08 December, 2010

Level Ground or Slippery Places?

Today I was reading Charles Spurgeon (the Baptist) on Psalm 26 in his wonderful work, Treasury of David. Spurgeon has these great helps for pastors with little theological training called, "helps for the village preacher." When I got to the "help" for verse 12, I was taken back a bit. What did he mean? What a wonderful help for this urban pastor to meditate on in my afternoon meditation.

Verse 12 reads: My foot stands on level ground; in the great assembly I will bless the LORD.

Now here's the help, and mind you, it is not a free sermon from Busy Pastors Dot Com; it really was intended to foster meditation: "Congregational Psalmody, and our personal share in it."

That's it.

That's the whole help for the village pastor.

In my meditation I considered the way that congregational psalmody really does leave us on level ground so that we can praise without being hindered. As a pastor, I have received numerous questions on the theology of certain hymns; or the writer of certain hymns; or questions about the unbelief of modern praise and worship musicians who continue to write; or comments on the Unitarianism of Isaac Watts...

There are so many questions!

Spurgeon tells the village... er... urban pastor... don't worry about all of these questions. Stand where your foot is level. Sing the psalms to God in His praise! Bless the Lord in the Great Assembly without all of the questions and confusion and ignorance. Praise Him with the use of the Psalter, and you will not have to worry about all of this other stuff.

So my question to you.... well, actually, Spurgeon's question to you:

Are you on level ground in your blessing of the Lord, or is your congregation's foot always slipping on new and unique ways of praise? Are you standing firm, or are you sliding into areas that are unseen? It's amazing how worship can do that. We become what we sing.

I want to be on level ground. We'll stick with God's songs.

03 December, 2010

Three Sided Triangles & Unmarried Bachelors

The term "born again Christian" is redundant. All who are Christians must be born again. There is no other kinds of Christians than those who are born again.

RC Sproul states, "The simple reality is this: everyone who is truly a Christian is born again. There are no other kinds of Christians. There's no such thing as a non-born-again-Christian or an unregenerate Christian. Yes, there are plenty of unregenerate church members and plenty of unregenerate people who profess to be Christians, but a person cannot be in Christ unless he or she is regenerate. By the same token, if you are regenerate, you are a Christian."

02 December, 2010

The World Went and Got Itself in a Big Damn Hurry

"The world went and got itself in a big damn hurry." These were among the last words of the character, Brooks Hatlen, in the novella, Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption.

It's true. The world is in a hurry.

Of course, it always has been. People change. Things change. Times and seasons change. Styles change. Our desires change. Our love ebbs and flows. Our thoughts wander on to different things at different times.

The world is in a big hurry. Brooks was right. There is not much comfort in that. There is something terrifying about it. What's next? What will happen? What will become of me? Change is to be feared because we don't know what is next. We don't know what will happen. We don't know what will become of me.

For Christians, we have a hope, despite the ever changing world around us. We have a focal point to keep us from getting dizzied by the ever blinking lights and changes of this world.

Herman Bavinck summed up this focal point best when talking about the God who does not change. This God who does not change is really the only hope for consistancy in a world that has gotten itself in a big damn hurry. Look to Him- the one who changes not.

Everything changes, but He remains standing. He is and remains the same. He remains who he is. He is YHWH, he who is and ever remains himself. He is the first and with the last he is still the same God. He is who he is, the incorruptible who alone has immortality, and is always the same. Unchangeable in his existence and being, he is so also in his thought and will, in all his plans and decisions. He is not a human that he should lie or repent. What he says, he will do. His gifts and calling are irrevocable. He does not reject his people. He completes what he has begun. In a word, He, YHWH, does not change. In him there is no variation or shadow due to change. Dogmatics. Volume 1, p. 153.

01 December, 2010

History of this Scene?

I am looking for information on this print. It was given to me by one of my former elders (in the Grand Rapids congregation). It appears to be a kirk session praying over the Scriptures before public worship. Does anyone know the artist's name? The print's title? The names of the characters in the print? Any information would be appreciated.

25 November, 2010

A Reformation Prayer For Thanksgiving

Often other men have the ability to express my spiritual desires better than I do. Today is such a day as I consider thankfulness to God and what that means for my life, my family, and my spiritual hope. Enjoy:

Lord God,
our Heavenly Father,
we thank Thee for all thy benefits,
which we so unceasingly receive
from thy bountiful hand.
We thank Thee
that it pleases Thee
to sustain us
in this temporal life
and to supply all our needs.
We are especially grateful
that Thou hast regenerated us
unto the hope of a better life,
which Thou hast revealed unto us
in Thy holy Gospel.
We pray thee,
merciful God and Father,
that our hearts may not become
too deeply attached to these
earthly and perishable things,
but that we may always look heavenward,
expecting our Savior Jesus Christ,
until He shall appear
upon the clouds
unto our deliverance.

From the “Christian Prayers” of the Dutch National Church Liturgy, 1564.

A Psalm, Hymn, or Spiritual Song for the Lord's Day

17 November, 2010

Jerusalem Sinners in Need of Reformation

I have lived there.

I have lived in the Jerusalem for Reformed Christians. 12 years of it. I have attended two of the Christian colleges, one of the seminaries. I have worked for a Christian publishing house as well as a Christian psychiatric hospital. I would pass at least a dozen (or more) Reformed churches on my way to Church.

I have been in the restaurants and have heard people talking about BSF or the Catechism. I visited Mars Hill once. I know the difference between Heritage Reformed and Free Reformed. I know the difference between RCA, CRC, URC, PRC, FRC, HRC, IRC and NRC.

I know what happened in 1924 and why that little and insignificant seminary in Grandville is still angry about it. I have been to the intersection where there is a Reformed church on each corner, literally.

I have seen love grow cold, I have seen pastors eaten alive, I have seen the deadness of dead orthodoxy. I have seen the love for anything but Confessional Christianity. I have seen the Jerusalem sinner. I have been the Jerusalem Sinner.

May the Lord Jesus Christ break through the religion and bring true revival and reformation.

09 November, 2010

Water Into ANYTHING BUT Wine

As I study the second chapter of the Gospel According to John, I am amazed at how many people doubt Jesus' miracle of turning water into wine. Some claim that the wine is non-alcoholic wine, some claim that it is some unfermented juice, and some even go as far as saying that it was water turned into water.

Here is one example of the text being explained away: Leslie Weatherhead proposes that, "The wine runs out. Water is served. Why that's the best joke of all! They lift their wine cups, as we do in fun when we shout, "Adam's ale the best of all!" The bridegroom is congratulated by the master of ceremonies, who carries the joke farther still. "Why you've kept the best wine until now." It requires only a servant going through the room into the kitchen for a wonderful rumor to start!" (Weatherhead, It Happened in Palestine, p.50)

Friends, a proposal such as the one above takes more faith than believing the Word of God! And the only authority is the author's own imagination. Help thou our unbelief!

As I read and as I meditate, I pray that God would help my unbelief. How often do we find ourselves attempting to explain away the Scriptures? Not just this text, but any text that confronts us with the will of God: Sabbath keeping, sacrificial giving, a circumcised heart. The wedding at Cana is the classic example of the difficulties that we find in our own heart to believe the Word of God.

May we be hearers of the Word, and doers also.

04 November, 2010

Reformation Day Meditation on Psalm Twenty Five

Some have asked about the Reformation Day Service at Faith OPC in Long Beach in which I participated. Below is the meditation on Psalm 25 that I delivered as we gave thanks to God for the work he has done in the Protestant Reformation.

Reformed Presbyterians have a long history of psalm mediation during public worship. To many it looks like a mini sermon on a psalm. We also have a long tradition of retelling martyr stories from the Killing Times in Scotland when 18,000 Reformed Presbyterians were put to death for their faith in the one true King and Head of the Church, the Lord Jesus Christ. Both of these elements of the RP tradition have been incorporated in the meditation. As you read through, please be in prayer that God would again move through the Spirit of His Son to reform the Church.


This afternoon we will meditate on Psalm 25: 8-15, and as we do so, we must remember that as we gather to worship God and to celebrate what he in the Protestant Reformation; we must also remember the price that was paid by many who have gone before us. The price that was paid by the faithful martyrs and contenders for this Reformed Faith.

Revelation 6:10 speaks of those martyrs and says, “They cried out with a loud voice, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?”

Why are they able to stand before God and cry out? Look at our Psalm: Verse 8 reads, “The Lord is good and just; the way He’ll sinners show.” Friends, we gather to celebrate the fact that the Lord Jesus Christ has shown the way to sinners, sinners like you and me, and this psalm is calling on us to respond with praise and adoration and thanksgiving!

Verse 9, “He guides the meek in what is just, that they his path will know.” Friends, do you know this path? Have you bowed your knee to King Jesus as you confess the way to God is only through the son and that by faith alone by grace alone to the glory of God alone?

In verse 10 we see the result of this confession of the Lord Jesus Christ. We will keep his word; we will obey his covenant; our way will be loving kindness and truth! What a wonderful confession from the Psalmist. David here cries out that he knows the way of God and that this way has been revealed to him- and when we pause to meditate on the greatness of this fact, and as we reflect on what it means to live lives as sons and daughters of the reformation, we must be humbled. Humbled to to our knees in praise and thanksgiving. I am not worthy Lord. I am merely a sinner saved by grace. And this si what David does in our second stanza: My sinfulness is great. And great O Lord my blame, O pardon my iniquity, to glorify your name.

David understands that even in the state of grace his praise is hindered, his praise is not perfect. I must have my sin pardoned so that I may glorify your name! Have you considered that? Especially you young people- have you considered that if you are outside of the Lord Jesus Christ then you are unable to live out your chief end as our catechism calls it.

But in verse 12 we see something different. We see fearing the Lord leads to living unto his glory and fulfilling this chief end of man. The soul will see prosperity and the land his seed will own. Who owns the land? The seed, Christ, the inheritor of the nations as we already sang about this afternoon.

And as we move into verse 14, we must pause and think about close friendship with the Lord. Can you speak this way? Do you find this intimacy in your relationship with Christ- is he close to you or is he still out there- out there somewhere?

On May 11, 1684 there were two women who both saw Jesus Christ as their friend. They were both named Margaret. One was in her 60s and the other was only 15 years old. They lived in Scotland, and Scotland at that time was in the midst of a great war as those faithful to Christ were driven into the fields and away from their churches because many faithful Presbyterians would not acknowledge that the King was the head of the Church. They said that Christ was the head of the church, not the king... and because of this testimony they were persecuted.

Our two friends of Jesus, because they would not claim that the king was the head of the Church was arrested, like many others in this time. And not only were they arrested, but they were sentenced to death. They were taken to a little town by the ocean called Wigtown and there two stakes were set up in where the tide would soon come in and cover the poles.

The older Margaret was tied further our and the younger Margaret was tied closer to the shore where she could see Margaret. Friends gathered! Some cried. Others yelled, “Just say the king is the head of the church.” Neither Margaret wanted to betray their friend, Jesus Christ. Their savior and Lord.

The older Margaret struggled as the waters engulfed her and she died. A martyr for the sake of Christ. A martyr for this same Reformed Faith that is still confessed today.

One of the guards yelled to the younger Margaret: What do you see now, Margaret? She yelled back, “What I see is Christ wrestling there!” She knew the Lord was good and just and that close friendship with the Lord was hers because she was faithful to the covenant.

Another guard yelled, “Say God save the king!” Margaret yelled back, “I wish the salvation of all men and the damnation of none!” She refused to speak against her Lord and the Reformed Faith that she loved.

As the waters came to young Margaret they touched her toes and then her knees and then her waist. She began to sing. “The Lord is good and just, the way, he’ll sinners show, he guides the meek in what is just, that they his path will know.” The waters continued to rise and this Psalm that we are about to sing was on the lips of young Margaret as the waters of Wigtown swallowed her up and as she entered into the presence of the one we are here to celebrate today.

Some accounts of her death have her singing stanza 6 in the handout as the waters covered her face. “Close friendship with the Lord will all who fear him know; the knowledge of his covenant he unto them will show. My eyes upon the Lord continually are set; for he it is that shall bring forth my feet out of the net.”

Friends, as we sing this psalm, do so as young Margaret would have sung it. Sing it as if your soul depended on it. Sing it as a prayer that the Lord Jesus would build his church, and reform his church, and make her as a pure and spotless bride. Sing this psalm knowing the value of our reformed heritage, and the value of friendship with Christ.


29 October, 2010

Impotent Christians and the Need for Passion

The rise of Christianity in the ancient world was like wildfire. It spread from Jerusalem to all of the major cities of the ancient world. From there it spread into towns and villages. Christianity was contagious because the Spirit of Christ blessed the faithfulness of the ministry and the parishioners who were faithful in living out and speaking out on behalf of Jesus Christ.

Turtullian wrote in 200AD The Apology. In that work he said of the rise of Christianity, "We are but of yesterday, and we have filled every place among you- cities, islands, fortresses, towns, marketplaces, the very camp, tribes, companies, palace, senate, forum- we have left nothing to you but the temples of your gods!"

What makes the Christianity of the first century a wildfire through-out the ancient world? Maybe the passion for the truth and the faithfulness amongst persecution were blessed by the Spirit. Maybe our lazy, ineffective Christianity needs to learn something from those who went to lions, were burned on posts, and were beheaded for Christ's sake. Maybe we don't need another Reformation; maybe we just need to live like it really matters.

Maybe then our Christianity will "fill every place" among our culture as well. But would really want to see that?

28 October, 2010

A Reformed Voter's Guide

Sadly, the Christian Church has drunk the Koolaid (no offense, Koolaid Man). Many Christians today will rally around a Republican ticket and make claims such as, "This is the most important election of our life time!" Or, "We have got to win back the keys to Washington!"

What many fail to realize is that the Republican party is not the party of Jesus Christ. For that matter, the Democratic Party is not the party of Jesus Christ. Both parties fail to recognize Jesus Christ as the supreme head of the state, the ruler of men, the savior of mankind. Now, of course, there are those within both parties that are Christians; but that does not mean that what is being promoted by either party is working towards Reformation or towards the Biblical View of the State.

So what is a Reformed voter to do? Do we have a "biblical duty" to vote for the candidate that will wreck the ship later rather than sooner? Do we have to vote for a man or woman who does not understand biblical civil government? Rest assured, dear reader, there are principles that we should consider before voting for a Democrat or a Republican (or 3rd party and independent for that matter).

The Reformed Presbyterian Church has a chapter in her Testimony that attempts to articulate a biblical view of the State as well as sets out principles for voting. As you consider voting this Tuesday in what many will undoubtedly call "the most important race of your lifetime" please remember these principles and vote only according to our Christian standards.

And don't drink the Koolaid- Jesus is King.

Excerpts from the Reformed Presbyterian Testimony on the Civil Magistrate

God has given the exercise of all authority to the Lord Jesus Christ. Christ is the Divine Lawgiver, Governor and Judge. His will concerning the purpose of civil government and the principles regarding its functions and operation are revealed in the written Word of God. The Holy Spirit enables even unregenerate rulers to fulfill their proper functions. A true recognition of the authority and law of Christ in national life can only be the fruit of the Spirit’s regenerating power in the lives of individuals.
Deut. 4:39; Dan. 4:25, 32, 35; Matt. 28:18; Phil. 2:10; Eph. 1:22; Isa. 33: 22; Deut. 17:18-19; Isa. 45:1-7; Ezek. 36:27.

Every nation ought to recognize the Divine institution of civil government, the sovereignty of God exercised by Jesus Christ, and its duty to rule the civil affairs of men in accordance with the will of God. It should enter into covenant with Christ and serve to advance His Kingdom on earth. The negligence of civil government in any of these particulars is sinful, makes the nation liable to the wrath of God, and threatens the continued existence of the government and nation.

We reject the view that nations have no corporate responsibility for acknowledging and obeying Christ.

It is the duty of every Christian citizen to labor and pray for his nation’s official and explicit recognition of the authority and law of Jesus Christ, Preserver and Ruler of nations, and for the conduct of all governmental affairs in harmony with the written Word of God.
1 Tim. 2:1-2; Phil. 2:9-10; Acts 2:1-39; Ps. 2:8-12; Esther 4:14.

We deny that constitutional recognition of Jesus Christ means union of church and state.

We reject the teaching that Christians should not seek the establishment of Christian civil government.

No particular form of civil government is commanded in the Scriptures. Any form of civil government which observes the duties and limitations set upon it by God in His revealed Word is acceptable to God.
Ex. 18:21-24; Prov. 29:14; Deut. 1: 16-17.

We deny that simply having a democratic or republican form of government insures God’s approval and blessing.

The Christian, when such action involves no disloyalty to Christ, ought to be involved in the selection of and to vote for civil rulers who fear God, love truth and justice, hate evil, and are publicly committed to scriptural principles of civil government.
Ex. 18:21; Deut. 16:18; 2 Sam. 23:3; Rom. 13:3.

It is sinful for a Christian to take an oath which compromises his supreme allegiance to Jesus Christ. It is also sinful to vote for officials who are required to take an oath which a Christian himself could not take in good conscience. Voting involves the voter in responsibility for any act required of the official as a condition of holding his office.
Deut. 10:20; Isa. 45:22-23; 2 John 1: 11; 1 Tim. 5:22.

The Christian must profess publicly and the Church must witness, that Christ is the Ruler of every nation. Whatever the official action of the civil government of a nation may be, the Christian in his civil actions must always exhibit his loyalty to Christ. The Christian must relinquish every right or privilege of citizenship which involves him in silence about, or denial of the supreme authority of Jesus Christ.
Matt. 5:13-14; Prov. 3:5-6; Ps. 37:7; Matt. 22:21; John 17:14-15; Mark 13:9.

When participating in political elections, the Christian should sup- port and vote only for such men as are publicly committed to scriptural principles of civil government. Should the Christian seek civil office by political election, he must openly inform those whose support he seeks of his adherence to Christian principles of civil government.
1 Chron. 16:31; 2 Cor. 6:14-18; 2 Chron. 19:6-7; Dan. 2:48; Eph. 4:25.

13 October, 2010

The Church Planter's Banner

What gives the church planter the right to go into the cities, towns, and villages and to establish a church?

This question should be at the heart of all those that want to see the Word of God increase as it did in the Book of Acts. But what right does one have to plant churches? Of course, first and foremost the Lord Jesus Christ has commanded that the ministry of the Church go into the world teaching and administering the sacraments in the name of the Triune God. That's a given. But what right does Jesus have telling the elders and pastors of the church to go into the whole world and plant churches?

The Lord Jesus purchased that right at the cross. The Lord Jesus is not only the savior of mankind; he is also the King of kings. At the cross, the Lord Jesus earned the right for the heathen (the nations), as his inheritance, to bow to him. It is the job of the church planter to go and to proclaim that the Lord Jesus has set captives of sin free and to preach to those who are spiritually blind. We go as his ambassadors.

Psalm 20 reminds us of this:

May we shout for joy over your salvation,
and in the name of our God set up our banners!

Church planters: Jesus has earned the right for you to plant banners (hopefully blue ones) in the cities, towns, and villages of your presbytery and declare them as land that belongs unto Christ- because it does. Now shout for joy, and set up some banners!

05 October, 2010

What's a True Pastor's Heart?

As a pastor I often wonder how much we, as pastors, are to love our people.

Do I love them too much? Do I love them enough? Do pastors "balance" extremes; seek a happy medium; or is there another answer?

The Apostle Paul knows:
"I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh." Romans 9:3-4

02 October, 2010

Hide it Under a Bushel: Where Are the Reformed Urban Churches?

We all remember the little song from when we were kids: "This little light of mine... I'm gonna let it shine..."

I am afraid that most Reformed Churches have decided to hide their light under a bushel. Recently, in a lunch meeting with a retired urban pastor, the description of Reformed churches "hiding under the covers" was used in regards to city ministry. Why is this so? Does not the Apostle Paul say in 2 Corinthians 4 that when the Gospel is hid it is hid to them that are lost? Do we really want to hide the Gospel from those who are lost? Isn't our calling to bring the Gospel to those who are lost?

Thomas Chalmers, the famous urban pastor of 19th century Scotland recorded that "during a period of 100 years while the population of Glasgow had more than quadrupled, only two new Church of Scotland city churches had been built."

Friends, we are no better in this country. Where are the city churches? Where are the church planters? Where are the men who will bring the Gospel to urban America? Are we a city on a hill, or are we content with hiding under the covers sharing the Gospel by flashlight?

Hide it under a bushel? No! I'm gonna let it shine.

Bibliophelia: Confessions of an Unrepentant Addict

I love books. I love receiving books as gifts; I love ordering books online; I love the smell of a used bookshop; I love being surrounded with books in my study. They are friends; they are teachers; they are voices from the past; they are treasures. I assume most pastors feel the same way- at least pastors in the Reformed & Presbyterian tradition.

Recently I have been re-reading a biography of William Symington (19th century Reformed Presbyterian pastor) and I found this tongue-in-cheek section to describe my addiction to the written word:

"The love of books is with me a perfect mania. When I see anything particularly advertised, I immediately conceive a wish to have it- I persuade myself that really I ought to have it- and between the desire to have it and the reluctance to pay for it I am on the fidgets day and night. Then some demon or other whispers, 'Your credit is good, it is a good while to the month of May, before then you will have had your purse replenished with next half year's stipend- the temptation succeeds; and off goes a post letter for the desired article, all objections, financial as well as others, being unceremoniously sent about their business. In this way I have nearly ruined myself- and the worst of it is that I am nearly incorrigible. Unlike other sinners, misery does not lead me to repent- or if I do repent, I do not at all events reform. Can you tell me what is to become of me? The jail I suppose."

Will the bibliophile ever mend his ways? "Of making of books there is no end, and much study is a weariness of the flesh (Ecclesiastes 12:12)." Basically, no, the bibliophile is unable to be changed. The weariness of the flesh is to (gladly) continue through all his days. And that's okay- God chose to reveal himself in the written word; and his Son takes on the name Word (John 1). It seems that the addiction to the written word- bibliophelia- is a reflection of who God is. God is a God of words. And who doesn't love that?

28 September, 2010

Dead Theologian's Society: Entrusting to Faithful Men

Paul says to Timothy, "You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Jesus Christ, and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. (2 Timothy 2:1-2)."

Paul commands Timothy to have a reproducing ministry. He calls Timothy to take the training that he has received from Paul and make sure that some of that training is passed on to faithful men who will be able to teach.

The core of what we have here is Pastors training men who desire to be pastors. With that call from the Scripture, the Los Angeles RPC Dead Theologian's Society is making a beginning. Currently there are three men who sense a call to pastoral ministry in the LA Church. We will begin to meet twice a month to discuss theology, the Scriptures, and especially begin the training that will continue when they enter Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary.

Please be in prayer as we begin in October. We are beginning with William Symington: Penman of the Scottish Covenanters. The reason that we are beginning here is that we will explore two successful ministries (Roy Blackwood and William Symington); see the foundation for Christian faith and life (the atonement); as well as explore the foundation to any good church planting endeavors (the kingship of Jesus Christ).

May the Lord Jesus bless this new aspect of the ministry of the Los Angeles Reformed Presbyterian Church. May his kingdom expand from shore to shining shore!

27 September, 2010

Your IPod and Communion Preparation

Here is a series of sermons that I have been preaching before the Lord's Supper every other month. The duty to prepare your heart for the Lord's Supper is a biblical requirement for all who would commune with Christ in the Supper. Let a man examine himself that he may discern the Lord's body.

I pray that these sermons will prove to be helpful to your spiritual life:

23 September, 2010

Open Pulpits in the RPCNA

Twice per year, I add the updated list of open pulpits in the RPCNA. Please pray that the Lord Jesus would fill these pulpits with the men of his choosing. Pray also for the committees, sessions, and congregations that are searching for pastors. Also lift up the men who are able to receive a call; ask that God would aid them in their patience, trust, and waiting upon his call.

The list is by presbytery.

Washington, IA
Sharon, IA
Manhattan, KS

Great Lakes/Gulf:
Orlando, FL
Prairie View, IL (Westminster RP)
Indianapolis, IN (Second RP)
Hetherton, MI (stated supply is there)

Aurora, OH (Covenant RP)
Beaver Falls, PA (College Hill)

Cambridge, MA

St. Lawrence:
Owego, NY
Endicott, NY (Christian Heritage)
Walton, NY
Rochester, NY

Kasumigoka, Japan

Update: October 5, 2010:

There is one pulpit that I forgot to list and one that has just come open:
Atlantic Presbytery: Berkshire, MA
Great Lakes/Gulf Presbytery: Grand Rapids, MI (my alma mater)

18 September, 2010

Carb Addict Spirituality

The book, War of Words by Paul Tripp has been a valuable read. Here are some of his ideas on the lies that physical bread tells. We are to seek the bread which comes down from Heaven, the Lord Jesus Christ.

John 6: 22-69
Physical Bread and Spiritual Deception

Jesus provides the people with physical bread. They are amazed and decide that this must be the Messiah- let's make him king, he provides a free meal.

“What was behind these people's pursuit of Christ? What did they really want? I do not believe that they pursued Christ out of a humble submission to his messiahship and willingness to follow him wherever he would lead. Their pursuit of Christ was born instead out of a love for self and the hope that Christ would meet their felt needs. They were excited about following the king- but for all the wrong reasons.” p.88

The struggle of physical bread versus spiritual bread is a core struggle in the Christian life. It is the core struggle of human life. p.89

Physical Bread is Permanent
We believe that working for physical bread is of the utmost importance because deep down inside we believe that it lasts forever. The Scriptures tell us that this world is passing away. Psalm 73 says that this world is like a dream that quickly passes away. Why “invest” in bread that will not last?

Physical Bread is the Only Bread
We need to take hold of the idea that the only “bread” that is permanent is spiritual (Matthew 6:19-34).

“And this is why we are told to live as pilgrims, as tent dwellers, not giving ourselves over to the accumulation of material things as if they aware the only bread that really counts. The person who believes this lie is a fool (Lk 12.20).” p.91

Physical Bread Defines Human Success
We all fall into the trap of coveting those with the best bread. We believe that bread will make us happy. Bread will satisfy the voids. (Think of Beverly Hills, The Grove, Muholland Drive- we all enjoy seeing how “they” live.) Matthew 16.25- What good will it be if a man gains the whole world and loses his soul?

“Jesus defines human success in terms of two fundamental commitments: to love God above all else and to love your neighbor as yourself. TO live this way is to be rich no matter how small your collection of worldly things.” p.91

Physical Bread Will Give You Life
“This is the lie of the lies- that somehow, some way, life can be found outside a relationship with God. This was the lie told by the deceive in the Garden, and it is the lie told countless times again every day. Feeding on physical bread only leads to more hunger. It is only as you feed on Christ by faith, receiving his life, that you can ever be satisfied.” p. 92

When we find ourselves in the same spot as the followers who followed Christ for physical bread- we must as ourselves- will we go away also? We must question and reexamine and recommit our vows unto Christ. And we must stand with Peter when Jesus asked...

Will you go away also?

Peter got it. “Where else shall we go? You have the words of eternal life?”

03 September, 2010

The Hypocrisy of the Agnostic and His Atheistic Twin

It seems that many agnostics and atheists are willing to wax eloquent about what God is not. "God could not possibly _____." Where do they get this knowledge? What is their source? What about an "unknown god" do they know? It seems that the Scriptures tell us that man has a knowledge of God and they repress it (Romans 1). Have they considered that their understanding of God is actually a repressed understanding so that they can worship the creature (themselves, reason, feelings, etc) rather than the Creator? Herman Bavinck leaves the atheist and his twin the agnostic with their jaws on the floor:

Hear this:

"The position that we know nothing of God already presupposes a lot of knowledge of God and therefore that what we have here is a contradiction in terms. For when we call God inexpressible, we are at the same time saying a lot about him, so that in fact he is not inexpressible. For it is no small amount of knowledge... if before we know what God is we already know what he is not. Not knowing is itself extensive and positive: it amounts to no small beginning of the knowledge of God. It is already quite significant to know that God is in no way creaturely." Reformed Dogmatics, v.1 p.51.

Truth, truth, and truths: Which is it?

We have all heard that truth is relative. I have truth for me and you have truth for you. This is a logical fallacy. Something cannot be true and false at the same time. Christianity cannot be true for me and not true for you. If Christianity is true, then it must be embraced by all. In Mere Christianity, a book that has its high points and low points, CS Lewis argues, "Christianity, if false, is of no importance, and if true, of infinite importance. The only thing it cannot be is moderately important."

Have you taken time to consider that you are culturally predisposed to reject the claims of Jesus Christ because our culture rejects the idea of absolute truth. You see, Jesus said that he was the only way to God- any who come to the father must come through him. Our culture is not able to swallow that! But if we take time to consider the claims of the Scripture, we see that Christianity is either true and must be embraced, or complete nonsense and must be wholly rejected. I would encourage you to read through the Gospel of John and look at the claims of Christ. He is the Truth.

24 August, 2010

The Presbyterian Thoughts Book Tour: Grand Rapids, MI

In a couple of weeks, the VanTimmeren Farm in Belding, Michigan, will be flooded with Reformed Presbyterians. Alex Tabaka (RPCNA Student of Theology) and Melissa VanTimmeran (Carnegie Melon trained French Horn major) are getting married. Those in attendance will not be just any RPs; but many theological students and a number of pastors will be attending the wedding. I told my friend, Pastor Shane Sapp, of Westminster, Colorado, that I would recommend some book stores.

Now, of course, spend a lot of money on their gifts (toasters, blenders, anything marked "As Seen on TV", and the whole nine yards), but save some money for book shopping in Grand Rapids. You will not be disappointed.

Grand Rapids, MI has been a Dutch Reformed Mecca for generations. It is the home to a number of the top Christian publishing companies in the world: Kregel, Baker, Zondervan, Eerdmans, and Reformation Heritage Books. (Baker is the nephew of Kregel, by the way.)

Here are the stores that I recommend visiting:

1. Reformation Heritage Books
2965 Leonard Ave. NE,
Grand Rapids, MI 49525
616. 977.0889

This is where you will want to spend most of your money. This bookstore is non-profit and has many deep discounts. Even when I was working at Baker Book House in college, I sent people to RHB who were looking for Reformed and Puritan publications. The Soli Deo Gloria collection is also housed here because SDG has been bought out (they wouldn't use that term) by RHB. Go here first and ask for Steve. Tell him you are a friend of mine. You may also ask to have a tour of Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary while you are there. You must see the Puritan Resource Center on the second floor. There is a copy of the works of William Perkins that was owned by both Charles Spurgeon and AW Pink. There are notes taken from these men in the margins.

2. The Bookstore
2140 Oak Industrial Drive NE
Grand Rapids MI, 49505

The Bookstore is a great place to find "seconds" of Eerdmans titles. Think NICNT and NICOT at 60-80% off retail? The Church Fathers for dollars per volume? Sounds good, eh? Also when you are there, ask if Jason is working. Tell him that I sent you. He will take care of you.

3. Baker Book House
2768 East Beltline SE
Grand Rapids, MI 49546

Now Baker has the market on used books. The reason why is that Kregal went out of buisness a number of years ago and their inventory was divided between Baker Book House and Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary Library. Baker has around 100,000 titles in their used book department. You will have to cover your eyes as you pass the front of the store which is filled with Jesus junk and Christian chachkies. Once you pass all of that stuff you will have a wonderful collection of new and discounted theological works on the left. That would make the trip worth it- but the holy of holies lies behind the double doors.

The used book department is manned by Greg, Jim, and a number of seminary students from around Grand Rapids (there are about 5 seminaries in West Michigan). Make sure that you tell them if you are a pastor or a seminary student. There is a 20% discount on many items if you are "vocational clergy." Be warned though, Baker prices on used books is not cheap. They compete with the Amazon, Ebay, Bookfinder, Albris, Abebooks crowd. That means that if something is worth $10... it's marked at $10 or $11. But you will find many, many things that are worth taking home with you.

Baker is also the North American distributor of Cambridge Bibles. They have a nice collection of Cambridge Bibles in ESV, KJV, NASB, etc. You will want to own a Cambridge if you don't already have one. The smell of the leather alone will make you want one. So save about $75-100 for your Cambridge.

4. Credo Books
Victoria Antiques
449 Century Avenue SW
Grand Rapids, MI 49503

Credo is a rather new bookseller on the Grand Rapids scene. I know the owner. He used to come into Baker and buy TONS of used books. He would read a bunch, come back to Baker and talk about what he read and buy some more. He gave me a copy of Hendriksen's lectures on "The Bible and the Life Hereafter" once. (Guess he was trying to convert me to a-mil!) As with many independent small bookstores- the love of books eventually leads to selling them. Credo's collection will be a nice variety of Reformed, Presbyterian, and Puritan works. Tell him that you saw a coupon for 20% off online (there is such an animal, and you have to mention it).

That's what I got! You will be able to spend your whole month's check at these four locations. You may even burn through your entire book allowance there for the year. Enjoy! And tell them that Nathan says, "Hello!"

23 August, 2010

Western and Christian: What's a Mission to Do?

There comes times in the life of a mission where they must ask the question, "Are we promoting Western ideals or are we preaching the Gospel?" There are ways in which the Gospel does transform culture, and thanks be to God for that! But at the same time there are cultural aspects of life where the Church needs to say- this is cultural.

This was experienced in the Chinese Mission of the Reformed Presbyterian Church in the 20th century. But it only came AFTER a number of years of work in the field. In 1884 the RP Church began plans to work in China; and it was not until 1921 when the attitude towards Chinese culture changed. The early years of the RP Mission were met with frustration that the Chinese did not want to conform to American ways of life in work or in the home.

The Gospel of Jesus Christ not only changes those being ministered to; but also those who are ministering.

"In twenty years the mission had learned that many Chinese methods were very good methods for them, well adapted to their way of life and to the physical conditions under which they lived. It was not the main purpose of this mission to teach a Western way of life; the purpose was to teach the Chinese that they, like all other humans, were sinners and that their only hope of love, joy, and peace, here or hereafter, lay in acceptance of Christ as Savior and Lord of their lives. When they accepted him and his salvation, followed his guidance and his principles, it mattered little what tools the carpenters used or what utensils the women used in cooking. When Christianity permeated their lives their social attitudes changed radically, such as the position of girls and women, their idolatry, ancestor worship, polygamous marriage, dishonesty and deceit in business, even the cleanliness of their surroundings. So long as Christians lived Christ the mission felt that they should lead their lives in their own Chinese way." Hoi Moon, 163.

19 August, 2010

Your Crooked Little Life

Consider the work of God: for who can make that straight which He has made crooked?
Ecclesiastes 7:13

13 August, 2010

RP History Mystery Solved!

When was your presbytery founded? For many Presbyterians the answer is easily accessible since many of the conservative Presbyterian bodies were not founded until the 1930s or 1980s. For the Reformed Presbyterian, things are generally less new.

At the beginning of 2010 I inherited the coveted "Clerk of Presbytery" position, and have been researching our history ever since. Last week I finally stumbled upon the jewel that I was looking for: "When did our Presbytery begin?" You see our records only go back to 1930, and I was unable to locate our older Minutes (they have since been located at RP Archives on Penn Avenue). I knew we were older than 1930!

Last week I found this in a dusty copy of the Minutes of Synod from 1911:

"Paper number (3) is a petition of the session of the Seattle congregation for the organization of a new Presbytery consisting of the congregations and mission stations on the Pacific Coast. We recommend that such a presbytery be organized and that it be call- ed the Presbytery of the Pacific Coast, that the boundary between it and the Colorado Presbytery be the Colorado River, the Wahsatch mountains and the Rocky mountains to the borders of the British possessions, thence east along that border to the western border of Ontario taking in all the British possessions west of Ontario; all the country in the United States and Canada lying to the west to be under the jurisdiction of this Presbytery; that the ministers and elders present here included in these bounds be directed to meet in this place before the final adjournment of this Court and to organize said presbytery and that PJ McDonald act as moderator and constitute that court."

That was the key to the RP History Mystery. I promptly began my search for Paper (3) from the 1911 Synod- and found it! I also was able to find the exact date of our organization of a Presbytery. The Pacific Coast Presbytery met for the first time on June 6, 1911. Amazing.

Below you will see a scan of Paper (3) from 1911. The back of the request reads: "Transferred to Synod by Colorado Presbytery, May 31, 1911." Under that it reads: "June 3: Transferred to committee on Discipline."


09 August, 2010

Take the Time to Think on Him

We live busy lives. Our lives are full of activity: work, school, duties at home, family, chores, bills, entertainment. How does a Christian have time think on the things of God? Well, we make time for what is important to us, and thinking on God needs to be a priority in the Christian life. We must know God in order to be in relationship with God. We must meditate on how His Word reveals Him. But how?

JI Packer gives us some insight on the lost art of Christian meditation. He writes,

"Meditation is the activity of calling to mind, and thinking over, and dwelling on, and applying to oneself, the various things that one knows about the works and ways and purposes and promises of God. It is an activity of holy thought, consciously performed in the presence of God, under the eye of God, by the help of God, as a means of communion with God.

Its purpose is to clear one's mental and spiritual vision of God, and to let his truth make its full and proper impact on one's mind and heart. It is a matter of talking to oneself about God and oneself; it is, indeed, often a matter of arguing with oneself, reasoning oneself out of moods of doubt and unbelief into a clear apprehension of God's power and grace."

07 August, 2010

Homophobe: Bigot or Biblical?

Have you had to come to a biblical understanding of homosexuality, or has your understanding of its sinfulness been handed to you as a cultural more? Does the Church have a skewed view of homosexuality? Do unmarried couples living promiscuous lives get a "pass", while young men and women struggling with same sex attraction get condemned? Are churches in need of getting into the Scriptures to see what they actually say, as apposed to what we think that they say?

29 July, 2010

Sermons for Communion Preparation

During the past several communion seasons, I have been preaching through the Sufferings of Christ beginning with the his sufferings in the Upper Room. I have preached on "The Washing" from John 13, the "Korban Pesach" from Luke 22, and on Judas as a traitor in "Is it I?" in Mark 14. I commend this series to anyone who is preparing to celebrate the Lord's Supper.

Broken Pastors are Useful Pastors

What do you look for in a pastor? Do you look for well-polished speech? Do you look for a "professional" look? Do you look for an administrator? Do you look for someone who is nice?

Jesus wants his pastors to be many things, but above all of these things, he wants his pastors to be broken. Does that sound strange to you? Jesus wants pastors that have been broken, confronted with their sin, and brought to the foot of the cross of Christ. When a pastor (or one who desires to be a pastor) is humbled before Christ and knows that his entire ministry relies on the strength of the Lord Jesus Christ, he is in a position to lead. Shepherds are sheep who have been broken, restored, and equipped as Gospel ministers.

"The first and essential quality of herald of the Gospel is ever a thoroughly broken and contrite heart. For it is only after having obtained mercy as guilty criminals, that we are in a position to strengthen the brethren. After having ourselves vitally experienced that without Christ we can do nothing, but everything with Him, we then become real evangelists, able also to bind up the broken-hearted, and to strengthen the feeble knees." FW Krummacher

28 July, 2010

How Do You Approach Christ in the Supper?

JC Ryle gives a short series of questions that serve as meditations for the communicant as he or she prepares for the Lord's Supper. In a fast paced McWorld, we need to take the time to ponder the seriousness of our relationship with Christ as we approach Him in the Sacrament. Let us meditate and then celebrate!

"Am I in the habit of coming to the Lord's Table? If so, in what frame of mind do I come? Do I draw near intelligently, humbly and with faith? Do I understand what I am about? Do I really feel my sinfulness and my need for Christ? Do I really desire to live a Christian life, as well as profess the Christian faith? Happy is the soul who can give a satisfactory answer to these questions. Go forward and persevere." (Expository Thoughts on Matthew, 360.)

Living Eaters and Dead Eaters

The Lord's Supper is a time of reflection on one's spiritual life. As we look to the Lord Jesus, the author and giver of life, we must ask ourselves, "Have we been given life; eternal life?" The one way to be given eternal life is through a saving faith in the Son of God, the only mediator between God and man.

As the Lord's Supper is before us, we must ask ourselves, "Am I a living eater or a dead eater?" To those who remain in trespasses and sin, the Sacrament has no lasting value. For those who eat and drink by faith, we have communion with the Son of God. We have communion that will be of eternal value. May we be the living, feasting on a living Christ, by faith.

JC Ryle says, "The Lord's Supper has no power to confer benefit on those who come to it, if they do not come to it with faith. The mere formal act of eating the bread and drinking the wine is utterly unprofitable, unless it is done with a right heart. It is eminently an ordinance for the living soul, not for the dead; for the converted, not for the unconverted."

Lord convert our hearts, and draw us into your presence.

25 July, 2010

Disciples of All Nations? Colonization or Indigenous Churches?

When the Lord Jesus Christ gave the Great Commission at the end of his ministry, he charged the Apostles with "making disciples of all nations". It is interesting that he chose the word nations, instead of world. The word nation is "ethnos" which means ethnicities, people groups, cultures, or nations. He could have chose the word "cosmos" which would be a generic, "Make disciples of all the world." But Jesus chose "ethnos". He wanted disciples to be made of the ethos; not just in the cosmos.

This is significant in my own ecclesiastical context because at our last Synod, our global missions agency reported that the mission work in Southern Sudan has been released from the oversight of the RPCNA and has been organized as the RPCSS (Reformed Presbyterian Church of Southern Sudan). They are part of the Reformed Presbyterian global community; but they are an indigenous church. They are not a church that is colonized; but one that was made out of discipling the ethnos of the Dinka. Praise God!

Of course, this creating an indigenous presbytery (RPCSS) was not without controversy. We have a precedence of keeping oversight for much longer. We have a presbytery of the RPCNA in Japan, which is the result of missionary endeavor. Why not follow that same model in Sudan? WIth much love and respect for my brothers in Japan, the model that Jesus gave us was disciples of all ethnos; not disciples in all cosmos.

As early as 1919 the RPCNA was wrestling with the questions of colonization versus indigenous churches. The Foreign Mission Board reported to Synod in 1919, "In recent years there has been a growing conviction that the Chinese have been, to their hurt, allowed to think that Christianity is the foreigner's religion and not their own; that the foreign religion should be supported from without, and that they, at most, are to favor it with the patronage of accepting it, and helping to spread it merely as paid employees of a foreign organization. The missionaries have been gravely and prayerfully studying this problem." (Report of Synod, 1919).

May the Lord continue to have His Church wrestle with the issues of culture and church planting. And may the Church truly understand how Jesus wants indigenous churches made up of all the ethnos of the cosmos.

Lord, build your Church!

21 July, 2010

Happy 5th Birthday Presbyterian Thoughts

This week marks the 5th birthday of Presbyterian Thoughts. Happy Birthday ol' blog.

13 July, 2010

The Hypocrisy of Our Humanity

Too often we fail in the Christian life. Too often we stumble and we fall. We use our tongue to sin. We use our facial expressions to murder. We use our posture to crush another's spirit. The Apostle James told us that this happens, even in our Christian life. "We stumble in many ways" says James. He then goes on to tell us that all kinds of animals are able to be domesticated- but we have not been able to domesticate our own tongues. We murder with our very tongues.

Thank God that he has provided His Son to free us from our own tongues, our own murdering, our own hypocrisy. Thank God that Jesus has been provided to save us from ourselves. It's not hypocrisy- it's the battle called the Christian life. Keep fighting.

07 July, 2010

Why Is Preaching Not Good Enough?

Preaching is being replaced in the churches of Christ with many other things. Preaching has been set aside for programs, entertainment, and a variety of other things.

Why is this? Well, at the heart of the matter is the fact that preaching no longer changes people. Have you thought about that? As Americans we are very pragmatic. We want to see results, and if there are no results- then why continue with a practice? Preaching is being replaced.

My question though is "Why is preaching not changing lives?" The Scriptures teach us that the preached Word is God's normal way for converting sinners and sanctifying them. Since it is God's normal means of conversion and change (See Romans 10)- then preaching should be good enough. Preaching should change lives. Preaching should be restored to the center of evangelical and reformed worship.

I believe that Sinclair Ferguson has answered the question well. He states that "One of the reasons that preaching doesn't do it anymore is that people have not heard preaching that humbles their hearts and fills them with the glory of Christ." Well said.

May the Lord Jesus Christ cause his ambassadors to fill their chapels and auditoriums with preaching that is powerful, bold, humbling, and richly filled with the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ. This will make preaching "good enough."

The Westminster Larger Catechism says it best. Here is the way in which preaching can again be "good enough":

Q. 159. How is the Word of God to be preached by those that are called thereunto?

A. They that are called to labour in the ministry of the Word, are to preach sound doctrine, diligently, in season and out of season; plainly, not in the enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit, and of power; faithfully, making known the whole counsel of God; wisely, applying themselves to the necessities and capacities of the hearers; zealously, with fervent love to God and the souls of his people; sincerely, aiming at his glory, and their conversion, edification, and salvation.

03 July, 2010

So What Happened At Synod?

Having had time to process what happened at the 179th Synod of the RPCNA, here are some highlights that were prepared as a bulletin insert for the Los Angeles RP Church:

The 179th Synod of the RPCNA met in Beaver Falls, PA, from June 21-25, 2010. Elder Howard Huizing and Pastor Nathan Eshelman were the delegates from Los Angeles. Here are some of the highlights of the meeting:

RPTS President (and son-in-law of the LA RPC) Dr. Jerry O'Neill was elected moderator of the Synod. This was a thoughtful selection due to the celebration of the 200th anniversary of the seminary this year.

The Pacific Coast Presbytery lead the prayer times throughout the meeting. Pastors Mark England, Nathan Eshelman, and Ryan Hemphill took charge of the psalm selections and prayer coordination for the week.

On Tuesday morning, Dr. Bruce Stewart preached from 2 Timothy 2 and encouraged the leadership of the church to consider these questions about their ministries: 1. Is the Lord well pleased? 2. Is the work well done? 3. Is the Word well used? It was encouraging to hear such a powerful sermon preached in such a gentle, pastoral way from our former pastor (1962-1973).

Pastor Titus Martin gave the report on the study of the “contents of the cup.” It was decided from the study committee that the Scriptural terms of “cup” and “fruit of the vine” are generic terms and may include both non-alcoholic pressed grapes, non-alcoholic wine, and alcoholic wine. The use of a “split cup” was discouraged and congregations were encouraged to seek unity in this matter.

The reports of the presbyteries were generally positive. Each presbytery seems to be growing and encouraged. The work of evangelism was encouraged by Dr. Dean Smith. He noted that our main growth as a denomination is in: 1. covenant children 2. transfers from other Reformed denominations 3. transfers from evangelical denominations. The congregations are encouraged to evangelize and seek growth through this means. It was also noted that about 20% of the RPCNA's membership does not regularly attend worship in an RP Church. This is problematic.

The International Conference Committee reported that the conference will move from Calvin College :( to Indiana Wesleyan University in Marion, IN. The dates are set as July 21-27, 2012. Synod 2011 is also scheduled to meet at this location as a way to familiarize the presbyters with the campus of IWU.

Pastor Eshelman gave the Home Mission Board report. He encouraged the congregations and presbyteries to think about church planting and to be strategic in praying for plants in important cities within the bounds of the presbyteries. We are currently 11 congregations short of meeting the 20/20 Vision of 100 congregations by 2020. Keep praying!

Faith Martin gave the report of the RP Women's Association. She announced her retirement at the end of this year. She was given a standing ovation for her lifetime of labor for the women of the Church.

The Sudan Commission of RP Global gave an encouraging report. There was some debate about procedure over church planting in a global context, but that did not suppress the great joy of the Synod surrounding the work of Cush4Chirst. It was announced that we have a new sister church: The Reformed Presbyterian Church of Southern Sudan (RPCSS) is a court of Christ's Church! Members of the Sudan Commission will serve as counselors to this new presbytery. A special free-will offering was collected for the work of Cush4Chirst as well as those laborers who have left the field (thanks Heather!).

In other global RP news, Pastor John McFarland gave a report concerning the RP House Churches of Asia. This work continues to grow under the providence of God. A letter of thanks was read that discussed how the US's economic problems have caused a certain Asian country to focus on maintaining their own economy which gave the RP House Churches freedoms that they have not seen in a whole generation. Praise God for working all things out for the good of His Church!

One more global RP bit: The Trinity Christian Community Fellowship in Cyprus will have an open pulpit this year. In an attempt to sustain the mission and ministry of the RP global family in Cyprus, TCCF has been taken under the care of the Presbytery of the Alleghenies. This is a way to keep the work active without having to be reduced to a mission station. Keep an ear open for some familiar names who may be serving there in the future.

A number of Fraternal Delegates gave their greetings to the Synod Wednesday evening. Let's play a game. Can you name all of these denominations? Greetings were given by the: TCCF, ARP, HRC, OPC, PCA, RCUS, and the URC. Got 'em all? The delegate from the FCS(C) was unable to attend, but sent greetings via email. There was also a letter read from the American (and Canadian) Reformed Churches stating that they have decided not to enter into fraternal relationship with the RPCNA due to the practice of the ordination of women to the office of deacon.

A proposed $20 per communicant assessment that would go to the RP Home was voted down. The current assessment of $40 will be maintained (this goes to RPM&M to be distributed to the various ministries of the RP Church). The Synod expressed their desire to aid the RP Home, but did not think that taxation was an appropriate way to help. The need at the RP Home is great, and in this writer's opinion, each communicant member should send in $20 to aid in the deficit there. Pray for this historic work of the RP Church.

The proposed Directory for Public Worship was adopted. Each of the five chapters were approved. Dr. O'Neill declared that the new Directory is now the “law and order of the church.” Pray that as congregations make changes in their own worship practices, that it would be done organically and not through the courts of the church. Pray also for the “unity and uniformity” of the RP Church as she begins using her third Directory of Worship (1645 and 1945 were the previous ones).

There will be some changes in future printings of the Book of Psalms for Worship. Psalm selections 19C, 24B, 47C, 150C, and 150D will be revised as well as each of the three selections of Psalm 136. This will be completed under the authority of the Board of Publication. These revisions are consistant with our view of translation and interpretation, but do pose a logistical problem. Expect updates to follow on the progress of this work.

Thursday evening was a joyous time of celebration as 650 gathered at the Heinz History Center to commemorate the 200th anniversary of RPTS. Dr. Stewart was also awarded with a “Faithful Servant Award” that evening. Drs. Sinclair Ferguson and Derek Thomas preached on themes related to seminary training. Hearing 650 people singing the psalms without musical accompaniment was a moving experience.

Pastor Eshelman and Elder Huizing were both nominated for positions of service in the Church. Elder Huizing was appointed to a special committee to study “sexual orientation” and homosexuality in the church. This committee will report to Synod in 2011. Pray for Elder Huizing as he participates in this very important work in 21st century Christianity. Pastor Eshelman was appointed to the Board of Education and Publication (which means he has some work to do on the “new” New Psalter).

The Pacific Coast Presbytery also met while in Beaver Falls. Here are two of the highlights from that meeting:

San Diego reports that they are exploring beginning Spanish language worship services as soon as possible. There are no Reformed Spanish speaking Churches in San Diego County.

The Presbytery has decided to move ahead with a December-January youth conference for the young people of the PC Presbytery. The LA Session was appointed to take charge in this matter. $1000 was set aside as seed money to begin. A Return to Basics will be the theme and all young people (9th grade thru college aged) will be encouraged to attend. Please be in prayer as our Session works with the leaders and young people in the presbytery toward this goal.

Besides all of these matters in both the Synod and the Presbytery, there was much prayer, psalm singing, fellowship, and encouragement amongst the presbyters of the Church. The meeting ended with the singing of Psalm 133A from the Book of Psalms for Worship. There was a couple who stumbled as the “old words” were sung in place of the new... but despite the setting, Psalm 133 was exemplified in the week of doing the work of building Christ's Church. Please continue to pray that the Synod of the RPCNA would remain faithful to Christ and that the work done at each Synod would be for the purpose of glorifying Christ and seeing His Kingdom come.

01 July, 2010

Why Do YOU Serve?

This week I received a little booklet in the mail. There is no publication date, but my guess is early 1920s. The tile of the booklet is "Why I Am Glad To Be A Covenanter Minister" by "Fourteen Successful Ministers". It was sent to me by a dear friend in the Sunflower State.

As I read through the accounts of the ministers, I reflected on my own purposes for being a "Covenanter Minister". I believe that Dr. Coleman has summed up my own thoughts:

I am glad to be a Covenanter Minister because I believe with all my heart in the principles of the Covenanter Church. I am glad to serve the Covenanter Church because I love it, and despite its faults and failings, believe it to be nearer to what the Lord wants than any other. I am glad to preach a Calvinistic creed which is thoroughly evangelistic, which believes in the Bible, in the atonement that satisfies divine justice and salvation by grace to everyone that believes. I am glad that Covenanter preaching insists on repentance, regeneration, and an exemplary life through the power of the indwelling Spirit. And I rejoice in preaching the universal kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will bring justice, love and peace in all the earth, a message that gives me a forward look on every problem that rises in human life.

So that's Rev. Dr. WJ Coleman's story as to why he was a Covenanter minister. What's your story? Why do you believe God has you where you are? As I reflect on my call to pastor in the RPCNA I am glad to say that I have a goodly heritage. Thanks be to God.

25 June, 2010

Synod 2010: Day 5

Dr. Sinclair Ferguson opened the Synod today with preaching from I Timothy 1:1-3. He gave five ways in which this text relates to Gospel ministry (both elders and pastors).

What can we learn?

1. Have a heart for ministry.
2. Have unashamed fidelity to Jesus Christ.
3. Have a love for orthodoxy.
4. Have faith without hypocrisy.
5. Have Gospel grace, peace, and mercy.

24 June, 2010

Synod 2010: Day 4

Dr. Spear opened with devotions this morning. He brought us four texts to consider as texts that have been used of God in his ministry.

Proverbs 27:1 Do not boast about tomorrow for you do not know what a day may bring.

Every day is a gift from God and we need to keep this in view as we think about what the Lord Jesus Christ has called each of us to do.

2 Timothy 2:2 What you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.

Paul shows us the great responsibility of passing down faithfulness to other men. Dr. Spear said, "I did not seek to be an innovator at the seminary, but to be faithful in giving what has been entrusted to me."

2 Timothy 2:24-25 And the Lord's servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth.

A servant of Christ is called to minister in a very specific way. We see the way in which he is to minister. How? With out quarreling. This word has to do with a sword. We are not to be people who just seek to win arguments. He is to be gentle. This is just a reflection of Jesus who is gentle to us. He tells us that he is gentle. Jesus will not quench and break. As pastors and elders we are not to as well- we are called to gentleness. He is called to correct as well. This is a broad word that includes nurture, training, instruction. It is what we do with children. Our children are not prepared to be mature at age three. It takes a lot of work. Pastors and elders must also be willing to work as a parent.

Acts 20:24 But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.

We are called to finish our race with joy and this takes agonizing work. That's the Greek word. We are called to run the race and finish well. And the way in which we do this is to realize that Christ is the one who has set the race and that he is the one who has already run the race!

"At the heart of the Gospel we seek to know Christ and to teach others to know Christ. This is the Christ of the Scripture; not the Christ of tradition; nor the Christ of the philosophers; nor the Christ of the latest fad; but the Christ of the Bible."

We closed with singing Psalm 71: 16-24 (selection C).

23 June, 2010

Synod 2010: Day 3

"For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus. 9 And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, 10 so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God."

This morning Dr. Jerry O'Neill preached on Philippians 1:8-11. He spoke about how biblical knowledge needs to be along with biblical discernment. He said that the fruit of righteousness is that which comes through Jesus Christ only.

He also gave a couple of very quotable remarks:

"Many of us would identify ourselves as Calvinists. But did you know that when John Calvin died, he left a portion of his meager estate to an orphanage ... are you laboring to be a light on a hill? Salty salt? Are you laboring to make a difference? Let us pray for an abounding love bearing fruit in a life of righteousness."

"I wonder if we love Christ as much as our forefathers did. Our fathers were salt and light in a way that I am not seeing today. Are we preaching and teaching and striving to be that salt and light? Is God using us, and is that our goal? Let us be salt and light in a profound way in our day in our neighborhoods, our churches, our counties, and perhaps our state, nation, and world."

22 June, 2010

Synod 2010: Day 2

Dr. Bruce Stewart opened the meeting of Synod with a sermon from 2 Timothy 2. He asked the presbyters to ask ourselves what our motivation for ministry is. He focused on "doing our best to be approved workmen in Christ's kingdom."

The challenge before us was to ask ourselves these three questions:
1. Is the Lord well pleased?
2. Is the work well done?
3. Is the Word well used?

This was great encouragement as we begin to do Christ's work this week.

15 June, 2010

Why We Should Read Outside of Our Comfort Zones

If I told you that John Updike as well as Lauren Winner have helped shaped my view of God would you call me a liberal?

If I told you that the phrase "Aslan is on the move" gives me chills when I read it, and also strengthens my postmillennialism, would you say that I am being un-Reformed?

I am afraid to admit that sometimes as Reformed believers we read too narrowly. We have our own Oprah's Book Club- but we only read that which has been released by Banner of Truth, Mentor, and Reformation Heritage. We look for the Keller, Beeke, or Ferguson blurb in place of Oprah's seal. Friends, we must read more deeply. We must read more broadly. We must read both to grow and to understand those outside of our own little camps.

John Piper, reflecting on what he has learned from reading everything save one book that CS Lewis wrote, said that Lewis has taught him to, "Think hard and write poetry. Argue for the resurrection and compose hymns to Christ. Smash an argument and then hug a friend. Demand a definition and use a metaphor."

Brothers and sisters, read far and wide. Read with discernment. Read with the humility to learn from those who may not be comfortable worshiping in your congregation.

14 June, 2010

This is Dedicated to the One I Love

Hebrews chapter one tells us that in these last days that God speaks to us by his Son. The primary way in which God speaks to us is through the Word of God (compare John 1 with Hebrews 1). If we are Christians who are dedicated to God and the things of God in Christ, then we need to be people that are in communication with God.

This can only be done through having a spiritual life that is filled with God's Word. We are not able to say that we love God and that we love Christ if we are not in communication with Him. How many people who are married and do not speak to their spouse? You would not call this a healthy relationship. In the same way if one professes to be a Christian and he is not reading the Word of God and in communication with God through that Word- how healthy is that relationship? Are we able to say that there even is a relationship?

God the Father has purchased a relationship with the Church. That was purchased with the blood of his own Son. The Book is signed in blood and dedicated to the one he loves. How do you respond to this invitation to be in a relationship with God? Do you read what he has written to you?

10 June, 2010

You Talkin' To Me?

Preaching is not merely an academic exercise. Of course, preaching needs to be academic- but preaching also needs to stimulate the heart as well as the mind. The purpose of preaching is both an increase of the knowledge of the Word, as well as a greater love for THE Word. As preachers apply the Word and minister to the heart- the people of God should grow, not only in their understanding of the Scriptures, but in love for the Christ of the Scriptures.

Anthony Selvaggio wrote a great article today that points to the heart of the problem: are preachers preaching to people? Check out the article here.