Ministry of Worship

This is the course I am taking at the Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary. Our main texts for this class include: With Reverance and Awe by D.G. Hart and John R. Muether, Worship Reformed According to Scripture by Hughes Oliphant Old, and The Lord’s Day by Joseph A. Pipa, and Old Light on New Worship by John Price. These works are to be read for the class in the order that I have them listed here. One thing is for sure about this term, while I have less “work” to do per week the reading has doubled. This thankfully, does not present too much of a problem for me as I am a quick reader with the uncanny ability to comprehend what it is that I have read. The book I am most looking forawrd to read is the book by Joey Pipa on the Sabbath. I have always had misgivings about the laxity that most treat the Sabbath and would like to receive a more thorough understanding of Christian Sabbath. Also of interest is the work by John Price, especially since RPTS is the seminary for the RPCNA. It will be very interesting when we get to the part of the course where the professor explained in the first class he will present a defense (using the Price book and some of his own writings on the subject) of Exclusive Psalmody and non-instrumentals in worship. This should be a fascinating class.

Here, as promised, is a couple selections from a main text:

“We worship God because God created us to worship him. Worship is at the center of our existence, at the heart of our reason for being. God created us to be in his image-an image that would reflect his glory. In fact the whole creation was brought into existence to reflect the divine glory.”

Hughes Oliphant Old, “Worship Reformed According to Scripture” pg. 1

“If you listen carefully to current debates, you will encounter rhetoric that is strange for Reformed Christians. Here are some comments we have heard, none of which is terribly unusual:

  • “I like a church thats is casual, where I know I can go and relax during worship”
  • “I don’t always enjoy my church’s worship, but that’s okay. I know it will be different next week.”
  • “I’m tired of the barrenness of worship-I’m looking for something with more beauty.”
  • “Worship is ultimately a matter of taste, and there is no accounting for that.”
  • “If there is one thing you can say about our worship, it’s not boring!”

These popular sentiments all remind us that there is significant confusion about the nature, purpose, and practice of worship. This confusion extends to the Reformed community, and it underscores the urgency of recovering a biblical view of worship.

D.G. Hart and John R. Muether, “With Reverence and Awe” pg.11-12

Pastoral Theology

At the beginning of this new term I wanted to take the time and introduce each one of my new classes (Christology will not be dog-eared because all the required reading is from traditional confessions) with a quick snippet out of a required reading. For Pastoral Theology this work is Pastoral Theology: Essentials of Ministry by Thomas C. Oden of Drew University. This work (the first 20 pages I have read) has been a treat to read. Though without further ado here is some text to chew on…

In recent decades, pastoral theology has suffered from neglect of sustained theoretical reflection and from isolation from companion theological disciplines. (pg. xi)

…[Pastoral Counselors] continue to appeal to the office of pastor for their professional identity and fees, yet without a well-defined conception of pastoral office; some may trade off the exceptional trust that people have in the office of pastor, yet with minimal interest in the ministry of Word and sacrament. Others, who in concentrating on developing special skills to serve human need have moved narrowly into special ministries, now may find themselves carrying out these duties with an uneasy conscience or unentered spirit. I hope this study will serve them in their developing attempts at centering and in recovery of pastoral identity.(pg. xi)

One Term Down, Two to Go

As I finish up this term at PTS I wanted to say a few things about the classes I have taken and the classes that are coming up.

This Term was pretty much a wasted three months. While my Greek Exegesis class with Dr. Dale Allison, Jr. was fascinating to the tilt, I am not sure I learned a whole lot about exegeting a text. Theodicy was on the other hand a fascinating class filled with all kinds of useful adages and readings. I highly recommend it if you get a chance to take it (not that any of the people reading this will likely be in a position to…). Though the professors defense of NPP left a lot to be desired.

Well that ends completely the classes that were worth anything this term. The next two classes which I was enrolled this Fall were a total waste. Intro to Ethics, which was neither really Christan nor really useful (that is unless your college did not require an Ethics course, then this may have been good for you to take). Dr. Hainsworth is a nice professor but I would lobby to teach other things if I were her. PS01: Education was horrendous. We never really learned anything and our sections honestly justed turned into a theological debate that rarely (if ever) engaged the texts we were supposed to be reading.

Well thankfully I have been assured by Seniors at PTS that my last term was the worst I would experience at PTS. Let’s Hope.

Anyway next term will allow us to tackle some more meatier subjects like Pastoral Care, Christology, and the Gospels. Also for those of you who recall I will also be taking a course at what one of my dear professors at PTS referred to as “where the wackos are”, Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary on Reformed Worship. As I said before I am hoping RPTS gives a much needed respite from Liberalism and ignorance. We’ll see….

Here is to a good Winter Term!!!

Worth a Mention…

Steve Brown over at Key Life wrote an excellent letter and I thought it would be worth sharing over here.

Steve’s Letter: “It’s Called Guilt!”

Do you know why Christians sometimes have a hard time enjoying Thanksgiving?

It’s because we have so much and know that, if we got what we deserved, we would have nothing.

The rich in general and film/rock stars in particular have that problem too. That’s why they say such dumb things and support so many crazy causes. They’re surprised that they have so much and they’re afraid people will find out that they just “lucked out” and are not as wise and as gifted as people think they are. And then they live in constant fear that their stuff will be taken away. So they try to make up.

It’s called guilt.

I understand that for unbelievers who have so much and don’t deserve it. They have a problem in a lot of areas—they don’t have anybody to thank, they are afraid that it will all be taken away, they feel guilty about it, and they think that self-righteousness and throwing money at problems will justify their elite position and balance the books or, even if it doesn’t, it will make them feel better about their stuff.

But it is less understandable for Christians.

Our guilt robs us of the joy of a Thanksgiving party. With every bite of the turkey, there is this knowing that we didn’t deserve it. Our laugher is sometimes forced and our guilt is often (though not always) mirrored in the prayer before the meal: “Lord, thank you for this day and all your blessings. As we enjoy the blessings, keep us ever mindful of those who are less fortunate than we are.”

“Eat your food…There are people in the world who are starving.”

“Name one!”

Okay. It’s a good prayer and a true one. There really are those (and a lot of them) who are less fortunate than we are. And, of course, we should be mindful of them and actively compassionate toward them…as long as we can “name them.” Not only that. Jesus said that when we are compassionate to them, we are compassionate to him (Matthew 25).

That goes without saying.

The problem is our guilt isn’t that much different than the guilt of unbelievers…and that is kind of sad.

Paul wrote to the Philippians from jail: “I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need” (Philippians 4:11-12). Then, later, he writes, “And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. To our God and Father be glory forever and ever” (Philippians 4:19-20).

Because we’re so neurotic, we always read what Paul wrote as a way to deal with deprivation. After all, he was writing from prison.

But that isn’t all Paul was saying. Don’t miss the “abundance” and the “abounding” part. Paul said that he was contented when everything was right, when he had stuff and when he wasn’t in jail. He was affirming true Thanksgiving for whatever a good God gave.

The Thanksgiving of the Christian is different than the Thanksgiving of unbelievers and it’s more than just the fact that we have Someone to thank.

First, Christians are not only thankful to God, we are thankful to a good, wise and gracious God who likes us and gives us good stuff.

Benjamin Franklin said, “Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.” Without making an editorial comment on the beer part of that, the attitude is quite Biblical and suggests the real reason Christians can enjoy a Thanksgiving without guilt.

Martin Luther said, “Blessings at times come to us through our labors and at times without our labors, but never because of our labors. God always gives them because of His undeserved mercy.”

But there is more than that to a Christian Thanksgiving. We are thankful because God owns it all and he delights in our using his stuff.

Right after Hurricane Andrew when we lost our house, were conned out of thousands of dollars from a dishonest contractor and had thousands of dollars in liens on what we had left, I came out of our small rented one-room apartment and noticed that someone had stolen our car.

(That surprised me. A tree had fallen on the car and it had a big gash in the side. So, there is no accounting for the taste of thieves.)

Do you know what I did? I started laughing. Yeah, laughing. I then went back into the apartment and said to Anna, “Someone just stole God’s car.”

What happened? I had learned (and often forget) that stuff was stuff and that God owned it all and could do with any of it as he pleased. Not only did I not feel sad about the thieves who had stolen his car (a month before, I would have gotten my gun and gone looking for them!), when I finally got another one (and a better one), I didn’t feel guilty about driving that one either.

There is great freedom in realizing the sovereignty of God in every circumstance. It allows one to rest and to have peace in the bad and to really rejoice in the good. Both are from his loving hand.

When I was a young pastor at a church in the Boston area, we sponsored an annual “Bobby Burns Day” dinner honoring the 18th century Scottish poet. For that event, I memorized the Robert Burns blessing. I don’t think he was a Christian (or, if he was, not a “red hot” one), but his blessing and the attitude of it was quite Biblical.

Some hae meat an’ canna eat
An’ some wad eat that want it.
But we hae meat an’ we can eat
And sae the Lord be thankit.

(For those of you who need a translation: “Some have meat and can’t eat it. Others cannot eat who want it. But we have meat and we can eat. Let the Lord be thanked.”)

There is an old common saying that I’m told was often said to soldiers during a break, to wit, “Smoke ’em if you’ve got ’em.”

Let me wish you a wonderful Thanksgiving Day. If you’ve got it, enjoy it…and be thankful.

He asked me to remind you.

In His Grip,

Sad Day in the Glaser Household

As some of you may know Joe Nuxhall died last night from a long bought with Cancer at the age of 79. All my best memories as a child are from listening to Reds baseball with Joe Nuxhall and Marty Brennemann on WLW 700AM. I am going to miss the ole’ Left Hander…

Hamilton native Joe Nuxhall, who as a 15-year-old in 1944 made history by pitching for the Reds and later became a fixture in the Reds radio booth, died at 10:55 p.m. Thursday night at Mercy Hospital-Fairfield. He was 79.

One of the most beloved figures in Cincinnati’s rich baseball history, Nuxhall was admitted to Mercy Hospital-Fairfield on Monday for pneumonia, a low pulse rate and low white blood count. Thursday morning, doctors postponed surgery to insert a pacemaker because of Nuxhall’s low pulse, his son Kim Nuxhall said.

The Ol’ Left-hander, as he came to be known to scores of Reds fans, spent six decades with the team as a player and radio broadcaster until retiring after the 2004 season. Working under a personal services contract with the Reds, he broadcast selected games during the 2007 season.

Naturally, when some Reds fans heard the news of Nuxhall’s death, there was only one place they could go to show their grief and offer their thanks to a man who had done so much for them – Great American Ball Park, home of Nuxhall’s beloved Reds, “the ol’ ball orchard,’’ as Nuxhall used to call it.

Through the early morning hours, a steady stream of fans – young and old – pulled up to the curb in front of the ballpark and walked slowly to the statue in the center of Crosley Terrace – a statue of a 15-year-old Nuxhall, firing a pitch in his Major League debut.

Some left flowers; some left handwritten notes thanking the man for all he had meant to them. Others just stood and stared.

“It’s like losing an old friend,’’ said Roy Marksberry of Dayton, Ky., who pulled up in his pickup truck shortly before 9 a.m. to pay his respects. “I never met the man, but I feel like I know him. Like he’s family.”

Others left a Reds cap and a dozen roses. One left a baseball with the inscription: “Joe, rounded third and headed to heaven.”

Another fan deposited a single rose and placed it at the base of the statue. He attached a note that read: “Joe Nuxhall, Reds fans will forever be thankful for all the memories you left in our hearts for many years. Rest in Peace, Ol’ Left-hander.”

“He’s one of the greatest human beings I’ve ever met,” former Reds first baseman Sean Casey said in 2004. “He’s humble. He always thinks of others first. I know he was a great pitcher and he’s done a lot of other things. But I think everything else is second to him being a great human being.”

During a major league playing career that began in 1944 and ended after the 1966 season, Nuxhall appeared in 526 games with the Reds, Kansas City Athletics and Los Angeles Angels.

At 15 years, 10 months and 11 days old, he made his major league debut with the Reds on June 10, 1944 and pitched two-thirds of an inning in an 18-0 loss against the Cardinals. Signed to help fill out the Reds’ roster during World War II, he remains the youngest player ever to appear in a Major League Baseball game in modern history.

Nuxhall returned to the Reds’ roster in 1952, was an All-Star during the 1955 and 1956 seasons, and remained with the team until being traded to Kansas City before the 1961 season.

Nuxhall pitched in 37 games with the Athletics that year. The Orioles signed him as a free agent and released him before the 1962 season. Nuxhall quickly signed with the Angels only to be released by Los Angeles after five relief appearances in 1962.

Nuxhall rejoined the Reds shortly thereafter and pitched in 146 games for Cincinnati before retiring at age 37 in 1966. In all, he compiled a 130-109 record and a 3.80 ERA in 484 games with the Reds. In 1968 he was elected to the team’s Hall of Fame.

At the urging of former Reds general manager Bob Howsam and Wiedemann Brewing — then a sponsor of the Reds radio broadcasts — Nuxhall moved to the broadcast booth alongside Claude Sullivan and Jim McIntyre in 1967.

From behind the microphone in the Reds radio booth, Nuxhall witnessed and then shared some of the most pivotal moments in team history with his listeners.

He first teamed with Hall of Fame broadcaster Marty Brennaman for the 1974 season and the pair remained inseparable for 31 seasons on the Reds radio network.

“(Partners) Jim McIntyre, Al Michaels and Marty helped me a lot,” Nuxhall said in 2002. “I know they give me credit for helping them. But, brother, they helped me a lot. My English was pretty bad. I know it hasn’t improved a lot. But it has improved — simply from working with those guys.”

The public grew to know, and treasure, Nuxhall over the airwaves.

In December 2003, before his final full season in the broadcast booth, and again in December 2006, Nuxhall was placed on the ballot for the Ford C. Frick Award. The National Baseball Hall of Fame gives the annual award to a broadcaster “for major contributions to the game of baseball.”

“Joe is baseball in Cincinnati,” former Reds manager Sparky Anderson once said. “For myself, personally, if he doesn’t go in the Hall of Fame, they shouldn’t have one.”

A 38-year run as one of the team’s primary radio announcers ended in October 2004, but Nuxhall had remained visible around the team and broadcast booth since then.

“I think the anticipation of semi-retirement is worse than the reality,” Phil Nuxhall, Joe’s eldest son, said in 2004. “I think he’s going to be fine.

“He’s starting to realize we can take a family trip for the first time since we were kids. We can do things. We can go to a show or something. I think when that sets in, he’s going to be fine.”

An Ohio General Assembly resolution proclaimed Aug. 18, 2006 as “Joe Nuxhall Day” across the state.

The longtime Fairfield resident was honored before the Reds’ game against the Pirates that evening at Great American Ball Park.

A change in the team’s ownership structure before the 2006 season meant a higher profile for Nuxhall. Reds chief executive officer Bob Castellini made tapping into the team’s tradition a priority, and as a result Nuxhall was extended a personal services contract and broadcast selected games last season.

He worked alongside Marty Brennaman and his son Thom on Opening Day and, later in the season, broadcast from the new Busch Stadium in St. Louis. It was the 59th ballpark he had played in or broadcast a game, including each of the existing major league stadiums except the Rogers Centre in Toronto, Safeco Field in Seattle and Oriole Park at Camden Yards in Baltimore.

Outside the gates of Great American Ball Park, on the Crosley Terrace, Nuxhall is one of four “Crosley Field” era players immortalized with a bronze sculpture. The statue of Nuxhall was unveiled in July 2003.

“From the first day I walked on the field at spring training in Tampa, Joe was always there to help with whatever,” Hall of Fame catcher Johnny Bench said in 2004. “He just oozed Reds baseball.”

Nuxhall had battled cancer and heart problems for several years. In 1992, he was diagnosed with prostate cancer and suffered a heart attack in December 2001. In 2003, he underwent a 3½-hour surgery to remove a cancerous lump on the side of his face near his ear.

In May 2006, Nuxhall was admitted to Mercy Hospital-Fairfield to receive treatment for a lump on his tonsil and pneumonia in both lungs. The lump was a recurrence of the non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma first detected in September 2003.

He was released from the hospital after a seven-day stay and back at the ballpark soon after.

Nuxhall is survived by his wife of 60 years Donzetta, and two sons, Phil Nuxhall and Kim Nuxhall.

Enquirer staff writers Howard Wilkinson, John Kiesewetter, John Fay and Jennifer Baker contributed.

How are Christians to be Salt and Light in Our Culture Today?

Salt by its own definition does not lose its taste, and if it does it no longer can be called salt. It also cannot serve its function as salt if it is not applied to that which it is meant to flavor. If the salt sits next to the meat it fails to serve its given role but if it is used as it is given it will serve to save the meat from rotting. What is interesting about this fact in light of the question being asked is that if the Church still wants to be defined by its very name and if it wishes to follow its call to the world it cannot change to fit a definition that it does not answer and it cannot be a force in the world if it does not submit to its given role. In other words what separates the Church from being just another social organization like the Rotary or the Lions Club is that its mandate derives not from its individual members but from its foundation in the Word of God and the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. We can be assured that if the Church denies or abrogates either of these it ceases to be that with which it claims to be and if the Church loses that authority it can no longer be the beacon that shines from the city on a hill giving light to the world.

The Church and its members by their very nature serve both a role in the Kingdom of Heaven and the Kingdom of Man. It is neither proper for the Church in today’s society to be like the Anabaptists and completely withdrawal from its surrounding culture nor is it appropriate for the Church to be so involved in its surrounding milieu that it ends up being defined by and placating that culture. What has always troubled the Church is how to properly act in both arenas without acting outside its role to the Kingdom of Heaven. In other words what the Church has struggled with is how to be a light unto the path of a fallen world without compromising the Gospel. In today’s world we are as a Church confronted by a wide variety of cultural and systematic issues that threaten the ability of the Church to act as a united voice for the Gospel of Jesus Christ in a broken world. The Church as a whole has failed to make the proper distinctions between its prophetic voice to speak with authority to the things that it has been given authority to speak and its call to be careful to not entangle itself in the web of secular political machinations. Whether it be, for example, the Christian Left and Christian Right selling themselves out to secular political parties in the interest of receiving special interest in legislation or Christian para-church organizations accepting money from questionable sources just to complete their mission we have here two examples of how the Church should not be acting if it wants to present a message with integrity, with salt, to the world. However, this of course is not to say the Church should completely divest itself from involvement in the political arena so as to not compromise the Gospel. That would call, as Paul says in 1 Corinthians 5:9, for us to remove ourselves from the world completely. But we are to act with prudence and judgment as members of both the Kingdom of Heaven and the Kingdom of Man.

In closing what we, as a Church must do in light of being both salt and light is to ascertain from Scripture that which we must do to fulfill our mandate as members of both Kingdoms. Always with the knowledge that all things should be done to Glorify God first and foremost. Amen.

Beginning a New Course of Study

While the title may be a bit misleading it is quite a good summary of what I am going to do over the next couple of terms. I have applied to the Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary here in Pittsburgh to take a couple of courses for credit over the next couple of terms, as well as next school year. My purpose for doing so is to both broaden my theological horizons past the mainline seminary I now attend (Pittsburgh Theological Seminary) and to allow for a more relaxed theological environment in which to learn. I must be honest in saying that it will be refreshing to sit in a class and not have to defend basic Christological orthodoxy and watch as “Reformed” theology is misconstrued, masticated and spit out. This may also lead to me working towards a M.A at RPTS, we’ll see…