From a recent class on worship, we hammered out a brief, Biblical, working definition of what a local congregation should be pursuing as it worships the Lord as His holy temple here on the earth. I simply offer it below with no comment save one. The Bible makes it abundantly clear that when people worship the Triune God, their behavior toward others will become more Christlike. Otherwise, they are not truly worshiping.
Corporate Worship is the Church’s
Reverent & Obedient Service to God,
as Regulated by His Word,
in the Love of the Father,
through the Mediation of the Son,
by the Indwelling Power of the Spirit,
on the Lord’s Day and Other Duly Appointed Times,
Where We are Strengthened by God
to Love the Brethren,
Evangelize the Nations,
and Engage the Needy
in Preparation for the Consummation of the Kingdom.
Dr. Dennis Prutow is the Professor of Homiletics and Pastoral Theology at the Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary (RPTS) in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. A former Army chaplain, seasoned pastor, and author, Denny’s life and ministry was celebrated recently at an RPTS dinner in his honor, as he is set to retire at the end of this academic year. As I witnessed this wonderful evening of stories from former students and remembrances by family members, and have also recently read with great profit his new book entitled Public Worship 101, I thought it would be fun for Austin and I to interview him. Indeed, we enjoyed the following conversation with Denny, and trust you will as well.
As the time approaches for my family to move from Indiana to Pennsylvania next month, life has almost been too busy for reflection. Selling and purchasing a home. Finishing teaching one seminary class and finishing being taught in another. Trying to hand off responsibilities without fumbling or trying to hang on to them too long. Planning for not one but two (!) weddings for our children and their moves before we move. Though each day seems to bring more thoughts swirling about our minds and activity whirling about us, how thankful Miriam and I have been for those who have told us they are praying for us. The peace and presence of Christ are real.
One aspect of moving is the countdown. You begin to realize the number of times you have with the church and enjoying certain activities with the saints has always been limited in number. Yet now that number is known, and it is a single digit. From how many more sermons I have left to preach here to annual church events that our children know is their last, each one becomes a reminder of how imminent the move is. Read more
In an interview following his retirement, John Piper pointed out that the Bible does not necessarily mean there will not be any type of tear in heaven. Rather, the Scriptures testify that God will wipe away every tear there. Piper mused that every remembrance of sin and pain in heaven that brings a tear will be met with the immediate comfort of our ever-present Savior and lead us into a fuller experience of the joy of our salvation.
On addressing the question of which comes first, faith or repentance, Sinclair Ferguson reminds us of John Murray’s answer. He said that this is “an unnecessary question and the insistence that one is prior to the other is futile. There is no priority. The faith that is unto salvation is a penitent faith and the repentance that is unto life is a believing repentance…saving faith is permeated with repentance and repentance is permeated with saving faith.” (“Faith and Repentance,” Tabletalk, June 2013
During my seminary days attending Covenant Fellowship Church in Pittsburgh, I was blessed to sit under the preaching of Pastor Ken Smith. We witnessed people being converted, growing disciples, and joyful singing filling the sanctuary. One of the means the Lord used to produce this spiritual vitality was, with much prayer assistance, Ken’s Biblically-sound, Spirit-filled, covenant-revealing preaching. At times he would become so animated that a powerful point, followed by a dramatic pause, would echo in the sanctuary as well as reverberate in our hearts. I remember that conversations about the messages would follow after the service and throughout the week. Read more
As Calvin taught in the opening of The Institutes of Christian Religion, we cannot truly know ourselves until we know God. A corollary to that principle (though it must be stated more carefully) is that we cannot see ourselves accurately without the mirror of others’ honest and loving perceptions reflecting back to us.
For women, Joe Carter has written a great piece called 9 Things You Should Know about Female Body Image Issues. In the post, he included the fascinating video below. A forensic artist first draws women from descriptions of themselves, then sketches another portrait as other people describe them. The contrast is stunning and revealing.
Ladies, be sure to read the post and especially the last point.
As we prepare to see a son and then a daughter wed soon (he at the end of May, she the first week of June), my wife and I rejoice over the Lord’s goodness to our children. In so many ways we see how He has brought to them spouses who, designed by His gracious hand, complement them and will make their lives much more fruitful in many ways. As I have been praying for them and reflecting on the first recorded marriage in Genesis 2:18-25, here’s a question I have pondered. When the Lord God saw that it was not good for the original man, Adam, to be alone (Genesis 2:18), why did He bring the animals of the garden to him (Genesis 2:19)?
Clearly the Scriptures teach that it was to see what Adam would name them (Genesis 2:19). Yet given the context of God recognizing that Adam needed a helper, and the Lord forming one for him immediately after this animal-naming process was complete, more is going on here. Certainly Adam would have become more cognizant that he was created uniquely above all other earthly creatures, being made in God’s own image, and that would have led him to feel more acutely his loneliness. Surely that is the answer in part to this “new zoo review,” as many commentators teach. Yet how did this process not only reveal to him his loneliness but also point to a solution? Read more
We come now to the third and last post on the poetic life of the Christian.
As stated in the first post on this subject, the lives of believers are to be poetic in the sense they should be ones of contemplation, for we are people of the Scriptures. Recently in an interview in Tabletalk magazine, John Piper said:
The fact that hundreds of the pages of God’s inspired Word are devoted to poetry makes me aware that God thinks the sound of language matters…It is self-evident to me that poetry is not meant to be speed-read, but ordinarily read aloud. So now I see that God has forced me to hear. He has forced a slow savoring of the way things are written to be heard as well as seen.
Not only does Piper speak of contemplation, but of how “the sound of language matters” and that we should enjoy a “slow savoring” of the Bible’s poetry. In other words, poetry by nature has a beauty as we discussed in the second post, and our lives as redeemed by the Savior should be purveyors of the beauty and laughter of redemption to the world.
However, one other vital aspect of poetry, that mirrors the believer’s life, is that of suffering and pain. Read more
While I do not suffer from color blindness, I do have a condition that might best be described as “beauty blindness.” I simply need help from others to see many of the lovely things all around me that I might miss. Thankfully, the Lord has placed four bright beacons of beauty in my life, in the persons of my wife and three daughters, who help me with this. Miriam is constantly pointing out to me such things as the flowers on a walk I would not have seen, the piece of music I would not have heard, or those sweet moments in our children’s lives I would miss because I’m distracted with other matters. My daughters’ bright faces, love of music, active lives, and joyous spirits keep reminding their dad of the glories of God seen in the ways He has made this world overflow exuberantly with so much artistry.
Through these ladies in my life I have become more attuned to poetry and song as well. Indeed, it was one of my daughters, reading to me a poem one day she was excited to share, who unknowingly inspired me to speak on this subject and then write these posts. In the first post of three we saw how the Christian life is like poetry because it is to be a contemplative one. We now turn to the subject of laughter and beauty. Read more
A few days ago I spoke to a group of college students about a subject in which I am ill-trained. I gave a talk on poetry. I even spent most of the time reading poetry to them. To be honest, I felt as awkward as if I were at my first dance. The talk, and even the posts I am doing on it, will be fairly amateurish to those knowledgeable in this field. So why put myself through this?
Because the Christian life is a poetic one by nature and, as I have been seeing this more and more, I want others to see it as well. Though I read the poetry like I dance – with two left feet – I still enjoyed the exercise. So how exactly is the Christian life a poetic one?
Christians are to be people of the Bible, and by its nature the Bible is poetical. We see that primarily in the Wisdom literature of the Scriptures, the books Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Solomon (which are often also referred to as the “poetic books”). In these books, God uses poetry extensively to call us to seek wisdom. Not only does He command us to seek it, but He poetically allures us to do so. An example of this is seen through God personifying Wisdom as a beautiful woman in Proverbs 9:1-6: Read more
Dr. Rich Holdeman, pastor of the Bloomington Reformed Presbyterian Church, contributor here at Gentle Reformation, and a dearly loved brother, just announced recently he has been diagnosed with chronic lymphocytic leukemia. Though we want to respect the family’s privacy, we want to acknowledge our concern here for Rich and his wife Amy and their four daughters as well as seeking the prayers of the saints on their behalf.
Though this illness is a very serious one, may we pray that God would raise this faithful servant up from it like he did Epaphroditus (Philippians 2:25-30). To paraphrase Paul, may God have mercy on him, and not on him only but also on us, so that we would not have sorrow upon sorrow.
At one time large swaths of pasture lands, fields, and forests were open in England for local people to use for such things as pasturing animals, gathering wood, or hunting. Yet through “Inclosure Acts” passed by Parliament, particularly in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, increasingly these lands were “inclosed” (enclosed) or restricted to be used only by those with government approval or license. As a nation becomes more civilized and populous, the government has to take measures such as these to encourage governance that justly considers the interests of all its people.
However, it is easy to see how a practice such as this could be abused. The rich and powerful influenced enclosing lands that benefited their investments and businesses to the harm of the poor. Some families who dwelt for generations on property suddenly found themselves forcibly removed from it. Such was the concern of the church regarding this practice that the Westminster Assembly in its Larger Catechism included “unjust inclosures” in the list of sins forbidden in the eighth commandment against stealing. Read more
Too few churchgoers are aware of the significance of entering into the sanctuary with the people of God. If only they recognized God’s presence is there, not because of the building but in the people assembled, how different things would be!
When Solomon dedicated the temple, the Lord gave a special manifestation of His presence as the offerings were made. ”It happened that when the priests came from the holy place, the cloud filled the house of the LORD, so that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud, for the glory of the LORD filled the house of the LORD” (I Kings 8:10-11 NASB). Not only is this account historical, in that it reminds us that the temple in Jerusalem was to be the place where God dwelt among His people. This manifestation of God’s glory was also prophetical. In the priests being driven out because of the presence of the overwhelming glory of the Lord, the Spirit is indicating a time was coming when the Levitical priesthood would no longer be necessary in light of the glory that was to be manifested. As the Lord promised, ”The latter glory of this house will be greater than the former” (Haggai 2:19). Read more