Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Liturgy - Good or Bad? - Part 1

Liturgy…Good or Bad?: Part 1

One of the scariest words for people to hear in a Baptist church is the work liturgy. As soon as you mention the word people start to imagine priests walking around in solemnity—with all their pomp and circumstance—waving around a thurible filled with incense and speaking in Latin. This is what we associate with a liturgical church. Our disposition might lead us to suppose that liturgical churches are wrong. We might think they are just concerned with outward appearances and not concerned with changing the heart. You might even hear someone say that a liturgy is all about what we do and it leads us to believe in salvation through our works. Even though we associate liturgy with services that are full of ornate symbols and tradition, the truth is that every church whether Catholic, Episcopal, Non-denominational or Baptist uses a liturgy. No matter how hard churches try to escape from being labeled as a liturgical they will always use a liturgy because liturgy does not dictate what is done in a service, but is merely the order things will happen. Liturgy is just a formal way of saying “the service order”. Let’s look at a couple examples of liturgical services.

Generally speaking, a stereotypical Baptist liturgy might start off a service with a rousing congregational hymn. They might follow this with a time of hand shaking to welcome each other before someone comes and gives the announcements for the following week and says a prayer for the offering. After this they might sing a couple more songs before having some special music. Next the pastor comes up on stage and begins his message by telling everyone a joke that will hopefully relate to the message and make people laugh. He will end his message by giving people an
emotional appeal to come to the altar while the congregation sings all 10 verses of “Just As I Am”.

Contrastingly, a Non-denominational church typically seeks to make a comfortable environment for all people to walk into, and many times they try to stay away from typical church stereotypes. When you enter the building you might see the band or praise playing on the stage. As the service starts they will sing a couple songs that create an exciting atmosphere. After this the pastor, dressed in torn jeans and a T-shirt, might come up and give announcements and welcome people. They may even play a video that tries to explain “churchy things” for people who have never been to the church. A second section of songs that is typically moving and personal will be sung
before the message is preached. After the message (or some pastors may call it a talk) there will be a couple of songs sung before the people are sent off by a pastor. The church service is designed to have moments of high energy, levity to release tense moments with humor, and worshipful moments that make people feel the presence of God. In both of the above examples there was an order and purpose to how they did their service—or you could say there was a liturgy to help them accomplish their goals. I am not saying that one service order is better that the other—I am simply giving
examples of a liturgy.

Liturgies can be either good or bad because a liturgy is our ordered response to the truth we believe about God. In fact, the Bible God has given us has many examples of worship that was pleasing to God and examples of worship that was offensive to the Lord. Let’s look at a few examples of worship that pleased God. In Nehemiah 8, we see all the people gather to hear the Book of the Law read aloud, and they fall down and worship God. The Psalms are filled with examples of worship to the Lord (Ps. 3; 5; 75; 95…etc.). The epistles also help us see what should be included in our church worship (Acts 2; I Cor 11,14; Eph. 6:18). Also, in the book of Revelation we see get a glimpse of what worship will look like in the future (Rev. 4-5; 19). There is many more example of what Worship should look like, but let’s also see some examples of worship that was not pleasing to God
All through the Old Testament, God is concerned that his name be Holy and that Israel does not worship Him in the same way pagan nations worship their gods (Lev. 20:22-23; Deut.12:31; Jer. 10:2-4; Ex. 32). In second Samuel 6, we learn about a worship service with good intentions that ended in the death of Uzzah because he reached out and touched the Ark of the Covenant. In the New Testament, Paul rebukes the Corinthian church for the way they are taking the Lord’s Supper (I Cor. 11). 

The scripture is filled with examples of good and bad worship, but my
intention in writing today is not to give you an in-depth look at worship practices in the scripture—I want you to see that worship is important to God and our liturgy (the order we use) matters. I am not saying that there is only one good way to order a service because the Scripture does not say that; however, Scripture does present us with patterns that we can follow as we approach God in worship. Next month, I plan to write on the patterns we see in scripture, and I hope that it will stir conversation and give you insight into the way I choose to order our service.

- Pastor Seth Peterson

Thinking About Justice

 The recent brutal murder of George Floyd while onlookers cried out for him to let the man up so he could breathe and vainly entreated the other officers (who have now been charged with aiding and abetting the hideous crime) to step in and help Mr.  Floyd get up so he could breathe leads me to share some thoughts about justice.

  First of all, justice is part of God’s character. Isaiah says, “For the Lord is a God of justice; blessed are all those who wait for him.” (Isaiah 30:18) In a judgment against Jerusalem for evil within that city Zephaniah says, “The Lord within her is righteous; he does no injustice; each dawn he does not fail; but the unjust know no shame.” (Zephaniah 3:5)

   Next, since justice is part of our Lord’s character, we know He loves justice. Since He loves justice we can be certain that He hates injustice in any form. David writes, “For the Lord loves justice; he will not forsake his saints. They are preserved forever, but the children of the wicked shall be cut off.” (Psalm 37: 28) One of the joys of our Lord’s justice is to know that He preserves us forever. We are not preserved through any of our merit, because we have no merit apart from Jesus Christ dying for us on the cross and raising from the dead to be our living Savior

  Next, a pagan king saw that God is just and characterized by justice. After a sleepless night Nebuchadnezzar came to the lions’ den and cried out asking Daniel if his God had protected him. When King Nebuchadnezzar saw Daniel was not harmed by the lions he said, “Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and extol the King of heaven, for all his works are right and his ways are just; and those who walk in pride he is able to humble.” (Daniel 4: 37) Since our Lord is just and justice is part of His character any injustice is evil.

   Next, since God is just, loves justice and is righteous, He expects the same from His people. Amos delivered God’s warning that He was not pleased with the Israelites’ solemn assemblies and offerings while they dealt unjustly with others. He said God called for them to “let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.” (Amos 5:24) Micah expressed that warning in these words: “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice and to love kindness and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8) This involves not only helping the powerless and exploited find justice, but to show them mercy and to walk humbly with God. That leaves absolutely no room for pride.

    Finally, when justice is done it is a joy to the righteous but terror to evildoers. Solomon expressed it in these words: “When justice is done it is a joy to the righteous but terror to evildoers.” (Proverbs 21: 15) Justice is joy to us as His saints whom He has declared righteous because in justice we see one more wonderful aspect of His character for which we give Him praise. Justice is a terror to evildoers who receive the just punishment for their deeds.

    We must always remember that God’s justice and God’s mercy met on Calvary. Had we received justice without Jesus going to Calvary we would have no eternal hope. But since God met us mercifully that day on Calvary we have eternal life from the moment we trust Jesus as our Savior and forevermore!

David Oldfather

Monday, December 9, 2019

God's Work of Grace (Philippians 1:6)

 In a September 17 Turning Point online devotional David Jeremiah writes, George W. Bush wasn’t doing well as a young man. He was drinking heavily and lost in life. One day he went for a walk with Billy Graham and asked if reading the Bible would make him a better person.”

   Bush told Jeremiah that Graham told him about one of the Bible’s most fundamental lessons. “One should strive to be better,” he was counseled, “but we’re all sinners who earn God’s love not through our good deeds but through his grace.”

   Graham soon sent Bush a copy of The Living Bible which he inscribed and included a reference to Philippians 1:6. Jeremiah writes, “That began a change in Bush’s life. It does for all of us. We can never improve ourselves in any lasting, significant way without the grace oi God. We need for him to begin a new work in us, then we need to remember that the One who started His work will finish it.”

  Bible commentator Matthew Henry shares six truths about Philippians 1:6 in which Paul writes,
“being confident of this that he who began a good work in you will carry it out to completion until the day of Christ Jesus”

  Henry begins, “The work of grace is a good work. It makes us like God and fits us for the enjoyment of God”.  Without God’s grace we could neither enjoy God now nor in the world to come. Sinful though we are, God’s grace allows us to be more like Him as we allow His grace to work in our lives.

   Henry continues, ‘Wherever this good work is begun it is of God’s beginning. We could not begin to ourselves for we are by nature dead in trespasses and sins and what can dead men do toward raising themselves to life?” Just as only God could create the world only God can begin a life that allows for fellowship with Him.

    Henry also says, “The work of grace Is but begun in this life; it is not finished here.’ We will never become all God wants us to be this side of Glory but we can allow Him to grow us in that direction.

   Next Henry says, “If the same God who begins the good work did not undertake the carrying on and finishing of it it would live forever unfinished.” We can neither carry on ourselves nor complete in our own strength the work of grace our Lord began

   Henry also says, “We may be confident that God will finish the work of his own hands.” We have this confidence because God leaves leaved no work undone.

  Henry concludes, “The work of grace will never be perfected until the day of Christ Jesus. When he shall come to judge the world, then his work will be complete.”

  As we begin a new year let us daily celebrate the work of grace out Lord began in us that will be complete when we see Him. Let us also celebrate His love that makes grace possible.

David Oldfather

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Mourning Comes

When Mourning Comes

Mourning is part of life. Solomon writes, “a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance.” (Ecclesiastes 3:4) When we experience temporary separation from our loved ones when they enter their heavenly home mourning is as natural as breathing. Our knowledge that they will never again surfer pain, illness or sorrow does not diminish the loss of their presence we feel in our lives.

When we—or a loved one—experience the loss of a dream the pain of mourning is less intense but just as real. Jesus promises, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” (Matthew 5:4)

When mourning comes we must look to our Lord in faith. In Psalm 42 (attributed to the Sons of Korah) intense feelings of being ‘downcast” are expressed several times. At one point the Psalmist writes, “My bones suffer mortal agony as my foes taunt me, saying to me all day long, ‘Where is your God?’” The Psalmist was distraught because of the taunts of his enemies but found hope amidst his trials by knowing this: “By day he directs his love, at night his song is with me.” (Psalm 42:8) Hannah faced the taunts of Peninnah concerning her barrenness (I Samuel l:2-8). Rather than continuing to mourn over her situation, Hannah took the matter to her Lord in prayer, promising to give a son to the Lord all the days of his life (I Samuel 1:11). Our Lord turned Hannah’s mourning into joy with Samuel’s arrival and she kept her promise to our Lord.

Mourning will also call that we turn to our Lord in repentance. William Barclay in his comments on
Matthew 5:4 in his Daily Study Bible, writes that mourning for our sin is appropriate. Whether it is what we do that we shouldn’t have done or don’t do what we should do (the dilemma Paul writes about in Romans 7:16-25) it is entirely appropriate to grieve over it, repent of it and turn to our Lord in faith asking Him to forgive us. When we do that He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (I John 1:9). Our Lord turns that mourning into the joy He wants us to have.

Our Lord knows we will experience mourning but He doesn’t want us to live like mourners throughout life. He wants us to have the kind of joy that comes only through Him and through His love. Praise God for love like that that turns mourning into joy!

David Oldfather

Saturday, August 3, 2019

Have you made your social media an idol?

To post or not to post... and what should I post? (aka: The social media idol)

Over the last 5-10 years an alarming trend has developed with respect to social media and the way Christians utilize its many avenues.  As I have been reading ahead of myself in preparation for sermons on Matthew’s gospel I had a thought while reading through Matthew 6 that I think may be helpful to us as we think through how to live pleasing lives for
Christ, even while we are online.

Recently I’ve noticed more and more of my brothers and sisters in Christ making a point to announce to social media when they are having, about to have, or have had a time of private prayer and Bible study.

Let me preface this by saying that it is not my intention to impugn anyone’s motives or judge their heart, but simply to make an external observation and perhaps a warning.

In Matthew 6:5-6, Jesus is teaching about the self righteous arrogance of the Pharisees who love to pray loudly and in public in order to be seen…

Matthew 6:5–6 - [5] “And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. [6] But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. (ESV)

Culturally I doubt many would stand in the public square praying loudly with arms outstretched and their Bible open for study these days...  short of some open air preachers in the right context. However, is it possible that such posts online, whether the poster realizes it or not, are being made with a similar heart behind them?

Certainly some are. I know of at least one who has, in years past, posted for such reasons as to be ‘liked’ on social media and seen as super-holy.  Am I being judgmental of that person and their motives?  Yes, I am, because I know their motives well for that person was me. 

It’s been some time since I stopped but my stopping came from more of a pulling away from spending so much time on social media in general rather than by conviction of post content. Though now I am having this conviction and will have to be all the more careful of the temptation.

Is there a place for posts such as the ones I mentioned?  Sure there are.  Is everyone who makes such a post doing so to be noticed and appear to be super-holy? No, I do not believe it would be fair to say that all such posts spring forth from “self” motivated desires.

However, consider this, beloved, could it be wiser for us to examine our hearts before we post something not just to examine the appropriateness of the content but also our motive behind it?

Some of our brethren are likely posting such things out of sheer enjoyment of posting their daily activities on social media. We live in a world that believes that our every move of the day is of utmost interest to everyone online. 

It could also be that in posting every detail of your life, particularly your spiritual devotion time to Christ, you could be coveting 'likes.'  Had you thought about that?  When you open your preferred social media platform... how do you feel when you see there are notifications?  How do you feel when there are none?  How do you feel when there are notifications but they turn out to not be "likes" that demonstrate how much others watch and follow your activity?

We can save the discussion of how much of our lives should be posted for public consumption some other time.  I would add, though, that it has been wisely observed by Dr. John Piper that when that Day comes, and we stand before the Lord, facebook, instagram, twitter, and the like will stand as glaring proof that our lack of prayer and time spent in the Word did not come as a result of a lack of time in our daily schedules.

Is it necessary that I post a picture of my Bible and cup of coffee before I spend time alone in the Word?  Is it necessary or even helpful for someone to post a picture of a beautiful sunset with captions like “Enjoying some prayer time with my Lord in His beautiful creation.”?  Such posts may find that they have a small place of appropriateness here and there but on the whole, they are not useful to the individual nor the body corporate.

Jesus seems to indicate that when we spend time praying we should do so privately and secretly.  That is not to say that there is not an appropriate time for corporate prayer, but our private devotional life should be largely kept between us and the Lord.

We may not be tempted to go and stand in the public square and raise loud prayers with many words any longer, but is it possible that the new way that this happens in our lives is in how close to God we want others to believe we are by manufacturing that persona online?

If you are not an avid consumer of social media, consider yourself blessed.  I often cannot decide whether I believe it to be truly helpful or harmful. 

May God continue growing us all to look more like Christ as we think through how we should live in this world.

Sunday, June 30, 2019

Slow to Speak (and post and comment)

It is sad that few people have any interest in being well informed on any given story/ subject before they blurt out their opinion. One of the saddest results of a social media culture is that we are more concerned to speak up first rather than to speak up accurately/wisely. Contrary to what you may have fooled yourself into believing, it is not necessary that you speak up about everything that pops up just for the sake of being part of the conversation.

There may be a time to speak, but before you speak, stop and listen. Bite your tongue, metaphorically or physically if necessary. Keep your fingers off the keyboard. Write your thoughts in a journal, pray about it, search the Scriptures, go back and re-read your words. Then if they are useful and well thought through and based on fact and Biblical reasoning, post. 

19 Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; 20 for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. - James 1:19-20

The edge that hangs over most misunderstandings is the jump to conclusions. Beloved, we cannot be like the world when it comes to the way we form and express our worldview. Our worldview must begin with ‘Thus saith the Lord,’ not ‘well, I feel...’  The latter leads to miscommunication and a faulty worldview based on lies and sensationalized headlines. The former leads to a mind and speech that glorifies Christ. 

As you see headlines, remember that they are deliberately trying to be inflammatory. Take time to read and research before you let your tongue loose. 

Keep your speech holy and your mind stayed on Christ. Plead with God for wisdom. These are Christ exalting qualities that we ought to desire. 

27 Whoever restrains his words has knowledge, and he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding.  28 Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent.  - Proverbs 17:27-28

If you’ve found yourself erring in this way, repent. Go to the Lord in humility and seek His restorative forgiveness. 

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. - 1 John 1:9

Let us be in the world but not of it; not in actions, speech, or thought. 

We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, - 2 Corinthians 10:5

It’s not important that we speak up first so much as we speak up accurately and in accordance with His truth.

— Pastor Jason

Thursday, May 9, 2019

The folly of worry...

The folly of worry and how God's Word helps us overcome it...

Let me speak briefly, I have a confession to make... One of my sin struggles is worry. I fight it but find it a stumbling area often. Desiring to conquer this temptation by God's Spirit I sought out help from the Word of the Lord.  So here are my Biblical thoughts on worry and how to overcome it.

I thought of 5 Biblical reasons to avoid worry, and 4 Biblical ways to combat it.

1.) Worrying forgets the Gospel
It denies God’s sovereignty and power.  Christ has said in John 14 that we are not to let our hearts “be troubled.”  Why?  Because He was going to be and has now died and been raised, thereby making the way for man to get to God.  Worry denies the peace promised by the Holy Spirit and makes God out to be a liar.  It forgets the Gospel’s power to bring peace as it fails to trust that Christ is a refuge for all our strife.  Worry elevates some stresses as being beyond the perfect plan and power of God.

2.) Worrying is meditation
Defined, to meditate is to “think deeply or focus one's mind for a period of time.”1  It is to have your mind captive to something.  Scripture tells us that we are to let our minds dwell (meditate) on Christ and His Word.  The truths of God are to be our meditation.  In Psalm 19:14 the Psalmist pleads with God to let his every word, every thought and every devotion be pleasing to God.  Verse 13, however, sheds some additional light to his plea.  He petitions the Lord to keep him away from presumptuous sins.  The “presumptuous sin” in worrying is presuming that meditating on what you can do about a worry will produce a more favorable result.  It sets the meditation of your heart on that issue and resolving it as opposed to trusting the Lord to do what is right and in keeping with His perfect will.

3.) Worrying is idolatry
If worry is your meditation and meditation is that which you think and dwell on... then doesn’t it stand to reason that what you dwell on is your idol?  That stings a bit.  We know we aren’t to have any idols (Exodus 20:4-6).  Instead we are to dwell on Christ alone, but how easily idols sneak in and construct themselves in plain sight, and before we know it we have allowed them choice real estate in our heart.  Idols form when our hearts are drawn away from Christ by other things (Deuteronomy 30:17).  They are demonic in origin and dressed as something seemingly harmless but massively destructive to us.  Be on guard for them in your heart.

4.) Worrying is disobedient
It seems that this one should be most obvious, yet it bears stating even still.  Matthew 6:25-27, Jesus declares that we aren’t to worry.  Our Father, He says, knows our needs and will provide.  So to engage in constant worry is to disobey the Word of the Lord.  Before you think me legalistic, please remember that God’s Law is a law of liberty!  Though often stated in the negative (“Thou shall not...”) they are always intended for our good.  They are intended to preserve our joy by focusing us on Him and our need for Him in all things.

5.) Worrying is vanity
What good does worrying incessantly do?  “Which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?” (Matthew 6:27).  What more needs to be said about the sheer wastefulness and vanity of worrying?

So what should we do?

I write to you, the one tempted to incessant worrying, from the trenches with you.  My mother says that I get that nature from her.  Maybe I am predisposed genetically to struggle with worry to some extent, but the truth is that I wrestle with it because sin dwells in my flesh.  I don’t set out trying to worry, but it creeps in at times just the same.  At its worst in me I literally lie in bed, my mind racing so fast over the many daily things I’ve decided to worry about, that I can hardly lie still.  There are few things more frustrating than a restless mind fixated on worry.  For someone whose sin struggle doesn’t include worrying, this is hard to understand.  I explained that those times when the worrying is at its worst, in my mind, it feels as though I am trying to divide a number by a color to derive a letter.  I mean that quite literally!  I have seen that frustrating formula over and over in my mind at times.  (I should note that these extreme times happen mostly while I am trying to sleep, but during times of extreme worry nonetheless). It is the sign of just sheer mental exhaustion that has come on over time as I have failed to pray and rest in Christ as I ought.  As the Lord works in and grows me I am learning how to more quickly rest in Him and for that I am grateful.

Can you relate to this struggle?  If so, here are some Scriptural helps.

1.) Pray – (Philippians 4:6) – Seems simple, but for those who struggle with worry we also struggle to keep our mind focused during times of prayer.  If you find it difficult to pray at all times and stay focused, wrestle and pray all the more!  Strive in prayer until you feel the Spirit of God bring you rest.

2.) Seek God’s Glory, not Your Solutions. – (Matthew 6:33) – Certainly we are to engage our minds in problem solving but there is a difference between evaluation and problem solving vs worry.  Ask God to help you seek His will above all things.  Seek His wisdom and trust His sovereign plan.  Striving with worry will only weigh you down (Proverbs 12:25).

3.) Humble Yourself. – (1 Peter 5:6-11) – Worry is arrogant because it sets our “wisdom” over God’s.  Scripture says to humble ourselves “under the Mighty Hand of God.”  We are to cast all our cares upon Him “because He cares for” us and is abundantly mighty to take all the cares we can think of and infinitely more.  We are promised rest if we will seek it from the Lord (Matthew 11:28-30).

4.) Remember the Gospel. – (Romans 8:28-39) – Are you born again?  Redeemed by Christ?  Think on that!  What greater promise is there?   I know of none, than to be certain that I have been redeemed by the Lord Jesus Christ.  Remember the Gospel and apply it!  What worry is greater than the problem you once had of being condemned and under the wrath of God for your sin?  None.  Yet Christ was mighty enough to rescue you from your condemnation.  Will He now not be able to strengthen you, guide you, and give you joy and rest?  Of course!  Nothing, not even that which you worry over, can separate you from the love of God in Jesus Christ.  Nothing.  So, my fellow worriers, let’s press on in the love of Christ together and trust Him to care for us as He has promised to do.

Soli Deo Gloria,
Pastor Jason

If you found this article helpful, please encourage others by re-posting it to your facebook, twitter, or other appropriate social media outlet. Also, feel free to comment and let me know how God has worked in you to overcome worry.

Liturgy - Good or Bad? - Part 1

Liturgy…Good or Bad?: Part 1 One of the scariest words for people to hear in a Baptist church is the work liturgy. As soon as you mention...