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?