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Liturgy, Ministry

Our Liturgy: Confession of Faith

June 1, 2021

Liturgy is a loaded word. Liturgy can communicate a myriad of things to different people. For some, it conjures images of dusty pews, stuffy worship, and archaic language. For others, it brings comfort, knowing the order and structure pertaining to the worship gathering. For those coming to the church that I pastor (Coram Deo), many are confused or unaware of why we do various things in our worship services. In this short series, I want to break down the various parts of our liturgy, explain why we do them, why we do them in a particular order, and what the biblical grounds are for each liturgical component. This week we will focus on the fourth aspect of our liturgy: confession of faith.

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Liturgy, Ministry

Our Liturgy: Assurance of Pardon

May 27, 2021

Liturgy is a loaded word. Liturgy can communicate a myriad of things to different people. For some, it conjures images of dusty pews, stuffy worship, and archaic language. For others, it brings comfort, knowing the order and structure pertaining to the worship gathering. For those coming to the church that I pastor (Coram Deo), many are confused or unaware of why we do various things in our worship services. In this short series, I want to break down the various parts of our liturgy, explain why we do them, why we do them in a particular order, and what the biblical grounds are for each liturgical component. This week we will focus on the third aspect of our liturgy: assurance of pardon

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Liturgy, Ministry

Our Liturgy: Confession of Sin

May 11, 2021

Liturgy is a loaded word. Liturgy can communicate a myriad of things to different people. For some, it conjures images of dusty pews, stuffy worship, and archaic language. For others, it brings comfort, knowing the order and structure pertaining to the worship gathering. For those coming to the church that I pastor (Coram Deo), many are confused or unaware of why we do various things in our worship services. In this short series, I want to break down the various parts of our liturgy, explain why we do them, why we do them in a particular order, and what the biblical grounds are for each liturgical component. This week we will focus on the second aspect of our liturgy: confession of sin.

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Hymns, Liturgy, Ministry

Our Liturgy: Call To Worship

May 5, 2021

Liturgy is a loaded word. Liturgy can communicate a myriad of things to different people. For some, it conjures images of dusty pews, stuffy worship, and archaic language. For others, it brings comfort, knowing the order and structure pertaining to the worship gathering. For those coming to the church that I pastor (Coram Deo), many are confused or unaware of why we do various things in our worship services. In this short series, I want to break down the various parts of our liturgy, explain why we do them, why we do them in a particular order, and what the biblical grounds are for each liturgical component. This week we will focus on the first aspect of our liturgy: the call to worship.

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Hymns, Liturgy, Ministry

Our Liturgy: Why Do We Do That?

April 21, 2021

Liturgy is a loaded word. Liturgy can communicate a myriad of things to different people. For some, it conjures images of dusty pews, stuffy worship, and archaic language. For others, it brings comfort, knowing the order and structure pertaining to the worship gathering. For those coming to the church that I pastor (Coram Deo), many are confused or unaware of why we do various things in our worship services. In this short series, I want to break down the various parts of our liturgy, explain why we do them, why we do them in a particular order, and what the biblical grounds are for each liturgical component.

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Catechism, Ministry

Question #2 – What is God?

July 30, 2020

Question #2 – What is God?

God is the creator and sustainer of everyone and everything. He is eternal, infinite, and unchangeable in his power and perfection, goodness and glory, wisdom, justice, and truth. Nothing happens except through him and by his will.

For every human living on earth, question #2 from the New City Catechism may be one of the most important questions you could ever ask. What is God like? How does he act? Who is he? These are some of the most fundamental questions that will require a lifetime to ponder. A.W. Tozer once wisely said, “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.” Fortunately, the catechism provides us with a beautiful picture of what God is like.

CREATOR AND SUSTAINER

God is first and foremost the creator and sustainer of everyone and everything. Genesis 1 and 2 show that God is the ultimate creator of everything, speaking creation into existence by the word of his power. There is nothing that exists that God did not create (John 1:1-3). As the creator, God has the right over all creation, meaning, that he is king over all.

Not only is God the creator but he is the sustainer of everyone and everything. Not a single person or animal takes a breath without God’s sustaining power; a blade of grass will not grow without God’s permission. All things are sustained and held together through him (Colossians 1:17). This means that God is actively working and present not only in our lives, but in the entire world. Notice the comprehensive statement of the catechism: God is the creator and sustainer of everyone and everything.

THE CHARACTER OF GOD

If God is the creator and sustainer of all things, would it not be helpful to know what he is like? In ancient history, many cultures believed that some form of deity created the world but primarily through violence, chaos, and conflict. Is this God the same? The Catechism will proclaim that the God of the Bible is nothing like the gods of the nations. So then, who he is?

First, God is eternal, meaning that he always has been, or, to put it another way, God is self-existent. God is self-existent in the sense that his existence is not tied to anyone or anything but rather in himself. Therefore, there has never been a time in which God has not been—he always was, is, and will be. “God is self-existent, that is, He has the ground of His existence in Himself.”1 God is the uncaused being—one who exists wholly by himself by no causation. “All that God is, he is of himself.”2

Second, God is infinite, meaning that he is free from all limitations or hindrances. There is nothing too difficult or straining for him; he never gets tired or weary. God is also not confined to space, meaning that God is everywhere—no one can hide from him. The Lord alone is the creator, the possessor of heaven and earth, the Lord of all creation, in whom we all live and move and have our being (Acts 17:28).

Third, God is unchangeable, meaning that God will always be who he is; he does not decrease in his power; he does not weaken in his perfections; he does not sin. Another way to say this is that God is constant and consistent—he will never change! The catechism mentions several characteristics that God will never change in, namely, his power, perfection, goodness, glory, wisdom, justice, and truth. God will always be wholly consistent in all of these attributes.

To take it a step further, not only will God not alter from these attributes, he himself is the source and the definition of these attributes. What is goodness? It is the goodness of God. What is truth? It is the truth of God. This is to say that truth is not something that God has but something that he is. Therefore, he is the source and author of all goodness, truth, justice, and goodness. Any goodness, truth, justice, etc on earth is simply an imitation and deviation from God’s attributes.

QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION

  1. How is the eternality and infinity of God bring you comfort?
  2. What attribute of God brings you the most encouragement?
Books, Ministry

The One Book That Changed My Life

July 20, 2020

In college, my wife and I were visiting grandparents in northwestern Wyoming, where we were suddenly stuck in a blizzard just west in Idaho. With nothing to do, we walked over to the used bookstore next-door. Scanning the plethora of dusty books, I came across a book that was recommended to me months ago that I never bothered to pick up: Knowing God by J.I. Packer. With nothing left to do, I bought the first-edition print of this now classic theological treatise with no regard to how it might change me in the future.

Fast-forward a few days, we are again stuck in the airport waiting for a snowstorm to pass. I reach into my bag and pull out Knowing God and begin to read about this God that Packer seems to know so intimately yet was so foreign to me. The God of J.I. Packer was sovereign, holy, in control, jealous for his glory, powerful. Perhaps the God I was accustomed to was a bit needy, longing to be in my presence, and was simply a nice addition to my life. Packer talked about God the way an experienced climber talks about Everest: with delight and fear. I devoured the first quarter of the book and thought, “I’ve never heard of this God before.”

In one book, Packer fundamentally changed my perception of God. Even though the phrase is overused, Knowing God literally changed my life. When people ask for my top recommended books, Knowing God is, without hesitation, the first book that I recommend. In fact, I think it should be read once a year. It is that good.

This past week, on July 17, J.I. Packer passed away and is now enjoying the presence of the very God that he wrote about for so many years. Outside of Knowing God, Packer has influenced me through a host of other books, including Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God, A Quest for Godliness, and Weakness is the Way. Outside of that, Packer played an influential role in the translation of the English Standard Version (ESV), which is the Bible that I regularly use and preach from.

In light of Packer’s passing, perhaps one of the best ways to honor his legacy is to not only pick up a copy of Knowing God but to cherish and delight in the God that he wrote about. Packer’s aim was for Christians to know, experience, and glorify the Triune God, so that God might be rightly seen for who he is—the all-knowing, all-seeing, God of the universe.

Bible, Catechism, Ministry

Introducing The New City Catechism

July 15, 2020

In my last post, I wrote about the dwindling popularity of using catechism’s as one of the main forms of discipleship. In order for you to understand why I am writing these posts, please read my previous post first. In order to put into practice what I preach, I want to use this blog as a means of communicating the importance of catechism’s while also using it as a platform to disciple my church (Coram Deo) in The New City Catechism. This post will serve as an introduction to the latest catechism that can be utilized for the entire family.

First, what is The New City Catechism? The New City Catechism was created by Tim Keller, former pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City. Keller wanted to compile a modern day catechism that still contained biblically rich doctrine with updated language. For those familiar with historic catechisms, some of the question and answers in this latest version will be familiar to you. Keller adapted 52 questions and answers from historic Reformed catechism, such as the Heidelberg Catechism and the Westminster Catechisms.

HOW DO YOU USE THE NEW CITY CATECHISM?

The makers of The New City Catechism not only updated the vernacular they used in the catechism, they updated the medium by which we use the catechism as well. The catechism is now adapted to modern life with a beautiful iPhone and Android app that can be used on-the-go or in family worship in the evening. For those who prefer a hardcopy, a catechism and devotional can be purchased online for a small price.

The best way to utilize The New City Catechism is dividing each question and answer into one week, which will allow you to complete the entire catechism in one year. For families, I recommend having daily family worship, where you go over one question each week. For those with small children, there are songs attached to each question which will help the titles ones memorize the content.

WHO IS THE CATECHISM FOR?

Perhaps you have been a Christian for over thirty years, do you really need to learn the catechism? I would, without hesitation, ask you to pick up the catechism and memorize! It will only add fuel to your soul about the life-saving truths of Jesus that you have treasured for thirty years.

Perhaps you are a new Christian and are looking for answers to some of the fundamentals of the Christian faith. There is not a better place to start. For two thousands years, the church has used catechesis to instruct and educate new disciples of Christ in the fundamentals of the faith. For others, maybe you have lead someone to Christ recently and are looking for material to train them—this would be an excellent resource to utilize for this process.

Others of you perhaps are not even Christians and simply want to explore the Christian faith. While the catechism is not designed to give you thorough answers to all of your questions, it will give you a basic understanding of what we believe and what values we hold to.

AN INVITATION TO LEARN

Will you accept the invitation to learn? Will you accept the invitation to disciple and educate your children in the faith that you love? Will you sacrifice your comfort and time to learn about the precious truths of God’s word? Consider picking up your phone, downloading the app, or ordering the book online, and discover the ancient catechisms that Christians have been using for hundreds of years.

Bible, Ministry

The Importance of Catechesis in the Modern Church

July 14, 2020

It is a cold, chilly evening in November, your family has just finished dinner and you are setting up for family worship. You have your Bibles in hands, alongside a catechism that is providing foundational truths for your families’ spiritual growth. Everything is set, except one person is missing: your pastor. After a few minutes, your pastor arrives at the door, sits down, and begins to talk to your family about the importance of the Christian faith. He does this through a variety of ways: prayer, Scripture reading, and through catechesis. He invites you and your children to recite the weekly question and answers from this week’s study. You end with a corporate song of the doxology and praying for one another.

For many modern Christians, this scene is completely foreign, perhaps even strange to the way that we conduct discipleship in our churches. Discipleship is a program, a Bible study, an event I attend; catechesis is outdated, foreign, and inefficient. Yet, for hundreds, dare I say, thousands of years, pastors instructed their people in the fundamentals of the faith through catechesis. At the present moment, the practice of memorizing a catechism for discipleship purposes is completely lost on generations of modern Christians.

The early church thought it critical to educate its new members in the doctrines of the faith, as is evidenced by the use of the Didache in the late 1st century. The Didache (greek for “The Teaching”) which describes the early Christian ethics, practices, and order. It instructed Christians on prayer, fasting, baptism, communion, and a host of other Christian practices. The new converts to Christianity needed to know what was distinct about their new life in Christ. Since the writing of the Didache, thousands of pastors and theologians have written and adapted catechism’s for their modern day in order to instruct and educate God’s people for God’s mission. Yet, in the last hundred years or so, this ancient and wise practice has somehow been lost.

However lost at the present moment, current pastors and theologians are attempting to revitalize catechesis in the church today. Tim Keller, a pastor in New York City, adapted many of the historic, reformed catechisms and modernized the language, resulting in The New City Catechism. With such a historic, reliable tool at our disposal, Christians in the 21st century would be unwise not to learn the core Christian doctrines and practices through this excellent resource.

What if reinventing the wheel of discipleship for new Christians, our children, and even ourselves, we attended to the historic route of catechesis. For some, catechism may seem rote, dull, and boring; what is the benefit of memorizing answers to spiritual questions? In so many facets of our life, we are comfortable with routine, yet when it comes to spiritually, we gawk at the idea. My prayer and hope is that you my give catechesis a chance, and you may discover that through the routine of memorizing simple question and answers, God will shape and mold your heart into the image of His beloved Son.

Book Review, Ministry

Book Review: Reset

June 24, 2020

In this present historical moment, humans across the world have more access to information and opportunities for connection than ever before. Particularly for Americans, life is often described with one simple, yet repeated word: busy. The ever-growing demands of modern life coupled with our general restlessness given the advancement of digital technology in the forefront of our lives has caused us to become a people marked by burnout. For many, the concept of life being slow, calculated, methodical, or even restful is not only foreign, it’s impossible. In a short yet incredibly helpful book, professor David Murray (Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary), invites Christians in Reset: Living a Grace-Paced Life in a Burnout Culture to undergo a personal deconstruction so that they may in turn find more freedom and joy in this world.

When reading books surrounding rest, retreat, minimalism, or a host of other topics surrounding the one general theme of rest, many authors will choose to go in one of two directions. On the one hand, many authors will seek to convince you that you need to make significant changes in your physical and emotional life (work changes, more sleep, etc). On the other hand, other authors will you invite to discover the realm of spirituality (thus, the uprising of meditation and mindfulness). One of Murray’s greatest strengths is composing a picture of the whole human: physical, emotional, and spiritual. He does not offer simple platitudes that will only last for a minute but gives you a comprehensive picture of a life lived in Christ, which effects the way we pray, eat, sleep, and recreate.

After personally experiencing burnout, Murray invites his readers to find the richness of a life not marked by busyness, stress, and chaos but through an identify shaped by the work of Christ, which flows to every facet of life. Fundamental to our problem is not whether we have good time management (though that is important), but whether or not our lives are anchored to the grace-giving identity of being found in Christ. Critical to all of our restlessness, Murray seeks to apply the finished work of Christ as the foundation to all living.

Lest we think that Murray simply invites Christians to read their Bibles and pray more, Reset offers you a beautiful holistic life that is shaped around grace and rest. In other words, how does your sleep, diet, goals, technology use, spiritual disciplines, church attendance, and goal setting shape the person you are becoming now? Coupled with both biblical and practical wisdom, Murray will challenge the way you live so that you do not have to encounter burnout like many Americans are in this present moment.

This book, in particular, is helpful to pastors, as Murray writes as one who understands the demanding challenges of ministry. If you are a pastor or ministry leader that is experiencing the alarm signs of burnout, please, for the sake of your soul and your family, pick up Murray’s book and put in the hard work of self-examination. In the beginning of the book, Murray invites you to take an inventory of your current soul status. For many, this may be the gift that you desperately need. God is inviting you to find healing and rest in Christ, not so that you may do less for the King, but so that you may endure to the end with a heart that still loves God, your family and children, and your neighbor as yourself.