Monday, January 29, 2007

Setting the Stage By Mike Horton

This is an article posted by Issues etc. Click on the link above to read the entire article.
I sometimes think that today's church will toss the Abrahamic Covenant aside because "that is in the Old Testament". But, this is the promise of God. We ALL need to understand and appreciate what God has done throughout all of redemptive history and how He has been faithful to complete it. God said to Abraham... "This I will Do..." So it was a covenant that would come to pass no matter what man does. Un-conditionally, God's covenant to Abraham will come to pass, and can ONLY come to pass no matter how well we mess things up.

Setting the Stage

Imagine the worship service as a magnificent theater of divine action. There is the pulpit, lofty and grand - this is God's balcony from which He conducts the drama. Beneath it is the baptismal font, where the announcement, "the promise is for you and for your children" is ful-filled. Also prominent is the communion table, where weak and dis-turbed consciences "taste and see that the Lord is good." That which God has done to, for, and within his people in the past eras of biblical history he is doing here, now, for us, sweeping us into the tide of his gracious plan.

This chapter briefly sketches the backdrop or stage for this divine production, taking the covenant renewal theme in Scripture as the start-ing point. What are we doing on the Lord's Day, especially when we are gathered as God's people in church? How do we understand Christian growth and discipleship - as chiefly corporate or individual, as nour-ished by the preached Word and the divinely instituted sacraments or by self-approved "means of grace"? Would an outsider coming into our worship services be immediately impressed with the centrality of preach-ing, baptism, and the Supper, or would he or she be more likely to notice the importance given to other performances, whatever the style?

The Covenant Renewal Ceremony

Central to a biblical understanding of worship is the notion of covenant. As biblical scholarship has shown in recent decades, the Old Testament is largely in the form of a treaty, with the great king or emperor promising to protect smaller nations that could not generate their own standing army. In exchange, the great king would receive loyalty from his vassals. They would not turn to other kings for security but would uphold the treaty. A covenant always involved three things: a historical prologue that gave the narrative rationale for the covenant, a list of commands and prohibitions, and a list of sanctions - the bene-fits for those who fulfill the treaty's terms, the penalty for violating them. To understand the context of worship, we need to do a bit of spadework with respect to this covenant motif.

In Eden, Adam was created by God to be the federal head of the human race. In him, humanity would either be confirmed in righ-teousness if Adam fully obeyed and endured the time of testing, or humanity would be judged in Adam, should he violate the terms of the covenant of works, also called the covenant of creation. "Do this and you shall live" was (and remains) the principle of this covenant. But this is, happily, not the only covenant in Scripture. There is the covenant of grace. We can trace the steps of this covenant of grace in the following brief summary.

Even after the fall, God promised Eve a son who would crush the ser-pent's head, and although Cain murdered Abel, God provided another son, Seth. While Cain's descendants were building their own proud city of rebellion (Gen. 4:15 - 24), "Seth also had a son, and he named him Enosh. At that time men began to call on the name of the LORD" (v. 26). Thus, the two cities (God's kingdom and the world's cultures), fully inte-grated in creation, were now divided, and they pursued two separate ends through distinct means. Jesus' warning that the world will hate his disciples and Paul's contrast between the wisdom of this world (works-righteousness) and the wisdom of God (the righteousness that comes by faith) are not born out of any hostility toward the world per se. Rather, it is the world in its sinful rebellion that the biblical writers have in mind.

After calling Abram out of Ur, God commanded a ritual sacrifice as a way of making the covenant. In fact, the Hebrew phrase is to cut a covenant. In ancient Near Eastern politics and law, a suzerain (i.e., great king or emperor) would enter into a treaty with a vassal (i.e., the king or ruler of a smaller territory) by cutting various animals in half. Then, walking together between the halves, both partners agreed to perform all the conditions of the treaty with the following sanction: If I should be unfaithful for my part, may the same end befall me as has befallen these animals.

In Genesis 15, when God makes his covenant with Abraham and his descendants, this ancient Near Eastern treaty is the pattern:

But Abram said, "O Sovereign LORD, how can I know that I will gain pos-session of it?" So the LORD said to him, "Bring me a heifer, a goat and a ram, each three years old, along with a dove and a young pigeon." Abram brought all these to him, cut them in two and arranged the halves oppo-site each other. As the sun was setting, Abram fell into a deep sleep, and a thick and dreadful darkness came over him. Then the LORD said to him, "Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a coun-try not their own, and they will be enslaved and mistreated four hundred years. But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves, and afterward they will come out with great possessions.". . . When the sun had set and dark-ness had fallen, a smoking firepot with a blazing torch appeared and passed between the pieces. On that day the LORD made a covenant with Abram. verses 8 - 10, 12 - 14, 17 - 18

Two sorts of things are promised by God in this covenant: a holy land (Canaan, the earthly Jerusalem) and everlasting life (the heavenly Jeru-salem). What especially distinguishes this treaty is the fact that although God and Abram are covenant partners, the Lord (appearing as a smok-ing firepot with a blazing torch) walks alone through this path, placing on his own head all the sanctions and assuming on his own shoulders the curses that he himself has imposed should the treaty be violated. Then in chapter 17 there is another cutting ceremony:

Abram fell facedown, and God said to him, "As for me, this is my covenant with you. . . I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you and your descendants after you for the generations to come, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you.... This is my covenant with you and your descendants after you, the covenant you are to keep: Every male among you shall be circumcised. You are to undergo circumcision, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and you."verses 3 - 4, 7, 10 - 11

Signifying the cutting away of uncleanness, especially of original sin, which is passed on from Adam through every subsequent father, circumcision was a bloody rite of consecration. But here, instead of the knife being plunged into the body to bring down the curses of the transgressors, it is used to cut away the sin so that the recipient may live.

Taken from A Better Way by Dr. Mike Horton. Used by permission of Baker Books, a division of Baker Book House Company, copyright 2002. All rights to this material are reserved. Materials are not to be distributed to other web locations for retrieval, published in other media, or mirrored at other sites without written permission from Baker Book House Company. You can purchase A Better Way for a total of $20 by calling the Issues, Etc. resource line at 1-800-737-0172.
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Wednesday, January 24, 2007

A week at Covenant Theological Seminary


Well it was a challenging week and a great time of learning and sharing with some brothers and sisters in Christ from different parts of the country. The class I attended during this week long residency was called "Communicating the Gospel". The friendship and the encouragment of my new friends in the class was truly humbling.
I was also able to stop and visit with the Sutherlands in Columbia, Missouri on the way home and attend worship where Scott is the Senior Pastor at Forum Blvd Christian Church.
I'm very thankful to the Lord for this gift of friendship. Both old and new.

Grace and Peace,
Coram Deo!!!

Below is a link to Covenant Theological Seminary's website:

Below is some links to Ministry Resources:
containing over 1000 print and MP3 audio messages from Covenant Seminary's
faculty, guest speakers, publications, and more. Each message can be downloaded free for your personal use or use with a small group or Bible study, or they may be shared with a friend.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Election - The Heart of the Gospel

Ponder this....

Have you ever considered how you could use the doctrine of election as a means to share the Gospel. As a way to evangelize? Just imagine if you were to ask someone if they were "Chosen by God?" What do you think their reaction would be to that? I think they would start to ask questions, like... "Why wouldn't I be chosen by God? Or if they thought that they were too bad or had too much sin in their life, show them to Paul. A man who sought to have Christians killed.

Click on the link below (cute huh?)
Listen to the following clip by John Piper. I hope you will like it.

Coram Deo!!!


Friday, January 05, 2007

The Lostness of Man by Ravi Zacharias

Click on the above link to download the audio file approx. 14 min.
Today I want to share with you a wonderful conclusion on a four part series by by Ravi Zacharias. I love hearing Ravi tell his stories and the passion he has for sharing the truth all around the world.

Condemnation is the subject of this audio clip.

Scripture verses that Ravi mentioned are as follows:
Matt 18:8
Matt 25:41-46
Mark 3:29
2 Thess 1:9
Hebrews 6:2
Jude 7

Here is one of my most favorite parts and I can't remember a time in my church where I have heard it said this way from the pulpit. Lately, it seems we have been getting the "moral" teaching and a little less of the Gospel. Below is a quote by Ravi.

"The biggest difference between Jesus Christ and ethical and moral teachers who have been deified by man (I'm thinking of Buddah and Mohammed and others). These moralists came to make these bad people good. But, Jesus came to make dead people LIVE!!!"

Now go listen to the words to Amazing Grace by John Newton.

How beautiful on the mountain are the feet of those who bring good news and who publish peace, and proclaim salvation. Isaiah 52:7


The Lostness of Man (part 4 of 4)
by Ravi Zacharias

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Bono, The Bible & The Blues, by U2's Bono

Welcome to a New Year of Reform-Shire postings. I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas and are ready to go for another year.
I've known for some time now that Bono of U2 has some good theological background and understanding of the Bible. Although, he doesn't always present himself in a manner of what "cookie-cutter" shape that we think he should.

I think he's right on with a lot of what he says below. I hope you enjoy it.

<>"In the Name of Love!"
Coram Deo!!!
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Psalm Like It Hot

What Elvis was to rock'n'roll, David was to the blues. Bono, U2's singer and a campaigner to end Third World debt, argues that the psalms truly rock the soul.

The Guardian (U.K.), October 31, 1999


Explaining belief has always been difficult. How do you explain a love and logic at the heart of the universe when the world is so out of kilter with this? Has free will got us crucified? And what about the dodgy characters who inhabit the tome known as the Bible, who hear the voice of God? Explaining faith is impossible: vision over visibility; instinct over intellect. A songwriter plays a chord with the faith that he will hear the next one in his head.

One of the writers of the psalms was a musician, a harp-player whose talents were required at "the palace" as the only medicine that would still the demons of the moody and insecure King Saul of Israel. It is a thought that still inspires: Marilyn sang for Kennedy, the Spice Girls for Prince Charles.

At the age of 12, I was a fan of David. He felt familiar, like a pop star could feel familiar. The words of the psalms were as poetic as they were religious, and he was a star. Before David could fulfil the prophecy and become the king of Israel, he had to take quite a beating. He was forced into exile and ended up in a cave in some no-name border town facing the collapse of his ego and abandonment by God. But this is where the soap opera got interesting. This is where David was said to have composed his first psalm -- a blues. That's what a lot of the psalms feel like to me, the blues. Man shouting at God -- "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? Why art thou so far from helping me?" (Psalm 22).

I hear echoes of this holy row when un-holy bluesman Robert Johnson howls, "There's a hellhound on my trail" or Van Morrison sings, "Sometimes, I feel like a motherless child." Texas Alexander mimics the psalms in "Justice Blues": "I cried Lord my father, Lord kingdom come. Send me back my woman, then thy will be done." Humorous, sometimes blasphemous, the blues was backslidin' music but, by its very opposition, it flattered the subject of its perfect cousin, gospel.

Abandonment and displacement are the stuff of my favourite psalms. The Psalter may be a font of gospel music, but for me it's despair that the psalmist really reveals and the nature of his special relationship with God. Honesty, even to the point of anger. "How long, Lord? Wilt thou hide thyself forever?" (Psalm 89), or "Answer me when I call" (Psalm 5).

Psalms and hymns were my first taste of inspirational music. I liked the words, but I wasn't sure about the tunes -- with the exception of Psalm 23, "The Lord is my Shepherd." I remember them as droned and chanted rather than sung. But they prepared me for the honesty of John Lennon, the baroque language of Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen, the open throat of Al Green and Stevie Wonder. When I hear these singers, I am reconnected to a part of me I have no explanation for -- my "soul" I guess.

Words and music did for me what solid, even rigorous, religious argument could never do -- they introduced me to God, not belief in God, more an experiential sense of GOD. Over art, literature, girls, my mates, the way in to my spirit was a combination of words and music. As a result, the Book of Psalms always felt open to me and led me to the poetry of Ecclesiastes, the Song of Solomon, the book of John...My religion could not be fiction, but it had to transcend facts. It could be mystical, but not mythical.

My mother was Protestant, my father Catholic. Anywhere other than Ireland that would be unremarkable. The "Prods" at that time had the better tunes and the Catholics had the better stage-gear. My mate Gavin Friday used to say: "Roman Catholicism is the Glamrock of religion" with its candles and psychedelic colours -- cardinal blues, scarlets and purples -- smoke bombs of incense and the ring of the little bell. The Prods were better at the bigger bells, they could afford them. In Ireland, wealth and Protestantism went together. To have either was to have collaborated with the enemy -- that is, Britain. This did not fly in our house.

After going to Mass at the top of the hill, in Finglas on the north side of Dublin, my father waited outside the little Church of Ireland chapel at the bottom of the hill, where my mother had brought her two sons.

I kept myself awake thinking of the clergyman's daughter and let my eyes dive into the cinema of the stained glass. These Christian artists had invented the movies. Light projected through colour to tell their story. In the Seventies the story was "the Troubles," and the Troubles came through the stained glass, with rocks thrown more in mischief than in anger. But the message was the same: the country was to be divided along sectarian lines. I had a foot in both camps, so my Goliath became religion itself: I began to see religion as the perversion of faith. I began to see God everywhere else. In girls, fun, music, justice and still -- despite the lofty King James translation -- the Scriptures.

I loved these stories for the basest reasons. These were action movies, with some hardcore men and women, the car chases, the casualties, the blood and guts. There was very little kissing.

David was a star, the Elvis of the Bible, if we can believe the chiselling of Michelangelo. And unusually for such a "rock star," with his lust for power, lust for women, lust for life, he had the humility of one who knew his gift worked harder than he ever would. He even danced naked in front of his troops -- the biblical equivalent of the royal walkabout. David was definitely more performance artist than politician.

Anyway, I stopped going to churches and got into a different kind of religion. Don't laugh. That's what being in a rock 'n' roll band is. Showbiz is shamanism, music is worship. Whether it's worship of women or their designer, the world or its destroyer, whether it comes from that ancient place we call soul or simply the spinal cortex, whether the prayers are on fire with a dumb rage or dove-like desire, the smoke goes upwards, to God or something you replace God with -- usually yourself.

Years ago, lost for words and with 40 minutes of recording time left before the end of our studio time, we were still looking for a song to close our third album, War. We wanted to put something explicitly spiritual on the record to balance the politics and romance of it; like Bob Marley or Marvin Gaye would. We thought about the psalms -- Psalm 40. There was some squirming. We were a very "white" rock group, and such plundering of the scriptures was taboo for a white rock group unless it was in the "service of Satan." Psalm 40 is interesting in that it suggests a time in which grace will replace karma, and love will replace the very strict laws of Moses (in other words, fulfil them). I love that thought. David, who committed some of the most selfish as well as selfless acts, was depending on it. That the scriptures are brim full of hustlers, murderers, cowards, adulterers and mercenaries used to shock me. Now it is a source of great comfort.

"40" became the closing song at U2 shows, and on hundreds of occasions, literally hundreds of thousands of people of every size and shape of T-shirt have shouted back the refrain, pinched from Psalm 6: "How long (to sing this song)." I had thought of it as a nagging question, pulling at the hem of an invisible deity whose presence we glimpse only when we act in love. How long hunger? How long hatred? How long until creation grows up and the chaos of its precocious, hell-bent adolescence has been discarded? I thought it odd that the vocalising of such questions could bring such comfort -- to me, too.

But to get back to David, it is not clear how many of these psalms David or his son Solomon really wrote. Some scholars suggest that the royals never dampened their nibs and that there was a host of Holy Ghost writers. Who cares? I didn't buy Leiber and Stoller -- they were just his songwriters. I bought Elvis.

The Book of Psalms, with this introduction by Bono is published tomorrow by Canongate as part of a new series of pocket canons.

© 1999 The Guardian. All rights reserved.

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