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Sunday
Jan312010

Heart Aflame - Psalm 15:1

Lord, who may dwell in your sanctuary?  As nothing is more common in the world than falsely to assume the name of God, or to pretend to be his people, and as a great part of men allow themselves to do this without any apprehension of the danger it involes, David, without stopping to speak to men, addresses himself to God, which he considers the better course; and he intimates, that if men assume the title of the people of God, without being so in deed and in truth they gain nothing by their self-delusion, for God continues always like himself, and as he is faithful himself, so will he have us to keep the faith with him in return.  No doubt, he adopted Abraham freely, but, at the same time, he stipulated with him that he should live a holy and an upright life, and this is the general rule of the covenant which God has, from the beginning, made with his Church.

The sum is, that hypocrites, who occupy a place in the temple of God, in vain pretend to be his people for he acknowledges none as such but those who follow after justice and uprighteness during the whole course of their life.  David saw the temple crowded with a great multitude of men who all made a profession of the same religion, and presented themselves before God as to the outward ceremony; and, therefore, assuming the person of one wondering at the spectacle, he directs his dicourse to God, who, in such a confusion and medley of characters, could easily distinguish his own people from strangers.

If we really wish to be reckoned among the number of the children of God, the Holy Ghost teaches us, that we must show ourselves to be such by a holy and an upright life; for it is not enough to serve God by outward ceremonies, unless we also live uprightly, and without doing wrong to our neighbours.

David makes mention of the tabernacle, because the temple was not yet built.

The meaning of this discourse, to express it in a few words, is this, that those only have access to God who are his genuine servants, and who live a holy life.

Saturday
Jan302010

A child of the digital age

I got the laugh of the day yesterday courtesy of my 15 year old son.

En route to taking him to his friend's house, we stopped at the post office so that I could mail a letter.  There are three mailboxes on the sidewalk outside the main post office, and all it necessitated was my pulling up to the curb.  Since my son was on the side where the mailboxes were, I handed him the letter and asked him to pop it in any one of the boxes.

I watched him through the rearview mirror, and to my amusement, I saw him standing before the mailboxes, scrutinizing.  I saw him cock his head a little, looking up and down the box.  I started laughing out loud; clearly this child of the digital age had never mailed anything before.  How did that lesson get left out of homeschooling?

Fortunately, an older man, smiling sheepishly himself, instructed the young fellow and my son returned to the car, where he admonished me immediately.

"I could hear you laughing at me."

I told him I was just glad he hadn't tried to put the letter in the newspaper vending machine that sits beside the mailboxes.  He was quite indignant that I would think he would do that.  I actually didn't think he would have trouble with the mailbox.

The reason for his visit to his friend was an afternoon of various games on Playstation 3.  I told him that he could feel bolstered because he had conquered the mailbox.  He just said that he is looking forward to a day when there is no need for mailboxes.

Friday
Jan292010

A little thought about history and theology

Courtesy of John Frame:

Church history illuminates theology by recounting the words of teachers in their life-contexts.  It shows us how the teachers of the church behaved under pressure, how their lives were or were not consistent with their teaching It shows how the gospel teaching took root (or failed to take root) in the lives of rulers, farmers, tradesmen, soldiers, the poor, and the homeless.

As such, historical theology is properly a form of theology.  It is an application of the Word of God, for that Word is the historian's criterion of evaluation.  It applies the Word to the church's past for the sake of the church's present edification, and thus it also applies Scripture to the church of the present.  And so in applying the Word, it reveals its meaning in new and exciting ways, as we see how our ancestors applied Scripture to a broad variety of situations.

 

Wednesday
Jan272010

"The Incarnation, and Passion"

A poem by Henry Vaughan:

Lord! when thou didst thyself undress
Laying by the robes of glory,
To make us more, thou wouldst be less,
And became'st a woeful story.

To put on Clouds instead of light
And clothe the morning-star with dust,
Was a translation of such height
As, but in thee, was ne'er expressed;

Brave worms, and Earth! that thus could have
A God Enclosed within your Cell,
Your maker pent up in a grave,
Life locked in death heaven in a shell;

Ah, my dear Lord! what couldst thou spy
In this impure, rebellious clay,
That made thee thus resolve to die
For those that kill thee every day?

O what strange wonders could thee move
To slight thy precious blood, and breath!
Sure it was Love; my Lord; for Love
Is only stronger far than death.

Tuesday
Jan262010

Worship Time Warp

One of the aspects of Church history I enjoy is hearing about how believers of past generations practiced their worship.  Worship is something we pass on to succeeding generations, and that often includes passing down certain elements of worship.   Of course, not all things are worthy of being passed down.  However, it is an interesting thing to see.

Crawford Gribben in his book The Irish Puritans, discusses the Six Mile Water Revival, which occurred in Ulster in the early 1600's.  This revival was of a Scot Presbyterian nature, as many Scots came to Ulster to practice their faith in a safer environment than their homeland.  This revival initially began with dramatic, emotional conversions of individuals to the point where Gribben points out that it was necessary to attempt to discern which conversions were real and which were mere emotional experiences.  Isn't that interesting?  Even back then, there was a concern about the emotional element of  conversion.

Eventually, however, the worship settled down, and was very Word-based and systematic.  The participants did not sing with instruments.  Their worship songs revolved around singing the Psalms.  Initially, this was not always easy, because memorizing the tunes for a number of songs (remember, there are 150 Psalms!) was cumberson, but eventually, the Scottish Metrial Version (1615) enabled all of the Psalms to be sung with the same tune.  Now, today, we would positively cringe at the thought of singing the same tune for more than one song, but that demonstrates how so much of our worship revolves around the music as opposed to the words being sung.

Communion was celebrated more frequently, which is surprising, considering the commitment Puritans had to forsaking anything that resembled Romanism.  However, it was celebrated often.  There were also communion "seasons" which were celebrated, and which, again, sounds very unusual to our 21st century ears:

Because of the high importance they attached to the sacraments, Ulster Presbyterians celebrated the Lord's Supper frequently.  In 1624, for example, the neighbouring ministers Blair and Robert Cunningham held eight communions between them, all of which were regularly attended by the other's congregation.  Despite their frequency, these 'communion seasons' were protracted events demanding an intense concentration of time and attention on the part of the participants.  Preparation meetings would begin around the Thursday.  On Saturday the preparation sermons would last all day.  On the Lord's Day, the elements began to be distributed mid-morning and the entire service might last twelve hours.  Thanksgiving services would continue into the next week.  All in all, the best of part of seven days might be devoted to the worship.

This did not continue, of course, as the Presbyterians eventually celebrated the Lord's Supper less frequently.  Just imagine the reaction one would get today if this was proposed.  We get restless sitting in a service that lasts 60 minutes, never mind 12 hours.  Now, 12 hours does seem a bit lengthy (especially if done on a regular basis), but obviously people attended these meetings.

I have to say that the thought of singing Psalms appeals to me a great deal.  A few years ago, I purchased a book, Psalms for Singing.  I would love to see this in my own church, but it is always seen as "stodgy" or "outdated" to employ such traditions.  Oh yes, better to sing vague words that could be directed to my dog or my husband.  Anyway.  I know that a lack of good worship songs is an ailment in many churches today.

This Ulster church seems unlike anything we worship in today, but I think we could learn something from these people.