This Week at Covenant Family Church

Hello brothers and sisters,

I look forward to seeing you all again after missing you all on Sunday with church being cancelled. Unfortunately, it looks like another snow storm might come on Saturday. The good news is that it looks smaller than this last storm, and limited to Saturday, rather than continuing on Sunday, so I have hope that we will be able to meet as normal without canceling. But, it is possible that some of you might be snowed in, so I would especially encourage you to take advantage of the opportunity to see each other and study God’s word together at this evening’s Bible study, 7pm at my house.

The Blog:

The Trinity: Orthodoxy and Error
The doctrine of the Trinity is a foundational teaching of Christianity since it expresses who God is. If God is at the center of our faith – and He is – then error about God’s nature will distort the rest of our faith. I note in this post that this is an issue of particular important to our region, not only because of Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses, but also because of the influence of Oneness Pentecostalism, especially through the United Pentecostal Church International, headquartered in Weldon Spring, which is now moving its college, Urshan College, to Wentzville. You should also check out the Lutheran Satire video I include in the post if you haven’t seen it yet – it is a fun and helpful look at Trinitarian distortions.

Gender Identity in a Culture of Autonomy
“The desire to define oneself is strong in modern culture. Tradition, the created order, and authority (divine or human) are seen as dehumanizing assaults on the freedom of the individual. In this struggle for radical autonomy, the area of sexuality has been front and center. Earlier, I wrote about how this struggle defines the current debate about the bounds of sexual intimacy. Another aspect of this struggle has been the issue of masculinity and femininity – does the individual have the right to choose and create his or her gender, or are we responsible to embrace the gender we have been given? On this issue, God takes a clear position in His word.”

Persecuted Church  Churches in China continue to suffer persecution. Here is another news story about the situation in China: “In China, they’re closing churches, jailing pastors – and even rewriting scripture.” Here is an excerpt:
“Early Rain [Church] is the latest victim of what Chinese Christians and rights activists say is the worst crackdown on religion since the country’s Cultural Revolution, when Mao Zedong’s government vowed to eradicate religion … Over the past year, local governments have shut hundreds of unofficial congregations or ‘house churches’ that operate outside the government-approved church network, including Early Rain. A statement signed by 500 house church leaders in November says authorities have removed crosses from buildings, forced churches to hang the Chinese flag and sing patriotic songs, and barred minors from attending … In November the Guangzhou Bible Reformed Church was shut for the second time in three months. ‘The Chinese Communist party (CCP) wants to be the God of China and the Chinese people. But according to the Bible only God is God. The government is scared of the churches,’ said Huang Xiaoning, the church’s pastor.”

Our Sunday School Series This Sunday, Elder Stahl will continue teaching a series on the OPC’s foreign missions. Last week he introduced the topic of foreign missions and the OPC’s approach to foreign missions, which is to seek the establishment of a healthy indigenous national church:
• that is firmly and fully committed to the Reformed standards
• that is self-supporting, self-governing, and self-propagating
• with whom the OPC may have fraternal relations
• that is itself sending out foreign missionaries to other nations
• which no longer needs the services of OP foreign missionaries
Elder Stahl now plans to take a Sunday for each of the missions that the OPC is involved in.

Worship Reflection The following is from William Shishko’s Helps for Worship (OPC, 2008)As Rev. Shishko suggests doing in this booklet, I am including one of these short reflections on worship in each weekly update to help you prepare for the Lord’s Day. 

The Invocation
“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find.” —Matt. 7:7
There are so many prayers in a worship service: opening prayers, closing prayers, prayers of confession, the “pastoral prayer” (which can often become quite long!), prayer after the offering, prayer before the sermon, and then prayer after the sermon. Why so many prayers?
The fact that we take so much time for prayer during worship indicates the blunt truth that without the blessing of Christ we can do nothing (John 15:5). It also indicates that we know that everything we have comes from God, so we are to be thankful in everything (Phil. 4:6).
We use the term prayer of invocation as a formal term to describe the first prayer in a Lord’s Day worship service. (In our church, we usually call it the “prayer for God’s blessing on our worship.”) It may well be the most important prayer of any worship service.
In a prayer of invocation, we “invoke” (i.e., call upon, summon, beg) God to bless our time of worship. While God greets us as we gather (in the salutation), we do not presume upon his promised mercy to us. We praise God for who he is. (Notice that the elements of a prayer of invocation usually include things about which we have just sung or confessed [in our case, things we are about to sing and confess].) We earnestly ask God to use the means of grace as means of grace to those who are present.
Among other things, we pray that:
• Those who are dead in sin would be made alive by the power of the Holy Spirit, who uses the Word of God to bring new birth (1 Pet. 1:23).
• Those who are already saved by grace would be built up in the true Christian faith (Jude 20).
• The Holy Spirit would transform all who hear, so that we are not just hearers of the Word, but doers as well (James 1:22).
• We would all be transformed by the renewing of our minds and by the “washing” done by the Word of God (Rom. 12:1–2; Eph. 5:26).

For Reflection
1. Do you carefully follow the prayer of invocation?
2. Do you earnestly desire what is asked for in that prayer?
3. What would the results of worship be if the Lord did not answer those requests? (Think seriously about this one!)

Worship this Lord’s Day

Hymns & Psalms
Psalm #5B “O Jehovah, hear my words”
Hymn #521 “My Hope Is Built on Nothing Less”
Hymn #455 “And Can It Be That I Should Gain?”
Psalm #125 “Like Zion’s Mountain Shall They Be” 

Bible Texts, Sermon: 
Old Testament Reading: Jeremiah 9:12-26
New Testament Reading: Romans 3:21-4:12
Sermon: “Confidence in Christ Jesus” – Philippians 3:1-11 (Pastor Peter Bringe)

Pastor Peter Bringe