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New Horizons

June, 2009: Worship

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Reverence or Joy in Worship?

Again and again we hear it. Some say, "Our worship seems so lifeless! Let's revitalize it by adding guitar and drums!" Others respond, "No! Worship must be marked by reverence!" The first group counters, "But shouldn't it also be marked by joy?"

God says that worship that is genuinely vital—alive and enlivening—will be characterized both by reverence (Heb. 12:28) and by joy (Ps. 100:1–2). Why then do we find ourselves trying to choose between them? Read more

The Beginning and the End of Worship

It is important to say hello and to say good-bye. Words of greeting and farewell are carefully chosen among friends and loved ones. It is no less the case that, when we enter God's presence for worship and then leave, those moments should be marked by appropriate and carefully chosen words.

When we meet publicly with God, he comes with his greeting and welcome. And then, after having worshiped him, we depart with his blessing and assurance that he will go with us. We, in turn, look up with faith to receive his blessing, dedicating ourselves to go with him. These are precious and comforting moments during our week. Read more

The Reading of Scripture in Worship

It may be self-evident that the Scriptures ought to be read. Most Christians, at least since the Reformation, have understood that individuals and families are to read the Bible. The church throughout her history has ordinarily included the reading of Scripture in public worship. However, the reading of Scripture can become a mere formality. Perhaps we need to raise the question: Why read the Scriptures?

Though one may be able to answer this question in regard to private reading (i.e., private devotions, comfort in times of trial), the question of why the church should continue to read the Scriptures during corporate worship may not be so readily answered. The purpose of this article is to review why the Scriptures ought to be read during corporate worship. Read more

Recovering Preachers and Preaching

We live in a day in which many regard preaching, at best, as sharing, not proclamation, and in which the therapist has replaced the preacher. We need to recover both the preaching office and a high view of preaching.

Historically, there was in Protestantism a high view of both the preacher and preaching. It is striking what E. Brooks Holifield says in Theology in America regarding the place of pastor/theologians before the American Civil War. There was a real appetite then for serious theological teaching and preaching, and it was met in the pulpits and in the writings of ministers in parish service. In those earlier years, the theologian was not so much of an "academic" as he was to become in subsequent years, when biblical higher criticism, having ravaged Germany and England, took hold in America and the "academic theologian" replaced the pastor as the leading theological voice. Read more

The Sacraments as Visible Words

Words mean nothing apart from a context, and this is certainly true with the word sacrament. The Roman Catholic Church and confessional Presbyterians both use this term. However, the context of these two theological communities shows that there is a world of difference between them.

For the Roman Catholic Church, sacraments are visible forms of invisible grace—that created grace (even substance) that is infused into the recipient, whether he has faith in Christ or not. Confessional Presbyterians, on the other hand, employ the same term, but mean something quite different by it. According to the Westminster Confession of Faith, sacraments are "holy signs and seals of the covenant of grace" (27.1). Immediately a significant difference emerges: a visible form of God's invisible grace has no historical anchor, whereas a sign and seal of the covenant of grace grounds the sacraments in God's historical dealings with his people. Read more

The Proposed Directory for Worship

Mt. Tom is a beautiful mountain in western Massachusetts. Local hang gliders come there to launch. It's a fascinating sight to see them sail off, down over the trees below, and land on the field at the bottom of the mountain. I remember watching one man as he tested the wind and anxiously waited for the right moment to launch. Others became impatient and urged him to go. I could tell that he wasn't ready, but the pressure of those waiting made him launch. Sure enough! He didn't catch enough wind and landed high in the trees below the launching point. It was a case of waiting so long for the right wind that he was tempted to jump at any breeze.

The Orthodox Presbyterian Church has been seeking to develop a new Directory for Public Worship (DPW) for many years. Godly men have worked hard to develop a new Directory, and it will be considered at our General Assembly, meeting from May 27 to June 3. I am concerned that the length of time invested in this Directory will make us eager to jump, even if the wind is not with us. But unless there are some significant corrections or amendments, I will vote against the new Directory and urge others to do the same. I would like to consider why many think we need this new Directory, what the Directory should be and how it should serve, address some of our fears in the OPC, express a concern for our reputation, and offer some solutions. You can find this proposed Directory at My prayer is that we would be united more deeply in the worship of the true God through Jesus Christ. Read more

In Defense of the Proposed Directory

This month, when the General Assembly meets in Grand Rapids, Michigan, it will resume work on a directory for public worship. Two years ago, the Committee on Revisions presented to the 74th General Assembly its Amended Proposed Revised Version (APRV). This was the product of eighteen years of work by the Committee. At the 2007 and 2008 assemblies, the commissioners spent three full days reviewing the document, paragraph by paragraph. They proposed a variety of amendments. Some were adopted by the Assembly, while others were not.

By the end of the 2008 assembly, work had been completed on the body of the document, the part that is actually part of the Constitution of the OPC. Still to be considered are the suggested forms, which are not part of the Constitution and will be taken up separately. Under the procedure being followed, the next step is to open up the entire document for any final amendments, before voting on whether to send it to the presbyteries for ratification. The main purpose of that final review is to make sure that we haven't added amendments that conflict with one another or with other parts of the book. However, other, more substantive, amendments may also be considered. It should be remembered, though, that the past two assemblies have thoroughly considered, and rejected, several of the proposals that are still being made. Read more

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