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Wednesday, April 26, 2017

A tiny flower in the remote forest

To my dear sister in Christ,

I happened to find a tiny, little flower in the remote forest.

My dear, I know that you are living 
in a small, obscure and restricted place.
<Yes, and I don't have freedom to move.>

You are barely standing,
by your little, sensitive root
and your slender, delicate stem.
<So, I plead you, o rough winds, stay away from me.>

O, how beautiful you are!
Your whole tiny presence is a living reflection

of the indescribable beauty of our Creator.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Let's go back to the basics of Christian Worship! : The beauty and simplicity of the Regulative Principle of Worship

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                                    "Gospel" Hula Dance

                                 "Gospel" Hula Dance

From when has our holy altar been degraded into a mere human theatrical stage? Who has robbed the glory of God in the midst of the sanctuary where only and only He is to be worshiped and paid attention to? Lo, paganism invasion! O impudent human-centeredness! O, may God give mercy upon us!

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Kevin DeYoung, THE FREEDOM OF THE REGULATIVE PRINCIPLE @ The Gospel Coalition(source)

Even though I grew up in a Reformed church, until seminary I was one of the multitude of Christians who had never heard of the regulative principle. It’s not been at the core of my identity. But over the years I’ve come to appreciate the regulative principle more and more.

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Simply put, the regulative principle states that “the acceptable way of worshiping the true God is instituted by himself and so limited by his own revealed will” (WCF 21.1). In other words, corporate worship should be comprised of those elements we can show to be appropriate from the Bible. 

The regulative principles says, “Let’s worship God as he wants to be worshiped.” At its worst, this principle leads to constant friction and suspicion between believers. Christians beat each other up trying to discern exactly where the offering should go in the service or precisely which kinds of instruments have scriptural warrant. When we expect the New Testament to give a levitical lay out of the one liturgy that pleases God, we are asking the Bible a question it didn’t mean to answer. It is possible for the regulative principle to become a religion unto itself.

But the heart of the regulative principle is not about restriction. It is about freedom.

1. Freedom from cultural captivity. When corporate worship is largely left to our own designs we quickly find ourselves scrambling to keep up with the latest trends. The most important qualities become creativity, relevance, and newness. But of course, over time (not much time these days), what was fresh grows stale. We have to retool in order to capture the next demographic. Or learn to be content with settling in as a Boomer church or Gen X church.

Where are all the young people, Yoido Full Gospel Church?
a youth gathering at a certain mega church (source)

2. Freedom from constant battles over preferences. The regulative principles does not completely eliminate the role of opinion and preference. Even within a conservative Reformed framework, worship leaders may disagree about musical style, transitions, volume, tempo, and many other factors. Conflict over preferences will remain even with the regulative principle. 

But it should be mitigated. I remember years ago at a different church sitting in a worship planning session where people were really good at coming up with new ideas for the worship service. Too good in fact. We opened one service with the theme song from Cheers. Another service on Labor Day had people come up in their work outfits and talk about what they do. Everyone had an idea that seemed meaningful to them. The regulative principle wouldn’t have solved all our problems, but it would have been a nice strainer to catch some well-intentioned, but goofy ideas.

3. Freedom of conscience. Coming out of the Catholic church with its host of extra biblical rituals, newly established Protestant churches had to figure out how to worship in their own way. Some were comfortable keeping many of the elements of the Catholic Mass. Others associated those elements with a false religious system. They didn’t want to go back to the mess of rites they left behind, even if by themselves some rites didn’t seem all that harmful.

This was the dynamic that made the regulative principle so important. Reformed Christians said in effect, “We don’t want to ask our church members to do anything that would violate their consciences.” Maybe bowing here or a kiss there could be justified by some in their hearts, but what about those who found it idolatrous? Should they be asked to do something as an act of worship that Scripture never commands and their consciences won’t allow? This doesn’t mean Christians will like every song or appreciate every musical choice. But at least with the regulative principle we can come to worship knowing that nothing will be asked of us except that which can be shown to be true according to the Word of God.

4. Freedom to be cross cultural. It’s unfortunate most people probably think worship according to the regulative principle is the hardest to transport to other cultures. And this may be true if the regulative principle is mistakenly seen to dictate style as well as substance. But at its best, the regulative principle means we have simple services with singing, praying, reading, preaching, and sacraments–the kinds of services whose basic outline can “work” anywhere in the world.

5. Freedom to focus on the center. Usually when talking about corporate worship I don’t even bring up the regulative principle. It is unknown to many and scary to others. So I try to get at the same big idea from a different angle. I’ll say something like this: “What do we know they did in their Christian worship services in the Bible? We know they sang the Bible. We know that preached the Bible. We know they prayed the Bible. We know they read the Bible. We know they saw the Bible in the sacraments. We dont see dramas or pet blessings or liturgical dance numbers. 

So why wouldn’t we want to focus on everything we know they did in their services? Why try to improve on the elements we know were pleasing to God and practiced in the early church?” In other words, the regulative principle gives us the freedom to unapologetically to go back to basics. And stay there.

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Sunday, April 23, 2017

Longing for Heaven: Puritan Prayer



I live here as a fish in a vessel of water,
      only enough to keep me alive,
  but in heaven I shall swim in the ocean.

Here I have a little air in me to keep me breathing,
  but there I shall have sweet and fresh gales;

Here I have a beam of sun to lighten my darkness,
  a warm ray to keep me from freezing;
 yonder I shall live in light and warmth for ever.

My natural desires are corrupt and misguided,
  and it is thy mercy to destroy them;
My spiritual longings are of thy planting,
  and thou wilt water and increase them;
Quicken my hunger and thirst after
    the realm above.

Here I can have the world,
  there I shall have thee in Christ;

Here is a life of longing and prayer,
  there is assurance without suspicion,
    asking without refusal;

Here are gross comforts, more burden
    than benefit,
  there is joy without sorrow,
    comfort without suffering,
    love without inconstancy,
    rest without weariness.

Give me to know that heaven is all love,
  where the eye affects the heart,
    and the continual viewing of thy beauty
    keeps the soul in continual transports
      of delight.

Give me to know that heaven is all peace,
  where error, pride, rebellion, passion
    raise no head.

Give me to know that heaven is all joy,
  the end of believing, fasting, praying,
    mourning, humbling, watching,
      fearing, repining;

And lead me to it soon.

So be it, Lord; Thy throne shall stand and rule and grow forever!

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1. The day thou gavest, Lord, is ended,
The darkness falls at Thy behest;
To Thee our morning hymns ascended,
Thy praise shall hallow now our rest.

2. We thank Thee that Thy Church unsleeping,
While earth rolls onward into light,
Through all the world her watch is keeping,
And rests not now by day or night.

3. As o'er each continent and island
The dawn leads on another day,
The voice of prayer is never silent,
Nor dies the strain of praise away.

4. The sun, that bids us rest, is waking
Our brethren 'neath the western sky,
And hour by hour fresh lips are making
Thy wondrous doings heard on high.

5. So be it, Lord; Thy throne shall never,
Like earth's proud empires, pass away:
But stand, and rule, and grow for ever,
Till all Thy creatures own Thy sway.


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by John Ellerton (1826-1893)

Monday, April 17, 2017

O GOD All-Sufficient! : Puritan Prayer


Thou hast made and upholdest all things
      by the word of thy power;
  darkness is thy pavilion,
  thou walkest on the wings of the wind;

  all nations are nothing before thee;
  one generation succeeds another,
  and we hasten back to the dust;

  the heavens we behold will vanish away
    like the clouds that cover them,
  the earth we tread on will dissolve
    as a morning dream;

But thou, unchangeable and incorruptible,
  art for ever and ever,
  God over all, blessed eternally.
Infinitely great and glorious art thou.

We are thy offspring and thy care.
Thy hands have made and fashioned us.
Thou hast watched over us with
    more than parental love,
    more than maternal tenderness.

Thou hast holden our soul in life,
  and not suffered our feet to be moved.
Thy divine power has given us all things
  necessary for life and godliness.

Let us bless thee at all times and forget not
    how thou hast
  forgiven our iniquities,
  healed our diseases,
  redeemed our lives from destruction,
  crowned us with lovingkindness and
    tender mercies,
  satisfied our mouths with good things,
  renewed our youth like the eagle’s.

May thy Holy Scriptures
  govern every part of our lives,
  and regulate the discharge of all our duties,
  so that we may adorn thy doctrine

    in all things.