and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, most believers are now privileged to experience the riches of being in God’s family through regular participation in a local church.

But God was worthy of worship in the days before regular congregational worship as he is now. Those who believed in and loved God, people such as Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Joshua, and others, wanted to worship God in their days as much as people do today. Keep that thought in mind as you read the famous words of Joshua 24.

And then after quoting v.15 – Joshua’s exhortation to the people, along with his own example – Whitney writes:

     How would Joshua and his house have served the Lord? Part of serving the Lord for them back then, just as it is for us now, is worshiping the Lord. But in a day when congregational worship was so infrequent  – after all, for many Israelites it involved a trip of several days to travel to the tabernacle – regular family worship of some sort would have been a part of carrying out Joshua’s resolve, ‘as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord’ (pp.19-20).

As we experience the blessed freedom of public, congregational worship on the Lord’s Day tomorrow, may we also remember that true worship begins in our own hearts and in our own homes. May we have Joshua’s resolve for our personal families, even as we gather with the family of God on the morrow.

The Prayers of J.Calvin (25)

JCalvinPic1On this first Lord’s Day of 2016 we continue our on-going series of posts on the prayers of John Calvin (see my previous Sunday posts in Nov./Dec., 2014, throughout 2015, and now in 2016, which follow his lectures on the OT prophecy of Jeremiah (Baker reprint, 1979).

Today we post a brief section from his twenty-fourth lecture and the prayer that concludes it.

This lecture covers Jeremiah 6:10-15, which includes Calvin’s comments on v.10, “To whom shall I speak, and give warning, that they may hear? behold, their ear is uncircumcised, and they cannot hearken: behold, the word of the LORD is unto them a reproach; they have no delight in it.”:

This metaphor is common in all the prophets. The uncircumcised ear is that which rejects all true doctrine. An uncircumcised heart is that which is perverse and rebellious. But we ought to understand the reason of this: as circumcision was an evidence of obedience, so the Scripture calls those uncircumcised who are unteachable, who cast away every fear of God, and all sense of religion, and follow their own lusts and desires.

…It was God’s will to consecrate his ancient people to himself by circumcision: but when they became satisfied with the visible sign only, there was no longer the reality, and God’s covenant was profaned. It is the same at this day with respect to baptism; they who wish to be deemed Christians, boast of it, while at the same time they show no fear of God, and while their whole life obliterates the true character of baptism. It is hence evident, that they are sacrilegious, for they pollute what is holy.

…God receives us into his Church on condition [that is, in the way of] that we are the members of Christ, and that being ruled by his Spirit we renounce the lusts of our flesh. But when we seek under the cloak of baptism to associate God with the Devil, it is a most detestable sacrilege (pp.328-29).

Following this lecture is this prayer (slightly edited):

Grant, Almighty God, that inasmuch as Thou seekest daily to restore us to Thyself, and so arrangest Thy word, as now kindly to allure us, and then to reprove us severely, and even to drive us by threatenings,

– O grant, that we may not be altogether unteachable: but so rule us by the spirit of meekness, that we may submit ourselves to Thee and to Thy holy word, and be so terrified by the fear of Thy judgment as yet ever to taste of the sweetness of Thy mercy, so that we may cleave to Thee in Christ Thy Son, until we shall at length fully know that Thou art our Father, and enjoy the fruit of our adoption in the same Christ Jesus our Lord.

Amen.

Prayers of the Reformers (10)

prayersofreformers-manschreckTwo more prayers from the book Prayers of the Reformers (compiled by Clyde Manschreck; Muhlenberg Press, 1958) we post here today. Both are fitting for our worship – especially our hearing of the gospel – on this Lord’s Day.

Prayer before a sermon

Let us call upon our God and Father, praying Him to turn His face away from the numerous faults and offenses whereby we continually provoke His wrath against us. Though we be unworthy of appearing before His majesty, let us beseech Him to look upon us in the countenance of His dearly beloved Son, our Lord, Jesus Christ, accepting the merit of His death and passion for the full atonement of all our sins.

Let us beseech Him to enlighten us by His Spirit, in the understanding of His Word, and grant us the grace to receive the same in true fear and humility, that we may learn to put our trust in Him, to fear and honor Him by glorifying His holy name in all our life, and to yield Him the love and obedience which faithful servants owe to their master and children to their fathers, seeing it has pleased Him to call us to the number of His servants and children.

And let us pray unto Him as our good Master has taught us to pray, saying, Our Father… (p.4).

-J.Calvin

The hearing of God’s Word

Grant, we beseech Thee, almighty God, that the words which we have heard this day with our outward ears, may through Thy grace be so grafted inwardly in our hearts, that they may bring forth in us the fruit of good living, to the honor and praise of Thy name, through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen

-English reformers, 1549

The Ingredients of Worship (4): Adoration – A.W. Tozer

Tozer-Missing-JewelsIn an article on worship titled “Missing Jewel” (January, 1968), pastor A.W. Tozer wrote these words about some of the “ingredients” found in true worship, especially as it relates to prayer:

Adoration

We must love God with all our power, with fear, wonder, yearning, awe. Yearn for God with great yearning.

At times this will lead us to breathless silence. I think that some of the greatest prayer is when you don’t utter one word or ask for anything. Now God does answer and He does give us what we ask for. That’s plain; nobody can deny that unless he denies the Scriptures. But that is only one aspect of prayer, and it’s not even the important one. Sometimes I go to God and say, ‘God, if Thou dost never answer another prayer while I live on this earth, I will still worship Thee as long as I live and in the ages to come for what Thou hast already done.’ I’m already so far in debt that if I live one million millenniums I can’t repay God.

We go to God as we send a boy to a grocery store with a long written list, ‘God, give me this, give me this, and give me this,’ and our gracious God often gives us what we want. But I think God is disappointed because we make Him no more than a source of what we want. Even our Lord Jesus is too often presented as ‘someone who will meet your need.’ That’s the throbbing heart of modern evangelism. You’re in need and Jesus will meet your need. He’s the Need-Meeter. Well, He is that indeed; but He’s infinitely more than that.

Published in Essays on Prayer by A.W. Tozer and others (Inter-Varsity Press, 1968), pp.5-6.

Prayers of the Reformers (8) – J. Calvin on Worship

JCalvinPic1The following prayer of John Calvin for purity of worship is found in the profitable collection of prayers titled, Prayers of the Reformers, compiled by Clyde Manschreck and published by Muhlenberg Press in 1958 (p.60).

This too is fitting as we end the Lord’s Day in God’s house of worship.

Grant, almighty God, inasmuch as Thou hast deigned to gather us into Thy church, that we may never turn aside in the least from the purity of Thy worship. May we always regard what pleases Thee, and learn to direct our doings and our thoughts in obedience to Thy truth, and worship Thee purely both in spirit and in external forms that Thy name may be glorified.

May we retain that purity which Thou commendest to us, that we may be indeed members of Thy only-begotten Son.  As Thy Son has sanctified Himself on our account, grant that we may also through His Spirit be made partakers of the same, until He at length will gather us into His heavenly kingdom, which He has obtained for us by His own blood. Amen.

The Ingredients of Worship (3): Admiration – A.W. Tozer

Essays-on-prayer-Tozer-1968In an article on worship titled “Missing Jewel” (January, 1968), pastor A.W. Tozer wrote these words about some of the “ingredients” found in true worship:

     We must appreciate the excellence of God. Man is better qualified to appreciate God than any other creature because only he was made in God’s image. This admiration for God grows and grows until it fills the heart with wonder and delight. ‘In our astonished reverence we confess Thine uncreated loveliness,’ said the hymn writer.

The God of the modern evangelical rarely astonishes anybody. He manages to stay pretty much within the constitution. He never breaks out from our bylaws. He’s a well-behaved God, very denominational and one of us. We ask Him to help us when we’re asleep. The God of the modern evangelical isn’t the God I respect. But when the Holy Ghost shows us God as He is, we admire Him to the point of wonder and delight.

Published in Essays on Prayer by A.W. Tozer and others (Inter-Varsity Press, 1968), pp.3-4.

Published in: on October 25, 2015 at 7:29 AM  Leave a Comment  

The Ingredients of Worship (2): Awe – A.W. Tozer

Tozer-Missing-JewelsIn an article on worship titled “Missing Jewel” (January, 1968), pastor A.W. Tozer wrote these words about some of the “ingredients” found in true worship:

     Also I think we ought not talk too much about Jesus just as Jesus. I think we ought to remember who He is. ‘He is thy Lord; and worship thou Him.’ And though he comes down to the lowest point of our need and makes Himself accessible to us as tenderly as a mother to her child, still don’t forget that when John saw Him (that John who had lain on Christ’s bosom), he fell at his feet as if dead.

I’ve heard all kinds of preachers: the ignorant boasters; the dull, dry ones; the eloquent ones; but the ones that have helped me most were the ones that were awestruck in the presence of the God about whom they spoke. Some had a sense of humor, but when they talked about God, they used another tone of voice; this was something else, something wonderful.

I believe we ought to return again to the Biblical concept of God that makes God awful and makes men lie face down and cry, ‘Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty.’ That would do more for the church than anything else (p.3).

Published in Essays on Prayer by A.W. Tozer and others (Inter-Varsity Press, 1968).

The Ingredients of Worship (1) – Confidence – A.W.Tozer

Tozer-Missing-JewelsIn an article on worship titled “Missing Jewel” (January, 1968), pastor A.W. Tozer wrote these words about some of the “ingredients” found in true worship:

     What are the ingredients in worship? First, boundless confidence. Confidence is necessary in order to respect, and respect is necessary to trust. You can’t worship a Being you don’t respect or trust. Worship rises or falls in any church depending upon the attitude taken toward God, whether we see God as big or small.. Most of us see God too small. When David said, ‘O magnify the Lord with me,’ he wasn’t asking us to make God bigger. You can’t do it. But you can see Him big.

Worship rises or falls with our concept of God; that is why I don’t believe in the half-converted cowboys who call God The Man Upstairs. I don’t think they worship at all because their concept of God is unworthy of God and of themselves. And if there is one terrible disease in the church of Christ, it is that we do not see God as great as he is. We’re too familiar with God.

Communion with God is one thing; familiarity with God is another. I don’t even like to hear God called ‘you.’ ‘You’ is a colloquial expression. I can call a man ‘you,’ but I ought to call God ‘Thou’ and ‘Thee.’ I know that these are old Elizabethan words, but I also know that some things are too precious to cast lightly away. When we talk to God we ought to use respectful pronouns (pp.2-3).

Published in Essays on Prayer by A.W. Tozer and others (Inter-Varsity Press, 1968).

Book Alert! “150 Questions about the Psalter” – Bradley Johnston

150-Questions-Psalter-Johnston-2014As book review editor for The Standard Bearer, we recently received a complimentary copy of a new publication from Crown & Covenant Publications titled 150 Questions about the Psalter: What You Need to Know about the Songs God Wrote (2014, 112 pgs., $9.00). The author is Bradley Johnston, a pastor in the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America, an exclusive Psalm-singing denomination.

The publisher provides this brief summary of the book on its website:

Who wrote the psalms, and why? Can we find Jesus in the Psalter? How do these ancient songs matter today?

In the style of a catechism, this books draws you into the majestic, meditative depths of the inspired songs of God. Divided into seven short sections, 150 questions and answers address the content and arrangement of the Psalter, Psalm genres and groupings, the historical context of the author, the Psalms relationship to the rest of Scripture and the life of Christ, and their use in private and public worship.

With appendixes that feature worksheets and charts, quotations from theologians and church fathers, this resource helps individuals, families, and churches understand and embrace the psalter for themselves.

This is a fine little book on the OT Psalter of the church, with the 150 questions and their answers giving Christians and the church today ample reason to sing the Psalms yet today, whether exclusively or predominantly. Think of it as a “catechism on the Psalms.” In addition, there are seven appendixes that treat special topics relating to the Psalms, such as “The Psalter in the New Testament”, “Martin Luther’s Favorite Psalms”, and “Arranging the Psalter in Your Head.” Charts and lists in this section add to the profit of the material covered.

As an example of the type of questions asked and answered, we quote two of them here:

8 How is the Psalter helpful to Christian saints?

There is no one book of Scripture that has been more helpful to Christian saints in all the ages of the church than the Psalter, ever since it was written. When we sing the Psalms we join our voices with true worshipers among the nations and throughout history who lift their souls to the Lord in faith (Psalm 25:1).

9 Why should Christians sing the Psalter?

Christians should sing the Psalter because the new covenant is like a marriage bond between God and his people, bringing joy and delight. But the main reason we ought to sing Psalms is because this practice is commanded by God through the apostles (p.4).

The Mercy of Hearing God’s Voice – A.Mohler

deuteronomy-6-4-5This morning before our worship today I post some thoughts of Dr. Al Mohler on passages in Deuteronomy emphasizing how Israel heard the voice of God when He delivered the law to them through Moses on Mt.Horeb.

Our men’s Monday night Bible study has started studying the book of Deuteronomy and in looking for a new Journal for our Seminary library, I discovered that the December 2014 issue of the Southern Baptist Theological Journal (the Seminary of which Mohler is president) is entirely devoted to this OT book.

Mohler’s fine article is titled “Has Any People Heard the Voice of God Speaking… And Survived?”, a reference to Deut.4:33. In this first part that I quote, Mohler has referenced verses 11-13 of that chapter. And he writes concerning this:

As will be made clear in the Second Commandment – this is not a God who is seen, but a God who is heard. The contrast with the idols is very clear – the idols are seen, but they do not speak. The one true and living God is not seen, but he is heard. The contrast is intentional, graphic, and clear – we speak because we have heard. And the voice of God is not something Israel deserved, nor do we. It is sheer mercy.

We have no right to hear God speak. We have no call upon his voice. We have no right to demand that he would speak. We are accustomed to pointing to the cross of Christ and glorying in the cross of Christ – as we ought always to do – and saying of the cross, ‘There is mercy!’ But at Mount Horeb, there too was mercy! There is mercy when God speaks. This is the mercy of God allowing us to hear his voice (p.10).

As he further explains this passage, Mohler makes eight (8) points of application, the last of which is “If God has spoken, we must witness.” I appreciated his final comments under this – fitting for us today as we will also hear God’s voice – and the church will proclaim that Word that she has heard.

The difference for the church is that we understand what it means to gather together as the ones who by the grace and mercy of God have heard. Under the authority of the Word we gather. We are not making this up as we go along. Our task is not to go figure out what to teach. Our task is not to figure out where to find meaning in life. It is to be reminded continually that we have heard the voice of God speaking from the fire and have survived, and thus we teach.

This is the mercy of God, to hear and yet survive. It is the mercy by which we live every day and experience every moment and evaluate every truth claim and judge every worldview and preach every sermon. We work and we live under that mercy. I cannot help connecting Deuteronomy 4 with Hebrews 1. The experience of Israel – hearing the Lord God speak from the midst of the fire and yet surviving – ties in so beautifully with the prologue of the book of Hebrews: ‘Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world’ (vv.1-2).

We are here because God has spoken, not only in the fire, but also in the Son – in whose name we gather as the church and in whose name we serve. The voice at Horeb points to its ultimate fulfillment in the incarnation of Jesus Christ, the Word of God incarnate. For beyond the miracle of Israel hearing God’s voice and surviving, we can now know the Word of God made flesh and be saved (p.17).

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