Friday, June 10, 2011

Summer Project

Over the Summer months I plan on putting on this blog a book of devotions and hymns I've written on the Heidelberg Catechism.  As I've begun treatments for cancer, I've realized I am not going to have the strength and clarity of mind to produce much in the way of new material.  James teaches that those who are sick should pray, and that is going to be my focus this Summer.  But for the sake of the few who look at this blog regularly, these devotions and hymns may be edifying, at least, that is my hope.  --Bill

SINGING THROUGH THE HEIDELBERG CATECHISM: DEVOTIONS AND HYMNS FOR 52 LORD’S DAYS

Preface

In 2005 Christian Smith published his massive survey of the religious and spiritual lives of American teenagers. He found that churches, even Reformed and Evangelical churches, were producing teenagers, whose spirituality could best be described as moralistic, therapeutic deism. Ten years earlier, Marva Dawn wrote a book on worship called, Reaching Out Without Dumbing Down: A Theology of Worship. Early in her book she wrote, “Christian worship at the turn of the century is being affected adversely by aspects of our culture that ‘dumb down” everything.

I wonder if these two trends are related? The early church had a maxim: Lex orandi, lex credendi, meaning that the rule of prayer or worship is the rule of belief and of action. Most Christians do not learn about the Christian faith from a book of systematic theology, but from the regular worship of the church. But if we are dumbing down our worship services by singing insipid choruses with little content, listening to sound bite sermons, reducing Bible reading and prayer while continuing the infrequent use of the sacraments, is it any wonder that we are producing the religion of the natural man in our churches, the aforementioned moralistic, therapeutic deism?

We live in an age that intensely dislikes doctrine. But doctrine, which is simply Christian teaching, is the fuel of our worship and our love for our triune God. Without true doctrine, we cannot expect to know the Father nor the Son, nor can we expect true Christian experience and Christian practice. Our anti-doctrinal bias is killing true Christian faith and practice, and we must fight this bias. For apart from the renewal of our minds by sound Scriptural doctrine, our affections, wills and practice will suffer, and we will not bear fruit for the Father’s glory (see Romans 12:1-2).

I’ve written this small devotional book with these concerns in mind. All of us need a catechetical faith---a basic knowledge of Christian doctrine. This is what the Heidelberg Catechism gives us, namely, a faithful summary of the Bible’s teaching. By learning the catechism, meditating on its meaning, and singing its biblical truth into our hearts, my goal is to help begin to change the current situation. Instead of churches producing moralistic, therapeutic deists, may we begin to produce, by the grace and Spirit of God, faithful Christians who know the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, because they know the apostolic faith that Jesus passed on to his apostles and preserved for us in the writings of the New Testament.

In terms of its use, I hope that this little book will find a myriad of uses:

1. I hope that individuals will use it in their daily devotions either for 52 consecutive days or for 52 weeks on the Lord’s Day afternoons.

2. I hope that families will use it either for daily devotions or once a week for a year.

3. I hope that individuals and families will regularly sing the songs, which attempt to echo the truths of each Lord’s Day, as a way of learning sound Christian doctrine.

4. I hope that churches will use the hymns as a way of changing the current situation, teaching our people Christian truths. Singing through these hymns in a year’s time week by week would be a way of teaching Christians the content of our faith as it centers on the person and work of Christ.

5. I hope that pastors would occasionally use these catechetical songs to reinforce the doctrine taught in their sermons. Good sermons should teach catechetical doctrine to people week by week, so it is hard to believe that some of these hymns would not teach the same truth in song that the sermon tries to communicate in the preached word.

One note on the format is that Lord’s Days 36 and 37 have been combined and Lord’s Day 52 has been divided into two parts.

Psalm 127:1 teaches us that we can only succeed by his blessing:

“Unless the LORD builds the house,
those who build it labor in vain.”

With that truth in mind, may the Father graciously use this book for the building up of his Son’s people through the working of the Holy Spirit. Soli Deo gloria.

Bill Weber,
Easter, 2011.



Lord's Day 1

Q & A 1
Q. What is your only comfort
in life and in death?

A. That I am not my own,
but belong—
body and soul,
in life and in death—
to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ.

He has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood,
and has set me free from the tyranny of the devil.
He also watches over me in such a way
that not a hair can fall from my head
without the will of my Father in heaven:
in fact, all things must work together for my salvation.

Because I belong to him,
Christ, by his Holy Spirit,
assures me of eternal life
and makes me wholeheartedly willing and ready
from now on to live for him.

Q & A 2
Q. What must you know
to live and die in the joy of this comfort?

A. Three things:
first, how great my sin and misery are;
second, how I am set free from all my sins and misery;
third, how I am to thank God for such deliverance.

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Lord’s Day 1 serves as the introduction to the Heidelberg Catechism. Q&A 1 is a beautiful summary of the Christian faith, and is worth memorizing. Q&A 2 gives the basic structure of the catechism with its three parts: guilt, grace, and gratitude, but more importantly, the key to living and dying in the joy and blessing found in Christ Jesus.

Lord’s Day 1 teaches us that only Jesus Christ and his saving work on our behalf can give us true comfort, for the condition of the human race is critical. Sin has brought death to the human race, and only Jesus’ death and resurrection can bring forgiveness and life.

The wisdom of the world says, “Live for yourself. Seek your own honor and glory.” But the heavenly wisdom of the Bible is just the opposite. In Christ we are freed from ourselves, so that we might glory in our triune God, Father, Son, and Spirit. Augustine, in his great work, The City of God, compared the two loves that can motivate the human heart:

“Accordingly, two cities have been formed by two loves: the earthly by the love of self, even to the contempt of God; the heavenly by the love of God, even to the contempt of self. The former, in a word, glories in itself, the latter in the Lord. For the one seeks glory from men; but the greatest glory of the other is God, the witness of conscience. The one lifts up its head in its own glory; the other says to its God, ‘Thou art my glory, and the lifter of my head.’”

Where will this new heart come from to live for the Lord and his glory? Q&A 1 answers, Look to Christ in whom is forgiveness and life. Through him, his Father is now our Father. Through Him, the Spirit indwells our hearts, so that we make it our goal to live for Christ and not ourselves.

------------------------------------------------

Only One Comfort

To the Tune: EVENTIDE Abide with Me. Based on Lord’s Day 1 of the Heidelberg Catechism. Words: William Weber, 2010.

v. 1
There’s just one comfort in life and in death,
that I belong to Jesus, not myself.
The Lord completely paid for all my sins,
freed me from slav’ry, blesses me in Him.

v. 2
The Lord cares for me in a tender way,
watches my life and leads me all my days.
My Father works out all things for my good,
bless’d in His Son and filled with gratitude.

v. 3
O Jesus, Lord, my Savior and my Song,
how bless’d in You I am to now belong.
You send Your Spirit, plant Your life in me,
and in Your Word may I Your glory see.

v. 4
There are three things believers need to know:
How great my sin is, misery also.
How I am set free from iniquity.
How I should thank God who has set me free.



Here is the beginning of my post. And here is the rest of it.

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