Beyond Style Wars: Recovering the Substance of Worship

Last Sunday, when the members of our young church gathered for two services, more than three hundred people attended. Seventy eager believers crowded into our new-members class. Worship that day was what most of us would call formal: the congregation stood to receive God's blessing from the minister, sat for prayers (which included a public confession of sin and declaration of pardon), heard God's law and gospel proclaimed, and received Christ in the Lord's Supper. People sang from the Psalter and from a selection of great traditional hymns. They also came in rows to the Lord's Table (we celebrate communion weekly). They saw their sinfulness in the mirror, met with Christ in Word and sacrament, and received assurance that they were God's justified children, robed in his righteousness and sent out in gratitude to love God and neighbor. All these things—from hymn singing to preaching to communion—are what they expect every week when they come to church. They eagerly anticipate worshiping in a ... Read more

Jesus' Redeeming Work

If you ask people on what ground they base their hope of eternal salvation, their answers will fall into one of three categories: Jesus (what he did) Jesus (what he did) plus me (my qualifications) Me (I'm trying my best; I'm as good as most people) Sadly, most answers fall into categories two and three. The good news, however, is that something has happened, has been done, to provide the needed foundation for our salvation. In human history, a man who was also God was crucified, died, was buried, rose again, and ascended into heaven—all for our salvation. What Jesus Christ accomplished is, all by itself, once and for all, the ground of the sinner's redemption! The apostle Peter emphasized this central truth, based on God's promise of salvation as found in the revelation of the Old Testament, when he preached on Pentecost, as recorded in the second chapter of the book of Acts. The Importance of Jesus' Redeeming Work In his sermon, Peter said, "What you're seeing here today is the ... Read more

Children of the Covenant in the Worship of God

A hush spread through the beautiful sanctuary as the congregation waited with expectation to hear the reading of the Scriptures. The pastor had just finished his prayer asking God to illumine the preaching of his Word. Suddenly a cry echoed across the rows of pews: three-year-old Joey Callahan was protesting loudly at the "shushing" of his mother as all three hundred pairs of eyes in the congregation riveted their gaze on the young family. All Christian families eventually face the decision of whether or not to keep their small children in the worship service of their local congregation. Most of us have been distracted by children like Joey. Many parents decide that their children should remain in the nursery or in "junior church" to avoid these embarrassing and disruptive situations. However, perhaps it is time to reevaluate the attitude of the church toward its youngest family members. The presence of children in the worship services of the local congregation is important to the health of the church. We ... Read more

Reaching the Karamojong in Uganda

"There is a vast plain to the north where I have sometimes seen, in the morning sun, the smoke of a thousand villages where no missionary has ever been." So said Robert Moffat, a nineteenth-century missionary to South Africa, to his son-in-law, David Livingstone. Like that plain in South Africa, Karamoja is also a vast plain, located in northeast Uganda. It is the home of the Karamojong, a people proud of their traditions, religion, and Nilotic heritage. Life for the Karamojong has, for the most part, remained unchanged for thousands of years. Western technology, medicine, dress, culture, and Christianity, found in varying degrees throughout Uganda, have made virtually no inroads among the Karamojong. Geographically, ethnically, and politically, Karamoja is, for all practical purposes, a country within a country. For better or for worse, the land and its people remain a vestige of precolonial Africa. The Divine Right to Cattle The plains of Karamoja are well populated. From Kadam Ridge, where we ... Read more

Training Ministers in Japan

As we celebrate the first anniversary of our return to Japan, we give thanks to the Lord for a year full of his blessings on this new missionary service to Christ and the Reformed Church in Japan (RCJ). With grateful hearts, we introduce to the readers of New Horizons the ministry of Kobe Reformed Theological Seminary (Kobe RTS), where I have begun teaching biblical studies. The History of the Seminary Kobe RTS was founded in 1947, a year after the founding of the RCJ. However, the roots of both go back before the Second World War, which ended in 1945. The founding twelve congregations of the RCJ, before the war, had been part of the Christian Church in Japan. The Southern Presbyterian (PCUS) Mission to Japan owned and operated Kobe Central Theological Seminary until the war forced its president, William McIlwaine (elder brother of the late OP missionary to Japan, Heber McIlwaine), to leave Japan and entrust the seminary management to Minoru Okada, a professor of New Testament and systematic ... Read more