John Wesley & the Spiritual Practice of Self-Examination

John Wesley & the Spiritual Practice of Self-Examination

by Pastor Brian Phillips

John Wesley (1703-1791) was an Anglican minister who, with the help of his brother Charles and friend George Whitefield, founded the Methodist movement. Wesley served as a missionary to native Americans, itinerate preacher, prison minister (during his days at Oxford), and authored numerous books and hymns. 

In 1735, while journeying to the American colonies with his brother, their ship was severely battered by a storm. While most of the travelers were anxious and frightened, a group of Moravian Christians sang hymns. Wesley was deeply touched by their seemingly unshakable faith and piety, which influenced his later theology and practices. 

Among Wesley's personal spiritual practices were questions for self-examination. Here they are, as listed in Jake Hanson's book Crossing the Divide:

1. Am I consciously or unconsciously creating the impression that I am better than I really am? In other words, am I a hypocrite?

2. Am I honest in all my acts and words, or do I exaggerate?

3. Do I confidentially pass on to others what has been said to me in confidence?

4. Can I be trusted?

5. Am I a slave to dress, friends, work or habits?

6. Am I self-conscious, self-pitying, or self-justifying?

7. Did the Bible live in me today?

8. Do I give the Bible time to speak to me every day?

9. Am I enjoying prayer?

10. When did I last speak to someone else of my faith?

11. Do I pray about the money I spend?

12. Do I get to bed on time and get up on time?

13. Do I disobey God in anything?

14. Do I insist upon doing something about which my conscience is uneasy?

15. Am I defeated in any part of my life?

16. Am I jealous, impure, critical, irritable, touchy or distrustful?

17. How do I spend my spare time?

18. Am I proud?

19. Do I thank God that I am not as other people, especially as the Pharisees who despised the publican?

20. Is there anyone whom I fear, dislike, disown, criticize, hold a resentment toward or disregard? If so, what am I doing about it?

21. Do I grumble or complain constantly?

22. Is Christ real to me?

John Newton: Finding Grace the Hard Way

John Newton: Finding Grace the Hard Way

John Newton (1725-1807) penned "Amazing Grace" in 1779. It is perhaps the world's most well known Christian hymn, an anthem to the forgiveness of sin offered to man through Christ. But, Newton came to understand that grace the hard way.

Around age 18, Newton became a sailor for the Royal Navy, and eventually worked aboard British slave ships. His life at sea was rough, and throughout his years, he endured lashes from cruel captains, and was even abandoned by his shipmates in West Africa. He was taken captive by a slave trader there and Newton described himself then as "an infidel and libertine, a servant of slaves in West Africa."

He was finally rescued in 1748 (after about 3 years enslavement) and, while journeying back to England, Newton was dramatically converted to Christ. In 1764, he became an Anglican priest and, eventually, a dear friend of William Wilberforce, the most influential abolitionist in Britain.

Newton understood grace. He understood shackles, both literal and spiritual, and he wrote and preached often of the true freedom found in Christ. This hymn, "How Sweet the Name of Jesus Sounds," was penned by John Newton in 1774, five years before he wrote "Amazing Grace."

No Other Gods

No Other Gods

The exhortation delivered by Pastor Phillips at Holy Trinity on May 13, 2018.

“And God spoke all these words, saying, ‘I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me’” (Exodus 20:1-3).

After reminding Israel of their deliverance from Egypt, God gave them His first commandment: You shall have no other gods before me. Egypt was a polytheistic culture – they had many gods. And so, having been delivered from Egypt, Israel needed to settle in their minds that they had but one true God.

But, having another god is not simply a matter of actively practicing some other religion or of bowing down to a graven image. It is often subtler, simpler, and more deceptive than that. The wording of the first commandment literally reads, “You shall have no other gods before My face.” In other words, there is to be nothing else between us and the Lord our God.

It can be helpful to think of this in a physical way - an object obstructing our view, literally coming between us and the Lord.

Given that word picture, it becomes somewhat clearer that the possibilities for idols are seemingly endless – work, money, our over-filled schedules, and sometimes even family and friendships. Even these good things can be wrongly loved in such a way that they are placed between us and the face of the Lord.

What keeps you away from the face of God? Are there things between you and the face of God? May God help settle in our minds that we have but one true God. We are His people. We too have been called out of “Egypt.” Let us confess our sins...   

The Ten Commandments: A Message of Deliverance

The Ten Commandments: A Message of Deliverance

An exhortation to the congregation of Holy Trinity, delivered by Pastor Brian Phillips on April 29, 2018.

“And God spoke all these words, saying, ‘I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me’” (Exodus 20:1-3).

When God delivered the Hebrews from the land of Egypt, He brought them out with signs and wonders, with plagues that were designed to defeat the gods of Egypt (as we’ve seen in past sermons). Each of the ten plagues corresponded to an Egyptian god as do each of the Ten Commandments. And, once the Hebrews were delivered from Egypt and were journeying to the Promised Land, God delivered His law to them – the Ten Commandments.

God was establishing Israel as a people – removing them from the gods and laws of Egypt and establishing them under His Law.

Notice the opening words – “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me.” Two important details to notice: first, God’s Law is rooted in His mercy. We are to look at His commandments through the lens of His deliverance. God gives us His commands because He loves us and has delivered His people from bondage. Obeying God’s commandments brings freedom, not bondage.

Second, God’s commandments are a reflection of who He is. Notice the contrast – verse 2 begins “I…” and each of the commandments are directed to “You” – the people of God. Because He is the Lord our God who delivers us, we live by His commandments, which continue to guard us from the bondage of sin. Let us confess our sins...   

Good Friday Service

Good Friday Service

Almighty God, we pray you graciously to behold this your family, for whom our Lord Jesus Christ was willing to be betrayed, and given into the hands of sinners, and to suffer death upon the cross; who now lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
- Book of Common Prayer, Collect for Good Friday

Join us as we remember the crucifixion of Christ our Lord.

When: Friday, March 30th at 6:00 p.m.
Where: Holy Trinity Reformed Church
             3747 Trinity Church Road
             Concord, NC

Spring Forward!

Spring Forward!

Make sure to "spring forward" this weekend! Move your clocks ahead one hour before bed on Saturday night. Or, if you are an absolute stickler for the rules, or simply hate feeling rested, you can wake up at 2:00 a.m. and set your clocks ahead then!

We'll lose some sleep, but gain some daylight! 

 

 

The Beginning of Lent

The Beginning of Lent

Join us at Holy Trinity Reformed Church this Ash Wednesday!

When: Wednesday, February 14th at 6:00 pm

Where: 3747 Trinity Church Road, Concord, NC

This Wednesday is Ash Wednesday, the first day of the Lenten season.  It is a day on which many Christians will gather for a service of prayer, reflection upon the Scriptures, repentance, communion, and the (optional) application of ashes to the forehead.  As we prepare to begin our journey through Lent – a journey of fasting, repentance, and prayer – the encouragement and perspective gained on Ash Wednesday is extremely helpful.

As we look forward to our own Ash Wednesday service here are some helpful things to keep in mind.  The Ash Wednesday service… 

  • Unites us in a "mere Christian" practice, a tradition observed by our Christian brothers and sisters through the ages, and around the world
  • Provides encouragement and fellowship with one another as we begin Lent       
  • Reminds us of the sacrifice of Christ
  • Nourishes our souls through the Lord’s Supper
  • Calls our minds back to the purpose of fasting
  • Helps focus our fasting on Christ, not on our own “suffering” or what we are “giving up”
  • Gives us an opportunity to pray for one another
  • Allows for a time of focused prayers of repentance and confession

But, what about the ashes?  First of all, the imposition of ashes is optional.  It is not a sacrament, but it is a powerful reminder of our own mortality, and therefore, of the great attention we should give to repentance and our walk with Christ.  One Anglican pastor recently reflected over the sobering act of applying the ashes:

“—An older man shuffles forward to receive the ashes.  This would be his last time…and he knows it.  The cancer has eaten away at his esophagus and the doctor gave him less than nine months. He gets these eleven words more than most: Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return.
—A new mother presents her sleeping baby.  The skin of the child is soft and pure…it seems too harsh to remind this woman that her child will die; would go down to the dust. How awful! But it is true. None are exempt. The words are hard to say, but I say them anyway and try to not wake the child. I touch the new forehead lightly: Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return.
—Once, a business woman stood before me in a smart looking suit. She was dressed for success. She had come during her lunch hour to our service at high noon. I press the ashes on her forehead and then realize that I am smudging her makeup too.  Her careful facade has been marred by the sign of the cross.  I wonder if she will make a quick trip to the bathroom to reapply her cosmetics. Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return.

Second, the imposition of ashes does have a biblical basis, in addition to centuries of Church practice.  For more on that, take a look at "Ash Wednesday: What & Why." 

If you decide not to receive the imposition of ashes, you will still greatly benefit from the Ash Wednesday service and you will not be out of place. 

If you do receive the imposition of ashes, do so humbly, as a reminder of your own mortality and need for repentance.  Remember the warnings of Jesus - “And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others.  Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward.  But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret.  And your Father who sees in secret will reward you” (Matthew 6:16-18).

We can all be tempted to parade our “righteousness,” even in circumstances that should create humility.  When we fast or – as in the case of Ash Wednesday – begin our fast, we should never do so to be seen by men.  Once the ashes are applied, remember their meaning – repent.  Then, pray, wash them off, and walk in obedience. 

Finally, remember that the ashes are made in the shape of the cross for a reason – there is hope in Christ!  In Christ alone do we rise from the ashes to new life.

 

Ash Wednesday - What & Why?

Ash Wednesday - What & Why?

We are nearing the season of Lent, a 40-day period of fasting that begins on Ash Wednesday (February 14th) and ends on Easter (excluding Sundays). The 40 days mirror numerous biblical accounts – it rained forty days and forty nights in the flood, Moses spent forty days at the top of Mt. Sinai, Israel wandered in the wilderness for forty years, Elijah was given bread and water by the angel of the Lord but then didn’t eat again during his forty-day journey to Mt. Horeb, Nineveh’s 40 days of repentance before the Lord, and Christ’s 40 days of battling temptation in the wilderness. The tradition behind Lent, then, can be traced back to the early Church, but also back to the Scriptures themselves.

Lent begins with Ash Wednesday, a day that is unknown to some Protestants, even those who may observe Lent. Traditionally, Christians gather for a service of contrition and repentance on Ash Wednesday, typically called a “service of ashes.” Elements of those services differ, but many churches practice the “imposition of ashes” – the applying of ashes in the sign of the cross on the forehead.

Why? The Scriptures repeatedly refer to ashes as a sign of repentance for sin or mourning.

  • Esther 4:3 – “And in every province, wherever the king’s command and his decree reached, there was great mourning among the Jews, with fasting and weeping and lamenting, and many of them lay in sackcloth and ashes.”
  • Job 42:5-6 – “I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you; therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes.”
  • Jonah 3:4-6 – “Jonah began to go into the city, going a day’s journey. And he called out, ‘Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!’ And the people of Nineveh believed God. They called for a fast and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them to the least of them.  The word reached the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne, removed his robe, covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in ashes.”
  • Ezekiel 9:4 – “And the Lord said to him, ‘Pass through the city, through Jerusalem, and put a mark on the foreheads of the men who sigh and groan over all the abominations that are committed in it.’”

Note that the “mark” here is literally the tav, a Hebrew letter which in ancient script was written as a cross-shaped letter (tav = “+”). The Church father Tertullian remarked that God had given to Ezekiel “the very form of the cross…”

Of course, the imposition of ashes on the forehead is quite new to many, so we should stress that it is not required, and that an Ash Wednesday service is significant whether or not ashes are applied. Beginning Lent with an Ash Wednesday service…

  • Provides encouragement and fellowship with one another as we begin Lent
  • Reminds us of the sacrifice of Christ
  • Nourishes our souls through the Lord’s Supper
  • Calls our minds back to the purpose of fasting
  • Helps focus our fasting on Christ, not on our own “suffering” or what we are “giving up”
  • Gives us an opportunity to pray for one another
  • Allows for a time of focused prayers of repentance and confession

In other words, ashes or not, make time to attend an Ash Wednesday service as you begin the Lenten season. And, as we prepare for Lent, let us ask the Lord to grant us longing hearts; hearts that seek Him above all else – above our own lusts and desires, above our love of self and comfort. For we don’t fast in order to gain favor with God or out of some severe asceticism, but rather to bring to light our struggles with sin and put them to death by His grace and strength. We do it so that we might be reminded of how serious our sins truly are, and that we might lay them before the cross, in preparation for the celebration of resurrection.

Join Us for Christmas Eve!

Join Us for Christmas Eve!

"FOR TO US A CHILD IS BORN, TO US A SON IS GIVEN; AND THE GOVERNMENT SHALL BE UPON HIS SHOULDER AND HIS NAME SHALL BE CALLED WONDERFUL COUNSELOR, MIGHTY GOD, EVERLASTING FATHER, PRINCE OF PEACE."

Isaiah 9:6

Join us this Christmas Eve for our annual combined worship service with Trinity Lutheran Church, as we celebrate the end of Advent and the arrival of Christmas! The service begins at 4:00 pm and will include singing, prayers, a homily, and communion.

When: 4:00 pm on Christmas Eve
Where: Holy Trinity Reformed Church - 3747 Trinity Church Rd., Concord, NC

2017 Advent Readings - Week Three

2017 Advent Readings - Week Three

by Pastor Brian Phillips

Among the many wonders God wove into His creation are the seasons. With every year comes Spring, Summer, Autumn, and Winter. Spring brings new life, Summer brings warmth and growth, Autumn brings the turning of leaves as the old is pushed away, and Winter is a season of death – death of flowers, grass, insects, in preparation for the coming life of Spring.

Yet, in this season of death, we pin lights to our houses, put bright decorations on our lawns, and put trees up in our living rooms! This time of year, even our mini-van grows a red nose and antlers. We wear festive colors and intentionally ugly sweaters, sing songs written solely for this season, and break out recipes we only use this time of year.

We do all of these things in winter – the season of death. And it is so fitting that we do so. The Advent season is a time of preparation, but like Lent, we know that this season has a definite and joyful end. We know that our fasting during Lent will end with resurrection! We know that our Advent preparations will end with the Incarnation and celebration that our Savior has come.

And so, we prepare in hope that is certain; not wishful thinking, but certain promises. Let us pause now to contemplate the growing light, the growing anticipation of celebration. Come, thou long-expected Jesus, the Light of the World to pierce the darkness, the Life of the World into a dying world.

To help us observe Advent, here is a collection of Scripture readings for each day of the season, drawn from the Book of Common Prayer. The readings for week three are taken from the Psalms, the prophets Amos and Zechariah, and the Gospels of John and Matthew. It can be helpful to begin the day with the first Psalm reading, then read the prophet at mid-day, and end the day with the Gospel reading and evening Psalm(s).

Contemplate these passages in light of the Advent and its call to preparation for the celebration of Christ's Nativity.

Sunday, December 17th – Third Sunday of Advent
Psalms 63:1-8; 98 (morning) · Psalm 103 (evening)
Amos 9:11-15
John 5:30-47

Monday, December 18th
Psalm 41, 52 (morning) · Psalm 44 (evening)
Zechariah 1:7-17
Matthew 24:15-31   

Tuesday, December 19th  
Psalm 45 (morning) · Psalms 47-48 (evening)
Zechariah 2:1-13
Matthew 24:32-44

Wednesday, December 20th
Psalm 119:49-72 (morning) · Psalm 49 (evening)
Zechariah 3:1-10
Matthew 24:45-51 

Thursday, December 21st
Psalm 50 (morning) · Psalm 33 (evening)
Zechariah 4:1-14
Matthew 25:1-13

Friday, December 22nd  
Psalms 40, 54 (morning) · Psalm 51 (evening)
Zechariah 7:8-8:8
Matthew 25:14-30

Saturday, December 23rd  
Psalm 55 (morning) · Psalms 138-139:1-17 (evening)
Zechariah 8:9-17
Matthew 25:31-46

2017 Advent Readings - Week Two

2017 Advent Readings - Week Two

by Pastor Brian Phillips

Advent is the beginning of the Church year. For four Sundays before the celebration of Christmas, Christians observe Advent. Traditionally, the first act of Advent is the lighting of one candle on the Advent wreath – which is made up of four candles (one for each Sunday in Advent), 3 purple/blue and one pink (though that varies from culture to culture and by Church tradition).

Lighting Advent candles is not necessarily “magical,” but it does mark the beginning of something. To give one very inadequate example, when you light birthday candles, the song begins. When we light the candles, we mark the season of Advent and, with each additional candle each week, the light grows, pointing us to the Light of the World whose birth is the end of the Advent season and the beginning of Christmas. Just as the birth of Jesus divided all of history into B.C. and A.D., so it divides Advent from Christmas – two different seasons. 

The Advent season is a time of preparation. It is a time to decorate the church, our homes, even our yards. But more than that, it is a time for spiritual preparation - individually, household by household, and as a whole congregation.

To help us observe Advent, here is a collection of Scripture readings for each day of the season, drawn from the Book of Common Prayer. The readings for week two are taken from the Psalms, the prophets Amos and Haggai, the Gospel of Matthew, and the Gospel of Luke. It can be helpful to begin the day with the first Psalm reading, then read the prophet at mid-day, and end the day with the Gospel reading and evening Psalm(s).

Contemplate these passages in light of the Advent and its call to preparation for the celebration of Christ's Nativity.

Sunday, December 10th – Second Sunday of Advent
Psalms 148-150 (morning) · Psalms 114-115 (evening)
Amos 6:1-14
Luke 1:57-68

Monday, December 11th
Psalm 25 (morning) · Psalms 9, 15 (evening)
Amos 7:1-9
Matthew 22:23-33  

Tuesday, December 12th
Psalms 26, 28 (morning) · Psalms 36, 39 (evening)
Amos 7:10-17
Matthew 22:34-46

Wednesday, December 13th
Psalm 38 (morning) · Psalm 119:25-48 (evening)
Amos 8:1-14
Matthew 23:1-12

Thursday, December 14th
Psalm 37:1-18 (morning) · Psalm 37:19-42 (evening)
Amos 9:1-10
Matthew 23:13-26

Friday, December 15th
Psalm 31 (morning) · Psalm 35 (evening)
Haggai 1:1-15
Matthew 23:27-39

Saturday, December 16th
Psalms 30, 32 (morning) · Psalms 42-43 (evening)
Haggai 2:1-9
Matthew 24:1-14

2017 Advent Readings - Week One

2017 Advent Readings - Week One

by Pastor Brian Phillips

Advent is a season of preparation – of prayer, contemplation, fasting, and spiritual renewal.  It is a time in which the people of God, by God’s grace, make straight His paths in their hearts.  Rather than simply being an extension of the Christmas celebration, Advent prepares us to more truly and fully celebrate Christ’s birth. 

To help us observe Advent, here is a collection of Scripture readings for each day of the season, drawn from the Book of Common Prayer.  The readings for week one are taken from the Psalms, the prophet Amos, the Gospel of Matthew, and the Gospel of Luke. It can be helpful to begin the day with the Psalm reading, then read the prophet at mid-day, and end the day with the Gospel reading.

Contemplate these passages in light of the Advent and its call to preparation for the celebration of Christ's Nativity.

Sunday, December 3rd – First Sunday of Advent
Psalms 146-147
Amos 1:1-5, 13-2:8
Luke 21:5-19

Monday, December 4th
Psalms 1-3
Amos 2:6-16
Matthew 21:1-11  

Tuesday, December 5th
Psalms 5-6
Amos 3:1-11
Matthew 21-12-22

Wednesday, December 6th
Psalm 119:1-24
Amos 3:12-4:5
Matthew 21:23-32

Thursday, December 7th
Psalm 18:1-20
Amos 4:6-13
Matthew 21:33-46

Friday, December 8th
Psalms 16-17
Amos 5:1-17
Matthew 22:1-14

Saturday, December 9th
Psalms 20, 21:1-7
Amos 5:18-27
Matthew 22:15-22

Hanging of the Greens

Hanging of the Greens

On Saturday, December 2nd at 10:00 a.m., we will gather for the Hanging of the Greens - decorating the church for the coming Advent and Christmas seasons, including the Advent wreath and the church Christmas tree.

The Christmas tree is deeply rooted in Christian tradition, going back at least to the story of St. Boniface, an 8th century missionary to modern-day Germany, a region controlled by Norsemen who brought their religion with them.  They worshiped many gods, Thor being the chief of them and they consecrated a gigantic oak tree in Thor’s honor at the top of Mt. Gudenberg. They would gather around the tree for feasts, idol worship, and animal sacrifices.

St. Boniface, in the company of these pagans, chopped down the tree. Angry at first, the response of the Norsemen turned to repentance – if Thor could not defend his own holy place, what good was he?

Boniface then used that tree as an object lesson to tell them of a tree that actually does save, not because the tree was magic, but because on that tree, Jesus Christ died for the sins of men. That tree, Boniface said, is an evergreen, an eternal tree.  Many Norsemen were converted to Christ and it was there that they began the practice of decorating evergreen trees (even in their homes) in celebration of the Savior's birth.  Increasingly, the tree became a focal point in the home and gifts were laid under it, not in honor of the tree, but in honor of the Savior who died on the tree. It is His birth that we celebrate during Advent and it was for our sins that He died on the tree, the cross.

When: Saturday, December 2nd at 10:00 a.m.

5 Books for the Reformation 500

5 Books for the Reformation 500

by Pastor Brian Phillips

October 31st, known as All Hallows Eve or Halloween, is the eve of All Saints’ Day. The name “Halloween” derives its name is from the full title of All Hallows Eve. October 31st is also referred to as Reformation Day, in commemoration of Martin Luther nailing the 95 Theses to the door of Castle Church in Wittenberg, the event often held to be the beginning of the Protestant Reformation. This event is a helpful historical marker, but the Reformation began much earlier, with men like John Wycliffe and Jan Huss, and others. 

The Reformation was intended to be just that, a reformation; not a revolution. Luther and the other reformers had no intention of leaving the Catholic Church, but eventually did so, some departing on their own, others driven out. But, when we commemorate the Reformation, we do not desire to commemorate the division of the Church but rather the message of grace, and the return of the Bible to the hands of the ministry and laity of the Church.

As we near the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, here are some suggested reads for the occasion: 

1)    The Reformation by Diarmaid McCulloch

A highly-acclaimed and expansive look at the Reformation, written by Diarmaid McCulloch, who is widely considered the foremost authority on the history of the Reformation. At just shy of 900 pages, it is as thorough as it gets. Perhaps the most valuable contribution of this book is that it presents the Reformation, not as one movement, but as many movements that took place in different places, with different cultures, personalities, and emphases. Very needful in a time when “Reformed” is often reduced to “five points.”

2)    The Unquenchable Flame by Michael Reeves

Incredibly thorough given its brevity (a little over 200 pages), Reeves provides an overview of the major people, events, and ideas of the Reformation, along with arguments for why the Reformation still matters today.

3)    The Reformation 500 Years Later: 12 Things You Need to Know by Benjamin Wiker

Written by a Roman Catholic thinker, it may seem odd to include it on this list. However, Dr. Wiker provides a balanced assessment of the Reformation, the good, bad, and the ugly. Wiker is honest about the flaws of the Roman Catholic Church before the Reformation, and the flaws of the Reformers and their descendants. Worth the read, even if you leave with some disagreements.

4)    The End of Protestantism by Peter Leithart

An honest assessment of some of the Reformation’s unintended consequences, written by a Reformed pastor and theologian. Dr. Leithart wrestles with the rampant division that rose from the Reformation, and the chaotic denominationalism that dominates the American church. He makes a case for growing unity between all the streams of Christianity. This is an ambitious work that leaves us struggling with all the right questions.

5)    Heralds of the Reformation by Richard Hannula

Richard Hannula, author of Trial & Triumph, tells the stories of thirty figures of the Reformation throughout Europe. Beginning with the forerunners of the Reformation, like Wycliffe and Huss, and proceeding geographically, Hannula includes household names like Luther, Calvin, and Knox, along with relatively unknown players.

Vespers & Bible Study for October 2017

Vespers & Bible Study for October 2017

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“All the darkness in the world cannot extinguish the light of a single candle.” 
- St. Francis of Assisi

On Wednesday, October 4th, we will continue the series, "Saints & Sinners: Stories from Church History," with a study of St. Francis of Assisi.  

In a time of ecclesiastical corruption and apathy among the laity (not historically uncommon), Francis stood out in radical obedience to Christ. He preached a message of repentance, established an order of friars, nuns, and even laymen who followed his Rule and way of life. Francis was said to live out the Sermon on the Mount more than any other man, save the Man who preached it.  

Join us as we explore the life, work, and wisdom of St. Francis of Assisi!

Where: Holy Trinity Reformed Church (3747 Trinity Church Road, Concord, NC)
When: 6:00 pm (dinner) & 6:45 pm (Vespers & Bible Study)

Vespers & Bible Study - September 2017

Vespers & Bible Study - September 2017

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“Almighty God, give me wisdom to perceive You, intelligence to understand You, diligence to seek You, patience to wait for You, eyes to behold You, a heart to meditate upon You and life to proclaim You, through the power of the Spirit of our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.” 

- St. Benedict of Nursia

On Wednesday, September 6th, we will continue the series, "Saints & Sinners: Stories from Church History," with a study of St. Benedict of Nursia.  

In a time of cultural upheaval and turmoil, Benedict established faithful monasteries in Italy and beyond, founding an order that remains one of the world's most active and influential. Benedict was a model of personal devotion, and provides a challenging example of how Christians may serve the world and one another.   

Join us as we explore the life, work, and wisdom of St. Benedict!

Where: Holy Trinity Reformed Church (3747 Trinity Church Road, Concord, NC)
When: 6:00 pm (dinner) & 6:45 pm (Vespers & Bible Study)

St. Patrick's Breastplate

St. Patrick's Breastplate

At Holy Trinity, we joyfully receive communion each week - singing as we do so. It is a time of joy and reverence, celebration and awe, because Christ was given for us and to us.

Here is a beautiful arrangement of this month's communion hymn, "St. Patrick's Breastplate."

"Christ be with me, Christ within me,
Christ behind me, Christ before me,
Christ beside me, Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort and restore me.
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me,
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger."

Drunk Drivers & King Saul: Cautionary Tales

Drunk Drivers & King Saul: Cautionary Tales

A selection from the sermon by Pastor Brian Phillips (on July 2nd, 2017)

It was upon a beautiful, sunlit morning that I kissed my wife and kids, got in my trusty Honda Civic, and set out down the country roads of Stanly County, heading to my office – later than I had intended. Some five minutes from the office, traffic slowed to adjust to the city speed limits, going from 55 mph to 35 mph.

Yet, the very large, red Ford work van behind me didn’t get the memo and proceeded to plow into the back of me, skidding me off the road into the gravel, and sending my bumper and various car parts scattering along Highway 73. The van hit me so hard that it took him a good hundred yards or so to stop, back up, and return to the scene.

The firemen and paramedics got there first, and all told me to stay still in my car until they could get me on the ambulance for a physical. While I was on the ambulance, the police arrived and the patrolman walked to the ambulance to talk with me first. At that very moment, when the policeman stepped to the ambulance, that the driver of the red van turned battering ram, made a break for it. He drove away from the scene, with his front end busted, bumper half off and occasionally scraping the road.

I will not repeat the stunned policeman’s words from the pulpit, but he was not happy. He called for back up, jumped in his cruiser, and peeled away, with promises to return.

While on the ambulance, I commented to the paramedics that, had it not been 10-o’clock in the morning, I would have thought the man who hit me was drunk! He had been driving erratically all the way down the road. The paramedics looked at one another with knowing glances and one replied, “Oh, it doesn’t matter what time it is.”

Well, they were right. The policeman returned, still quite frustrated, to report that they caught the man and that he was three sheets to the wind, as they say, and that he and his dog decided to go on a drunken joy ride that ended at my back bumper. That would be one of the early ones in a series of bad decisions that included drinking too much in the first place, using a smashed up van as a getaway car, and choosing a getaway route that put you directly in front of the Sheriff’s department.             

Bad decisions have a way of spiraling – one leads to another. You tell a lie, then have to tell another lie to cover for that one, and on and on. You sin in some way, and you think you get away with it, so it becomes easier to do it again. Over the course of 1st Samuel (which we were in before the Feasts of Easter, Ascension, and Pentecost), King Saul makes one bad decision after another. And he commits one more sin after another to cover it up.  

Saul's life is a cautionary tale on many levels. From his seemingly endless plunge into greater wickedness, let us learn to keep short accounts with God, praying that God would subdue our sins and deliver us from evil.

"Of Course I Forgive You"

"Of Course I Forgive You"

From the exhortation by Pastor Brian Phillips on Sunday, June 11th

1st John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” There are some promises in Scripture that become so familiar, some verses that become so comfortable, that we forget just how truly astounding they are. If we “confess” our sins to God, He is faithful and just to forgive us? To us, that sometimes seems too easy. Isn’t there something else we must do?

Yet, there it is. A promise.

My children have taught me just how true this is. I can’t speak for your house, but in our house, we have sinners living there. So, rarely does a day go by when one of us does not have to ask forgiveness for something we have done. I am impatient, or inattentive, or short, or I raise my voice – and I have to ask my children or my wife to forgive me.

Mind you, my children have been raised up hearing this verse – 1st John 1:9 – recited to them nearly every time they get “reminders” for some wrong they have done. And those same children, when wronged by me, and I ask their forgiveness, reply, “Of course I forgive you.” Without fail.

Their forgiveness to me is so sure, so faithful, that it has taught me greater trust in God’s forgiveness. If my own children can offer forgiveness so freely, how much more does God forgive me when I confess my sins to Him? Still further, if my children can forgive me so quickly and freely, and if a perfectly holy God can forgive my sins so faithfully, how could I dare withhold forgiveness from those wrong me?

Let us be like little children, who are wise enough to trust and live out the promises of God. Let us forgive and seek forgiveness as they do.

Let us confess our sins to the Lord…  

Helping Little Ears

Helping Little Ears

By Pastor Brian Phillips

What is the most important part of a worship service? Is there one aspect of the liturgy that stands out from the rest?

Not too many years ago, I believe I would have said, "The sermon." As a pastor, that answer would surprise almost no one. After all, I spend more time preparing that aspect of the liturgy than any other part. Writing a sermon takes far more time than delivering it - even on my most "long-winded" Sunday mornings. And delivering a sermon takes far more time than any other aspect of the liturgy - even on my most "short-winded" Sunday mornings. 

But, that is not my answer today, and has not been for quite a while. So, what is the "high point" of the liturgy? That is hard to say because the liturgy is a conversation between God and His people. He speaks, and we respond. So, claiming one part of the liturgy misses that the liturgy is a conversation, and thus it cannot be so neatly divided. Rather, it comes as a whole, with each movement connected to the previous and the next. 

Thus, the sermon is not the "high point" of the liturgy, but it is one of the many tools God has given to equip and teach His people. It is also a time of intense work - study, preparation, and delivery by the pastor; focus and attentiveness by the congregation.

This can be particularly challenging for little ones, who are a great number in our congregation! It is also one of the few aspects of the liturgy that changes each week. Children so quickly memorize responses, prayers, confessions, and creeds, but the sermon cannot be memorized. It is new each week.

So, to help these little ears in their great task, I venture to offer a word or phrase to listen for in each week's sermon. These will be sent out to the congregation in the Midweek Update and posted in our church Facebook page. Make sure to look for them, then pass them along to your children, asking them what they learned about that word or phrase in the sermon.