30 June, 2008

To God Alone Be Glory

How many seminaries that were around 200 years ago are still faithful to the Scriptures? How many are still Reformational, Bible teaching seminaries? How many believe that the Scriptures are the inspired, inerrant Word of God?

I can only think of one. (Correct me if I am wrong.)

This past week, To God Alone Be Glory was released in honor of 200 years of God's faithfulness to the Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary. I got my copy at Synod and it is a wonderful book. It is filled with stories of those who have attended the seminary, as well as many pictures and facts from the seminary's past.

Here are the chapter titles and contributors:
1. "Two Centuries of Sola Scriptura," Robert M. Copeland

2. "The Blessing of Balance," Paul E. Faris

3. "From Syria to Pittsburgh," Bassam M. Madany

4. "From the Old Building to the New: An Analogy," Kenneth G. Smith

5. "The Turtle on the Fencepost," Robert H. McFarland

6. "Friendships," Donald W. Piper

7. "A Caring Family," Walter W. Swartz

8. "The Blessing of Intimacy," Brian E. Coombs

9. "Three Hananiahs," Richard B. Holdeman

10. "A Faithful Family," Andrew R. Cooper

11. "An Unanticipated Blessing," Sung Kug (Ulysses) Jung

12. "Continuity in a Period of Transition," Rutledge E. Etheridge, III

13. "The Women Who Stood," Maryln C. Black

14. "Stories from a Seminary Wife," JoAnn Smith

15. "A Faculty Member's Testimony," Wayne R. Spear

16. "The Seminary's Best Kept Secret," Thomas G. Reid, Jr.

17. "Looking to the Future," Jerry F. O'Neill

It really is amazing that the Lord has been faithful to the RPCNA and her institutions for over 200 years. To God alone be glory!

28 June, 2008

Sabbath a'Brakel: Tale of Two Kingdoms

Civil government does not have the authority to use the keys of the kingdom of heaven. Those keys have not been given to it, but rather to the church. The civil government punishes those who disturb the peaceful coexistence of its subjects, doing so by way of corporal punishment. The church, however, punishes those who act contrary to truth and godliness, doing so with spiritual discipline. They both have different objectives and there is thus a different manner of punishment. He who is disciplined by the church may nevertheless be a good subject of the government (II: 168).

26 June, 2008

177th RPCNA Synod Blog

Here is the blog for Synod. I know that it is late in the week, but I do not want to give over $20 to Geneva College for wi-fi.

I am on break and it is going well. Many have asked about my exams, so: In the Lord's goodness and providence, I was unanimously sustained for both exams.

Praise be to His Holy name!

22 June, 2008

When a man possesses spiritual life, however, this life cannot be idle; it will be active by way of meditation. Since this life originates in heaven, it will also gravitate toward heaven. If it were not repressed by natural corruption, would always, without impediment, be exercised with holy meditation. Since it is repressed, however, it wrestles with corruption and breaks through all this in holy meditation. "My heart is inditing a good matter" (Psa. 45:1). To that end it is time and again needful that there be the influence of the Holy Spirit whereby He lifts us up and maintains our life. Such is the manner in which the regenerate man meditates; however, he is moved to that end by the Spirit of God (IV: 28).

18 June, 2008

Courage In Christian Ministry

The English word ‘courage’ and the derivative ‘courageous’ are used 25 times in the Bible. There are four different Hebrew words and one Greek word that translated as such in the English Bible. Each give insight into what God requires of those who have positions of leadership in the Church. The words are:

  • Chazaq: This word means to strengthen, prevail, harden, be strong, be firm, or be resolute. This is the most common in our courageous lexicon. It is mostly used to describe Joshua and his boldness in conquering God’s enemies.
  • Lebab: This is inner-mind or will. It shows us that courage is something that that is internal and something that is to be ‘willed’. Courage does not come naturally, but is a discipline that the minister must practice in the midst of conflict.
  • Ruwach: Interestingly, this word is most often translated as spirit, will, or wind. It is a widely used Hebrew word in the Old Testament. This derivative teaches us that courage is not just a ‘willful’ attitude, but one that is spiritual. True courage will never be without the held and aide of the Ruwach of God.
  • Amats: This word is closely related with chazaq. It means be strong, alert, courageous, brave, bold, solid, or hard. It teaches those who lead that there is a discipline which is not only reactive, but proactive. The minister is to be alert for practicing this discipline, not only performing courageously after conflict has arisen.
  • Tharasos is the only Greek word that we have translated as courage. It means courageous or confidence. It is important to note, that this confidence is not within ourselves, but confident that God is using conflict to further his glory and conform us to the image of His Son, Jesus Christ.

17 June, 2008

The Reformed Can Jump Too!

In 2005 when Rob Bell wrote Velvet Elvis he talked about how he just wants to 'jump' and how so much of Christianity (read: Grand Rapids Reformed Christians) are not able to 'jump' but instead live in what he called 'Brick-ianity'.

When I read that 3 years ago, I thought to myself, many Reformed Christians I know enjoy a good jump. We enjoy fellowship of the saints and enjoy God and enjoy life in the Spirit. We are not all controlled by the bricks.

Today (3 years too late) I caught the perfect image of the Reformed 'loving the joys of the jump'. My children were playing on a trampoline in the front yard of Dr. Joel Beeke. They were jumping and enjoying life. They were enjoying the jump while people around enjoyed the joys of Christian community. I cannot think of anything that would better symbolize Grand Rapids Reformation Christianity than Dr. Beeke's home (and the seminary next door)! And in his front yard the future men and women of the Reformed faith are enjoying the jump!

Enjoy the jumping brothers!

13 June, 2008

The Pastor As Shepherd

One of the reasons that congregations fail is lack of biblical leadership. Seminary will often produce good preachers, good teachers, good theologians, but few seminaries focus on the aspect of leadership that the Bible calls 'shepherding'. Biblical leadership, or shepherding includes:
  • The shepherd as a congregational participant, and not just the teacher or preacher.
  • The shepherd as the chief organizer of the people that God has entrusted to him.
  • The shepherd as a planner of the changes and reformations that he desires in his congregation. Disorganization can be the death of a ministry.
  • The shepherd as the proistemi, (I Tim. 3.4-5) which can be translated as 'the one who presides over, the ruler, or the manager'. In the business world, this would be the CEO, the one who has the grand vision, the one who directs and manages.
Leadership, in a biblically faithful church, will then include, planning, organization, and authoritative instruction.

Jay Adams comments on the failure to be a biblical leader:

Without leadership, the sheep become confused, each turns to his own way and wanders off. That is why Zechariah was able to portray the disorder among the disciples that accompanied the death of Christ so vividly by use of this shepherdly figure when he prophesied: ‘Smite the shepherd and the sheep will scatter (13:7)’. Indeed, the biblical phrase, ‘like sheep without a shepherd’ has become proverbial. Yet like most familiar sayings, we take it for granted and we seldom think of what it means. Consider for a moment, something of its import. Sheep are helpless and are prone to scatter; ie., to break up into separate single units, to become disorganized and to disintegrate as a flock. Unlike ‘birds of a feather’ that ‘flock together’, sheep do not of themselves tend to do so. It is a principal activity of a shepherd. By faithful, personal leadership that involves responsible participation on his part such congregational organization is accomplished. Shepherdly leadership, then, has as one of its chief ends to bring about cohesion and order.

Adapted from Adam's book, Shepherding God's Flock, pp.324-329

11 June, 2008

The Evangelical Church is 'Rediscovering the Psalms'

As a Psalm singing Christian, it is hard to understand why anyone would want to sing anything other than the Psalms of the Bible(in the context of public worship). It is a beautiful and edifying event that promotes knowledge of Scripture, meditation on the Word, and having the very words of Christ dwell in us richly!

As someone who, in my early Christian life, did not sing Psalms exclusively, or at all, it is understandably a 'hard pill to swallow' that God wants us to sing the Psalms of the Bible as our praise and worship. It is difficult to begin as an individual, and it is difficult to begin as a congregation.

The Evangelical and Reformed Churches are rediscovering Psalmody though. Many are being converted to the practice of Psalm singing. Reformation 21 chronicled it this week, here is the sum of the whole matter:

There was a point in the history of the church when a government official--on another errand--stumbled across a long neglected book hidden in the rubble of a temple. Sure of its importance he brought it to king Josiah. The king in terror and joy read the book realizing that it was the very word of God. His response to this rediscovery was a plan of radical obedience designed to plead God's covenant mercy and praise his long forgotten redemptive works. This is what it looks like to rediscover the Bible and on a smaller scale to rediscover the psalms. It is this radically renewed worship that is spreading throughout the church today. It has deeply encouraged my soul as so many others have joined me in rediscovering the psalms.

Read the article here.

Real Christianity Is Vibrant Christianity

What is the problem with the church today? This is a question that we see time and again. We need to get our ideas for what the Church should look like from the Scriptures. The Scriptures promote a Christianity that is much more vibrant than the once a week Christian. There is fellowship and love and a family atmosphere in New Testament Christianity. It is much more than what much of the Church of Christ offers today. We need to work at being the Church of Christ.

Foreign to many churches today is the vibrant fellowship with God that we observe in Acts: the joy, the confident expectation of prayer answered, the tangible expression of family care… If we do not see in our churches the fellowship of the Spirit, drawing diverse people together into the family of God, eager to share with one another- food, time, funds, encouragement- what has changed? It could be as simple as this: We have lost sight of the Church as God shows in Acts. It is easy to lapse into viewing the church in terms of its externals- organizational routine, structure- and to think of our fellow members only in terms of their aggravating habits and frustrating failures. When little seems to be happening in the church, when nothing seems to change, it becomes easy to expect little or nothing to change.
-Dennis Johnson, The Message of Acts.

09 June, 2008

Some Prayer Requests

There are a number of prayer requests concerning the Reformed Presbyterian Church that you can pray about:
  • We have Synod approaching in two weeks. Please pray that the Lord would be glorified by the decisions of the Church Courts.
  • The Great Lakes/Gulf Presbytery has a few men who will be examined at Synod. I will have a theological exam as well as a preaching exam.
  • There are 13 pulpits open or coming open. Please pray that the Lord would raise up the men that He would have to fill these.
  • The mission to Nantes, France is coming up soon. Ask the Lord to prepare the hearts of those who will be attending (First Church's own, Loretta Lanning, is among the laborers).
  • Westminster RP in Chicago, IL had a congregational fast on June 7th. Please pray that God would give them clarity and insight into the issue(s) for which they fasted.
  • Please pray for those men who are looking for a pastoral position. I think of A.K. and B.E. especially.
  • Ask that the Lord would prosper the church planting activity in the nation. I think especially of the Berkshire RP mission in Massachusetts as well as North Atlanta RP in Alpharetta, Georgia. Both of these communities have great need for the Reformed religion and are ripe for the Lord's harvest.
Thanks for your prayers for denomination. If your denomination has special needs at this time, please post them in the comments section and we will pray that God's will would be done on earth as it is in heaven.

07 June, 2008

Sabbath a'Brakel: Christian Solitude

We must always strive for a disposition of heart that is inclined toward solitude, so that we can engage in secret prayer while surrounded by the turmoil of the world and as we interact with people. This means that we are to be loose and divorced from all that is of this world, such as the honor, love, riches, lusts, and pleasures of men. Furthermore, it means to be free from all creatures so that they will neither have dominion over us, conquer our hearts, confuse, nor trouble us (IV: 20).

06 June, 2008

New Blog: Huguenot in Cambridge

Rev. Dr. Christian Adjemian has started a new blog here. It looks as though he will do a number of book reviews and I am sure that he will have much to say about how to make a conservative Reformed church 'work' in Boston, Massachusetts!

I look forward to reading his reflections on Christianity and maybe a few thoughts on what it is like being a French pastor in a Scottish church in the United States.

Here is the congregation that Dr. Adjemian serves.

05 June, 2008

The Importance of Covenanting

Here is a quote from a nifty little volume called the The Covenant of 1954. It was when the RPCNA renewed their covenant vows as a denomination before God. The sermon from which this quote came was 'Retrospectives of Covenanting' and it went through the history of the Scottish Covenants as well as the American ones belonging to the RP Church.

Covenants were introduced by God to man in Bible times. They have been used by countless thousands. In Scotland:
  • The writing times proved their immediate value.
  • The proving times proved their ability to inspire endurance.
  • The tempting times demonstrated their most vulnerable points.
To these Covenanters of history, their church, their elders and young people, and even their unborn members were sworn away to Christ as God's appointed King. Their hearts, minds, bodies, souls belonged to Him. They cared for naught else but His Glory! It was their purpose in life... their only desire in death!

That oath was to them no ordinary agreement; it was a bond of Scriptural and moral content not to be broken without incurring the sin of perjury. They could say, "With your Bibles in your hands, declare your ecclesiastical and political position, vindicate it from the misrepresentation and aspiration, assert the obligations and true interests and honor of Jesus Christ, testify against the ecclesiastical defection and national sin, and, from the long suffering of God... call to repentance." With your Covenants in mind, bend all your energies and talents from every corner of the Kingdom to work in one finely concentrated effort for 'The Crown Rights of and Royal Prerogatives of King Jesus!"

It was the martyr Guthrie who closed his life with the words which we would do well to heed: 'The Covenants, The Covenants, shall yet be (our) reviving!"

Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; 'who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and it is set down at the right hand of the throne of God."
-Dr. Roy Blackwood, Synod's Memorial Volume of the Covenant of 1954, p.72-73.

04 June, 2008

God's Name Made Holy

The Scriptures teach us that the we are to make God's name holy in all of our lives and actions. This is not just seeing God's name as holy on the Lord's Day (or for two hours on the morning of the Lord's Day), but is to be a lifestyle that we live out. We are to make people see the holiness of God through the way in which we live out our Christian faith in the daily grind of life.

Hallowed be Thy name; that is, grant us, first, rightly to know Thee, and to hallow, magnify and praise Thee, in all Thy works, in which Thy power, goodness, justice, mercy and truth shine forth; and further, that we so order our whole life, our thoughts, words and deeds, that Thy name may not be blasphemed, but honored and praised on our account. -Answer 122

02 June, 2008

Redeemer Presbyterian Sermons

I have really enjoyed listening to Rev. Tim Keller lately. I was lent, on DVD, The Desiring God Conference, 2006, and really profited from his lecture "The Supremacy of Christ and the Gospel in the Postmodern World".

I have found that Redeemer Presbyterian Church has a number of his sermons here for free. (Boo to those for which they charge exorbitant amounts of money!)

I look forward to listening to some of these sermons. I would also like to read his latest book (which, of course, is whirling with controversy). But, I have little time for all of the reading that I would like to do.

01 June, 2008

The Christian's Identity Established Through Sonship

Tonight I heard a great sermon by Pastor Lanning on our adoption in Jesus Christ. It was called Establishing Your Identity. You can listen to it here. Some of the sermon incorporated the Reformed Confessions below:

Westminster Larger Catechism
Q74: What is adoption? A74: Adoption is an act of the free grace of God, in and for his only Son Jesus Christ, whereby all those that are justified are received into the number of his children, have his name put upon them, the Spirit of his Son given to them, are under his fatherly care and dispensations, admitted to all the liberties and privileges of the sons of God, made heirs of all the promises, and fellow heirs with Christ in glory.

Heidelberg Catechism
Q33: Why is He called God's "only begotten Son," since we also are the children of God? A33: Because Christ alone is the eternal, natural Son of God, but we are the children of God by adoption, through grace, for His sake.

Q34: Why do you call Him "our Lord"?
A34: Because not with silver or gold, but with His precious blood, He has redeemed and purchased us, body and soul, from sin and from all the power of the devil, to be His own.

On a side note, Pastor Lanning is my homiletics instructor as well as my pastor. As Professor Lanning, I do not think that he would allow me to get away with this quote, but he pulled it off quite well:

"Mr. Rogers taught us that all grows together because we are all one piece... that is good human biology as well as good Christian Theology".

It is worth spending the 40 minutes in meditation on our adoption as sons!