Posts tagged #reformed

Purposeful Praise: Making Sense of Congregational Singing

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The God of Abraham Praise: Our March Doxology

Fittingly, our hymn “The God of Abraham Praise” was inspired by a Jewish doxology. Tradition holds that Methodist preacher Thomas Olivers attended a service at the Great Synagogue of London at some point in 1770, where he heard the celebrated singer Meyer Lyon leading the congregation in the Yigdal prayer. Lyon generously shared his music with Olivers, who composed a hymn to it. (Here’s a video of a modern version of the Jewish hymn.)

The text of “The God of Abraham Praise” may also be loosely based on the Yigdal. Yigdal literally means “may he be magnified,” and—as you may have guessed—it’s the first word of the prayer in Hebrew. The entire prayer is a 14th century adaptation of a creed written by the philosopher Maimonides, the most significant medieval Jewish thinker.

Whether or not Olivers intended to paraphrase the Yigdal text, the lyrics of verse 6 constitute an explicitly Christian doxology. Where the Yigdal stresses only God’s unity—his “inscrutable and infinite … Oneness”—Olivers’s hymn takes care to praise our one God in three persons: “Hail, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost!”

Verse 6 also reflects the Revelation imagery of all the saints eternally praising God before his throne in heaven. Remember “Holy, Holy, Holy,” in which we join this congregation, echoing the words of the cherubim of Revelation 4:8. Verse 5 of “The God of Abraham Praise” sets up this same scene for us: “On Zion’s sacred height his kingdom [God] maintains, and glorious with his saints in light forever reigns.” So when verse 6 refers to “the whole triumphant host,” it means all believers—past, present, and future—singing together in heaven.

The second half of the verse makes this personal: “Hail, Abraham’s God and mine! I join the heavenly lays [songs] …” The same God who called Abraham out of his city to the promised land has called us to participate in his kingdom today.

This blog was written by Corrie Schwab

Treasuring God's Truth in Your Heart

Psalm 1:1-2: Guard Your Mind

Psalm 1:1-2: Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. [1]

If you wanted to protect your house, one measure you might take is to hire a guard to stand outside your door. Psalm 1 functions as a guard at the front door of the Psalms, warning that we must embrace God’s truth or face “ultimate judgement.” [2] The three negatives in verse one warn against departing God’s ways, and verse two reflects the importance of absorbing “Scripture as a whole” to stay on the LORD’s path, off the way to destruction. [3]

Because Psalm 1 is God’s truth, ignoring its instructions leads to condemnation. [4] Minds that reject Scripture are doomed. [5] The “law” in verse two is the whole system of God’s teaching and faithful living. [6] The consequences for disregarding the Bible’s covenantal law by the power of the Holy Spirit are catastrophic for believer and unbeliever alike, though true Christians are spared from eternal damnation. [7] Therein is the issue: we all fail! Our only hope is to cling to the one who faithfully lived out Psalm 1: Jesus Christ. If we trust in Him as our only means of forgiveness from the Father’s just wrath, then we can grow in His counsel, maturing in His way, as we await the day when we will sit with Him in glory. [8]

This blog was written by Seth Dunn

[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Logos Bible Software. All Scripture references will be ESV unless noted otherwise.

[2] Derek Kidner. Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries: Psalms 1-72, An Introduction and Commentary on Books I and II of the Psalms. General Ed: D.J. Wiseman. (Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press, 1973), 47.

[3] Kidner, Psalms 1-72, 48.

[4] Luke 16:19-31; Matthew 25:31-46; Revelation 21:8, etc.

[5] Proverbs 1:1-7; John 14:6.

[6] J.E. Hartley. Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament Vol. 2. Eds: R. L. Harris, G. L. Archer Jr., & B. K. Waltke (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1999), Logos Bible Software, 403-405.

[7] Matthew 7:21-23; Proverbs 3:12 and Hebrews 12:5-8; Matthew 12:33-37; Hebrews 3:12-19, etc.

[8] Philippians 1:6; Revelation 22:1-5.

Treasuring God's Truth in Your Heart

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Romans 13:14: Transformed

Romans 13:14: But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.[1]

John Murray teaches that to properly understand Romans 13:13-14, we must understand Romans 6:1-10, because Christian conversion leads to change. [2] When people become believers, they are transformed by God’s glory. [3] The Trinity’s transformational work equips Christians to move from evil and become more like Christ. [4]

Further, Romans 13:13-14 “is what the Bible urges upon everyone.” [5] These verses call Christians to continually grow to be like Christ. [6] They also plead with those who do not believe to be dressed in Christ’s righteousness by trusting that His life, work, and resurrection purchased forgiveness for His children. [7]

This blog was written by Seth Dunn

[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (Wheaton, IL: Standard Bible Society, 2016), Logos Bible Software 6. All Scripture references will be ESV unless noted otherwise.

[2] John Murray. The Epistle to the Romans: The English Text With Introduction, Exposition And Notes Vol. II. (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Co. 1965), 170.

[3] Romans 6:4.

[4] James Montgomery Boice. Romans: The New Humanity, Romans 12-16, Vol. 4. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books a division of Baker Book House Co, 1995), 1719.

[5] Boice, Romans, Vol. 4, 1719.

[6] Murray, Romans, Vol. II, 170.

[7] Isaiah 61:10, 2 Corinthians 5:21

Treasuring God's Truth in Your Heart

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2 Timothy 2:22: Running From and To

2 Timothy 2:22: So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. [1]

As Paul continues mentoring Timothy on being a minister, he warns Timothy what to run from and what to run to in order to be a worthy servant for Christ. [2] As a pastor, Timothy must escape the “youthful passions” of “impatience,” “contentiousness,” and “harshness”—all things that shipwreck churches. [3] Yet, good ministers also live positive commands. Part of Timothy glorifying God and serving his church includes living righteously, faithfully, lovingly, peacefully, and purely. [4]

Unfortunately, we are more familiar with ministers who run to sin and from righteousness. Even those claiming to be Christians hurt anyone. These truly painful failures are not grounds for sin or rejecting Christianity. Believers: we must all strive to escape sin and imitate Christ. Others’ failures do not excuse ours. Sinful people should not keep us out of church. Unbelievers: you are right to call sin sin. But throwing out Christianity because of others keeps you from experiencing the love and peace this passage encourages in Christ. Please, do not let broken people keep you from “your only hope in life and in death.” [5]

This blog was written by Seth Dunn

[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (Wheaton, IL: Standard Bible Society, 2016). Logos Bible Software. All Scripture references will be ESV unless noted otherwise.

[2] R. Kent Hughes and Bryan Chapell. Preaching the Word: 1 & 2 Timothy and Titus: To Guard the Deposit. General Editor R. Kent Hughes. (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, a division of Good News Publishers, 2000), 218 and 216.

[3] Hughes, 1 & 2 Timothy and Titus, 218.

[4] Hughes, 1 & 2 Timothy and Titus, 218-219.

[5] The Heidelberg Catechism – Christian Reformed Church. Bing Search Engine. Accessed June 15, 2018.

Treasuring God's Truth in Your Heart

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1 Corinthians 10:13: Comfort in God

1 Corinthians 10:13: No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. [1]

Fewer words are more realistic and comforting. [2] These words are realistic because they affirm the existence of temptation and evil and prepare us for them. They are comforting because Christians are assured of help in temptation because God is faithful. [3]

These realistic and comforting words are also humbling. 1 Corinthians 10:12 reminds us to not trust ourselves, but honestly see our need for the whole Trinity. [4] If we cannot trust ourselves, [5] and God is our only hope to escape sin, then all of us must submit to Him for rescue. [6] If you are not a Christian, then the power you need to stop disobeying God’s law is not in you. When you acknowledge your sin and trust in Jesus’ righteousness as your exclusive means of salvation, you will be delivered from destruction [7] and have the power needed to live righteously. [8] If you are a Christian, God helps you in weakness. [9] Cry out to Him when you are tempted, and He will do as 1 Corinthians 10:13 promises.

This blog was written by Seth Dunn

[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2016). Logos Bible Software. All Scripture references will be ESV unless noted otherwise.

[2] John Calvin. Commentary on the Epistles of Paul the Apostle to the Corinthians, Vol. 1. Trans. John Pringle. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1981), 331.

[3] Calvin, I Corinthians, 332.

[4] Please see previous blog for more details:

[5] Jeremiah 17:9; Psalm 14:1-3, 53:1-3; Romans 3:9-24.

[6] John 14:6; Acts 4:12.

[7] John 3:16-17.

[8] Romans 8.

[9] Romans 8:25-27.

Treasuring God's Truth in Your Heart

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1 Corinthians 10:12: Self-Confidence Kills

1 Corinthians 10:12: Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. [1]

1 Corinthians 10:12 connects with James 1:13-15 (previous blog series) because both show our need for the whole Trinity. [2] Particularly in this passage, Paul warns Christians to not trust their spiritual “progress.” [3] If the Corinthians remember their weakness they will see their need, trust Christ, and have assurance in Him, rather than relying on their inconsistent selves. [4]

Paul’s divinely inspired truth [5] opposes any notion that we can fix ourselves. This text reminds Christians that as their salvation began depending on the Trinity, [6] they continue depending on the Trinity. [7] Christians who rely on their efforts behave like non-Christians. Unbelievers are relying on themselves and Scripture is clear that personal effort cannot save. [8] Trusting that Christ’s life, death, and resurrection are sin’s solution saves and assures help for all of life. [9]

This blog was written by Seth Dunn

[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (Wheaton, IL: Standard Bible Society, 2016), Logos Bible Software. All Scripture references will be ESV unless noted otherwise.

[2] For details, please see blogs “Tested Not Tempted” and “Desire’s Deadliness” at

[3] John Calvin. Commentary on the Epistles of Paul the Apostle to the Corinthians, Vol. 1. Trans. John Pringle. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1981), 330.

[4] Calvin, Corinthians, 330.

[5] See 2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 3:3, 3:15-16. See also James Montgomery Boice. Foundations of the Christians Faith: A comprehensive & Readable Theology, Revised in Volume One. (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1981), 47.

[6] Ephesians 1:3-10; 2:1-10.

[7] Philippians 1:6. See also The Westminster Standards: The Westminster Confession of Faith, the Larger Catechism, and the Shorter Catechism. (Philadelphia, PA: Great Commission Publications, 2011), Confession of Faith chapters 25-27.

[8] John 14:6; Acts 4:12; Romans 3:28; Galatians 2:16.

[9] Romans 8; 10:9.

Treasuring God's Truth in Your Heart

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James 1:13-14: Tested Not Tempted

James 1:13-14: Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. [1]

Some falsely assume God’s control leads people into sin. James’ words here place sin on the person who falls into temptation. Undeniably, the LORD tests His people’s faith. [2] However, “If a test becomes a temptation, it is sinful human nature that makes it so.” [3] Our broken hearts turn things that are good in themselves into occasions for sin. [4]

Everyone is in need because we all turn circumstances into sin. We make beautiful things and people into objects of worship, and/or long to take good things from others. [5] These failures bring God’s just wrath on us. [6] We need Jesus Christ, our perfect representative, Whose sinless life redeems all who confess their sins and trust Him solely. [7] All who believe in Him receive God’s Spirit Who helps in weakness, [8] and makes occasions for falling occasions for growth. [9]

This blog was written by Seth Dunn

[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (Wheaton, IL: Standard Bible Society, 2016), Logos Bible Software. All Scripture references will be ESV unless noted otherwise.

[2] Daniel M. Doriani. Reformed Expository Commentary: James Series Eds: Richard D. Philips and Philip Graham Ryken. Testament Eds: Iain M. Duguid and Daniel M. Doriani. (Philipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co., 2007), 34.

[3] Doriani, James, 35.

[4] John Calvin. Commentary on a Harmony of the Evangelists, Mathew, Mark, and Luke, Vol. 1. Trans. William Pringle. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1981), 212.

[5] Doriani, James, 35-36. See also Deuteronomy 5:6-21; Matthew5:27-30; Romans 3:10-24, 7:7; 2 Peter 2:14-18.

[6] Romans 6:23; James 2:10.

[7] Isaiah 53:5; Matthew 4:1-11; John 14:6; 1John 1:7, 3:5-8, etc.

[8] Romans 8:5-27.

[9] Romans 5:1-5; James 1:2-8.

Posted on August 10, 2018 and filed under Devotions.

Treasuring God's Truth in Your Hear

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Colossians 1:11-12: Inheritance in the Light

Colossians 1:11-12: Being strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy; giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. [1]

Paul’s ceaseless prayer for the Colossians includes praying that they would have God’s knowledge and power, the same power that raised Christ from the dead. [2] Paul also asks the Almighty to give them joy and patience in suffering. [3] If anyone had reason to be joyless, it was the imprisoned, beaten, flogged, shipwrecked, and sick Paul. [4] Yet, Paul overflowed with joy and had learned contentment “in any and every circumstance” because of his identity in Christ. [5]

If Jesus Christ is your exclusive Savior, part of the riches and inheritance of being in Him is that the Holy Spirit grows you and enables you to have Paul’s joyful patience. [6] Your suffering is purposeful, and you can set your hope on the eternal inheritance Christ purchased for you. [7] Pray that you might live in accordance with your inheritance, because Christ’s work enables your works. [8] If you do not believe, would you like to have joy in your suffering and dwell in paradise forever? These blessings are yours when you confess the ways that your sin has angered God, embrace Jesus Christ as your only Savior, and follow Him by His Holy Spirit. [9]

This blog was written by Seth Dunn

[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (Wheaton, IL: Standard Bible Society, 2016), Logos Bible Software 6. All Scripture references will be ESV unless noted otherwise.

[2] F.F. Bruce. Commentary on the Epistle to the Colossians, The English Text with Introduction, Exposition, and Notes. (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1982), 186-87. See also Romans 8:11.

[3] Bruce, Colossians, 187.

[4] Acts 13:44-14:23, 16:16-24, 27:39-44; 1 Corinthians 1:10-31; 2 Corinthians 1:3; Col. 4:18.

[5] Philippians 4:11-13. See also Bruce, Colossians, 188.

[6] Psalm 36:9; John 12:46, Acts 20:32, 26:18; 2 Corinthians 3:6, 3:8, Ephesians 1:11, 2:18, 3:16, 4:2, 5:20.

[7] Matthew 5:12, 25:34; John 17:24; Acts 5:41, 20:32; 2 Corinthians 8:2, 13:4; Hebrews 10:34.

[8] 1 Corinthians 16:13; Colossians 3:1-23; 2 Peter 3:18.

[9] The Westminster Standards: The Westminster Confession of Faith, the Larger Catechism, and the Shorter Catechism. (Philadelphia, PA: Great Commission Publications, 2011), Shorter Catechism Q&A 86-87.

Trasuring God's Truth in Your Heart

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John 6:68-69: To Whom Shall We Go?

John 6:68-69: Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.”[1]

After the compassionate Christ graciously offends the crowd, [2] He asks His disciples if they also want to leave. Peter’s response is a rhetorical question that expresses how the twelve ought to act. [3] By saying Jesus has “the words of life” (i.e. Christ’s teaching [4] leads to eternal life [5]), Peter demands the disciples follow Jesus alone or face spiritual death. [6] When Peter says, “believed” he means a faith that is convinced and trusts in Jesus’ existence, “power,” “nearness to help” and truthfulness. [7] “Know” implies that “the Spirit [has] seal[ed]” on Peter’s heart God’s truth in a way unlike human knowledge. [8]

What about you? Do you follow Christ’s life-giving words, or are you drowning in human inventions? Are you certain of Jesus’ might and ability to help in your life? Do you know the Trinity on His own terms and by His sealing, or do you have a list of demands you want God to meet? Certainly we all struggle with these in some ways. But we all must pray for spiritual growth and/or repentance. For there is no one else to whom we should go.

This blog was written by Seth Dunn

[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (Wheaton, IL: Standard Bible Society, 2016), Logos Bible Software. All Scripture references will be ESV from here on unless stated otherwise.

[2] Please see blog on John 6:66-67.

[3] Wallace, Daniel B. Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics: An Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament with Scripture, Subject, and Greek Word Indexes. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1996), 467-68.

[4] Tenney, Expositor’s, 80.

[5] Calvin, Commentary, 278.

[6] Calvin, Commentary, 279.

[7] Walter Bauer, William F. Arndt, F. Wilbur Gingrich, and Frederick W. Danker. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature: A translation and adaptation of the fourth revised and augmented edition of Walter Bauer’s Griechish-Deutsches Worterbuch zu den Schriften des Neuen Testaments und der ubrigen urchristlichen Literatur, Second Ed. Revised and Augmented by F. Wilbur Gingrich and Frederick W. Danker. (Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press, 1979), 661.

[8] Calvin, Commentary, 279.

Communion with God chapters 13-14

Chapter 13 is a very weighty chapter, and yet so essential to the Christian life. What is Owen talking about here in this chapter when he writes about "Communion with Christ Purchased in Grace"? Simply, he is speaking about the reality of the Christian being united to Jesus Christ. Owen writes, 

there is almost nothing that Christ has done, but we are said to have done it with him (Gal. 2:20, 2 Tim. 2:11, Col.3:3, Rom. 6:4, Col. 2:12; 3:1, Eph. 2:5-6)

If you want to know what he is speaking about, check out the verse references. 

Galatians 2:20: I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

2 Timothy 2:11-12: The saying is trustworthy; for: If we have died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him;

Colossians 3:3: For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.

Romans 6:4: We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in the newness of life.

Colossians 2:12, 3:1: having been buried with him in baptism in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead...If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.

Ephesians 2:5-6: even when we were dead in our trespasses, (God) made us alive together with Christ-by grace you have been saved-and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.

Do we now understand what Owen means when he says that there is almost nothing Christ has done that we are not said to have done with him? This is union with Christ, and union with Christ is at the heart of our salvation. We are united to Christ in his life of perfect obedience (read chapter 15 if you haven't yet for a wonderful explanation on why Christ's life, not just his death and resurrection, is so essential for the Christian). We are united to Christ in his death. We are united to him in his resurrection. We are united to him in his ascension into heaven. We are united to him in his glorification. And we will be united to him in his future reign in the new heaven and new earth. This is amazing! This should just floor us. It should bring tears to our eyes to think that we, who were once enemies of God, objects of wrath, infinitely guilty before his infinite holiness, worthy of nothing but damnation, that we would be brought into such a rich inheritance because of what Jesus Christ has done for us. This is the reality of union with Christ and communion with the Triune God. 

This blog was written by Andy Styer

Communion with God chapters 11&12

There's a lot in these two chapters to reflect upon, but I really want to focus the theme of prayer that Owen hits on in chapter 11. 

Owen begins his exhortation on prayer with this simple statement: 

Christ delights to reveal his kingdom to his saints...Christ enables his saints to reveal their minds and souls to him that they might walk together in intimate love and friendship...But to know this truth will not avail us if we do not know how to open our hearts to him. this we do in prayer. To Christ, the prayers of his saints are like incense...If we would open our hearts to Christ, we need help to pray.

Two things. First, notice here that Owen is saying that Christ makes himself and his Kingdom known to the saints, and the saints make their minds and souls known to him through prayer. Prayer is how we share in a deep, intimate love and friendship with Jesus Christ. But secondly, notice Owen fully recognizes that we are weak in prayer and that we need help. And here, Owen reminds us that the Holy Spirit, the "Helper" as Christ referred to him, is the one who helps us in our prayers. 

I'm encouraged by these two points. First, doesn't it make our hearts sing to know that Jesus Christ makes himself known to us, and delights in having us make ourselves known to him in an intimate friendship? The one who in and through whom all things were made, the eternal Son of God, the King of kings and Lord of lords, the very image of the invisible God delights in us. He delights in having an intimate friendship, a deep rooted love, and communion with us. That fact alone should give us great delight in the act of prayer! 

And yet, all of us still struggle with prayer, don't we? We are tempted to see prayer as a chore. We don't delight in prayer as we should. We may know that through prayer we are having sweet communion with God, and yet how many of us are eager to go before the Lord in prayer? How many of us struggle to even know what to say and how to say it? And here is the encouraging reminder from John Owen that Jesus, who knows our weaknesses first hand, has sent a Helper-the Holy Spirit of Christ. He writes:

...we need help to pray. This help we have by the Spirit of Jesus. All attempts at praying without the help of the Spirit working in us a prayerful spirit are of no avail and of no value. Christ greatly delights in the prayers of his saints when they truly open their hearts to him. When the soul is driven to hide from Christ, then Christ calls it out and enables it to pray by giving it the help of his Spirit."

If we (when we...) struggle to pray, let us all look to the power of the Holy Spirit, who is working in us. He is the one who will help us to pray! The Spirit gives us the help and power we need to pray, which leads to sweet communion and fellowship with Jesus Christ, through whom we are able to come into the presence of the Father who sits upon a throne of grace, to which we draw close with confidence!

This blog was written by Andy Styer

Communion with God chapters 7&8

One of my favorite "pastimes" is chatting with one of our ruling elders at Proclamation, Matt Henny. We talk about many things dealing with the church both locally and globally, and we talk about what we're reading. Recently, Matt was sharing some thoughts after reading these chapters in "Communion with God". He said to me:

A really important word to meditate upon in Owen's "Communion with God" is the word "receive." Have you received the love, fellowship, and communion with the Eternal Trinity--Father, Son and Spirt by faith? This is the essence of communion: receiving love and then loving back out of adoration.

If you've read these two chapters, then you know that Matt is right. The word "receive" is so essential to Owen's thoughts on communing with God. And you know Matt is right about how communion works. We receive love from the Triune God, and in return, we love back out of adoration. This is what Owen is saying in his closing statements in chapter 7 when he writes:

Let us, then, receive Christ in all his excellencies and glories as he gives himself to us. Frequently think of him by faith, comparing him with other beloveds, such as sin, the world and legal righteousness. Then you will more and more prefer him above them all, and you will count them all as rubbish in comparison to him. And let your soul be persuaded of Christ's sincerity and willingness to give himself to you, in all that he is, to be yours forever. And let us give up ourselves wholeheartedly to him. Let us tell Jesus that we will be for him and not for another. Let him hear this from us. He delights to hear it from our lips. Christ says, 'Your voice is sweet to my ears, and your face is beautiful to my eyes'. Are we going to disappoint Christ by neglecting this communion with him?

Isn't it astonishing that Christ would be disappointed because we would neglect communion with him? It is absolutely remarkable that the eternal Son of God, the one whom through all things were created, the one who holds all things together, the one who is reigning and ruling over all creation would want and desire to have communion with us. And when you read chapter 8, when you see how excellent and glorious Christ is, the truth that Jesus would desire communion with us should become all the more remarkable to us. Let us not disappoint our dear Savior by neglecting communion with him!

This blog was written by Andy Styer

Worth Reading

Ephesians 4:1-6

Do you come to our gathered worship service expecting God to speak to you through his Word? We encourage you to prayerfully read through the passage that will be preached prior to the service to help you prepare.

No Little People, No Little Places

Many people in our town know my youngest son, Tim. Often, Tim is recognizable because he has Down syndrome—and there aren’t that many people in Ephrata, PA who are recipients of that “noticeable extra little something” called the 47th chromosome...When I drop him off at work every evening, . . . he declares with gusto, “Let’s go get those customers!” or he says, “Customer service—to the glory of God!”
The Scripture emphasizes that much can come from little if the little is truly consecrated to God. There are no little people and no big people in the true spiritual sense, but only consecrated and unconsecrated people.

TULIP and Reformed Theology: Total Depravity

The idea is that we are not sinners because we sin, but that we sin because we are sinners.

We’ve Lost Our Vocabulary of Wonder About Heaven

By losing our vocabulary of wonder, I mean that we’ve come to think of Heaven as utterly immaterial and non-physical, a home suited for body-less angels, not real people. Floating in clouds while strumming harps isn’t anybody's idea of a great time. But the Heaven God promises is for human beings, who aren't just spiritual but physical too. This is why the biblical teaching of the physical resurrection and eternal life together on the New (resurrected) Earth is so critical. . .
God tells us to set our minds not primarily on this life, but on the person we were made for, Jesus, and the place we were made for: Heaven (Colossians 3:1-4).

This blog was written by Andy Styer

Westminster Shorter Catechism Q&A 106 & 107

What do we pray for in the sixth petition? 
A: In the sixth petition, which is, And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil, we pray that God would either keep us from being tempted to sin, or support and deliver us when we are tempted.
1 Corinthians 10:13 No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. 

What does the conclusion of the Lord's prayer teach us? 
A: The conclusion of the Lord's prayer, which is, For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever, Amen, teaches us to take our encouragement in prayer from God only, and in our prayers to praise him, ascribing kingdom, power and glory to him. And in testimony of our desire, and assurance to be heard, we say, Amen. 
 1 Corinthians 14:16 Otherwise, if you give thanks with your spirit, how can anyone in the position of an outsider say “Amen” to your thanksgiving when he does not know what you are saying? 

This is it! This is the final blog post in our 2 year series on the Westminster Shorter Catechism. I hope it has been as helpful and edifying for you to read as it has been for me to write. 

Question 106 deals with the sixth petition in the Lord's prayer. This petition flows out of the fifth petition, where we ask God to both forgive us for our sins and to have the grace we need to forgive others. Here, we are recognizing before the holy God that while we have been delivered, in Jesus Christ, from the power of sin, we still struggle every day to walk in a way that is pleasing to God. The remnants of the old man, as John Owen called it, are strong within us! We are new creations in Christ, but we still feel the effects of the old man. And not only that, we are constantly being bombarded with arrows from the Enemy, arrows that tempt us to give in to sin and live as if we are not new creations. We ask God, who does not tempt us to sin, to lead us away from temptation. We ask God to deliver us from the temptations that we face, and when we do face temptation, which we surely will, we ask God to be our shelter, to "support us", give us the strength we need to flee from temptation. 

Finally, question 107 deals with the closing of the Lord's prayer. Now we realize there has been some controversy over the past several years concerning the use of the closing portion of the Lord's prayer, "For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever, amen." While this phrase is found in older English translations, such as the King James version, it is not found in newer translations, and for good reason. As more early texts of the New Testament have been discovered, it became apparent that this portion of the prayer was, indeed, added to Matthew 6 later on and was more than likely not part of the original manuscript.

So why do we continue to use this portion of the prayer in our gathered worship services? Well, a big reason why is because this closing portion is indeed modeled after other biblical prayers that we find in Scripture. In fact, it follows very closely Old Testament Jewish doxological structures. We can see this in 1 Chronicles 29:11, "Yours, O LORD, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is yours." Given the liturgical structure of the Lord's prayer as given by Christ, we see no problem in "attaching" a doxology of praise modeled after Biblical liturgical prayers to the end of the prayer. More than likely, early Christians did the same thing (which is how it most likely was added into manuscripts of Matthew). It is fully appropriate, within the context of liturgical prayer, to close with such a doxology-a statement of praise-for us to say as one body, "For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever, amen!"

This blog was written by Andy Styer

Westminster Shorter Catechism Q&A #104-105

104 Q: What do we pray for in the fourth petition?
A: In the fourth petition, which is, Give us this day our daily bread, we pray that of God's free gift we may receive a competent portion of the good things of this life, and enjoy his blessing with them. 

105 Q: What do we pray for in the fifth petition?
A. In the fifth petition, which is, And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors, we pray that God, for Christ's sake, would freely pardon all our sins; which we are the rather encouraged to ask, because by his grace we are enabled from the heart to forgive others.
Ephesians 4:32 Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. 

The fourth petition of the Lord's prayer reminds us of several things. First, it reminds us that we are fully dependent upon God to sustain our lives. By asking for our daily bread, we are saying to him, "Father, we recognize that you alone hold our lives in your hands and you sustain us!" It also reminds us that all we have is, indeed, a gift from God. He is the giver of all good things! There is nothing good that we have that is truly a work of our own hands. Third, we are to enjoy his gifts to us and give praise to God because of his gifts. Not only do God's provisions sustain our lives, they remind us that we serve a loving God who is worthy of our praise and adoration, and we should overflow with thanksgiving for the good gifts God gives us each day. 

The fifth petition reminds us of our sin. It reminds us of our need for a savior. It reminds us of our need for Jesus Christ. And not only does it remind us of our sin, and our need for God's forgiveness for our sins, but it also reminds us of the call to forgive others, "as God in Christ forgave you". It's really teaching us a wonderful truth. If we can be forgiven by God, as we most certainly are when we are trusting in Jesus, then we can most definitely forgive anyone who may "sin" against us! Despite our offense to a thrice holy God, we rest in knowing our forgiveness is certain. Because our forgiveness is certain, then we can certainly forgive others. And we're not only, through this portion of the Lord's prayer, asking God to forgive us in Christ, but also asking for the grace to be gracious in forgiving others. 

This blog was written by Andy Styer

Westminster Shorter Catechism Q&A 102-103

102 Q: What do we pray for in the second petition?
A: In the second petition, which is, Thy kingdom come, we pray that Satan's kingdom
may be destroyed; and that the kingdom of grace may be advanced, ourselves and
others brought into it, and kept in it; and that the kingdom of glory may be hastened.

103 Q: What do we pray for in the third petition?
A: In the third petition, which is, Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven, we pray that God, by his grace, would make us able and willing to know, obey and submit to his will in all things, as the angels do in heaven.
Psalm 19:14 Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.

Moving forward in examining the Lord's prayer, this week we look at the 2nd and 3rd petitions of the prayer. The second petition deals with the coming of God's kingdom. Here, we are recognizing that by nature, mankind belongs to the "kingdom of Satan" because of our sin and rebellion against God. But we are also recognizing that when Christ came, he brought with him a "kingdom of grace" to which his people belong by faith. And when Christ came, lived a life of perfect obedience, died, rose, ascended, and was glorified, he "bound the strong man" (Satan), set his people free, and began undoing the ruinous effects that sin, death and the devil have had both on God's people and on God's good creation. We are praying here that God's kingdom of grace would continue to expand, that others would be drawn into it, that the effects of Satan's kingdom would continue to be undone, and that God would hasten the day when Christ would return again to complete his redemptive work, bring about the renewal and recreation of all things, and establish forever his "kingdom of glory". 

The third petition, "thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven", has to do with two things. The first is that we are asking God to help us be obedient to his will. We are asking God to continue to make us more like Jesus Christ, to continue sanctifying us, through the power of the Holy Spirit, so that we will become joyfully submissive to his will. The second thing that we are asking is that God would work all things according to the counsel of his will. In other words, we are asking God to continue his work of providence! Of course, we know that God will, indeed, continue his works of providence. But by praying this petition, we are saying to God that we recognize God's sovereignty, we recognize that he is working all things according to the counsel of his will for his own glory and for the good of those who love him, and that we, as his people, are submitting to and trusting in the working of his providence.  

This blog was written by Andy Styer

Westminster Shorter Catechism #99

Q: What rule has God given for our direction in prayer?
A: The whole word of God is of use to direct us in prayer; but the special rule of direction is that form of prayer which Christ taught his disciples, commonly called, the Lord’s prayer.

Acts 2:42: And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.

I think it’s good that the catechism makes mention that the whole of Scripture is useful in instructing us to pray. I remember one time in college we were examining a prayer prayed by an Old Testament prophet (I believe it was Samuel). At the end of reading the passage I joked, “Man! Samuel prays like a Presbyterian!” My professor laughed and said, “Why do you think that is?” “Obviously”, I said, “because he was a Presbyterian!” All joking aside, examining the prayers in Scripture, one does begin to pick up certain patterns and formulas to what prayer should be. So when the Westminster Divines point to the whole of the Bible as a model and instruction for prayer, a “rule” for what prayer should be, they are right in doing so! But, of course, the Lord’s Prayer is given to us by Jesus Christ himself as the “ultimate” model of prayer. In giving us the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus really is giving us a framework and pattern for prayer that truly has been used throughout the whole of Scripture. There’s nothing new in the Lord’s prayer as far as the structure goes. What Jesus gives us is a model of prayer that is based on the biblical patterns and structures used throughout the Scriptures.

Now, as I said in the last blog post, the Lord’s Prayer can be used in two ways. The first is a model for prayer. The Lord’s prayer can and should give us a structure to our prayers. We see in the prayer elements of praise (hallowed be thy name), we see in it a submission to God's will (thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven), supplication (give us this day our daily bread), repentance (forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us), and so on. Over the next several weeks, we'll discuss these elements of the prayer and see how they can shape our own prayer lives. 

The second way that the Lord's prayer can and should be used is as a prayer in and of itself. God's people should be praying the Lord's prayer as it was given. In fact, Jesus himself commands this in Luke 11, when as he's about to give the prayer he says, "When you pray, say..." And the prayer itself is, indeed, given in a liturgical structure, thus indicating that Jesus is saying, "Hey, this is a prayer you ought to be saying often!" The church has historically understood the prayer in these terms. So much so, in fact, that the ancient Didache, a first century treatise which contains supposed teachings of the Apostles, states that the prayer should be said by Christians at least three times a day!

It's for these reasons that the Reformed church, as well as Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican, Lutheran, and just about every other major branch of Christianity has, for centuries, included the Lord's prayer as a liturgical element in their weekly gathered worship services. This is the reason why I used Acts 2:42 as a Scripture reference for this question. It shows us that the early believers dedicated themselves to "the prayers". That little word, "the" before the word "prayers" indicates that these were structured, memorized prayers used for liturgical purposes. Quite likely, these prayers included the Lord's prayer. Going back to that college class I mentioned in the beginning of this blog, as we began discussing the Lord's prayer, the professor asked, "How many of you attend a church where the prayer is said every week?" Sadly, only two of us raised our hands (the other person who raised his hand attended a Reformed Baptist church). The professor then asked, "what are some of the objections to not saying the prayer every week?" The most common objection was, "well if you say it every week, it can become meaningless!" This is certainly a reason that many of us hear when it comes to using any repeated elements of worship, not just the Lord's prayer! But our professor had a great response to this. He said, "Isn't that an issue of the heart with the worshiper, not an issue of the Lord's prayer itself? Why is our solution to this problem simply to not use the prayer at all? Shouldn't our solution be, rather, to address the heart issues of our worshipers who find this prayer to be meaningless if we repeat it too much? This prayer was given to us by Jesus Christ himself! How could it ever become meaningless!?" 

It's a wonderful point, isn't it? This prayer was, indeed, given to us by Christ himself. There really could be no better way to pray than to pray the words of Christ! 

This blog was written by Andy Styer

Worth Reading

James 4:13-17

Do you come to our gathered worship service expecting God to speak to you through his Word? We encourage you to prayerfully read through the passage that will be preached prior to the service to help you prepare.


Ingratitude, Ethics, and Porn?

Gratitude is more important than we think and ingratitude is more serious than we think. “The contrast Paul draws between the one who offers thanksgiving and one who worships idols is striking. A failure to be thankful is one of the distinguishing marks of unbelief.”


Yes, Go to Church on Christmas Day

So, Christians, we have a special opportunity this year to point our family and friends to the Gospel of Jesus Christ by not neglecting to meet together with the saints on Christmas Day. If we desire for the world to stop taking Christ out of Christmas, then we need not do the same through our actions on Christmas Day.

And this one too: A Plea to Pastors: Don’t Cancel Church on Christmas


The Best Day of the Week...For Your Kids

Several years ago, I was leading a seminar on family worship at a conference and a man told me, “As a child, I always dreaded Sundays. My parents made it miserable.” I was sad to hear about his experience and the only thing I could think to say was, “Well, then they were obviously doing something wrong!” By way of contrast, Joel Beeke once explained that he woke his children up every Sunday and say, "It's time to get up. Today is the best day of the week!" …

Here are eight ways we can help our children view Sunday as being the best day of the week:

This blog was written by Andy Styer

Worth Reading

James 3:13-18

Do you come to our gathered worship service expecting God to speak to you through his Word? We encourage you to prayerfully read through the passage that will be preached prior to the service to help you prepare.


10 Things You Should Know about Physician Assisted Suicide


Neither a Republican Nor a Democratic Church

Some members of our congregation are happy with the results of this last week’s election, some don’t care, and some are scared. It’s our job as a congregation to live out the covenant we’ve taken before the Lord, and to show that the Christ we share is more important to us than the politics we don’t.

Political Idolatry and Mocking Your Mission Field

The idol of politics may cause us to identify as a Republican (or Democrat or Libertarian) rather than as a citizen of Heaven. Every non-Christian is the mission field, but when politics becomes an idol suddenly those who disagree with us become the enemy and those who agree with us, despite the fact that they might be just as lost as the others, don’t get evangelized as well.

This blog was written by Andy Styer

Westminster Shorter Catechism #96 Part 1

Q. What is the Lord’s Supper?
A. The Lord's supper is a sacrament, wherein, by giving and receiving bread and wine according to Christ's appointment, his death is showed forth; and the worthy receivers are, not after a corporal and carnal manner, but by faith, made partakers of his body and blood, with all his benefits, to their spiritual nourishment and growth in grace. 
 Luke 22:19–20 And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood. 

Due to the size of this subject, I've decided to break this question up into two blog entries. Part one will focus more on the Old Testament background of the Lord's Supper, and part 2 will focus on the theology of this sacrament.

The subject of the Lord's Supper is a topic that, in our day, seems less controversial than infant baptism. But it has, in the history of the Church, caused probably more division among the people of God than any other issue. Which, considering what the Lord's Supper is; what it does, what it means, and what it represents, is quite an ironic tragedy. But, as J. Gresham Machen wrote once, the bigger tragedy would be to simply say, "it doesn't matter". What we believe about the sacraments, be it baptism or the Lord's Supper, does, indeed matter. It is instrumental to the life of God's people and to their discipleship. 

As we saw with baptism, the New Testament sacraments don't exist in a bubble. They don't come out of nowhere. They aren't "new inventions". They have their grounding and backing in the Old Testament. And when dealing with the theology of the Lord's Supper, there are two main Old Testament ceremonies that can help us understand this sacrament; the feast of Passover, and the peace (sometimes called "fellowship") offering, which was part of the sacrificial system of the Tabernacle/Temple.

Passover, of course, is the most obvious connection since it was at a Passover meal where Christ instituted the sacrament. Passover served as a remembrance celebration of the faithfulness of God in keeping his promise that, if the Israelites would kill a lamb without blemish and spread his blood over the doors of their houses, God would indeed deliver his people out of the bondage of slavery in Egypt. It was the moment that sparked the exodus of God's people out of slavery and began their journey to the Promise Land. The exodus out of Egypt was Israel's "Easter". It was the central theme of redemption in the Old Testament. And it is fitting that on the eve of Christ's crucifixion, on the eve of the day when the truly pure and spotless Lamb of God would spill his own blood to cover his people so that we would be delivered from the bondage of slavery to sin, death, and the devil, on the eve of the central act of redemption not only in the New Testament but in the whole of Scripture itself, Christ would give us our own remembrance meal. During Proclamation's sermon series on the book of Mark, Troy went into the connection of the Lord's Supper and Passover. I encourage you to listen to that sermon (LINK) to hear a great summary and explanation of this connection. 

But Passover is only one side of understanding the Old Testament roots of the Lord's Supper. Another aspect of understanding this sacrament is understanding the Old Testament peace/fellowship offering. This, as I said earlier, was part of the Tabernacle/Temple sacrificial system. Now, perhaps too often we tend to think about the Old Testament sacrificial system in broad terms. We can forget that when we read through Leviticus, there are many different types of sacrifices and offerings made and these offerings signified different things. The burnt offering, for example, is quite different than the grain, sin, or peace offerings. In the burnt offering, God consumes the entire sacrifice in the fire on the altar. It is based in the acknowledgement of sin and the need for atonement, that because of sin we deserve death, but unlike the various sin offerings that are later described in Leviticus, it is not offered up for any specific sin. Rather, it symbolizes a complete consecration of the worshiper to the service of the LORD. If we had to compare it to anything in our modern liturgy, we might compare this to an invocation or a call to worship. The grain offering, which is the next offering described in Leviticus, is where the priests threw a handful of grain on the altar and then would consume the rest. This was not only a way for priests to receive nourishment, but it also reminded God's people of their need for a mediator between themselves and God. God consumes part of the grain, the priest, serving as a go-between between God and the people, consumes the rest of the offering. The priest gets to, this time, participate in the offering by consuming part of it, but the laypeople of Israel do not eat. Following the grain offering, we read about the peace offering in Leviticus 3. This is a unique offering where the entrails and the fat of the animal were consumed on the altar, and the lay people consumed the meat of the animal. This is the only offering that the community at large would get to eat of, and by doing so the offering showed something very special to God's people. By God consuming part of the sacrifice and the people consuming part of the sacrifice, it showed the people of God that they now had peace, shalom, fellowship with God and with each other as they ate of this communal meal. And this is what the Lord's Supper shows us too. Jesus Christ, the spotless Lamb of God, was offered up on the altar of the cross where God would consume of the whole sacrifice. There, on the cross, our sins were completely and finally atoned for when the perfect sacrifice was offered up once and for all time. But now we get to eat of the sacrifice! We, when we eat of the bread and drink the cup, are participating in the body and blood of Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 10:16). We are participating in this peace/fellowship offering. We are showing in a real, tangible way that we, as the people of God, as the covenant community of God, are now at peace with God because of the the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. It shows restored communion and fellowship with God and with each other as the covenant people. 

One last note on the Old Testament background of the Lord's Supper. I want to address an idea that the shorter catechism doesn't go into, but is addressed in the Westminster Confession, and that is the idea of private communion services. The Lord's Supper, having it's roots in Passover and in the peace/fellowship offering, is by it's very nature a communal meal. Passover was a communal meal, the peace offerings were communal meals and these were not things that were done apart from a gathering of God's people. These meals expressed the reality of the covenant relationship, and we know that the reality of our covenant relationship with God is not only that we as individuals are brought back into fellowship, but we as his people are at peace with God and brought back into fellowship with him and each other. We have to remember what was lost in the Fall. It wasn't just peace with God that was lost, but also peace between ourselves and our fellow human beings. But the reality of Christ's redemption is that Christ is restoring all that was lost in the Fall. Redemption, as Isaac Watts put it, is "as far as the curse is found". These covenant meals, be it Passover, be it the peace/fellowship offerings, or be it the Lord's Supper, are reminders of the completeness of Christ's redemption. They are reminders that we have been saved as individuals to be part of a people. To participate in the covenant meal, the Lord's Supper, apart from the covenant community contradicts the reality that the meal is supposed to show us. If we are united to Christ, then we are also united to each other as the body of Christ. Or, as Paul says in 1 Corinthians 10:17, "Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread."

This blog was written by Andy Styer

Posted on November 10, 2016 and filed under Teaching.