Exhortation

Do Not Forget!

Do Not Forget!

Psalm 119 ends with these words,

“I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek your servant,  for I do not forget your commandments.”

We are so prone to wander away from the promises of our God, and the psalmist understood this. This is why he prays fervently throughout this psalm—which is the longest in the Psalter—that he would not forget the statutes of Yahweh.

We are a forgetful people.

The Psalmist recognizes that unless we are firmly planted in the living waters of the words of Yahweh, we will go astray.

The call we are about to receive is crucial to Christian existence. Entering into worship initiates a time to remember what God has done for us, but also how He calls us to live. It is a time to ground ourselves in the words of Yahweh, so that we might not forget. Worship is a time to remember that what we do is not simply reserved for this holy day, but for the continuation of our lives together.

In worship we remember that God is with us; that His commandments and His promises we will never forget.

Let us Pray:

O Holy Father, we long for your salvation. Your law is our delight day and night. Let us live and praise you all our days. Do not let us forget your promises, but remind us today of your faithfulness and steadfast love toward us, through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.

 

 

The Gifts of God in Worship

The Gifts of God in Worship

What comes to mind when we think of a gift? There are gifts of the Spirit, birthday gifts, Christmas gifts, gift exchanges, and all sorts of gifts. These gifts are all great things. We ought not to despise earthly gifts. But these earthly gifts only make sense as we remember the gift of worship. Worship is a series of gifts God gives His children. In worship, we receive the gift of confession, the gift of forgiveness, the gift of adoration, the gift of praise, the gift of communion with one another, and the gift of bread and wine. All these gifts are ours in Christ Jesus.

And He welcomes us to come together to receive heavenly gifts. It is imperative that we receive these gifts, because as we receive we offer our response of thanks. Those who abandon worship, those who treat it as secondary to life, those who minimize its divine importance in the shaping of man and civilization miss these gifts, and are therefore not grateful. To whom much is given much is required. God has given us much. Worship is the people’s response to God’s good gifts.

Let us gather to offer our thanks to the God who calls us to shower us with His good gifts.

Prayer: O Blessed Lord, you have gathered us today to receive you many gifts. May our hearts be open to receive, our mouths ready to sing your praises, and lives prepared to serve you. Be a very present help to us. Encourage us and gift us with your holy presence, for we pray this through Christ our Lord, Amen.

Proportionality in Worship as Model for Life

Proportionality in Worship as Model for Life

Christian worship offers us a sense of proportionality. Perhaps in your Christian walk you may have asked, “How much time should I give to confession, how much time to rejoicing, how much time to meditating on my sins, how much time to meditating on the victory of Jesus over my sin? Questions like these demonstrate that we long to orchestrate life in a faithful way, so that we do not over-stress one element over the other. We don’t want to over-do one area, while neglecting the other.

This is why Covenant Renewal Worship is helpful. It gives us a sense of proportion. While certain worship paradigms provide for us a wholly sin-confession oriented service, the pattern of the Bible indicates that worship and life need to be carefully structured.  If you spend too much time focusing on your sins, you will neglect the resurrection’s message of forgiveness from your sins. On the other hand, you may become too triumphalistic, therefore neglecting the importance of repentance and confession of sins.

In worship there is time for confession proper; that is, a set-aside time to kneel and repent of your sins corporately and individually. This is done so that we may cleanse our hearts and minds before God anoints us with Word and Sacrament. That is confession proper; formal confession of sins.

Children know this well in their day to day affair. They need to be cleansed before they can enjoy a meal. But if they spend most of their time cleansing themselves, or if they spend the same amount of time cleansing than they do enjoying or learning, we would say that this is a disproportionate use of their time. Washing oneself is crucial and cannot be absent, but we wash so we may learn and live life with joy.

Does that mean then that I can no longer confess my sins throughout the service? Absolutely not. If something hits you with great force during a sermon, confess then. But what you must understand is that after our confession of sins corporately, we move into a time of corporate celebration. It is a time when God builds us up through His divine Word and the elements of bread and wine. And this takes considerably more time in our worship than confession. This is the case because the celebration of Messiah’s victory over death has a more prominent role in the worship of God.

We can say then, that while Christ has called us to confess our sins for a short time, we ought not to dwell there for most of the time. We are living under the empty tomb era of human history. We ought not to be triumphalistic, but we are to be triumphant Christians knowing that our Lord has conquered death and hell, and has established a people and a kingdom where righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit are abundant.

So, on this day, confess well, but then rejoice greatly for the God of our salvation calls us into this presence.

 

Our Trajectory

Our Trajectory

All of our lives have a particular trajectory we are following. Satan wants us to view our lives in isolation, as disconnected from any path. But we know that our life is a trajectory. Everything we are doing is creating the persons we are becoming. In the Psalms, the biblical image of the Hebrew people journeying to the house of worship and rejoicing that it was the day to meet Yahweh really speaks of the defining character of that corporate trajectory. That course was grounded in adoration and praise.

Every life is a trajectory. On this Lord’s Day, the Lord has brought you to this gathering to know Him through Word and Sacrament. Let us become the people God is conforming us to be and let us begin by responding to His goodness in Spirit and truth as we receive His call to worship.

The Temptations of Self-Examination

The Temptations of Self-Examination

There are forms of self-examination that are morbidly introspective. We can meditate so much on our sins and short-comings that we begin to doubt the objective union we have with Christ. We may kneel for confession with tremendous passion, but when we are called to rise for the absolution, we are tempted to stay down and not receive the forgiveness and grace God gives us in Christ Jesus. Our evangelical culture has done a disservice in this area and the result has been a multitude of godly saints growing up with tremendous uncertainty and frustration in their walk with God.

But let us remember that there is a healthy form of self-examination. We are to genuinely look to see if there is sin in us. Sincere repentance is seen in those who examine themselves and allow God to uncover both our mistakes and our sins. Healthy self-examination is quick to kneel before God, to see sins for what they are—opposition to the laws of God—but then to not dwell in them perpetually, lest we forget the goodness of God towards His children.

Today, as we kneel to confess our sins and exam ourselves, let us not be tempted to remain kneeling, but let us arise to receive the Lord’s forgiveness and delight in His fatherly care.

The Need for Corporate Confession

The Need for Corporate Confession

Proverbs 28:13 states that “he who conceals his sins does not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy.”

One of the most foundational elements of our worship is the corporate confession of sin. If you take that away our entire system suffers. It is in confession that we are reminded that we are not our own, that we have been bought with a price. No matter how noble we may seem, if we do not confess our sins, but rather hide them before God, we will not find mercy.

In corporate confession we not only confess our sins, but we publicly declare that we renounce those sins that so easily entangle us.

In confession, “our pride and defensiveness are stripped away, and we can let go of our illusion of self-righteousness, honestly examine ourselves, and find freedom from guilt and sin by admitting our wrongs.” a

So, come let us worship the Triune God for God calls us to find mercy in Him.

  1. Ken Sande, PeaceMakers, 117  (back)
Distinctly Christian

Distinctly Christian

In the Gospels, Jesus is constantly comparing the way his disciples act with the Gentiles. When you pray, do not pray as the Gentiles. When you seek after goods, do not seek them like the Gentiles. When you use language, don’t heap up empty phrases like the Gentiles. Jesus is arguing for a distinct way of being human; a distinct way of living.  “Don’t be like unredeemed, uncovenanted humans, they live for their own glory, not mine,” Jesus says. They are not united to me. They do not possess my Spirit. In life, we are to act distinctly Christ-like. And where there are inconsistencies, we seek to come before God and confess them.

As we come to worship this morning, we come distinctly Christian, not as the unbeliever who worships created things, but as new humans who worship Father, Son, and Spirit. Let us come and worship sincerely and Christianly, for God expects such worship from his chosen people.

A Mighty Paradox

A Mighty Paradox

Athanasius once wrote:

          “A marvellous and mighty paradox has thus occurred, for the death which they thought to inflict      on Him as dishonour and disgrace has                 become the glorious monument to death’s defeat.”

There is a reversal that occurs at the resurrection. Sadness turns into joy; weeping turns into feasting. But it should be noted that the effects of the resurrection do not occur all at once. They take time in the life of God’s people. The resurrection demands of us holy work; the work of unity, and that work, Paul says, “is not in vain.” Moments such as this morning when we gather as two united congregations, we are reminded that God is up to something here in Pensacola. God is in the unity business, and his in-charge-ness provides for us another opportunity this morning to love one another in Word and Sacrament.

The Resurrection is the death of death. It is our church’s battle cry. It is our slogan, our bumper sticker, our passion, and our life. The resurrection is everything we need to make this task called community work. Without it, we are slaves to our own desires, but with it, we are slaves to the desires of our risen Lord.

So, we come as two congregations this morning, but biblically we come as One before the throne of Grace. We come to adore Father, Son, and Spirit and to affirm Athanasius’ glorious paradox, that the resurrection is a glorious monument to death’s defeat. Amen.

Prayer: Almighty God, who through your only-begotten Son Jesus Christ overcame death and opened to us the gate of everlasting life: Grant that we, who celebrate this blessed Easter Season,  may be raised from the death of sin by your life-giving Spirit and find the true joy of covenant renewal through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Resurrection Imitation: An Exhortation to Worship

Resurrection Imitation: An Exhortation to Worship

As we consider Philippians one more time this morning before Transfiguration Sunday and the Lenten Season, we are considering this inseparable link between the Christian and his Lord. Not only do we share in the sufferings of Messiah, we also share in the resurrection life now. Richard Gaffin once wrote that “The Christian life in its entirety is to be subsumed under the category of Resurrection.” If we are to worship in spirit and in truth on this Lord’s Day we need to be renewed in resurrection garments that only a Resurrection Lord can provide.

For Paul, we taste of the life to come now. The final verdict has been declared now unto us. And only sin keeps us from tasting of this resurrection hope as we should.

What resurrection life does for us is provide the boldness we need to confess and to joyfully rise to receive forgiveness from Jesus Christ. This forgiveness is not granted by dead first century criminal, but a cosmic Lord of history. So we can say that “humans are saved by being united to the resurrected Messiah, and the result is that what is true of the true human is becoming true of others as well.”[1] The “category of resurrection” is not an ethereal description; it’s the place you live even now as you prepare your hearts for worship.



[1] Hood.

What Controls Your Mind?

What Controls Your Mind?

What is it that controls your mind at this stage in life? This is a question I often ask of people. I ask you now as we stand at this remarkable stage in history; the point where we are about to transition into sacred worship: what is it that controls your mind at this moment? Are you still suffering from that comment someone made to you a year ago? Are you self-consciously being controlled by the opinion of others? Do you see yourself stifled by continual introspection and doubt? If so, you are not alone. We have all felt this way before, and perhaps we feel this way now. But remember that this is not what God has in store for you this morning as you gather with God’s people. God wants to be the answer to all your questions. He wants to be the beginning and the end of your journey.

If what controls your mind is guilt and shame, then you are at the right place. I Peter says that we are to cast our cares on him. Confession is a form of casting our cares, even worldly cares on him. When you confess your sins this morning corporately and individually, confess your fear of what others think of you and be reminded that this is where God re-orients your affections and fears.

Worship does all these things: it shapes and structures your thinking in a way that nothing else will. Worship is our way of saying to the world that what God says matters. In fact, it matters more than anything else. Worship is a prayer; a genuine prayer for God to be our all in all. Let us prepare our hearts for worship.

Prayer: Most merciful Father, we have indulged in sinful desires and we have acted in fear. We have made you too small and man too big. Help us to orient our hearts as we confess our sins and as we rise to sing your praises. We pray that you will answer us according to the promises you have made through your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen.