Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Geoffrey R. Kirkland l Associate Pastor CCC

Book Review of:

Ross, Allen P. Recalling the Hope of Glory: Biblical Worship from the Garden to the New Creation (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2006).

Without the life of the worshipper, the act of worship is

worthless” (337). This pithy statement aptly summarizes the

phenomenal work by Ross on biblical worship. I found myself

reading this book with a pen in hand, underlining in almost every paragraph, and even blogging numerous quotes from the book. In all, this may well be one of the best books I’ve read on a biblical theology of worship. In this brief review, I will note a brief summary of the book, give a few points which struck me afresh, and then raise a question or two which Ross raised in my mind.

The subtitle of Ross’s work is biblical worship from the garden to the new creation and this is precisely what Ross accomplishes. He traces the theme of biblical worship from creation in the Garden of Eden to perfect worship in glory face to face with God Himself. Within this tome, Ross incorporated chapters on who God is—his holiness, his transcendence, and his glory—which instilled in my mind the greatness and the power of the God that I worship. Furthermore, part 3 of this book summarized the development of worship in the ANE pagan world. It talked about pagan religions, religious systems, and various forms of worship among those religions.

Perhaps one of the best things about Ross’s work was the scholastic emphasis in the book—it was heavily researched and footnoted—yet worded and compiled in such a way that the newest Christian could understand. It took large topics such as the Tabernacle, its worship, its furnishings and summarized the meaning of it all in a matter of a few pages. This was extremely helpful in my understanding. Also, Ross talked about historical information such as the rise of synagogue worship, early churches, early religious sects (e.g. Pharisees, Sadducees, etc) which only enhanced my understanding of the biblical text.

As far as some points which struck me afresh I will only note a few. First, chapter 11 on the sacrifices in Leviticus clarified much for me in my understanding of what the sacrifices were all about and how they each played a crucial part in the worship life of the Israelite worshipper. Ross has a way of succinctly summarizing the offerings and bringing them to life in the mind of the reader. Second, at the end of nearly every section, Ross transitioned from the historical, cultural, geographical, sacrificial discussion to delineate a few applications. I found these applications to be very helpful and even insightful as I preach from the Old Testament and finding these application principles from ancient Israel. Third, the whole section on the use of the Psalms in the worship of Israel was helpful in my understanding of how some of the psalms specifically fit into the corporate worship of Israel. Fourth and finally, his final section on “basic principles for more glorious worship” was a superb summary of the book and also a practical guide for allowing worship to be more lofty and transcendent as I lead our church week by week in the music part of worship. If there is one principle Ross imprinted on my heart it is that worship is a response to the holiness, transcendence, and glory of God displayed in the life-commitment of the worshipper to love, serve, obey, and magnify God with all of life.

Perhaps the only question raised in my mind from Ross’s work was how to practically flesh some of these excellent principles out in week to week worship gatherings. Though the last chapter delineated some practical principles, for me, at least, it would have been useful to hear some of his thoughts as to the implementation of it in local congregational gatherings. Granted, the focus of the book was not so much the practical outworkings of worship as to giving a biblical theology of worship—which is precisely what he accomplished.

I have already shared some quotes with friends, family, the “blogosphere,” and will recommend that our Elder Board read through this book together after we finish our current study. I think Ross aids the Christian by giving such a lofty view of God and the absolute life-commitment of obedience that the worshipper must give to this Holy God in worship. I’ll conclude with one quote which impacted me greatly:

“The heart of the believer should race with anticipation for that day in

glory when praise and worship will be so magnificent. But until then, we may draw inspiration from these visions of the hope of glory as the Holy Spirit continually draws us into the presence of God. Among other things we learn that praise for our God and Savior will be, and must now be, boundless, endless, universal, majestic, and devout. True apprehension of the glory of the LORD is now and always will be overwhelming—devout worshippers fall before him in wonder and surrender” (487).

Friday, December 26, 2008

"Without the life of the worshipper, the act of worship is worthless"
(Allen P. Ross, Recalling the Hope of Glory, 337).

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

“What God’s Holiness Demanded His Grace Provided”

The mind’s musing upon this adage provokes worship. I’m currently reading a book where this line is penned. I thought to myself “This is the perfect motto for Christmas.” What God’s holiness demanded—absolute righteousness—His grace provided—The Righteous Redeemer.

The holiness of God demanded that if anyone were to come before Him they must be absolutely, perfectly, entirely, and utterly spotless. I’m thinking of the biblical term of clean when I speak of spotless. Every human being must be clean—morally, spiritually, ceremonially—to come before Almighty God. This defines the purpose for the OT sacrificial system. The OT sacrificial system and purification practices delineate how impure persons may come before an eternally perfect God. And the answer rested upon God Himself taking the initiate and ordaining certain rights, practices, rules, sacrifices, cleansings and such. No human being could have ever imagined such a way of approaching God. Rather, no human could have attempted to do this because every human being is a sinner and cannot approach God in his own will (Isa 59:2).

But as our adage so clearly reveals that what God’s holiness demanded, His grace provided. His grace provided access to Him in the OT through animal sacrifices offered in place of the sinful worshipper. Transitioning to the NT, we find that Jesus Christ was offered in place of the sinner who believes. What God’s holiness demanded, His grace provided in Jesus Christ, the sacrificial sin-bearer. What God required of sinful human beings, God, in his infinite and eternal grace, supplied for us needy and dead sinners.

Again, it intrigues me that what God’s holiness demanded no human being could have provided. There’s not a human being on the face of the earth who could have ever approached God because of the inherent dead and defiled nature attached to the fabric of human beings. I couldn’t have done it. You couldn’t have done it. Paul couldn’t have done it. Moses couldn’t have done it. Only God could do it. And He did do it—in sending His Son—the one and only unique Son of God to this earth to live the perfect life we could never live and to die the death that you and I deserve to die. God supplied the necessary requirement to meet his holiness in the perfect, righteous, holy, undefiled Lamb of God who died for the sins of those who would believe upon Him for eternal life.

This Christmas, don’t disregard what God in His grace has provided to meet the demand of His perfect holiness.

Hebrews 9:11-15 11 But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things to come, He entered through the greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this creation; 12 and not through the blood of goats and calves, but through His own blood, He entered the holy place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption. 13 For if the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkling those who have been defiled sanctify for the cleansing of the flesh, 14 how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? 15 For this reason He is the mediator of a new covenant, so that, since a death has taken place for the redemption of the transgressions that were committed under the first covenant, those who have been called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance.

Many blessings to you this Christmas season,

pastor Geoff

Christ Community Church is hosting a free Evangelism Seminar on Saturday, January 10th from 10am-5pm (lunch will be provided!). One of the elders, Steve Lantz, will be conducting this seminar and it will be excellent. He has entitled it: "No Fear No Guilt Evangelism!"

Also, you won't want to miss two sessions on Israel's History and Geography seminar as well as the Old Testament Theology seminar to prepare our Israel travelers for our upcoming trip to the Holy Land! But anyone is invited. These are on Saturday Jan 17 and 24 from 7-9pm in the CCC Sanctuary. Come learn about the land and geography of Israel!

Call the CCC office for more info: 818.341.5750 or contact me:

Blessings and hope to see you there!
Today I overslept two and a half hours. Yesterday I overslept an hour and a half. I think it's time to get a new alarm clock!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Talking with a friend this morning brought to mind the core of the Christmas story, namely, Jesus Christ coming to earth to die. I heard a sermon last week which drove this truth home to my heart as the preacher expounded Matthew 1:18ff and ended up in Isaiah 53. The wonderful truths of these texts struck me afresh as I pondered how Christmas and Easter must not be divided.

As we draw near to the Christmas season and prepare for Christmas Eve services, family time around the Christmas tree, opening stockings and presents, eating lots of food and, of course, reading the biblical accounts of the birth of Jesus, let us remember that the birth of Jesus must not be divorced from the crucifixion of Jesus. Furthermore, the crucifixion of Jesus must not be divorced from the resurrection and ascension of Jesus.

Then our perspective will be accurate as we ponder the historical reality of God clothing Himself in human flesh and living a sinless life (which He could do no other) and dying on the cross for sinners.

May we muse on the glory of Christmas afresh this year.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Don’t Make God a Liar

1 John 5:10 10 The one who believes in the Son of God has the witness in himself; the one who does not believe God has made Him a liar, because he has not believed in the witness that God has borne concerning His Son.

What I find fascinating about this verse is the startling statement made by the Apostle John that the person who does not believe in Jesus Christ has made God a liar. The reason this is so is because God has borne sufficient witness to His Son, Jesus Christ, and the person who refuses to believe is calling God a liar. I am afraid that all too many people today have called God—and are calling God—a liar. Sadly so, I trust that many churchgoers may profess verbally God as true and Jesus as Savior but in the way they live their lives (that is, the theme of the book of 1 John) they deny that Jesus is the true Son of God and, hence, point the finger at God and shout “Liar!”

Elsewhere in 1 John, the themes of loving the brothers, believing that Jesus Christ has come from God, and the reality that a genuine Christian who is born from God cannot persist in ongoing sin prevail. But tucked away in the final chapter of this magnificent work is this statement that whoever refuses to believe in Jesus Christ has made God a liar. The only true God, that is. There is no other God. Therefore, to call God a liar is to damn oneself. To refuse to believe in Jesus Christ is reserving for yourself a place in the eternal Lake of Fire.

It intrigues me that John neglects to mention whether those who have heard or haven’t heard of Jesus Christ. His point is simply that if anyone refuses Jesus, who is in fact, the True God and the only means of Salvation (cf. 5:20), then he has called God a liar and is thereby destined for eternal hell. The plea and the message from this simple and straightforward verse is this: Don’t Make God a Liar.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Currently, I'm studying Psalm 8 for our service tomorrow night and I've recognized this chiasm--that is, a literary device in Hebrew poetry where the first corresponds to the last element, the second then corresponds to the second-to-last element, and so on. Oftentimes, the middle element is the apex or the main point the author attempts to emphasize. In my study, I think I found a chiasm in Psalm 8. This would make the middle element v.6 (these are the Hebrew verse numbers by the way. For the English verses, just subtract one from the listed number) which is David's high point in the Psalm--the crowning of Glory in God's creation, namely, mankind.


2 Praising God for His Majesty

3Praising God from his creatures

4The Works of God Praising Him

5The wonder at God’s interest in man

6The crowning glory of God’s creation—Man!

7The wonder at God’s giving man dominion

8The Domestic Animals under man’s dominion

9The smaller creatures under man’s dominion

10 Praising God for His majesty


Monday, December 15, 2008

I read Luke 24 last night and this portion of Scripture struck me anew:

Luke 24:44-45 Now He said to them, "These are My words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things which are written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled." 45 Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures,

What this Scripture declares in no uncertain terms is that the God-Man, Jesus Christ, opened the minds of those while He was with them after His resurrection in order to understand the Scriptures. Jesus Christ sovereignly illuminates the hearts and minds of those who are His to hear, understand, and respond to the written Word. There can be no active initiated on the part of the sinner except the prevenient, irresistible, and intervening grace of God.

It would be amazing to have heard Jesus share the gospel with his followers from the Scripture--e.g. the OT. The Law, the Prophets, the Psalms (and the writings) all speak about the Messiah and have their fulfillment and perspective towards the coming deliverer. And Jesus was that deliverer!

May we never lose the wonder that, for those of us who are regenerated and born again, our salvation is solely because God opened our eyes in order to understand and respond accordingly to what His Word says. As a preacher this comforts me greatly to reckon that I don't save anyone--I can't! It is God who opens the eyes of the dead, radically depraved sinner still dead in sin, to believe upon the Lord Jesus Christ.

Romans 11:33 33 Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

This morning I was reading on the virgin birth of our Savior when I came across this quote:

"The virgin birth is a sign of God's judgment on human nature. The race needs a redeemer, but cannot itself produce one; not by its own decision or desire, not by the processes of education and civilization, not as a precipitate of its own evolution. The redeemer must come from outside. Here, as elsewhere, 'all things are of God'. He provides the lamb (Gn.22:8).

[Karl] Barth is exactly right: 'Human nature possesses no capacity for becoming the human nature of Jesus Christ.' Also, the virgin birth is a sign that Jesus Christ is a new beginning. He is not a development from anything that has gone before. He is a divine intrusion: the last, great, culminating eruption of the power of God into the plight of man... (Don Macleod, The Person of Christ, 37).

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

From Gerald Wilson,

"I believe firmly that true worship incorporates acknowledging and repenting of sin. Only then do we realize how totally dependent on God and his gracious mercy we really are" (Psalms: Volume 1, NIVAC, 197).

I find this so refreshing and apropos to my life. I concur with Wilson in that worship engages both the heart and the soul which leads to self-examination which then results in repentance and restoration. Praise God for conviction that He brings through the Holy Spirit who dwells within us (cf. Rom 8:9).

May we never shun repentance but rather embrace it in order to experience the mercy of God all the more and the grace of God to the fullest.

Monday, December 8, 2008

In preparation for my final sermon as we conclude the book of Revelation (tomorrow night---Rev 22:10-21), I found this quote which I must post for your edification.

Seiss pictures the church as a young lady waiting for her lover to return:

Fiction has painted the picture of a maiden whose lover left her for a voyage to the Holy Land, promising to his return to make her his beloved bride. Many told her that she would never see him again. But she believed his word, and evening by evening she went down to the lonely shore, and kindled there a beacon-light in sight of the roaring waves, to hail and welcome the returning ship which was to bring again her betrothed. And by that watchfire she took her stand each night, praying to the winds to hasten on the sluggish sails, that he who was everything to her might come. Even so that blessed Lord, who has loved us unto death, has gone away to the mysterious Holy Land of heaven, promising on his return to make us his happy and eternal Bride. Some say that he has gone forever, and that here we shall never see him more. But his last word was, “Yea, I come quickly.” And on the dark and misty beach sloping out into the eternal sea, each true believer stands by the love-lit fire, looking, and waiting, and praying and hoping for the fulfillment of his work, in nothing gladder than in his pledge and promise, and calling ever from the soul of sacred love, “EVEN SO, COME, LORD JESUS.” And some of these nights, while the world is busy with its gay frivolities, and laughing at the maiden on the shore, a form shall rise over the surging waves, as once on Galilee, to vindicate forever all this watching and devotion, and bring to the faithful and constant heart a joy, and glory, and triumph which nevermore shall end” (quoted in Walvoord, Revelation of Jesus Christ, 339).

These are some pictures from our time at the concert last week:

Elizabeth and I at home by our tree

Elizabeth and baby Kirkland in front of our tree

Elizabeth and Kelly (formerly in our youth group
now at Master's College)

Kelly and I at Master's

Elizabeth and Megan (on the Outreach Week team
to our church) at Master's

Kelly posing with her set at the Christmas concert

Friday, December 5, 2008

Perhaps this can happen. And perhaps this happened on Wednesday of this week at our mid-week service at church. I preached on Psalm 6 and I had a wonderful time. I'm not sure if things came out cohesively and cogently but in my heart and soul, I was greatly edified by God's Word.

I don't think I'm overstating the fact that this may have been--for me personally--one of the most edifying sermons I've ever preached.

If you so choose, you can listen to it here.

Isaiah 55:11 So shall My word be which goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me empty, Without accomplishing what I desire, And without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Here's the quote for today:

"What gives preaching its seriousness is that the mantle of the preacher is soaked with the blood of Jesus and singed with the fire of hell."

John Piper.
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