Pastor Willour’s New Year “Epistle”
Members and Friends of Lake OPC:
A very Happy New Year to you and yours! I hope that you had a meaningful holiday season, and that the Lord sees fit to bless you with good health, a measure of prosperity, and much spiritual growth in 2013.
The commencement of a new year is a season of new beginnings. It provides us with an opportunity to reflect upon and learn from what the Lord has been doing in our lives over the past year, and to set new (or re-newed!) goals as we press on in our pilgrim journey as disciples of Jesus Christ. A common practice among many at this time of year is the making of “new year’s resolutions.” Often these resolutions are unrealistic or overly-ambitious, with the frequent result being a speedy breaking of those well-intended “resolutions.”
Of course, there is nothing wrong with making reasonable and attainable new year’s resolutions, even challenging ones. As we face a new year ahead of us, may I suggest that you include among your new year’s resolutions the following spiritual “resolutions” or goals for 2013. Some of these goals involve simple obedience to God’s Word, but others are suggestions that, while not binding to the conscience, you may nevertheless find to be helpful in your walk with Christ.
(1) In 2013, resolve to make worship a top priority in your life.
As the Shorter Catechism reminds us, our “chief end” or primary purpose in life is “to glorify God and to enjoy him forever.” One of the most important ways we do this is by engaging in special acts of religious worship which God prescribes in His Word. Scripture informs us that God takes His worship very seriously, and therefore so should we. The Confession of Faith instructs us that “…God is to be worshiped everywhere, in spirit and truth; as, in private families daily, and in secret, each one by himself; so, more solemnly in the public assemblies, which are not carelessly or wilfully to be neglected, or forsaken, when God, by his Word or providence, calleth thereunto.” (Ch. 21.6) The Confession mentions three contexts for religious worship: Secret worship, Family Worship, and Corporate Worship.
*Secret Worship (i.e., “personal devotions”): Resolve to spend private time with the Lord every day, in prayer, Scripture reading, and meditation upon the Word. (If you are too busy to include a brief time of secret worship in your daily schedule, then it is likely you are simply too busy and therefore should rethink your priorities.)
*Family Worship: Families should resolve to set aside time every day to worship God together as a family. Ideally the husband (as head of the family) should lead the family in Scripture readings, prayers, and the singing of “psalms, hymns and spiritual songs” (Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16). This does not have to be a lengthy time of worship, but it should be consistent and carried out with reverence. (Again, if you are too busy to carve out a brief time for family worship, then perhaps you are just too busy.) Helpful family worship resources are available if you need direction in getting started with this practice, and I would be happy to point you in the right direction if you are looking for some good resources.
*Corporate Worship: “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” (Heb. 10:24-25, ESV) Even more important for your spiritual well being and that of your family than secret and family worship is the corporate, covenantal assembly of God’s people on the Lord’s Day. In 2013 resolve to do everything in your power to make sure that you and your family are present for corporate worship on every Lord’s Day (unless you are prevented by genuine sickness or other legitimate providential hindrances). Don’t let the multitude of distractions our society throws at us (such as family events, recreations, sporting events, etc.) keep you or your family from the spiritual blessings that come from diligently attending upon the ordained means of grace. As the time for Lord’s Day corporate worship approaches, have the attitude of the Psalmist: “I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the LORD!” (Psa. 122:1, ESV) Get plenty of rest on Saturday evening, prepare your heart ahead of time, and come to church on time and ready to meet with the King of kings and Lord of lords in solemn and joyful assembly!
(2) Read through the entire Bible in 2013.
Resolve to let 2013 be a year of spiritual feasting upon the Word of God as a whole. I recommend using a “through the Bible in a year” Bible reading plan that exposes you to portions of both the Old and New Testaments on a regular basis. (Please contact me if you would like suggestions for a good Bible reading plan.)
(3) Memorize the Shorter Catechism in 2013.
While the Bible alone is the infallible Word of God, and while the Catechism is secondary and subordinate to the primary Standard of God’s inerrant Word; nevertheless the Shorter Catechism has been well described as a “roadmap to the Bible.” The Catechism is a wonderful summary and overview of the basic doctrinal and ethical teachings revealed in Holy Scripture. Read out loud through five or six questions and answers every day during your devotions. Have either a friend or your spouse (or, better yet, your children!) quiz you periodically on the answers. In short, make it a fun and challenging activity that you do with your family or Christian friends.
(4) Attend at least one fellowship opportunity per week in addition to corporate worship.
In 2013 resolve to attend at least one fellowship opportunity per week in addition to the stated worship service on the Lord’s Day. By “fellowship opportunity” I mean either the adult Sunday School class or a midweek Bible study. These study classes provide a forum for interaction, discussion and mutual edification, and they can be a great opportunity for spiritual growth and fellowship. (The Wednesday midweek Bible study continues to meet every Wednesday at 7:00 p.m. in the Florence Room at the Hilton Garden Inn. The Thursday midweek Bible study meets on the second and fourth Thursdays of each month at the Collins’ residence in Cleveland Heights. In addition, the monthly White Horse Inn Discussion meets every third Thursday evening at 7:00 p.m. at the Panera on Wilson Mills Road just around the corner from the Hilton Garden where the church meets for services.) Let us be in frequent and regular fellowship with one another in 2013.
Once again, may all of you have a truly blessed and Christ-centered new year!
In the grip of His grace,