Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Effectively & Maximally Utilizing the Weekly ‘Preparation for Worship’ Email
Geoffrey R. Kirkland
Christ Fellowship Bible Church

NOTE: I understand that not all local churches have a weekly 'Preparation-For-Worship' email that is sent out. This is particularly geared for the saints at Christ Fellowship Bible Church (St Louis) where this is the case. And this is a pastoral encouragement to take that email and utilize it effectively.

At Christ Fellowship Bible Church in St Louis, Missouri, we send out a ‘Preparation for Corporate Worship’ email usually on Thursday or Friday to the congregation to aid them in preparing for worship for the upcoming Sunday gathering. 

Consider, bread bakes quicker when the oven is warm. Imagine if our hearts were warmed by prayer, bible reading, meditation, and anticipation when we arrived for corporate worship! How much more could we glean?

Preparation. We all get it. You prepare for a math quiz. You prepare for a annual budget meeting. You prepare for your appointment with the business client who is in town. You prepare for the presentation you have to give at the convention in the near future. We even prepare early for the football games that we attend. We all prepare for things. We get this.

How much could the church of the Lord Jesus Christ exponentially grow if we deliberately and devotionally prepared for the corporate worship gatherings?

In this message, I want to provide 7 suggestions that the Christ Fellowship Bible Church congregation can consider in utilizing in the preparation for worship email to the maximum.

1. Pray specifically. — This may seem obvious, but let me state it just in case. The most powerful instrument available to us in our preparation for, presence during, and application following corporate worship is fervent, persistent, believing, specific prayer. Yes, pray ahead of time and the more specific you can be in your praying, the better.

2. Read carefully.  — Since the habit at Christ Fellowship is to preach verse-by-verse through books of the Bible, this is usually quite simple to follow, but you can read the text that will be preached for the upcoming Sunday. Read it thoughtfully. Read it slowly. Read it prayerfully. Read it devotionally. Read it studiously. Read it worshipfully.  Even consider reading the public reading of Scripture text that will be preached (often we read through a Psalm or another portion of Scripture at the beginning of the worship gathering).

3. Sing carefully.  —  Take special note of the songs that'll be sung. Consider picking one, or two, or all of them (if you have the time) and ponder the lyrics and sing them & think of the theology, Scriptures that it points to and brings to mind.

Consider doing numbers 1-3 together with your family in ‘family worship’ on, say, Saturday evening or Sunday morning. O imagine the blessing and preparedness when the entire family comes to corporate worship having prayed specifically, read the Word carefully, and sung the songs thoughtfully! What a blessing that’d be! And what an example that would set for the children!

4. Arrive early.  —  Consider arriving early to serve, set up, meet folks, extend a hand of greeting. Make it your goal to seek to pray with & encourage one person. Rather than coming at the moment of the start of church (or, worse, 15 minutes late!), leave earlier and arrive earlier so as to edify the saints and then be in your seat for a few moments before the service begins to quiet your heart, ask for the Spirit to give you focus, careful attention to Truth, and a worshipful gaze upon Christ throughout the entirety of the gathering!

5. Serve proactively.  —  In the emails, we list a number of things going on that upcoming week (or, in the near future). So, find a ministry going on, or an event, or an evangelism outing and seek to participate in it. Indeed, if you can’t attend it, pray for it. Consider attending and meeting folks and encouraging them in the ministry. Consider serving in a care group. Consider giving folks a ride if that’s a need.

6. Read broadly.  —  In the emails we send out, there are usually about 4-6 resource links at the bottom of the email for further reading and study on a given topic -- bible knowledge, theology, biography, biblical counseling, Christian living, etc. So, find just one article & then read it carefully and enhance your theological, practical, counseling understanding. Or, read them all if you're able and have the time! Maybe print them out and put them in the car and if you have a few minutes here or there, pull one out and read it. If you’re early for a lunch appointment or waiting for a meeting to begin, read through one of the articles. These are carefully selected to encourage you and bless you and guide you in the ways of truth so we grow in thinking biblically.

7. Encourage thoughtfully. —  Dear flock, you see who is serving! You observe what's going on! You notice who will be preaching. Consider this as a pastoral suggestion: make it a point to weekly approach one person and specifically encourage them. Don’t flatter them (there’s a difference!). Glorify God by affirming what God is doing through that person for the benefit of the flock (or, you personally!). What would happen if the Savior graciously cultivated in us an encouraging, affirming, upbuilding culture of love!

In conclusion, these 7 suggestions are ways to incorporate the Preparation for Worship email that it sent to you each week and to use it well. This is a guide to the preparation guide! May the Lord help us to deliberately prepare for worship to devotionally grow in His Word, and to delightfully magnify the Savior as we emulate Him, worship Him, and love His redeemed people!

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Instruction & Parenting
Geoffrey R. Kirkland
Christ Fellowship Bible Church

Parents all understand Paul’s command to “bring the children up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Eph 6.4). But sometimes we grow weary in teaching the same old truths on many occasions again and again. Solomon could relate. He said “Hear my son your father’s instruction and do not forsake your mother’s teaching” (Prov 1:8). All through the Book of Proverbs, we receive many examples of Solomon pleading with his son to hear, listen to, heed, pay attention to, and receive His instruction. For instance, “my son, do not forget my teaching but let your heart keep my commandments” (Prov 3:1). This is a vital and unending part of parenting. As the children grow, we as parents must be deliberate in our teaching and instructing of their hearts. This not only takes place in the discipline room when they’re very small (with simple points of instruction) but as the child gets older, the physical spanking will decrease and the verbal instruction and biblical reasoning with the child will increase. When the child is so young that he cannot articulate or reason with you as the parent, discipline with the rod is the primary means of discipline when he has sinned. But as the child grows, verbal instruction, reasoning from the Scriptures, and helping the child see the desires that rule his heart that cause him to then choose to act, speak, or respond a certain way will then take priority in shepherding them toward Christ.

So how do we teach and instruct? It’s something that we can’t not do. We can’t ignore this clear command. We’re called to impress God’s truths deeply on the hearts of our kids (Deut 6.4-9). Come my children listen to me and I will teach you the fear of the Lord (Ps 34.11). So what does this teaching and instruction look like?  I want to provide 7 brief descriptions of our parental instruction to our children.

1. Our instruction must be biblical. I suppose that’s obvious for us as Christian parents but this point cannot be overemphasized. With the incessant pull of media, videos, movies, music, shows, and with the unraveling of the “family” in our culture, we can’t just coast in casual teaching of our children. We must daily show our kids (from the youngest of ages!) what the Bible says, where it says it in the Bible, why it says what it says, and how we must live in response to God’s Truth. Let it be said: we don’t want our instruction to be child-centered or man-centered, but God-centered and biblically-founded. We must be the primary soul-carers (pastors!) of our kids.

2. Our instruction must be formal. By this I refer to regular times where we gather as a family to teach our kids about God and His truth in family worship. As Joshua said: “As for me and my house we will serve the Lord” (Josh 24.15), so every parent must resolve to formally instruct the children in the home, in the Word, with intentionality, as a priority, each day. Going to church 50 times a year (1x a week) is good, but teaching 360+ times a year in the home is unparalleled!

3. Our instruction must be informal. Not only are there planned times of teaching but there is also the “as you are going” mentality of parental instruction. What if you see an ambulance driving by? What if you see a beautiful sunset that God has painted across the sky? What if you see a beautiful rainbow with all the colors magnificently displayed? What if you see two men fighting on the street corner? What if you see something immodest on a billboard? How do you respond in these unplanned opportunities, but to take it as a providential gift from God as a teaching moment! As you look around, you could constantly give thanks and praise to God for everything and use this as an opportunity to informally, and yet powerfully, teach your kids.

4. Our instruction must be incarnated (lived out). We could teach that we must pray always. We could teach that we must rejoice in Jesus Christ. We could tell our kids to give thanks in all circumstances. We could tell our kids to repent, ask for forgiveness, grant repentance, and walk humbly. But do we model this with our lives? Part of parenting is modeling and showing how God’s Word changes our lives. Our kids are watching! So much of living is more caught than taught. So teach with your mouth but also show with your life!

5. Our instruction must be courageous (even when the world doesn’t want it). Of course, the world is at enmity with Christ and it is darkness as God is in the Light. Of course biblical teaching is at odds with worldly thinking. Yet our teaching must be founded on the Word, grounded in truth, courageous in our application and resolute in our obedience. We tell our kids: God’s glory is the ultimate goal and we live for Him, we rejoice in Him, we suffer for Him, we’ll die for Him! It’s always better to die for the truth than to live for a lie. Teach from the Bible and also include the importance of courage and convictions. Don’t just hope for the kids to have some truths, pray for the truths to grab hold of your children! That’s living with courage!

6. Our instruction must be joy-filled (God’s path is always best). Solomon told his son, Rehoboam, “do not forget my teaching but let your heart keep my commandments … it will be healing to your body and refreshment to your bones (Prov 3.1, 8). Indeed, how “blessed is the man who finds wisdom” (Prov 3.13). Our teaching must include not only the laws of God and the duty to obey but also the joys of obedience and the pleasantness of following Christ even in the midst of sufferings, hardships, uncertainties, and pain. Let us remind our kids the best and most joyful and most satisfying path is always God’s path as clearly laid out in Scripture. We pursue whatever we think will bring us the greatest happiness and pleasure, so let us constantly impress upon our children that obeying God brings great joy -- because it does!

7. Our instruction, as it comes from Scripture, is sufficient (found in Scripture). Remember the doctrine of bibliology, the Bible is absolutely sufficient for all things related to life and godliness (2 Pet 1.3-4). That means that what God has clearly revealed and said in His written revelation (the Bible) is all we need for guidance and help through life -- any situation in life. We don’t need to supplement the Bible with secular scientific hypotheses, or modern-day psychological formulas or self-help ideologies. God’s Word is enough and sufficient for our instructing our kids and for helping them as they grow and mature through the early ages through the teenage years till they move out and live on their own.

We can’t overemphasize the importance of teaching our children … to put their confidence in God and not forget the works of God but to keep His commandments (Ps 78.5-7). May God help us to teach and instruct our children well, from Scripture, with joy, with intentionality, for His glory.

More can be found at Pastor Geoff's articles page.
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