27 July, 2009

The Theatre of Glory

Many will claim that Calvinists and Puritans were ones to reject the notion of theater. They will cite the Westminster Larger Catechism where it says, "...lascivious songs, books, pictures, dancing, stage plays; all other provocations to, or acts of uncleanness, either in ourselves or others..." are a violation of the seventh commandment.

Of course, what is not realized is that the Divines are not rejecting stage plays, but ones that are lascivious. Theater is all around us.

Calvin himself saw the whole world as a place of theater. He saw it as the theater of God in which his glory and wonder was played out before humanity, where the unfolding of the drama of redemption took place for His glory. He said, "Ever since in the creation of the universe he brought forth those insignia whereby he shows his glory to us, whenever and wherever we cast our gaze... And since the glory of his power and wisdom shine more brightly above, heaven is often called his palace. Yet... wherever you cast your eyes, there is no spot in the universe wherein you cannot discern at least some spark of his glory (1.5.1)." What that means is that his glory is being shone around us in theatric measures!

David Hall, also speaking of the theater of glory says for Calvin, "Every aspect of life, from work to worship and from art to technology bears the potential to glorify God. Creation is depicted as a platform for God's glory or a dazzling theater displaying God's glorious works."

23 July, 2009

Where is God Working Wonderous Deeds? A: In Sudan.

Sometimes as Reformed Christians we get discouraged. Where is God working in mighty ways? Why can't we see the outpouring of the Holy Spirit as we did in Acts, or during the Reformation, or during great times of revival in the past? We ask these questions and we forget that God is always at work, always building his Church, always bringing the number of the elect unto himself.

Here is an update from the RP Mission team to Sudan. We stand in awe of God's outpouring of grace in Sudan. Please remember them in your prayers and if you are so inclined, to remember them with a gift as well. (Financial information for giving can be found here.)

Read what the Lord has done in the past couple of weeks:

This past Lord's Day we experienced a time of tremendous blessing at the Mangar Akuac Mission Church. Forty-four people were baptized in the name of the true and living God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. It was particularly exciting to see elderly men and ladies come forward to consecrate their lives to God through faith in Jesus Christ. I remember surveying the congregation at one point toward the end of the service and catching a sight of glory - beaming faces, glistening heads. The sunlight was streaming into the church through a large gap at the apex of the thatched roof of the country church. It made the residual beads of water from baptism look like studded jewels and diamonds on the ebony black skin of my new brothers and sisters in Christ. Ministry is full of hardships, heartaches and setbacks. There are frustrations and concerns that perpetually burden our hearts. But this sight of God's glory over the lives of His recently redeemed people infused something into my heart, a strangely polarized emotion, something between a sigh of relief and a booster cable jolt. As I think about it now, I believe the Lord was communicating divine truths to my tired heart: "Relax, rest, I will bring to completion the good work I have begun in My people. Andrew, I will cause My name to be glorified in all the earth!" Dear prayer partners, isn't it comforting to know that God will succeed in His kingdom causes, to know that the risen Christ, who is King over all, will bring to pass all of His plans! Following the worship service we marched over to three different compounds to uproot and destroy long-standing family idols.

I'm reminded of Paul's words to the believers at Thessalonica: "They report about us what kind of a reception we had with you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God." It' hard to describe the step of faith it is for new believers to turn from their idols, to actually yank them out of the ground and toss them into the fire. At the first compound I spoke to the people about the exceedingly great power of our God who cast Satan down and triumphed over him through the cross of His Son. To make things clear, I felt led by the Spirit to do something somewhat Elijah-like. I sat my rump down on the biggest and most obvious of the compound idols (a 5 inch-wide, 30 inch high carved stick with a notched knob at the top). The people were shocked as I addressed them from my perch. I said, "If the god of this stick is stronger than the true God of heaven and earth, let him come and strike me down! Let him come and defend his idol." Well, I waited... and nothing happened! Then in the suspense of the moment it dawned on them: "The God of the Bible is the real God!" The silence erupted into spontaneous clapping and singing and dancing. I must say, I was praising God, too! Then the men of the church (and not a few zealous ladies!) laid their hands on the idol and cast it down. The idols and charms were removed from the compound, including a goat's head and various amulets, and cast into a raging fire, symbolic of Satan's eternal and infernal demise. After more singing and a word of exhortation, we returned to the compound for prayers of consecration and protection. And so it went from compound to compound. By the end of the day, I was thoroughly exhausted, the people tremendously encouraged and, I believe, our Lord and Saviour wonderfully glorified in the expansion of His kingdom.

On behalf of the Team,
Pastor Andrew (Madingdit)

PS. Pray for all the new believers in Mangar Akuac that they would grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ; that they would be rooted and grounded in Him who alone can sanctify them entirely and preserve them complete until the day of His return (1 Thess.5:23,24).

03 July, 2009

Culture Wars: Is It Really New?

We hear a lot about the so-called 'culture wars' today and a great deal of us think that this is a relatively new thing. The truth is that since God first pronounced judgment on the serpent of old in the Garden, there has been a culture war. From this time there have been two cultures emerging. The first is the culture of the serpent. His culture is that of this world strives for power, popularity, and fame. The second is the culture of 'the seed'. This is the culture that attempts to live unto the glory of God as we patiently look forward the full redemption of His creation and the consummation of all things.

But there is also a culture war, of sorts, within the 'culture of the seed'. What is role of this culture? Are we retreatists who are called to make Christian communities that are apart from the world? Are we called to create monasteries and live in pious huddles? Or are we called to be transformers of culture and have dominion as God has commanded? Are we salt and light in the midst of darkness or are we something else? Something that God has not commanded?

The 20th century hero amongst Presbyterians, JG Machen, spoke to this issue in 1913 at Princeton Theological Seminary. It illustrates that we are not in a new battle; we just have forgotten those who were fighting before our time. Machen said,

In the first place, Christianity may be subordinate to culture. That solution really, though to some extend unconciously, is being favored in a very large and influential portion of the Church today. For the elimination of the supernatural in Christianity- so tremendously common today- really makes Christianity merely natural. Christianity becomes a mere human product, a mere part of human culture... The second solution goes to the opposite extreme. In its efforts to give religion a clear field, it seeks to destroy culture. This solution is better than the first. Instead of indulging in a shallow optimism or deification of humanity, it recognizes the profound evil of the world, and does not shrink form the most heroic remedy... Therefore, it is argued that the culture of this world must be a matter at least of indifferene to the Christian... Are then Christianity and culture in a conflict to be settled only by the destruction of one or the other of the contending forces? A third solution, fotunately, is possible- namely consecration. Instead of destroying the arts and sciences or being indifferent to them, let us cultivate them with all the enthusiasm of the veriest humanist, but at the same time consecrate them to the service of our God.