Pastor’s Ponderings: July 2013

There is much going on in the world that will change the environment we as the church have enjoyed in this country for centuries. Although the political and culture environment is changing, the Gospel does not change. The Great Commission to the church has not changed. In Matthew16, Jesus tells the disciples that He will build His church and the Gates of Hell will not prevail against it. That is a promise that we can trust even when things don't seem to be going our way. It relates to what we read in Psalm 46. If you struggle with getting down about the headlines, I encourage you to feed your soul with the Word of God which reminds us not to put our hope in the things of this world, but to fix our hope and our faith firmly upon Jesus Christ.

As I have pondered the “Pastor's Pondering,” I've decided that I need to select a theme and go with it for several months. Now the difficult part is selecting a theme. I've got a number of areas in which I would like to share teaching with you. Most of these areas are theological in nature, which maybe intimidating for some, but I assure you I will do my best to encourage you with good theology that you can put into practice. Theology is for our use, not simply for our knowledge. So keep your eye's peeled for theology coming your way in the very next issue of the Tapestry.

One other thing I would really like to address with everyone is the issue of Sunday school. If you are not attending Sunday school, I would like to challenge you to consider why that is and whether or not that is a legitimate excuse. If you are attending Sunday school I would encourage you to invite those that are not. Sunday school is not a requirement for membership and in that sense it is optional. However, there is much in Sunday school for your profit spiritually. We are currently in a study of our doctrine of the Sabbath in the Adult Sunday school class and are planning a great study of the first section of the book of Genesis in the Fall. I do hope you will seriously consider joining us for our times of study together in Sunday school. The blessings of being here are best known by those who make it their practice to gather together for the teaching of the Word. I hope you will come join us Sunday mornings at 9:30.



Pastor’s Ponderings: June 2013

Have You Ever Been Brokenhearted?

What a question that is to ponder. Most of us don't want to remember the times we were brokenhearted. There are myriad responses to being brokenhearted. Some count being brokenhearted as a weakness they will not allow. Others will wallow in being brokenhearted in order to receive people's pity. Those are extremes and most of us probably find ourselves falling somewhere in the middle. All of us at one time or another have been, or will be, brokenhearted, some maybe currently. That is why I would like to take a quick look at a couple of verses in the Bible to see what it says about being brokenhearted. In the English Standard Version you will find the word appearing four times, all in the Old Testament. Three of those usages are pertinent to this discussion.

Psalm 34:18, The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. Then Psalm 147:3, He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.

The first thing to notice is the Lord is mindful of the brokenhearted. He knows your condition; He knows it intimately. He knows every facet of what is usually very complex. Next look what it says, He is near. When your heart is broken, the Lord is near. When your spirit is crushed you will be saved. Now it is important for us to understand this is speaking of the pride and stubbornness of our hearts. When that is broken in us, then the Lord is near and brings deliverance. In Psalm 147 the brokenhearted are those who look to the Lord in faith. What is the fruit of faith? God Himself binds up their wounds. The Great Physician heals.

Hear you brokenhearted! Do not miss this. Has the pride of your heart been shattered? Has your stubbornness been crushed? Are you broken? Turn to the Lord in faith and He will heal.

You might hear some people saying, “Ask yourself what would Jesus do?” That is the ever-popular mantra of those who think they can work their way out of their afflictions. WWJD? Is definitely one of those things that falls into the category of, “it is so popular it must be bad.” Asking what would Jesus do is absolutely the wrong question. We should instead focus our attention and our broken hearts on what Jesus did and is continuing to do. The prophet Isaiah speaks of Jesus' ministry some 700 years before the coming of Christ by quoting the Messiah, Isaiah 61:1 The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;

Jesus paid the penalty of our sin on the cross that we might be free from the condemnation of sin. He rose from the dead to show His victory over sin, death, hell the grave and Satan. No longer need we to fear God's wrath and no longer need we live being brokenhearted. Lord, come comfort and deliver your people who suffer with broken hearts and come break the hearts of those who live in bondage to their sin.



Pastor’s Ponderings: April 2013

As we have been studying through Isaiah the whole idea of evangelism has been there in the background. The people of God have always been and will always be God’s main tool in bringing others to the faith. Israel was condemned for not being a light to the nations. So what does that mean for you and me? There are several ways to respond. We could very readily see the imperative of needing to do what the Scriptures say and turn to and try hard to get it done. That is the right thing to do of course. But, is it really? Think for a moment about some other possible responses. Of course there is always the response of not responding. However, to not respond is a clear violation of God’s clear command. So what other responses are there?

Let us cut the chase and get right to the heart of the matter. The first response I gave you is a response that is task oriented. You have to ask yourself what is the motivation for accomplishing the task? Is the motivation for being a light to the nations doing what I'm supposed to do or is it a natural outflow of a soul transformed by the Holy Spirit applying the magnificent love of God? This is where keen introspection is very helpful. Remember Psalm 139 where the psalmist opens his heart to God saying, Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting! Ask God the Holy Spirit to do just that. We are prone to works righteousness, trying harder to do better so we will earn God's favor. That is not the gospel, that is not what Jesus came and died on the cross to obtain. Jesus' life, death and resurrection provide those who trust in Him with righteousness, freedom and the in-dwelling Holy Spirit so that we might be His willing servants.

In Christ, we are freed to serve the living God in worship, fellowship and service to others. These are not things we do in our own strength; we only do them rightly when it is God working in and through us. When the Holy Spirit is transforming our lives, when the life people see in us is Christ's life in us, then we will be a light to the nations. The life of the Christian is beautiful when it is given over to the Lord with a willing heart. A willing heart is a heart that follows joyfully, not one that is driven to accomplish. We must be careful here because the difference has eternal ramifications. Is it wrong to want to be fruitful for the kingdom? Absolutely not, the advancement of the kingdom of God should be our greatest priority. In the advancement of the kingdom is God glorified. The problem is we often seek our own glory under the pretense of seeking God's glory. Therefore, “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and…” make me a light to the nations.



Pastor’s Ponderings: March 2013

There has been much written about human authors concerning which are the best and which are not worth giving the time to read. Jerry Bridges is certainly one of the former. Everything I've read of his has challenged me to the very core of my soul. The reason Jerry Bridges is such a great author is that his first intention is to point his reader to Christ. Christ-likeness is the goal. It is the work of the Holy Spirit within us to make us more and more like Jesus. Jerry Bridges is a tool in the hands of the Spirit to bring conviction and learning in my life. I know a number of you have read and studied Bridges' work, The Discipline of Grace, which I consider a foundational work for beginning discipleship. The men have just finished studying Respectable Sins: Confronting the Sins We Tolerate in 2012. For 2013 we are doing a study of True Community: The Biblical Practice of Koinonia.

Just a quick side note here: men it is not too late to get caught up with the study and join us on the second Saturday of each month. We will be meeting again in April ready to discuss chapter three. Also, I would like to commend this book to any other group that is looking for a study of what is true fellowship (Greek: koinonia) in the church.

True fellowship is not getting together for a potluck or a chili cook-off or even Wii bowling. That said, it is possible for true fellowship to take place in the context of those events however, those events cannot be equated with true fellowship. Jerry Bridges says, “the most basic meaning of koinonia, or fellowship is “sharing a common life…it is sharing a common life with other believers—a life we share, as John says, “with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ (1 John 1:3). It is a relationship, not an activity.” Then he goes on to say, “It is not the fact that we are united in common goals or purposes that makes us a community. Rather, it is the fact that we share a common life in Christ. That is the basis of biblical community.” So if you read 1 John 1:3 and Acts 2:42 you will find a good starting point for figuring out what true community is all about. But it goes beyond that, relationship describes believers as a community, partnership describes them as a community in action. Biblical community, then, incorporates this idea of an active partnership in the promotion of the gospel and the building up of believers. So we are faced with a question. Is that what we experience in our church? That is certainly the desire of the Session and what we are hoping to achieve as the Spirit works in our midst. I have been very convicted by this book and am hoping that as the men study it we will grow in our understanding and our living out of true community.



Pastor’s Ponderings: Februrary 2013

The older I get, the shorter January seems to get. Before you know it, it is almost gone. So comes the need for a submission to the Tapestry since it will have been two months since our last installment. You know what they say, “Time flies.” I've got a postulate to that saying, “the temporal distortions are all subjective.” For those of you who find that humorous we can share a chuckle together. If you don't think that is funny, come to my office and I will show you my “annoying orange” (a Christmas gift from my daughter).

I would like to take this opportunity to share my thoughts on a new thing going on at Faith Church. Through the efforts of one of our ruling elders, we now have a new Wednesday night prayer meeting that meets in the Sanctuary from 7-8PM. Everyone is invited to participate. I understand that not everyone is going to be able to attend, but I would ask you to please consider joining us in this important time of corporate prayer. If you are not able to attend that is fine and we certainly do not want anyone to feel they are being compelled to come. We are trying to keep this a time of “kingdom-focused” prayer. If you are willing and able we would love to have you join us as we pray for Faith Church. For those who would like to attend, but find themselves unable, I would encourage you to pray for the church as you are able. Pray for the purity and peace of the church, pray for her faithfulness to the Great Commission and pray for her growth in grace and influence. Our desire is to see God build His church as only He can do here at Faith. We desire to grow in depth as believers and in breadth as we reach out with the love of Christ to those who have not heard the good news of Jesus Christ. Pray that we would have a love for one another. The Bible tells us that those outside the church will now we are Christians by our love for one another. Pray that we would love strangers and reach out to them to bring them into our fellowship, not just so we would grow, but so that they would be “grafted in” and become a vital part of this living organism, the church. Pray for a healthy, growing vitality in our service to our great God and Savior Jesus Christ. Pray all these things for God's glory and for our good in the precious name of Jesus. My prayer for Faith Church is: “Lord, teach us to pray.”

Radically changing gears now, we shift to the topic of the Tongues of Fire II Chili Cook-Off to be held at Faith Church on Saturday evening, February 23rd. This will be an opportunity for you to invite your friends to come experience some really great chili and some really great fellowship here at Faith. A sign up sheet will be appearing in the narthex for individuals or teams that would like to participate with an entry.

The Crisis Pregnancy Center of Frederick County (Care Net) is having their 30th Anniversary Banquet on Friday, March 15th. The church is sponsoring two tables for this fund-raising banquet. If you would like to attend please contact John Armstrong. There will also be a sign up sheet in the narthex. Space is limited and this should be a sold out event so if you really want to go, please sign-up early.

As we quickly continue ever deeper into 2013, may the Lord grant us deeper knowledge of His rich love for all the saints.



Pastor’s Ponderings: December 2012

In my last tapestry article, I wrote about the idea of “calling” as we prepare to go through officer elections and an extended period of officer training in 2013.  I think it helpful for the congregation to know what is expected of those men who are put through training to be an officer.  By just about any standard, our training is rigorous in terms of the material each man is expected to read and assimilate.  The areas of study include:  the nature of the offices of elder and deacon, qualifications for office, the duties of each office, the spiritual life of the officer, Presbyterian doctrine, Presbyterian history, sacraments, church government, and the Book of Church Order.  Each man will be examined in these areas.  This of course is the more academic side of the training. 

 

Much of the practical outworking of the call to office will already be in place at this point.  The reason for that is, we do not recommend men to stand for office if their lives do not exhibit giftedness and calling through their service to the church.  Also, a major part of the practical side of training for office is their family management.  A man who doesn't manage his family well will not be considered beyond nomination, because that man has work to do at home before he needs to be giving time to the church above and beyond that which is expected of any member.  I hope by now you realize the elders at Faith Church take very seriously the calling and training of men to office in the church.  Paul tells Timothy in 1Timothy 5:22, “Do not lay hands upon anyone hastily and thus share responsibility for the sins of others….”  In other words, take your time and be sure that the men you ordain to office are truly called and well-prepared. 

 

Please pray God's blessings for the church as we go through this process.  Pray, too, for the men willing to be trained and examined to be able to stand for election to office.  May God bless our church with godly men who will lead well by gladly following the example of our Lord Jesus Christ in humble service.  No man will serve perfectly and every ordained man, whether elder or deacon, will make mistakes.  Pray for the Lord to grow us all in grace, and that He would give clarity to the whole process of officer selection.

 

As this is the last Tapestry of 2012, I would like to take this opportunity to wish you a very Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year.  I regret to not be here celebrating the birth of our Lord with you this year.  I will be on a family trip to China.  This is really a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for us so we are delighted to be able to go.  My humble thanks to the Session for allowing this and my deepest appreciation to the whole congregation for your continued love and support.



Pastor’s Ponderings: March 2012

As is my custom in the Pastor's Pondering section of The Beacon, I am going to address one aspect of the worship service and this time it is the “Prayers of the People.”  I hope you have spent some time contemplating the prayers of the people and what that extended prayer is all about.  If you have, then you are probably aware that the focus of this prayer is to lift up the petitions or requests of the congregation.  In this prayer one man stands before God in prayer leading the rest of the congregation.  The prayers raised by the one man are the prayers of the whole congregation. 

 

You may have noticed that the way we do the prayers of the people is different from many other churches.  What we call the “prayers of the people” is most often called the “pastoral prayer” and is delivered by one of the pastors of the church.  In other words one of the shepherds of the flock leads the people in prayer.  As the Teaching Elder here at FRPC I would tell you that the pastoral prayer is as important to the life of the congregation as the preaching of the word.  Such men as John Calvin and Charles Spurgeon agree with me, or more properly, I with them.  Therefore this prayer must be taken very seriously.  It is to be a reverent prayer, but that doesn't exclude it from being a joyful prayer.   

 

Some of you might ask, and some of you have, “why do we have men besides the elders delivering this prayer?”  The answer to that question has several facets.  First of all that has been the tradition here for at least the last seven years or so.  I inherited it when I came and have seen no compelling reason to stop this tradition.  If you will pay attention during the year you will notice that I do about one-fifth to one quarter of the prayers of the people.  I like having men from the congregation leading in the prayers for several reasons.  Before I elaborate on that, let me say, if we had a Sunday night service as well then I would always deliver the pastoral prayer in the morning service and have other men lead in the Sunday evening service.  Since that is not the case, I've chosen to share the prayer with others.  There are a couple of reasons for that choice on my part.  It does lend breadth and life to our prayers as you hear the different personalities come through in prayer.  Not every one who leads in prayer is going to approach prayer needs in the same way and that keeps the congregation from being lulled into inattention, which as we all know is something we are prone to do.  Also it challenges men to get up and lead in worship which helps them to grow.  The congregation is also challenged as we seek to lead in prayer using scripture as a guide.  The idea is for us to model praying through the scriptures, so listen for that during these prayers.

 

There is another question I would like to address and that is, what constitutes appropriate prayers to bring during the prayers of the people?  We want to avoid this prayer simply becoming what some people call an “organ recital.”  By that I mean it is not all about healing this persons medical problem and that person's medical problem.  Understand me clearly here!  I'm not saying it is inappropriate to lift up people's medical issues, it is an important part of what we do, however if that is all this prayer is we are falling woefully short.  The focus of our prayers should be the kingdom of God being advanced here in our midst.  We must pray that God would work through the church to grow the kingdom through the spread of the gospel.  We must pray that God would help us to be the church of Jesus Christ as He has called us.  We must pray that He would raise up workers to send out into the plentiful harvest.  This prayer should be full of life and passion.  It is certainly appropriate that this be a prayer of pleading for God's mercy and for God to work mightily on behalf of our congregation, our loved ones, our nation, etc..  So the next time we come to that point in the worship service where we address the prayers of the people, understand this, you have a responsibility.  Whomever is in the pulpit leading the prayer, that person is representing you and when it comes time to say, “Amen,” be sure you know to what you are adding your agreement.  These are the prayers of the people and you are a part of that people.



Pastor’s Ponderings: March 2011

The “vernal equinox,” for those of us in the northern hemisphere, is almost here.  For many that will mean absolutely nothing.  However, to those of you who are interested in the movements of the earth and the subsequent change of seasons that brings, you will be keenly looking forward to the advent of spring.  So mark your calendars for March 20th at 7:21PM Eastern Standard Time.  At that time, according to God’s providence in the maintenance of the covenant with Noah (Genesis 8:20-9:17), we will pass from winter into spring.  I think that is really cool.  What does that have to do with us?  It means the days are beginning to warm up and it will soon be time to get out and start working in the garden.  It also means we are getting close to our commemoration of the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus.  So we are approaching a time of solemn reflection and a time of great joy.  So there you have the introductory paragraph of this issue’s “Pastor’s Ponderings.”  If you have only read this far you have not yet earned any type of recognition, so you have to read further.  So now it is time to officially kick off the purpose of this “Pastor’s Ponderings.”

 

If you make a habit of reading this article in each Beacon, then you know I have been commenting on the various elements and parts in our worship services.  This time around we come to the singing of the “Doxology.”  Doxology, literally means “to speak praise.”  The singing of “the Doxology” is a particularly American Protestant tradition.  In our congregation we have sung the doxology every week for at least as long as I have been pastor.  That is 270 Sundays so far.  We use the same words to the same tune every time.  To give you some more background, I am going to borrow a short article entitled  “The Doxology” by Mike Ross and then will comment on it at the end.

 

Very few believers in our reformed and evangelical churches realize where the Doxology comes from, even though they sing it most every Sunday.  In fact, it is the last stanza of three hymns written by the Anglican Bishop Thomas Ken, who lived from 1637 to 1711.  His three hymns are entitled: The Morning Hymn, the Evening Hymn, and the Midnight Hymn, to be sung at their respective times in the Anglican Book of Common Prayer liturgy.  Ken placed this stanza at the end of each hymn…

            Praise God from whom all blessings flow,

            Praise Him all Creatures here below,

            Praise Him above, ye heavenly Host,

            Praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost.

                                                            Amen.

This stanza is today used by more English-speaking Christians in worship than any other stanza or single verse in existence.  It reflects a great tradition of worship, in simple verse, by the people of God, and it unites us in praise to the saints of all times and places.

 

There is nothing in the regulative principle of worship that prohibits the use of traditional hymns, choruses, verses or prayers, provided these traditional elements of worship do not violate the Biblical guidelines of worship.  Tradition that is Biblical is indeed a positive thing and a strengthening influence upon corporate worship.

 

Perhaps it would be good, on particular Sundays, to sing the two stanzas of Ken’s “Morning Hymn,” in total:

            Awake my soul, and with the Sun

            Thy daily stage of duty run;

            Shake off dull sloth, and joyful rise

            to pay thy morning sacrifice.

 

            Praise God from whom all blessings flow,

            Praise Him all Creatures here below,

            Praise Him above, ye heavenly Host,

            Praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost.

                                                            Amen.

 

There has been some comment within the congregation about the repetition of the Doxology.  As the Session has discussed this matter we have come to the conclusion that first of all there is nothing wrong with us continuing to repeat the same doxology.  However, there is also nothing wrong with our not singing the same words to the same tune every time.  Therefore we are going to try changing the tune.  In time, we may also change the words we use as well.  Don’t panic!  We are not giving up on the traditional setting of these words with the tune “Old Hundredth,” we simply will not be using it every time.  Now let me address the inevitable question, “why do we have to change things?”  I want you to know we are not being forced to change anything.  Change is good in that it makes us stop and focus on what we are doing.  One of the big problems with worship is the tendency for it to become a rote exercise.  Worship of the living God must not be allowed to become some kind of mechanical repetition.  We need to engage personally when we sing the praises of God.  By switching the tunes and the words we sing, we are forced to stay more focused and engaged in worship and that is a good thing.  Remember, just because we add variety to what we are doing does not mean we are giving up our traditions. 

 

If you are offended by a change in worship that is not un-biblical then I challenge you to reflect on why you are offended.  We need to guard against our non-biblical traditions becoming “golden calves.”  Unfortunately, since we are sinners, we tend to be blind to our own “idols” in worship.  Therefore it is important to expose those idols from time to time.  Now if you have read this far, you still get no recognition.  You will have to read further to receive your “good reader” award.



Pastor’s Ponderings: December 2010

Oh the weather outside is frightful, but my office is delightful and since I’ve no place to go, lets get working on the Beacon.  It has been a while since our last installment of the Beacon so I thought we would have an end of the year edition. 

 

Let us take a few moments to reflect on the worship service and particularly the offering.  As we come down to the end of the year many are keeping their eyes firmly fixed on the budget numbers to see how we as a congregation are doing in our giving.  That is not why I am interested in talking about the offering.  Yes, I do track our giving as I expect any of the officers of the church to do.  However, I’m not making an appeal for giving.  My concern as the Teaching Elder is that we understand why the offering is considered part of the worship service in the first place. 

 

I have found it interesting in the last several years to see the rise in popularity of the giving kiosk.  You’re more apt to see them in larger churches, but they are growing in popularity.  What is a giving kiosk?  Well it is like a reverse ATM (no, that does not mean you call it an MTA).  If you want to give to the church you just go over to the giving kiosk and swipe your card.  It is like self-checkout at the grocery store.  An old friend of mine who serves as a deacon got the idea one time to mount a credit card reader on an offering plate as a joke.  It was good for a few laughs.  Seriously though, why is giving tithes and offerings part of the worship service?  For some people, seeing the plate being passed fosters an attitude that is anything but worship. 

 

As we come to these kinds of issues, it is of vital importance that we see what the Bible has to say on the subject.  That said let me warn you that I’m just going to use a couple of references.  On this issue there are literally thousands of verses that apply.  In the Old Testament we see clearly the command to “bring the full tithe into the storehouse…” (Malachi 3:10).  In the New Testament, Paul makes it clear that giving in worship is expected of God’s people: “On the first day of every week, each of you is to put something aside and store it up…” (1Corinthians 16:2).  In Acts the people brought their gifts, to support the church and it’s ministry, laying them at the disciple’s feet.  So we see giving is a clear act of our stewardship and a necessary part of Biblical worship.

 

Our “Directory of the Worship of God” in the Book of Church Order is helpful as it summarizes the Scriptural teaching on the worship of God by offerings:

            The Holy Scriptures teach that God is the owner of all persons and all things and that we are but             stewards of both life and possessions; that God’s ownership and our stewardship should be             acknowledged; that this acknowledgment should take the form, in part, of giving at least a tithe         of our income and other offerings to the work of the Lord through the Church of Jesus Christ,    thus worshipping the Lord with our possessions; and that the remainder should be used as            becomes Christians. (54-1)

 

            It is both a privilege and a duty, plainly enjoined in the Bible, to make regular, weekly, systematic and             proportionate offerings for the support of religion and for the propagation of the Gospel in our own   and foreign lands, and for the relief of the poor.  This should be done as an exercise of grace and an          act of worship, and at such time during the service as may be deemed expedient by the Session. (54-2)

 

David summarized the proper spirit of worship that willingly gives tithes and offerings, when he said in 2 Samuel 24:24, “…I will not offer burnt offerings to the Lord my God that cost me nothing.”  In other words as Mike Ross puts it, “I will honor God with a sacrifice of praise that is costly and dear to me – my tithes and offerings.  I will not insult God with an attitude of discount religion!”

 

We need to understand that our worship in tithes and offerings is pleasing to God when they are given as a priority (Proverbs 3:9,10), when they are generous and not stingy (2 Corinthians 8:1-3), when they are given willingly and cheerfully (2 Corinthians 9:7), when we consider it an honor to tithe (2 Corinthians 8:4), and when we do so with purpose, planning and in a systematic manner (1 Corinthians 16:1-2). 

 

Again Mike Ross is helpful and convicting here: “God is offended by “small change” thrown off-handedly in the collection plate like some “tip” for a waiter or bellhop.  We do God no favors when we give to Him.  Instead we give thanks to Him for all He’s given us and for the true privilege bestowed upon us that He would accept our little gifts from unclean hands and use them for His glory!”

 

We worship God with our tithes and offerings because these are part of our sacrifices offered to God.  We offer sacrifices of praise, thanksgiving, and love.  Our tithes and offerings are simply part of that and they are pleasing to the Lord when we offer them from a willing and cheerful heart.  God does not need your money, it is our great privilege to allowed to partner with Him in the ministry in this way.  Before you give of your tithes and offerings, make sure you are doing it with a heart of worship. 

 

Good readers take note, for this edition of the Beacon the “Pastor’s Secret Message” (to tell me you’ve done your reading) is: “Drink more Ovaltine.”  A very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you and yours.



Pastor’s Ponderings: March 2010

As we are rapidly coming into Spring and with it Easter it is a time when we reflect on the death and resurrection of our Savior, I think it very appropriate in this Pastor’s Ponderings to talk about the first element of the “Consecration Section” of our worship service. This is one of those places where we sometimes have a visiting missionary speak for a few minutes or where we commission people going out from our midst on short-term mission trips, etc..  So why do we do that kind of thing here?  Well our worship services are broken up into three sections; praise, consecration, and communion.   

So what is this “consecration” section?  First we need to define what consecration means.  To be consecrated is to be set apart for holy use.  So when we get to consecration there is a purpose in mind for you.  This section of the worship service is where we respond to the praise section with “surrendering our lives to Christ.”  We do that in a number of ways that will be addressed in following months, but we typically begin with a hymn.  This is a hymn of preparation.  It is chosen to highlight who we are in Christ.  We want to prepare ourselves to worship God by responding to Him with personal commitment.   This is a hymn that calls us to do something.  People are always looking for things to do, so here we have a chance to further prepare ourselves for what comes next, namely the collection of tithes and offerings, Prayer and Preaching.  Each of these things require proper reflection and preparation before we can enter into them with a proper heart attitude. 

The second hymn is about getting ready.  Well you might point out that we have already spent a significant amount of time getting ready.  The prelude, preparing our hearts by reflecting on a psalm, call to worship, etc.. That is all about preparing, so what are we doing still preparing as we move into the middle of the worship service?  Well, I’m so glad you asked because it is really significant.  In many ways the corporate worship service we enjoy each week is a preparation.  It is a preparation for God’s people to be able to face the week ahead in the world.  It is also a preparation for the worship we will enjoy together for eternity in the new heaven and the new earth.  So this is no small thing and coming to it in the right frame of mind and heart is vital.

If you have ever participated in athletic endeavors, you know the value of warming up first.  Your muscles need to be stretched and warmed before they will be capable of their full potential.  At this point in the worship service all the warming up period is done and we are ready for full exertion.  I like to come to places like this because it allows me to praise God for this congregation and the enthusiasm with which it sings.  You may not know this, but the number one compliment I receive about our congregation has to do with how well we sing.  Good congregational singing reflects hearts that love the Lord and are engaged in worshipping Him.  That is a good thing.  That means that we are “getting it” when it comes to preparation and participation in worship.  That is a strength we need to be diligent to maintain.

As I close out this installment of the Pastor’s Ponderings, I would challenge you to think on these things as we move together through the worship service and ask God to help you to worship Him fully.  He is worthy of our full attention and affection all the time.  Let us make sure we give Him all praise, glory and honor whenever we worship together.