Praying through the Psalms

Praying through the Psalms

Last Sunday we started on a new path during corporate prayer time for Sunday morning services, we have started praying through the Psalms together.

I'm a little late on my promise to post the resources I have been using while praying through the Psalms, but I guess it's always better late than never!

The Psalms guide I use is from Donald Whitney and you can download it here.

Each day there are 5 Psalms you can choose from to pray through.  The idea is that each day you will quickly scan the 5 Psalms for that day and then pick one to focus on and use as a prayer guide.  I will actually be on Day 8 this Sunday (4/22/2018) so you can join in on Day 8 or start from Day 1.

Read More

Set Free For A Reason

In my reading this week, I came across the tragic example of a freedman immediately following the Civil War, who, having grown so accustomed to slavery, petitioned a Mississippi court to be allowed to be enslaved again. Unfortunately, in spiritual terms that very same thing can be done by us, as well--we go right back to the things we have been saved from, either for comfort, or out of uncertainty, or because we believe these things somehow to be better than freedom in Christ. 

As we have worked our way through Galatians, we have discussed what we have seen of freedom and slavery in these passages. In Galatians 5:1, following his example of being born anew to freedom, as children of God's promise, Paul writes this:

For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.

We were set free for a reason, a cause, and that cause is found in Christ. We were not set free that we might slavishly try to re-accomplish our own salvation, nor were we freed to creep right back into bondage to sin (Rom. 6:16). Both of these make a mockery of freedom.

Some translations render Galatians 5:1 as "in the liberty by which Christ has made us free." This rightly makes us consider: what is the point of this liberty for the Christian? The London Baptist Confession, Westminster Confession, and Savoy Declaration all note the end (or goal) of Christian Liberty as "being delivered out of the hands of all our enemies, we might serve the Lord without fear, in holiness and righteousness before Him, all the days of our lives." This puts this freedom into perspective. In a day and age where so many have used the concept of Christian Liberty as an excuse to shrug at our sin, we see it is quite the opposite--we are free to glorify the God who saves. Whereas before we were in the chains of our own pitiful works, we have liberated to be willing servants of the Most High. Where before there was only the desire for what our own corrupted hearts desired, we have been set free to pursue and obey the One who bought us at so great a price!

It is one of the great paradoxes in Scripture--only by becoming free in Christ are we to become true bondservants, slaves to Christ (Rom. 6:18). The freed one is a slave, and the slave, free (1 Cor. 7:22). But this is not the type of bondservice that is done begrudgingly, grimacingly. It is done because we wish to serve, as both co-heirs and the dedicated slaves of the One who saved us from deserved hell and damnation. With hearts changed by God, we willingly serve the King who we know is triumphant and reigning over all things. 

That is the freedom of Christ--the freedom of being changed by God's love and the working of the Holy Spirit to freely come to Jesus as our Savior Lord, and to be enabled to obey God's Word. It is the freedom that can look back on the slavery of rolling in the muck of our own efforts, the slavery of struggling in vain under a Law we could not keep, of the chains of a heart that only wanted to be its own deity, and know to go back to that is to reject the beauty of Christ for the ugliest bondage. May the Holy Spirit keep us and strengthen us in our sanctified service to Christ Jesus. 

Preparing To Hear

Some books are like a pleasant conversation while out for a spring walk; you can saunter along the pages, nodding in agreement and emerging at the index some time later no worse for the wear. Other books, however, are a bit more demanding. They're the ones that jump on your back, make every step a deliberate challenge, and may even deliver a couple of kicks to your midsection when you least expect it.

I have been working through Gospel Worship, by Jeremiah Burroughs, which is just such a brutal, convicting, ultimately treasurable read. Burroughs, a prolific 17th-century English Puritan, had a high regard for both the cause and practice of worshipping our Lord. One of the subjects that continues to come up in his writing is the idea of preparing for worship, including the hearing of God's Word. This passage in particular stopped me cold:

"There must be a preparation of the soul so that, when to come to hear, you may receive the Word of God with all readiness. The soul must be made ready. Acts 17:11: "There were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the Word with all readiness of mind...Their minds were in a fit preparation to receive the Word..."

As I am writing this, it is a pleasant Saturday afternoon. I'm drinking coffee, the house is remarkably quiet, and the arrival of Sunday, the Lord's Day, may seem quite far off just now. But I believe Burroughs is right--there is a preparation that goes into coming to worship, and specifically, in hearing God's Word proclaimed Sunday morning. I was reminded of Exodus 19, which tells us how the sons of Israel were to prepare before coming into the special presence of Almighty God. That still holds true for us today--we don't become a more important class of Christian or somehow more worthy of grace by doing so, but it is still massively important to prepare our hearts and minds for worship of our God. 

Now, the wife and I have three children. That means three times the opportunities for someone to wake up cranky, to not finish their breakfast, to take too long in the shower, to drop-kick a sibling on the stairs, to lose their retainer, and to otherwise generally make life as hard as possible between piling in the van and arriving, by a seeming miracle, on Sunday morning. But I believe that when things are important enough to us, we don't "wave the white flag" and just assume this is how it is going to be--we consciously look at how we can improve how we approach the matter at hand. While understanding life happens, here are several items I examined in terms of preparing for hearing God's Word:

Rest the Night Before. Of course, not everyone's situation is the same; life can hand us any number of circumstances that preclude a restful Saturday evening. But just as we would prepare for any important event with a "good night's sleep", we never want to engage in anything that we know is going to adversely impact what should be of the highest importance. We know that when we're groggy, trying to follow preaching gets much harder. On the Lord's Day, we are preparing to be able to worship our God in a special, amazing way, as rebels pardoned, forgiven, welcomed into the throne room of our God! When we compartmentalize Sunday morning into something that has nothing to do with the rest of the week, then all too often the rest of the week begins to bleed into our Sunday. The Bible has many verses that speak to the importance of continued priority of worship and reverence; pray, that like David, we may say, "I have set the Lord continually before me" (Psalm 16:8)

Adequately Plan Not To Be Rushed. Whomever coined the phrase "no plan survives contact with the enemy" was probably talking about getting small children ready for church. But if every week, we are strolling into church 10 minutes after the start of service, Starbucks cup in hand, have we really planned as if making it to church on time was important? Would we treat our job like that (and how long would we last if we did)? Would we show up late to our wedding or a funeral, apologizing about how long the barista took? Hebrews 10:23-25 talks about "not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another". While this is a directive to not ignore going to church, it also speaks to priorities. Am I valuing 15 minutes of sleep more than assembling in a timely manner with my brothers and sisters in Christ? Am I waking up in enough time to demonstrate where my priorities lie? For many of us, this might mean simply looking at our mornings, and doing a better job of consciously planning on Sundays. Pray that our time is well-used and well-considered in preparing to hear the Word.

Dedicate The Time To The Lord. When life gets crazy, it is so easy to go into spectator/"warm body" mode on a Sunday morning. Yes, we made it to church, but our mind is running with what we have planned for Monday, if we added everything to the grocery list, maybe checking our social media notifications. Maybe we're tired, maybe we're fussy, but we have checked out. John 4:24 reminds us "those who worship God must worship Him in Spirit and truth". God doesn't receive worship by people whose hearts are far away, and who are engaged in something else entirely; we have to focus, jump in, and be involved. Take the time to pray in regards to what you are going to hear from the Bible. Yes, there are Sundays where we are really struggling, and may feel as if we are in the middle of the spiritual Mojave Desert. But we engage knowing that what God has done for poor sinners trumps how we feel in the moment. Pray that the Lord would give you the wisdom and focus to hear and respond in all worship and especially in the hearing of the Word.

Christian, if you are struggling with these things, you are not alone. All of us can benefit from a thorough review of how we handle the Lord's Day and preparation for the same. In speaking of coming together to worship, Burroughs writes, "So let us look upon God in His excellency and glory and have high thoughts of Him". May we pray for the wisdom and encouragement to do the same in hearing the precious Word of our Lord.

Singing: The Response of the Redeemed

If I’m awake, I have a song in my head.  Sometimes it stays in there and other times it comes out. There have been a few times when I’m singing and I don't even know it. Just ask my wife! Singing and music in general have always been a part of my life because of my father. His love for singing and music had an influence on me even at a young age. His passion for worship music became my passion as I got older and I’m extremely thankful for that. 

But, maybe you would say singing isn’t your forte. Maybe you would even say singing during a worship service makes you feel uncomfortable. For the men out there, maybe you think congregational singing isn’t very masculine. Or you may simply be indifferent towards singing on Sunday morning. Whatever your idea of worship through singing might be, know this: responding to God through singing for who He is and what He has done is not reserved only for the talented; it’s granted to the redeemed. If you have been set free from the bondage of sin through the gospel, then singing in worship to God should abound! 

“I can’t sing!” I’ve heard this countless times. If you’ve caught yourself saying or thinking this, you probably mean, compared to your favorite singer or the woman who sings harmony behind you at church, your voice doesn’t quite match up. If you can physically speak, you can sing. Not only can you sing, but God created you to sing! Of course, some sing better than others. However, if we perceive singing aloud on Sunday morning as reserved only for the “gifted,” then we misunderstand the purpose of worship through singing. God is more interested in the posture of your heart than He is with your ability to match a certain pitch.

Now, we say often at Restoration Church that there are many ways that we respond to God in worship.  We respond to God in worship through the reading of His Word. We worship God by aligning ourselves with Him in prayer. We can even worship God by keeping children in the nursery. There’s a host of ways we can worship on Sunday morning.We don’t want to limit worship to only singing. However, I want to point you to 3 reasons why I believe we should be compelled to sing as the redeemed body of Christ.

1. We should sing because God Himself sings.

The more I think about this, the more it gives me chills! The Master of the universe, the only holy God, Yahweh sings! How incredible is that? I often wonder what His singing must sound like. It must be the most powerful and beautiful sound we will ever hear. Not only does He sing, but He sings over those he redeems! Zephaniah 3:17 says, “The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty One who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; He will quiet you by His love; He will exult over you with loud singing.” All throughout the Old Testament, Israel consistently disobeyed the Lord. Because they rejected the Lord, judgment was headed for them by way of enemy nations (Zephaniah 1-2). How can the holy God exult over a disobedient and obstinate people with singing? God made a covenant with them—one that would not be broken. God, in His infinite mercy, chose to rescue the Israelites from their enemies. Not only did He turn away His wrath, but He was in the midst of them easing their every fear. This is a foreshadow of what God would do and did do for us through Jesus on the cross. Because we rejected God in our sin, we were the objects of His wrath. Judgement was coming for us. But God mercifully and graciously provided salvation through Jesus so that we could be restored! There was once wrath stored towards us. Now, God sings melodies of grace over us. He sees us. He’s with us. And He sings over us. Gifted singer or not, this should motivate you to sing with every once of your being!

2. We should sing because our soul needs it.

We are a forgetful people. As we walk through life, there are hardships, temptations, and trials that shift our attentions and affections away from this gospel. God knew this to be true of Israel as well. In Deuteronomy 31, God commanded Moses to write a song to teach the people that would remind them of His goodness and faithfulness. “They will turn to other gods and serve them and despise me and break my covenant. And when many evils and troubles have come upon them, this song shall confront them as a witness (for it will live unforgotten in the mouths of their offspring).” Singing the truth of God’s Word helps us remember the character of God and the goodness of the gospel when confronted with sin. Not only does our soul need to sing when confronted with sin, but also when we’re in the depths of suffering. Jesus promised us that we will face trouble (John 16:33). Therefore, where there was once indescribable joy, sorrow seeps in. Where there was calming peace, anxiety will abound. These are the times when singing the truth of God’s Word feels impossible or even pointless. However, when our vocal cords are constricted by suffocating circumstances, we must sing. King David went through plenty of hardship. In Psalm 42, David is driven to such distress that he writes, “My tears have been my food day and night.” It is in this same passage that he writes and sings, “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.” He continues by saying, “My soul is cast down within me, therefore I remember you from the land of Jordan and of Hermon and from Mount Mizar.” When our souls are panting for satisfaction, our hearts reeling with pain, or we are simply indifferent, we must remember the goodness and faithfulness of God. Reading the Word and communing with God in prayer are disciplines that remind us of the character of God. I believe singing is a discipline that does the same. Gospel truth coupled with a melody leaves a lasting imprint on our hearts. May we not only think of singing as what we do to proclaim how we feel about God. May we also sing loudly about who God is and what he has done for us in Christ. It is the latter that guides us when our feelings are fickle. 

3. We should sing because our neighbor needs it.

If I’m honest, there are some Sundays when it is hard to sing. There have been some Sundays when I come without reminding myself who I am in Christ. I allow my feelings to lead me instead of the truth of the gospel. There are some Sundays when I have come out of mere obligation instead of a deep joy and holy anticipation to encounter the greatness of God. I know I’m not alone. We all struggle at times to aim our worship towards Jesus because our worship is entangled in countless other gods. It is in these times when we need to hear each other sing. One of my favorite times during our Sunday morning gathering is being able to back away from the mic, stop playing my guitar and hear the church sing! Ephesians 5:19 says we should “be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms, and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart.” We sing not only to praise God but to encourage each other. Our singing should point each other to Christ. We need to hear each other sing. 

 

- Stephen Krumalis

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reformation Day: Do Not Squander

1521: A single German scholar, facing the assembled might of both church and state, is ordered to recant his positions against the many corruptions and false teachings of the Roman Catholic Church. Before the entire assembly, he replies that he cannot recant, as his conscience is held fast by God’s Word. He will be excommunicated, a hunted man, kidnapped by his own supporters, living in disguise for a year as a knight to avoid being caught and killed by those would see him and this growing movement crushed.

1536: Captured after years of smuggling his English Holy Bible translation into his native land, so that his countrymen could finally read God’s Word for themselves, just before being strangled to death and burnt, a man prays that the Lord will open the eyes of the King of England to God’s truth.

1555: A defiant leader of the English Reformation is about to be burnt at as part of “Bloody” Queen Mary’s purges. Disdaining the flames, he tells his fellow martyr, “We shall this day light such a candle, by God's grace, in England, as I trust shall never be put out.”

1660: A tinker, faced with the choice of either stopping his preaching of the gospel, or going to prison, tells a court he will not comply with their demands. He will spend over 12 years imprisoned, but in all that time, he never stops preaching or writing concerning God's Word and the Christian life, including a book that will become the best-selling book of all time next to the Bible itself.

1730: A young French woman, just recently married, is imprisoned for refusing to renounce her Protestant faith. She is only 19 years old, and will spend the next 38 years in prison. She will be released, finding that both her father and husband have died during her long sentence. Yet in all those years, she holds firm to her biblical faith, even writing and encouraging many others who find themselves similarly oppressed.

We have described the lives of five unique individuals above: Martin Luther, William Tyndale, Hugh Latimer, John Bunyan, and Marie Durand. Each of them were part of different circumstances and times, and each suffered in a unique way, but all of them did it for much the same reason: the idea that men and women would be free to know the truths of God’s Word, would be able to learn the Scriptures for themselves, and would be able to hear biblical teaching and preaching. Each of these individuals held tightly to this great, recovered, Scriptural truth of the Reformation: The just shall live by grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone, as related by Scripture alone. And this wonderful truth is fully worth living a life consciously dedicated in every season and adversity to the glory of God alone.

The truth that was fought and paid for so dearly by the saints and martyrs through the ages is eternal, as it is the truth as defined by our Lord and Creator. The ability to study and share God’s Word is never something that is to be taken for granted—a fact that one look at the persecuted church around the world today will readily tell us. Our generation of the church can look to these faithful witnesses to remind us the preciousness of being able to have God’s Word, and the urgency that the message of salvation be shared with a dying world.

The 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation is a good time to examine ourselves in relation to how we treat God’s Word and the gospel therein. Do our lives reflect a love for it? Is it compartmentalized to 90 minutes on Sunday, or is it something much more than that? Do we plead we “have no time for it”? Do we acknowledge that if it is worth dying for, it is beyond certainty worth living for? Let us study and share the Word, living it out daily, embracing our Savior’s call to make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:18-20), and not squander the incredible freedom that God has graced us with by the willing sacrifice of so many valiant saints.

So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. -Romans 10:17