By In Worship

First Love

What makes a church a church? Is it the faithful proclamation of the Word, the correct administration of the sacraments, and the proper exercise of church discipline? Yes, but there is something even more fundamental to the existence of a church than these. There is a way to be technically correct in all three of these areas of church life and still fall short of being a viable church in the eyes of the Lord of the church.

The most fundamental aspect of the church’s being the church is love. It is obedience to the great commandment to love the Lord our God with all of our heart, mind, soul, and strength. It is obedience to the new commandment that we love one another as Christ has loved us. Only with this foundation will any church continue to exist as a church of Jesus Christ. You can’t have love without the truth, but you can have truth without love.

The church in Ephesus as addressed in Revelation 2 learned this lesson from the mouth of our Lord himself. (more…)

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By In Scribblings, Theology, Wisdom, Worship

Herbertian Lessons for Lent

Guest post from Brian G Daigle, Headmaster of Sequitur Classical Academy

I live in an area where Mardi Gras is in full swing, and I can remember from my upbringing that Fat Tuesday was a last ditch effort at debauchery before the pseudo-spiritual practice of “giving something up for Lent” really began. In my youth I would give up some kind of chocolate or candy, something that appeared to be a fast, and I would join others around me in sharing with friends and family what I’ve given up and why. Around day thirty it would turn into some kind of joke about how long I’ve been able to go without this first-world luxury. My aristocratic sacrifice was hardly creating in me a clean heart. Those imaginings still haunt me and each year I must consider anew why this kind of extended fast ought to be recognized. (more…)

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By In Family and Children, Wisdom, Worship

Some Thoughts on Lent & Fasting

Every year around this time the internet is flooded with essays and interviews concerning Lent: Should we observe it? If we observe it, how should we observe it? And so on. Good folks disagree about these issues. But it is a good discussion to be having. I thought I’d chime in on the issue. Hopefully, I can help keep people thinking through the issue.

First, let me clear some ground here. I agree with many of my brothers who despise some of the Lenten practices. There are people who have superstitious views of the imposition of ashes on Ash Wednesday, for instance. Here in Louisville, KY, we even had one church who set up shop in a local business so that you can get your ashes to go. This was a one-stop shop for groceries and a dose of humility and repentance. People who do this sort of thing are, in most cases, viewing the imposition of ashes as some type of talisman that is going to keep God off their backs for a little while longer. I have witnessed people through the years from many branches of the Christian church act as if the religious ritual itself (whether it is the imposition of ashes, fasting, attending worship, going to revival services, or whatever) was an end in itself. After you do the deed, then you are free to live any way you want outside of the time of that special rite. According to what God said through the prophet Isaiah in his opening salvo, he has never taken kindly to superstitious views of religious rituals (cf. Isa 1.10-20. Mind you, the rituals that God is condemning in Isaiah are the ones that he himself set up. These were not manmade rituals. These were God’s own rituals that were being abused by superstitious views.) Superstitious views of the imposition of ashes or even fasting have no place in the Christian Faith. (more…)

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By In Culture, Family and Children, Theology, Wisdom, Worship

Lent as Subtraction by Addition

Stop Trivializing Lent
Guest post by Rev Sam Murrell of Little Rock, AR

Image may contain: 1 person, smiling, closeupSam is an Anglican Priest in the Anglican Church in North America. He holds a Bachelors in Music from Covenant College and an MDiv from Covenant Seminary.  He is currently a Biblical Worldview Teacher at Little Rock Christian Academy. He and his wife Susan have eleven children and twenty-one grandchildren.




The liturgical season of Lent begins on Ash Wednesday and continues for forty days (not counting Sundays) up until Easter. It has traditionally been regarded as a time of reflection, introspection and personal renewal culminating in the celebration of the resurrection at Easter. By observing the forty days of Lent, Christians (in some sense) replicate Jesus’ time in the desert for forty days before He began His ministry. The Lenten season is a time to open our hearts to God’s sanctifying grace through the use of prayer, confession of sin, fasting, and alms-giving (Matthew 6:1-10).

Lent is one of my favorite times of the year because it forces me to take a close look at myself and my relationship with Jesus Christ. Lent reminds me of my need to rely on Christ’s grace and that I shouldn’t think too highly of myself.

When I first began to follow the Church calendar I simply mimicked what was modeled for me by my church. Over the years, however, I have come to realize that the Lenten season has the potential to be a season of great spiritual impact in my life and in the life of a congregation. Unfortunately, we have trivialized Lent by the way we choose to celebrate it.

In preparation for Lent, worshipers are exhorted to fast and abstain from things that hinder their walk with the Lord. It should be a season in which we attempt to lay aside every weight and the sin that too easily captivates our hearts and distracts us from running the race set before us (Hebrews 12:1). Hence, we are encouraged to die to self and symbolically ‘give up something for Lent’.  Most Christians who acknowledge the season of Lent make vows that ultimately have little to no impact on their spiritual growth. They vow give up such trivial things as chocolate, caffeine, a favorite show or some other soft habit. All the while, looking forward to the next Sunday when they will be able to suspend or take a sabbatical from their vow for the day (Sundays are feast days, therefore one should not fast or abstain from God’s good gifts on the Lord’s Day). This approach to Lent is not spiritually healthy, nor is it beneficial. It is my contention that we should reevaluate the way we celebrate Lent in order to better align our focus with Scripture. And how do I propose we do that?

I propose that instead of subtracting something trivial from your life like caffeine or candy, consider subtraction by addition. What do I mean? Consider temporarily adding something to life that requires you to give up some of your time in order to pursue it. For example, this year try to do something that will bring glory to Christ for the full forty days. Something with a kingdom focus. Specifically, I recommend you consider adding a daily, structured time of prayer to your schedule for Lent.  I have decided that I will pray the office of Evening Prayer with my family as much as possible with my family this Lenten season.

I suspect I will miss a few nights, but I suspect I will pray more consistently with my wife during these days, as well. Lent allows us to start simple. We all can make one adjustment for forty days. You too, may want to try to pray one portion of the Daily Office (found in the Book of Common Prayer) every day (Morning Prayer, Noon Prayer, Evening Prayer or Compline), except Sunday for the duration of Lent. Don’t bite off more than you can chew. Noon Prayer can be done in as little as five to ten minutes. While that may not sound like much, the discipline of regularly praying the office will function as a daily “re-set” or reminder that God is an ever present help throughout the day.

Lent is a great time to intentionally draw near to the Lord, using the ordinary means of grace (prayer, sacraments and the Word). Think about how you can add a more biblical focus to your life during Lent this year. Commit to read the Gospels during Lent, if Lord’s Day attendance has been an issue commit to attend corporate worship all during Lent. If your church has an evening service that you rarely attend decide to attend every evening service during Lent. Make choices that will have a lasting effect on your life. Stop making trivial vows to the Lord. Eat your candy bar, after all, you’re going to go back to eating it on Easter.

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By In Theology, Worship

Church Inspection

The world in which they lived–the world that had existed in this form for almost seven hundred years but was itself the zenith of the world as it had existed from the beginning of time–this world was about to end. The entire created order was being shaken. The epicenter of this quaking cosmos was Jerusalem and its temple. (more…)

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By In Theology, Worship

Hallowed Storytelling From Table and Bowl, Part II

Guest post by Michael Spalione, a Ph.D. student at Trinity College, Bristol.
In my previous post, I highlighted the sacraments as the point of convergence between evangelicalism and ecumenism arguing that baptism and communion are presented in the New Testament as signs of the gospel that simultaneously enact and remember union with Christ and the unity of Christ’s body. I concluded that post by appealing to evangelical’s passion for the gospel as the reason for participating in ecumenism. (more…)

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By In Theology, Worship

Theology to Doxology

In all of your meditations and contemplations, have you ever been so overwhelmed by who God is and what he has done that there really are no adequate words? Maybe you experience a sudden change of events in which God surprises you with something good after a long, dark night of the soul. Maybe the Spirit opens your mind to the Scriptures in a new and fresh way to see the grace of God. Maybe you are overwhelmed with the beauty of God and his plan; you are like a man who reaches the peak of a mountain and feels the exhilaration, joy, and the smallness of who he is but enjoys the majesty in which he is now immersed.

The only thing to do in times like these is to break out in praise. This is where Paul finds himself at the end of a long exposition of the revelation of the gospel of Christ Jesus at the end of chapter 11 in his letter to the Roman church: (more…)

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