The Why of Worship

Let me start with a couple of things…  First, I am talking to Christians here, believers in the Triune God who is revealed in Scripture. If you do not have Christ you do not worship God. You cannot have God the Father outside God the Son. Jesus said that, not me. (John 14:6)

 Second, we are to gather together for particular worship. I am not talking about the idea of sanctified living, where everything we do is before the face of God. While that is true it does not make everything worship, for if everything is worship then nothing is.

 This series hopes to get into the details of why Providence Church in Pensacola does what it does as a body of believers gathered for a particular purpose. It is true that we live before Him 24/7, but in that living God requires that we set aside a time for the weighty, glorious labor of worship.

 So, with that in mind let proceed:

 Worship is a heavenly duty.

 God calls us to assemble in His presence, and thus the task of worship is both a serious and joyful duty. In light of this, every effort should be made to prepare oneself and, if applicable, one‘s family for the worship service. What we experience with God‘s people on the Lord‘s Day should not be confused with our other, normal activities. This is aspecial time the Lord has set aside to meet with His people.

 The Apostles gathered with believers on the first day of the week to hear preaching and to break bread: Acts 20:7 “On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul talked with them, intending to depart on the next day, and he prolonged his speech until midnight.”

 They urged the Saints to gather regularly:  Hebrews 10:19-25 19 Therefore, brothers since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, 20 by the new and living way that he opened for us through she curtain, that is, through his flesh, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

 As we worship we are brought, like John on Patmos, into God’s presence: Revelation 1 and 4. Joy is found in the presence of God. Come let us worship and bow down and kneel before the YAHWEH  our maker (Psalm 95:6). Heavenly duty indeed!

Back in Bid’ness

I was happier when I wrote stuff down… I was even happier when you read it and provided feedback. May both happen with some regularity again.

Here is what I have planned… To start this puppy up again I am going to write about the worship service at Providence Church in Pensacola, FL, the Church where Uri Brito and I pastor.  Why do we do the things we do and what does it mean for the life of the world.   You can find a copy of our Order of Worship here:  Order of Worship August 28th 2011. It is a tri-fold so start reading in the right hand column and then flip over to continue. 

I believe this series will last a bunch of weeks with a couple posts per week.  Give it a read and let me know what you think.

God Bless,

al sends

At The Right Hand Of God…

…  Jesus Christ ascended.

The Church remembered Jesus’ Ascension on Thursday and many worshiped around this theme on Sunday.  I want to think about why this is such a good thing for the Church and this is me doing that thinking  – – out loud, if you will…

Jesus sat down at the ‘right hand’ of God upon his ascension. This is a position of a priest before God; in this case our High Priest, who is anointed by God for the work of intercession.  The right side  of the body is where work gets done, biblically speaking.  In  Ex. 29 and Lev. 8 the priest was anointed for service by the placing of blood on the right-hand side of his body.

Leviticus 8:22 Then he presented the other ram, the ram of ordination, and Aaron and his sons laid their hands on the head of the ram. 23 And he killed it, and Moses took some of its blood and put it on the lobe of Aaron’s right ear and on the thumb of his right hand and on the big toe of his right foot.

So, Jesus is at God’s right hand making intercession for us (his head, hands and feet bloodied for service).   Always the right hand.  See the book Hebrews for Jesus’ place at the right hand of God as Priest.

In Leviticus chapter 14, God gives the priest direction for cleansing a leper for worship.

Lev 14:14-18

14 The priest shall take some of the blood of the trespass offering, and the priest shall put it on the tip of the right ear of him who is to be cleansed, on the thumb of his right hand, and on the big toe of his right foot. 15 And the priest shall take some of the log of oil, and pour it into the palm of his own left hand. 16 Then the priest shall dip his right finger in the oil that is in his left hand, and shall sprinkle some of the oil with his finger seven times before the Lord. 17 And of the rest of the oil in his hand, the priest shall put some on the tip of the right ear of him who is to be cleansed, on the thumb of his right hand, and on the big toe of his right foot, on the blood of the trespass offering. 18 The rest of the oil that is in the priest’s hand he shall put on the head of him who is to be cleansed. So the priest shall make atonement for him before the Lord.

Notice the importance of the right hand.  In that service the Priest puts blood and oil on the right ear, thumb and toe of one who is to be cleansed.  A mini-priestly ordination, fitting the man for service.  The cleansed one is then forgiven of his sins by God, he is new and is to go out clean.   The priest takes his right hand and anoints the right side of the penitent sinner/leper.

Why is that important for us?   Well, Jesus now holds  the Church in His right hand.  (Rev. 1 and 2) and He gives His message to the Church through His angels.  It appears that the Church, specifically her Angels (messengers, pastors), is in some way an intercessory body before the Triune God. 

Jesus is at the right hand of God, praying for the Church.  The Church is at Jesus’ right hand we pray for the world, her governments and people.  We are intercessors bringing the world before the Lord.   The Angels (messengers) of the Church apply the “blood of the Lamb” and the glad oil of the Word to those who are guilty and those members of the household of faith walk out clean…

What do you think?

al sends

CREC Pastoral Visitation Checklist…

 … brought to you by the folks at GreenBaggins.

 Wes White is no friend to the pastors of the CREC and has a fanciful imagination, has written a very nice post detailing some comments from Rev. Dr. Jon D. Payne, pastor of a PCA Church.  In that post Rev. Payne encourages his brother ministers and the PCA in general to give themselves over to good reformed practice.  Here are the 17 steps he recommends the PCA take to revitalize their shrinking denomination:

 1. A renewed commitment to exegetical, God-centered, Christ-exalting, Holy Spirit-filled, lectio-continua preaching.

2. A renewed commitment to the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper for the spiritual nourishment, health and comfort of the elect.

3. A renewed commitment to private, family and corporate prayer.

4. A renewed commitment to – and delight in – the Lord’s Day.

5. A renewed commitment to worship God according to Scripture.

6. A renewed commitment to sing the Psalms in private, family, and public worship.

7. A renewed commitment to wed our missiology to our Reformed ecclesiology.

8. A renewed commitment to Spirit-dependent, prayerful, loving, courageous evangelism.

9. A renewed commitment to biblical church discipline.

10. A renewed commitment to family worship.

11. A renewed commitment to biblical hospitality.

12. A renewed commitment to catechize our covenant children.

13. A renewed commitment to biblical masculinity and femininity.

14. A renewed commitment to shepherd the flock of God.

15. A renewed commitment to promote and defend the Reformed Confession.

16.A renewed commitment to the mortification of sin and worldliness.

17. A renewed commitment to rest by faith in Christ ALONE for salvation, without minimizing Gospel obedience.

Anyone who has spent time around the CREC and her pastors must recognize these points as firmly in place within the CREC.  So, I recommend them heartily to my PCA brothers and may their numbers increase as the Gospel Kingdom is lived out before an unbelieving world!

 al sends

Today’s False Gospel

Sadly, this is not the church’s finest hour. We live in an age of weak theology and casual Christian conduct. Our knowledge is insufficient, our worship is irreverent, and our lives are immoral. Even the evangelical church has succumbed to the spirit of this age. Whatever Happened to the Gospel of Grace?…argued that the evangelical movement has lost its grip on the gospel.

Perhaps the simplest way to say this is that evangelicalism has become worldly. This can be demonstrated by comparing it with yesterday’s liberalism. What was once said of liberal churches must now be said of evangelical churches: they seek the world’s wisdom, believe the world’s theology, follow the world’s agenda, and adopt the world’s methods. According to the standard of worldly wisdom, the Bible is unable to meet the demands of life in these postmodern times. By itself, God’s Word is insufficient to win people to Christ, promote spiritual growth, provide practical guidance, or transform society. So churches supplement the plain teaching of Scripture with entertainment, group therapy, political activism, signs and wonders – anything that promises to appeal to religious consumers. According to the world’s theology, sin is merely a dysfunction and salvation means having better self-esteem. When this theology comes to church, it replaces difficult but essential doctrines like the propitiation of God’s wrath with practical techniques for self-improvement. The world’s agenda is personal happiness, so the gospel is presented as a plan for individual fulfillment rather than as a pathway of costly discipleship. The world’s methods for accomplishing this self-centered agenda are necessarily pragmatic, so evangelical churches are willing to try whatever seems like it might work. This worldliness has produced the “new pragmatism” of evangelicalism.

- James Montgomery Boice and Philip Graham Ryken, The Doctrines of Grace, p.20,21 [emphasis original].

Newbigin on the Mission of the Church

The mission of the Church is to be understood, can only be rightly understood, in terms of the trinitarian model. It is the Father who holds all things in his hand, whose providence upholds all things, whose tender mercies are over all his works, where he is acknowledged and where he is denied, and who has never left himself without witness to the heart and conscience and reason of any human being. In the incarnation of the Son he made known his nature and purpose fully and completely, for in Jesus “all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell” (Col. 1:19). But this presence was a veiled presence in order that there might be the possibility of repentance and freely given faith. In the Church the mission of Jesus is continued in the same veiled form. It is continued through the presence and active working of the Holy Spirit, who is the presence of the reign of God in foretaste. The mission of the Church to all nations, to all human communities in all their diversity and in all their particularity, is itself the mighty work of God, the sign of the inbreaking of the kingdom. The Church is not so much the agent of the mission as the locus of the mission. It is God who acts in the power of his Spirit, doing might works, creating signs of a new age, working secretly in the hearts of men and women to draw them to Christ. When they are so drawn, they become part of a community which claims no masterful control of history, but continues to bear witness to the real meaning and goal of history by a life which – in Paul’s words – by always bearing about in the body the dying of Jesus becomes the place where the risen life of Jesus is made available for others (2 Cor. 4:10).

Lesslie Newbigin, The Gospel in a Pluralistic Society, p. 118.

The Church is our Mother

Quick Random Reflections

Paul writes that the Jerusalem above is our Mother. In our Lord’s Day assembly we are invited to the heavenlies. The Church is indeed our Mother, since heaven becomes our Mt. Zion and our New Jerusalem; our abode. This is why the Church has declared– both Catholic and Protestant– that outside her there is no ordinary possibility of salvation.How could there be? All mysteries are in her, and through her, as Paul writes, the wisdom of God flows to the world.

Modern day evangellifish (as Wilson puts it) is plagued by Romaphobia. If Rome does it, it must be wrong. This was certainly the opposite of how the Reformers viewed it. Rituals, high-Church, read prayers, corporate confessions were a necessary part of the early Reformed services. Calvin’s liturgy in Geneva was strikingly rich in liturgy. Yet, modern Reformed churches have abandoned their heritage– trading the blossoming Reformation for blended forms of accomodationism.

Good Times …

… ain’t we lucky we got ‘em.

I ran across this picture the other day while cleaning out and packing up. In October 2001 five families met at the home of Ken and Kenwyn Trotter to begin a new church that would eventually be called Providence Church. My, how time has flown.Providence Church Beginning