Saturday, December 16, 2023

Grace That Makes Us Sing Like (Because!) We Mean It [2023.12.16 Pastoral Letter and Hopewell Herald]

Hopewell Herald – December 16, 2023

Dear Congregation,

I was encouraged, this week, to read an excerpt from a new book by an RPCNA minister. It compared how congregations sometimes seem to be gripped so little by what they are singing, to how a singer about unfounded and idolatrous human hope was able to stir herself up to feel deeply what she was singing about, every time she sang it. The pastor was urging his readers to sing like we mean it in corporate worship.

The excerpt gives wonderful counsel: We must put the words before the tune. We must own that which we sing. We must have our identify in the one to whom we sing. Having these three simple truths in mind, we are better equipped to fulfill what The Confession describes as singing psalms with grace in the heart. For you have been redeemed—sing as though it is true!

Of course, it is grace in the heart that produces this sort of singing in public worship:

Col 3:16—Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.


And its parallel, Eph 5:19—speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord

[note that “melody” here is the word for instrumental music; the external instruments of the temple have been replaced by the almighty internal work of God’s Spirit]


And the reminder that right worship is always by grace, Heb 12:28—Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear.

So if we have not been following the good, biblical, counsel of the book, we must look to God for more grace in our hearts!

You never know when and how He might give that particular grace. For my eldest son, it was in family worship—at a friend’s house. The dad was leading it from one of the many passages in the Psalms that urges such singing. Maybe Psalm 9:1 or Psalm 100:1–2? But the dad simply urged everyone to sing from the actual knowledge of God, to sing like they mean it, to offer the whole of the self—including the volume of their voices—whenever we sing to God in worship. The Spirit blessed His Word to my son, and he has sung like that ever since.

It should be our joy to sing like that. Feel every Word. Know the One in Whom and by Whom we sing. Know the One to Whom we sing. Know the greatness of the truth that we sing. Put our whole selves into it. What would the singing be like? We will know. When we get to heaven. It would be like heaven. And that’s what our worship is supposed to be like. Heaven on earth. Not the made up stuff that seems heavenly to partially sanctified, sin-inhabited, saints like we are. The real heaven.

One of my friends and mentors, who is in heaven now (and whose book on the Shorter Catechism Hopewell was using for the catechism class when the Lord called me here), once had a cardiac abnormality discovered in public worship. He only sang Psalms—even if the congregation was singing a hymn, he’d sing a Psalm to the same tune at the top of his lungs. Well, one day, he sang until he passed out. Ambulances came, the whole nine yards.

I still remember the phone call from him, in which I found out. His opening words—the happiest I could ever remember him sounding—were “I finally kept the commandment!” He was talking about Psalm 9:1. That may have been as true as it can be in this world. But my dear friend is truly keeping that commandment now.

Shall we not seek, from God, grace to sing like this? Shall we not come to public worship, treating it as a genuine visit to heaven, every Lord’s Day? O, do let us sing with all our heart and voice, pray with all our heart and longing, hear with all our heart and submission, worship with all that we are.

Looking forward to heaven on earth with you,


Audio lessons to help you prepare for the Lord’s Day:

▪Theology Simply Explained — WSC10, The Creature That Images God 
▪Psalm 107:1–22, “Prepared for Problems by Praise
▪Isaiah 33–35, “Assured to See the King in His Glory
▪Philemon vv8–25, “Authority, Love, and Christian Relationships
▪Matthew 5:9, “Sons of God, Sons of Peace
▪Leviticus 20, “Holy Duty of Excommunication

LORD'S DAY – December 17, 2023 

9:50 a.m. Breakfast Line Opens

10 a.m. Sabbath School
Pastor Hakim will lead us in considering the second half of chapter 6 of the book Battleplan for the Mind—considering the actual practice of biblical meditation.

11 a.m. Public Worship
Children’s Catechism for December 17
Q71. Why do you need Christ as a king? Because I am weak and helpless.

Shorter Catechism for December 17
Q10. How did God create man? God created man male and female, after his own image, in knowledge, righteousness and holiness, with dominion over the creatures.
[WSC 10 Simply Explained: “
The Creature That Images God”]

Songs for December 17 morning service: 
ARP107A “O Thank the Lord for He Is Good” [mp3]
ARP40A “I Waited for the Lord” [mp3]
TPH461 “Blessed Are the Sons of God” [mp3]

Scripture Text for first portion of worship service
Psalm 107:1–22

Scripture Readings and basis for confession of sin and petition for help
Isaiah 33–35
Philemon vv8–25

Sermon Scripture text and topic
We will be hearing the sermon from Matthew 5:9 on “The Revealing of the Sons of God

Lord’s Supper! (Please see the section at the end of the Worship Booklet on how rightly to prepare for and take it).

1 p.m. Coffee Fellowship and Catechism Class

1:30 p.m. Fellowship Lunch
Memory Verse for December 17, Matthew 5:9, Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.

3:00 p.m Evening Praise and Preaching
We will be singing at least ten Psalm selections and hearing the sermon from Leviticus 20 on “Holy Duty of Excommunication


Hopewell this Month
Hopewell’s Presbytery Prayer Focus for December
Lincoln Memorial ARP in Fayetteville, TN

December Psalm of the Month
ARP40A I Waited for the Lord

Upcoming Events

Wednesday, December 20, Midweek Prayer Meeting. 6:30 p.m. in the Chapel. We will hear a sermon from Romans 10:1–4 then pray until just before 8 p.m.
• Saturday, December 23, Men’s (and future men) breakfast, 7a in the Fellowship Hall
• Thursday, January 11, Session Meeting, 6p.m. in the Fellowship Hall. This is also the deadline for deacon candidate recommendations.

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