Reading

"How Can I Say What I'm Feeling?

Dr. David Murray, on his blog Head Heart Hand, offers some very good reasons why the Psalms are so impactful in a Christian's life. The whole piece is worthwhile reading as we think of that age-old dilemma of expressing how we feel about something.

Whether it is feelings of loss or despair, loneliness or fear, joy or thanksgiving... all who come to the Psalms discover that the words which capture our experiences and emotions are already composed for us by the One who identifies with us in our suffering and thanksgiving!

"Despite hundreds of new Christian songs, of every possible genre, being composed every year, the ancient Psalms are experiencing somewhat of a revival in various places. Why?

I believe the main reason is their therapeutic value; in a day of so many disordered emotions, worshippers are discovering how the Psalms minister so powerfully to their emotional lives."

...

The Psalms express the full range of human emotions
"The Psalms contain an incomparably rich mixture of extreme and varied emotions: grief and joy, doubt and confidence, loneliness and fellowship, despair and hope, fear and courage, defeat and victory, complaint and praise, etc.

Is it any wonder that Calvin called the Psalms “an Anatomy of all Parts of the Soul”? As he explained: “There is not an emotion of which anyone can be conscious that is not here represented as in a mirror. Or rather, the Holy Spirit has here drawn to life all the griefs, sorrows, fears, doubts, hopes, cares, perplexities, in short, all the distracting emotions with which the minds of men are wont to be agitated.”

Read the whole piece online here: http://headhearthand.org/blog/2012/02/13/therapeutic-praise/

Rollercoaster photo credit: Matt McK on Unsplash

"I Believe in Jesus Christ": J.I. Packer on the Touchstone of Christianity

In his simple explanation of the Apostles' Creed, Dr. J.I. Packer writes,

"When [the creed] called God "maker of heaven and earth," it parted company with Hinduism and Eastern faiths generally; now, by calling Jesus Christ God's only Son, [our creed] parts company with Judaism and Islam and stands quite alone. This claim for Jesus is both the touchstone of Christianity and the ingredient that makes it unique."

It's helpful for us to remember this truth as the touchstone of our faith and the very thing that makes Christianity such a vital religion with a message of truth and life for all who will listen! 

Cities are For Lonely People -- Are You Lonely?

Quick thought: The City of Vancouver (and cities more broadly) is grappling with the problem of loneliness and isolation. Perhaps you're experiencing this problem in a very personal way - if so, you're not alone in feeling awfully alone. Some call it a "loneliness crisis" and it's worth exploring the reasons why this is happening. 

Our sermon series through the letters to Thessalonian church have been prompting me to think a lot about the way that the love experienced within a Christian church represents such a wonderful expression of God's love to us. When you come to worship services and join us for Bible studies and make a point of devoting some of your time to the gatherings we initiate, you will discover this rich gift of Christian fellowship. 

One Great Article to Get You Started: https://www.citylab.com/life/2017/06/why-a-city-block-can-be-one-of-the-loneliest-places-on-earth/531852/

“One guy said the worst invention there ever was the garage door opener,” Ms. Wightman said over lunch recently. “It allowed people to go into their homes without having to talk to their neighbours.”

Vancouver has had a reputation as one of the most aloof, least friendly cities in Canada for years now. That beyond the superficial smiles a visitor or newcomer to town will get, there isn’t much.
— "Alone, So Alone" by Gary Mason (https://www.theglobeandmail.com/opinion/alone-so-alone-in-vancouver/article4201039/)

Introducing You to the Westminster Standards

In "Welcome to a Reformed Church" Rev. Daniel Hyde offers a helpful intro to the confessional standards of our congregation:

"The Westminster Standards -- the Westminster Confession of Faith (1647), the Westminster Larger Catechism (1648), and the Westminster Shorter Catechism (1648) -- were written during the brief period of Puritan ascendancy in mid-seventeenth-century England. The so-called "Long Parliament" dealt with the question of what form the English church would take. In January 1643, Parliament met to abolish the office of bishop, which practically ruled the Church of England. This led to the calling of an assembly of 121 theologians and elders ('divines') in July 1643. While Parliament expected a revision of the Church of England's Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion in order to unite the kingdoms of England, Scotland, and Ireland, the delegates to the assembly came to see that something more was needed. In the summer of 1644, a committee was created to write a confession of the united Reformed faith in Great Britain."

 

photo credit: Photo by Luca Micheli on Unsplash

Why Do We Gather For Worship?

Michael Horton, Professor of Systematic Theology and Apologetics at Westminster Seminary California writes:

Whenever we gather for public worship, it is because we have been summoned. That is what “church” means: ekklesia, “called out.” …[Public worship] is a society of those who have been chosen, redeemed, called, justified, and are being sanctified until one day they will finally be glorified in heaven. We gather each Lord’s Day not merely out of habit, social custom, or felt needs but because God has chosen this weekly festival as a foretaste of the everlasting Sabbath day that will be enjoyed fully at the marriage supper of the Lamb. God has called us out of the world and into his marvelous light: That is why we gather.

(Taken from Michael Horton’s A Better Way, p.24)

Our Central Focus Upon the Lord

Reflections on the Psalms: Our Central Focus

By Paul A.

The Book of Psalms is situated in the very middle of the canon of Holy Scripture, just as worship of our Lord is to be the central focus of everything in our lives. The writers of the Psalms express a wide variety emotions and sentiments that range from worship and adoration of the Lord to laments and seeming despair to imprecatory prayers calling for God’s judgment against their enemies. But regardless of my current emotional state and the content of the individual songs, I have found the Psalms to always provide the same things – peace, encouragement, and focus from our worldly woes and cares put back upon the Lord where they belong.

In the Psalms we also discover that the Lord has provided the means for our worship to be found in the same place; the center of His revealed Word to us. Coming from an evangelical background where everything from hymns to contemporary songs were sung along with organs, pianos, and every form of sensual engagement from coloured spotlights to smoke machines, I find the simplicity of singing the Psalms with only the voices of His special beloved creatures stands in stark but beautiful contrast. Scripture says that nothing good comes from us, that all our deeds are as filthy rags. Pondering that, how can we possibly manifest worship to Him that would not only be pleasing to Him, but be authentic and orthodox, without stain or blemish? The answer is to use the gift that He has given us – His special revelation, which reveals Himself, His mind, His ways, and His very nature of being. When we sing the Psalms back to Him, we are absolutely certain we are singing truth, devoid of any theological error, imagination, or man-made presupposition. If we truly believe Scripture is sufficient to equip us unto all good works, then indeed God’s Holy Songbook is all we require to sing His praises. Just as the crowns awarded us will be cast down to Him before the throne, we likewise cast sacrifices of praise to Him by reflecting back what we know to be Holy. When we sing the Psalms, we come confidently to His throne with the only sacrifices of praise worthy of Him – His very Word.

On the Wisdom and Value of the Creeds of the Christian Church

Dr Michael Horton asks an important question over at the Core Christianity website:

If the Creeds of the Christian Church aren’t infallible (being without the possibility of error), then why on earth would we use them?

His answer is illustrative in many ways! In particular, Dr. Horton writes,

“I just believe the Bible” is no defense against cults, superstitions, apostasy, and heresy, since nearly every sect for the last two thousand years has claimed the Bible for support. The answer is not to make the church’s teachers infallible interpreters of Scripture. Nor to ignore the church’s teachers, but to have the humility to recognize that “iron sharpens iron” and that it takes the wisdom and insight of many interpreters over many centuries to help us to see our blind spots. Only a fool would ignore the accumulated wisdom of nearly twenty centuries.

Are the creeds infallible? No, but the universal confession of the whole church since its beginning, despite other divisions, is that the Bible clearly teaches that the affirmations we find in the Apostles’, Nicene, Chalcedonian, and Athanasian creeds are essential for our salvation.
— Michael Horton, Core Christianity

Visit the Core Christianity website to learn more!

Photo by Gustavo Belemmi on Unsplash

The Psalter and its Counterparts in our Culture

Writing in the New Yorker, James Wood offers us an interesting take on the contemporary place that the Book of Common Prayer has in our society.

The words persist, but the belief they vouchsafe has long gone. A loss, one supposes—and yet, paradoxically, the words are, in the absence of belief, as richly usable as they were three hundred and fifty years ago. All at once, it seems, they are full and empty. They comfort, disappoint, haunt, irritate, disappear, linger.

The whole piece is worth a read here but it got me thinking about the ways that the Psalter (the 150 Psalms) are similarly looked upon in our contemporary culture. Certain phrases and snippets are printed onto mugs or used in funerals or on condolence cards but our neighbours (Canadian society more broadly) have largely left behind the beliefs which undergird and enliven the Psalms.

As with the Book of Common Prayer and the King James Bible, the Psalter in particular has had a profound impact on the literary and artistic culture that we have inherited. Nevertheless, it is increasingly a foreign and off-putting text which is, in the memorable phrase of James Wood, “full and empty”.

When we faith-full-y sing the Psalms in public worship and read the Psalms together, we are brought into a liturgy of sanctification that transforms us.

While our congregation has never made use of the Book of Common Prayer in a formal manner - and many would be quite unfamiliar with it - the theological content and the manner of expressing our heartfelt repentance for sin, our profound awareness of God’s glory and majesty, and our faithful reception of the mercies of God shown to us in Jesus Christ all find beautiful expression in the phrases and responses of the Book of Common Prayer. And the BCP derives much of its scriptural basis from the 150 Psalms. And where the Word is present, the Lord’s work is continued in us!

Thanks to Denisse Leon for the cover photo on Unsplash

What makes the doctrine of Definite Atonement so indispensable?

“Did Jesus make salvation possible for all or did he actually save his people from their sins?”

That is the profoundly important question that Dr. Michael Horton took up in his plenary session at the 2019 Westminster Seminary Faculty Conference in Escondido, CA on January 19, 2019.

Watch Dr. Michael Horton's plenary session from the 2019 Faculty Conference here: https://wscal.edu/resourc…/a-real-atonement-for-real-sinners

I (Pastor Norm), was in attendance at this conference and was tremendously blessed in my heart and soul by Dr. Horton’s message. We were richly fed from the Word of God concerning the Lord’s eternal plan of salvation for his people and the indispensable nature of the doctrine of the definite atonement.

This doctrine, contained in the teachings of the Christian church throughout the centuries and featured in our Reformed and Presbyterian confessions, is also known as the doctrine of the limited atonement (focusing on the actual # of the redeemed who have been bought with a price by our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ).

May the LORD nourish your heart and soul through His glorious ministry of grace and kindness to you in Jesus Christ our Good Shepherd who has laid down his life for his sheep.

Thank you to Westminster Seminary California for making this video available for the building up of Christ’s Church!

Thank you to Mingheras Cosmin on Unsplash for the most appropriate photo!