Monthly Archives: July 2014

Book Recommendations on Corporate Worship

Since I have been busy with traveling for work, I haven’t been able to post much here, so I thought I would post a list of the books I have read over the past couple of years on corporate worship/the Lord’s day/practical theology.  As I read more, I will add more.

Here is the list in the order I have read them:

1.  A Better Way:  Rediscovering the Drama of Christ-Centered Worship by Michael Horton

Better way

2.  The Lord’s Day by Joseph A. Pipa Jr.

The Lord's Day

3.  Revealed to Babes:  Children in the Worship of God by Richard Bacon

revealed to babes

4.  With Reverence and Awe:  Returning to the Basics of Reformed Worship by D.G. Hart and John R. Muether

with reverence and awe

5.  Singing the Songs of Jesus:  Revisiting the Psalms by Michael Lefebvre

singing songs of jesus

6.  Gospel Worship by Jeremiah Burroughs

Gospel Worship

The following were added 6/23/15:

7.  The Day of Worship:  Reassessing the Christian Life in Light of the Sabbath by Ryan M. McGraw

 mcgraw

8.  Welcome to a Reformed Church:  A Guide for Pilgrims by Daniel R. Hyde

 Hyde

9.  Recovering the Reformed Confession:  Our Theology, Piety, and Practice by R. Scott Clark

clark

10.  Worshipping with Calvin:  Recovering the Historic Ministry and Worship of Reformed Protestantism by Terry L. Johnson

johnson

And finally, Ligon Duncan has done a wonderful blog series on Gathered Worship.

Bible-259x180

“Getting to know you / Getting to know all about you”

getting to know you

I have attended the same church for about 2 years, after several years of non-attendance.1 I have been a member of this body for about a year now.  Yet, I still have not made any real connections, or developed any real relationships with the other members.  There are several barriers that I contribute to this.  Now, someone might say that these are excuses and not barriers, but I prefer the previous term, because it is my hope that by laying these out there, that work can be done (on both sides) to make these barriers easier to overcome.

To start off with, I am an introvert.2 To most people, this means I am shy, but being shy really has little to do with being an introvert.  For those of you who know me, you know I really don’t fit the definition of shy—I have few reservations about telling you what I think when the opportunity is right (which is part of the reason I started a blog, because I have lots of things I would like to get out there).  No, I am an introvert—a person who is energized by having time alone, a person whose energy is depleted by being around others.  I tend not to approach someone; instead I often wait to be approached to avoid the drain on my emotional and mental energy. Because of this, it is really hard for me to get to know others unless I spend a lot of time around them.  And this, in turn, can make it difficult for others to get to know me—especially extreme extroverts, who just can’t relate to my need for time and space before I am willing to share with them anything, let alone the deepest issues of my heart (if I ever get to that point at all).

Next, I have trouble relating to many women in the church.   Some of this might be attributed to my feelings of not fitting into this church’s definition of womanhood (or at least my perception of their definition).  I am not a stay-at-home mother; instead, I work full-time outside the home in a higher-level management position.  I don’t enjoy things like sewing or knitting, or small-talk over coffee or many other activities that are seen stereotypically as women’s interests.3 Most activities focused at the women of the church are just variations on these types of themes.  I love to read and to study issues of theology and doctrine, which many churches still focus toward the men (if they focus on it at all).  Because of my past struggles with SSA, I find I sometimes put up walls and shy away from deep friendships with women, in an effort to avoid situations where temptation may creep in.  Obviously, with these issues, it is hard to develop the intimate friendships that other women have and make look so easy.

Finally, I am used to being part of very small churches (an average of about 10 families or so) where you get to know everyone very well over the course of time.  I am still somewhat intimidated by the size of this congregation, which if I had to guess would say averages 150-175 at the weekly Sunday morning worship service (I know, really not very big by others’ standards), where I will never get to know everyone, no matter how long we attend there.

There is a quote from Rosaria Champagne Butterfield in her book The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert: An English Professor’s Journey Into Christian Faith that says, “I think that churches would be places of greater intimacy and growth in Christ if people stopped lying about what we need, what we fear, where we fail, and how we sin.”  This is what I would like to see and what I would like to be a part of, this is what I want for me and others in the church—that we would be people who know each other well enough that we can honestly talk about the things in our lives and pray for each other and grow in our love for each other and for Christ.   I ask those of you who claim the name of Christ to pray with me and for me in this regard—that God would work on my heart and the hearts of others to break down our barriers so that this can be accomplished.

1. There are a few long stories related to the reasons for our non-attendance that I may or may not broach in future blog posts.

2. For those of you who understand MBTI-speak, I am actually an INTJ, which will tell you even more about me.

3.  Providentially, my love for the game of softball has been beneficial to me getting to superficially know a few of the other members as I have joined a team from the church that plays as part of a local inter-church league.

Thoughts on the Elements used in Communion: The Bread and the Win…Welch’s®?

SONY DSC

Let me start this post by putting it out there–I believe that wine should be used by the Church when it comes together to commune in the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper.  I know that there are Christians who do not hold to this (most likely, many reading this).  But when the word wine is used in scripture related to the Lord’s Supper, I have not come across a good, exegetical argument for the use of grape juice as the element of the cup.

I recently was involved in a conversation where the concern was brought up about what to do with alcoholics in the church who wish to partake of communion, but might not if wine is used.  And I will be honest, this concern baffled me.  Why?  Not because I don’t have concern for those who struggle with alcohol (I am the last person who would lack empathy for those who struggle with a particular sin), but because it seems to show lack of faith in the power of the Gospel and the work of the Spirit in sanctification!

The Lord’s Supper is a tangible way the Gospel is preached to Christians. When we partake of communion, we are having the Gospel preached to us with physical representations that we can touch, see, taste, and smell, and which point to Christ’s death and atonement for our sins.  The Westminster Confession of Faith puts it this way,

“Worthy receivers, outwardly partaking of the visible elements, in this sacrament, do then also, inwardly by faith, really and indeed, yet not carnally and corporally but spiritually, receive, and feed upon, Christ crucified, and all benefits of his death: the body and blood of Christ being then, not corporally or carnally, in, with, or under the bread and wine; yet, as really, but spiritually, present to the faith of believers in that ordinance, as the elements themselves are to their outward senses.”

The Gospel is the power of God unto salvation!  Do we not preach the Gospel in our churches?  Should we not preach the Gospel to all, including alcoholics?   The Gospel is the means God uses to transforms lives.  His Spirit works in the believer to sanctify them, enabling “more and more to die unto sin and live unto righteousness” (WSC Q35).  Do we truly believe this?  And if we truly believe this, we will be faithful to worship him using the elements he has outlined in his Word.

Throughout Old Testament history, when Israel was faithful and kept the religious festivals as God commanded and worshiped God according to His statutes, God protected them, and restrained their enemies from taking advantage of the fact that they were largely undefended.  From that we can be assured today that God will protect His people, His children, from stumbling into sin through their faithful observance of the sacrament.

To buy into the idea that alcoholics should abstain from participating in communion if wine is used is allowing the Big Book a higher place in the life of Christians who struggle with alcohol than the God’s Word, and that’s a slippery slope that needs to be avoided at all costs.

Book Recommendations on Christianity and SSA

Over the last few months, I have had several requests for a few book recommendations on this topic.  I thought this would be a good place to start putting together a list for anyone who might be interested.  As I read more, I will add more.  I hope you find them as helpful as I did. So, here they are in the order I have read them:

1.  The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert:  An English Professor’s Journey into the Christian Faith by Rosaria Champagne Butterfield.

secret thoughts

2.  The Gospel and Sexual Orientation by The Synod of the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America, Michael Lefebvre (Editor)

Gospel Sexual Orientation

3.  Is God Anti-Gay?:  And Other Questions about Homosexuality, the Bible and Same-Sex Attraction by Sam Allberry

God antigay

4.  Love Into Light:  The Gospel, The Homosexual and The Church by Peter Hubbard

Love LIght

The following were added in a 6/23/15 revision to this post:

5.  Washed and Waiting:  Reflections on Christian Faithfulness and Homosexuality by Wesley Hill

hill

6.  Compassion without Compromise:  How the Gospel Frees Us to Love Our Gay Friends Without Losing the Truth by Adam T. Barr and Ron Citlau

compasstion

7.  The Bible and Homosexual Practice:  Texts and Hermeneutics by Robert A. J. Gagnon

gagnon

8.  The Plausibility Problem:  The Church and Same-Sex Attraction by Ed Shaw

shaw

9.  What Does the Bible Really Teach about Homosexuality? by Kevin DeYoung

deyoung

And though not a book, a great website full of resources and articles is Living Out.  Their welcome page description:  “We’re a group of Christians who experience same-sex attraction, and we want to share our stories, answer your questions, and recommend resources about Christianity and same-sex attraction.”

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