Family Worship Manual: May 7-13, 2017

Family Worship Manual: May 7-13, 2017

In a recent post I mentioned that I would be writing a “Family Worship Manual” for the congregation I pastor at Landis Presbyterian Church, PCA.  I have completed the manual for May 7-13, 2017.

A few notes: First, the “Preached Word” section covers the sermons I am currently preaching at Landis. If you plan on using this manual with your family, you will want to substitute that section for the sermons in your church.  Second, the plan takes a family through the New Testament one chapter at a time. Third, the discussion points are suggestions. They are designed to provoke conversation.  Fathers or heads of households should be mindful of the age of their children and adjust them accordingly. As I said, they are merely suggestions. 

My intention is to release the manual every Friday, Lord willing. I hope this is useful for you.  If you do use it, please let me know. I would also appreciate your feedback and suggestions.  Thank you.

You can download the manual in the attachments section below in Word and PDF format.

Brief Post: Jesus Said “Go and Make Disciples”

Brief Post: Jesus Said “Go and Make Disciples”

In Matthew Jesus commanded his disciples to “Go into all the world and make disciples.”  Most Christians are not called to go into ALL the World — but then again, neither did those 11 apostles that heard the original words of the Savior. However, there are always the areas of YOUR world. In brief, your world can be defined by your neighborhood, your job, your relationships around you, etc. Sadly, many in the church think this command is something that only the pastors should be doing. Yes, the ministers are to GO, as well as prepare two sermons, Sunday school lessons, attend presbytery meetings, attend other meetings of the church, AND visit every member on a regular basis. I am not saying that ministers are not required to GO and make disciples. Indeed, they are to obey this command. However, primarily, ministers are to TRAIN members to go and make disciples, equipping them with the tools necessary for the work of the ministry (Eph. 4:11-12). 

So, members of the church, are you going into all of your world to advance the gospel and make disciples? Ministers, are you training your members to do the work of the ministry? Think about this brief reminder. 

Family Worship Manual: May 1-6, 2017

Family Worship Manual: May 1-6, 2017

In a recent post I mentioned that I would be writing a “Family Worship Manual” for the congregation I pastor at Landis Presbyterian Church, PCA.  I have completed the manual for May 1-6, 2017.

A few notes: First, the “Preached Word” section covers the sermons I am currently preaching at Landis. If you plan on using this manual with your family, you will want to substitute that section for the sermons in your church.  Second, the plan takes a family through the New Testament one chapter at a time. Third, the discussion points are suggestions. They are designed to provoke conversation.  Fathers or heads of households should be mindful of the age of their children and adjust them accordingly. As I said, they are merely suggestions. 

My intention is to release the manual every Friday, Lord willing. I hope this is useful for you.  If you do use it, please let me know. I would also appreciate your feedback and suggestions.  Thank you.

You can download the manual in the attachments section below in Word and PDF format.

God’s Providence: My Favorite Doctrine

God’s Providence: My Favorite Doctrine

I know that it may sound odd to say that one has a “favorite” doctrine.  If I were pressed to offer a favorite, the doctrine of providence would be mine. I say this for at last two reasons.  First, it is incredibly comforting to know that my heavenly Father is actively working and watching over my life.  He is not passive in the affairs of His children, or of His world. He is working, daily, for the good of His people.  Everything that happens, regardless of what it may be, is for His children and their overall well-being (Rom. 8:28).  Second, it is comforting to know that our God in heaven is not aloof but intimately involved in the affairs of men.  Even a casual look around at the affairs of this world would scare the average person.  The news of current events, from N. Korea to the Middle East; the events of terrorism and ISIS, to the core workings of our government, her leaders and the laws they make can often leave one to despair.  Our God in heaven reigns.  There is nothing outside His grasp — from the little events of our lives, such as a flat tire, to the big events of national policy, none of these things escape His notice, and none of them are outside His sovereign control. 

The Westminster Larger Catechism, as well as the Confession of Faith, while doctrinally solid and useful theologically, is also useful pastorally. It reminds us that the true God of Scripture is not silent or absent.  It tells us that He is working and ruling in the affairs of my life, your life and the lives of everyone He has created. From the sun rising and setting, the birds chirping and the bees buzzing God is actively working.  From the crises in N.Korea to the affairs of state in the Middle East, God is working.  He rules and reigns and always works for the good of His people. 

The next time you face difficulty in this life or experience the blessing of a wonderful day, remember that God ordered it for your good.  Though those “dark providences” can be difficult to understand, it has been ordered by a loving Father who desires your good and the good of His church. Remember, also, that those times when life is going well were also ordered by God.  Regardless of good or bad, remember to praise Him, ascribing glory and honor to your heavenly Father who is working for you.

Q. 18. What are God’s works of providence?
A. God’s works of providence are his most holy, wise, and powerful preserving and governing all his creatures; ordering them, and all their actions, to his own glory.

1. God the great Creator of all things doth uphold, direct, dispose, and govern all creatures, actions, and things, from the greatest even to the least, by his most wise and holy providence, according to his infallible foreknowledge, and the free and immutable counsel of his own will, to the praise of the glory of his wisdom, power, justice, goodness, and mercy.
2. Although, in relation to the foreknowledge and decree of God, the first Cause, all things come to pass immutably, and infallibly; yet, by the same providence, he ordereth them to fall out, according to the nature of second causes, either necessarily, freely, or contingently.
3. God, in his ordinary providence, maketh use of means, yet is free to work without, above, and against them, at his pleasure.
4. The almighty power, unsearchable wisdom, and infinite goodness of God so far manifest themselves in his providence, that it extendeth itself even to the first fall, and all other sins of angels and men; and that not by a bare permission, but such as hath joined with it a most wise and powerful bounding, and otherwise ordering, and governing of them, in a manifold dispensation, to his own holy ends; yet so, as the sinfulness thereof proceedeth only from the creature, and not from God, who, being most holy and righteous, neither is nor can be the author or approver of sin.
5. The most wise, righteous, and gracious God doth oftentimes leave, for a season, his own children to manifold temptations, and the corruption of their own hearts, to chastise them for their former sins, or to discover unto them the hidden strength of corruption and deceitfulness of their hearts, that they may be humbled; and, to raise them to a more close and constant dependence for their support upon himself, and to make them more watchful against all future occasions of sin, and for sundry other just and holy ends.
6. As for those wicked and ungodly men whom God, as a righteous Judge, for former sins, doth blind and harden, from them he not only withholdeth his grace whereby they might have been enlightened in their understandings, and wrought upon in their hearts; but sometimes also withdraweth the gifts which they had, and exposeth them to such objects as their corruption makes occasions of sin; and, withal, gives them over to their own lusts, the temptations of the world, and the power of Satan, whereby it comes to pass that they harden themselves, even under those means which God useth for the softening of others.
7. As the providence of God doth, in general, reach to all creatures; so, after a most special manner, it taketh care of his church, and disposeth all things to the good thereof.

The Family Worship Manual

The Family Worship Manual

NOTE: I am Sharing this item that I wrote on the Pastor’s Corner on the Landis Presbyterian Church website.

I remain convinced that the subject of family worship has fallen on hard times these days, especially when we live “hurry up” lifestyles. I suspect that fathers (or heads of households) desire to conduct this valuable time with their families, but either feels ill-equipped or lacks time to prepare adequately.

Therefore, to assist, I will be writing a family worship manual.  

This manual will be divided into two sections:

SECTION ONE:  “The Preaching of God’s Word.”  This section will cover the two sermons preached at Landis Presbyterian Church each Lord’s Day.
 
SECTION TWO: “The Reading of God’s Word.”  This section will take the family through the entire New Testament.

 Each section will include the following:

A prayer.
A suggested hymn to sing.
Discussion questions related to the chapter or sermon.

The “Family Worship Manual” will be posted each week, beginning Monday, May 1, 2017. It will be available on the Pastor’s Corner and in PDF format on the Landis Presbyterian website here

Getting the Most From Sermons

Getting the Most From Sermons

The Westminster Shorter Catechism pastorally states:

Q. 88. What are the outward and ordinary means whereby Christ communicateth to us the benefits of redemption?
A. The outward and ordinary means whereby Christ communicateth to us the benefits of redemption, are his ordinances, especially the word, sacraments, and prayer; all which are made effectual to the elect for salvation.

Q. 89. How is the word made effectual to salvation?
A. The Spirit of God maketh the reading, but especially the preaching, of the word, an effectual means of convincing and converting sinners, and of building them up in holiness and comfort, through faith, unto salvation.

Today we have the great privilege of living in a world that offers Christians a wide range of “daily devotionals.” From paper copies to e-readers, Kindle books and digital online resources, the Christian certainly has no excuse to offer for why he is not reading and studying the Word of God.  For many years I have suggested a plan to help students of the Bible to actively engaage in the primary means of grace given by God each week.  If WSC 89 is correct (and it is!) then it seems to me that the best “devotional” to use each week is the preached Word heard on the Lord’s Day.  That is not to say that other material is wrong or unhelpful  It is to emphasize that the preaching of the Word is an effectual means to equip pilgrims on their journey in this world. Indeed, it is the primary means!

In a recent online discussion, I was struck by a single thought:  “What did the people of God do for the first 1600 years of the church without “devotional books” and a personal copy of the Bible?” During that time most people did not have access to the Bible, and if they did, they would not have been able to read it.  Many were illiterate, unable to read the Latinized version of the Scriptures. What did they use to feed their souls?  Simply put, it was the preached Word that they heard each week.  Preaching is, simply put, “the primary means of grace given by God to help His people.”  It is, in fact, more important than a Bible reading plan, a daily devotional book, or other methods.  Again, that is not to say that those things are wrong.  I use a Bible-reading plan, and I encourage others to do so.  However, the preached Word is still the primary means “of convincing and converting sinners, and of building them up in holiness and comfort, through faith, unto salvation.”

The process I suggest is rather simple and born out of an examination of the Westminster Larger Catechism 160 which states:

Q. 160. What is required of those that hear the word preached?
A. It is required of those that hear the word preached, that they attend upon it with diligence, preparation, and prayer; examine what they hear by the Scriptures; receive the truth with faith, love, meekness, and readiness of mind, as the Word of God; meditate, and confer of it; hide it in their hearts, and bring forth the fruit of it in their lives.

There are two categories in my system:  preparation and response. Each week we hear the Word of God preached and, per the instructions of the answer to WLC 160, we are to prepare for it and respond to it. Therefore, our week can be structured as follows:

PREACHING (sowing the seed into your heart):

  • LORD’S DAY (Sunday): AM and PM sermon preached. If you take notes, great.  If not, it doesn’t matter.  Note taking during sermons are not required, but I typically encourage it. That is a decision you will need to make. 

RESPONSE (tending the soil of your heart):

  • MONDAY-WEDNESDAY: Read the passage preached on the Lord’s Day. Review your notes. Look up noteworthy cross references.  Consider one or two applications from the sermon as it applies to your life. Keep a journal of thoughts and other items.  Endeavor to memorize one or two verses that were used in the sermon. Pray for the Spirit to use the preached Word to bring forth fruit in your life. 

PREPARATION (preparing the soil of your heart):

  • THURSDAY-SATURDAY: Read the next passage that will be preached on the Lord’s Day. Begin to ask questions of the text, pray over and through the passage. Jot down observations and highlight issues that you hope to see resolved in the sermon. Pray for the preaching of the Word of God and your pastor as he studies.  Pray for the Spirit to open your mind, eyes, and heart as you prepare for the Word of God preached. 

This process can be done individually as well as in times of family worship. It can be altered to fit your needs in whatever way is helpful.  I simply offer this process as a guideline.

 I suspect that if the people of God utilized something like this suggested process they would be further strengthened and equipped for their service in the Kingdom of God.