Monthly Archives: January 2013
Did Jesus have to be crucified or could He have died another death? Of what advantage to us is Christ’s ascension to heaven? What does it really mean to eat the body and drink the blood of Christ? What are the keys of the kingdom of heaven? These questions and 125 others are answered in the Heidelberg Catechism, which incidentally just turned 450 years old. Now before you say, “Big deal!” and walk away from this month’s column, please hear me out.
When you hear the word, “catechism,” your mind may conjure up visions of an out of date, dog-eared, old book you’re likely to find at an estate or yard sale, or you may associate it with an extra set of impossible rules to live by, all made up by a bunch of religious zealots. But a good catechism is far from either of these. In fact, it is quite in vogue with Protestant 20-somethings these days. The Heidelberg Catechism is simply a book of 129 common questions about God, us, and the world around us, followed by answers from the Bible. The answers to these questions enable us to apply the truths of the Bible to our own lives in a very practical manner. Best of all, they give us a big picture of what God is doing in the world and how we fit into that picture. A common response to completing the catechism is a revived (or newly kindled) passion for God and His glory. Who wouldn’t like that?!
The Heidelberg Catechism is not a 16th century version of “The Bible for Dummies;” Not at all! It is not to be a substitute for reading the Bible or to be considered on par with Scripture itself. It won’t tell you everything you need to know from the Bible. Think of it as a road map, of sorts, to understanding and living the Christian life. Therefore, the best way to read it is devotionally. The authors even sectioned it off to be read and digested over a 52 week period. If you’re strapped for time, I’d say consider scrapping “Our Daily Bread,” or whatever other devotional you’re reading, and focus on the Heidelberg for a year (of course along with your Bible). Consider reading and discussing the questions and answers with a friend, your spouse or your children, as you go through it.
The Heidelberg Catechism, written in Heidelberg Germany by a group of respected theologians, is the fourth most widely circulated book in the world, and is (of course) available in the public domain through an internet search. I would suggest, however, either borrowing or purchasing a version which includes study notes and a short devotion for each question. My favorites are “The Good News We Almost Forgot – Rediscovering the Gospel in a Sixteenth Century Catechism,” by Kevin DeYoung and “The Heidelberg Catechism,” by G. I. Williamson. I’ll be sure to have copies of both, and others, in the church library (off the vestry where we have coffee hour each week) for you to peruse and borrow.
I don’t think it’s possible for you to regret reading through the Heidelberg Catechism. Your rewards will be a better understanding of the essentials of the Christian faith, an increased ability to more readily explain the faith to others (including your own family), the discovery of new ways to apply the faith to your life, and the stoking of your heart’s devotion to God. As DeYoung says, with regard to discovering (or rediscovering) the Heidelberg, “Come and see how the cool breeze from centuries gone by can awaken your lumbering faith.” Thanks for hearing me out!
Sunday’s passage from Acts is probably one of the most well known and exciting of the entire book. It contains the fulfillment of Pentecost and one of the greatest sermons ever preached. All Jesus had done to this point was at the heart of the consummate Pentecost, and launched the entire creation into its “last days.” We’ll go straight to the heart of that Pentecost on Sunday morning, unpacking its implications and applying them to you, me and our church as a whole.
It will also Sanctify of Life Sunday. Come hear the powerful testimony of God’s grace in a local woman’s life, resulting from the ministry of Carenet. Carenet provides pregnancy resources and genuine support for women in Manchester and Nashua and is supported by our church. Carnet seeks to minister to physical and spiritual needs of the new mom, her child and other family members. Their work of love and compassion was recently cited in a NY Times article and it is truly an amazing ministry.
Finally, please continue to pray that God would pour His Spirit out on you and our church, as we respond to the Book of Acts and seek to put our faith into action.
Last Sunday got us off and running in the book of Acts. We left the disciples as they waited to receive power from the Holy Spirit before embarking on the mission Jesus entrusted them with, to be His witnesses “in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8). As they waited for God to do great things through them, they were far from inactive. They prepared for what was ahead of them.
Jesus has left us, the Congregational Church of Goffstown, with a mission like that of the early Church, to be Jesus’ witnesses in Goffstown, Southern New Hampshire and to the end of the earth. We have already received Holy Spirit power, but find ourselves, at times, in need for further preparation as we wait for God to do mighty and awesome acts through us. How do we prepare ourselves for that, as a church and as individual followers of Christ? How do we discern what God would have us all do next? Could revival and awakening really happen in our church and community? I hope you share my excitement for what God is currently doing through our church and that you will join me this Sunday at 10:30 A.M., as we attempt to answer these questions from our text, and as we seek together the power of the Holy Spirit in our witness for Jesus.