Songs of the Holy Spirit

I first met Dr. Hughes Oliphant Old when he knocked on the door of my room at the Erskine College guesthouse to invite me breakfast.  It was no luxurious affair to be sure. We broke our fast at the makeshift cafe inside Kennedy’s Exxon in the sleepy town of Due West, South Carolina.   I had signed up to take my first course in his fledgling, “Institute for Reformed Worship,” entitled “The Psalms as Christian Prayer.”

He seemed rather unremarkable standing in my doorway with his long Calvinesque beard and his frumpy broad brimmed hat.  But little did I know at that first meeting the impact that this giant of a man, scholar, pastor and teacher would have on my life and ministry.

When he would speak of the Psalms his eyes would twinkle and his whole demeanor would become animated.   He loved to refer to the Psalms as the “Songs of the Holy Spirit” and he encouraged poets and musicians to engage in the task of creating new settings for them to be used in private, family and public worship.

So it brings me great delight that my oldest, Isabella is doing just that.  Lord’s Day afternoons often find her hidden away in some quiet place, meditating upon some passage of scripture and setting it in a metrical setting to some old or contemporary hymn tune which captures the ethos of the passage.   She has been posting these on her blog and is working toward the production of a book of these Scripture songs — Songs, indeed, of the Holy Spirit.   Check out her work at her blog under Paradox and Poetry.

 

Art for God’s Sake

Art has tremendous power to shape culture and touch the human heart. Its artifacts embody the ideas and desires of the coming generation. This means that what is happening in the arts today is prophetic of what will happen in our culture tomorrow.  It also means that when Christians abandon the artistic community, we lose a significant opportunity to communicate Christ to our culture. Furthermore, when we settle for the trivial expressions of truth in worship and art, we ourselves are diminished as we suffer a loss of transcendence.  What we need to recover (or possibly discover for the first time) if a full biblical understanding of the arts — not for art’s sake, but for God’s sake.  

Philip Graham Ryken in “Art for God’s Sake”

Turning Point

Today marks a turning point.  It is not lost on me that it occurs on Epiphany.  Today is my last official day as a full time Chaplain with Arkansas Hospice.   For the past four years I have walked with patients, families, nurses, CNAs, social workers, bereavement specialists, DME techs, housekeepers, cooks, managers and hired caregivers through the valley of the shadow of death.

I have seen death and dying, up close and very personally — sorrow and joy, grief and relief, anger and happiness, fear and courage, hardened unbelief and powerful faith, broken and unbreakable families.

I have been privileged to serve with the very best.  I have been changed by these past four years with my beloved coworkers and with the patients and families we served together.  I pray that I have been faithful to the calling articulated by Michael Aureli, founder of Arkansas Hospice, to show:

“the tender mercy of our God whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.” Luke 1:78-79.

I am thankful for the years the Lord has given me in this calling, but now He has given me another calling.  As I continue to serve as pastor of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church in Pottsville, the Lord has also called me to help start a new church in Little Rock.  You can find out more about this new calling at  http://rivercityarp.org and why we are doing this at https://rivercityarp.org/why-do-we-need-another-church/.

Please keep our family in your prayers as we embark on this turning point in our lives.

Not Holy Days, But Helpful Days

At this festive time of the year my Facebook feed is all aTwitter with the intramural Reformed debate over whether observance of Evangelical Feast Days are consistent with or contrary to the principle of “Worship, Reformed According to Scripture.”

The Second Helvetic Confession, authored by Zwingli’s successor, Heinrich Bullinger, notes in XXIV.3 that “if the churches do religiously celebrate the memory of the Lord’s Nativity, Circumcision, Passion, Resurrection, and of his Ascension into heaven, and the sending of the Holy Spirit upon his disciples, according to Christian liberty, we do very well approve of it.”

Bullinger’s important contingency is “according to Christian liberty.”  No doubt he had in mind Romans 14:4-8.

Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand. One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God. For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. (Romans 14:4-8 ESV)

On the other hand, the Westminster Directory for Publick Worship, in an Appendix entitled “Touching Days and Places for Publick Worship” appears to express the matter quite differently.

THERE is no day commanded in scripture to be kept holy under the gospel but the Lord’s day, which is the Christian Sabbath. Festival days, vulgarly called Holy-days, having no warrant in the word of God, are not to be continued.Nevertheless, it is lawful and necessary, upon special emergent occasions, to separate a day or days for publick fasting or thanksgiving, as the several eminent and extraordinary dispensations of God’s providence shall administer cause and opportunity to his people.

A few years ago, Danny Hyde, Pastor of Oceanside Reformed Church, wrote an excellent article on this question entitled “Not Holy, but Helpful: A Case For the Evangelical Feast Days in the Reformed Tradition.”  I recommend that you follow the link above to read the whole article.  It is worth the time.  At the end of the article he draws the following conclusion.

The Reformed family of Protestant Reformation churches affirms that worship is to be done according to the Word of God. What this means today may not be what it meant historically speaking. And so we’ve seen that some of those same churches and theologians who affirmed sola Scriptura and what later came to be known as “the regulative principle,” also affirmed the Christian freedom to celebrate the work of Jesus Christ on the evangelical feast days besides the Lord’s Day and that this was to be done with a view to the edification of the body.