A Simple Liturgy on The Holiness of God in His Temple

Verses for an Invocation Prayer:

“Who is like you, O LORD, among the gods? Who is like you, majestic in holiness, awesome in glorious deeds, doing wonders?” (Ex. 15:11 ESV)

“O LORD, who shall sojourn in your tent? Who shall dwell on your holy hill? He who walks blamelessly and does what is right and speaks truth in his heart;” (Psalm 15:1–2 ESV)

“For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf” (Heb. 9:24 ESV)

“ If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.” (Col 3:1-4 ESV)

Creed: Westminster Confession of Faith 2.2 (TPH, 921)

Hymn: Now unto the LORD, All You Sons of the Mighty (TPH, 29A)

Expository Reading: Isaiah 6

Hymn: A Shoot Will Spring from Jesse’s Stump (TPH, 302)

Lord’s Prayer: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. For yours is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.”

Hymn: Holy, Holy, Holy! (TPH, 230)

Expository Reading: Hebrews 9, Revelation 4-5

Hymn: By the Sea of Crystal (TPH, 473)

Verses for Prayer Asking for God’s Blessing:

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.” (Eph 1:3–4 ESV)

But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit (Jude 1:20 ESV)

Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen. (Jude 20, 24–25 ESV)

Hymn: Doxology (TPH 567)


Notes:

  • The verses given for the prayers are not to be read, although there’d be nothing wrong with that. They are there to help you shape and direct your prayer. Matthew Henry provides a good example of how this can be done. Read his prayers and notice how he weaves together verses from the Bible to express his heart to God.
  • TPH = Trinity Psalter-Hymnal. You can look for more or different hymns, even in other hymnals, using hymnary.org.
  • In “expository reading,” one reads the text with the goal of communicating the meaning of the text, though without additional comment. So, no sermon, just good reading. I learned this term from Daniel I. Block in his book, For the Glory of God: Recovering a Biblical Theology of Worship, 191. Block says: “Expository reading means reading the Scriptures so that their literary qualities are appreciated, their message understood, and their transformative power experienced.”

Visit christopherchelpka.com/simple-liturgies/ for more simple liturgies like this one.

📚 We have different reasons but Daisy loves books too.

cat sleeping on a book

📚 Currently reading: Diakonia Studies: Critical Issues in Ministry by John N. Collins

Four Types of Meetings According to Patrick Lencioni

For me, the most helpful point Patrick Lencioni makes in Death by Meeting is what he calls “Meeting Stew.”

The single biggest structural problem facing leaders of meetings is the tendency to throw every type of issue that needs to be discussed into the same meeting, like a bad stew with too many random ingredients.

This kind of meeting frustrates people because those who attend will have different and even conflicting goals. Some will want the soup to be fancy, others will want something plain and soothing, still others are hoping for a dessert. But this kind of mishmash gives no one what they want and lets everybody down.

So what you need, Lencioni writes, is “different meetings for different purposes.” There are four types.

  1. The daily, 5 minute check-in. Focuses on connecting priorities to daily actions.
  2. The weekly, 45-90 minute tactical meeting. Each member does quick reporting on top priorities, reviewing progress, and deciding tactical issues to meet short-term objectives.
  3. The monthly, 2-4 hours strategic meeting. The team gets to debate, discuss, and analyze fundamental issues that were previously put in the “parking lot”.
  4. The quarterly, 1–2 day off-site review. The team completes a comprehensive strategy review, a team review, a personnel review, and a competitive and industry review.

Lencioni discusses the particular challenges to each of these meetings. He also recognizes that some organizations may struggle to follow this advice because of their circumstances. This is true for the various service teams at Covenant, including the session, whose members worship together weekly, but live far enough apart that make frequent meetings throughout each month impossible.

There are a few possible solutions in my opinion:

  • choose fewer objectives and/or do them more slowly; aim for sustainability over speed
  • have certain “easy” meetings via video/voice calls;
  • have longer meetings, combining, say, types two and three, but break these longer meetings up into distinct parts

And while I’m having fun applying a business book to the church, I’ll say Lencioni’s advice is good for families too. Having daily and even more frequent check-ins is essential for my wife and me, as are long, uninterrupted times for discussing big decisions. We haven’t yet implemented the quarterly, off-site review but that sounds fantastic!

Read: Lencioni, Patrick. Death by Meeting: A Leadership Fable About Solving the Most Painful Problem in Business. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass A Wiley Imprint, 2004.

Calling God “Father”

Let’s do a little theology.

In the Nicene Creed we call God, “Father.”

According to Scripture, there are several true ways we can understand the name “Father” as it applies to God. Each reflects something important about God and about ourselves in relationship with him.

First, we can call God “Father” as the creator of the world and the world to come. The Triune God is our maker. He makes us in his image and puts us into a covenant with him. Luke calls Adam, “the son of God” in Luke 3:38. In this sense, we can therefore call all three persons of the Trinity “Father” as Isaiah does in Isaiah 9:6 when he prophesies about Jesus:

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Second, we can call God “Father” when we refer to the first person of the Trinity. In this way, he is called “Father” in relation to the Son, the second person of the Trinity. This occurs many places in Scripture. Here is one from John 6:40 where Jesus says:

For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.

Finally, Christians alone can call God the Father “Father” as those who have been adopted through the Son into sonship and thus unto an eternal inheritance. Ephesians 1:3–5, 11:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will… In him we have obtained an inheritance.

Sustained Focus is Not a Fad

The necessity of focusing may be more difficult in the digital age, but it is not a new problem.

Writing in 1827, Samuel Miller, the presbtyerian minister and Princeton professor, wrote some points on the necessary habits of a good minister. One of them was “the habit of close and fixed attention in study.” Lacking this habit is the most “fatal defect in a student,” he wrote. Without it, one “will never look deeply into any thing; will never accomplish any thing which deserves the name of investigation.”

So if you lack the ability to focus, you should “try to attain it,” Miller says. And don’t give up if you struggle.

Try again and again. It is richly worth all the agony of effort that you can possibly make for its acquirement. Make incessant efforts, then, until you succeed, to summon your powers to concentrated action; to shut out, at pleasure, all extraneous objects; to go from step to step without interruption; and to keep fast hold of the thread which you first seize until you trace it to the end. From the moment you open a book, or take your pen in hand, give undivided attention to what you are about, until you close the one, or lay down the other.

Why work so hard to learn to focus? Because having such a skill will produce great results. Miller points to none less than Isaac Newton as proof, which he explains more in a letter that he wrote to his sons.

We are told of Sir Isaac Newton, that when questioned respecting the peculiar powers of his own mind, he said, that if he had any talent which distinguished him from the common mass of thinking men, it was the power of slowly and patiently examining a subject; holding it up before his mind from day to day, until he could look at it in all its relations, and see something of the principles by which it was governed. His estimate was probably a correct one. His most remarkable, and certainly his most valuable, talent consisted, not in daring, towering flights of imagination, or in strong creative powers; but in slow, plodding investigation; in looking at a series of facts, from day to day, until he began to trace their connection; to spell out their consequences; and ultimately to form as system as firm as it was beautiful.”

I love this description of what focus and meditation on an idea involves. Clearly, Miller spoke from experience and the lessons he learned from those who came before him.

So while we may have new kinds of challenges, staying focused is an old probelm. It’s a skill every student must learn if he or she is “to accomplish any thing which deserves the name of investigation.”

For more context and lots more advice on studying and many other things read: Miller, Samuel. Letters on Clerical Manners and Habits. New York: G & C Carvill, 1827, 251–252.

And thanks to James M. Garretson for his book, An Able and Faithful Ministry: Samuel Miller and the Pastoral Office from which I first learned of these passages in Miller’s writing. See chapter twenty of his book for a summary of Miller’s views on “clerical manners and habits.”

🍸 Lift a glass to this beautiful olive tree. It’s about 65 years old. I wrote a little meditation on Psalm 128:3 with this tree in mind.

Review: Scripture Doctrine of a Call to the Work of the Gospel Ministry

William Plumer (1802–1880) was a southern Presbyterian minister and professor. He held various positions within the church to help men prepare for the gospel ministry. And in conjunction with one of those roles, he wrote this essay on how one might determine whether he is called to the work.

Plumer explains that there is some difficulty in determining this, and that one’s conviction of God’s call may strengthen or weaken, even after becoming a minister. Nevertheless, there are points we can draw from both Scripture and common sense than can help with discernment.

He sets the tone in the preface when he encourages his readers to not even read the essay unless they are willing to consider the question of their calling with a humble, reverent, and deliberative spirit.

After this, he distinguishes between the general and special call of the believer to Christian ministry. And then writes breifly on each of the various and necessary evidences for a call. These include:

  • earnest desire,
  • sense of personal weakness but also confidence in God’s grace,
  • a high view of the office, the consent of the church and the authorities in the church,
  • a wise discernment of various providences,
  • the essential qualifications for the office: “piety, prudence, knowledge, and the power of communicating knowledge in an appropriate manner,”
  • and conviction of duty.

In the last few pages, Plumer concludes with a list of reasons why some men resist a call and why some men pursue a call without warrant. This list can help those considering the call to calibrate their consciences. It can also help sessions and presbyteries shepherd the men under their care.

Read: Plumer, William S. Scripture Doctrine of a Call to the Work of the Gospel Ministry. Philadelphia: Russell and Martien, 1832.

Four Things Jesus Does With Miracles

Jesus once fed more than 5,000 people using only five loaves of bread and two fish. With something as amazing as that, you’d be right to think that there are a number of things Jesus’ accomplishes with miracles. Here are a few:

  • Jesus’ miracles comfort people who are trapped and oppressed in the world.
  • Jesus’ miracles warn those who are too much in love with the world.
  • Jesus’ miracles show how God uses ordinary things to accomplish extraordinary ends.
  • Jesus’ miracles point to his suffering and exaltation.

I explained all this and read the record of this particular miracle in the sermon I preached last Sunday morning. Give it a listen. It’s about 30 minutes.

👋 Meet Watchman Wee. He was created by my dad, a meticulous craftsman who always keeps a bit of whimsy close by. I love that about my dad.

sculpture of a robot

👁‍🗨 It’s the middle of the night. Do you know who your iPhone is talking to? from The Washington Post

Apple promises privacy, but iPhone apps share your data with trackers, ad companies and research firms

Good news: you can limit the tracking.

UPDATE: WSJ published a similar article.

🌀 “the household gods utter nonsense”

🐌 Loading problems for my website are fixed now. Thanks to the Micro.blog slack community, esp. @mikehaynes for the help.

Multiple Names for God

The beginning of the Nicene Creed refers to God as Father and Almighty.

I believe in one God, the Father Almighty

What do those two names mean to you?

For one, they are ways you can know God. Names are one way God describes himself to us. As Basil, a fourth century church father, pointed out in Against Eunomius:

There is no one name that is adequate to give complete description of God. Rather, there are many names for him, each of which has its own particular meaning…. Taken together they afford us only a small and unclear knowledge of God’s nature, but this is still adequate enough for our purposes.”1

Our purposes are to glorify God and enjoy him forever. His names help us to do that. With his names he comforts us, he humbles us, and he causes us to sing the with the angels:

“Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!” (Rev. 4:8, ESV)


  1. Cited in Ancient Christian Doctrine via Accordance. [return]

🌱 Inspired by the Johnny Appleseed of hollyhocks, I now have a bag of seeds and am on a mission.

hollyhocks

⍟ If you’d like to better understand Jesus’s relationship to the Father, or the Trinity in general, listen to last week’s sermon. Tomorrow, I will preach again from John 5. This time, I’ll teach more about the Spirit.

I Believe. Amen.

The Nicene Creed contains core doctrines of the Christian Faith. It puts forth a set of objective truths about the triune nature of God, the work of Christ, the church, and more.

But those truths are framed in a personal way. The creed begins with these important words: I believe (in Latin, it’s Credo, hence “creed”), and it ends with Amen, which comes from Hebrew and means, “it is truly so.” These words that frame the creed are important to me because they remind me that these objective truths from God are also very personal.

I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible. And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds; God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God; begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made. Who, for us men for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the virgin Mary, and was made man; and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate; He suffered and was buried; and the third day He rose again, according to the Scriptures; and ascended into heaven, and sits on the right hand of the Father; and He shall come again, with glory, to judge the quick and the dead; whose kingdom shall have no end. And I believe in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and Giver of Life; who proceeds from the Father and the Son; who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified; who spoke by the prophets. And I believe one holy catholic and apostolic Church. I acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins; and I look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.

When I recite the Nicene Creed, I’m not listing a set of doctrines, I am stating my relationship to those doctrines. It’s the difference between saying trees, and saying I climb trees. And actually, in the case of the creed, it’s more than even that because I’m not primarily professing my faith in the doctrines but in the One who has revealed them.

So when I say, I believe, I’m not reading a grocery list of truths I found in some historical parking lot; I’m confessing what I truly believe and in Whom I truly believe.

This makes the Amen at the end of the creed equally precious to me. It’s the ancient way we say, Yes! I truly mean and agree with what I have said I believe. And, as such, a truly spoken Amen never really ends a confession of faith. The Amen is an exclamation point; it pushes my faith forward by demanding faithfulness.

In other words, if I believe is true, then the rest of what I do ought to conform to the truths I say I believe. Otherwise, I don’t really believe them.

So Lord, may my actions that follow my confession of faith, flow from the faith I confess. Amen.

⍟ How a journalist pretended to be scientist and fooled the media into reporting that chocolate helps people lose weight.

A Pastoral Rule for Today

I finished reading A Pastoral Rule for Today: Reviving an Ancient Practice. Drawing lessons from pastors of the past, the authors show how pastors today need structure in their ministries and suggest ideas toward that end. There were major and minor lessons throughout the book and lots of overlap (in a good way). Here were some major lessons:

  • On the importance of theological friendship from Augustine.
  • On the conduct of ministers among other pastors and among the congregation from Bendict.
  • On the dual duties of service and contemplation from Gregory the Great.
  • On the specific structures and practices of doing pastoral ministry jointing from Calvin.
  • On the value rich conversation and the care required for edifying speech from Wesley.
  • On the significance of disciplined and devotional study from Newman.
  • On the education of seminarians in the context of community from Bonhoeffer.

Review of Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport

Most of us are accustomed to a maximalist approach to technology. As long as it’s new and has some value to us, we adopt it. But according to Cal Newport, that sets the bar way too low and is leading to all kinds of negative consequences.

Cal Newport, a computer science professor at Georgetown University, has written several books about what it means to do valuable work in ways that don’t lead to burnout. In his latest book, Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World, Newport focuses on how our approach to technology needs to change.

Newport calls his approach: digital minimalism. The digital minimalist doesn’t reject technology—Newport still has an iPhone—but chooses his or her tools carefully and optimizes them. As he puts it, digital minimalism is

“a philosophy of technology use in which you focus your online time on a small number of carefully selected and optimized activities that strongly support things you value, and then happily miss out on everything else.”

Like Marie Kondo, Cal Newport, is helping us to understand that there’s a cost to having things that clutter up our lives. Even though digital things may not take up much physical space, they still require a lot of mental and emotional space. Digital minimalism is, in part, about becoming sensitive to the cost of our digital tools.

Digital Minimalism, is not all philosophy though. The book also offers lots of practical advice on how to become more focused and reduce “the hum of low-grade anxiety”—or worse—“that permeates [our] lives”.

For example, Newport believes that we use digital distractions to try and fill our true need for high-quality leisure, like eating a bowl of mints, one after another, when what you really need is some homemade chicken noodle soup. And these low-quality leisure activities tend to exhaust us instead of refresh us. They tend to make us feel less human and more lonely. I believe distraction has its place, but learning the difference between low-quality and highly-quality leisure is important. Newport gives examples and suggests ways to incorporate more high-quality leisure into your life.

He also gives this helpful advice: make sure you find high-quality leisure activities before you start “decluttering the low-value digital distractions from your life”. Why? Because removing these distractions without filling the need first “will be unnecessarily unpleasant at best and a massive failure at worse.” (UPDATE: An article on his blog explains this and gives some examples of people who have followed this advice.)

Sanely, Newport never promises that if you adopt digital minimalism that everything in your life will be perfect, the kind of overpromising that is common in self-improvement books like this. But he does think that digital minimalism will make a difference for the better. And he’s right about that. Being a digital minimalist hasn’t saved my soul but it has decreased my anxiety, increased my productivity, and improved my focus. It has helped me be a better husband, father, and pastor.

I’ve been on the path of digital minimalism for a few years now. Amoung other things, I’ve canceled or discontinued use of most of my social media accounts. I’ve reduced the number of podcasts, RSS feeds, newsletter subscriptions, etc. to about 15% of what it was. And I’ve optimized my phone to limit its ability to distract me. But the pull to a maximalist or reactive approach to technology, or life in general, is strong for me. So I appreciated the way Digital Minimalism strengthened my resolve and suggested new ways to grow.

I highly recommend you read this book and consider this approach for yourself.


Find Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World via WorldCat.

🎵 Finzi, Parry, and Bridge: today is a great day for listening to English string orchestra music.

⍟ Spring flowers in the backyard.

Prickly Pear flowers

Tears of Love

David sang,
My heart became hot within me.
As I mused, the fire burned;
Then I spoke with my tongue.

Without meditation
He would have been a cold man
Who looks at a fire from a distance,
And sees the flames, but never gets warm.
But David saw God’s dancing truths,
Moved closer, and in meditative praise,
Put out his palms.

When you feel the heat from meditation,
Don’t leave. Muse on the truths
Until you are warmed
And ready to speak to God.

Focus your thoughts on a heavenly thing.
Treasure its source, virtue, and blessing.
Then plant it like a seed in the soil of your heart,
And ask: “How this might bear fruit in me?”
Divine fruit.

Be resolute.
As bold as a puritan.
Like Watson, who said:
Leave not your mediations of God
Till you find something of God in you.

For godly musing
Melts the heart when it is frozen
And makes it drop into tears of love.

⍟ I’ve had a my own website for almost two decades. But since I moved it to Micro.blog about a year ago, I’ve enjoyed it more and used it more than ever. The main reason for this is that @manton has designed Micro.blog to be simple and fast.

⍟ My most valuable app got a major update. Accordance Mobile 3.0 is snappier, the UI is so much better, and there are many other upgrades. @AccordanceBible knocked it out of the park.