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Archive for the ‘Worship, True & False’ Category

The first installment of my series on the distinctives of the Presbyterian Reformed Church, or the old Scottish Presbyterian doctrine, worship, government, and discipline. Below is a very lightly edited transcript (special thanks to sister Susan!).

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Psalm 78:5 – Our Testimony, Part 1: Psalm Singing

Turn with me to Psalm 78 and verse 5, in which we read the words, For he [that is the Lord] established a testimony in Jacob, and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers, that they should make them known to their children…

The Seventy-eighth Psalm opens with the words that concern the passing along, the faithful passing along, of the fear of the Lord, the right worship of God, the doctrine that had been revealed to the people of God from one generation to another. It is, as we have not too terribly long ago considered, the way of the Lord to deal through generations. Yes, he saves individuals, and there is none who are saved but individuals; and yet individuals find themselves planted by the hand of God, more oftentimes than not, within families. Indeed, we are all children of fathers and mothers, and so it pleases the Lord that, by and large, within his church there should be families, one generation succeeding the other.

Well, it was commanded Abraham that he should teach his children in the ways of the Lord and the Lord said, I know Abraham that he will command his children after him that they may keep the way of the Lord, that God might fulfill his promise that he had for them. Joshua, that courageous and valiant man, he had become old and gray-headed, and he stood before the congregation at a crossroads, when one generation was to succeed the other and he charged them: If the Lord be God then serve him, or if these other gods of the nations, if they be true, then go your ways, but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.

Well, Psalm 78 is a psalm in which these themes are captured, the concept of the receiving of the the truth, and passing that along to the next generation. We have a responsibility – fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters in Jesus Christ, to hold onto what God has given us; in the words of Psalm 78:5, that testimony, that witness to the truth, and to pass it along to the next generation – which means two things: We must maintain what we have received, and not let it slip though our fingers, not grow lax and careless, and we must then impart them to the next generation, that they may be faithful in the Lord.

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The following is the text of a new leaflet introducing visitors to our worship practice.

Out of the Ordinary

Our worship practice is certainly a very different experience for many who visit us. We are certainly not your conventional evangelical church; and in many ways, we may stand out from even other modern Reformed and Presbyterian churches. To some, this worship is unique, even quaint; to others it may seem strange, overly solemn, and even off-putting.

One thing is for sure: we don’t worship this way to conform to trends, much less to attract those who already know what they want in a church. While our practice is very historic—this once was, after all, the universal practice among Reformed churches in Puritan New England, and other Reformed Churches in continental Europe—that’s not the reason either. The church, after all, is the house of God, not a museum! And just because something is ancient does not make it biblical.

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Somehow I was voted into it. Last year, on December 24 no less, I was invited by Les Lanphere to debate Rev. Joseph Spurgeon on the lawfulness of Christmas. (Other platforms.) Joseph was for, while I was against; and Les did a great job of moderating. I thought it went really well, and I came away feeling that I did a service to this unpopular position. I also endeavored to be as charitable as possible. Perhaps I overshot things by being so affable; but I’d rather fall into that error than the other way, lest folks think that being against Christmas is somehow a function of a grumpy predisposition. After all, I consider myself the merriest neo-Puritan I know. Ask my kids!

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The following is a series of messages given to lay out the distinctives of the Presbyterian Reformed Church, a denomination organized through the instrumentality of Professor John Murray in 1965, committed to the principles of historic Scottish Presbyterianism in doctrine, worship, government, and discipline, as enshrined in the original Westminster Confession of Faith (1646).

(Note: The title “Our Testimony” is merely thematic, and does not refer to a supplementary ecclesiastical document besides the Westminster Standards as is done among Reformed Presbyterian brethren.)

Original Series

Our Testimony, Part 1: Psalm Singing

Our Testimony, Part 2: Instruments in Worship

Our Testimony, Part 3: Presbyterianism

Our Testimony, Part 4: Holy Days, True & False

Our Testimony, Part 5: Confessionalism

Our Testimony, Part 6: Experimental Religion

Our Testimony, Part 7: The Free Offer of the Gospel

Our Testimony, Part 8: Religious Establishments #1

Our Testimony, Part 8: Religious Establishments #2

Our Testimony, Part 9: Head Coverings

Our Testimony, Part 10: Liberty of Conscience

Our Testimony, Part 11: Our Communion Practice

Our Testimony, Part 12: Frequency of Communion

Additional Messages

One Table, One Cup, One Bread

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Classic Presbyterianism has been enjoying a small renaissance. It seems like every day I’m encountering new people and pastors embracing the “regulative principle of worship,” singing psalms exclusively, removing instruments in church, and objecting to holy days of human origin, such as Christmas. Sacred cows are a-falling, or at least are being questioned.

With respect to Christmas, then, it’s been reassuring to see more and more voices pointing out its pagan origins, and more and more being willing to cross the personal Rubicon … and not looking back. I rejoice in these things and thank the Lord for any and all Reformation gains. But I am concerned that for some, even good fathers and brothers in the faith, certain concessions are made that I fear leave a weed in place to grow back in full force. In other words, I respectfully express my concern about the informal retention of Christmas while officially going on the record as against it.

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I once read somewhere that one of the Puritans recognized they were very odd ducks. As I recall, the term was “speckled birds.” Who likes being the outsider, the stranger in a strange land?

Kids can have an especially nasty way of tapping into this instinctual longing for inclusion and reinforcing herd-conformity. As a boy, I distinctly remember a time when a group of my friends and I took a break from our game of street baseball. Somehow it came up in discussion that one boy’s family didn’t observe Christmas. “What!” Replied another. “You don’t observe Christmas? Man, if I didn’t observe Christmas, I’d kill myself!” Oof. Of course, it was adolescent hyperbole; and we were soon back to the diamond. But I must confess, I also was on the shocked side. Not having Christmas? Not having the stockings hung by the chimney with care? Not waking up at dark-thirty to wake up the parents? No giddy, vulture-like descent on the presents? I mean, come on! My quirky friend felt the sting. He was not one of us! He might as well have had three eyes.

Then about seven years later, I swam the Tweed. After my evangelical conversion, I eventually found Calvinism (or Calvinism found me!). And after Calvinism, I found Puritanism; and after Puritanism, I found Presbyterianism. But not just any kind, mind ye! No, I’d say it was full-on “Scottish Old Believer” Presbyterianism. And that, among other things, meant no Christmas. Right. Just like my crestfallen boyhood buddy. Who would have imagined!

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Designed the diagram below as an aid in teaching catechism last Sabbath. Focusing on the 2nd Commandment at the moment.

S Cat 049-052 Sorting Worship [CCat]

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These images accompany the post, “A handheld Ebenezer.”

 

 

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A few years back, our family traveled to the U.K. by way of Holland. One of my daughters became entranced by all things Dutch while aboard a KLM flight, with tall, blonde and brunette stewardesses speaking freely in their mother tongue. While she had little firsthand experience of modern Dutch culture, she already had some exposure to the richness of Dutch Christianity, having read Brother Andrew’s God’s Smuggler (re-read chapter 1!) and Corrie ten Boom’s The Hiding Place. And it wasn’t long before she started trying to learn Dutch online. So when I found myself back in Grand Rapids, I had my antennae up, on the lookout for a trinket for my Lowlands-smitten girl.

I was staying for a week at my hosts, the Kamps, the dearest Christian seniors you will ever meet. When my daughter came up in conversation, they really rose to the occasion. Mrs. Kamp right then and there hopped up, and busily rifled through her very tidy house (are there any messy Hollanders?). I would have been quite content with a cheap curio, something easily parted with and forgotten. While she did hand me a few inexpensive momentos, I was profoundly humbled that she offered the old book above without so much as a blink.

The volume is a late 19th century Dutch New Testament, a metrical Psalter set to the grand old Geneva tunes, and at the end, the Three Forms of Unity. The book exudes the “beauty of holiness” from the best of their heritage and serves as a handheld Ebenezer of God’s covenant faithfulness. As I hold it in my latecomer, ‘Gentile’ hands, I glory in a rich tradition I now own. In it, I hear the voice of generations past, confessing the true, Reformed religion, their “only comfort in life and in death.” I hear the august psalmody of the venerable dead, the spirits of just men made perfect who have gone to their reward. I hear their roaring thunder as they, the great cloud of witnesses, cheer us on while we yet run the race that is set before us.

I have been grafted into the good olive tree, as the Dutch, the Scots, the English, and many others before me. And my children, by covenant, are now holy to the Lord. May they too own “their father’s God.” May they never reject what they have received, selling their birthright for a full stomach. And may they cherish this volume and all that is stands for in an age that is fast losing its way.

For more images, visit here.

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Funny, but damningly true. Again, reinforcement that Adam Smith was dead wrong about leaving religion purely to market forces.

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